When War Comes Home

man wearing military uniform and walking through woods
Photo by Specna Arms on Pexels.com
The human mind allows us to conflate information, file it away and essentially refer back to what we think we know, thereby reinforcing a very simplified version of something that happened.
 
 
My grandfather was one of the soldiers captured during the Battle of the Bulge.
 
 
 
If you’ve not studied history closely, you tend to think of a “battle” as something that happens pretty quickly, but the event we refer to as the Battle of the Bulge took about 1 month and a week plus change.
 
 
 
Clearly, that’s not a one-off event.
 
 
 
It was unstated that my grandfather did not like to talk about WWII, and so those questions generally did not get asked, beyond the simple acknowledgement that he had served and been captured.
 
 
 
My grandmother didn’t like to talk about it either. She received the telegrams that he’d been captured when my Aunt Shirley was just a few years old.
 
 
 
Of course, it was a horrible time.
 
 
 
Imagine having a small child and finding out that your husband, whom you worry about all the time, has experienced the worst thing that can happen to a soldier, outside of dying.
 
 
 
It doesn’t even take too much empathy to see that picture.
 
 
 
So, my grandfather didn’t talk about it much, and my grandmother didn’t like for him to because, in addition to bringing up her own PTSD, it caused him to have the nightmares all over again.
 
 
 
So, imagine my surprise today, to have a conversation with someone whom I assumed only had a tangential reason to talk with my grandfather about anything and who was able to give me more of the story. This person’s father had also been captured in WWII under different circumstances, and he knew enough about WWII to ask him about it.   He was also not steeped in the unspoken rule in my family that keeps us from mentioning it whatsoever.  
 
 
 
I suspect my grandfather was so surprised that someone would have the audacity to ask that his only real recourse in that moment was to share more information.
 
 
 
Not only was he captured in the Battle of the Bulge, he also survived the Malmedy Massacre. Only about 1/4 of those guys survived and my grandfather essentially played dead under the bodies of his fellow prisoners.
 
 
 
He escaped and made his way back over time to the allied forces by staying in homes of sympathetic Belgians. Part of what I did know about the story had him staying in people’s homes but I never knew the sequence of events…nor the conditions surrounding his feet freezing.
 
 
 
I have never been to war.
 
 
 
It is unlikely that I will ever go.
 
 
 
But both my father and my grandfather suffered from horrific PTSD. My father experienced horrors in Vietnam that he was only able to speak about pretty near his death to qualify for a VA benefit for the Agent Orange exposure that killed him some 40 years after Vietnam ended. My mother probably doesn’t even know half of what happened.
 
 
 
Sometimes I wonder what 3 generations of my family would be like had my father and my grandfather not served in wars that never quite ended for them.
 
 
 
PTSD doesn’t affect just the veteran. It affects the entire family and informs patterns that family members pass around for generations, even possibly among people who haven’t met, but who are nevertheless a large part of the story.  When a family member has PTSD, the whole family becomes prisoners of war.
 
 
 
People say anxiety disorders and the like are passed down generationally.  I would like to hope that resiliency does as well.  After all, it was my Grandfather who walked out of the Massacre of Malmedy.  It was my father who survived untold horrors in Vietnam.
 
 
 
We often assume that’s simple genetics but it’s not that simple.
 
 
 
The effects of wars go far beyond what we often think.
 
 
 
Bless us all.
 

In fact, it’s cold as hell….

Today, I did something I’ve never done before.

I went to a movie all by myself.  I’m not sure why I haven’t done that before.  I saw the Elton John biopic.

So, “Rocketman” was great. And it ends hopefully but, by and large, I found it to be overwhelmingly sad along the way–I’m not ashamed to admit I teared up several times.

If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear your experience watching the film.

I see Elton John as an incredibly complex man who never felt he was good enough, and who, despite all his accomplishments probably, still feels inadequate and perhaps as though he is a fraud–chronic low self esteem combined, at times, with a superiority complex.

The movie ended with a flash of words on the screen saying that Elton John has been sober for 28 years. That means he got sober around the age of 43 or 44 years old.

That’s exciting.

And especially hopeful.

My notion is that sobriety doesn’t always bring you peace.  Perhaps you can make better choices that don’t lead to chaos and confusion, but, well, you know, life is life–and all that that entails.  I imagine sobriety does offer you a way to meet the challenges of life with a certain equanimity and, as they say in the 12-step word, the ability to meet “calamity with serenity.”

Besides, as we all know, mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids .

In fact, it’s cold as hell.

 

Here’s a link to a variety article I found where Elton John talks about his sobriety.

 

Click here to be taken there….

pianomeBy

By the way, that’s clearly not Elton John playing the piano.  That’s a picture my friend Beth Hooper made of me when we were exploring and abandoned school.  I was on stage playing the theme from Mary Tyler Moore in a dark dark auditorium.

Balance…and ancestors 

Every so often, I’ll be cleaning up my hard-drive and I’ll come across this picture of my great-great grandfather, Rev. John H. Parks.  
I so see my grandmother and some of her siblings in this man’s eyes. I see some of my mom’s first cousins, and selfishly I look to see if I can see myself, though I know I look mostly like my dad’s people.   

Often I wonder what it must have been like for this deeply spiritual man to try to not only to preach his beliefs but also to manage the business aspects of the religious denomination he pioneered in the backwoods of Eastern Tennessee.  

What was balance like for him?  

All those children, the church, the constant demands for his time from parishioners, the maintenance of his spiritual condition which undoubtedly required times of silence and even isolation.   

Life on this plane is tricky sometimes. But it’s where we are, now. We must contend with it on its terms for the duration of our time here.  

The flavor of the beliefs are often different but I suppose folks who walk a spiritual path are often confronted with similar concerns.  

Peace to all my fellow travelers tonight.   

And so it is.

Scott Vaughn Photography

This is probably the first time I’ve let my entire name be on this blog.

When I first started it in 2015, I wanted it to be a showcase for ideas and spiritual stuff I was working on that the time, and I wanted to keep the focus off me.

By that time, I felt like I’d become a kind of brand, and I was still trying to integrate all the disparate parts.   I’m still trying.

First, you had Scott Vaughn, the pianist, then Scott Douglas Vaughn, the professional intuitive and, of course, Scott Vaughn, the photographer.   I wanted to keep the focus on what I was thinking and learning, and I wanted a place to be able to do that without having to attach my name to it all.

Not that anyone didn’t know it was me.

It’s just that I was feeling a little over-exposed in certain areas of my life and I wanted to experience what it would be like to put my ideas out there without having to worry about where it might fit into the larger picture.

Or something like that.

These could all be delusions of grandeur, you know.

Anyway, this blog was born out of Scott Vaughn 2015.

Scott Vaughn 2018 wants to approach things a little differently.

As almost everyone who knows me knows that I take pictures.

If you follow me on social media, and feel free to, you’ll see that I post my shots of abandoned buildings and found objects.   I post the pictures.  I post very little in the way of explanation about my work.  My idea is that the pictures could speak for themselves and I haven’t worried myself too much about it.

Or, that’s what I say.

Most of the time, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know what my pictures are saying.  I know they are saying something.  I just choose not to look at my work that way, especially when I’m in the process of creating it.

Today, I spent time with my friend, Brent Page.  Brent has family here and comes home a few times a year, and we always get together.  He knows me well but he also has the perspective of not using Facebook so much and not seeing me day in and day out.  He doesn’t see my photography posts all the often.

Brent has objectivity about me, and I appreciate him for that.

We were at my office downtown, and he was going through some of my prints to pick one to take home with him.  His overall assessment of my work was that it’s very dark, sad, depressing and almost scary.   It was not a criticism, certainly.  Mostly he said this to remark about how that element presented so often in my work is often at odds with the Scott Vaughn he knows and spends time with.

We didn’t go any further with it because we were both in a bit of a hurry but it got me to thinking.

What does my work convey?

What am I trying to say overall with my photography?

And for that matter, how do all my various “works” integrate themselves into the unified person known as me.  I’ve tried to keep the pianist and the intuitive and the photographer so separate so long that I am at a loss to explain how all these versions of me inform one another.

Let’s just say, I’m pondering all of that.

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I’ve often been asked when I’m talking about my work with someone else what is the deeper significance of this or that?

The photo below comes to mind.

I always called it “Trouble in the Dining Room.”  I took it at an abandoned house in my hometown the day my father died in March 2013.  Everyone was strung out from all the activity and my mom needed some space to clear her head, so I took my Aunt Barbara along with me and we went exploring in a couple of abandoned houses in the area.

IMG_0792

Mostly, my recollection of that day was me trying to get this shot on a very soft floor of a house that seemed to move in the wind.  Beyond this door, the floor had caved in to the basement.   I wasn’t exactly concerned for my safety but I wasn’t unconcerned either.

I just wanted to get really cool picture.

Other people have seen different things. I’ll let you decide what you see.

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I never set out to be a photographer.  Until summer 2012, I had absolutely no interest in it whatsoever.  In fact, I would have been the least likely person to take pictures of anything.  But summer 2012 was very interesting for me.

I call that the summer of my grand spiritual awakening.  I won’t go into all the details of that summer, but let’s just say the universe cracked me wide open and set me on a new path for my life and my work.

Up until that point, I was safe in a career as an administrator and teacher at the university I worked at.  I was going to probably get a doctoral degree and write scholarly articles about academic advising for professional journals.  I wanted to become a consultant for colleges wishing to enhance their academic advising through innovative ideas and programs.  I would have been great at it.

But that wasn’t the way things turned out.

Let’s just say, I somehow opened up.

I started taking pictures and I started feeling led to open an office to begin giving intuitive readings to people who were in transitional points in their lives.  None of this was part of the plan whatsoever.

I’ll cut through a lot of the story here.

As I began taking pictures and posting them, people seemed to enjoy them.

Bless them.

I go back to my early early work and wonder what in the world anyone saw in that mish-mash of mis-colored, over edited and poorly-composed photographs of things that had seen better days.

Yet, people noticed.

Kate VanHuss was the director of community outreach for the local Earth Fare grocery store, and she sent me a message to get some things together and select the best work and I could hang it in the cafe at the store for the month of November that year.   I will always love Kate for that act of grace and vote of confidence in someone who didn’t exactly know what he was doing but was learning as he went.

Wow!

At any rate, I thought it would be nice to share a little about my photography even though this post isn’t terribly conclusive about anything.

My goal now is to use this blog as a unifying point for all of my various interests and loves.  

We’ll see how that works out.

I also thought I’d reprint my Artist Statement which is probably a bit more enlightening where my work is concerned:

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From my website, www.scottvaughnphotography.com.

I call the work that I do “nature photography—of a sort.” My work documents the progression of abandonment left to its inevitable result.

Nature taking its course, if you will.

When I walk into an abandoned space, the first thing I do is stop, listen, and feel. Most old buildings still contain the energy of the folks who once resided there. If you listen closely, you can hear it whispering. In so many ways, what you can see is just the beginning; these places also convey that which is beyond the scope of the eye, including the sounds and smells and energies accumulated through time.

My hope is that my work suggests the past by showing the present; indeed, it is important that I document the current state for its own sake. For me, taking in these places is like hearing a snippet of an old, familiar song: you cannot help but continue hearing the rest of the song and re-experiencing the universal and personal circumstances in play when you first heard it.

I am often asked if I feel sad about the conditions I photograph. Though I am sensitive to the energies of the places I visit, sadness is generally not the emotion I feel. Indeed, decay conveys a beauty not found in the conventional aesthetics of a carefully maintained structure. I would describe my experience as not unlike the sense of wonder evoked by the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore or Greek ruins—obvious differences in scale aside.

Another common question is how a person might find similar locations where they live. My response is always that once you become consciously attuned to something, you can’t help but find it everywhere. When we are programmed to see only classic beauty, that is often all we will see. But if we expand our awareness to encompass decay and ruin, we will come to see that beauty—exceptional beauty—resides there as well.

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For more information about my work or to follow me on social media, check out the following.

www.scottvaughnphotography.com

www.facebook.com/scottvaughnphotography

www.scottdouglasvaughn.com

www.facebook.com/scottdouglasvaughn

that moment I touched down

First, one of you kindly emailed me and asked if I had plans to basically resurrect this blog.  I always appreciate questions like this and any interaction with my posts.  I’d love it if you subscribed and then you could get updates as to when I post something.

Will I be posting more in the New Year?

Let’s just take this on a one day at a time basis.

Today, I was driving across town and was in the mood for some Alanis Morisette.  I take this a good sign.  I’ve been stuck with listening to ambient music in my the past few months because I just wasn’t in the mood for much else.

I remember when she came on the scene with the “Jagged Little Pill” album.  I remember the big song, “Ironic,” which ironically contains no real irony in the things she’s supposedly calling ironic.

A black fly in your chardonnay is a nuisance.  But it’s hardly ironic, at least within the context of the song.

But…of course, I have no complaints here and that’s not the reason for my post.  That whole album is iconic–if not ironic–and reminds me of my late 20s like practically nothing else.

It’s the song “Thank You” on her second album, “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie,” that I was drawn to today.  I have always loved this song and it was fun to sing along with it and emulate the attitude she conveys through her singing.

But I was absolutely clueless about this song when it came out.

Clueless.

Today, I’m at a different place.  I GET IT now.

It’s a song about facing your issues.  Processing them and getting more free throughout that process.

I have always been a person who makes things happen.  And I’ve done well with that.  But I do better when I just let go–and trust the process of  life in all its beauty and mystery.

I do better when I just let go and trust that all things are working out for my ultimate good.

That I’m ok.

That what YOU do is not as important as what I do when you do what you do.  That I can really screw things up when I get out of alignment with myself and start to think the fix is out there, when the fix is always, always, always “in here.”

Scott points to his own heart when he says that.

My friend Marty always says something to the effect of “you have to go in to find out.”  What she’s suggesting is that I solve the problems of my life by facing my own issues, being real about where I am and just trusting the process.

These lines crystalize it for me:

“The moment I let go of it….was the moment I got more than I could handle.

The moment I jumped off of it…was the moment I touched down.”

In case you’ve forgotten it, here’s a link to the video.

Enjoy.

And have a deep breath on me.

Making peace with the unknown 

Unresolved things often hurt.  
It doesn’t help that the human mind likes to create stories around what-ifs. But given the way this works, the stories themselves don’t often bring the thing we think we need. 
These days, I’m learning to live in the unresolved spaces.  

It’s not easy.  When I’m hurting though, the best way to experience it is in real time.  Not push it down.  But I guess the lesson is for me to learn that even in the unresolved, I am, can and will be ok.  

“Therein lies the peace of God.”

Worry and its discontents

First, I’m not going to apologize about not writing much on this blog.

Like many things, it’s easy to have a fine start and then let things slide as time goes by.  I began doing regular writing here in the Spring of 2015.  Lots of my thoughts have morphed and changed since then, as one might hope, and perhaps I’ll revisit some things over time.

But I might not.

Tonight I wanted to talk about worry.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s absolutely human to worry sometimes, especially if there’s something to worry about.  If you get a bad health diagnosis or your grandmother is dying or your cat is sick, it’s normal to be worried.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m more talking about the idea of chronic worry.

I’m a worrier (and I say that only as part of my truth-telling in this piece–I’ll offer a affirmation treatment toward the end).

What I’ve finally come to realize over time is that all the things I worry about are generally never the problem.  Things I worry about are generally projections of my greater worry problem.  If I worry about this and this goes away, I can worry about that for a while and then that passes, and I can worry about another thing and another and another.

It’s like Sisyphus moving rocks.

I used to worry about my health all the time.

I’ve always been aware of subtle shifts in my body and I used to employ that to worry about coming down with this or that.  I used to talk myself into more than a few stomach viruses except that I would never actually get sick.   When I had what appeared to be a real health scare several years ago, I learned so much about how I react and how I can create a certain reality in my head and live accordingly and then that reality turn out to be false, though I lived it as though it were real.

Chronic worry, after all, is claiming that the condition you’re worrying about is already present in your life.  You get to experience all the emotions around it.  Note that that’s exactly how folks like Neville Goddard and Emmet Fox and Wayne Dyer tell us how manifest the things we want in our lives.    We are to create it in our minds and feel it as though it’s already present in our lives.  That’s wise use of the power–worry is non-constructive use of the same energy force.

Always remember that your imagination is your primary creative force.  You’ve heard people say “if you can dream it, you can be it.”  The same holds true in reverse.   If you create a nightmare of a situation in your mind, you can experience that nightmare in your life in such a way that it feels every inch of real.

And if you do it long enough, you’ll bring it right into your experience.

So far as stomach viruses go, every time I’ve had one, it’s just kind of come upon me without any warning, so I finally realized that all this worry about getting sick was nothing short of futile.

I’ve had lots of changes in the past year.

I left a well-paying university job to become a real estate agent, along continuing with my metaphysical work, my photography and my piano playing.  I was no longer thriving at the university, and I wanted time to pursue my other loves.

It’s been a real lesson in faith for me.

I discovered very early that the really great thing about being in real estate is that you set your own hours and you could even sleep until noon if you wanted to.  I simultaneously discovered that the not so great part of being in real estate is that you can set your own hours and you can even sleep until noon if you want to.  Whoops.

I’ve done very well for a first-year realtor but in many ways I could have had more peace if I hadn’t stressed and obsessed over when, what and how the next deal was going to be.

 

Worry Problem
I wrote this on the white board when I was doing student conferences a few weeks ago (I am teaching part-time still). I could tell who the chronics were by their response to this…some of them had never thought of it that way.

Perhaps I might have done even better.

Generally speaking I’ve kept a positive framework going throughout the experience.  But when I’m not in such great head-space, I’ll project my worry problem right onto my new career and then things will begin to slow down for me.  But when I shift my attitude just a bit, things start to flow.

Imagine that.

All these things I’ve been studying about the so-called Law of Attraction, etc are actually borne out in three dimensional reality.  It’s one thing to know this because you’ve studied it–quite another to experience it so directly in your day to day affairs.

At any rate, most of what I wanted to get across can be summed up in the picture above  that I wrote on the white board on a night I was doing student conferences (I’m still professoring part-time).  “If you’re a chronic worrier, most of the things you worry about are not the problem.  Those are just things upon which you project your worry problem.”

My students thought I wrote it on the board for them to ponder–and I could tell who the chronic worriers were.  Quite a few of them had never thought of it that way.  Mostly, I put it up there for my own benefit.  Sometimes, we need reminders of the things we think we know.

We know them, often, in the head…but the heart, being more experiential, takes a bit longer to convince.

So, I will leave you with this little affirmation treatment.

“By claiming peace for myself, I release my mind from the need for chronic worry.  I experience peace in the only time which exists–this moment.”

 

When I claim peace for myself, I release my mind from the need for chronic worry. I experience peace in the only time which exists--this moment.

Peace and love to all.