The trees of October are shedding their green. The lush and fecund green of summer is the brightest green, but also the first to go. It's saturation fades to a darker, duller, less vibrant hue than before, to a leathery green. Where once green was pervasive, a spot of brightness appears. As the days go by, fiery reds, blazing oranges, glowing yellows, even some burgundy shades overtake the pure greenness. The air becomes a swirl of color. The leaves flitter and fall, littering green grass with layers of gold and brown. Transitions are nature's way of telling us that change is the rule of the land.
Cities change in the way that the trees of October do. New buildings of brushed sandstone and marble begin to age; their bronze and chrome surfaces become coated in a patina of urban oxidation. Copper roofs turn turquoise and then to a muddy blue green. The mature buildings settle into a collective gray and sepia-toned cityscape whose outline is instantly recognizable. Until one day, when a building is shed and the urban landscape is forever changed.
There on the corner, wasn't there a building, a bank, a hotel, or was it a restaurant? I remember it was there, I think, but now it is gone. Then yet another building is shed, further uptown, and soon a new, bright and shiny structure stands where it once stood. Sometimes a vanquished building leaves an outline of itself on the wall surface of an abutting building. You can see where the staircase stood and how many floors it had. When the cavity is filled, that pentimento is obscured and the memories of its existence begin to fade. With each construction a new cityscape is formed.
Change and transition make us want to cling to what once was, just as we want to cling to summer when we sense the approach of winter. But trying to cling to what once was is like trying to catch raindrops in your hands. Your hands will be wet with moments of the past as the storm water washes over and around you, but the storm can't stop for you to gather more drops as it swirls towards its onward journey.
Remember the trees of October, when the last leaf falls to the ground and snow blankets the leaf-covered earth, that captured beneath those layers, and in the memory of those trees, there resides the promise of a future. A promise to be realized, when the trees burst forth with the buds of April, that life will always move forward. Transitions.
Fear is the most valued asset in the world, especially when it is coupled with shame. All the great and powerful institutions have realized fear and shame's worth; they have used and abused the pair to gain control, maintain control and destroy all that would usurp control. Religion, government, business, the media, even friends and family have all used fear and shame to exert control. Often it is beneficently disguised as trust.
As individuals we sometimes fear the dark, or aberrant weather, changes and differences, we fear our enemies, we fear the angry gods. In moments of weakness we fear everything we don't know, and then much of what we do. We are ashamed of our fear because we fear our fear will be unmasked. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," as we are revealed suddenly in a diminished form.
We are told to fear for our safety, our future, and our salvation. "Fear for your life!" – and we do. Fear is that potent a weapon; it compromises the core of who we are, our judgments, values, actions and how we live our lives. We quake from fear and long to be brave, to do what is right, what we know is right, but instead we cower in the long, dark shadow of fear. We at times construct an artifice of lies and deceits to cloak us from our fears, but the shame felt from that inability to act, limits us, and ultimately allows others to affect our behavior and take control.
When someone wants to exact power, they search for your Achilles' heel. They look to find that small spot the magic water of the River Styx did not protect. What secrets in your life, if exposed, will bring you under their control? Perhaps it is your pride, your consciousness of your own dignity. If your shame is revealed, it just may destroy your life, family, job, and especially self-esteem; so you fear the moment when your shame becomes your vulnerability. Yes, we have learned through the ages that fear and shame can be as devastating in their power as that arrow's pierce of its target, Achilles.
How do we disarm, deprive of its power to hurt or give harm, those who would wield fear and shame for their own benefit? Recognize when fear is presented to you. Question, do you trust in this fear? Is it rational fear, irrational fear, or is it manipulated fear? Shine a lantern illuminating the dark shadow that accompanies fear. Rumors, lies and innuendo shirk from enlightenment. Realize the potential of shame felt when you succumb to fear’s power; be brave, own up to your actions and motivations, be proud of who you are, be honest about what you do. Wonder next time you are told to “Be afraid, be very afraid,” is someone or something trying to control you or your actions through their use of fear? Is it heeding caution that they seek from you, or is your inactivity in the face of their activity that is the goal? “Trust me, I know what I’m doing,” may not be the advice you should embrace, especially when someone whispers it to you from the dark.
I joined Writers Bloc, a group of writers from Monmouth County, NJ, whose styles are as diverse as their backgrounds and interests. Here are some of my writings from our meetings.