Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?
Clarice Starling: He kills women…
Hannibal Lecter: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?
Clarice Starling: Anger, um, social acceptance, and, huh, sexual frustrations, sir…
Hannibal Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. …
There are always two things we treasure.
Most people would agree the immediate things we treasure fall into the realm of the next bite of a delicious meal, an orgasm during sex or a sentimental object we are holding forcing us to replay the exact memories that made it so.
Popular bigger picture treasures include friends, family, your dog, your kids, your god, your job, ‘you know,’ -all of that popular shit you see scrolling by your Facebook feed on any major holiday.
When I think about what I treasure I feel like Commodus from the movie Gladiator in the brilliant scene where he kills his Father (Marcus Aurelius).
Commodus: You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues: Wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance. As I read the list, I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, father. Ambition. That can be a virtue when it drives us to excel. Resourcefulness, courage, perhaps not on the battlefield, but… there are many forms of courage. Devotion, to my family and to you. But none of my virtues were on your list. Even then it was as if you didn’t want me for your son.
Marcus Aurelius: Oh, Commodus. You go too far.
My macro treasures include things like validation, imagination and creation. These are the things I covet the most. Proficiency in those areas is what I am always seeking in myself, my work and other people.
…these are not treasures in the way I see it but more “purposes of being.” A purpose of being is more powerful than something you treasure because it will control your immediate primal actions. I find it hard to treasure that which is hardwired. Does that make the love I have for my family disingenuous? No. That is impossible. The love generated for my family/friends is happening naturally and I don’t have to work at it. (You can’t control who you love. Remember?)
When your family is provided for, safe and loved what do you do with the rest of your mental power?
It is unfair for you to spend your life in servitude of the “idea” of family. This isn’t television. You owe it to yourself to live a full life and do the things you want to do. Not just the things you have to do. If this involves your family every step of the way, “Great!” That is the way to go as long as it is genuine. A real choice.
However, many people willingly cast themselves aside for some sense of duty to their tribe. It isn’t a crime for you to NOT remain an individual for fear those you love will feel betrayed. Even in the choking death rattle that going to necessary job can create there is space to find that which you treasure most. There is always time for you. Maybe that YOU time is your Family time. For me there must be separation in all things. It is just how I am built inside. Yes, I am aware it is a very unpopular way to operate.
You should not blatantly neglect your family. That makes you an asshole -not an individual.
Writing is something I am drawn to because it is the hat trick of all my treasures.
Some unforgiving soul cursed me once when I was young and impressionable. They said, “Danny this is good.”
I could have been a simpleton grave digger or worked on an assembly line happy as a clam waiting for that 5 o’clock whistle. But no. This individual took it upon themselves to believe in me and set me down one of the most wretched rewarding paths one can be on. My very essence of being was carved out and reforged that day.
I created something, I moved someone and they liked it. I treasure that.
What do you treasure?
Danny Machal May 2nd, 2015
Al adjusted a set of small brass rimmed reading glasses on the bridge of his nose to get a better look at the small cedar music box. The skinny brass frames were always slipping down. Lenora always reminded him that bigger plastic frames would hold fast in place but as a stubborn husband (a bit of a fashionista to boot) he was compelled to protest. He liked the smaller shiny brass frames that carried an air of refinement when he wore them.
“Let’s see what we have here,” he said aloud in English. His accent is barely noticeable these days.
He couldn’t remember when his thoughts and dreams had converted from his native French tongue but it was a slow process. Speaking the language of his lovely wife Lenora became a familiar comfort always reminding him of who held his heart.
Of course as a great man once said, “Men often resort to their native tongue in the throes of passion.” A smile crept across Al’s face as a devilish lustful memory crossed his mind. This was quite the common occurrence when distracted by thoughts of Lenora.
Al flipped the tiny metal latch opening the lid of the small brown box. A song started to instantly chime away as the old wound up clockwork began to come to life. That song.
* * *
The caw of a small baby Jay caught Lenora’s ears outside the restaurant kitchen window. Suddenly a loud concussive smash shook the thin window pane ever so slightly startling the Jay causing the little bird to fly off and pester an unsuspecting worm or grasshopper.
Down in a bowl of fresh bread dough lay the perfect impact crater of her fist. The aftermath of the ‘widow-maker’ of a punch she just through down into it made her smile warmly. Lenora wasn’t a large woman or particularly even strong but she could hold her own against Jays and bread.
Staring down at the off white imprint counting all her knuckles made her think of Alerion’s (though most call him Al) small stint of amateur boxing when they both first came back to America together. Alerion was always ready to defend her honor any time and any place. It was part of how they first came to know each other. He was a young French carpenter of nineteen barely able to swing a hammer without smashing his thumb. She was an equally young American cooking student of twenty three studying the art of French Cuisine at the Ferrandi French School of Culinary Arts in Paris.
Alerion had taking a big licking stepping between her and a group of pesky French boys who were shouting at her with intentions that were less than honorable. After they had their way with him she remembered kneeling down next to his curled up body. There was blood all over the pavement and his eyes were practically swollen shut. Somehow he managed to look up at her through the tiny slit of his good eye and smiling a half toothless grin he muttered one word, “booty.”
Disgusted she grunted and stormed off leaving him there. Later she would learn he meant, “Beauty.”
Little did they know that one moment in time was going to be the final snowflake in the avalanche that would carry them on many adventures together before settling in Northern California and building a small Bed & Breakfast off the interstate called Château de Montagne.
She tossed a damp kitchen towel over the bowl of dough to let it rise and went off to see how he was coming along sorting out the Château de Montagne’s lost and found box.
Danny Machal April 28th, 2015
Have you ever dreamt of a fantastic place you had never been but somehow knew every detail?
* * *
“I am the only person in the world with this job,” the old man flipped down one of the many magnifiers causing the tiny brass gears on his eye piece to whir to life. He seems annoyed with your questions.
You fold your hands in your lap and stare at him silently as he examines a tiny glass orb with your childhood home recreated inside. Carefully he sits the orb down on a stand and nudges it toward you.
“Is it how you remember it?” he asks you in his hoarse old man voice coughing out the word ‘it.’
You lean close and take inventory of the place you grew up. Behind your reflection on the crystal clear glass you see the front porch where your Dad talked to you about girls. Mom’s failed botanical experiments hang from the white paint chipped railings as dry and barren as they always were. You can even make out the plush old blue Lazyboy in the front window that Grandpa used to sit at whenever he would visit.
You sigh quietly to yourself nodding, “It is.”
“Good,” the old man pushes a big yellow button on his desk causing a small door to open in the wall. A tiny cart attached to a tiny rail emerges like something out of Mr. Rogers trolley to the Land of Make Believe. Gently, his old leathery but practiced fingers lay the small orb into special grooves on the tiny cart securing it into place for the journey ahead to The Archive. You wonder how many times throughout history this exact ritual has been performed.
‘How many people have been called to this dark messy workshop to validate the memory of places that once were?’ you think to yourself.
He pushes the big yellow button again opening another small door at the end of the tiny rail. As you watch the tiny cart fade into that tiny black hole you wonder if you will ever see it again. Will anyone ever be able to make memories there they way you did? How could they now that it has been destroyed to make room for a Shopping Center?
The old man senses your growing concern as he has dealt with this hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands maybe even millions of times now. You turn to him as the little cart opening closes blending back into the smooth wall from which it was born leaving the tiny rail destined to a dead end.
Before you have a chance to speak the old man raises his hand in protest.
“Sleep on it,” he smiles and snaps his fingers but the sound of the crack in the air doesn’t end. It echoes as your vision fades to darkness with each pulse of sound.
* * *
Somewhere a writer is waking up. For months now he has been stuck on finding the perfect location for his new children’s book designed to teach wholesome family values.
He WAS stuck.
Danny Machal April 26th, 2015
My love I write to you as a man already dead. I live now only inside your heart where my eternal soul will rest from here on only to be identified in faint glimmering reflections deep in your beautiful green irises. Others may remember me then and even you shall remember me should you stare into the mirror in adoration as I was gifted the privilege all these long years.
In my last moments I am writing to you from the deserted cabin of the former captain Eli Ravenswold of her Majesty’s warship the Savant. Thirty two gun strong in her prime she is now not but a cargo hold for snapped rope failing to corral loose cannon balls. Banging and chipping away at her hull slowly they destroy her from the inside. Every dip and rise of the bow unleashes another clatter of assaults. The bang and rattle of unsecured cargo alone is enough to chill any man.
As I am yet her last crew, here, far out at sea riding a ghost ship to hell -I will remain loyal to whatever end.
We should have never went into those waters my love. Captain Ravenswold all but had a full mutiny on his hands when the quartermaster made the announcement to the crew. Shouts and growls rang out in support and condemnation of the Captains’ plan. Where he lead us to tread was the rumored home of a great Leviathan. No one dare speak or even whisper its name for fear of being gagged and bound to the anchor for bringing bad luck on the voyage.
As soon as we entered that wretched part of the map we were bathed in a twilight fog and the wind gave up on us. Drifting along like some oars-less skiff on a still pond it was three days before we heard anything but our own breathing. Without not but a small tremor in your own bones as warning we were set upon without mercy.
I tell you now Addaline, find it we did. The Leviathan is real. All men standing on the mighty deck of the Savant casting there gaze skyward saw nothing but a massive tempest of thick muscled limbs ripping down upon them as friend and foe were equally torn to pieces as brothers. Stinking hot breath rattled our sails with life but the creature snapped the masts easily enough rendering us all dead men.
I hid. Your dead husband the coward watched as the Savant’s last crusader ran up the quarterdeck sword drawn screaming in blood lust at the loss of his shipmates.
My cowardice forced me to stand still messing myself over and over again until I could stand the stink no more. Silence had befallen the ship for many hours now. The fog had lifted slightly and I noticed small tremors in the water caused by faint breaths of wind. I hazarded my way to the nearest skyward opening.
My boots slipped in the thick mud created from black powder and blood of the dead.
I was deceived Addaline. The beast was waiting for me. An eighteen pounder was swiftly ripped from Savant’s side tearing a great wound. Blood from her dead loyal subjects began to run among her splinters. Rushing out of the opening in great streams of crimson the droplets wept into the water turning the sea red.
I was quickly resolved to my haunches looking into a great blue and green eye.
Addaline it was unlike any great radiance a living man has seen. I bared witness to the awesome power of the universe with my own human eyes. I stared into twin galaxies Addaline. One green and one blue. Both were tangled in a cosmic dance of everything past, present and future Addaline! Oh, Addaline the Leviathan chose me. God chose me.
I bid you leave my love.
I go to die.
To live as a specter and spook among the prophets of old. Although I do not yet know what may become of the Savant and her true last Captain I am blessed to find out.
Be at peace.
Your eternal loving husband,
This letter brought to you by Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian’s page 29 word “Leviathans” and also the band Alestorm.
Danny Machal April 23rd, 2015
A voice from everywhere and nowhere talks to you calmly like a Father comforting a child.
“As you effortlessly tread the warm cave water take a look down. See your naked wiggling legs slightly obfuscated by the crystal clear ripples from your kicks. Not far ahead of you there is a warm white glow coming from an opening to an underwater chamber. Take a deep breath and let yourself sink into the gentle pool knowing that everything is okay and you are free -safe to explore.”
“Swim easily through the tunnel and back up again to emerge on the other side.”
“As you break the silky surface you hear nothing but your gentle rhythmic breathing and the small twinkle of the drops beading off your body. You can stand here on a smooth stone shelf decorated with an awesome set of equally smooth stairs.”
“The rock walls around you are glowing to illuminate this new chamber in which you see a large dark wood podium. Freshly stained and shiny with an ethereal craftsmanship you have never know it calls to you. For there atop this podium, laid out to the page of your life as you know it, is the large book of your Akashic Records. Everything you have ever been. Everything you will ever be. It is all contained in this book. Go to it with purpose.”
Whenever I have been lost or feel I am broken beyond repair I always turn to myself. The passage above is a paraphrased section of a guided meditation that I have used to look deep within. I believe most decisions we are forced to make are actually made almost instantaneously. Some call it the “gut feeling.” But really -we know rather quickly what “feels right” and what “feels wrong.” The rest of the time we spend making decisions is really just convincing ourselves of what we already know is truth.
Addiction, depression, anxiety, habitual self harm are but a few of the things we use (sometimes involuntarily) to avoid the pain of making decisions. All of these afflictions have one commonality in that they are trying to create solid links in our broken mental chain.
You are thinking, “But Danny aren’t some of these things PAIN in and of themselves?”
Yes they are. They are a different type of pain. They are “quantifiable pain” used to fill the gaps caused by pain we cannot identify. We can see and feel tears (albeit a bit blurry). We can feel our heavy sinking stomach and chest when a stranger knocks on our door or we are at a party expected to “mingle.”
Those pains are REAL.
Ripples of pain pulsing through your body caused from that time in middle school someone called you fat or you told a lame joke and were shamed are much harder to identify today. Time has made you forget when that pebble was dropped in your pool. But your whole life they have never stopped beating themselves upon the strong stone walls of your mind and heart. They have eroded you slowly from the inside so much so that you “got used to it.” Isn’t this who you are now?
Who you are today is a choice you made when you opened your eyes this morning. How you feel is a choice you make right now.
I know it isn’t as easy as all that. Anyone who tells you it is, doesn’t care about you and is just trying to pacify you so they can move on with their own agenda.
With all the horrors that can befall a person in this world some of this may seem rather trivial. But there is one universal truth in that YOU are a strong person who can make decisions. Even when you feel yourself at your weakest –
You have the ability to call forth the power within, to seek help and to find new tools (there is an infinite amount of tools so don’t ever feel like there is nothing left) while casting aside what “hasn’t worked.” THAT IS HOW YOU FIND YOURSELF AGAIN.
Danny Machal April 22nd, 2015