The Case of the Transcendental Cheetah :: PJ Reece

See/read the original by visiting The Meaning of Life Blog by PJ Reese: http://www.pjreece.ca/blog/wordpress/the-case-of-the-transcendental-cheetah/

photo-by-Vince-Hemingson2-300x227
photo-by-Vince-Hemingson2-300×227

In which we watch the sun rise in a story’s dark heart.
Beyond Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, farther up the Congo near the river’s source in the central plateau, that’s where I lived and worked for two years dodging hippos on the rivers of Zambia as I calculated cross sections and measured water currents to determine water flow in cubic feet per second.
That’s where I met the cheetah.
I’m telling you this because that cat taught me something about a little-discussed element of “story”— the nature of a protagonist’s “change of heart” at the Act II crisis.
I know, I know, postmodern writers disavow this whole business of “character arc”.  They have no interest in portraying the human organism as a self-transcendent being.  And so they overlook the reason readers read and why we writers write.
We are self-transcendent beings.
We have the ability—given the right conditions—to rise above ourselves.  To see ourselves more objectively.  To self-detach.  To look down on ourselves as part of a bigger picture.
I’ve discovered that stories work to the extent that they portray this most-human potential.  Without it, fictional characters would perish in their existential cul-de-sacs.  Check it out for yourself—protagonists resolving their dilemmas by leaving their brittle old belief systems behind—it happens in every good book and movie.
This self-transcendence is elemental to “story”—and yet no one’s talking about it.
No one is talking about it!
I can’t believe I’m the only one who ever met a cheetah.
I was lying in the elephant grass shooting her with my spring-wound 16mm Bolex.  The cheetah was devouring the shoulder of goat I’d set out as bait.  Having run out of film, I get up to leave and she made straight for me and clamped down on my hand.
I felt the grumbling in its belly.  The guttural rumbling rattled my skeleton.  I can still feel it.  It wouldn’t let go.  It has hold of me, to this day.  My guide, an older woman, said, “Don’t move.”
As if!
I couldn’t even think.  I couldn’t even panic.  My heart, of course, kept beating
She approached the cat, knelt beside it, stroked its throat and whispered sweet nothings in its ear.  My brain, as I said, was on strike.  So, I had no opinion of this situation.
I had no opinion.  Can you imagine that!  I was inside that cat.  I might well have been.  I was!  My boundaries blurred.
So, this is the heart of darkness?
Unable to make the slightest move, and with thought useless, I was super-alert.  I became aware of a broader scheme of things.  I saw a world in which I was no less a part, but only a part.  I loved that cat.
There was nothing wrong with this picture.  I think the cat loved me, too.  Of course, I would have preferred that the cheetah unclench, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker.  What seemed to be of more importance was the quality of that moment.
My attitude to the moment was one of utter compassion for everything.
Had I died, I would have been the hero of my own story, without a doubt.
The rumbling became a grumble, then a purring.  She released me.  We walked away.  I’ve never been the same.
Moral of the story?
a)      Wash your hands after carrying bloody meat on an African safari.
b)      Self-transcendence—in fiction as in life—it rules.
NOTE:  I expand on this incident in an upcoming eBook titled “Deep Story”.
If you like this kind of real-life/fiction commentary, please SUBSCRIBE to the blog.  Sign in at the top of this page.
*ANOTHER NOTE:  Two more “story people” are sympathetic to this subject of self-transcendence—Jeff Goins and Donald Miller.  Check them out.

Actual photo of PJ seconds before cheetah attackedPJ before attack

via The Case of the Transcendental Cheetah :: PJ Reece.

Karaoke

Karaoke

By Susan Carnes

We hum along, know every word
So sad so sweet, and what we’ve heard
Resounds with what we know inside
Like a lustrous moon with the flowing tide.

Alone in a desert of longing.
Ahead shines a blaring Marquee
Hotel California
Satiate on euphoria
All wishes granted for free.
I indulged, ‘n freed inhibitions
Seared senseless in her neon glow
Gorged with broken dreams
Shattered at the seams
Imprisoned, I never can go.

Look Out!

Dark nights with murder and discord
A song about blood, death and gore
As Mac twists his jack knife
Stealing away life
And the bodies, they all hit the floor.
We sing of the noted musicians
All standing in line to go
The gallows are waiting
Life is abating
So dance as the Angel horns blow.

Dance On! Dance Crazy!

See, I like my women wild
I like undignified
Sleazy clothes that fit too tight
Enliven, energize, excite
Like me, a little on the trashy side.

Yeah Babe

Find me sittin’ on the dock o the Bay
Nothin’ left to live for, nothin’ comin’ my way
Life passin’ me by,
Soon enough we all die
So I’m wasting my time away.

But Try To Remember!

See the moonlight thru the pines
an old sweet song I find,
sings of the road back
keeping me on track
to Georgia, Georgia on my mind.

We hum along, know every word
So sad so sweet, and what we’ve heard
Resounds with what we know inside
like a lustrous moon with the flowing tide

So now its a song from the Piano Man
We’ve all shuffled in for some cheer
Sharing that drink we call loneliness
What are we all doing here
We’re stars when we sing Kareoke
Life pulsing along with the beat
Dancing like wind in the willows
Feeling whole and complete.

Feeling Whole and Complete.

The Music

Rodriguez
Rodriguez

singerAfter a long day of lifting stuff,
yanking, piling, dragging stuff,
shriveled and bent
from carrying the weight of the world
alone,
I wander in, set down the load,
and lose myself
to the music.
Look around
Watch the sun-break of song
erase lines of toil
from young again faces
As the master weaves waterfalls
and sounding whales
with threads of footfalls measuring time
for the music.
Memories, like autumn leaves
on the sighs of wind in trees
long ago cut and made into paper,
dance a flurry about.
As the fiddler fancy steps the beat,
his flying fingers
speaking secrets.
Abracadabra, and the curtain of keeping time unlocks,
so we can slip unencumbered into timeless space
together,
with the music.
 

Overflowing


I defy fear to look over the edge
from my high climb,
Gripped tight by the spell that turns my courage
into a pillar of salt.
A breeze riffles the surface of the drowning pool
below me.
“Listen”, it whispers.
I hear only my wildly beating heart.
“Breathe”, it sighs,
and my legs stop their melting.
Unreasoned fear dissipates,
and I take a step forward
on the balance beam of life.
“Stay with me I cry-hold my hand.”
But like quick silver you are gone even as I try to catch on to you.
Shed joyful tears of knowing,
Gladly given,
Freely flowing,
From the everlasting wellspring of the Grail.
Sweat stings my eyes.
The work is almost more then I can bear:
dirty, tedious, heavy, and cruel.
Til a spring rain comes washing out my winter of “too hard.”
Hear the sun singing in a puddle of snow,
beaming a song I know but can’t recall.
Round rolls the melody with the words,
spinning a memory
just beyond my reach.
Come the tears of joyful knowing,
Gladly given,
Freely Flowing,
From the everlasting wellspring of the Grail.
Sometimes, in a watercolor world of happenstance,
the shapes run together just right,
as if a magic hand was arranging them.
And I know, because I can’t repeat it when I try.
And sometimes, in a wide open smile,
or in the passion of the dance,
there is this flame that flickers,
and I know, because I cannot light it,
nor can I warm myself by its elusive fire,
for it is too uncommon,
playing,
like the reflection of stars across the midnight of my aloneness.
Sweet the tears of joyful knowing
Freely given,
Overflowing,
From the everlasting wellspring of the Grail.

Coincidence?

just beyond
Out of the blue, the year my father turned 81, I inexplicably fell into depression. I cried every night, and lost 20 pounds,  grieving for what seemed to be no reason at all.  After two weeks of this, my mother told me that my Dad, who long had entertained perfect health, would stay overnight in the hospital for his yearly exam. We went to church on the way to pick him up.  During Mass, I sobbed so loudly people seated in our pew moved away, disgusted by my lack of decorum.  Later, at the hospital, as we prepared to go home, my father died.   Would you call my grieving coincidental?
One morning before school, my college room-mate Gloria told me of her disturbing dream.  “Last night,” she said, “I dreamed that in spite of all I could do to help, grandma couldn’t climb stairs because of a pain in her leg.  She wanted to get to a bed at the end of the hall upstairs, but died before we could reach it.” Gloria went off to classes shaking her head, for she had never dreamed of her beloved grandmother before. Later that morning came the news that grandmother had died overnight from a blood clot that formed in the leg and traveled to the heart. But the dream was just coincidence-right?
Since we lived near a mining community, I heard stories of mine disasters, and the amazing way people and animals knew of them before they were announced. It became impossible for me to dismiss these experiences as mere coincidence, and I came to believe we have powers we neither can control or explain away.
Have you ever seen a dowser work-or better yet, have you held in your own hands a make shift coat hanger rod or a professional tool, watching/feeling it twist and point at a water pipe or aquifer?  Try it-you may be surprised. And if it happens to you, you might even put a new name to coincidence, perhaps naming it instead, for psychic gifts of sensing, seeing, hearing or knowing (clairsentience, clairvoyance, clairaudience or claircognizance).
The media is deluged with mysterious stories, an example is the series “Weird or What” on the Discovery channel.  The host William Shatner weighs psychic and scientific theory, but some people will be afraid of what the wierdness means and label it as evil.   Others seek out exercises to develop their intuitive powers, hoping to use them for the good of humanity.  And you, what do you think? Do you watch for omens: a lone bird in the sky, a four leaf clover, a shooting star; do you take special note of a sudden chill sensation, a tingle, a feeling of dread; perhaps you concentrate on the ‘here and now’, becoming mindful of your thoughts and receptive to intuition? What are your stories that some might label coincidental but you think might be a personal experience of the sixth sense or the supernatural?

A Space to Matter

Here is a  space for us to share with poetry, song, images and prose, our somewhat battered hearts. In creative expression, healing begins. Like setting free caged birds, we can release to the universe our deepest fears and our moments of connection, choosing words worthy of our feelings. I offer the first poem, one written to explain how a soldier found his way home after World War I-writing a journal in the loft of a barn (look for it in my novel, The Way Back). He came to hide from memories of war, but in this cathedral space, he stormed heaven’s gate and emerged victorious. I call it

The Altar

So tired from dragging my memories,
Like heavy stones weighing me down,
I came to hide and warm the small thing I call my self
In the loft of the barn

In this high place
I observed life- going on without me
Safe while I tried to bury my secret sack of rocks
dark stones stained with blood and tears
in the sweet hay smelling of my youth.
But like an avalanche, they rolled out unbidden
into the strange light of this cathedral
to be tumbled into gems
that I polished into words
An offering for the tabernacle
on the altar of the barn.
Nothing lasts they tell me.
People move on, boards and beams decay
But the words I’ve chosen, symbols of my meaning
Are released as am I.
Free to create as the winds of change blow through me
And to give it all away again, keeping nothing.
Larger, ever larger as the “I” melts away like a dying ember,
Consumed in living
 
 
                                                                                                      Photo by Raymond Lam

Magic Doors to the Unforgettable. Untold tales and meaningful encounters .

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