Monday, August 24, 2009


Photo: Diego Fernandes 2009

A secret voyage
In the untold long ago
Across immense seas
Unknown and terrifying
Currents carried our ship
To a hidden island
On the very edge
Of eternity

Peaceful suns
Warmed our lives
Amid green leaves
Sitting at the tide line
Of a golden beach
We didn’t hear
What was said
By whispering sand

“A great wind is blowing
Centuries of seasons
Across your lives
And the river is drying
The caravels weighed anchor
Set sails and departed
On the west wind
While you were playing”

Now night comes
And the savage moon
Is masked by storm
It cannot find us
I fell into a mirage
Remembering your kiss
And the deepening shadow
Has taken you

Monday, August 3, 2009

Folk Tale

Photo: Diego Fernandes 2008

Last night I was talking with a friend about the phenomenon of epiphany and today, as my mind returned to our conversation, I was reminded in my own odd way of stories like those of the brothers Grimm and other transformational folk tales. This train of thought led me eventually into a sort of thoughtfulness about the human voice (I know you are wondering how I got from folk tales to human voice?), and that got me to wondering about why it is that we, at least here in the west, still do not know how the human voice produces the quality of pitch, which led me still further into remembering something from a favorite author.

The tale of a shepherd who was overheard by Moses talking to God about wanting to comb his beard and mend his sandals and so forth, which caused Moses a great deal of consternation. Actually, it made him quite angry and he began to shout and belittle the shepherd for his ridiculous assumption that he could comb the beard of God or mend his sandals, which, in turn, shamed the shepherd and sent him off in a blue funk.

Naturally, the tale is cautionary and at that point Moses hears the voice of God coming from heaven, or from where ever such voices are supposed to come, saying, “Moses, you’ve just treated one of my most loyal servants wrongly. He was worshiping me in the manner he knew.” Etc., etc., all of which sounds rather whiney, but Moses, himself a faithful servant of the divine, realizes his error and sets off into the desert seeking the shepherd to deliver an apology and after finding him, Moses is rightly contrite and profusely apologetic but the shepherd interrupts this outpouring saying, “No, no, really, Moses, it is quite alright. You were correct, I now understand what you meant and I no longer want or need to comb God’s beard or mend his sandals.” Even though Moses protests that God told him it was okay for the shepherd to comb God’s beard and mend the sandals, the shepherd reaffirms that Moses’ sudden attack had given him a shock and the energy of the shock of this transformation had allowed him to make a spiritual advancement so he really didn’t need the old worship pattern any longer. All’s well and good. Now God has two faithful and advanced servants wandering the desert.

Here is where my own thoughts started interfering and wondering about the human voice pitch thing again and I told myself that perhaps here was an area that needed to be studied and researched and in the way of my usual brain activity, immediately began wondering about the word ‘research’.

Re search. Look for again. So something that was previously known seems to need the re-knowing or re-finding because somehow that knowledge has been lost. Perhaps the idea of how to make pitches in the human voice was known once upon a time and a journey must be made and a kind of archaeology performed to find that lost treasure. How could such a thing, an important idea, a knowledge possibly have become lost? Actually, if one looks at the etymology of the word research, one will find that it comes from the French and the ‘re’ prefix is an intensifier of effort or energy; therefore an intense search. That is very like one of those cautions found in folk tales. Nonetheless, we can both look again and do so intensely.

Well now, that isn’t such a difficult thing to understand.

Perhaps somewhere in the dim and distant prehistoric and ante-technical past some remote ancestor of us all discovered a way to change the pitch of his or her grunts on purpose and taught the family and tribe and they taught their families and tribes and so on and then pretty much everyone figured it out and it didn’t seem like a such a big deal because everyone could change pitches and all it took to teach them was a simple kind of mimicry. This sort of thing happens all the time. Consider the automobile for example. At first, the only people to move around in them were the people who could actually build one. Then those master mechanics taught others to drive and maybe a little about the inner workings, which were more or less promptly forgotten and those second generation drivers taught someone to drive but left out the mechanical workings and so on, and now it is difficult to find a driver that knows anything at all about the mechanics of his conveyance.

But for the first fellow, the fellow who discovered pitch in the human voice that is, it was a really big deal. That legacy gave us all voices and speech and words and sentences and languages and writing and reading even though no one now knows how pitch is created. There are some who might argue that it might have been better if we never learned to speak but I prefer to think of those persons as rather cranky misanthropes. It is this technology that allows us to communicate with one another across all kinds of barriers although it has caused problems for translators of various stripes.

But I have digressed from my original thought regarding folk tales, epiphany and inner reality.

When I was very young I used to make ‘deals’ with whatever I thought was god. I frequently made a request of the divine to, “Please do this and I will do that.” In other words, I was performing my own ritual of combing the beard of god and mending his sandals. Rather marvelously, many of my requests were miraculously answered (even if they might have happened regardless) and so I continued to comb tangles out the beard of god and rivet and glue those well-worn sandals, but in the meanwhile something else was happening. Let us call it a proliferation of litter.

In many of the folk tales I’ve come across, the protagonists, male and female, are told by the wise, “Yes, you can get/find/recover/arrive at the goal of your choice but here are the problems involving the progress of your journey,” and then the warnings and problems are clearly laid out for the protagonist by the cautionary authority. Every transformational tale has these roadblocks: an ogre with an appetite for just such travelers as the protagonist, a number of magical totems or gifts, an irritable companion or even a personality quirk of the hero or heroine.

Eventually though, in the best of these tales, the protagonist sets out and indeed, finds the way to their heart’s desire and they live happily ever after. Sometimes. In some tales the protagonist must effectively rerun the journey from a different perspective and in many tales the protagonist is only the last in a long line of pre-protagonists who have attempted and failed to achieve the desired outcome, so what happened? Here is my opinion.

In combing the beard of god and mending his sandals many of us ask for a trade, a bargain, a deal. Quid pro quo. If you, God, do this for me, I, the undersigned, will promise to comb beard and mend sandals. Occasionally, however, we are so overwhelmed by the quick response and complete fulfillment of our stated desire, we forget our part of the bargain, which is roughly equivalent to what happens in a folk tale when the protagonist forgets a caution about listening to what order of events to follow to reach the heart’s desire.

It is my idea that those cautions and traps are still there waiting somewhere deep in our minds to trip us up and prevent us from reaching our heart’s desire and because we keep making bargains, we keep leaving more traps for ourselves and pretty soon our mental landscape looks more like no-man’s land after a battle and truly is not fit for mental habitation. This is not to say that such an area cannot be reclaimed for useful purposes, but to do so requires a great deal of effort. That is why there are so many pre-protagonists and so few of the more familiar and successful heroic type.

Here is a very great secret; that source usually labeled god or the divine does not want or need placation or payment. But it does need attention.