A World of Measures

We are a measured society. Our actions fall under values we would wish to believe manifest in our background, cultural mores, the manner we were raised, the people by which we surround ourselves. In order to feel a certain sense of security, I want to believe in doing the right thing, living a life of compassion, respect and understanding. I often fall back upon the only attribute I can always count on to help me move forward – the concept of love. We all have a penchant for understanding what kindness might do to enhance our own personal confidence in who we are and how we go about our lives.

What I just described is how I live my life. I might go through my day with concern of other’s perception of me, but nowhere in my day have I ever felt a concern for my welfare beyond evaluating my own actions and making the right decisions to maintain a moral and dignified life. I have never felt my reality to be threatened by violence of any sort. Even those bullying moments in my childhood didn’t amount to anything as traumatic as senseless loss of life over and over again. I lost my cousin when I was 12 years old – he and I were six months apart in age, and that tragedy changed the course of my young life. What is important to recognize about that moment is that I didn’t have to get used to loss being right around the corner of all my actions throughout every living moment of my existence.

I am a White man living a privileged life.

When George Floyd lost his life last May during the Memorial Day holiday, I struggled to understand his loss. I tried to imagine the pain his world endured and I could not wrap my head around it at all. I couldn’t go and visit the memorial. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I felt pain and compassion for his loss and the impact on the community, including the horrific repetition of a systemic assault upon the welfare and safety of people of color in our society. I realized the Black community lived in a measured life far different than my own.

Daunte Wright lived a measured life. His every action has been based upon and judged by the color of his skin. His safety was when he was surrounded by his friends, his family, the people he counted upon to always be there for him, to not judge him, to never ostracize his position in their lives.

I once sat in a roundtable discussion of an equity based forum, a group whereby I was one of only a couple of white participants in a mix of a dozen contributors. The end discussion was a share of how we all felt about the last hour of a courageous conversation. I spoke out and suggested this was a fascinating hour and that I needed to process this and probably write about my feelings later in the week. I felt confident I was speaking accurately from my heart. A woman on my right said to me, “I’m glad you are going to do that, to process this day – good luck with that.” She then suggested she will get up from the table and be immediately immersed with a need to survive as she goes about her afternoon. She said “I have to be aware of myself in my every move the moment I walk out my door in the morning until evening when I can return to the security of my own home.”

I was actually a bit shocked, perhaps mortified at my naive approach to the measure of someone else’s life far more impacted by the nature of racism in our society. A woman on the right of me after listening to me rationalize my ignorance then plead, “when are white people going to let go of their white guilt and just acknowledge their role in privilege in our society.” Stunned again I thanked everyone at the table for letting me share in the discussion and allow me to have my takeaways. I was humbled. I was measured in the moment, but that feeling paled to the measure I realized people of color will experience every moment of their lives.

Daunte Wright’s life was certainly measured and he suffered a tragic end to living his life in goodness and flaw. The paramount misperception without question the color of his skin. The evidence would suggest a travesty has occurred, one that repeats itself so frequently there are protesters today walking the streets wearing t-shirts with a dozen names printed in a list of losses our Black society has experienced at the hands of ignorance. The world around Breonna and George and Michael and Philando and now Daunte are rampant with a confusing measure of importance in a country where the color of our skin is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. It is important to understand how measures play a role in perception.

There will be push-back. There always is. I have a good friend whose husband, also a friend is a police officer in the twin cities. She once described to me the fear she has every time her husband has to walk up to a parked vehicle he has pulled over for a traffic violation. I wish that analogy could be as simple and educational as it sounds, but there is a greater argument to be had about discrimination, fear, confusion in a hurting society. We are all being measured, however there is a much greater consequence for people of color in a world that still after decades beyond the civil rights movement of the 60’s continues to perpetuate a thinking of ill-met measure and judgment that has nothing to do with the whole of our humanity.

We are all products of the same nature of human beings relying upon eating, sleeping and communicating with each other to live our lives in a kind, forgiving, loving manner. We all do live measured lives some with greater extremes than others. The truth is we need to be measured the same – we need to leave privilege behind and begin loving one another for whom we are rather than forcing our neighbor to adjust their lives based upon the color of their skin.

We need our measuring stick to endure the confusion and misperception of years of trauma and perpetual ignorance and begin to love one another with kindness and acceptance. We need to be measured by a universal humanity and not one of misguided and horrific judgment.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2021

A response to the tragic death of Daunte Wright, of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, of Philando Castile and the countless names that preceded death based upon fear.

When Time Stands Still

Usually news, not just an epiphany,

perhaps a tragedy, friend nearby, makes us want to

have a long cry

when we, well

similar sounding sigh,

we, well, I cannot really describe the loss of

uniformity

while chaos rears its impulsivity upon the

normalcy of our lives.

~

Last night a dear friend told me news

her friend, one of a lovely circle

of women I have had the privilege of stories,

an endearment of souls traveling the years,

and they will band together,

they will search and plead and pray

for some new authenticity,

allows all of them to feel

together.

~

She is a very kind soul this dear friend of mine,

I can feel her ache,

she has memory of the sort

we all carry around with us to different degrees

of understanding loss and pain and confusion.

~

So let the world remind us all

when in the quiet silence of a sunlit morning,

we can stand still,

feel the permanence of our frame of mind,

when life seems so apparent

its penchant for reminding us all,

standing alone is no place to know,

only a landing upon where we sometimes fall.

~

Perhaps there is a gesture we only know so well,

a moment of peace, of love, when then hearts do swell.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2021

(for Cherri)

Traveler Bags

Is this sacred wisdom

we carry its mystery

a naked history

remains impossible along the road.

Step aside and watch time

steady wheels

weighed down in two ton

reminder.

The bags become a target

ready to be pummeled

first sighted

a driver today might aim

tomorrow disregard.

Hide in the fields of shame

distant traveler

no longer

Quiet Roads

The crunch of gravel

kicking up dust

from a distance looks like

Urgency

some need to get away

keeps driving me further.

Wanting to know

yet feeling the distance,

her just out of reach

Philosophy.

Just one more chance

the embodiment

of truth

may lay only ahead

never to be realized

yet likely it is

already known.


©️ Thom Amundsen 1/2021

These Are Our Days

We know them

no filter moments

side swept rains tease snow

feel moisture on naked socks

walking the dog

a midnight rendezvous

perhaps routine to some

yet

tonight, today, last year

that calendar date

might, may, will, has, did,

does always, wants forever a return.

Remember once quiet

impassioned plea.

I will always be here, nearby

holding your hand, crossing paths,

nostalgic eyes.


©️ Thom Amundsen 12/2020

Finding A Ledge

Oh, I remember

standing in a safe distance

watching them play the risk to the edge,

wondering of the five there,

two over near,

a dozen way beyond the fence,

were any one

vulnerable,

wondering just really curious about the edge,

the immediacy of leaving behind

memory and travels.

~

I’ve stood on many a ledge

decades of indecision,

yet somehow the gravel maintained

my grip,

or I got a call for a dinner reservation,

turned around, walked away,

and the thought drifted off the edge.

~

Have you ever had a sort of quiet peace,

knowing there are those ledges

each of us

can share together,

rather than having to imagine

too much fear,

far too much confusion,

might bring us back upon

some lonely ledge.

~

The truth is,

not every ledge has room for

alone.


© Thom Amundsen 12/2020

There Are These Days

A couple of weeks ago my world went dark. I made horrific plans, mapped out the day, my valuables, important tokens of my life. I say this because it does happen to people, and now I feel a better grasp and that is more valuable than any guilt or shame over previous moments in my life.

I call it these days because they really come and go. The weather outside is beautiful, and during the summer I spent most of my time on my bicycle, and tonight I couldn’t get myself to move. It is funny how our lives become wrapped up in ourselves, and we forget about those around us. Now with Covid, we are more often than not forced to live only with ourselves. I have a dog now, he is a beautiful animal, and just comes and lays by me most of the time, or if he hears or senses anything emotional from me, he’ll come and check me out. A couple of weeks ago when I hit that low, he was someone I couldn’t leave behind without somebody to be there to care for him immediately.

I think when I get lost inside myself, I forget the world around me. I feel pretty valueless when I let this trapping take over my state of mind. I fortunately have a lot of people I can reach out to, but sometimes one or two might be far more important than everyone else. It doesn’t mean that everyone doesn’t carry the same value, there are just easier words found with the few.

I began writing to an old friend recently. I wrote her a letter out of the blue, and it was overwhelming for her to hear my words 40 years later. I felt this certain energy when I wrote her, it just let my mind go and took off and I could see and hear my words as they were hitting the paper, and I just let them go. I’ve only been able to do that with one other person in my life and now she has disappeared much like my old friend, so I resort back to these pages. I hope someday I can put them together in some manner that lets at least me believe the words hold value.

Tonight I found myself watching TV, letting the hours slip by. I have a morning obligation that I have to contribute to rather than just show up. Sometimes it is easier to do that – show up – without really taking value in the effort or what others are receiving from me. What is the energy I bring to a room. I want my students to have fun, so we have a lot of laughs, but what if it means nothing to me anymore. Isn’t that really just hurting the kids? Oh, see how easy that was? I found another way to beat myself up.

The weirdest thing happened to me the night I was feeling my low. I was beside myself and I wrote a letter to a dear friend whom I cannot get a response, and I talked about some dark moments. I think deep in my mind, I was begging for a wellness check, and so shortly after I went to bed around midnight and my code for the entrance to my village gate rang on my phone. I couldn’t figure out why. I thought there might be a connection and so I stood out on my deck expecting the cops to pull up for a welfare check on my state of mind. But no one ever did. So now I guess somebody hit the wrong number. I really haven’t any idea, but I think God was sending me a message.

I think about where my state of mind goes so quickly when I am feeling down. It goes as deep as my fresh optimism goes high. I can never seem to find that common ground, that even keel, that ability to balance on the fence.

I think in the time of Covid, it really is difficult to feel hope without despair. I don’t like my job right now, it is not because of the kids, I love my students, I just don’t like having an administration that has their own struggles but doesn’t reveal with anyone because of their role. I think we are all struggling right now, and to add to it, a remarkably historic election week, and we are all on the edge.

I guess I have rambled here a bit tonight, but I really wanted to just talk about how easy it is to fall into a mania that gives suicide a platform when loneliness and sadness overtake our lives. It happened to me, and it does more often than not, I just am better hiding it than I used to. There are really only a couple of people in my life who know I walk around like this all the time. A couple of weekends ago, nothing mattered, and then I scared myself, so now tonight as I finish this up, I guess I am just recognizing another vulnerability in my own human condition that I cannot let become triggered – rather I need to accept it and move on.

I always find a way to come to terms ever so briefly with understanding mood. I just wish it could be consistent and forever.


© Thom Amundsen 11/2020

Letting Words Become Our Own

Have lost the day of the week,

my pen is dry of ink,

for the pattern of time did

dissipate and all mention

of passion did deteriorate.

 

In a wild search, looking

everywhere around us,

in our dreams,

daily routines,

a hot summer day,

a cold bitter frost,

every occasion

that man somehow

seems to need

to feel alive,

all containing words

just out of reach.

 

So instead there is a solemn

reaction to a lacking inspiration,

we seem compelled

to ask for attention,

rather than forgiveness.

 

Our own contemplation

of who we are,

where we have been,

how come we, this,

when did that last horizon

leave our own ambience

upon what once

is a consideration

of a stand alone

personal reckoning.

 

Where did they fall out of reach,

how will these ever match up.


© Thom Amundsen  7/2020

Hearing Voices

They are not loud,

in fact,

whispers that catch me,

wondering where.

They are in my head,

reminders

of why it is that way I am

will be my forever.

I sometimes in the silence

can imagine window sills tremble,

the sky is falling

inside my mind.

I wonder if you might know,

this feeling

is more powerful than

anything I will ever know.

Know it is true,

Know it can never go away.

No, no, know.