Sunday, October 30, 2011

R.I.P. Mr. Luff

Working on a draft for a short "noir-ish" style tale about a girl in a bar waiting for a guy to show up at a bar and another guy is working in the bar playing up the comic relief and all this is taking place in a bar ... you get the picture. Anyway, she hands the bartender a note and leaves. The guy comes in and the note is passed. Nobody dies, no big explosions, and no bikini clad women. The message is powerful though. A powerful message is sometimes all that matters. Stay tuned.

If you haven't already surmised I am dialed into the WCPE Classical Music Station out of Raleigh-Durham, NC. It's the only way to survive these threadbare Saturday afternoons in the Mojave desert. A sonic refuge where desperate souls, cast aside by fate's cruel kiss, can rally some momentum to go on. The word interminable flashes through my head. I know this to be a false alarm. For, in standardized periods of little movement, there are no events to drive our stakes into. To mark out the progression of time. Just the void. Inside this sector of swirling chaos is where the essence of the "free vortex" begins. However, it can't be found on the surface. It is underneath the skin. Like scabies or slivers. Message in a bottle. Bacteria in the paper cut. Or, like my soon to be published short story, scribbled on a napkin and kissed with red lipstick.

I spent the morning at a Memorial Service for my High School English teacher, Mr. Luff. Having moonlighted on the side as a licensed funeral director I would wish to point out that, after having attended this service, I feel like I need to reevaluate my position when it comes to knowing anything about presenting a funeral service. Having gone as a participant, instead of an active player, I have learned far more about what is happening at Memorial Services then what I have learned in the past years working them. That isn't to say that the local mortuaries don't provide quality services ... quite to the contrary. I think, perhaps, as old school undertakers we're slightly out of touch. Exaggerated sense of self worth in the funeral product comes to mind. That is neither here nor there. Didn't mean to cut a promo on the state of the funeral industry or myself. But there it is. And here it is ...

The first principle of the free vortex is the illusion of time. You have to perceive it this way ... our backs are against a slow moving wall. The wall is as thick as the width of the many millennium spanning backwards to the beginning of time. It is in fact interminable. Infinite. In an endless retrograde. The wall is slowly inching forward. We're helpless to stop it. You can push and lean back as hard as you can but you cannot move backwards. The wall is made of clear glass. You can observe everything that has transpired in the past. You can stare back through the wall but, like a rear view mirror, all you can see are moments moving into the past. The '"lived" portions of our lives fading into the distance. The glass is unbreakable. Bullet proof. Pound away at it all you want. Anchor you legs and lock your knees. You will never break it. You will never stop it. A wise man once told me, "If your going to fall ... fall forward." Forward time is the gateway to the free vortex. The first thing you have to do is move your back away from the wall. Take a few steps out in front. The future is unwritten and temporarily void of light. It's the blank canvas. Run towards it! Jump forward into the void with all your clothes off ... cannon ball! Stop leaning against the past and the passing of time. Take that leap of faith. Creation is the engine. It just needs a driver. Creativity is more important than knowledge. I heard that said today. It was one of Mr. Luff's maxims. We will hang that on the nail at the doorway to the unwritten. The unwritten has a name. That name is "Free Vortex".

Mr. Luff had taken up sky diving long after I had graduated high school. At his Memorial Service I watched video footage of one of his sojourns into the air. He had an impressive number of jumps before he died. Over 400 leaps of faith into the unknown.  Somewhere up in the atmosphere Mr. Luff, my high school English teacher, spun round and round and plummeted to the Earth's surface. In that space in between airplane and hard ground he was enlightened. Certain intangible truths reveled themselves to him.

It was told at the Memorial Service that upon one occasion,  Mr. Luff's jump was mired with complications. His main shoot failed to open. At the very last moment he was able to engage one of the reserve shoots. The landing was real stiff. It crushed quite a few vertebrate and sent him to the hospital in a rather serious condition. I believe that somewhere up there in the dark, blue void he was out in front of the glass wall of time. Perhaps he was too far out in front. Eventually he would hit a barrier that would stop him. I can only imagine what swirled through his consciousness during this rushing descent from thousands of feet high in the air. He was beyond knowing. The fourth and fifth wall crumbled before his eyes. He survived the fall. He came back to camp with the ability to spark fire. He was changed.

When he made a full recovery he went back up. Many questioned his choice to return to sky diving. He performed a few hundred more jumps after that. All successful. He had now made danger his vocation. An act that is noble and worthy in it's self.  I can only trust that he glimpsed something up there that few of us have ever seen. His hands touched enlightenment. He met creation on the way down and creation shared it's timeless riddle. "Some men do it for diamonds ... some men do it for gold," sang Tom Waits once. Mr. Luff served a higher master. He did it for creation.

When Mr. Luff passed away last week, from a long battle with cancer, he told his wife he was ready to go. I believe he had "it." Whatever "it" was. "It" being what we have all been digging in the dirt for our whole lives. That one unmovable truth. That moment of enlightenment. That passing torch of creativity. He was dressed in his sky diving suit before the cremation. For that final, faithful leap into the dark.

R.I.P. Mr. Luff.

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