My Experiences

Clawing at the Armrest of the Soul (Force vs Power)

My father was a force.

He was a yang “push” in a straight line. He was 6-foot-4, 285lb of masculine energy pushing forward. Physically, if applied to an object, he resulted “chiefly in an acceleration of the object and sometimes in elastic deformation and other effects.”

In the Indianapolis fire department, he was the guy they used to break down doors.

“Run at the door and you’ll bounce off of it. That hurts. Don’t hit the door. Find a point on the -other side- of the door and run at that. Move through the door.” – Randy Shelby

In the world of objects and physical reality that everyone can see, my father had lots of force. In the masculine realm of the observable world, you could see him bend things to his will. Or break them.

When something set him off emotionally, he was beyond human. The man was replaced by total fury. A raging, whirling energy filled the room. He was that force of nature that sends waterspouts winding and dancing into the clouds or a tree trunk through your temple. He was a hurricane.

It was loud. Witnessing it drained the adrenal glands. You could cower and hope it would pass. And it wouldn’t. Each time, after twisting dangerously around the room and cutting the air to shreds, it would focus directly on you.

To his mind, the spilled milk was what made him angry. You were the one who spilled it.

I remember him smashing plate after plate of food against the wall. Because I had dropped a fork on the carpet.

The rage was deep-seated, always there, always waiting to come out of him.

It picked you up and wrenched you. It twisted all the joy out of you and crumpled you into a protective ball. Then it would drop you back to the floor. But without a physical scratch, from the time I was 5.

My mother put an end to his physical abuse early in my life.

Out of love for his family, my father attempted to channel that raging physical energy into sound and fury. He was successful. Only once did he leave marks on my body after I was 5.

My father loved his family.

But that rage was always with him.

Did he want it?

I remember a specific scene from my childhood, after one of the daily storms had passed. His rage had finished with me and I was dismissed to my room.

Crouching on hands and knees, I came back. I peeked around a doorjamb at him.

I watched him, his body crushing a huge dad-recliner. He clutched the overstuffed chair’s arms, clawing at the tufted ridges at the end. His hands clenched and unclenched. His face was splotched with a brick-color. His eyes were shut tight, his face drawn tight in pain. He exhaled with the sound of an inner-tube being stepped on in a gravel driveway.

This went on for a long, long time.

I saw that whatever the thing was that had picked me up, bashed me and dropped me – still had ahold of him.

There was nobody else in the room.

There was nobody who was doing anything wrong.

There was nothing to be angry at. Nobody to blame, to shame, to fault. There was no wrong to rage against. Nobody else around for that rage to catch hold of.

Yet there it was. He couldn’t do anything about it. Even when he was the one it was causing pain.

And the emotion was there in him every day.

Many people think we have emotions that are “justified” or “unjustified.” We like to think of our feelings has being “caused.” We like to think that it is an external event which controls our inner lives.

As an adult, there was nothing wrong with my father’s life.

He had achieved. He had the American Dream. He had a devoted wife. He had a son he loved, even if he did not always understand the way his son saw the world.

My father had a place to go to work, where people smiled in his direction. He had more than the average 2.28 cars of the American household.

There was a utilitarian minivan in the driveway. A fun Mustang parked beside the house. And a ’66 Shelby GT350H in the garage.

My father had a house he owned and a family to fill it with.

Like any man, he wanted a “bigger,” amplified version of all those things. The house was only 1,400-sq feet. He probably wanted the Shelby to be faster, although it had a matching-numbers 289 Hi-Po. He probably wanted for each piece of the engine to shine. He probably intended to put the engine parts back together someday.

Like any man, he wanted more of what makes life good.

That form of success continues to live around the corner from you, even when you move into a bigger house.

He could continue to provide physical things to himself and others. Observable events, and the possession of objects, did not change what happened within him.

The rage was in him, burning like a deep coal fire, day after day. With or without an “event” to stoke it, it burned on.

He thought it was there because of external “bad things.” He thought it was because of wrongs in the world he could not push right.

He wanted society to be fair. He wanted governments to be just. He wanted people to be good, or at least get their heads out of their asses about being bad.

The rage flared for all the things outside him that he saw as “wrong.”

It stayed lit for the things inside him that were “wrong.” He could not accept himself as he was. He would not accept the world as it is.

To accept, to allow the world to “be,” is a feminine form of spirituality. To accept reality is to yield to a reality outside the mind.

To allow things to be as they are, and to love this world for being, is a feminine quality.

We all have feminine qualities within us. To cherish them and practice them, does not require us to be female.

To enfold oneself around the shape of reality without asking reality to change is an important part of being human. As is the desire to push on reality and ask it to change.

To accept and love beyond condition is a feminine practice. It is a human practice.

My father had been taught that any femininity in the self must be fought against. \

He saw any mote of the soft or sensitive or nurturing found drifting within a man as “wrong.” When he saw it in himself, he raged against it. When he saw it in me, he attempted to help me and crush it out of me.

We are all both feminine and masculine. We all exist along a spectrum in any given trait.

My father was taught to fear and hate the feminine within himself, and to actively cut off from it. He was beaten severely as a child, for drawing a picture, for singing a song. He could not accept his own sensitivities.

He could not accept the feminine process of acceptance itself. He fought against what he was.

He could not welcome the world or himself. Parts of those things were wrong. He would constrict against them, and try to crush them out.

Yet the world and the self continued to do their thing, and that thing was different than what he imagined as “good.”

That abraded him, irritated him. He burned against it with contempt and resentment. He did not and would not welcome what he was.  He would not accept what anybody was, or what this universe is.

He had no ability to use his feminine force of acceptance, understanding and unconditional love. He gave himself no permission to do so.

He burned for this.

In the outer world, my father could bash apart most things and people.

In the inner world of feeling and experience, my father was powerless.

Out in the “real world” of American culture, people enjoy a show of force, a spectacle of observable action. We value the masculine. We like to see people shove things around.

Yet, with all this supposed ability to dominate nature, we continue to have problems.

We can’t seem to force our bodies not to be fat. The economy does not do our bidding. Ecologies do not do what we wish, and environments do not bow down to us.

Is it because we are not shoving on them hard enough?

Large, interconnected systems may ask us for something else.

In many realms of human existence, power comes from an ability to accept what is and work with it. The foundation of science is a submission to nature. We observe, we predict, we accept what the universe gives us even if that does not match our predictions.

At its best, science and spirituality consist of learning how reality moves and dancing with that motion.

If we value battle over healing and growth, we can declare war on our bodies. We can go to war with the environment, and see if the will of man is truly more powerful than the rest of the universe.

Or, we can learn to value other things. Forcing and fighting are not always effective in getting us what we want. Power is not only found in being masculine. Power is found in being human.


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