Monday, June 29, 2009

Shine

Shakti Gawain said: "Evil is like a shadow - it has no real substance of its own, it is simply a lack of light. You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, stamp on it, by railing against it, or any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine light on it." Though I may challenge the concept that evil has no real substance of its own, I cannot fault her insight regarding the best weapon against it.

Even those evils that strike in daylight have their genesis in the shadows and draw sustenance from the night. The economic tragedies that plague us have grown from the moldy shadows in the minds of men and women whose plans hatched in the dim and secret conclaves powered by greed and avarice. The bombings, the beatings, the full panoply of inhumanity portrayed daily in the media are the foliage and fruits of secret gardens, planted in the shadows and succored by the night. It is in our nature to provide the growth medium -- for on the sunniest day, even the most upright and righteous among us will cast a shadow.

There can be no light without darkness and no substance without a shadow, yet all hope is not lost, for we need only vigilantly shine our own light upon those shadows and force them into retreat. We need only shine...

Mick

Shine

Shadows persist near the edge of my day,
Out on the fringe, where the darkness dances.
When I scream and fight, they won't go away -
Frustrating, under the circumstances...
I've heard that the Devil is in the dark,
And that evil lurks just beyond the light,
That the power of evil, strong and stark,
Like shadow, is powered by darkest night.
Great power of arms offers no redoubt,
Blood, sweat, and tears offer no victory,
Yet, sweet is the savage joy that I shout,
As I bring to bear secret weaponry!
I can encompass the shadows' defeat:
When I shine a light, the shadows retreat.

Mick McKellar
June 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Interview

Are job interviews good for the soul? Is it possible to have an out-of-body experience, right in the middle of interview question number three? Why is it that, despite having done umpteen job interviews over nearly a half-century, I still get as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs?

The answers to these tough questions are: I hope so; it had better be (or I am hallucinating); and I guess it's just a mystery...

Now, I'm not saying that this has happened to me personally, but I have a 59-year-old, unemployed friend who has been out of work since January and desperately wants to do a great job on each scarce employment interview. He told me of his recent interview experience, and of the three-ring circus that was performing in his head throughout the entire process. Now, sit back, relax, put your tongue firmly in your cheek, and get ready to commiserate!

Mick

The Interview

This is not my very first interview,
And I know exactly what I should do!
As I walk in the door, I check my breath.
(So it will not cause a reviewer's death.)
I slide my left hand over my grey hair,
To check that what's left is "hangin' in there."
I look down at my pants, and I'm hopin'
That I didn't leave the zipper open.
I look at my hands and turn very pale:
Can that be dirt under my fingernail?
As I say "Hello," the panel smiles back,
And I start praying my voice doesn't crack.
I'm wearing a coat and the room, so warm,
Makes my forehead leak like a thunderstorm...
With each new greeting I have to utter,
I feel terrified that I might stutter,
Stammer, or sputter all over the place --
Or worse, gleek in an interviewer's face.
Can they hear my composure's mewling cries,
Or see the dark terror in my brown eyes?
I finally sit, with knees quaking,
And fold my hands, so they will stop shaking.
They ask a question, and I think, in fright:
"Did I just pronounce my own first name right?"
As questions come faster, I think with dread:
"I can't let my thoughts race too far ahead!"
Three seconds later, they all stand and smile.
I stand and shake hands, thinking all the while:
"Although I know I was not daydreaming,
Somehow I managed to miss the whole thing!"
Then I'll wonder, as I walk out the door:
What was the job I just interviewed for?


Mick McKellar
June 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Look Back, Come Back

I walk a lot -- for my health, for stress release, and to enjoy good music or a good audiobook. Near my home, in Calumet Township, I must walk on the road near the curb, because we have no sidewalks. I usually walk against traffic, and in the winter must often move to the side, and on occasion climb a snow bank to avoid on-coming traffic. I have had several close calls in the winter months, but none in the spring or summer...until tonight.

Two kids on a off-road four wheeler very nearly ran me down on the highway at about 8:05 this evening. They came from behind me, the engine of their vehicle screaming, torqued to the red-line, and weaving in and out of the traffic lane as the driver struggled to control the machine. At the sound, I looked behind me and dove for the curb as they flashed past me. As I hit the pavement, I saw the passenger turn to look back and then turn away as they screamed over the crest of the hill toward Lake Linden, and out of my sight.

Getting back on my feet, embarrassed at my less-than-fluid fall, I looked about to waive off any help coming my way. There was none. It seemed my break dance on the blacktop went totally unnoticed, except perhaps by the pillion rider on the ORV. As I limped home on a twisted ankle and injured pride, I wondered what went through the mind of the 10-12 year old on the machine and if he felt anything at all about the near tragedy during their wild and undisciplined careen down the highway.

The following flashed through my mind in those seconds, therefore I wrote it as free verse.

Mick


Look Back, Come Back

I saw you look back at me.
Just as the concrete rose
To give my butt a gravelly kiss;
And once again remind me,
That gravity's rules rule absolutely -
That it is not the fall that hurts,
But the sudden stop at the end.

I wonder what you saw,
Twisting and dancing,
In and out of the traffic lane,
Astride a four-wheeled wasp -
Its heart screaming and buzzing,
As you flashed past the grey man
Silently pacing the curb.

I saw you turn away,
And wondered, did you see?
Did you see an old man fall,
And hit the pavement's concrete wall?
Did you see anything at all?
I saw you turn away,
As if to say goodbye.

I wonder what you feel...
Does it add to your renown,
To nearly run an old man down?
Is your focus so narrow and small,
That you feel not a thing at all?
I'll not know what you saw or felt -
You did not come back...

Mick McKellar
June 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Name That Tune

In his homily this morning, Father Wayne Marcotte talked about God's relationship with science, and that they are not always at odds. He talked about the theory that all things are, when reduced to their smallest component parts, merely energy. I believe he was talking about String Theory, which posits that all things are made up of vibrating strings of energy, which interact to become the building blocks of the universe...atomic particles and molecules that form all we recognize as matter.

I was put in mind of the creation story as written by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Silmarillion. In the first section of that great work, the AinulindalĂ« (The Music of the Ainur), IlĂșvatar creates the Ainur (eternal spirits) whom he instructs to create great music and harmony from which the universe is created according to his great theme. Of course, one spirit (Melkor) creates his own music and great disharmony and dissonance. In his book, the titanic voices of the great spirits create the universe.

Is this an insight into how God may have created our own universe, or merely a beautifully interesting allegory? Alas it remains a mystery -- albeit a musical one...

Mick

Name That Tune

As the theory goes, at the heart of things,
Matter does not matter -- it's energy
That vibrates, in the form of tiny strings,
Which congregate to create you and me.
To this tired old mind, it seems apropos,
That deep in the heart of this universe -
When you get just as small as you can go,
That music would be there -- chapter and verse...
What an absolutely glorious thought -
Everything made from vibrating strings!
That all of the wonders the Lord has wrought,
Was created when the Creator sings.
That God sang me to life, makes me feel fine,
And to be made of music, most divine!

Mick McKellar
June 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Curious

Recently, I have had considerable time to think about what drives me through my everyday life. Why do I continue to read and question and explore and write? Why do I continue to write in my journal? Surely by now, after living 59 years, I should have run out of revelations and reasons to talk to myself. Yet, something fuels my need to ask questions, to look over the next hill, and to wonder about stuff...any stuff.

The fire in my soul and passion in my blood still warm these aging bones and jump start a mind that could easily have been left in neutral to idle until my reserves ran dry. Maybe it is the memory of so many souls I met while working with Social Security so many years ago, folks I helped to claim their golden years retirement -- only to quickly bore themselves to death. Perhaps they were able to suppress the instinct that keeps so many rising with the sun each day.

At the most basic level, I think I plunge into each day, headlong and hell-bent because I am curious...

Mick

Curious


The pilot light for the whole human race,
Burns silently in the back of our minds,
Waiting patiently through time and space,
Sparking life, as the adventure unwinds.
Though ineffable, we know that it's there,
Teasing us onward to make the next move,
Reaching beyond the dark hundred-yard stare,
Paths to open and restraints to remove.
It frees up our minds, and it lets us dance
With the wind, and with flights of fancy wild,
Fires the will and the urge to take a chance -
Embrace the unknown as a new-born child.
Our most human idiosyncrasy -
Our insatiable curiosity.

Mick McKellar
June 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Grey Interviews

I'm on unemployment benefits for the first time in my life, and I am competing with "kids" half my age for an unbelievably small number of jobs here in recession central -- the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. What is it like for a 59-year old to interview for jobs in this economy?

The experience is difficult to describe because -- in many cases -- it requires noting the shadows that pass over the faces of youngsters interviewing me, the sudden coolness in the air when they note the white hair, and even the delicately dismissive demeanor adopted by those old enough and professional enough not to scowl and glance side-long at each other when they finally notice that my work history spans more than 40 years...

The fear is always there -- that they see -- not the years of valuable experience, not the years of training and skill-building, and not the years of loyal service -- but just the years...


Mick

Grey Interviews

Though passionate, active, and bold,
And just fifty-nine winters old;
The snow on my roof,
Seemed absolute proof,
The furnace downstairs had gone cold.

So, after I danced till I bled,
And all the right answers were said,
I still felt I must,
Shed layers of rust,
And struggled to prove I'm not dead...

Mick McKellar
June 2009