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Kingston, NY, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009

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Cookie Crumbs and Echoes
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

We are entering a Mercury retrograde, just as the Christmas rush has us spinning like dervishes. How Divine! What better time to stumble just a bit, to stop for breath and reconsider our options? I won't dwell on the downside of such retro, with people hearing what they want to hear rather than what's being said, with seemingly important bits of information vanishing down the rabbit hole just when we need them. My advice? Keep a notebook handy and scribble down anything that seems important. You will have cookie crumbs to follow when all else fails, and certainly technology is the first to wobble when Mercury blows us a big, fat raspberry. Keeping track of the crumbs is, at all times, one of my essentials.

The hidden blessing in retrogrades is contrast. In direct motion, we go bumbling along, pursuing our goals, handling our necessities and lost in our habits and patterns. As any given planet seems to halt and change directions, we should take the hint to do the same. The contrast between our regular forward motion and a slower, more inward-looking pace shakes us, wakes us, and takes us somewhere else in consciousness. Or it can. That is always up to us. We are each the author of our life story, our every thought and action. Which brings me to authors in general, and books that follow the trail of crumbs, illuminate with perspective, and consequently, bring us balance and understanding.

I don't read for pleasure often enough, a condition I'm determined to rectify this coming year. I invariably give myself permission to do so only when I travel, which means that once a year, when I visit with family, I spend free moments reading. I like to sit in the sun when I return to California, because, as you may have noticed, the sun does not shine similarly everywhere you go. Its qualities shift from place to place and frankly, there's no place like home. As a Mutable, I find it difficult to do only one thing at a time, so when I sit, I read. In the two weeks I've been here, I've polished off a dazzling array of reading material while soaking up the rays -- five books in all, including Stephen King's latest offering of over 1100 pages.

I began with the King book, Under The Dome, which my daughter was kind enough to order from the library and hand me as I arrived. Stephen King is an author of moral weight. Since James Michener is gone now, King is my favorite storyteller. For a few years there, no other author kept my attention, as it felt unbearable to read material that I considered mundane or gossipy. I've read everything he's written, and marvel that he can still crank 'em out. King is known as a populist writer, able to draw upon every class and distinction among his characters and fit them into a psychosocial puzzle that weaves a story both horrific and redemptive. He has Michener's deft hand at quickly creating a character we recognize, warm to, or bristle at, and then dispatching them mercilessly -- or not -- as serves his story.

As with all authors I cotton to, King has a sense of God as undefined, mysterious, but ever present. What is mythical becomes apparent, and what is mystical dances just beyond our imagination. In his newest offering, he captures the zeitgeist of our times, which is no easy chore. Returning to his favorite genre, a small town in Maine, he gives us a Petrie dish of our current political, social and spiritual condition. If you can't recognize yourself and your neighbor in this tale -- as I did the Pea Patch and its improbable characters -- you must leave the planet immediately as fully baked and ready for other adventures.

After I polished off King, another library book was waiting: Breathless by Dean Koontz. Koontz draws characters much as does King, although he's mystically inclined and I love that about him. He has a sweetness that shines through what is considered the horror genre he shares with Stephen King. Me, I don't think of either as a writer of horror, but more as a scribe of the fantastic. Horror, to me, is Chainsaw Massacre and the like, mindless violence with little redemption. Neither King nor Koontz leaves us with that sour taste in our mouth. Breathless was the first Koontz book that brought me to quick tears of recognition at the joy of awaited change and endless possibility. If you can pick up only one of the books I mention today, make it this quick read. It is about Shift and it will move even those who haven't felt it coming to consider that it might.

Finding myself temporarily without reading matter, my daughter offered me The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This was an effortless and endearing book, a period piece done as a collection of letters in 1946. The small islands between France and England had been occupied by Nazis during the later years of World War II, and the coping mechanism adopted by some of those caught in this circumstance revolved around the founding of a literary club. This story speaks of books as a medium of change and illustrates the love of humanity that inspires them. The thin volume prompted stinging tears as well, this time of empathy but easily compensated for by charming characters and insights.

Now, you may wonder how I found time for more, but I always have a backup when I travel. I don't mind flying, but it's no longer the pleasurable adventure it used to be, it's become more like grabbing a strap on an air bus and enduring the jostling until you arrive. I take the fatalist's position on this whole prospect, invoking the sentiments of Crazy Horse at Little Big Horn: this is a good day to die. Whatever will be will be, although I also mind the Edgar Cayce method, scanning the auras of my fellow passengers to reassure myself. Cayce once stepped out of an elevator when he realized none of those around him HAD an aura; predictably, the elevator crashed and proved Cayce's intuition sound. Having declared my intention and checked out my fellow travelers, then, I bury my nose in a book and don't come up for air until we touch down.

The paperback I bought with me was the sequel to Caleb Carr's bestseller, The Alienist, entitled The Angel of Darkness. I'd begun it a few months ago, so it was easy to immerse myself in the story. Alienist was the term for psychologist in the early study of behavior. Both of these books are crime stories from the 1890s and illustrate the skepticism with which this study was met, as well as the horrific living standards of the period. As with each of these books, the characters are full and fascinating. I brought along The Alienist to re-read on the trip home -- on the next good day to die.

If the experiences of our lives are like chapters in a book, then our minds are like vast libraries, filled to the brim with the collective humanity to which we're heir. We can visit those various sections of understanding anytime we like, but do we? For instance, while I can visit with, and write about, politics, it is a singularly stilted exercise. When we play too long with such dark concepts and their apparent ramifications, it's easy to feel discouraged. Notice I didn't say 'become discouraged.' We too quickly assign ourselves to gloom and despondency when determining our emotional status. Discouragement, along with every other feeling that comes to us, isn't a permanent condition unless we choose it. Feelings are as transient as we allow them to be, and they will define us only if we aren't mindful.

This would be a good time to remind you of I AM statements: whenever we follow the words, "I am ..." with anything, we are invoking our subconscious mind to amplify and out-picture our description. If we add emotion to those words, we have begun a process of manifestation. If "I am discouraged," pops out of your mouth, get set for more. If "I am tired of all this," becomes your mantra, be prepared to experience soul weariness of the first order. When difficult emotions assault me, I feel them through and through and then say, "I am in process with ..." whatever is bothering me. That is an open-ended statement that is the equivalent of following the cookie crumbs toward some resolution or deeper engagement with myself. It is ridiculous to pretend positive attributes when we don't feel them, but unless we allow room for them to enter, they won't. According to Newton's Law of Motion, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, which means that for every bit of darkness out there, an equal amount of Light is standing by waiting to be noticed and embraced. As always, we choose.

As regards political writing, there is little satisfaction in taking a position against something when the genuine wish of my heart is for collaboration, cooperation and problem solving, although the mindful expression of authentic emotion such as anger or sorrow is cathartic and allows us to move forward rather than lock ourselves into a loop of darkened mentality. But we have not reached that collective point on our journey, and we will not reach it until we are awakened to the pitfalls of illogic and propaganda that keep us unaware. I witness and write about politics because I can, without hurting myself. It's the step in the process where information is gathered, where perspective is gained, and where we begin to understand what is needed. As Dean Koontz says, in this short passage from Breathless:
"His mother said the lies you told yourself were the worst lies of all. If you could not face every truth about yourself, you would not know who you really were. You could not redeem yourself if you failed to recognize the need for redemption."
There is a crying need for redemption in politics, I suppose because there's so little truth in it. Because so much is buried behind unknown motives and backroom deals, we must ferret out truth by contrast and perspective. In reading political opinion, and sadly that includes much of what now passes for reporting, we must take a bite, roll it in our mouth, savor it to determine its ingredients, and then either swallow or spit. It's also required to drop a few crumbs, for they will be useful later. As those of us at Planet Waves have been saying for so long, the personal is political and vice versa. Politics is simply a portion of the human condition, writ small but powerfully in our lives, and to decode such a topic we must become students of life, of truth, and plumb our own inner depths. We must know ourselves.

We must also know history. I hear so much about what's outrageous and wrong in our life and times: the poverty, the suffering, the pain. Study history and you will understand how far above our past we've risen and how quickly we can grow. Check out descriptions of the slums of New York at the dawn of the 20th century through the eyes of an alienist and you will be amazed how rapidly we have become socially sentient. Visit the sorrows of war through the charming letters of the locals in Guernsey and realize that these happenings were of our own generations, close enough to touch and taste. Visit the recent past in Stephen King's great tome to recognize where we've been, then bask in the near future with Dean Koontz to discover where we're going. It's all there, you see -- in the library of our minds, our intentions, and our consciousness. Nothing new under the sun, but too much quickly forgotten and used to justify our tunnel vision. So often we ignore the cookie crumbs that lead us forward from the past echoing around us, pointing toward a future bright with possibility.

The heroes and heroines of each of the tales I've listed were wisely portrayed as individuals who have lived through and conquered deep emotional and/or physical tragedy. While this may sometimes color their perspective, pain has sensitized them in a specific way to allow them a view of the higher aspects of human aspiration. That is, however unhappily, how we get from asleep to awake. The antagonists and villains we encounter are ever and always mundane, small-thinking and greedy, aware only of their own needs and ego. In each of these books, we find no moral absolutes -- just a steadily growing awareness that true morality is larger than we assume and fuller than we appreciate. These stories open our minds, they scatter crumbs we can follow in coming days, and they encourage us onward. If that is not a definition of evolvement, I'm unsure what is. They echo back to us, each of them, to what was, what is and what can be.

If life has become too frantic to read for pleasure, let me encourage you to find the time. I didn't sit and pore through any of the books I've mentioned today -- I read them in odd moments and sun-drenched snippets, a bit here, a moment there. I should also mention that they are books that were meant for me and Spirit may have an entirely different collection in mind for you. Simply ask and they will come to you, perhaps in your stocking, perhaps from your public library or bookseller but surely from the request of your heart. In them you will find resonance, illumination, perspective and expansion. Just follow the cookie crumbs, mindful of the echoes. It's all in the library that you are, consciousness remembering itself and heart opening to all that you are becoming.

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