Entrenched in Remembering

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Course Ideas

For the past six weeks I’ve been entrenched in the birth throes of an industrial project, feeling myself slowly succumb to its eye-dimming cocktail of fatigue and necessity.  I’ve been watching myself sigh in the hallway, crack jokes over the intercom, eat meals with forks unable to spear anything that wasn’t already mashed, and enter a stupor of gratitude when the person beside me stepped out of the darkness carrying a solution– something half-corroded with wires hanging off the side that just five minutes previous had been rescued from the enduring anonymity of a scrap pile.

We pressed buttons and touched screens still protected by their factory-applied films, and nothing happened.  We pursed our lips.  Nothing-at-all was to be our most relevant data point.  We examined the bifurcating field of plausibility in which we stood, and then checked the fuses.  We re-discovered switches and disconnects we’d already taken for granted.    Electronic devices that we contacted for answers failed to report for duty, or if pressed upon, produced streams of nonsense.  We jumpered them out.  Shut them up.  Listened to what remained.  Then we reconfigured them.  We hooked up new wires to check on the old ones, and we stared dead-eyed into the inanimate faces of gauges, with tarps whipping in the wind beside us, wondering which of us was the liar.

Deep in the night, in the fissile period between midnight and the first scent of dawn, an hour or two before the daily onslaught of commuting machines, birds with voices like squawking check-marks hijacked the nearby bridge, filling the air with their signatures.  They claimed it as their own.  Reveled for a moment in the glory of who they are and have always been.  Remembered, like we did as children, when we sneaked through the neighbor’s garden with our eye-patches, capes and plastic swords.  For that moment, that window of time, the wind, the seashells and the tree-tops tucked along the water belonged to those birds again, as they had for countless generations of their forebears.

An hour or so later, a shift change.  We were back on the scene, laughing about Murphy and Occam, buckling our overmatched forks against carrots and deep-fried chicken pieces the color of breast cancer awareness.  We cursed– not at events themselves, but at our collective fall from grace.  Same as the birds.  Same as the car horns, the whistling factory alarms clogged by dust, and the banging together of rail cars down on the tracks.  All of it sounded the same, like a face you keep seeing in the crowd.  Somewhere in all of this there was something we’d lost.

Somewhere.

* * * * *

As the one so appointed, I gave progress briefings each morning, and was called upon at various times to explain how this or that phenomenon could have happened.  We thought you would have known better, they said.  Couldn’t this have been avoided?  It’s important that we all understand the root cause, because none of us can afford for this to happen again.  None of us.

The imponderable weight of commerce bound us all together.

The night before, fifteen hours into a shift laced with an aromatic white-out of curing insulation and refractory, we’d discovered the meaning of a particular resinous vapor.  A cloud of smoke had suddenly emerged, pouring out of somewhere it shouldn’t have been.  Fire alarms in the next building had triggered.  We’d shut it all down.  We’d been on the verge of real progress– had been spinning at twenty-six thousand rpm for several hours– but now the end was in jeopardy.

Only two weeks left, and something you don’t walk into a store and buy had been reduced to ash.

Yes… the root cause

Once you find and correct the root cause of a particular phenomenon, it should never happen again.  Never mind that all of this– all of this– is simply what separation feels like, that every splinter of experience is an instant replay of the choice we once made together to try things out alone.  The birds clamoring under the trestle, the criss-crossed wires, the inscrutable gauges, the gaps in logic, the inadequate accommodation of the unexpected.  The uncertainty, weighted by fatigue, weighted by millions of somebody else’s dollars tied to a particular, rapidly approaching spot on the calendar.  This is simply how separation feels.

Thankfully, it’s never unattended, this separateness that’s only a costume.  Underneath, there’s always the grace.  The way a side conversation steered us away from danger.  The way we found what we needed when we most needed it.  The way someone unbidden stepped in to fill the gap.  The way logos and branding eventually failed to matter, and blurred into something eminently more human.

It’s only afterwards that we see it: the way we gather together sometimes with our check-marked voices to cry out to one another, to rankle, to fester together and wear down upon our shared necessity, to get down to the bottom of it.

To remember.

32 Comments

  1. I’m sorry to hear about this stressful and disastrous time, Michael.
    It sounds much like my experience at work from April through November this year.
    This is simply what separation feels like. Yes, I agree.
    I’m glad that there were some synchronicities which made life easier. I love it when grace shows up like this and lets us know that we are always cared for, even in times of disaster.
    Thanks for this beautiful post.
    Much love,
    Karin

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hello Karin,

      I have perhaps been a little dramatic here in my writing! Ha! It was stressful, but not disastrous, and I was probably not clear enough in noting that our major schedule objective was accomplished. It just took a string of seven-day work weeks and a couple of overnights to get there… 🙂 I’m glad your own experience of pressure and chaos has passed as well. It can lead to all sorts of questions and musings!

      I love it when grace peeks out from behind the curtain also. It seems like it’s always there, but we have to be willing to see it. For me part of it was the way little things would surface that would snowball into something obvious– like enabling us to make a correction that was needed, or discovering something without the knowledge of which we would have been off on a wild goose chase thinking about some other possible cause. Questions asked in passing, conversations in the hallway, walking back a different way through the plant for no reason– these all led to significant, but quiet revelations that kept us on track. You can take it for granted, or realize that we are surrounded by this delicate guidance…

      Love to you, too–
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    Hey Michael,

    It all sounds so tense, uncomfortable and scary, except for the humor…and the grace and the remembering.

    That feeling of separation, the noticing of it ….and then the remembering.

    The forks and the food sound terrible. Sorry it has been so hard, Michael. I do hope you hit your deadline on time. I know you were looking so forward to it being over.

    I like that – “the separateness that’s only a costume.” Like a play on a stage or a dream, the interpretation of which brings us back to awareness and unity.

    Deep peace
    Mary

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hello Mary,

      Your first statement sounds kind of like life itself to me. It’s all so tense, uncomfortable and scary, except for the humor, the grace and the remembering! Ha! There’s a fine line between these two worlds of experience and sometimes we teeter along it, touching one side and then the other…

      The forks were pretty funny in hindsight. One of the ironies that cracked me up is that the food orders were controlled by another department in our client’s organization. So some of the people we were working with who were very concerned about myriad technical details of the start-up process, and questioning every step that went a little sideways, had no control over the utensil quality, or the presence of napkins, or the type of food ordered for our meals… Life is astoundingly ironic sometimes.

      We did hit the major deadline, or I wouldn’t have had time to put this piece together. I was fresh from it though– still drenched in the experience of it. I like what you say about interpretations leading us back. This is so true…

      Peace to you also,
      Michael

      Like

  3. I hope there is light at the end of the tunnel for you now. I know you know the sense of being separate is only a game. Thank you for reminding me once again! All of it matters. None of it matters. Even in the midst of the busyness and stress there’s no one here, no one there. No one at all anywhere. Just this.
    Alison

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hello Alison,

      There is light in the tunnel again. Whether it’s the end or not, we’ll find out! But we did complete the major schedule driven milestone, so that was a big relief and a joyous moment for many involved. And yes, in the midst of everything we can remember it is only a particular interpretation of experience. For myself the hard part was the fatigue of working so many days in a row. After a while there’s a numbing that happens, a graying-out of other parts of your life. That was the part I resisted most, particularly near the end of the experience. I was reminded how fortunate we are to have lives that afford us the time to write, and dream, and create– to sit quietly and dangle our heartfelt fishing poles out into the unknown…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  4. wishing you ease
    in body, heart, spirit
    & mind.
    seems quite hard
    to be a person, sometimes!
    yet, it’s possible to find
    enlightenment
    or at least great contentment
    within a few calm breaths.
    if anyone can do it, especially me,
    i’m confident you can be with
    a relaxation & smile, too 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you, David! Generally I was able to keep calm and positive about the proceedings. It was only the cumulative effects that started to wear at me, and once we had to start taking turns working through the night– thought it was just once or twice– and our sleep cycles starting moving around, it definitely impacted my ability to do so somewhat. It is a good reminder of the middle way– of the need to be well-rested, warm and dry in this world if we are to see through it… Overall it was a very good experience… There is also a great joy that comes from working alongside of others to achieve a collective outcome.

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds rather like a proclamation of the papal conclave Michael, what with white smoke (Fumata Bianca) signalling a resolution. And my goodness it all sounds rather stressful too my friend, notwithstanding the way you have sculpted the whole experience so marvellously into words. Will your involvement be drawing to a close in the next two weeks then? Whilst you write of being in the birth throes of the project, you also suggest your participation ends with that of the calendar year. Whatever the answer, I wish you and yours a restful and contented holiday dear Michael.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hello Hariod,

      My involvement is on hiatus for a holiday here, but we will restart after the first of the year. The good thing is that with the major milestone accomplished, we’ll be working five day weeks instead of seven. That will make the biggest difference… I loved your analogy of the Fumata Bianca. When we saw smoke that night I thought we were done for. But everyone was positive and we found a creative way to move forward and get back on-line within less than 48 hours. Our biggest concern was understanding the cause of the event, which we didn’t know. I made a phone call to one of our vendors whose equipment was only peripherally involved, as a courtesy, and something he said to me on the phone ended up leading us to the cause of the issue. It was one of those things– calling this gentleman wasn’t necessarily a top priority for us that morning, but I just did it, and the answer popped out for us. Without that one conversation, we would have been chasing this particular issue for entire days potentially…

      I hope you and your friends and family have a lovely holiday season as well, Hariod.
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • My goodness, I had not realised you were working seven days a week Michael, although you may well have said as much when you announced that you would have less time to devote to blogging for a while.

        You really have earned a good break then my friend, and I very much hope it is filled with peace, love and contentedness. Thankyou for all your astounding contributions over the year, and also for your magnificent book which is a constant companion here in my front room.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Hariod, thank you for the kind words… You are a true friend, and it brings me joy to know that we have one another’s heartfelt works in arm’s reach on either side of the Pond. I hope your holiday season is likewise filled with ease, warmth and contentedness.

          On this end, the break is going well, though I cannot wait for the appointed hour to arrive– that being the one in which the food my wife has been collecting and stashing in various places and states of preparation around the kitchen becomes fair game… 🙂

          Much Love,
          Michael

          Liked by 2 people

  6. Genie says

    The reality of dealing with the material world is not very pleasant most of the time, especially when it comes to work and studies, however, it is what it is, and there is no way of putting lipstick on it and pretending that it’s some kind of preparation or test of our spirituality.
    There is always grace, no matter the circumstances, however, there is also suffering and sacrificing too much at the alter of a fake society. The Japenese have a term for it: the terrible dailiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Genie,

      I was perhaps overly dramatic in this piece. There were many moments that were exciting and fun, but it was the deadline driven urgency and the need for us to work through weekends and even some nights that made it a more intense and draining experience for me. That said, I’m not inclined to view my working life as something different from the whole of my life, and view relationships and personal challenges that meet me there as part and parcel of the opportunities we are presented with throughout our lives to grow in wisdom and in love. Spirituality is not meaningful to me if it’s not relevant in every setting and moment, and while I don’t view things as tests, I do view them as orchestrations of grace.

      I do think I understand what you mean about the altar of a fake society. Sometimes we accept things at their face value, and are plunged into a world where the only meaning is the material one. Then we end up with something of a misguided compass I think. Thankfully, this was not my experience. Some events are byproducts of our modern mindset– traffic jams and airline security and funding tied to deadlines. It feels like we’re all in it together, trying to escape the weight of our own misperceptions. The beauty of it was being beside good people throughout. It makes all the difference.

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  7. Hi Michael,

    Do you think you might switch to writing about food? I’m not trying to tell you what to write or even to make requests, but I have to say: you’re comments regarding food: especially the pink chicken, really made me laugh in a way that didn’t actually make me sick at all. This surprised me; and altogether gave me that sense of enjoyment that can only come from how beautifully you witness your experience here, as well as, how you lend us a window into tiny decisions within your group gestalt experience.

    You have no idea what my visuals are here of all the moving parts. You don’t, because I don’t. Subjected to the awe, there is so much wonder.

    So many parts…
    so many wizards… so much….

    intercom use.

    😀

    Much Love to you my friend ~
    Blessings during this lovely season and however you spend your time.

    Ka

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I’m not sure I could pull off a blog about food, but it would undoubtedly be amusing to watch it trip, stumble and bumble along… Thank you for such a beautiful and fun reply. These moments of sharing our creative morsels with one another feel like they afford us unique windows into one another’s souls. I’m really grateful for the glimpses of beauty you provide, and for your taking the time to witness my own forays into wizardry and excessive intercom use. (The walky-talkies were quite fun, actually! Such a good outlet for my good-natured sarcasm…!)

      Love and Blessings to you also, my friend.
      Hope you find some time to rest, play and create!
      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Michael
    I’m reminded there’s always a crisis that comes along just when you’re getting really quite comfortable with the way things are and in no time at all everything is all over the place. It’s a challenging thing, you question your sanity,,, things you take for granted. The thing about it is, I find, it comes back again and it’s possibly part of a cycle. I’m thinking there’s too much of an emphasis on things being really okay when they’re really not, otherwise this upsetting of the applecart wouldn’t be the continuous event that it is. So what’s needed is more an edge of dissatifaction, knowingly placed and that might do the trick, who knows…
    T

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tiramit,

      I like the idea of a knowingly placed edge of dissatisfaction. It sounds almost like a mental exercise plan for avoiding the slip into seeking a heavenly stasis– an unchanging calm falsely rooted in the particulars. This particular work stint definitely stirred the pot, so to speak. It’s interesting to make these transits in our lives– we traverse spaces foreign and unclaimed, and the familiar props of our existence dissolve one-by-one. What is left? Me? The same or different? Me, but one I didn’t know was there…

      I would tend to agree there’s too much emphasis on things being okay when they’re not. It keeps us living in scenes from a story we’re telling, rather than in touch with the actual experience of it. I think you’re right, accepting this dissatisfaction leads to an authenticity that perhaps leads out the other side of the illusory story-telling…

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  9. Peace , joy , grace , love dear Michael …your heart a silver vessel where doves abide , your writing holy , glorious and wonderfull , astonishing and pure ….may you have a restfully beautiful Christmas with your family ….( thankyou for being you and being my friend ) ….love , megxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Meg, I wish all of these glorious tidings to you and yours as well… Thank you as always for sharing the love and friendship that so effortlessly overflow your boundaries. Hope you are enjoying time with your lovely family, touching the glowing places in your heart from which your own light-filled words emerge.

      Sending Love and Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Many things come to try us Michael, and it appears you were being tested 😉 I am sure though as you say.. you find a lesson within it.. and you show us that Grace is to be found where ever we look..

    Wishing you a more relaxing time over Christmas and wish you and your a Happy Holiday.

    Hugs and Blessings Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sue,

      Thank you for the holiday card! Hope you’re enjoying a peace and joy-filled season with your friends and family. Being so busy previously has really made this time one to savor for me… I’m not one to subscribe to a lot of testing, but I understand what you mean and do appreciate how such a viewpoint– transposing the meaning of events into the language and terminology of grace– can soften challenging times. Thank you for sharing that with me…

      Blessings to you also!
      Michael

      Like

  11. Welcome back to an old place with a new you…or a new place and a new you! It strikes me as I read your beautiful accounting of this time how we would never, oh, maybe there are some who would, but most of us would never sign up for or self-create these ingathering, wearing down, remembering sessions – they are thrust upon us – but perhaps from the Milky Way view they are some of the most lovely of orchestrated dances that humans can do. Missed you, bud!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello M! I have missed you, too… It’s interesting, but I think we’d leap in a heartbeat at the chance to dive into the unexpected. But that’s moving on a pure feeling– an intoxicating whim, before we read the fine print. If we were to stop and read the fine print, I’m with you. 🙂

      There’s certainly this “unlearning” of thought-patterns that such experiences afford us. And that would make them particularly lovely viewed afar, through a lens of unity and wisdom. That seems the viewpoint of grace, too. I hope your own remembering sessions have reached an intermission, and that you are enjoying a restful interlude, too these days. I see a new post I am eager to catch up with!

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  12. Michael, what a vividly perfect rendition of experience. Everyone else has commented on the thesis, so allow me this brief p.s. Do you watch a Tv show called MANHATTAN? It’s about the earliest days of atom bomb development in Los Alamos……your episode? ……ripped from history! Incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Ruth,

      I have not seen it. The truth be told television has become indecipherable to me, like a foreign continent whose vastness and diversity I haven’t the faintest idea of how to begin exploring. I love hearing about shows to check out though, which always saves time… 🙂 And I would guess that these episodes of rolled-up sleeves and shelved egos have been a hallmark of human commerce for quite some time… I can only imagine on that one– so many more people, so much more urgency, so much hanging in the balance… I’m guessing it was a whirlwind for all involved…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  13. What is life but a series of events that point you to the important things in life, like fun and love and anything that brings peace. It sounded quite chaotic and I felt so sorry for your long days. I am sure you will have many wonderful insights from these days….things to learn, to un learn and all that is important at the end of the day is a root cause, (PS, it burrows itself in the ground and laughs at us with glee as we try to remove it,, only to find it is supposed to be there to give our muscles and skills at mastery a jolt) sometimes you let it go and find it goes away on its own. Sometimes it follows you jeering and then you give it a big old hug and say that’s ok, I’m getting kind of used to you now. Nice piece, I was saving this for a rainy day which never came so sunshine reading it shall be. And a good read at that.
    Peace and blessings,
    K

    Liked by 1 person

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