more than just scars

(image from a post by Nick Smith, believed to be from the collection of John Wareham, artist’s name unknown)

the research done with feral children shows
our neural pathways form
in line with what we need to learn,
and once we’re adolescents, then these paths are set
and can no longer change.

so if we fail to learn at least one abstract language
when we’re young, then once we’re ten
we can no longer do so:
all our paths are now in use for more essential purposes
(like instinct, the alertness to non-verbal cues, perhaps
the deeper meaning of caress, and hug).

but what if it’s the same for learning presence?
what if all those fears and unmet needs of early youth
informed us that we can’t afford to just let go,
not even for one moment?
what if our detachment, now, is in our bones
and in our bodies’ messageways so deep,
and so essentially a part of us
we cannot now escape it, or unlearn it anymore?

and what if modern humans now are wired
for chronic stress, a lifelong fate
of raw, inflamed response
to all the hurts and empty spaces, childhood scars
and pain and fears we’ve never learned to tame,
bequeathing incapacity, for life,
for true connection or authentic self?

if so these masks we wear, these sad personas
all the same, like everybody-else,
are truly prisons we cannot escape,

and sadder yet, we’ve raised our own young feral ones
to carry on our sentence, just like us
aware enough to know just what we’ve lost
but nevermore the means to find it.

This entry was posted in Creative Works. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to more than just scars

  1. Neil Hammond says:

    That feral kid thing is dodgy cos the ‘n’ is miniscule by definition, is pre more recent awareness of brain plasticity throughout life, and is wrapped up with Chomskian linguistics to boot,which we won’t even go into.
    Look, the voice that wrote this piece is simply your highly able and useful identity desperately threatened by the very concept of a practise that will undermine it. If you want to get the difference between you identity and your actual self, your self is the one not doing the talking. This becomes evident in meditation. Wherein lies your actual problem here :-)

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Reposting a comment I made in response to the ‘you’re wrong the brain is really plastic’ comment on my Google+ copy of this post:

    Laborious, painstaking work done over decades by real doctors and scientists with real people coping with learning disabilities (rather than the pop psychobabble of ‘neuroscientists’) shows that the brain is only plastic within narrow parameters. And we have no idea what the changes in what’s visible in the brain really ‘mean’. As Nasim Taleb wrote recently “Studying neurobiology to understand humans is like studying ink to understand literature.”

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    And, while I was drawing a metaphor rather than asserting any kind of scientific equivalence, I’d be the first to admit that it is possible to alter human ‘psyches’ — military hazing, the nazis, the Rwandan slaughter and many of the ‘break-em-to-fix-em’ modern cult methods attest to that. I’m just questioning whether what results is just a deformity, a permanent psychosis, a worse brokenness, and whether a gentler way of reconnecting once we’ve been damaged by chronic stress is possible for most people. Certainly a lot of people struggle with meditation, and not just because they’re lazy or impatient.

  4. Neil says:

    Your self is the one not doing the talking. Listen to it.

  5. Glenn says:

    Dave, I like your willingness to explore both the things you know well and the things you are still grappling with. There is a vulnerability in this, putting something out there, without having anything concrete to hold on to. Seems very real to me. And when the comments start to pile up, I can’t help but to wonder how such objective responses can be so easily put forward for something so subjective, so personal. Much thanks.


  6. mike daniel says:

    Dave, thanks for your truth speaking in the last two blogs. I read Martin Prechtel’s “The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun” recently and found his speaking about the “never-before-seen shiny thing” to be very helpful for me. Also Russell Lockhart’s writing in The Dream Network Journal on the Fictive Purpose of Dreams opened new stories for me. He writes that rather than seeking the meaning of a dream we allow our imaginations to work on the dream content. Typically there is a response and this response has now moved into an entirely fictive realm. “This is the realm of story mind.” Russell writes. This response is what comes from in Robert Olen Butler’s words “the white hot center of you” Russell Lockhart quotes Butler “Art does not come from ideas. Art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where you dream. Art comes from your unconscious, from white hot center of you”.
    Russell Lockhart continues “stories heal in way that concepts cannot. When the story mind becomes engaged it brings the potential for healing in its wake. The story mind is ever present even when we are awake but its subtle promptings can easily be brushed aside in favour of the ego’s yearning for meaning. One’s encounter with the deepest, most healing experiences, does not come from seeking after meaning, but opening oneself to the deeper reaches of psyche’s story mind.”
    About a year ago I attended a workshop with David Abram, Taira Rested and Ken called Wind, Rock and Wave. It was an amazing experience of opening to nature speaking. Again through experience a new story of relationship was created. Now I am working with water letting that “something” come through that is reunion.

  7. Neil says:

    I’m struck by the fact that you equate transformation, or the process of inner change, with evil. There is wound there that needs to be found, and cared for rather than fed.

  8. What I particularly appreciated about this piece is precisely what seems to be an authentic voice of true concern and questioning. What I see (maybe because I am looking for it) is a non-dualistic vision of human nature that is being born from your work with the brokenness of yourself and others. This birthing seems to be a slow process for most of us. We choose to think in terms of wholeness/brokenness. Something else, a third way, an Hegelian synthesis is cracking out.

    I once asked a question in the middle of the night around a fire, of a shaman who had just talked about the fact that many aboriginal peoples do not have the grief that we (western Anglos) experience as we watch their unique cultures amalgamated, appropriated and formed anew by exposure to others’. My question was something like this: ‘If I can get through the knothole of my despair for the way things should be and are not, will I be able to be more present and alive to what is.’ His answer was quick and incisor like, ‘Yes. But do not forget to grieve.’

  9. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks Beth. It is probably wise for us not to expect our grieving to be rational or controlled. The poem was about reaching a point of acceptance of what is, not out of defeatism or resignation but out of self-love. Like the losing of a limb or a sense, acceptance is hard, a process full of messy grief, and for some may be impossible. But no more impossible than the belief that, with the right ‘practice’ or ‘discipline’, undoing that loss is possible. And I’m not sure (hence the “what if… if so”) that the loss of connection, the loss of ‘being-a-part-of’ is an incontrovertible one, though I think it might be, notwithstanding the claims of our new alchemists the quack ‘neuroscientists’.

  10. John Graham says:

    Hi Dave, thanks for the clarifying comment.

    To add a bit more popularised neuroscience (quack or otherwise): the brain is plastic but not elastic. Important distinction.

    Thanks for the knothole metaphor and comment, Beth.

Comments are closed.