notes from the little red box

I’m concerned about justice. I’m concerned about brotherhood. I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about these, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I decided this morning, that (when time permits me to) I would search out a random quote, hold it, sit with it, as though it were a pebble that I had found on the beach, and see what rose up from the words (if anything) and write about it. Quite often in the past, I have been struck by a quote – left speechless by the words or another. In some cases, moved to tears, and in other cases barely cared at all. I have been part of and heard many discussions about the usefulness of quotes and quoting – there are many arguments for both, none of which involves what I am doing here. Much like the way I book surf – the selection of a random quote for this thread is just that – completely random. If there is such a thing.

I wonder sometimes, if it is possible to capture everything that a single quote might evoke for someone – in this case me. It is a big challenge for me – to articulate everything that might be triggered by a certain collection of words – and everything else that it connects together for me. I don’t intend to use a quote to prove a point – I have nothing to prove and no point to make. I am interested in my reactions to it (and in the reactions of others to the quote as well). I decided to call this thread ‘notes from the little red box’ because I actually keep my favorite ones in a little red box in my studio. Quite awhile ago – I started writing a similar thread somewhere else – it fell off as my writing tends to do, like a dropped piece of wool while knitting. Now, I find myself going back and returning to that small hole to make the weave complete.

The random quote that came up today is one that is startlingly powerful for me. I admire what Martin Luther King Jr. was working towards, what he stood for and what he ultimately had to sacrifice in order to be heard. Truth, justice and light. These are very powerful allies to have in a world that is becoming more and more consumed by darkness. The timing of this quote is not lost on me either. The theme of using light to put out darkness, rather than darkness to put out darkness is one that is very ‘current’ for me. It came up unexpectedly last night in a conversation with an old friend. I have been thinking about how our reaction to the unknown, to what we fear, to change itself is to use fear to put it out. It seems so often we are in survival mode – fight or flee, that we meet fear with fear, rather than taking any other approach. We accept it as normal. Maybe it is. Maybe it is only because we have allowed it to be. The psychology behind it is interesting – and I believe that to some degree everyone, most of all me, is stuck in survival mode. We are operating out of a place of fear. What makes it worse, for me anyway, is that we KNOW that we are working from this dark place. What keeps us from changing? For me – it is rooted in what is comfortable. The fearful reaction is what has become comfortable – and breaking that pattern is where my work lies. That is where my attention must be, to become more aware of how I react. I used to think that I needed to understand why there is fear in the first place… It is important to know in some ways, but useless knowledge if it doesn’t help me to change. To know hasn’t proved to be enough for me to make the changes, instead, I am finding the changes come from being aware of the fear itself. I may kill what makes me afraid by know it, identifying it, facing it, but it doesn’t kill fear itself – that comes from action. It is in the DOING of things, the act of facing the fear, again and again, until it no longer has a hold, the act of correcting and letting go of negativity, until I am able to relax into myself – that is when the violence of existing ends.

The following poems I wrote two years ago – a different time, slightly different intent, however they come to mind now, as I write:

fate and the violence of existing
along the ridge
fingers trace
pull against
the brittle fringe
open open open
and then

a gull screams
to be heard
over the riot
of sand and empty shells
cold and frozen
beneath my feet
closing eyes
notes still play
on the breezes
and thundering wing
cuts past my ear
wait –
take my ears
my heart
my soul
touch me no more
this violence of existing





touch me
no more
the fragile skin
and tear-stained hands
the naked yes
eyes that watch
this world and
the next one
through the window
now turn to see
only stares back



where are you
hand pressed against
the glass
pushing outward
stepped over the broken glass
of yesterday
feet bleeding
because I refused
the comfort
of shoes
the shadows are hiding
and I am caught
between them
shouting into the mirror
for you
for you
screaming your name
into the wind
and then nothing
get out
pressing or leaving
my palm print here
nothing but the shattering
and crashing
of nothing
still screams louder
waiting inside myself
to be free
this violence
by breathing
sitting here
in this


Leigh Tyson


you ask
and I only
in return



unfolds only
in paper
my own creases
folded corners
out of a blank page
flowers and cranes
fingers littered
with cuts
little slice
lay them
in rows to float
on the river
of myself
as the violence of existing
fades in the ripples
of the water’s
quiet embrace


Now, I quietly embrace the night, and everyone here. I will continue rooting through and finding whatelse might lie in this little red box of mine… May tomorrow bring the truth, the death of fear and much light and love to you all. May we all be filled with the courage required to meet our fears and relax into ourselves. May we all be free.





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