To Stand Out or to Fit in?

I read a blog post the other day that is still tickling at my consciousness…or maybe my subconscious, who knows? So I went back and reread it today. It was about Mark Doty, a poet I had never heard of, and one of his poems. Not only did he write the poem, but he also wrote an essay on the process of writing it. Interesting reading!

The poem really struck me, not only in the description of a very unusual subject, but by the underlying question of homogeneity. In his essay, Doty wrote: “The one of a kind, the singular, like my dear lover, cannot last. And yet the collective life, which is also us, shimmers on.”

I think the poem spoke to me so loudly because, for as long as I can remember, I have struggled with both wanting to stand out and wanting to fit in. Growing up in an expat community, I thought I was unique, different. Everyone there was. But when I moved back to my country of citizenship, I felt lost, swallowed up – not unlike a single uninteresting fish in a giant school of monotonous color.

Even though I am all grown up and pretty comfortable in my own skin, I guess there must still be some remnant of that old battle swimming around in the murky depths of my consciousness.




“A Display of Mackerel” by Mark Doty:

They lie in parallel rows,  
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity
barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
radiant sections 

like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soap-bubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other
– nothing about them
of individuality. Instead

they’re all exact expressions
of the one soul,
each a perfect fulfillment

of heaven’s template,
mackerel essence. As if,
after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler’s
made uncountable examples
each as intricate

in its oily fabulation
as the one before;
a cosmos of champleve.

Suppose we could iridesce,
like these, and lose ourselves
entirely in the universe

of shimmer- would you want
to be yourself only,
unduplicatable, doomed

to be lost? They’d prefer,
plainly, to be flashing participants,
multitudinous. Even on ice

they seem to be bolting
forward, heedless of stasis.
They don’t care they’re dead

and nearly frozen,
just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:

all, all for all,
the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,

in which no verb is singular,
or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,

which is the price of gleaming.

 I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject! Please leave a comment.
Categories: Think About it, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment


So I was thinking about that word everybody chants when they are meditating or doing yoga. You know the one,



There’s a YouTube yoga video that I like in which the instructor tells viewers to chant the word silently three times, which I think is pretty interesting (chanting silently). I tried doing that when I woke up in the middle of the night one night.  I woke up, and of course immediately started thinking about a kazillion different things, so it soon became impossible to get back to sleep. I tried chanting silently, and before long I was able to ignore the thoughts racing around in my head, and eventually I fell back asleep. It’s a great trick.

So where did “om” come from? I looked it up and found out that OM is a mystical Hindu word, used as a sacred incantation expressed at the beginning and end of any reading of the Vedas (an ancient sacred text) or before any prayer or mantra. The Hindus believe that when Creation began, the Divine, all-encompassing consciousness took the form of the first, original vibration, manifesting as the sound OM (AUM). So the vibration of OM actually symbolizes the manifestation of God in form.



OM is made up of three different sounds which represent:

  1. Brahma, or creation – the A (A-kāra)
  2. Vishnu, or preservation, – the U (U-kāra) and
  3. Shiva, or liberation/destruction -the M (Ma-kāra)

A-kāra means form or shape, like earth, trees, or any other object. U-kāra means formlessness or shapelessness, like water, air or fire. Ma-kāra means neither shape nor shapelessness (but still existing), like the dark energy content of the Universe. Letter by letter, A-U-M represents the Divine entity united in its three elementary aspects.

So the next time you are in yoga class – or you just feel like chanting – you will know the meaning behind what you are doing when you use the word OM….. you are affirming the Divine presence in the universe. And for further instruction on how to pronounce the word, go here. And to experience the power of the chant, check out this video. I love what one person said in the comments: “I think one needs the full arsenal of east and west philosophies and practices to live this life with any kind of quality.”


Categories: Think About it | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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