Sunday, April 06, 2008

Bud Graduates from the Institiute for Positive Living

Today Bud graduates and is reunited with his longsuffering wife, Martha.

Last night I had a lovely dinner with artist/poet/disability advocate Pat Jones, her husband, Richard, and their beloved son, Taylor. After watching Kansas dust North Carolina, wine, pizza and dessert, we jawed about many litnet friends, from the late Ron Jones of Avatar to Paul Stevens of Shit Creek Review. Pat and Richard have a beautiful house with a view of a creek emptying into an ocean cove.

Three days ago in an undepressed moment I saw a doohickey in a planter on Main Street that I had to have. Called a "Rainbow Triple Spinner," by WindGarden of Premier Kites, it now adorns my lawn. Composed of three wheels of increasing diameter on an axle, each with a black rim and nylon cloth spokes in a prism of colors. The wheels hang out from a central pole, whose "keel"--a triangle of fabric-- catches the wind and causes the supporting shaft to turn inside the stake in the grass 360 degrees. If you stare through the three wheels while they're turning fast, the whole thing looks bronze. When it slows you see all the colors again. I tried to put a link in here to a picture of the gadget but their site only allows retailers to access it. The silly little lawn ornament, for a mere $32.00, has given me moments of joy.

Now for Bud, who settles for happiness:


Stick-figures from the holocaust with pipecleaner limbs, eyes bulging, bones tenting skin, were being shoveled into a mass grave. SS details scooped the corpses in like refuse. The photo chilled him.

"What do you see, Bud?"

He took a deep breath and tried to believe in his own words. "I see the corpses of those who endured torture now relieved by blessed death."

"Excellent, excellent, you're catching on fast. It's not that difficult, is it? These poor people had no chance of recovery and death was their only release. Even the Germans seem tired of the spectacle in this photograph, as if they wished they didn't have all this work their fanaticism created. And remember, without the Holocaust, the Nation of Israel might never have been recognized by the major powers. So their deaths were not in vain."

The next picture was of a bird with a broken wing. "I see a bird who needs to learn how to get along on the earth," offered Bud.

"Good. Learning to live with limitations. Overcoming the challenge of being grounded. Excellent! How about this photo?"

A classic mushroom cloud erupted from the Nevada desert, savaging the atmosphere with sheets of light.

"What do you see?"

"First of all, the demonstration of the benefits of nuclear power so many of our cities depend on. And then the successful deterrent which has kept the peace since the Second World war."

"You're coming along just fine. Now I want you to go to your own table and pick out some photos and write your interpretations on a piece of paper. I'll check on you in a while."

Bud was pleased with himself. He sat down and began rummaging through a variety of photographs. He found one of a man who'd been hanged, still dangling by the rope. "Nice that the law of gravity is so reliable," Bud wrote. Then a beached whale. "Best to eliminate those members of a species whose navigational abilities are suspect so that succeeding generations don't suffer their genes." A picture of clear-cutting in a virgin forest. "Not enough meadows in the forest to sustain a wider variety of life. Creating meadows through clear-cutting helps nature's diversity." A junkie shooting heroin. "Nice that a drug exists which can completely take away one's pain." A smoggy sky over Los Angeles. "Pollution is but a small price to pay for increased mobility and prosperity. Besides, the sunsets are lovely."

Presently Mrs. Claiborne came by to review his work. "Good, Bud, outstanding. How do you feel about these pictures?"

"Great," Bud replied. "They didn't get me down at all."

"Why should they get you down? They have no power over you; they're just pictures. Your interpretations find in them the inspiration you can find anywhere, no matter how challenging our circumstances, don't you agree?"

Bud nodded.

"It's so simple, isn't it? Life is neutral and our minds assign the meaning. Positive meanings are just as easy as negative meanings to cultivate, and besides, they make you feel better, right?"

"Right," said Bud. Mrs. Claiborne gave him a twinkly Mary Poppins smile.

As the days progressed to weeks Bud became a model student of The Institute for Positive Living. When afflicted by blisters after a day hike, he was eager to point out how his skin had attempted to protect his feet from further damage by erecting stress cushions. In group therapy he became adept at instructing newcomers in the preferred world view. His meals improved as well, since he had developed the courage to ask for what he wanted. And when combined with the personal fitness program administered by Larry, Bud found the dark cloud of depression had lifted so gradually he hardly noticed. He was not aware of any sad or anxious feelings, only feelings of expectation and awareness. He was eager to test his newfound skills in the outside world, eager to return to his wife and to work. After thirty days he was pronounced ready for discharge.

After good-byes to staff, he waited in the glistening white foyer with his faded blue gym bag and a faint smile on his face, feeling slightly wistful about leaving. But he was confident his new interpretation of life could sustain his positive feelings now through all circumstances, come hell or high water. And he couldn't wait to share this breakthrough with Martha.
He saw her arrive in her gray Corolla, trailing a cloud of red dust. It was a hot day and she looked weary as she trudged to the entrance. Having been already discharged, Bud bounded out the door, grabbed Martha, set her on the car hood and gave her a long kiss. When their lips parted Martha looked at him through teary eyes.

"Bud? Is that you? You haven't done that since we were dating!"

"I know! Isn't it wonderful? I can't wait to get home and start my life over again."

Martha eyed him skeptically. "Isn't there someone we should talk to about discharge?"

"No, it's all been taken care of. I got the papers right here. Why don't we jet? I'll drive."

"Are you sure? You know it's been a while."

"You never forget how to ride a bicycle," Bud said with confidence. Then he opened the passenger door for her, reminding her to buckle up. He dashed into the driver's seat, backed up, and took off up the dirt road. Martha sat in amazement and dabbed at her eyes with a Kleenex.

"So how was the drive out, honey?" Bud asked.

"Tiring and hot."

"So you had a chance to overcome fatigue and increase your natural tolerance for uncomfortable weather? How wonderful!"

Martha looked nonplussed. "Huh? If you want to put it that way," she said.

"What better way to put it? Do you have a better way to put it?"

"No, Bud, your way is just fine. It's just not how I felt."

"Felt? You felt the way you conceived it. Feelings are just the results of our mental interpretations. That's what I've learned at the IFPL."

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