Things that make indelible marks. Stains that will never wash away. Living is replete with them. We may sometimes feel we are the sum of our stains.
Baby firsts – first steps, first toy, first words, first taste of a raw lemon – these are not the “firsts” that we remember. The ones that we do recall are the ones that stay with us, that shape our decisions and attractions as well as our repulsions.
Traumas and pleasures. Little things that become big things. The scent of a perfect heirloom rose. The sharp bite of a bee sting. The taste of a perfect slice of melon on a hot day. The metallic tang of garden hose water, first warm and then cool from deep in the ground, a kind of coolness that somehow smells like raw earth. The feel of wind in your hair as you take a big hill on your bike for the first time. The rush of adrenaline when you steal a candy from the store. The shock when you experience physical violence for the first time.
Watching an animal die, claws extended in agony, eyes wide with terror, face in a rictus of pain, a pain that must be too terrible for you to understand or imagine. Forever dispelling the lie that animals do not feel, do not know. Being present at the death bed of a friend, or a parent. The first time you learn as a female child that the only metric for your worth the world you live within allows is your ability to be a wife and mother, that you have no other meaning, no other reason to exist. What it means to be worthless in a paradigm that sees you as a consumer, that all the things that you feel and want have no meaning, and must all be poured out on the ground in service to unseen controllers and their middlemen.
The stain of the first time you discover the frequency and depth of human deception. The stain of when you understand the reasons for it, and observe the bloom of cynicism in your own mind, like a drop of blood dispersing in water. How it creates its own particular stain, and the forever taste it leaves in your mouth. The stain of folly when idealism and hope overwhelm that cynicism and breach the wall of your pragmatism, only to be rebuilt more carefully. The day you installed barbed wire on that fence. The way that you learn, or don’t learn, that failure is not the end of the world or your life. The stains and scars of battles that give you new skills, and the immense wisdom they evidence. The stain of realizing that not all people gain wisdom with their scars.
The stain of your first love. Your second. The stain of realizing you could fall in love again, but it isn’t the same. The stain of heartbreak. Of learning how to uncolor the world from shades of her or him. Of learning how to breathe again.
Your first few indelible marks are like tattoos, black outlines writ clear and deep and etched to the bone. They bound the spaces that will be filled slowly, over time, with colors shaped from ideas and trials, errors and successes, bad choices and good choices. You will learn that choice is illusory, but that it is not “illusion” in the sense that you think you understand that word to mean. If you are lucky you will learn this. If you are open and listening and pay attention to the things that the world teaches you about itself and yourself. If you have a mind with the capacity to learn these things. A lot of people are not this kind of lucky. But this is not important. The path is what matters.
What is stain and what is tattoo depends on you, but not always on the conscious you. There are always going to be differences in experience based on who and what we are. This is inevitable, call it karma or accident or lottery. Or perhaps see it as something More. The important bit is learning how to move through the world with the grace of a dancer and the wisdom of those who have figured out so much of this. A listening ear for those who speak quietly about a Vision that exists outside of what is accepted and propagandized. The earlier in life we figure this out, the greater of our energy is put to more productive ends. We sometimes call this “maturity”. The subtle stain of figuring out who has maturity and who does not.
The subtle stain discovered when you realize how few people in the world can see beyond the horizon of their own immediacy. And that the worst among these end up in positions of power, since sociopathy is the easiest path to undeserved gain and sociopathy is not natural but a mutation inherent or learned. The stain of fear toward those who claim ownership of wealth thirty times what they could possibly spend in one lifetime. The stain of rage when your mind begins to grasp the level of suffering in the world because of the egregious hoarding gleefully engaged in by a few.
The stain of political awareness. And the stain of going deeper with it, or losing it altogether.
The stain of war. The stain of life stolen. The stain of what war really means.
The indelible marks of others will fill your world the longer you walk within it. You learn when you need companionship and when you need distraction. But only if you are engaging Awareness. Some never even learn this, only learn how to isolate in rank terror of the pain of their beliefs about themselves. They feel they will disintegrate in face of the needs of others, but have no strength for them or for themselves. The dark paradigm we currently inhabit has become one long and incessant demand for sacrifice. They never learned to connect, to belong, or to Become. They never learned that when you are part of the whole, the weight of responsibility shifts to something far larger than you. And you become more than only yourself, without disappearing into a hegemony where the individual must be sacrificed for the glory of the paradigm, the construct, the idea. Subsumed in the idea, and the ideal, we disappear. The construct cannot exist if the creators are visible and valuable. (Pro tip: the Man at the Top of the Heap is not its creator – the thousands and millions making up the heap are the real creators.) But when what we create is a larger body to which we all belong, to which we are all participant, then all are gifted with Becoming More.
The most indelible mark is the first one we discover before our minds comprehend it as discovery. We are one, yet many, yet more. We are Becoming. Hold on to it.