Archive for September, 2017

Refrain for a Departed Friend

Posted in Uncategorized on September 27, 2017 by michaelcogdill

My friend’s heart stopped beating a few days ago, and refused to begin again.

The news knocked me down into my own.

His death ushered me into that sanctuary within us all.  Down deep, where our true friends find welcome.  Where they make us better than we would be without them.  Down in the only holy place we have.

I sat and wept a while.  Let tears run their healing all over.  And I found a man crying over his lost friend ought to learn something from the tears.  They form a tide washing in a truth about mortality.   He is gone.  His goodness remains.  Death is no match for how we are cared for by the rare true friends who go before us.

Mark Kent came into the world a few months after I did, found himself adopted into a family that believed in him, and more than 40 years later, he adopted me as a brother.  He did not do this because I am a good man who deserves such a friend.  I am not.  He did it out of humility.  Kindness.  The quiet nobility of preferring the music of grace to the clatter of judging me for being a fool sometimes.

I am more noble simply by having been his friend.  It’s thanks to him, not me.

But he leaves me with a task.

I am a carrier now.   Given an instrument tuned by the care of my brother of another mother.  He left me here to echo the music of what it means to be such a friend.  In his death, which makes no sense and leaves a beautiful family to grieve, Mark has taught me that Death is a weakling maker of noise.  A titmouse in a symphony hall.  No match for the music echoed down in chambers of the heart by such a friend.

The stage of this life is empty of the great Mark Kent now.  But all of us elevated by having known him still stand on that stage.  He called us up there.  At the footlights of having been cared for by his way with the world, we must make the refrain of our friend play on.

Peace is Mightier than the Sword. God Knows. Dog Knows.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 19, 2017 by michaelcogdill

A dog dislikes fireworks.  The dog will run from a vacuum cleaner.  A dog will go off somewhere to die, preferring the quiet.

For a dog, what even seems like drama holds no allure.

Humankind will forever try to martyr or shame one another to gain some hold, some control, some wildly undeserved primacy.  Not the dog.  But for a collar or a harness or one of those pink tutus Petsmart sells for chihuahuas, the dog lives proudly naked, unaffected, in need of no such crown.  The dog is unashamed, incapable of being shamed into doing something for the wrong reasons.  No one ever guilted a dog into being a friend, or a girlfriend.

The rest of us are not so civilized.

Maybe this lack of guile is why dogs sleep so well, in the middle of the day, beside active railroad tracks.  Dogs, it’s clear, harbor an inner peace elusive to the humans who feed them.  I believe they can feed us at the soul with the following lesson:

Life’s dramatic enough as it is.  Don’t let people manufacture it and air mail it from their tongues into the heart of the child who lives within you.  That child pleads for your protection.  Give it.

We all have one.  That inner child, still wanting to romp and play and break the occasional heirloom.  Ever innocent, even while peeing outdoors.  Unaffected by spaghetti on her chin or dirt under his nails.

So much like the dog.

I believe when someone martyrs you, controls you, manipulates you to gain some advantage out of you, loads you up on guilt or shame to make off with some part of you, it’s the inner child who gets  hurt, and cries foul.  Who often gets carried off kicking and screaming.  That inner child lives in a safe room inside you.  The mystics would say it’s that place where you store the peace heaven gave you before you left for here.  It’s where the real you lives.  That sovereign room came with you into this world.

But it needs a door.  A sturdy one.  With your hand on the knob.

Otherwise, some will barge in and steal what’s there.  Make off with your serenity.  Kidnap that sacred child.

They will try to tell you they need to store their drama where your peace belongs.

It’ll come in boxes labeled with the likes of this:  How about letting me hold a thousand dollars til payday?   We’re family, so I’m moving in with my brother-in-law.  If you don’t love me as I demand, I’ll leave with the babies. You’ll put up with me, knuckles, fury and all.

Those are but a few.

Your inner child ends up sleeping out in the yard, on the dog bed, with the dog, far from your inner safe room.  The dog won’t sleep in there.  The dog knows better than live with the hell somebody decides to raise inside the heart that still belongs to you.

Sound familiar?  Not to the dog, it doesn’t.  But maybe to you, and to me.

You are a guardian.  A protectorate of that inner child you must never fully outgrow.  I don’t know why our fellow humankind will come with tongues like swords, demanding we surrender that child to them.  Telling us we owe it to them to let them in to ransack the place.  But it seems humanly universal.  The wise Vietnamese Buddhist  Thich Nhat Hanh reaches for an antidote when he urges us to be a home for ourselves.  To maintain a state of quiet in a world full of noise.  My Christian faith and that truth live in lockstep.  Only when we’re home to ourselves can we be of any use to the rest of our fellow suffering in this world.

And this, too:  When they come vowing to break down your inner door, it’s up to you to say — no.

The dog shows us how.

The dog will listen for a moment to human drama, where we might listen for an hour, or a day, or a lifetime.  After that moment, deciding it’s just noise, the dog will go off to some place of peace, for a pee or a lick or a roll in the grass — or all three.  Or the dog will simply sleep through it.  The dog knows better than choose the sword over peace.

Dog’s curate what’s relevant really well.

Your inner child wants to go out and play with the dog.  But does the child have a lovely place to come home to, inside of you?  Who else is living there, storing boxes in there, tearing up the sanctuary?

Would the dog want to come into that heart, and lie down?

It’s a beautiful thing, keeping the heart unlocked.  But even the dog knows better than to take down the door.