Birth and Death are 100% Grade A Certainties (oh yeah taxes too, or so the saying goes). The only questions seem to be around matters of when and how. We know we emerge from our Mother, in some fashion, and then return to the Earth at some undetermined place and time. But we know it WILL happen.
We burst into the world at Point A, birth. Or sometimes we have to be pulled out depending on our level of infantile stubbornness. Immediately we set foot at the beginning of a Path. It is one of many Paths that eventually lead to Point B. At Point B we may exit in a brilliant flash of flame and sound. One of our vital life-sustaining mechanisms may crap out. Or perhaps someone will bring a bloody war to our land and we die in a house to house cleansing. Of course, it also might be something as unceremonious as having a heart-attack in the middle of a massive bowel movement. But hey, shit happens right?
In any event, we have before us a series of roads to take to get to Point B. Of course, as young infants we really don’t have a clear concept of Point B, so it initially doesn’t really inform our Path. Well, there are natural fight or flight responses like “Feed Me.” But it’s really focused more around infantile narcissm than it is any actual fear of starving to death. Indeed, as kiddos we see that damn Coyote fall off the cliff a zillion times and he keeps on breathing. So the worst that might happen to us is we turn into an accordion for a few seconds. As we grow, however, we establish more control and more responsibility for our own orienteering. At every step of the way (or maybe it’s every other step, I’m not entirely sure. It would be quite a feat if anyone figured it out), it seems, there is a new turn that can be taken; left, right, left-right. Which do we choose? Why do we choose? Are we even aware of it?
Along the paths there is another phenomenon that is occuring. As we are walking our Paths, and deciding where to go (whether through instince, deliberate thought process, because someone told us so), we are subjected to, and subjecting others to, Shrapnel.
Shrapnel are the bits of experience, events, ideas, and so on that are flying around as we walk the Paths. It’s as though there are roadside bombs that are in a continuous state of detination. For example, we walk along the path as a young child, and at a certain point, we are subjected to Religious Shrapnel. Whether or not to follow our parents’ deities? Whether or not to NOT follow deities? Whether or not to follow a deity different from our family’s? Whether or not I’ll burn in hell if I don’t eat the cracker? As we are approaching the age of 18, we experience Shrapnel from education and career. Guidance counselors are asking you if you want to attend the college fairs. Your Dad is asking you if you are going to that ivy-league college he did. Or perhaps your Mom runs a flower shop and is expecting you to take over. After all, it is called Me and My Daughter’s Blooms. But do you really want to peddle flowers the rest of your life?
There are, of course many, many other examples of Shrapnel. Also. it is important to understand that we aren’t passive bystanders in all of this. We too are part of the Shrapnel creating process. When we become parents we subject our children to expectations, wishes, and wants for their lives. (If all parents’ wishes for their children actually came true, we’d be living in a world comprised solely of Doctors and Lawyers. You’d never be able to get onto a golf course.) As neighbors, we may be part of a collective attitude about how people’s houses and yards should look. (Oh look, Sanderson is putting out another fucking Pink Flamingo. And gosh, it looks like it is fellating the Garden Gnome! Gasp!) As members of Political Party X, we put signs in our yard saying, vote for Rudy Obama. We are throwing out just as much as others are throwing at us.
Do not be disillusioned about Shrapnel. It isn’t all bad. There is the Shrapnel of Art and Creativity. Walking by a park and seeing some folks drumming and creating music. (Drum Circles aren’t just for hippies anymore.) The infective beat that is travelling across the air, that mandates that you move and groove. The lady down the road who is a brilliant artist, displaying her work at the local Sidewalk Art Exhibit. There is the Shrapnel of Happy Childlike Anarchy. Your little girl acting like a goon, and you can’t help but to want to play along. Experiencing the joy in improvisational imagination and going with the flow. This is the sort of Shrapnel you WANT embedded in your flesh. For it too will inform your path. And besides, when you ARE strolling on your path, wouldn’t it be more enjoyable if you were doing a little jig along the way, while whistling a fun little tune? Whistle while you walk. It seemed to do the trick for the Dwarvish 7.
So what to take away from this? Well, first off, make sure you read the other observations of Shrapnel. And then, take a few minutes and think about your path. Think about where you’ve been, who’ve you encountered, what you put in your mouth (ewww, you did that?), and how’ve you navigated life thus far. As you think of the different experiences you’ve had, think of what might have happened if you hadn’t had those experiences. Caution: the point isn’t to think about how you could re-write your life. That part’s done, no good to dwell on it. But, how can you use this perspective going forward? What kind of mental armor can you obtain to shield you from that which may blow you off course? What kind of mechanisms can you construct to welcome in those things in this world which may benefit you? Or better yet, how can you have more bearing on your bearings?
Because seriously, you know Point B is coming soon. Why not make it one hell of a ride?