Temporarily Housed

13 Oct

“…Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” — Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Of course we are all temporarily housed throughout life.  Because of my Reiki practice I came to think of the physical body as a temporary dwelling.  With Reiki, the practitioner is not actually trying to affect the outcome of the course of the physical body’s various trajectories.  Rather, the practitioner provides loving support as the recipient experiences the changes of the body.  If it were entirely matter and energy then the phrase, dust to dust, would be apt, as if we begin inert and end inert.  That does not even account for our relation to life cycles and what formation and decomposition take part in.  We are always reaching beyond that simple quotient, though, whether we believe in an afterlife or karmic return.  Even atheism carries with it the desire to weigh life in terms of its limitations and find transcendent truths about living.

That I have arrived at the kind of temporary housing that began on Friday astounds me.  It is to be known as the widow’s house.  The son refers to it simply as that.  It is the largest dwelling I have ever occupied.  There is so much of it I just want to find a safe corner and pile straw.  The house is in probate and my time within is unknown.  So, unlike Shaughn, the lady I continue to assist in moving, I will not try strive for the impossible.  Where she brought everything she could possibly squeeze into someone else’s apartment for three months, I will keep my possessions in storage.  And while my daily needs will be met, I will limit the multiple desires that come within the American ethos to possess house and home.

There are angels.  They are available to each and every one of us.  They are angels because, like the codified vision of an ethereal being winging in from an indiscernible origin, they appear when we are not looking for them.  They bear news, information, commiseration, concern, and any number of other things.  They arrive when we cease to believe in intervention.  They intercede because we need to know that life is in many ways beneficent and kind.  In my present case, the son knew I was homeless and offered temporary dwelling.  I know him as a patron of the bookstore where I occasionally work.  Other generous interventions came of late.  One of my morning coffee mates presented me with a personal check that represented a pooled collection from several concerned people.  He is one of three people I see every morning at an Internet cafe.  They have become like family even though we do not know each other as deeply as family members tend to.  A dear friend from my New York Reiki circle sent me cash more recently.  I am deeply grateful.

I am also curious about that part of ourselves which precipitates intervention.  There is a relevant tale by O. Henry, a short story called “The Green Door.”  Rudolf Steiner is an adventurer.  His luck is sometimes with him, it sometimes is not, as when he loses “watch and money” for the allure of adventure, for his willingness to tempt fate “led him into strange paths.”  For Henry, true adventure is not set to a goal, it, instead, reaches for the unknown.  Henry’s characters are individuals within the large city.  Many paths cross and one cannot be sure where any one particular crossing may lead.  As with Hermann Hesse’s character Harry Haller in the novel Steppenwolf (a man who finds he cannot be at home with human society), Steiner is led through a door to unexpected, more magical, turns of event.  Haller’s door is entrance to Pablo’s Magic Theatre.  Steiner’s search for a green door, instigated when handed an advertisement card by a man on the street, leads to his intervention in a young woman’s distress, finding her unemployed and hungry from three days lack of food.  A note is required here about the “negro” who hands out cards to passersby: his character is typical of popular representation from the period, the author employing stereotypical racial characterization that barely rises above the pathetic images of its time.  Steiner, though, is not Haller.  Steiner, a piano salesman, partakes of the city as a consumer, albeit more willing to explore the dark shadows alone, than, say, the consumers of spectacle George Chauncey describes visiting the Lower East Side of New York in his book, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay World, 1890-1940, or Anne Douglas points to slumming in Harlem in her book, Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s.  The reader realizes that intervention works both in the unknown woman’s circumstances and also Steiner’s, for he will leave Adventure for Romance, having been smitten by her, and thus prove that, contrary to Henry’s assertion, Romance and Adventure cannot coexist within the single quest.  Certainly Steiner will move beyond the nights and dark shadows of the city to embrace the flower that his charitable act has nurtured.  Thus, Henry reaffirms the comfort that capitalist society endorses.  Hesse, on the other hand, critiquing Weimar Germany between the wars, bravely sends Haller on a journey that not only reminds the reader of the horrors that capitalism creates through greed and war, and partakes of the liberating influence of hedonism, but beyond, proposes a greater enlightenment through disintegration and reintegration of the self.

If the body is to be considered a vessel for the containment of the soul, then “house and home” begins within.  If not properly cared for, the body can become a prison cell enclosed by the dis-ease of mind and the dark side of the spirit.  I anguish inside every time I see a homeless person adrift, but tethered by the noticeably visible, damaging circumstances of body and mind.  A man screamed tonight as he hurried along the sidewalk.  He carried a single suitcase.  He cursed over and over again.  And his body jerked in spasmodic motion every few feet, the movement appearing like a marionette on strings.

In a Sea of Darkness, digital photograph, 2006.

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3 Responses to “Temporarily Housed”

  1. Lisa Bridle DeCrais October 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    I agree there are angels. Sometimes I believe they do not take the form of a being, but that of an unbelievable action or even unreal coincidence that makes us take pause. I have had many of the latter and keep a collection of these moments in the back of my mind. Here in lies my question David, if we have angels (either in flesh or action), do we not have a counterpart…unkind spirits who throw down obstacles?

    • dpduckworth October 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

      That is an excellent phrase, Throw down obstacles. I agree with the thought that angels do perform the opposite. Life holds a constant balance between darkness and light, good and bad or good and evil, etc. There are dark angels and, as you write, actions and coincidences which throw us into darkness.

      • Lisa Bridle DeCrais October 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

        Thank you, I only like words when I can have my way with them.

        I wonder if perhaps it is the same angels (or energies) and that it is our perceptions that deem an action “good” or “evil”. If this is the case I would like to train my angels to tip the scales in my favor. I am going out to find angel taming gear.

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