Stories Without Narrators

-a dispatch from the grief process


How Londoners Died in One Plague-Ridden Week in 1665

To be a spiritual warrior, one must have a broken heart; without a broken heart and the sense of tenderness and vulnerability that is in one’s self and all others, your warriorship is untrustworthy.

-Chögyam Trungpa

I think that applies to more than spiritual warriorship, which is a term I’m not particularly fond of, but I’ll get over it for the moment. If one is not or has never been vulnerable they can’t recognize that in others. There is no chance for empathy to develop. To be empathetic one has to be fairly tender. Without empathy there can be no compassion.

Vulnerability carries with it a peculiar kind of strength. When one is broken hearted, for whatever reason, there is really nothing more that can be done that could make one feel any worse. It’s an interesting position to be in. There’s nothing left to lose there. When there’s nothing left to lose there is nothing left to fear. From vulnerability comes the recognition and development of fearlessness. It is the fearlessness to look at who and what we are, where we are, what we are doing—ourselves as specific and collectively, to question why we are doing it and to ask if we could be doing it, living this life some other way—some way that recognizes human vulnerability, that broadens our concern for the wellbeing of our species and others, that teaches fearlessness born of vulnerability, which is not something to fear, and removes us from the tautological notion, “the only thing to fear is fear itself”.

Fearlessness as willingness to be vulnerable and broken hearted is not a lack of strength or some kind of surrender to passivity. Maybe that warrior metaphor isn’t as bad as I tend to think it is from this perspective. But neither is it aggression as we know warriorship to be, a kind of ridiculous heroism in which our egos are valorized.

The aggression would be the stupid kind of pretense of fearlessness that is done to evoke an adrenalin rush or to get attention. That’s not even fearlessness but playing with fear that continues to be present. People in those adrenalin situations are not even trying to lose their fear. Some people get almost addicted to that process. They become reckless adrenalin junkies, or attention junkies or whatever and there’s reality TV programs about them until they die or are horribly maimed and then they are pretty much forgotten. [see The Dark Side of Reality TV: 26 Tragic Deaths for some examples—note how many are suicides.]

Looking into the abyss seems like some kind of dare on a frivolous level. We make jokes about that Nietschean phrase all the time. When you hold it’s gaze and it looks back there are things to be learned. You look at you, you look at everything, everything is there. And nothing, at least nothing in the sense of something separate. We spend a good part of our lives trying not to notice that. Maybe even take some drugs or get lost in all the kinds of things one can take to the extreme. Sometimes we just have to stop and decide “fight or flight”. Do we stay with the experience, essentially fighting with ourselves or do we try to escape? A pretty heavy existential question. Pretty uncomfortable.

He is no longer here to experience this existence so I, and others who are a part of him, and who he is and always will be a part of, will experience this life for him in a way. We stand in for each other. We remember and forget ourselves in each other. We are all a collective identity. We are part of the identity of others and others are a part of the identity of us. Always in movement. We are part of the make up of the universe and the universe certainly is what comprises us, a universe of billion year old carbon.

Billion year old carbon.

Yeah we are stardust, though maybe not so golden.

The notion of radical individualism, the self-created entity, completely independent from material or ideal circumstances, is one of the biggest illusions out there. It walls us off from feeling all this and experiencing life. It’s what’s going to destroy this planet and humanity.

How is your billion year old carbon so different from my billion year old carbon?


How we all come and go,

On this little speck of dust in the universe.

In a flash.

How we have this one chance to realize it.

“I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember, we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?

~film maker Chris Marker from his movie Sans Soleil (Without Sun)

Here’s a little Joni, singing it in a slow jazz-almost bluesy style. Nice.