One Minute Monologues 002

08/17/2011 — 11/16/2011

  1. Black-eyed Susans and Purple Cone Flowers, Blowing Rock, NC—Everybody wants to bail out from time to time, to eject from this world and float happily down into some other, better, world. Everybody. The Buddha got his start wanting to escape this world. Jesus said, “How long must I bear with you? I can’t wait until I’m out of here!” (or words to that effect). It’s a universal human malady, not wanting what we have, wanting what we can’t have. Something we all have to square up with over and over at different points in our life. So, we need one another to remind us that it is the most natural thing in the world to feel this way, and to encourage us to look our life in the eye and see it as another manifestation of the Cyclops standing in our path, grinning. Here comes the mantra you have to embrace, understand, comprehend, believe and recite: “It’s all hopeless, meaningless, useless, pointless and futile, and coming to a very bad end (we all die, you know)–AND how we live in the meantime makes all the difference!” Look at the difference the Buddha made, and Jesus. And they didn’t change one thing about the world they didn’t like. So, you have to rearrange your thinking about the influence for good you have in your world, and pick yourself up and live your life as only you can live it, with the right attitude and right spirit about you, as a blessing and a grace upon all who come your way. We have to remind one another to do that, because we all want to bail out from time to time, and how we live through that makes all the difference. 08/17/2011
  2. Coming In, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—No one can tell us, show us, hand us what is meaningful. We know it on our own. If we are living meaningless, empty lives, it’s our own fault. We said “No” too many times to too many things. We said “No!” to things that were “Yesses,” and we knew it but. We allowed our principles to stop us, or our responsibilities, or our concern for what Those Who Know Best would say. Or we turned away because our Mama or Daddy wouldn’t approve, or because we couldn’t afford it, or because our circumstances wouldn’t allow it. When we let someone else set the course of our life, we are headed for empty and meaningless. When we live in a hole, or a corner, because we will not unleash our imagination and trust ourselves to find ways to serve what is meaningful in spite of our circumstances, we resign ourselves to empty and meaningless. There is a price to be paid for living a meaningful life—some risks to be accepted, some chances to be taken. The Hero’s Journey is not for the faint-hearted, the timid and shy. It is for those who realize there is nothing really to lose so why hold anything back. The good news is that it is never too late to start living meaningful lives. The question for us is always the same at every point in our lives: How alive can you be in the time left for living? We owe it to ourselves to find out. 08/18/2011
  3. Beaver Pond Reflection, Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY—We need the company of the right kind of others to remind us that we have what we need, which is a very good thing because no one can give it to us—our sense of direction, our “feel for the game,” our intuitive grasp of the situation as it unfolds/arises, our sense of flow and timing, our realization of what resonates with us and what “rings true” or doesn’t, our instinctive notion of what is right for us and wrong, good for us and bad, our heart/spirit for holding on and hanging in and doing what needs to be done no matter how hard or how long, our courage and our resilience and our trust in ourselves to “rise to the occasion” and “take care of business” that is truly our business in ways appropriate to the circumstances… We need to be reminded of these things from time to time, and we need to hang out with people who can be our reminders and not try to make us dependent on them to do our living for us. We can do our living for ourselves with the kind of help that says, “Come on. You can do your own living, and if you are afraid you can’t, we’ll keep you company until you see that you can.” 08/18/2011
  4. View from Signal Mountain Panorama, Grand Teton National Park, WY—The Trail will take as much from us as it gives to us. The taking is the key to the giving. If you walk the Trail, unbent, unbowed, unchanged—just all triumphant and smiley—you missed something crucial along the way. The Trail requires us to accommodate ourselves to the Trail, to hand ourselves over to the Trail, to become one with the Trail. It’s like this: There is what the Trail demands of you and what you demand of the Trail. The Trail is all Ups and you want all Downs. Something has to give. Guess what it is. It’s like this: There is your one-year-old daughter and there is you. The needs and interests of one conflict with, clash with, the needs and interests of the other. You both have to do your fair share of giving in to the other. Each of you is the Trail for the other. It’s like this: Life is an optical illusion, the old woman who is also a lovely young maiden. The Trail which is a mean SOB and you with your needs, wishes, and desires. You sit with an optical illusion until you can see the opposites and how the opposites are one illusion. The two are one. So you have to sit with the Trail or your daughter until you can see that you and the Trail are one and you and your daughter are one, merging, flowing, into and out of each other. Two, one, two, one… This is not about winning and losing but about accommodating ourselves, acquiescing, to what needs to happen in each moment. It is not surrender and defeat but growth and becoming. We are better people for having walked the Trail, for having the daughter, without having imposed our will on either. 08/19/2011
  5. Cunningham Cabin, Grand Teton National Park, WY—If we are here to bring forth and make conscious and visible the high values of the invisible world, we could do a better job of it. The high values are often lost in the effort to have things our way—a problem identified as long ago as the early chapters of the Book of Genesis. This is not called making headway. The problem is compounded by each of us having to wake up to the problem individually and work it out alone. The church in all of its incarnations is evidence that there is no corporate solution, and we are left with the realization that it is up to us, personally, to wake up, grow up and get to work cultivating compassion, civility, grace, mercy, love, kindness, justice, awareness, insight, generosity, beauty, patience, joy, and all their companion values—bringing them forth in our lives, making them visible, tangible, real and ever-present in all of our moments of all of our days. This is the work that saves the world and it is ours to do alone. 08/19/2011
  6. Streamside, Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—We tend to opt for the easiest life possible under the circumstances, that is the life most ruled by diversion, distraction, denial. We run, hide, escape from the pain of emptiness, meaninglessness, hopelessness, frustration, futility, grief, loss, sorrow and boredom in a regular and recurring way. “Give them circuses” (or it’s equivalent, drugs, sex, alcohol and all forms of plastic) keeps the masses, that would be us, from roaming the countryside bent on aimless destruction, rioting and mob violence because they/we can’t think of anything else to do. Facing up to and bearing the pain of being alive would be something else to do. We have a life. What are we going to do with it? With the resources at our disposal? In this context? These circumstances? We have been sentenced to life in this here and this now as it is. What are we going to do about it? We have no idea. So we run for the circuses in all forms to take our mind off the problem of what to do with our life and the givens we have to work with. And all the while, the invisible world—that would be the world of our soul/Psyche/Self—waits for our cooperation, collaboration. We have all the help we need “right here.” It only takes waking up to it to know that it is so. Perspective is the best tool in the whole toolbox. With the slightest shift in perspective, everything changes. Seeing, hearing, understanding transforms our world and we live to transform the entire world of normal, apparent reality. We save the world by becoming awake, aware, alive in our world, in this here and this now—by becoming awake, aware, alive to the other world, the invisible world, the world of soul/Psyche/Self. To do that, we have to look beyond circuses and plastic to see what else is there, here, now. 08/20/2011
  7. Rosebay Rhododendron, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—Every living thing has something to worry about, whether it knows it or not. The trick here is not to arrange our lives so as to be worry-free, with things like high walls, guarded entrances, a physician on call at all times and more money than we can count, much less spend. The trick is to trust ourselves to deal appropriately with whatever arises. “Bring it on! Show me what ‘cha got! Hit me with your best shot!” We’ll find a way. Always have. Always will. It’s something else we have in common with every living thing. Life finds a way, and lives (and loves) on! 08/20/2011
  8. Monroe, NC Depot—We spend too much time and energy trying to keep things as they are in an effort to avoid the work that is to be done. The real work that we put off indefinitely, resist eternally, is to let go what’s going and let come what’s coming. You get that down, you got it made.
  9. Taggett Lake, Grand Teton National Park, WY—How much money would we have to pay you to not do what you love to do? I hope they don’t make that much money. You couldn’t buy my camera from me, or pay me to not take photos. My wife likes to say I could make a lot of money from photography if I just quit taking pictures. She thinks she’s funny. But. A lot of us don’t do what we love to do because we cannot sell it, market it, make money from doing it. That’s like being paid to not do it. It’s selling out. It’s being bought off. It’s corrupt, immoral, an outright betrayal of soul. We should be ashamed. We should be ashamed for connecting a monetary value to a spiritual endeavor. We should write poetry, draw, paint, teach children to read or just read ourselves, walk the dog in the woods, ride horses, play golf, fish, swim, run because we love to even though nothing is going to “come of it.” Carl Jung was quite the amateur artist, but he was careful not to market any of his paintings because that would cheapen their value, detract from their true worth, which was the connection they provided to his soul and the work they enabled him to do in understanding his soul and what his soul was communicating to him by way of symbols and images. What we love to do is soul stuff. Do it because you love it and see where it leads you—not in terms of financial profit and reward, but in terms of insight, understanding, grounding, centering, focusing, meaning, purpose, direction and the expression of the high values of the invisible world. 08/21/2011
  10. Rosebay Rhododendron, Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—What are we going to do with the time left for living? This is a problem that cannot be solved by thinking about it. We cannot sit down and make our “Bucket List” of things we want to do before we “kick the bucket,” and hope to come close to the things we need to do in the time that is ours. What does wanting know? Remember your first marriage? You wanted that. Need I say more? Knowing what we need to do with the time left for living is a problem that can only be solved through prayer. But. This is not prayer as it has devolved. We think of prayer as a wireless network for placing orders and requests to a kindly Santa Claus in the sky. We ask, we receive. Simple. Wrong. Stop thinking about getting and start thinking about being. Prayer is the practice of seeking the beam and being aligned with the life that is our life to live, which needs us to live it. Prayer is meditation, contemplation, introspection, and openness to how things are and also are and what needs to be done about it. Prayer is listening for what needs us to do it, here and now, in the situation as it arises. As we move toward what needs us to do it, we find what we need to do it, but rarely more than we need. Prayer is a way of seeing what needs to be done—the path to insight and enlightenment. It is an attitude, an orientation, that takes it all in and perceives responses that are fitting and proper so that we might do what is being asked of us. It is the way of finding our way into what we are going to do with the time left for living, and doing it. 08/22/2011
  11. Linville Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, NC—We would do well to live more instinctively, more intuitively. We think we have to think things out and make careful, reasoned choices because we might be asked to defend, justify, excuse or explain our actions. We live such tight little defensive lives that we might as well be dead. Anything with life about it is all over the place. Puppies, kittens and children, for example. Not us. We don’t run to do anything except run and we time our distances even there. What do we JUST DO??? FOR NO REASON??? Make this a regular part of your spiritual practice. Just doing stuff that you instinctively, intuitively, sense it’s time to do for no reason other than it’s time has come. 08/22/2011
  12. Yellowstone Canyon and River, Yellowstone National Park, WY—Pay the fare and ride the ride, that’s my best advice. What are we holding back for, saving up for? So far as we can tell this is our one shot at life. Why not live while the time for living is upon us? We are afraid of what, exactly? Where is it you have never been that you have always put off going? What is it you have never done that you have always put off doing? How is it that you are refusing to live the life that is waiting to be lived? Why are you keeping it on hold? When do you expect to start living? To move beyond the normal routines, the familiar patterns, the cow track from the barn to the pasture and back to the barn? You think you are safe and secure not venturing out into the life that is dying for you to live it? Lightening could hit the barn tonight. It’s all going up in smoke eventually. Make a routine of shaking up your routine. Create a pattern of life that includes wiggles, whizzes, slides and splashes. Invite the unknown, the unpredictable, the startling and disquieting into your life. See what happens. 08/23/2011
  13. Grandfather Mountain from Rich Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—We think with enough money everything else will fall into place. This is a happy fantasy implanted by a culture grounded on a money-based economy. It’s a mindset. A foundational assumption. And we serve it with our lives. We would be better off serving our life with our lives—the life that has a mind of its own, the life that has its idea of how we should be living, which is not dependent on having a lot of money. But we think our life is what we do with money. We have no grasp of life apart from our ideas of how we spend our money. Listen. To. Me. We have a life separate from our ideas of our life which has ideas for us and the way we need to live. Cut off from our life’s idea of itself, we are left on our own to invent a life for ourselves. The smart thing to do would be to find our way back to our life and its idea for itself and for us. Of course, that would be hard to do, but to not do it is to do things the hard way. Eventually, we get to the point of doing what’s hard and wonder why we didn’t do it that way in the first place. Our life has been wondering that all along. 08/23/2011
  14. Beaver Pond Reflection, Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY—An art dealer told me my photos don’t sell because there is too much blue in them. “People don’t buy blue,” she said, “certainly not bright blue. They are looking for something to go with their sofa, their carpet and their walls.” A quick perusal of my photos will turn up dump truck loads of those that will never sell. Well. The Paleolithic paintings on the wall of the cave in Lascaux, France didn’t sell for 17,000 years. How’s that for not selling? And it didn’t stop the artists from painting. The soul loves an image, it seems. I’m serving my soul with my photography. I’m doing with my photographs what the cave artists did with their pigments and their charcoal and chipping stones. I’m soothing myself, grounding myself, centering myself, calming myself, making it right, somehow, with my soul that things are as they are. When I’m out of sorts, feeling down, grumpy, snarly, pouty, at loose ends and at war with every little thing, I gather up the camera and we go settle me down by finding images that restore my equilibrium and still my soul. I’m particularly fond of blue. And if not one of them ever sells, when you factor in what I’ve saved in psychotherapy bills, you’ll see that I come out way ahead in this game, and we haven’t taken into account prescription medication. 08/24/2011
  15. Great, ahem, Blue Heron, the Bog Garden Pond (AKA Starmount Farms Pond), Greensboro, NC—If you want to come to life in the life you’re living, to be alive in the deepest, fullest sense—vibrant, alert, aware of the moment and loving everything about it—you have to find the symbols that grab you and be grabbed by them. Now, a symbol represents something that cannot be said. A sign is just what it is. A stop sign is nothing more than a stop sign. Our symbols have been turned into signs. In the Christian church, for instance, the cross and the communion table, mean just what we have been told they mean, no more and certainly no less. The symbol has become a sign. Not a good thing to have happen to your symbols. In order to bring us to life, our symbols have to be alive—they have to have infinite depths capable of being eternally explored. In order for THAT to happen, we have to reclaim our symbols and the mystery behind them, and immerse ourselves in the wonder of more than words can say. In order to do THAT, we have to say what is true for us about the symbol using words that have never been said. But, here’s the catch, for our symbols to come alive for us in this way, we have to free them and ourselves from the explanations—the theology—we have been handed and told to believe. We have to sit with our symbols and let ourselves imagine what else there is about them that is also true which we have never been told is true. This is resurrecting the symbol. As we bring our symbols to life, they bring us to life, and we dance through the rest of our days. 08/24/2011
  16. Footbridge on the Rough Ridge Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—What makes us think that a man or a woman would make all the difference in our life? That romance is the solution to all of our problems today and tomorrow? After romance, there’s the laundry, the yard work, the cat to the vet and life is back to what it was before romance. Romance is a happy interlude between all the next damn things that demand our time and attention. Romance is not all it is cracked up to be. Nothing is. But. Everything, romance included, is an opportunity to look closer, to dig deeper, to wake up to the depth, and breadth, and wonder of life. Falling in love is an amazing aspect of being alive—an invitation into the depths of life—and we would be crazy to pass it up, to dismiss it as nothing more than a “happy interlude.” It is an opportunity to explore the questions that lead to wherever it is that we are going: What do we need a man or a woman for? What do we need him or her to help us do? What do we imagine the “right man” or “right woman” will bring into the relationship with us? What characteristics and qualities will he, will she, exude? Who can we count on him, on her, to be? What are the deficits that he, that she, will counteract? From what will he, will she, save us? How will our life be different with him, with her in it? And, here’s the jewel, What does thinking about him or her keep us from thinking about? While you wait for the right man or woman to come along, consider the questions. Ponder them. Explore them. Follow them out. See where they lead, what other questions they raise, how they change  your life. 08/25/2011
  17. Gardiner, MT—Gardiner is the Northwest Entrance to Yellowstone and a great place to find lunch and regional art work in the shops along the street—We can never be sure where we are going with our lives. We await inspiration, direction, clarity, focus, invitation, chance, grace, luck, the reappearance of the white rabbit… The white rabbit is always coming again, and we have to be ready, watching, waiting. This is the kind of eschatological promise we can count on—the coming of the white rabbit is always at the end of time for one time in our life and the beginning of time for another. The Second Coming is not the Final Coming, just the one after the first and before the third. How many comings are there? Depends on how well you respond to them. Could be thousands. Could be only one, waiting and waiting for you to wake up to its calling and get on with your new life. We live only once? Hardly. We live as many lives as we can cram into a lifetime—if we are up for it. In each moment we stand before an infinite number of futures and choose one. Is it an inspired choice? The right choice? Takes choosing to know for sure. We have to follow what appears to be the white rabbit for a while before we know if it is the white rabbit, or a red herring, or a wild goose. Takes going to know, which means we cannot be afraid of being wrong. The roots of tomorrow’s Right are grounded in yesterday’s Wrong. We are internally guided, self-correcting beings but. To be guided and corrected we have to be moving. We can’t wait long trying to decide if it’s a white rabbit or not. It will be gone by the time we make up our mind. We have to go to know. 08/26/2011
  18. Dugger’s Creek Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, NC—There are questions we cannot ask, trains of association we cannot allow ourselves to board. This is where the conscious, willful, ego comes to the rescue of the invisible world, where we “save our soul.” Soul drifts toward the woeful sloughs of despond from time to time, and needs us—the conscious ego us—to will ourselves forward, to call ourselves up and on. In this work, to gather all of us for the work that is ours to do, our conscious self relies on an aspect of the invisible world other than soul: Spirit. Think of soul as the interface, the connector, between body and Spirit. As such, soul tends to be “of the earth,” moist, wet, sensual, passionate, etc., and can “lose the way” in its desire to experience fully the physical side of life—and can “give up the ghost” when physically things seem, or are, hopeless, “taking over” and “possessing” us with its moods. At this point, we have to remind soul (Talk about a role reversal!) of its connection to Spirit, and speak for Spirit sternly to soul. Spirit is “of the air and light,” high, clear, the source of highest value, always calling us to the best we can bring forth in every situation and circumstance. Spirit is, all together now, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-discipline”—and all the other values as well, including courage, compassion, grace, mercy, justice and perseverance. So, we call on Spirit to urge soul on, which gets us to the questions we cannot ask, the thoughts we cannot think but. The limitations of space here will make that a good topic for next time. 08/27/2011
  19. Sunrise, Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park near Canyon Village, WY—“Why are you so downcast, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me?” The Psalmist knew the ways of the soul, how it can “turn on a dime,” bright and shiny one minute and dull and down the next. Carl Jung says that there is no reason to think that all of our moodiness, or our shift in mood, is our doing, because all of our feelings don’t necessarily belong to us. He says that as participants in “the collective unconscious,” we may carry the unresolved emotional baggage of psychic entities we do not know. Heraclitus said in the 6th century BCE, “If you went in search of it, you would not find the boundaries of the soul, though you traveled every road, so deep is its measure.” There is more to soul than we have likely considered. One thing to consider is its propensity for moods. We think we are feeling the mood when it may well be that soul is feeling the mood through us—we are the vehicle for making conscious soul’s moodiness. If that is the case, then we are in position to wake soul up to, and be responsible for, its own mood of the moment—and refuse to carry a mood that does not belong to us. If we are to stop indulging soul’s propensity to deepen its spiral downward, there are questions we must not ask, thoughts we must not think. They are: “So what? Who cares? Why try? What’s the use? What’s the point? What difference does it make?” And: “Nothing I do matters. It won’t do any good. Nothing good will come of it. It isn’t worth it. It’s a waste of time to try.” Things are difficult enough without our taking sides against ourselves. Our place is to look to the Spirit within as the everlasting source of encouragement and value, and live toward the best we can imagine in each moment, in each situation as it arises, “Anyway, nevertheless, even so!” 08/28/2011
  20. Barn on Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park, WY—The dance dances the dancer. The song sings the singer. When the dancer tries to dance the dance, or the singer tries to sing the song, it is apparent to everyone that things aren’t working. During my last eight years in the ministry (I’m retired), I enjoyed the freedom of an early service which allowed me to invite local singer/songwriters (not religious) to share their music each Sunday in lieu of traditional hymns and praise bands. I relished the time with these folks and their music but. A couple of them looked beyond the music to making it big. The ones who actually made it big—one won a Grammy this past year, and another has enjoyed several appearances on A Prairie Home Companion and written music for plays and orchestra productions—were at one with their music, loved their music, and were in it—are in it—for the pure joy of the music. The others, the ones who were looking for success and using music to get there, are still looking, and will be always. I translate this into photography like so: Don’t step into a scene looking to take THE photo of that scene. Step into every scene bent on taking ALL the photos that scene affords as though each one is THE photo. Enjoy the entire process, the looking as much as the seeing, the seeking as much as the finding. It’s all photography. What’s making it big going to do for you that you don’t have going for you right here, right now? You have a camera—you have a scene—what more could you possibly want? 08/28/2011
  21. Summer Wetlands, Guilford County near Greensboro, NC—We cannot be self-directed, self-determined, self-correcting without being self-reflective. We have to think about who we are and what we are about and how we decide to do what we do and what we mean, what we intend, with our lives. A life is not automatic. A life does not flow naturally from being 98.6 and breathing. We can live without being alive. The idea is to be fully, vibrantly alive in the time of our living—in the time left for living. We don’t do that accidentally. If we are going to be alive, we have to work at it, asking, seeking, knocking, looking, listening, inquiring. Ours is the work of developing eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands, so that we might see what we look at, hear what we listen to, grasp what is before us and bring what we have to offer alive in each moment of living as a blessing and a grace to the moment and to all who share it with us. May we always see things as they are (which includes how they also are), be clear and correct about what needs to be done in each situation as it arises, and have the courage to do it. Amen! May it be so! 08/30/2011
  22. Peach Orchard, Springs Farm, Fort Mill, SC—It’s easy to love God when all is well with our life, or when we think loving God is the key to having all things be well with our life. As long as things are fine, or as long as we think God is in charge of things becoming fine, love is in the air but. Let life have its way with us and we are right in their with Job, railing, ranting at the God we loved, or curled in a fetal position wondering where God is and why the God we loved so allowed things to be as they are. God is not our ace in the hole or our heavenly hedge against the complete loss of everything—or everything that ever mattered. God is our partner in making this moment all it can be, in doing what truly needs to be done in each situation as it arises—which may not have anything in common with what we think needs to be done, or which we are told (by Those Who Know Best) what needs to be done. God has funny ideas about what needs to be done, so it’s hard to predict what it will be in any here and now—which means we have to take chances and hurl ourselves into what we think needs to be done when, as it turns out, wasn’t what needed to be done at all, but. Doing it opened our eyes to what we can do about it to redeem it, resurrect it, in the next moment or the one after that. We live to bring ourselves forth in the life we are living—to live life as it needs to be lived in each situation—to live our life better than God could live it in our place, and get only having done it out of it. That’s playing the game the way the game was meant to be played. Batter up! 08/31/2011
  23. Spider Web, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—Is it a blip? Or, is it a glitch? Or, is it a portent of things to come? Takes living with it to know. The problem is that we want everything to be all right right now, but. Our lives move in and out of all right and good enough all our lives long—and each time, we don’t trust our ability to adapt one more time. We have enough stress in our lives when things are fine. Even when it’s easy, it’s hard. We don’t need the roof to start leaking, the toilet to back-up, the dog to barf on the floor. Well. What helps you through? How do you soothe your soul? Calm yourself? Gather yourself? Provide yourself with the wherewithal to step into the situation and do what is needed one more time? I write it out. Take the camera and go looking. And I carry with me always the happy fantasy of a community something like the regulars in Cheers, with the difference that the one of my dreams would be focused on helping its members face up to and find ways of dealing with the reality of their life. Talking it out. Absent that kind of “community of innocence,” talking becomes writing for me. Whatever squares us up with our lives and enables us to look the angel of life in his/her ugly red eye and say to him/her, “I’m not letting you go until you give me the blessing!” is exactly what we need to walk with the angel into every day. May we all find it and dance daily with the angel of life. 09/01/2011
  24. Mallard Landing, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—There are no secrets. Everything is right out in the open. It only takes seeing things as they are (which includes seeing them as they also are) to see what needs to be done about them in each situation as it arises. We interfere with the process by tilting the table toward what we perceive to be our advantage, our gain, our profit, our benefit, our best interest. What needs to happen takes a back seat to what we want to happen and Dollar’s Law prevails: Stupidity trumps everything. We stand poised to play the Stupid Card in every moment, scoop up our winnings and head for the house. So, we have to see that, too, as a part of the way things are, and listen carefully, look closely, for what needs to be done, knowing that we really want to be stupid at every opportunity, and see if we have what it takes to avoid being stupid this time. 09/01/2011
  25. Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Portrait of a Green Heron, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We wake up gradually, over the course of our life. Living wakes us up, if we can be awakened. Banging into the way things are wakes us up, if we can be awakened. Coming up against life as we have been not told that it is—as we do not want it to be—wakes us up, if we can be awakened. We dismiss, discount, too often what cannot be ignored. We expand our theories about the way things are to explain away the discrepancies and contradictions, and continue snoring and dreaming that the world is how we wish it were. Waking up is coming to terms with the differences between the world as it is and the world as we would like for it to be. I’m getting older by the minute. I cannot pretend that away and live as fully as I’m capable of living for as long as life is possible. My living has to take the reality of my life into account. So does yours. We adjust, adapt, consciously to the facts that define our existence. This is waking up to how things are and what can be done about them and what truly needs to happen in response to them. Every moment is not a call to action. Every situation is not one that asks us to Do Something Now! Often, we can only wait, watching, for the time to be right for our action to be right. Being awake to the moment, waiting for the time for action to come upon us is the key to a Green Heron’s existence, and ours. 09/02/2011
  26. Sunset, Water Rock Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, NC—We work hard to make things work. We do what we can think to do. Working harder isn’t the answer. Perspective and luck are. Perspective takes it all into account: The situation, the Deal, the Way Things Are And Also Are, What Can Be Done About It, and Of That What Needs To Be Done Next—Here And Now. Nothing tops perspective—seeing into the heart of the matter, seeing things as they are and also are—for settling us into what needs to be done and doing it. Will it work? It’s out of our hands. That’s where luck comes in. Now, when I talk about luck, someone who has been told by someone else how to think, always says, “There is no such thing as luck! It’s all Providential! God’s Providence takes care of us all.” My stock reply is to say, “Aren’t we lucky that God is so providential?” Luck, you see, is a matter of perspective. Luck or Grace or Providence—it’s all the same. Call it what you will, it comes down to the fact that there is that which is out of our hands. If it helps, we are lucky, graced, providenced (Okay, I just made that word up). If it hurts, we are unlucky, disgraced, plagued and cursed. Farmers put everything into a crop that is washed away by a hurricane. We can only control our effort, not the outcome. We do what we can think to do and take our chances. And, when we are flat out of luck, we think of what to do about that—seeing things as they are and also are, what can be done about it, and, of that, what needs to be done next, now, here, and doing it. That’s the process that is not harmed by the daily prayer, “O God, Let me be lucky today!” 09/03/2011
  27. Sunset, Water Rock Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, NC—I spent five minutes yesterday watching two snails making their way into their future. It’s astounding how far a snail can go in five minutes, given the fact that it isn’t moving at all. Handed this illustration of the Taoist principle of accomplishing everything without doing anything, I recalled a favorite Dollarism: “You can get anywhere if you go slowly enough.” I formulated this defense against my detractors when they deride me for my slow pace up a mountain trail. Some people, it seems see breathing hard as a sign of being out of shape. I see it as a sign of walking too fast. If you want to breathe easily, slow down. When they tell me to hurry up so I won’t miss anything, I tell them to slow down so they won’t miss anything. Clearly, there are different ways to get to the top of a mountain. The eagle has its way, the snail has its way. The best way, or the right way, is merely the way Those Who Know Best prefer. Left to find our own way up the mountain, we would distribute ourselves over the mountain side in a pattern that would reflect a “normal distribution curve,” with some racing to be first and some being happy to be last and most spread out in between. We would not be all bunched together in a sprint to the top. Just so with everything else about our lives. We find our own pace, our own rhythm, serve our own interests and inclinations, and spread out over the entire spectrum of life, loving what we love and doing what we do in ways that are commensurate with who we are, collaborating with soul and Spirit to come up with what is right for us in the time and place of our living. Amen! May it be so! 09/04/2011
  28. Baxter Creek Bridge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Big Creek Campgrounds, NC—We live on two levels at once. We walk two paths at the same time. Physical and spiritual. The physical realm has its requirements and demands, duties, obligations and responsibilities. So does the spiritual world. We balance, integrate, reconcile, make compatible the two worlds. Ideally. In practice, we always ignore the spiritual world in favor of the physical world. Sometimes we talk, talk, talk about how wonderful and important the spiritual world is, but. We live in the physical world as though we have never heard of the spiritual world. Which was Jesus’ complaint about the religious authorities of his day. Nothing has changed. So. Our work is cut out for us, bringing the spiritual world forth, giving it equal billing in our lives. We do that by paying attention to “the other side.” Our dreams, for instance. Our intuition, our instinct, the things that catch our eye, the things that resonate with us, that strike a cord, that turn our head. We give these things a place in our life, and live in this world as though that world is real. Which it is. It is the realest world, and the oldest. It was there before this one ever thought about coming into being. 09/04/2011
  29. Mouse Creek Falls Panorama, Big Creek Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC—The spiritual realm informs and directs our life in the physical realm, or would, if we were not so locked into lives of our own. We think it is just us and our life. “It’s MY life and I can do what I want to with it!” The problem here is that we can only want what we want. We cannot want what we ought to want if it varies in the slightest from what we do want—and, here’s the doozy, what we ought to want may have nothing in common with what we think we ought to want, with what we have been told we ought to want. We don’t know what to want, what we ought to want. It quickly gets to be more than we want to fool with, leaving us exactly where we were: Us and our life with nothing but our wants to guide us. We could use a little spiritual guidance and direction but. We would have to go to the trouble of setting ourselves and our wants aside in order to seek what is always with us, waiting to be found. 09/05/2011
  30. Big Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC—Show of hands now: Does anyone here see the stupidity of saying, “We would all have more money if we didn’t pay any taxes!”? Here’s another one for you, hands up now, Is there a quicker, cleaner, more efficient way of shooting both of our feet completely off with one shot than by agreeing that taxes are evil and not only are we going to refuse all additional taxes ever, but we are going to repeal all the taxes on the books, and never pay any more taxes, plus we are going to get rid of all unions because what they do is kind of like forcing us all to pay taxes in the form of higher prices for goods and services which we wouldn’t have to pay if there were no unions? Hold them up high so I can be sure to count them all… What we have just voted on is the heart of the Tax, I mean Tea, Party Agenda. More Money For All Of Us Via The Route Of Less Money For Some Of Us. Stupidity comes into play here in that all of us think the “all of us” in that sentence applies to us and the “some of us” applies to someone else. Let me explain this to you in two more very short so you can understand them sentences. The first is from Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The second is from me, They are coming after you, stupid! The they in that sentence is all of those who make money at the expense of someone else and the you in that sentence is, well, you. At stake here is the coal miner’s right to a quality of life that is higher than the mine owner’s idea of the life the mineworker ought to be happy with. If you are not the owner, you are the worker, whether you work in a coalmine or teach school or work as a plumber or an auto mechanic. Your quality of life is about to be taken out of your hands, and will be if you raise your hand for no more taxes, no taxes at all, and no unions ever.
  31. Moon at Water Rock Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, NC—As anxiety rises, the tendency is to do something quickly to relieve the tension and get things back to normal. We cannot bear the pain of anxiety, uncertainty, and fear for long—rarely long enough to see if we have anything to be afraid of. We tend to embrace those who tell us smooth things, offer simple solutions and tell us we only have to “get rid of the Jews,” or their present-day equivalent (there is always a scapegoat handy), and our problems will be solved. By focusing on “those people” and their evil ways, we shift attention from us and our anxiety, and feel better by making things worse for those who are not like we are. There is a better approach to the problem for all concerned: Face Your Fear And Befriend It! You have to work it out with your fear or it will work you over. Take your fear on a slow walk around the block. Listen to it well, as though it is your child with nightmares. Become your fear’s loving parent. Tell your fear it has nothing to be afraid of—that you will take care of it and find a way to handle all that is terrorizing it. Comfort your own fear! In so doing, you will be separating yourself from it, not identifying with it, so that now it is afraid but it is no longer scaring you. Reassure your fear that you can be trusted to come up with appropriate responses to everything it is afraid of if they, in fact, come about, and in the meantime, take it out for some ice cream, maybe with a piece of hot apple pie. 09/07/2011
  32. Hanging Rock State Park, Lower Cascade, near Danbury, NC—If you want to be spiritual, you have to live in certain ways. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear these words of mine and DO them.” This means healing on the Sabbath or it’s modern day equivalent, associating with the Unclean, and calling into question the common assumptions of the day, any day. It means thinking for yourself. It means thinking. It means aligning yourself with the life that is yours to live regardless of the life that would be more profitable or more pleasing to the people in your life. Who are you trying to please with the way you live your life? God? Whose view of God? Whose idea of God? Who is telling you what it would take for God to be pleased? The answer to these last three questions better be YOU. And you better be living so as to expand, deepen, enlarge, transform your view of God and not to better align your view with that of whomever you recognize as The Religious Authority Over Your Life. You better be the religious authority over your life. You are the one who says so, who says this and not that. Jesus didn’t take his directions from anyone. He lived his life straight from the heart, his heart. Your heart is waiting for you to start taking directions. 09/08/2011
  33. Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Hidden Falls, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—Awareness needs silence for reflection, introspection, examination, exploration, contemplation, consideration in order to acknowledge the truth of how things are and also are, within and without, and determine what to do about it. No one rushes to insight, understanding, enlightenment, realization. No one speeds up the time to right seeing, right hearing, right understanding, right knowing, right doing, right being. The masters have all been around for awhile. We call them “The Wise Old Woman,” “The Wise Old Man,” for good reason. It takes a lot of looking to be able to see, a lot of listening to be able to hear, a lot of asking to be able to understand, and a lot of wrong turns to get one right. So take up the practice of sitting for a while regularly, or walking slowly, and being open to the allness of how things are. Bring forth the opposites, the contradictions, the conflicts. Listen to all sides. Put everything on the table and consider the table, waiting for what needs to be done to emerge, to become obvious, to entice you into action. 09/09/2011
  34. Widow’s Creek Falls, Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap, NC—When you are a writer and you don’t write what needs to be written, when it needs to be written, the way it needs to be written, even for the best of all reasons possible, you pay a price in the form of a missed opportunity at deepening, expanding, enlarging your own sense of how things are and also are, and you can’t get it back, no matter how many pages you start and throw away trying to find the phrase that would have led you to the next phrase and filled out the idea and generated thoughts and created perspective to who knows what unending elaboration of who knows what ephemeral whisper of insight murdered aborning. If you are a writer, you know you are not in charge of the process, and you don’t write at a time, in a place and manner of your own choosing, and it will help if you remember that in all times and places. And, if you are not a writer, the same thing applies to you in the service of whatever it is that you serve. And if you don’t serve anything it’s only because you are not aware of what you were born to serve, because you think you are here to be served and spend your time wondering what somebody could do for you and why don’t they all try harder to be pleasing and where are you going to find the kind of help and cooperation you deserve before you die. 09/10/2011
  35. Heron Silhouette, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We all would be better off if we knew what we had a right to expect from ourselves and from one another. I’m more disappointed in myself and in the people I depend on to do what I think is right than I have any right to be. We’re all doing about what can be reasonably expected. Getting off our backs and stopping the rehashing of how we have been “lied to, made blue, turned down, pushed round, cheated, mistreated,” stomped on and treated like dirt would go a long way toward standing us up and sending us into the next situation with the determination to do there what can be rightly expected of us, and with a little luck more than can be expected, but certainly no less. May it be so with all of us! 09/10/2011
  36. Detail of Widow’s Creek Falls, Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap, NC—We are guilty, which makes us easy pickin’s for those promising relief from the burden, forgiveness and redemption. The sad truth remains that after forgiveness and redemption, nothing changes, we are still guilty. We are guilty by virtue of our participation in the world as it is—the world of normal, apparent, reality. This is a world in which we do not get good enough choices. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. To get this, we have to give up that. To do this, we also do that. In this world, good and evil come wrapped up together. Someone’s good is someone else’s evil. If you want to reduce the United States’ dependency upon world oil production JUST DRIVE THE POSTED SPEED LIMIT! The good of reduced dependency is mixed up with the bad of having to slow down. It’s like that everywhere you look. Parenthood, you want to talk parenthood? Marriage, you want to talk marriage? Divorce, you want to talk divorce? Not being a parent or not getting married, you want to talk those things? Good and bad all mixed up together, inseparable, conjoined twins, and we feel guilty, are guilty, for something we can’t do anything about. The solution provides no relief but it enables us to function as fully as possible in a crazy world: We see things as they are and as they also are. We step into our life and we bear the burden of guilt by participation. We make what we consider to be the best choices available to us under the circumstances. We sacrifice what must be sacrificed in the service of what truly needs to be done (Which is not often what we are told needs to be done, what we have been led to believe needs to be done—it is what we determine needs to be done after taking everything into account) and see where it goes. 09/11/2011
  37. Lower Cascades, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—If you are going to deepen your capacity to live in this world on the basis of the other world, the spiritual world that is the source and ground of normal, apparent reality, you are going to have to do some things differently. You are going to have to trust yourself. This is hard. You don’t have anybody in your life except me telling you to trust yourself. Our life is culturally conditioned to not allow ourselves to trust ourselves. We have to be told what to do when and how. We have to ask permission. We can only think officially approved thoughts and ask officially approved questions. Our lives are based on the authoritative directions and instructions of Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased. And no matter how much we may say we don’t like it this way, we love it because it takes the pressure off of us. We don’t have to decide which brand of orange juice to buy, we just buy the one the advertisers succeed in convincing us is the right one to buy. We get our directions and instructions from people who have a vested interest in telling us what to do. And we like it that way because otherwise we would have to decide what to do which would keep us tangled in emotional knots trying to know what to do and be right about it. If you are going to be more spiritual than you are, you are going to have to throw the need to know what to do and be right about it out the window. You are going to have to trust yourself to know what to do and to deal with the fallout when you are apparently wrong about it. The saving grace is that you score even when you are wrong, and use what you learn from that experience in countless ways throughout the rest of your life. Tomorrow’s right is rooted in yesterday’s wrong. Remember that as you plunge into today. 09/12/2011
  38. Discordant Harmony, Urban Moonrise, Greensboro, NC—The solutions to our problems with life are found in the experience of our problems with life, not in thinking about the problem, not in devising rational, logical approaches to the problem, but in living with the problem. When we live with a problem with life, the solution emerges, naturally, over time. The solution may not be that we disappear the problem but that we disappear our problem with the problem—not that it goes away but that we adjust to its presence, fold it into our life and are truly okay with our life together with what was the problem. Living with the problem sometimes changes us, sometimes changes the problem, and sometimes changes us and the problem. Experience with the problem enables us to work something out. We grow up. No problem. So, all those things you want solved about your life right NOW? It takes living with them for them to go away—in whatever way that turns out to be. There is no magical solution but. The experience of the problem transforms the problem. That’s right magical in itself. It’s certainly amazing. And we cannot explain what happened or how. Life is a wonder untold, un-tell-able. 09/13/2011
  39. Little Deer, Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap, NC—There is the kind of thinking that deepens thinking, enlarges thinking, enables thinking—the kind of thinking thinking is all about—and there is the kind of thinking that stifles thinking, disables thinking, obscures thinking and keeps anything from ever being thought. Faux thinking that pretends to be thinking, puts itself forth as intelligent, and arouses the emotions of the masses is destructive to the democratic process and to the recognition of truth on all levels. “My Country Right Or Wrong!” “Better Dead Than Red!” “Love It Or Leave It!” cut off the conversation and rule out any possibility of the exploration of the issues and any chance of understanding things from a perspective different from the one we keep on a short leash and under close supervision. When a member of the NC House said, in support of the Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment, “Two Dads Don’t Make A Mom,” he diverted a responsible consideration of Gay marriage into a dismal swamp of false assumptions, presumptions, inferences and conjectures. We cannot create a world that is better than the one in which we live without deepening, expanding, enlarging, developing our capacity for envisioning and imagining that world. To say, “The Way We’ve Always Done It, Seen It, Thought About It Is The Way It Ought To Be Done, Seen, Thought About,” slams shut the door to a future that is different from the past, and keeps us all in the caves—in the prison without bars—created by the fear of the world beyond. 09/14/2011
  40. Middle Cascade, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—I keep working through the sins of omission and commission that were committed against me in my childhood and youth as a way, as the way, of squaring myself with how things are. We have to do that, you know. We cannot just wave it away, pretend it did not happen. It happened. It impacted us, and we have to face the happening and the impact, and say, “Yes. That’s the way it is.” Then we have to say, “And now what?” Aqui estamos. y Ahora que? Here we are, and now what? This puts us in charge. Whatever happens from this point is up to us. We are in charge of the input—What we do and how we do it. The outcome is out of our control but. We are in charge of how we respond to the outcome, what we do and how we do it. At some point, we have to square ourselves up with our life and say, “It’s my life and what I’m doing, I’m doing to myself. “ We can either keep doing what we’re doing or we can stop and do something else instead. We don’t have to respond to what happens in our life the way we have always responded. We write the script we read from. We can rewrite it. No one is going to hand us a different life. If we are going to live differently, it’s all up to us. What are we afraid of? How is what we are doing and how we are doing it an attempt to avoid or pre-vent what we are afraid of? What do we fear? We cannot move beyond being stuck where we are until we face what we fear and trust ourselves to deal with it—to find what we need to deal with it. Those sins of omission and commission in my childhood and youth? They were committed by people who were afraid and were afraid to know what they were afraid of, afraid they didn’t know what to do about it. Facing our fear is the first step in redeeming our life and being alive in the time left for living. 09/14/2011
  41. Crabtree Falls near Little Switzerland, NC—Don’t let your principles stand between you and what’s important. Tea Party members are willing to sacrifice themselves and everybody in the country (and world) for No More Taxes. The Tea Party would let us all die if we had no medical insurance, that is, if living meant higher taxes. You can’t let your principles run away with you like that. You have to stand apart from what matters to YOU to serve what matters beyond YOU in the moment of your living. You have to be able to see the situation and make an objective determination regarding what needs to happen in the situation as it arises with everything on the table. Everything. “As long as your feet are under this table, you going to cut your hair short, Young Man!” misses a larger point. Short hair has no connection with character and values and the ability to be who our life is asking us to be. Higher taxes are not the end of life in the universe. Life can actually be served with higher taxes. It isn’t about more money in OUR pocket. It’s about the true good of all. 09/16/2011
  42. Urban Sunrise, Wilkesboro, NC—No one ever quit, you could look this up, in love when love was returned and the way of love was open. This is not the time to quit. This is the time to go where the path leads you, with your eyes open and all senses alert and receptive to the delights and pleasures of love. Now make the shift with me from love on the outside, in the external world of normal, apparent reality, to inside and the internal world of the really-though-apparently-not real. Being in love is a psychic phenomenon that is experienced as an external event. It’s all projection, a trick done with blondes and beefcakes (or their close-enough approximation). Being in love is Psyche’s way of waking us up to what is also true, Psyche’s way of saying, “Don’t Quit!” What is also true is that the In Here can be stirred to life by the Out There. The In Here and the Out There can mingle and merge and mate and dance their way into deeper, better, greater stuff than either can manage of its own. And consciousness awakens to the wonder and beauty of the allness of the All and throws itself into the everlasting service of Love, which generally lasts until the in-laws stay for a week or some other aspect of the “real world” bursts the bubble but. The reality of being in love hooks us and pulls us into Life, which we never forget no matter how many times the in-laws come or how long they stay. The trick is to make the shift from outer to inner, and allow the experience of being in love on the outside open for us the possibility of being in love on the inside, with the truth of Psyche-Soul-Self, enlisting ourselves in the service of love, and living to express Out There the truth and beauty of the reality of our love for the In Here—never quitting, regardless of the obstacles or difficulties in our way (any more than we would quit the service of love for the person we love in the external world). Love keeps us going. Love keeps us going in the work of merging the two worlds, integrating, reconciling, marrying, bringing forth the truth of the one in the other. If you are going to be anything, be In Love!
  43. Little Switzerland Tunnel near Little Switzerland, NC—We spend our lives putting the pieces together, and putting them back together. Figuring things out. Learning to see things as they are—which is not the same as how we have been told that they are, and certainly not the same as how we wish they were. Adjusting ourselves to our lives as they change again. Amid all the fluctuation and turmoil, we are the constant we seek. WE are the ground, the foundation, the core. No matter how the context and circumstances of our lives whirl and churn, we remain who we are, we continue to do what is ours to do. Who are we? What are we about? If we have ever answered these questions truthfully, authentically, we are set to always answer them truthfully, authentically, no matter what happens to us or how our lives change. Who we are and what we are about is the golden thread—the beam, if you will—running through all conditions and every stage of life. Nothing can happen to us that can take us away from us or remove from us the task of bringing ourselves forth to meet the moment and to offer what is ours to give in each situation as it arises. “It’s a new world, Golda,” and we meet it with the confidence born of the ages, knowing we have what it takes to be who we are and do what is ours to do in every world for as long as there are worlds. Amen! May it be so!
  44. Moon Over Greensboro Poster, Greensboro where else, NC—We have to wake up sooner or later. Why put it off? It isn’t going to get any easier. We start the process by realizing we don’t know half of what there is to know and that most of what we think we know is wrong. We don’t know how to wake up. Start there. We don’t know who we are or what we ought to be about. Start there. We don’t know what to do. Start there. See where it leads. 09/18/2011
  45. Baxter Creek Bridge, Big Creek Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC—We wouldn’t quit as easily as we do if the value of what is ours to do were more closely aligned with what we value, or if we were more clear about what is truly important. It’s the clash of values between the two worlds, visible and invisible, that makes cooperation and collaboration so difficult. The invisible world is much more likely to get off on sunsets and daffodils and really good music and a glass of wine at just the right time than on status and wealth and making a good impression and standing ovations and first place finishes and keeping the rules. In taking up the spiritual quest, path, journey, we are exchanging one value system for another. Spirituality is not a way of getting what we value by “getting God on our side.” What we value is transformed by the process whereby all things become new. We have to understand this or we will quit before quitting time. This is the invisible world’s great fear, that we will quit too soon—that we will not see it through—that we will have eyes for other things and leave the path, turn from the way, and settle for glass beads and silver mirrors, or their modern day equivalent. The invisible world knows that the revolution that integrates the worlds is fueled by those with eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart than understands what is truly important, and live in light of it, in service to it, all their lives long. We are the invisible world’s hope for the reconciliation of the worlds, and its real hope is that we don’t quit before it’s done. 09/19/2011
  46. Upper Cascade, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—You don’t have to wait until you retire to do more of what you like to do and less of what you don’t like to do. You can start working this aspect of retirement into your present life situation. How much of what you like to do can you work into a day? A week? You owe it to yourself to find out. Let me give you all of the justification you need. Your soul comes to life doing the things it loves to do. My deep hunch is that you love what your soul loves, and that if you start doing more of what you genuinely like to do, your soul is going to benefit all the way. When your soul comes to life, you come to life with it. And, here is the really sweet part, if Joseph Campbell is right when he said, “The influence of a vital person vitalizes,” as you come to life, you are going to be bringing to life those who can be brought to life in your “sphere of influence.” Life is contagious. It’s catching. Start an epidemic beginning immediately. 09/19/2011
  47. Hay on Groundhog Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway near Fancy Gap, VA—We owe it to ourselves to find out if we have anything to be afraid of. At 2 AM we can be afraid of everything. We have to live into our fear, dance with it, wrestle with it and demand the blessing. What we are really afraid of is that we don’t have what it takes to handle what we think we are afraid of. Well. We learn to handle the bad stuff by gaining first-hand experience with it. We do not develop self-confidence by thinking about it. We do not wish it up, cast a spell upon ourselves and step forth all confident and ready for anything. We walk right into our fear and look around for what’s there to be afraid of, and thank it for the gift of learning to deal with it. Courage comes from acting courageously, no matter how frightened we are. The only way to be courageous is to act that way no matter what. 09/20/2011
  48. Oil Painting Effect, Garden Creek Baptist Church, Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap, NC—The cold, hard facts of life anchor us in this world and keep us from wandering mindlessly through the airy reaches of that world. We can be grounded in the reality of spiritual truth only to the extent that we are also grounded in the reality of physical truth. We have to pay the bills that we incur being who we are called to be. We have to do what is NOT ours to do (mowing the lawn and vacuuming the house, etc.) while we are doing what IS ours to do (coining phrases and writing these little reflections, etc.). The people who give spirituality a bad name think they don’t have to work for a living or do anything they don’t like to do, or don’t feel like doing, because the universe will take care of them and the Law of Attraction will bring them all the prosperity they can dream of having. Jesus was executed in the service of being who he was, doing what was his to do. That should do it for the friendliness of the universe theory. The facts of this reality save us from the La La Woo Woo aspect of that reality—and from the terrible depths of the unconscious sea that wait impatiently for those without a rudder or moorings (Which we see most clearly in schizophrenia). Spiritual reality does not set aside the facts of physical reality, and as mediators of the two realities, we have to be as much the advocate for physical truth as we are for spiritual truth. This is called, Shirley, you have this down by now, “Walking Two Paths At Once.” The Path is Two Paths. If you think it is only one, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to hell. 09/21/2011
  49. Tory’s Den Falls, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—This is what spirituality (enlightenment) does for you: It helps you square yourself up with your life and it helps you live with your life as though the invisible world is truer than the visible world but it does not dismiss, discount or diminish the visible world or relieve us of our responsibilities in it and to it. That’s it. It does not give you a leg up, provide you with any advantages, or assure you of prosperity and gain. It enables you to live with what you have to live with, to be alive in the time and place, the here and now, of your living. Period. If you are looking for more than that, you have to go somewhere else. Now, one of the things I find interesting is that in order to be spiritual we have to do what spirituality, spiritual growth, requires and enables us to do, we have to square ourselves up with our lives and live in ways appropriate to the occasion. This is generally not the thing we have in mind. We are forever trying to escape our lives. Our parents aren’t the right kind of parents, our spouse isn’t the right kind of spouse, our kids aren’t the right kind of kids, our dog isn’t the right kind of dog, our job isn’t the right kind of job, our neighborhood isn’t the right kind of neighborhood… It always takes a different, better life. THIS old life will never do. Yet, (Bad news coming) THIS old life is exactly the life we have to square up to if we would be spiritual. We have to come to terms with the way things are here and now and do the work of working with what we have to work with in transforming ourselves and the life we don’t want to live. Our life makes us better people when we “voluntarily participate” (Joseph Campbell’s term) in the work of making it better—and we can’t do it without becoming spiritual. 09/22/2011
  50. Heron in Flight, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—There is nothing like the natural world for showing us how things are. Life eats life. Can you say “Yes!” to that with compassion and grace, mercy and peace? If you can, you have what it takes to live amid the stark contradictions and irreconcilable differences that constitute the matrix of our lives. Stand between, say, George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein and offer, “Why can’t we all just get along?” See what it gets you. That’s you and your life. You and your spouse or partner, in-laws, children, boss—you and YOU! Our life is a swirl of discordance and incompatibility, and it is our task to integrate the opposites. To do that we have to bear consciously the pain, anguish, agony of contrariness. We hold in tension contrary truths which cannot co-exist and see where it goes. If you think that’s ridiculous, what does war do for you? 09/22/2011
  51. Goose Silhouette, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We work for stability, for equilibrium, for comfort and security, for a life we can live with and the truth is that we can live with anything. We can rise to any occasion. We just don’t want to. We don’t want to spend our time rising to occasions. We don’t want any occasions. Well. There are plenty of places where no occasions are allowed, where no occasion is ever coming along to overwhelm and disrupt, decimate and destroy. Things have been the same there for as long as there have been people to remember how things are supposed to be done. Life left generations ago but people there still go through the motions of living as though they are alive. Life is so steady and dependable there it’s death, and no one notices. That’s being deader than dead. It takes unpredictable disruption and consternation to bring us to life, to bring to life the question, “Now what?” If we aren’t asking that question from time to time, we’re deader than dead. “Now what?” forces us to grapple with things beyond imagining, requires us to rise to another damn occasion. Life leaps at the opportunity. That’s what life does best, tackling another “Now what?” We want it to be about calm, peace and serenity. Life likes action, loves a good mess, thrills over not knowing what to do next, searching for the way, relishing the wonder of being alive. 09/23/2011
  52. Glade Creek Mill, Babcock State Park near Clifftop, WV—Where are the real Republicans? The members of the Grand Old Party? The people who are grounded in the value of integrity, straight from the shoulder talking and living, liberty and justice for all? Why aren’t they calling out these late-comers, these Republican-pretenders, who have usurped the throne? Why aren’t they saying, “THAT is not the way WE do it!” Why is there only deafening silence when the crowd boos a gay soldier serving in Iraq? When the crowd applauds at the idea of a poor person without medical insurance being allowed to die? Why aren’t the real Republicans denouncing the low nature of this brand of humanity? Why aren’t they saying to those who so boo and applaud, and those who would, given the chance, “You should be deeply ashamed—as I am of you, and for you and those like you! I don’t want you voting for me! I don’t want to have anything to do with you! Look at you! Look at your heart, your soul! What does love your neighbor—and your enemy—that is, those who are like you and those who are not at all like you—mean to you? What does do unto others as you would have them do unto you mean to you? What does living in this country with its constitution declaring ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ as a foundational right to ALL PEOPLE mean to you? Go home! Look in the mirror until you can see yourself as you are, and do not claim to be a Republican until you can be worthy of the name!” ??? 09/25/2011
  53. Spanning the New River Gorge, near Fayetteville, WV—The quality and degree of our spirituality is dependent upon the 10,000 things. Nutrition, for instance, hydration. Fasting can be a spiritual discipline, but when your blood sugar level spikes and dives, you are going to be out-of-sync with all that is good and matters. Same goes for hormonal fluctuation. And for finding our way through life’s deep loses. Spirituality is no smooth path through the impinging necessities and inevitabilities of life. It is not a way of living above it all but in touch with it all. Spiritual development does not disconnect us with the reality of the visible world, but connects us in an ever-deepening way with all things. Life impacts us. We bear consciously the burdens of the time and place of our living. Listen up here: There is no immunity! Spirituality enables us to square up to the how-it-is-ness of life in this world, and to live with it as well as it can be lived with, responding appropriately to, what is being asked of us in the time and place of our living. May it be so with us all! 09/26/2011
  54. Two Trees in Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park, VA – Success is not to be measured by the outcome, the results, the impact of our living. It is enough to be influential in the service of good—to have a hand in the things that matter. Success is measured in the depth and quality of our life—in the degree to which we are alive and joyfully participate in the experience of life and increase the wonder of life in the lives of each other by our presence with one another. Who did we show ourselves to be? How did we do it? Any idiot with a suicide belt and nothing to lose can do great things in the eyes of his or her comrades in arms. What can he/she do without blowing anybody up? What can he/she bring to life through the quality of his/her life? What can you bring to life through the quality of your life? Why not spend the rest of it finding out? 09/27/2011
  55. Searching for Whitewater Poster, New River Gorge National River near Fayetteville, WV – You are living successfully, have had a successful life, if you have learned to meet what comes with a fitting response, and when—as will certainly be the case—you revisit what has come and wish you had dealt with it differently, better, having the advantage of distance, maturity and hindsight, you can deal with THAT with a fitting response. Successful living comes down to making fitting responses to our present experience. The more consistently and reliably we do that, the more successfully we are living. Measure the quality of your life in terms of the fitness of the responses you have made, and are making, to the experience of being alive. Improve the degree of your success by improving the quality of your responses. Improve the quality of your responses by being aware of what is happening, externally and internally, and what you do in response, and being aware of what happens next. To change what happens next, change your response to what happened when it happens again. Generally, we do what we do because we are afraid of what will happen if we don’t do it, or if we do something else instead. We owe it to ourselves to find out if we have anything to be afraid of. Do not let your fear seal you into less than fitting responses to the things that happen in your life. Give yourself appropriate things to be afraid of and respond in appropriate ways. In so doing, you create for yourself a number of fine adventures in the time left for living. Amen! May it be so! 09/28/2011
  56. Peaks of Otter Poster, Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, VA – We strongly influence what happens next by the way we respond to what happened last. We are the fulcrum which shifts the future toward or away from as much good as is possible given the nature of our circumstances. Do not dismiss or discount the importance the present moment has for all future moments of your life and the lives of all those impacted by your life. Don’t throw this moment away! There are no throwaway moments! Cherish the time of your living and live to do right by it! You may have no control but you have endless influence, so live as though you do, and treat this present time as though it is precious because it is—not because you if you do this, that will happen, but because doing this is the most fitting response you can imagine to what has just happened. We do not know what will happen if we do this or where this will lead but. How we live in this moment will generate a certain blessing, grace, momentum, karma that carries us into the next moment. As we build momentum for the good we create life and save the world. Amen! May it be so! 09/29/2011
  57. Sunset at Peaks of Otter Poster, Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, VA—When a situation has no chance of becoming what you want it to be, or of offering you what you want to have, you make things worse by trying to force what you want to happen. Sometimes, you have to take a deep breath and do what you don’t want to do. This doesn’t mean give up on what you want to happen—it means biding your time. It means waiting things out. When you wait things out, you wait for a shift in your circumstances which opens the way to the realization of what you want. Sometimes, the shift is routine and predictable as when the kids get out of college. At other times it is completely unexpected, as when the Great Depression hit. When the situation does not hold any possibility of what you want to happen, you have to wait for the shift and be ready when it happens. And if it doesn’t happen? Oh well. The consolation prize is that you have shifted yourself through long years of making fitting response to a situation that was not to your liking—which has grown you up and made you much deeper, more humane and valuable to those around you than having what you want could have ever done. Either way, you are better off for having waited and, in the meantime, offered what was needed in the time and place of your living.  09/30/2011
  58. Abbott Lake Poster, Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, VA—There are four questions we have to answer in the time left for living, really two questions asked two different ways: Who are we? What are we about? What do we need to do? What needs us to do it? These questions take us to the heart of the matter: Our gifts, our proclivities, our genius and the situations in life which call for—and call forth—the very things we have to offer. We spend too much of our time trying to offer what we do not have to give—because everybody says we ought to and because we think we have to in order to be somebody. We have to be who we are—and also are—which is not about perfection but about completion, about harmony, about living in sync with ourselves AND with the situation as it arises, with the here and now, the time and place of our living. What is right for us? What does it mean for us to do right by ourselves AND by the time and place of our living? These are the questions. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently. Answer them and you have it made, as much as any of us can ever have it made. Giant Sequoias have it made, but that’s another story. 09/30/2011
  59. Peaks of Otter Sunset Poster, Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, VA—Consciousness has its work cut out for it. We do that work by actually being conscious, aware, of every little thing, inside and outside. The problem is that while we are focused on this—the deer, say, that just jumped in front of the car we are driving—we are completely oblivious of that, and that, and that, and all the rest of the 10,000 things. The job cannot be done but. It is our task to do it as well as possible, to be conscious of as much as possible—to be aware of all the things that press in on us from all sides, inside and outside, in each moment. We practice awareness of everything, which includes the ability to look past everything in focusing exclusively on the one thing that must be done right here, right now, exactly as it must be done or else. We are better able to do the one thing if we are able to take all things into account and know what our distractions are, and where they come from, and what unfinished business they call us to take up, explore, experience and put in place. This all takes time and attention, which those who do not understand are apt to label “laying about,” and “not getting anything done.” Which is something else for us to be aware of as we do the work of being conscious of every little thing, and doing what needs to be done about the things that need to be done and putting the rest aside. 10/01/2011
  60. Sunset at Abbott Lake Poster, Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, VA—It was a magical twenty minutes or so that started with me looking out of the window of our room at the Peaks of Otter Lodge on my way to another glass of wine. Who would have guessed a sunset at the bottom of a bowl? Abbott Lake is surrounded by mountains. I don’t know where you’d go for a horizon. I never considered a sunset possibility but. The clouds were catching the light and turning a little pink here and there. Time for Photo Man! There is a moral here. We walk past miracles every day. We swim through magic. We are awash in unexpected gifts, astounding surprises. You get up for a glass of wine and are kissed by a sunset. Oh, sure, it happens along negative lines as well. We wake up to flat tires. We brush our teeth and tear a rotator cuff. A phone call comes out of the blue and our world changes for the worse just like that but. It also happens along positive lines. Sunsets on the way to the wine. Pay attention. Notice throughout your day the things you don’t see everyday. Be astounded in the grocery store, at the traffic light, washing dishes. Things are happening all around us that are magical, wonderful things, wondering why we don’t notice, applaud. 10/02/2011
  61. Sharp Top Mountain Sunset Poster, Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, VA—We’re still here. You can’t deny that one. Think of all the things we have been through to be here, now. It’ll take your breath away. If we had known about it beforehand, we would never have given the okay. We would have said hell no I can’t do that—I won’t do that. But. We did it. All of it. Every last minute of it. And here we are. Now, the moral here is that we can do anything. We can find a way. We can wade right into the biggest possible mess and deal with it. We can rise to any occasion. We can do it because we have done it. We have the scars to prove it. I would want all of you on my side in a bar fight. And I would hate to go up against any of you. You have what it takes. I’ve always liked that about you. 10/02/2011
  62. Abbott Lake Poster, Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, VA—We live to be at one with ourselves. We all have had moments in which that was the case, where we were in sync with ourselves, inner expressed in and revealed by outer, and then it was gone, but the memory lingers. Consciousness exists to get the two worlds together, so that we can be in our outer life as we are in our inner life, so that who we truly are and who we truly need to be might be one. The matrix in which, by which, this becomes possible is compassion. And grace. Living compassionately, graciously, we do not force anything but allow everything as is fitting to the occasion. We do not repress, suppress, hide, deny anything, but find ways of bringing it forth in appropriate ways. Our work here is assisted by keeping two ancient principles in mind: Be True To Yourself and Thou Art That. Living consciously between these two poles brings forth the harmony, the union, we seek with ourselves and between ourselves and the world of other selves. This is how True Human Beings do it. 10/03/2011
  63. Black Birch at Rocky Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, VA—The ideal is symmetry, not one-sided-ness. We are many-sided, multifaceted, and must find a place for all of us at the table, on the path. No one is unwelcome, no aspect of us is uninvited in the work of becoming at one with ourselves, living in sync with ourselves, finding appropriate ways to express who we are and also are within the context and circumstances of our living. It takes all of us to make a whole. So. We have to find the disinherited parts, the fragmented parts, the rejected parts—the parts that were not acceptable to the significant others in our life early on, and hence, unacceptable to us—and reclaim them, honor them, as prodigal children coming home. 10/03/2011
  64. Black Birch Poster, Rocky Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, VA—When you draw a line, someone is going to call you selfish. You can’t draw lines and avoid the selfish charge. And you can’t live the life that is your life to live, that is indicative, expressive of who you are and who you also are without refusing to be who you are not. I come from the Deep South. People in the Deep South spend their time being nice to one another, doing anything to keep from hurting anyone’s feelings, doing everything to not appear to be selfish, being mostly who they are not. The Shadow of the Deep South is the deepest, darkest thing about it. The Shadow is who we also are but deny because we are so concerned about being who we are not. Keeps us from being symmetrical, whole, at one with ourselves and in sync with the life that is our life to live. To be who we are and also are, we can’t waste time and energy being who we are not. We have to draw lines. And take the heat. 10/04/2011
  65. Whitewater Poster, New River Gorge National River near Fayetteville, WV—If we discount the possibility of communion with Soul and the place of Soul as a guiding, sustaining, principle in our life, we are left with the responsibility of deciding for ourselves what to do with our lives—straight out of the left hemisphere of our brain—without the consultation and collaboration with Soul whispering to us from the right hemisphere. We can’t be more alone than that. 10/04/2011
  66. Fall Fern at Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park, VA—It’s all such a mess I don’t see how anyone could give any credence to the idea of intelligent design. The intelligence is evident and at work in taking this squirming spaghetti bowl of interests, motives, moods, dispositions, aims, urges, incentives, aspirations, fears, etc. and aligning it all in ways that not only make sense but also are strikingly beautiful. We are still creating order out of chaos. It’s what we do. It’s what life does. We bring meaning to life through the associations we make throughout the experience of being alive. This is intelligence at work in our life. It’s called waking up. Enlightenment. Realization. It is religion at its best because it stands us at the brink of the Great Unknown and brings forth the WOW! of amazement at the allness of it all and our place in it. Which we, of course, reduce to something quite manageable and inane with our explanations and interpretations—robbing life of its mystery and wonder and proving there is nothing we cannot cheapen, degrade and empty of all value. This is the opposite of intelligence at work in our lives. Call it stupidity. We stand between the creative powers of God and, well, the most tasteless, tacky town you can think of. Please, let’s not settle for pancake houses and half-pound blocks of fudge, exclaiming, “Ain’t this the life, though!” 10/05/2011
  67. Summer Panorama, Blowing Rock, NC—We want to figure it out and know what’s next and what’s after that and where it’s all going and what it means and what’s in it for us and who’s on first. Our left hemisphere wants to run our life. Tell it to sit down and shut up. The purpose of meditation is to force our left hemisphere to sit down and shut up so that our right hemisphere might have a chance at us. There’s a lot of good stuff in our right hemisphere. It is the receptor/source of amazing things, and would, if it could get our attention, lead us on the path of life, to life, knowing, as it does, what life is all about. Give your left hemisphere the task of learning about the right hemisphere. That should keep it busy for a while. 10/05/2011
  68. First Photo of Fall 2011, Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—Take the Ten Commandments. Who is to say? Who is to say when you’ve killed somebody? My father killed my mother’s spirit. That should count, even though she has outlived him by thirty years. Who is to say when you’ve gone and done any of the things the Ten Commandments say don’t do? And why only those ten? Think of the things that didn’t make the list. Thou Shalt Not Be Stupid. How about that for one?  How is it we get by with being stupid, which is what most highly religious people are who carefully keep the Ten Commandments and treat the people around them in shameful, much less than loving ways? So, throw them all away. Replace the lot of them with two simple rules for life: Live together in good faith and do right by everyone including yourself. That should do it. 10/05/2011
  69. You cannot figure it out all at once. Write it down. Refer to it often. Don’t even try. There are no black footprints to where you are going. You make the footprints as you go, and the winds of time blow them away so that going back is like going forward—you don’t KNOW how to do either, and must do something even if it is nothing. Start with paying attention, with being aware. It is the cumulative impact of living that leads us to know what’s what, how things are and also are, and what needs to be done about them in the time and place of our living—to live appropriately in each situation as it arises. You cannot plot these things out. You bring them forth. And are amazed that you could do anything so wonderfully right. Were does that come from? Depths you cannot begin to plum. Trust them to be there, providing what you need. And put yourself in position to need what they offer. My gift to you is, well, you.
  70. First Light on Grandfather Mountain, Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—A favorite saying among flight attendants going through their pre-flight instructions is, “Shift happens.” This is also the heart of spiritual dogma. Shift happens! Be ready for it! Look forward to it! Believe in it! If you are going to believe anything, believe “Shift happens!” There are situations without end that have no solution. We have to wait for the shift to happen. The shift transforms the situation so that solution becomes unnecessary. Carl Jung said, “Some problems have no solution. We have to out-grow them.” When we out-grow a problem, a shift happens. This means that it’s a waste of time to try to force something to happen before its time. We get out of bed each day and go to war, compelling here, pushing there, wrestling our will into being over there. What? Is our life any better for it? Here’s a different approach: In situations that defy solution, simply hold your ground. Maintain the tension. Keep the situation “in solution.” Oppose all quick fixes, or any fixes. Be the fly in the ointment. Keep everything stirred up. And keep an eye out for the shift. Shifts cannot be predicted, they can only be recognized. When the shift happens, pounce! Go with the shift! See where it goes! It’s all about seeing where it goes, you know. The plan for the rest of your life is wait for the shift to happen and shift with the shift. 10/08/2011 
  71. Early Light Panorama, Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—I want to be living toward the best end I can imagine when the end comes. I don’t what to be just hanging out, killing time, waiting for the end to come, wondering what’s taking so long. I want to be living as though there is no end. I want to be completely surprised when it comes. I want to be using the time between now and the Great Surprise in the work of bringing myself forth into the world of time and space as though I might be surprised in the next 30 seconds and there is no time to waste on frivolous matters because I have bigger fish to fry. I want to fry the right fish. 10/08/2011
  72. Color Line, Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—I don’t know how many perspectives there are, or how many tripod positions. Each of us is probably good for several million. Add that up and the number gets unwieldy. We should try to walk around with that number written on a piece of paper in our pocket as a way of keeping our strong feelings and absolute convictions in, well, perspective. 10/08/2011
  73. Hand-in-Hand, Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—Adjusting ourselves to the time and place of our living and offering to the moment what is needed in the moment out of what we have to give to the moment—this is to live well upon the earth. All the flap is about getting what we want. What does wanting know? You can’t ride the horse called Wanting to a destination that is good for your soul. It will never arrive, for one thing. It will trot by something else it wants on the way to what it wants and it’s off on a new chase, only to be detoured by something else it wants. We have to sit down with our wanting and have a heart-to-heart, well, okay, heart-to-heartless-passion, with it. “Look,” we have to say, “You want every bright, shiny, plastic thing that comes along. I can’t trust you to know what’s what and what to do about it. So. I’m going to have to listen to another guide.” But what’s another guide? We are so attached to wanting to tell us what to do, we don’t know any other guides. We don’t know there is another guide. Well. We know about the other voices. The Invisible World is packed with voices—our Mom’s voice and our Dad’s, the Judging Critic’s voice, the Pleading Dependent Helpless Victims voice (You know the one: “You can’t leave me! Help me! Don’t do anything for yourself! I need you!”), and however many more there are. Filter out the voices, looking, listening, for the Inner Guide, your Self, the True Human Being within. And pray for the courage to do what you will then know needs to be done. 10/09/2011
  74. Out for a Drink, Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—What moves you? Move closer to it. See where it goes. We’re always putting what moves us on the back burner until it’s convenient to “get around to it.” It is never quite convenient enough. Soul is shouting at us, jumping up and down, waving its little hands in our face, doing everything it can to get our attention, and we are off in another world, chasing after what we think it will take to make us happy. Look. Happiness is not about getting. It is about doing. Doing what we are built to do. Doing what is ours to do in the time left for living. Doing what moves us. Convenient or not. 10/09/2011
  75. And a Beaver Swam By, Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—After you achieve understanding, attain enlightenment, and know all there is to know about spiritual reality, you still have to translate it into how you live your life. The practice only deepens, expands. You never graduate, or retire. You have to be with every moment, and allow the moment to be different from the way you want it to be, and allow the moment to show you what it needs, and allow the moment to teach you what you the next lesson in wholeness, compassion and how to be a True Human Being. Practice takes knowing to new levels.
  76. Blue Ridge Sunrise, Thunder Hill Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—What is not-right about your life? Be clear about it. Make a list. Add to it as needed. Do the same thing with what is right about your life. We know what is right and what is wrong about our life the way we know anything is right or wrong. Aspects of our life resonate with us. Other aspects irritate, exasperate, us. Notice, note, do not dismiss or discount the experience or right and wrong. Where you must, consciously accommodate the wrong. Where you can, move away from it. Reduce the amount of time you spend with it. Change your life to reduce the wrong and increase the right. Do more of what is right and less of what is wrong. And when you find yourself stuck with what is mostly wrong, compensate yourself well. Find ways of rewarding yourself for living with what is wrong about your life. Know, though, that it is wrong. Do not let them convince you that you are wrong about what is wrong, that the problem is with you. You have to be your own advocate, your own champion, when you are surrounded by those who would separate you from you and destroy the spirit that is the source and goal of life. Integrity is being one with heart and soul—oneness of being. Integration is our work. We must live toward who we are, and express who we are in the way we live our life. We must live toward what is right for us and away from what is wrong for us. This is the imperative that operates within and beyond all categories and circumstances: Know thyself! To thine own self be true! Amen! May it be so! 10/10/2011
  77. Linville Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, NC—There are toxic places where we have no business being. One of those places may be our family of origin. The Buddha couldn’t go home again, abandoning the royal palace for a rice bowl and a thatched hut. Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers and sisters?” Can be a problem, finding where we belong, a place that is not toxic to our souls. But, we don’t have to be burdened with the effort to make ourselves fit in everywhere. We won’t fit in lots of places. Recognize it early on and let it be, because it is. The people who are family are the people who receive us well and don’t try to make us into who they think we ought to be. I’ve posted the “Ground Rules for A Community of Innocence” on my blog site: http://outlandspress.blogspot.com/  Check it out if you are interested in my idea of the kind of place that would be the right kind of place to be. If you can’t find one, create one. Call it your new home. 10/10/11
  78. Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., Price Lake Panorama, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—If you can consciously maintain the tension of your own contradictions long enough, a shift will occur, and what appears to be mutually exclusive tendencies will become distinctive features capable of being integrated into the wonder of a True Human Being. That would be you. 10/10/2011
  79. Beaver’s Been Here, Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—The shift that is the ground (Great image, right? Shifting ground. How’s that for a foundation? Well. That’s the way it is. Get used to it) of spiritual development occurs on both inner and outer levels. An internal shift happens as we grow up. Growing up is a shift. Everything is transformed though nothing may change, but the transformation changes everything. Since we are forever growing up (No one is ever all grown up. The minute you think you are, that Sister—you know the one I mean—or that Brother comes for a visit. And we see again how far we have to go), we are forever shifting our perspective and changing the way we live in response to the way things are. The shift is external as well. We lose our job, someone we love dies, our own diagnosis is a shocker… The possibilities are endless. External shifts generally require internal shifts. We grow up in response to our circumstances—against our will, I might add. No one ever volunteers to grow up. Can’t do it. We are drafted, conscripted, into growing up. It’s never our idea. “Oh, I think I’ll grow up today.” We can do all of the spiritual reading, discussing, note taking, list making, we can stomach but it won’t make any changes in our lives until we have to apply what we have learned in a real-time situation when something shifts and our life takes an unwanted turn. So, embrace your unwanted turns and mine them for the gold, rising to the occasion and becoming who you are capable of being, against your will. 10/11/2011
  80. Fall Woods Panorama, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, NC—This photo is a reward for persistence and perseverance, walking through the North Carolina version of Chinese Water Torture, rain that does not cease ever—Occasionally I am stopped by sadness for the plight of living things. Not just me and you with our struggles and burdens, but the broken-winged goose and the duckling excommunicated from the hatch, swimming alone for some unforgiven sin. The world-wide victims of the War Against Women, robbed of life and soul by men who have neither. The sway-back old horse standing in a pasture of Golden Rod and Iron Weed and the cold drizzle of October, with colder drizzles coming, no shelter in sight. I have begun a list without end, all needing a break, a kind word, an act of grace. All gathering themselves as they are able to meet another day, without hope, going nowhere fast or slow, what’s the difference where they live, unnoticed, unknown, on their own with a life that is more of a curse than a gift. I bow to them all, honoring them for living on, one-eyed or blind, spongy hooved and lame, living on, living on. We, on the other hand, have an opportunity to create a community of innocence for the mutual support and encouragement of the members of the community. We do not have to bear life’s deliveries alone. We can ask, “How are you?” and listen. Compassionate witnesses make all things bearable through their presence that sees and knows and does not turn away. May we do at least that much for one another and all others, sharing as we do the plight of living things. 10/11/2011
  81. Crabtree Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, NC—Fold it in. Let it be because it is but don’t make more of it than needs to be made. You have bigger fish to fry. So let this become a part of your background, your gestalt, your sitz im leben, and allow it to open you even more to the way things are that have to be taken into account, considered, as you bring forth your art, your work, to bless and grace the world and all that is therein. This too, this too, becomes grist for the mill, shifting—that word again—our orientation, perspective. Enlarging our experience, deepening our sensitivity, expanding our field of vision, making us—against our will—more human in our being and a better friend to those who need one with our developing brand of softness and practicality. “If the situation calls for a bunt, you bunt—I don’t care if you do think of yourself as a home run king. So stop your grousing and complaining and play the game as the game needs you to play it!” That’s good friend talk. None of this, “Oh poor thing. That mean old coach won’t let you do what you do best. No one understands you like I do. Let’s build a little Pity House together and I’ll take care of you.” Bunt when a bunt is called for and stop trying to force your way in situations that need a different approach. Develop your knack for character acting and be what is needed regardless of who and how you want to be. 10/11/2011
  82. Linn Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, NC—You’ll feel better if you drink enough water and eat enough of the right kinds of things to keep your blood-sugar level in line. And exercise. Eating, drinking and exercising. Jim’s three step plan for improving your mood and your outlook. Want to get crabby quickly? Ignore Jim. 10/12/2011
  83. Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., On Grandfather Mountain, Grandfather Mountain State Park near Linville, NC—Learn as much as you can about everything. Be as curious as you can be about everything. Embrace the contradictions. Don’t say, “This cannot be true if that is true.” Just keep the contradictions in mind. Be curious about the contradictions, and see where your curiosity takes you. You may get to a place where you see how this and that can be true, and understand that “all our dichotomies may be false dichotomies.” Wouldn’t that be something? But even if that does not turn out to be the case, do not, whatever you do, settle down with one way of seeing, thinking, believing, feeling, doing. If you cannot embrace, at least be conversant with, a number of ways of seeing, etc. The larger the number, the better. Life keeps coming at you, and the larger your repertory of ways to think about and deal with life, the better your chances of negotiating your way through the complexities of existence. The larger your perspective, the more options you have. Keep working to expand, enlarge, deepen your perspective and your life will thank you for it—and things will come together in amazing ways.  10/13/2011/
  84. On Grandfather Mountain, Grandfather Mountain State Park near Linville, NC—There are six elements at work in making a photograph: Subject, Setting, Light, Composition, Focus and Exposure. It’s the photographer’s task to work out the right ratios. Get these six things right and you have a wall-worthy photograph. 10/13/2011
  85. Davidson River Fall, Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC—The most important thing you can do is ask questions. Inquire about everything. When someone gives you an answer, or even better, THE answer, see what questions THE answer raises. Ask them. Questions aren’t for answering but for wondering about, for keeping aloft like hot air balloons to see where they take you. Questions are the path to seeing all things new—with new eyes—because you inquired about them in ways no one had ever considered, or dared to. Questions open us to a future that is bigger and better than anything the answers could ever provide. See how many questions you can ask in a day. Break the record each tomorrow. 10/13/2011
  86. Holding Nothing Back, Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC—Why hold anything back? Why sit on red or yellow, or on whatever their equivalent in you is? Why not just BE who you are, OFFERING what you have to give? Oh, wait. They may not like it. Right? Hmmm. These guys better tone down the red, reduce the yellow. Might be too much. Somebody might not like it. The trees are laughing, you know—at the very idea of allowing the Color Police keep them from being up front and out there with who they are and what’s theirs to give. The angel asked Mary if she was up to birthing what was hers to give. “Sure am,” she said, or words to that effect. “Sure am,” say the trees of fall. What say we? 10/13/2011
  87. Little River, DuPont State Forest near Brevard, NC—The truth is the bed you sleep in every night. The truth is the world you wake up to every day. The truth is how you respond to your experience in that world. The truth is what keeps you going. What holds you up. What grounds you, centers you, focuses you. What sees you through. What you turn to when you have nowhere else to turn. That’s the truth. All of that is the truth. It helps to be conscious of it. To square up to it. To know what’s what and what you can count on and where the places are that restore your soul and who the people are who can help you along the way. 10/14/2011
  88. High Falls, DuPont State Forest near Brevard, NC—We can’t be authentic if we can’t be vulnerable. We can’t be vulnerable if we aren’t safe. If we start out in an unsafe environment, it is very difficult for us to believe that any environment can be safe, so we are afraid we are not safe even when we are. So, in comes courage. You will remember, I’m sure, the story of the Wizard of Oz and where the Lion got courage—from acting courageously! It’s all circular and paradoxical with me—Shirley, you know that by now! Everything hinges on our acting courageously. At some point, we just have to take a deep breath and go—and trust ourselves to deal with the consequences. Amen! May it be so! 10/15/2011
  89. Blue Ridge Sunrise Panorama, Thunder Hill Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—My grandparents on my father’s side, Silas and Sophie, have become over time for me a married pair of Taoist priests. They were lovingly able to take everything in stride. They laughed a lot, embraced life in its fullness, said yes more often than no and blessed everyone who came their way with kindness and grace and a perspective that saw past the apparent, beyond the obvious, and took more into account than met the eye. I didn’t realize then what a gift I had been given, but it has become increasingly valuable, and is now one of my most prized possessions. And the joy is that there are, and have always been, people like Silas and Sophie all over the world, counterbalancing the craziness and offering solace and peace to all who know them. May we all know someone like that and become someone like that in the time left for living! Amen! May it be so! 10/15/2011
  90. Trail to Triple Falls, DuPont State Forest near Brevard, NC—Everybody has a different way of seeing things, of sensing what is important, of saying what the truth of their life is and what to do about it, in response to it. Everybody has a different gift, a different art, a different genius and a different way of bringing it forth as a blessing and a grace for everybody else. We get to the way we think by putting the way everything has ever been thought by everybody on the table and walking around the table, considering the table, wondering what to make of the table, until the way we think about it becomes clear. We cannot hurry thinking the way we think and not the way someone else wants us to think, tells us to think. We grow into it over time. We start by having thoughts before we realize we’ve had them. So, we have to start paying attention to our thoughts in order to know when one comes along that we haven’t heard from somewhere else—that isn’t already on the table. It’s hard to believe that anyone can think a thought that hasn’t been thought, but it happens all the time. New thoughts are always popping into our heads. We have to recognize them for what they are and think about them to see if we think they are worth thinking. If they are, we think about them some more and see where thy lead, which, of course, is always to other thoughts that aren’t on the table, and probably to a life we have not thought about living. And a new world opens before us. This is called having bigger fish to fry. We all do, you know. 10/16/2011
  91. Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Cedar Rock Falls, Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC—We cannot wake anyone up, including ourselves, but. We can delay being awakened indefinitely so. In order to assist our awakening, we have to stop working against it. We have to stop thinking we are awake. We have to stop clutching so tightly the truth we have been told is true. We have to start looking for what else is true—searching out the polarities, the contradictions, the contraries, the opposites—and live deliberately within the tension of mutually exclusive realities. We have to square up to our lives, to the way things are and the way things also are—which is the way things are. We have to do what can be done about what needs to be done in each situation as it arises and let that be that. We have to wait for the shifts and stop trying to force our way, to will our way, upon our life and the lives of others. We have to sit longer and walk more slowly. We have to see what we are looking at and look at everything. We have to hear what we are listening to and listen to everything. We have to act when the time for acting comes upon us “like a thief in the night.” We have to stop waiting for everything—or anything—to make sense. We have to trust ourselves to deal with whatever comes our way and stop trying to arrange to have only the things we want to deal with come our way. We have to look closer at the things that catch our eye. We have to move toward the things that move us. And see where it goes. 10/17/2011
  92. On Grandfather Mountain, Grandfather Mountain State Park near Linville, NC—The center we seek is our own sense of direction, our own knowing, our own grasp of what has value, our own recognition of what is important. We seek to resonate with ourselves, with our own apprehension of where life is to be found, how life is to be lived. We seek to know what we know and to live in ways which honor that and reflect it in the time left for living. Don’t be thinking it’s “out there,” or “over there.” Running away from the center is no way to find the center, except that when we are worn out from running, there it is. 10/17/2011
  93. On Stone Mountain, Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap, NC—We find our way with only “Yes” and “No,” Right” and “Wrong” to work with. The trick is knowing when to say “Yes” and when to say “No.” Right is not always what we have been told is right. Wrong is not always what we have been told is wrong. Puts a different light on things when we cannot trust what Those Who (Think They) Know Best know—when we have to “judge for ourselves what is right” (That’s one of the never-quoted sayings of Jesus, by the way: “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?”). We have to take the situation into account and determine what is happening there—what is trying to happen—and how we might assist it, then have the courage to go where we think we are being led. And then deal with the situation that arises from that decision in the same way, assessing and acting to the best of our ability. Now, I know there are those who would stoutly protest that “Scripture alone is the infallible and all-sufficient guide for faith and practice!” Well. What made slavery wrong? It wasn’t Scripture. Scripture was used for generations to justify and condone the institution of slavery. What made the subjugation of women wrong? It wasn’t Scripture. Scripture was used—and is still used—to justify the second, or third, class status of women. What made child labor wrong? It wasn’t Scripture. The list is long of things that are clearly, morally, wrong that Scripture was/is used to justify and sustain. Which puts us back to standing before a situation and listening deeply for what needs to happen there, and having the courage to do it—no matter what the weight of public opinion might be. Growing up happens or happens not in this way. May we all be always growing up! 10/18/2011
  94. Two Barns Two Horses, near Etowah, NC—If we own a piano because we love to play the piano and not because we love the idea of owning a piano, the piano is a tool, not a prop. If we own a sail boat because we love to sail and not because we love the idea of owning a sail boat, the boat is a tool, not a prop. If we own a camera because we love to take photographs and not because we love the idea of looking like a photographer, the camera is a tool, not a prop. Our tools bring us forth, enable us to do the work of unfolding ourselves in our lives, of being who we are in the time left for living. Props help us pretend to be who we are not. I think we should buy tools, not props. Of course, it will wreck the economy. Vive la Revolution! 10/18/2011
  95. Blue Ridge Parkway as it skirts Grandfather Mountain near Linville, NC—How alive can we be in the time left for living? We owe it to ourselves to find out. One way to begin is to spend more time with what we like and less time with what we don’t like and see where it goes. We let ourselves be talked out of what we like and into what we don’t like too easily. We shouldn’t just hand ourselves over to our circumstances. We do have to put ourselves in indefinite suspension for the sake of some circumstances—but not for all of them, not for every one of them! We have to see to it that we get the same degree of compassionate consideration from ourselves as everybody else in our life. We have to be our own advocate, our own champion, looking out for our own interest. I don’t know you as well as I would like to but I know that you don’t have enough people in your life looking out for your interest, and I know you certainly have to be one of them. So, start with what you like and do more of it as a way of reviving yourself, bringing yourself back to life. The people who have been sapping life away from you may think you’re being selfish, but the world will benefit more from  your living than from your dying. You certainly will. See how alive you can be in the time left for living. 10/19/2011
  96. Julia Lake Panorama, B/W, Oil Painting Effect, DuPont State Forest near Brevard, NC—We are to realize our distinctiveness, our individuality, and integrate it—reconcile it—with everyone else’s. NOT merge it with or disappear it into everyone else’s! “We are all One, but not the same one!” The trick is to be who we are in relationship with those who are being who they are—to “Define ourselves while staying in touch.” We can’t do it without compassion for ourselves and each other.
  97. Black and White Panorama, Pisgah Inn, Blue Ridge Parkway near Brevard, NC—Everything I have to say is a derivative of this: Think of what you love with all your heart and do it with all your heart and see where it goes.—That’s what I have to say. Your heart is a guide to the associations that lead you where you need to go. One thing leads to another. You may start cutting out paper dolls in the attic like you did when you were a child and that may lead you to the store to buy more paper and something might catch your eye on isle 11 that you had forgotten about loving but now you have to make a lemon meringue pie and before you know it you are planting Giant Sequoia seeds in Northern California. This is how it works. You don’t think your way to planting Giant Sequoia seeds in Northern California. You live your way there. And that isn’t the end of the line. It’s just a way-stop to counting hawks as they migrate through Virginia. You follow your heart wherever it goes AND take care of your responsibilities and duties that  you pick up along the way, spouses or partners and kids and pets and car notes and house payments—and you work it out. You work all of it out, and that’s it. That’s how it works. Everything else I ever say is going to be an off-shoot of this. This is all there is to say. Get it and you got it. 10/19/2011
  98. Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Linn Cove Viaduct, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, NC—We have to do the work. The spiritual journey is the Hero’s Journey is work. This is not a matter of understanding the “plan of salvation,” memorizing the catechism or the Books of the Bible in Order, naming the disciples and getting Sunday School pins for perfect attendance our whole life long. This is about waking up, being awake, aware, alive. This is about seeing things as they are and as they also are, living consciously with the contradictions, knowing what needs to be done in the situation as it arises even though it may not be what anyone else thinks needs to be done and doing it. It’s about living in the service of our art, our gift, our genius. It’s about moving in the direction of that which calls our name, which catches our eye, which announces itself to us as that which is ours to do. It’s about knowing what our business is and what it is not—what we have no business doing. It is about separating ourselves from our wants, wishes and feverish desires in order to do what is ours to do in the moment of our living—and doing what it takes to know what is ours to do whether we want to or not. It is about trusting ourselves to find what we need to do what needs to be done in every circumstance of life. Even Bilbo Baggins has a Bilbo Baggins, sometimes internally, sometimes externally. It is about living the life that is ours to live regardless of the payoff or the outcome every day for the rest of our life. Starting now. 10/20/2011
  99. Davidson River, Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC—Don’t think it is easy or fun doing what you love to do. What you love is “a harsh task master” “planting where it doesn’t plow and reaping what it didn’t sow.” It will beat you to death but. It will resurrect you from the dead. It is a wonder that cannot be duplicated by the lights and action of Gay Paree. Photography, for example, will require you to get up before sunrise and drive for an hour or more to be ready for the sun to come up thirty minutes before it’s due, because sunrises are not about sunrises. They are about the show that happens about thirty minutes before the sun rises. Once you see the sun, it’s pretty much over. The reverse is true of sunsets. It’s about twenty minutes after the sun goes down that the show starts. You have to wait. You have to get there early and wait. And, you can’t tell what the sky will be like two hours before sunrise so you have to “go to know.” You can’t be a photographer without being there. Early. And waiting. Every time. You begin to think you don’t love it after a while. And then, nothing sells. You can’t make a house payment selling photos. You can’t even feed the dog. At this point you realize you have to love it. No one would do this if he, if she, didn’t love it. So you get out of bed and step into the cold of the wee morning hours and go. You go whether you want to or not, feel like it or not, are in the mood for it or not. Doing what you love to do is not always doing what you want to do. So don’t get all romanical on me and think I’m selling La La Land here. You’ll hate me for it after a while. Stay with it. It’s your life. Your ticket to being fully, wonderfully, alive. Which is something Gay Paree can’t touch. 10/20/2011
  100. On Grandfather Mountain Panorama, Grandfather Mountain State Park near Linville, NC—We think our work, our talent, our gift, our genius, our art, our calling, our mission—call it what you will—should pay off. We think, “What good is a gift/art/talent if you can’t make money with it?” With us, money is the living end. We don’t understand yet that money is the means with which we buy the tools to do our work, express our gift, make our art. Money is no good whatsoever if it does not go into deepening, expanding, enlarging our ability to do what is ours to do. What’s the first thing people do when they become rich? They stop working. They “travel.” Their art goes to hell and their life with it. Listen to me: Our life is our art, our work, our calling. Take that away from us and we have nothing. Our eyes take on that Little Orphan Annie look and we wander around wondering what’s the point. We never wonder what’s the point when we are engaged in bringing our gift to life. The point then is that we are alive in the fullest possible sense, gripped by a passion for what we are doing. You can’t buy that with lots of money. So, forget about your talent paying off. Serve your talent without demanding that it pay off. The pay off is the joy you derive from doing what is yours to do. You can’t buy that with money, and it’s yours for nothing. It’s a by-product of doing what we love. If we do that, it will be well with our soul. 10/20/2011
  101. On Grandfather Mountain, Grandfather Mountain State Park near Linville, NC—We are to get on the horse named My Heart’s True Love and ride her wherever she takes us, doing whatever we can do with our heart truly in it, and see where it goes. It is not our place to “do something with it.” It is not our place to “make something come of it.” It is not our place to steer the horse to fame and fortune. Fame and fortune are grossly over-rated. Nothing comes more quickly between us and our heart’s true love, or blocks us more completely from immersing ourselves in our heart’s true love and expressing it in our life. The idea of making a profit kills the joy of the experience, and we suddenly have to make production and be concerned with market share and all that is involved therein. The horse lives out her life penned in the pasture while we worry about dying. Interesting, isn’t it, that the people who worry about dying are the people who have been dead most of their lives. The people who are alive are thinking about living, not dying. They are riding their horse through the wide open range, not knowing where it’s going, loving every minute. Get on your horse! Enjoy the ride! 10/21/2011
  102. Price Lake Framed, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—If you can’t think of anything you love with all your heart—if there is nothing you can think of that you can do with all your heart—think of the last time you did something with all your heart and do it. See where it leads. Your heart is dying to give itself to the thing, or things, it loves, and you are disconnected from the experience of heart-full-ness, so you have to re-establish connections. You have to prove to your heart that you can be trusted with its desires. It won’t take your word for it. It has been disappointed too many times. You have to display your good faith in the matter of knowing what your heart loves and serving its desires with what remains of your life, never mind what you think about this whole business. You are here because something isn’t working about your life. What you think hasn’t done it for you. Thinking, reasoning and logic have brought you to this point. Heart is your only hope. You have to trust yourself to your heart but. For your heart to reveal itself to you, it has to trust you to do right by it so. You have to display your willingness to do anything to reconnect with your heart and serve its desires. So if the last thing you did with all your heart was play baseball and you are too old to do that now, go to a baseball game. If you can’t get a World Series ticket, make plans to go to Spring Training. And carry them out. See where it leads. You have to make a good faith effort to place yourself under your heart’s tutelage. This is your work, believing that your heart knows what it is doing and allowing your heart to direct your life. And if “heart” is too much of a ridiculous concept for you, think “right hemisphere of your brain.” Trust it. Connect with it. And live in its service. You could do worse. You’ve done worse. You have nothing to lose. 10/21/2011
  103. Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Fall Medley, Leaves and Pond Scum, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—Two primary principles of spiritual development—and to be more accurate, it’s conscious development. Our spirit is already developed, and waits on the rest of us, namely our left hemisphere, to catch up—are: “See where it goes” and “Work it out.” In seeing where it goes, we trust ourselves to the guidance of our right hemisphere without having a plan, a map, a guidebook, a compass and an itinerary in hand. In working it out, we pile all of the contraries, opposites and contradictions on the table and go about the business of reconciliation, of integration—of holding the mutually exclusive options in conscious tension without relaxing it in favor of either pole—until the shift occurs (The Shift is another principle of conscious development) and then we see where it goes. This is all very intense work with consciousness and unconsciousness, with the left and right hemispheres, and WE have to do it. There are no catechisms to memorize, no doctrines to believe, no plan of salvation to comprehend. There is just seeing where it goes and working it out. People who want an easier way opt out of being alive in favor of being comfortably dead, spiritually/consciously speaking. 10/22/2011
  104. Blue Ridge Vista, Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Mitchell, NC—There are so many distractions, diversions, it’s no wonder we lose focus, forget to ask the grounding questions: Who am I? What am I about? What is my business here and now? What is happening and what needs to happen in this situation? How might I respond to it in ways that are helpful and are authentically ME? 10/22/2011
  105. Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Nag’s Head Sunrise, Nag’s Head NC—All we need is a sounding board. Everything else is built in. A sounding board helps us hear what we have to say—provides us with a reflective surface by which we can see who we are (and also are)–helps us know what we know—grounds us, centers us in ourselves so that we might remember who we are and what we are about and follow the guidance of our innate sense of direction to where we need to go, to what we need to do. The key characteristic of a sounding board is that it cares about us without having a vested interest in us. It has nothing at stake in us—nothing to gain or lose by virtue of its relationship with us. It exists to help us find the way that is truly our way and not its way for us. It simply listens to us until we can hear ourselves, identify our conflicts and contradictions, and find our way to our way. May we always have the sounding boards we need to find what we need to do what needs to be done and do it. 10/23/2011
  106. Bodie Island Sunset, Cape Hatteras National Seashore near Nag’s Head, NC—If we are serving our art, talent, gift, genius, daemon, heart, calling—call it what you will—everything else will fall into place. One of those things is you. You fall into place. Your priorities shift (that word again). Your idea of what matters most shifts. You shift. And everything else shifts as well. The world serves you serving your art. Not so that serving your art is a technique for getting the world to serve you and give you what you want. You give up getting what you want when you take up serving your art. You want to serve your art. Period. What you get is what you get—and it’s okay. It’s just fine. Really. Because you are serving your art and what do you care about anything else? Your art is IT. Then the world serves you serving your art, but not in a way that onlookers would be impressed with. It isn’t a selling point to serving your art. It’s a by-product that impresses only you serving, as you are, your art. But, it’s something to watch for, expect, be impressed by—the world serving you, things falling into place, everything falling into place. That’s something when seen from the standpoint of your new perspective.  10/24/2011
  107. Ocracoke to Cedar Island Ferry, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—The concept of free will has no basis in reality. Our will is anything but free. We think of free will as the freedom to do anything we want to do. Therein lies the rub. We are not free to will what we want. We cannot will ourselves to want anything we do not want. We are not free to choose our wants. And we are not free to choose our choices. So we can’t blame free will for our problems. Free will doesn’t exist. But our problems do. The idea is to stop looking for a reason for them and start looking for what to do about them. “Here we are. Now what?” The formula for the rest of the way is “Look, Listen, See, Hear.” We have to “clear a space,” get some distance between ourselves and the situation in order to assess what needs to happen and what we can do to assist its happening. “Too many cooks ruin the broth.” Too many people telling us what to do ruin our chances at doing what needs to be done. Carl Jung said that none of the real problems have a solution—they have to be out-grown. Growing up is our life task. We start by dealing with our present situation as well as we know how and applying what we learn here in the next situation all the way to the end of the line. 10/24/2011
  108. Sunset, Pamlico Sound, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—We spend our time trying to arrange our life to suit us. The spiritual path requires us to arrange ourselves to suit our life. Bob Dylan said, “The song was there before me. I just wrote it down.” Our life is there before us. We just live it. We sing our life the way Bob Dylan sang his songs. We sing the life we are given, handed, asked to sing. Where do we stop and where does our life start? We live on the boundary, on the cusp, between ourselves and our life and allow our life to take us where it will. In so doing we have to think of our life as the physical circumstances of our existence—the time and place of our living, our genetic make-up, the choices we have, etc.—and as the art, gift, calling, genius that is ours to serve, express, live out within the terms and conditions of our living. We bring the givens of our gift forth within the givens of space and time. This is enough for us to think about. We don’t have to be worrying about who wins the World Series or building a fortune. How to be who we are, how to do what is ours to do, here and now is all we have time for. 10/25/2011
  109. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—We wake up in the world we wake up to every day. What changes? Everything is transformed and nothing changes. Life is an optical illusion. The old hag becomes a young maiden by virtue of the way we see the drawing in front of us. We can look at our life and see the old hag. We can look again at our life and see the young maiden. Which way IS it? It is all ways at once. Start looking for The Other Ways. Don’t settle for the way you have always seen things. Thresholds exist to new worlds on every side, waiting for us to walk through them to new lives. Creative vision sees possibilities everywhere. We all have The Eye. We all are dying to see. There’s a catch, of course. To see more than we have seen, we have to live differently, or be willing to. Seeing enhances, enables, living. If we aren’t seeing it is because we aren’t willing to live toward where seeing will take us. We cannot just see new worlds—we have to live there. It’s called the Hero’s JOURNEY. Get it? 10/26/2011
  110. Silver Lake, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—We have to be ready for the wind to stop blowing and the clouds to appear. The shift will come in its own time. Be waiting. Ready.
  111. Hatteras Lighthouse Panorama, Buxton Wetlands, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—We make seeing and doing what needs to be done more complex than it needs to be. “Eat when hungry, rest when tired.” What needs to be done is on this basic level. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Whoever offers a cup of cold water to one of these little ones will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven” (or words to that effect). See? This is not hard. A kind word when a kind word is needed. Ordinary, every day, impossible to live without stuff. What needs to be done. Do it. Simple. 10/26/2011
  112. Silver Lake, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—We start with the givens, the facts, and wonder what needs to happen here and now—wonder what we can do to make things better than they are, more like they ought to be than they are. Maybe there is nothing to do to right things on a large scale (as in a prisoner of war camp), but. There is always something to do to right things on a small scale—a kind word, a cup of cold water, being a caring presence—as we wait for the shift to make possible righting things on a large scale. The Occupy the World Movement is a beautiful way of focusing the world on the wrongness of the way things are. We go on strike to protest working conditions. We mount civil disobedience campaigns to call attention to the social and economic inequities of race, gender, sexual-orientation and class. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. led the way to changing things that appeared to have no chance of being changed ever. The way opens before those who are open to the way. We don’t have to assume that nothing can be done just because no one is doing anything. We can be the shift we are waiting for by doing things differently here and now. We stop mouthing the platitudes and the liturgical responses. We stop pretending that things are all right as they are. We question authority and would-be authority on all levels: Who says this is the way things ought to be done? Who says this is the best we can do? It’s easy enough to find fault with President Obama—also find fault with those who stand to gain by finding fault with President Obama. No Social Security? Who says that’s a good idea? No More Sound Bites! Push everyone to the limits of their suggested solution over into imagination and creativity and transformation! Let the revolution to a civil, fair, and just world for all begin!
  113. Ocracoke Lighthouse, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—An iPhone Photo—The trick is to see what we look at and look at everything. I was looking for the black coffee maker in the house we are renting for the week, and didn’t see the white one on the counter top. The things we don’t see, the things that are completely invisible, are right there in plain sight, waiting to be seen. Eyes that see are eyes that look at everything without looking for anything. We’re working at that. Right? 10/27/2011
  114. Molasses Creek, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—There is no having it made. No getting it all together. No arriving. No standing on top of the world. No sitting in the cat bird’s seat. No ain’t I something now. There is only taking care of this moment the way this moment needs to be taken care of—with a long string of moments stretching out before us, waiting their turn. There is no quitting, no stopping, no retiring from the work that is ours to do. There is only doing the work, being who we are (and also are), being about what is ours to be about. There is nothing more to it than that. Receive well the moment. Do there what needs to be done as it needs to be done the way only you can do it. And do it again in the next moment. If you get that down, you’ll have it made.
  115. Ocracoke Lighthouse, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—What we tell ourselves enables us to take it or stops us in our tracks. What we tell ourselves provides us with the courage and incentive to make our way through the present circumstances, or folds us up and hands us over. We have a situation. The situation calls for some response. It isn’t the way we would like for it to be. What are we going to do? What are we going to tell ourselves about the situation? What we say to ourselves about our life, about life generally, sets the tone of our living, enables us to do what we do or keeps us from doing much of anything. What do we say? What are we telling ourselves these days? What we say to ourselves helps us deal with the situation at hand or hinders us in dealing with it. What we say about the situation determines what we do about it. Living better begins with talking differently about our lives. How we live depends upon what we say to ourselves about our life. Monitor your self-talk. Change what you say and you’ll change the way you see and the way you live. 10/28/2011
  116. Marsh Sunrise, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—Here’s an Internet Gem for you. If the Dalai Lama didn’t say it, he could have: “The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, replied: ‘Man—because he sacrifices his health in order to make money, then he sacrifices his money in order to recuperate his health. And then, he is so anxious about his future that he does not enjoy his present, the result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and dies having never lived.’” 10/29/2011
  117. Pelican, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—There are things throughout your life that are like knowing where to place the tripod is in my life. I don’t know how I know where to put the tripod. I don’t know why it’s here and not there, or over there. After I’m done here, it may be over there next. Maybe not. I’ll have to wait to see. It’s like that with us in countless places and ways. Why do we choose to wear what we wear each day? How do we know when enough coffee is enough? We know things we don’t know how we know. These are the important things. A street map can tell us how to find a bakery, but when it’s time for a cinnamon roll is beyond a map’s capabilities. How we know what to do with our lives, or what to do next, is like how we know where to place the tripod, or whether to wear the red shirt or the blue one. One place is not as good as another, one shirt is not the same as another. The differences matter. We are guided, led, toward one and away from the others. Why? How? It is enough to know what we know without knowing all there is to know about what we know. Know what you know and trust it without having to know what you don’t know. That’s my best advice. 10/29/2011
  118. Limb at Springer’s Point, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—If we were in a foreign country, Italy or Africa, the right thing to do would be to honor the customs and ways of the foreign country. In the United States, we bump into foreign customs and ways at every turn. What is with the attitude that says “THEY (that is anyone who is not one of US) should be like WE are (that is ME and those who agree with ME)”? The right thing to do is honor, respect, perspectives and ways of doing things that are not the way WE see and do things. Our way is just our way. It is not THE way. No way is THE way. There are 10,000 ways of getting it done, of getting life lived. You would hate living the way I live. I would hate living the way you live. Let’s start there, and honor each other for living it the way we live it and making it work as well as it does for us—without trying to force our way on the other. It will be a step on the way to creating a world in which all people are safe to be who they are, which is as basic a human right as I can think of. 10/29/2011
  119. Cormorant Run, Pamlico Sound, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—It starts with allowing ourselves to be who we are, where we are, how we are, what we are, why we are. We do not get to where we want to be by trying to get there. We get to where we need to be by being here, now. This doesn’t mean we resist change to stay here, always. It means we stop resisting change—allowing ourselves to change in ways we do not think is conducive to getting where we want to be. Where we want to be is not necessarily where we need to be. Our lives are constructed to get us where we need to be when we need to be there—and then where we need to be after that when we need to be there. There is no steady state of being. Being dead is the only steady state, and who knows how steady that is! But. We do know that a steady state of being-while-alive is death. Life is moving, movement, evolving, becoming, growing. Death is being the same, yesterday, today, tomorrow. When we stop resisting change, we move toward where we need to be in order to move on to where we need to be after that. Your life will bring you what you need for the next step. You only have to be awake enough to receive it. Your life brings you the poem but you have to write it down. 10/30/2011
  120. Pamlico Sunset Panorama, Pamlico Sound, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—The top half of this photo is the photo. The bottom half is the top half copied, flipped and merged with the top half to create a faux reflection. Because the wind was in the 15 mph range, down from the 35 mph range early this morning and that moves me beyond taking a picture to making one. We take what we are given and do what we can with it. This is the way things are and this is what we can do about it and that’s that. 10/30/2011
  121. Ocracoke Lighthouse, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—We don’t know what drives our boat on its path through the sea, or why this path and not that one, or any of the things that matter. We trust ourselves to it all—without being able to explain, excuse, justify, or defend. We make things up to satisfy our family, friends and critics but. We don’t know what we are doing. I get up to take another picture at sunrise as though the world needs another picture at sunrise. What am I thinking? I’m thinking to talk myself out of getting up to take another picture at sunrise because I have no valid, stand-up-in-court, reason to do so would be to violate something essential and truthful about my core. I have no idea if that is correct but. Something needs me to get up and take another picture of sunrise and I am here to trust myself to that Something and see where it goes, So are you. This is called the secret to having life and having it abundantly. Doing stupid things you can’t begin to understand because Something needs you to do it. May we all live so stupidly and so well! 10/31/2011
  122. Hatteras Sunrise, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—“Pie for Strength” is the motto of the Park Cafe and Grocery at the St. Mary entrance to Glacier National Park. I think pie is it’s own reason for existence, and strength is just an added benefit, but we’ll take our strength wherever we find it. Strength and encouragement for the journey, for the work at hand, for what needs us to do it the way only we can do it along the way. It’s good to know where to go for those things, and stock up on them while we can. It may be a long walk between pies. 10/31/2011
  123. Pamlico Sound Sunset, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—The thrust of our life is the flow of the stream. We will be who we are. Carl Jung said, “We are who we have always been, and who we will be,” or words to that effect. The stream flows through its context and circumstances, and its character is developed in its interaction with its environment—in its work to find a way to be who it is no matter what is in its path, not with complete disregard for what is in its path, but with taking everything into account and working with it to be itself there, then, in the here and now of its living/being. The stream does not bulldoze its way to the sea, and it does not stop flowing. As Linda Cohn might say, “Are you picking up what I’m laying down here?” 11/01/2011
  124. Silver Lake, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—We don’t have long to say what we have to say, to do what we have to do. We can’t be squandering the time that is ours hanging out at the mall, looking for another party. We aren’t skimming stones. Frivolity, banality and superficiality are no substitutes for life. We have bigger fish to fry. The Cyclops, for instance. We are here to take on the Cyclops in all of his myriad manifestations. It matters how we live. We cannot throw life away because we are afraid of living—because we are afraid we don’t know how to live, don’t know what to do, don’t think we have anything to say. We owe it to ourselves—and to each other—to find out if there is anything to us. We cannot allow ourselves to hide in the trivial and the repetitious, bingo, canasta, bridge, shuffle-board and their myriad manifestations. 11/02/2011
  125. Cloud Bank at Sunset, Pamlico Sound, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—Unless our dreams encounter reality, they remain forever happy fantasies, incapable of delivering their promise and growing us up. A dream requires barriers the way a butterfly requires a chrysalis and the struggle to exit it. If Odysseus’ father had paid his son’s way, bought off the Cyclops, arranged for the Sirens to not sing, Odysseus would have remained an invalid, clinging to Father’s Love (Not!) forever. The people who deliver our dreams to us wrapped in a ribbon do us no favors. “Some kind of help is the kind of help we all could do without.” The dream has to work us over, call us forth, require us to meet the challenges of serving the dream our whole life-long, else it’s a travesty and a tragedy in the making. The Buddha had to escape the dream-eating power of his royal beginnings. Jesus had to rely on the power of his dream to overcome the demons he encountered along the way. It is a solitary task, dreaming ourselves into existence, our life into being.  11/03/2011
  126. Pamlico Sunset, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—Having a dream is not the same as having what it takes to live in the service of our dream. Ten thousand kids dream of being Michael Jordon but. They don’t have what it takes to practice with Michael Jordan’s dedication to the perfection of his art. They don’t have what it takes to study and make the grades to stay in school. They don’t have what it takes to be a part of a team. They dream of being a star but. They don’t have what it takes to be a star. A real dream will beat you into shape. It will shape your life. It will make you over. And over. We think living our dream is like Hollywood, all glory and fame. Wrong. Living our dream is doing what is ours to do whether we want to or not, whether we feel like it or not, whether we are in the mood for it or not, in all weather conditions, no matter what, because we live to serve the dream and not the other way around. So, when you dream up a dream, make sure it’s worth your time because it will take all of it. And it’s worth every minute. Just look at the people who never had a dream—or what it takes to live one out. 11/03/2011
  127. Hanging Rock Vista, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC—We have to celebrate the quality of our effort, not our outcome. The results are not always satisfactory and are usually out of our control. We meet the day as well as we are able and let that be that. We do some things better than Jesus could do them, or God. When I water the yard, I do it as well as it can be done. Rain couldn’t do it better. Rain’s only advantage is that I don’t have to water when it rains, and I hate watering the yard. But I do it well. There are lots of things we do very well that go unnoticed. Making coffee. I make coffee better than Starbucks. Filling the car with gasoline. Too bad I don’t get points for filling the car with gasoline. The list is long of things we all do well without credit, without even noticing. We notice the things that we don’t do well or that don’t have the outcome we want. It’s easily, “Bad Jim,” here and “Bad Jim” there, here a “Bad,” there a “Bad,” everywhere a “Bad, Bad” throughout our day every day. We are culturally trained to not like what we do and not like ourselves for doing it. We suffer from self-inflicted misery because we are taught “Bad Jim” early on and no one—no voice—counters the cultural lessons. It’s time we countered them ourselves. “Nice going, Jim!” Tell yourself “Nice going!” when you load the dishwasher and empty it—and do all the other things you do really well, regardless of the outcome, never mind the results. Stars for effort all the way. 11/04/2011
  128. Stone Mountain Woods, Stone Mountain State Park near Roaring Gap, NC—We wrestle with God. “Thy will, not mine, be done,” is not easily wrought. It comes after, “I will not let you go without a blessing!” The blessing is always the two of us walking together along the way we both agree is the way. “Thy will be done,” is recognition of the rightness of “Thy will.” It comes, if you remember, after the struggle, with sweat pouring forth likes “drops of blood,” after it becomes apparent, the rightness of “Thy will.” We must not give in too easily, too soon. The struggle is at the heart of the matter. We have to be convinced that “Thy will” is right about the way. We have a voice. We are not to be ignored. It is not for nothing that we live. God repents before the wisdom of those who call God to task. “Shall not the Judge of the earth do right?” We find the way together, and walk it in consultation with one another, collaborating in justice, compassion, grace and peace. Amen! May it be so! 11/05/2011
  129. Buzzard Roost, Walnut Cove Water Tower, Walnut Cove, NC—You’ve heard of the Swallows at Capistrano, well. Here are the Buzzards at Walnut Cove. You couldn’t make this up. “They’ve been coming here as long as I’ve lived next door,” said a neighbor. “That’s over two years now. The town’s tried to scare them away, but they keep coming back.” I love this about life. Buzzards who know a good thing when they see one, and refuse to leave. May we be as persistent and determined in the work that is ours to do. May we know as clearly what is ours to do, and prevail!
  130. Black Birch, Blue Ridge Parkway, Rocky Knob, VA—What holds life together for you? It’s the adventure for me. The not knowing what is going to happen today and what I am going to do with it. The wondering what I’ll see. What I’ll think. What I’ll say. Each day can be like Christmas Morning if you approach it with the right kind of spirit, seeing it as a package to be opened, a new bike to be ridden who knows where. Live so that death catches you by surprise, I say, and as though you might die any day. “It’s a good day to die” means, “I’m ready to die because I’ve done everything I could think to do up to this point, but I’m going to be thinking of other things to do all the way to may last breath.” Die with cookies in the oven and crumbs on your plate. Live every day as though it will be your last and as though you’ll never die. One of those ironic parameters that enclose us all in their loving arms and tickle us into laughing out loud. 11/06/2011
  131. Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—One of the laws of photography is “You have to go to know.” You have to go see, go looking. The camera is always saying, “Let’s go looking!” I don’t know why I go where I go any more than I know why I place the tripod where I place the tripod. Or, I think I know where I’m going and what I’m looking for and find something unexpected and quite IT along the way. Photography isn’t a thinking thing and you have to be thinking all the while—thinking is autofocus on or off, is the lens clean, is the battery charged, are the settings suitable for the occasion. Another of those ironic parameters. Just when you think you don’t have to think because you’ve thought about it enough that everything is automatic, comes the reminder: No compact flash card in the camera. Great. The camera is always there to remind you to pay attention. Awareness, awareness, awareness. The same old lessons are new every day. Just like with life.  11/06/2011
  132. Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, NC—We have a certain drift of soul, toward this, away from that. We are built for some music and built to avoid other music. Some things “go against the grain.” Some things “carry us away.” Over time, we find our place, know where we belong and where we have no business being. You don’t find the Dalai Lama at football games or strip clubs, and we don’t fault him for that. Why do we fault any of us for where we have to be or cannot go? The young woman who served my lunch today was excited to tell me about her pending tattoo—a colored iris as a memorial to her Grandmother, done by an artist she had spent time searching out. I was honored by her sharing that with me and celebrated it with her, though I am not likely to order one up for myself. They all don’t have to do it the way I do it. We don’t have to oppose the paths others trod. We can be supportive and encouraging without endorsing or subscribing to. There are a lot of ways to wash dishes and to get from here to San Francisco. And, if you are thinking of “the best way,” best in terms of what? Dance to the music you call music, and let the rest of us do the same. 11/06/2011
  133. Clingman’s Dome Sunset, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC—We find our own way, we make our own path. There is no recipe, no formula, no map or blueprint—no black footprints laid out for us to step on to glory. The disciples must become like the Master in following no Master. We see the path by looking behind us. We are creating the path with each choice, each decision, each act. The path that led us here, now, is the path we made. It’s the same path that will take us wherever we are going. Listen to everything everyone says and then listen to yourself—decide for yourself what you think about it all. How does it strike you? What do you make of it? Learning to listen to yourself—learning to trust yourself—is the primary lesson of life. Education does not pour stuff into us, facts and parts of speech. It pulls stuff out of us, stuff we didn’t know was there, tucked away within us, poems and ideas and questions. It’s already there, waiting for us to listen to what we have to say, to trust ourselves to it, and dance with our lives to glory. 11/07/2011
  134. An Old Wagon Road near Walnut Grove, NC—We are in a hurry to be somewhere, somewhere better, somewhere where we have it made, have no worries, no problems, no fears. Wealth seems to represent the place to be for a lot of us. We dream of winning the lottery, of having “our ship come in.” In the not-too-distant past, people dreamed of Glory Land, Paradise, Heaven and all its splendor—where they could lay down their burdens and be free at last. Escape is a happy fantasy. Snoopy in the comic strip Peanuts said all the puppies at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm dreamed of escape but. “Once you get over the fence you are still in the world.” I recommend squaring up to how things are and how they also are, and what you can do about it—doing it and letting that be that. Too often we dream of miraculous deliverance because we live in binds where no matter what we do we make things worse trying to make them better and we are stuck, trapped, in a life we cannot live. We need resources and help beyond what we are able to generate ourselves. There, we have to walk too paths at once, the reality path—doing what must be done to take care of business as business must be taken care of—and the dream path—doing what must be done to be ready for the door to open when it does. If you are going to believe anything, believe that the door will open and you have to be ready to go through it when going time comes. We can’t lose the hope of the open door even though we have no idea what form it may take. We wait, watching, ready. 11/08/2011
  135. Maple Lane, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Greensboro, NC—It isn’t hard to find photos in the fall in North Carolina. It’s hard finding a place to park and a place to set your tripod. The rural roads have no shoulders and people, urban and rural, are funny about you walking through their yard and standing in their flowerbeds. Their dogs are even funnier. So, you are limited to public places with parking and no No Trespassing signs. And you thought it was about having an expensive camera and several lens. You make the same mistake with everyone who comes your way. You look at them and fail to notice what all they are dealing with, how the Cyclops in some present-day manifestation is body-slamming them just for the fun of it, and laughing. So, John Watson’s words are worth carrying around, remembering, living out: “Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle.” 11/09/2011
  136. Yellow Leaves, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—I’m going to miss fall. I love finding photos everywhere, not having to look for them, having to wait on them, not that there isn’t something to complain about: Not enough camera time. That’s my complaint. Fall doesn’t last nearly long enough. If it only lasted as long as July and August! There should be some compensation for July and August! They last six months apiece. That’s a year total. Fall should last a year. Fall should last long enough that I begin to long for winter. Wish it would snow so I could shovel the driveway. That’s how long I want fall to last. Something else to be big about—as though we need something else to be big about! We spend all our time granting concessions, making allowances, adjusting our stride to fit the terrain, accommodating, accommodating, accommodating… The turtles and the fishes, the deer and the Great Horned Owls have to do the same thing, but they don’t know they are doing it. It’s just, “Oh, well,” with them. They don’t sit around grousing about it. Not even the Ruffled Grouse grouses. Something’s wrong about that. Something else to grouse about. To be big about. To get over. Geez. 11/10/2011
  137. The Other Lone Cypress, Lake Brandt, Greensboro, NC—The Lord and I love chocolate. And, if you think that is reprehensible and sacrilegious, allow me to remind you that for several thousand years it was high holy dogma that the Lord loved the aroma of burning bulls. I propose that chocolate is much to be preferred over the stench of sacrificial animals, and I am pleased to allow the Lord to enjoy it vicariously through my obedient service to the Lord’s holy will. We take our chocolate dark from the good people at Hershey’s, though Dove is also a good choice and has the advantage of scriptural symbolism on its side. Chocolate bunnies and eggs at Easter have long been connected with the highest of holy days, and I cannot possibly see how anyone could take offense at the idea of chocolate being well up on the Lord’s list of things to do. So, I’m pleased to say that the Lord and I love a good chocolate session together, and we think we will go enjoy one right now. 11/10/2011
  138. The Woods at Springer’s Point, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—A moment in our life is like the next pitch in a baseball game. What we do in response to that pitch, to the moment, tells the tale. Everything rides on how we respond to the situation, to the moment, as it arises. We cannot be locked into always doing it the way it is supposed to be done—the way it has always been done. We have to be free—to allow ourselves the freedom—to play with the moment, with the situation, to innovate, create, invent and bring forth the astounding and unheard of. Of course, this will not sit well with Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased. So? 11/10/2011
  139. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse from the Buxton Wetlands, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Hatteras Island, NC—I watched a small boy standing with his mother ahead of me in line at the Post Office. He was working on a Post Office give-away sucker while his mother stamped her last letter before her turn at the window. He turned to say something to her and his sucker hit the floor. With a mixture of heartfelt surprise and disbelief he exclaimed, “IT DROPPED!” He didn’t say, “I dropped it,” with a tone suggesting the imminent end of the world with maybe a bit of prosecution, conviction and jail time to compliment his last day on earth. “It dropped! I had nothing to do with it. I was just standing here minding my own business, having a conversation with my Mom. It is obviously not my fault and I will have nothing to do with the outcome. I am as chagrined by this turn of events as anyone would rightly be, and I demand to be cleared of any charges that may be pending.” The kid’s on to something. “The milk split. The car door slammed on my finger. The edge of the cabinet hit my head.” The possibilities are endless. We don’t have to take the rap for anything that ever happens. One of life’s lessons while waiting in line. 11/11/2011
  140. Colors of Fall Abstract, Bog Garden Reflections, Greensboro, NC—We are here to help on another along the way but. No one can help us or be helped with the essential matters. We have to grow up on our own. We have to face up to the truth of how things are, and also are, come to terms with our choices and do what we can imagine doing with, and about, all that constitutes the here-and-now of our existence. The truth is that we don’t have good-enough choices. We want better choices but. We don’t get to choose our choices and. No one can help us square ourselves up with that fundamental fact. “Look, Jim, these are your choices. Do what you can imagine to do with them and let that be that.” That’s about as much help as we can be to one another. We have a lot to not like about our life with very little that can be done about any of it. This is called The Human Condition. We can soften the sharp edges of reality, provide a little comic relief, offer a psychological/emotional respite, interlude, oasis—provide a modicum of peace. Peace and understanding, tenderness and compassion, warmth and kindness… That would help. Acknowledging our mutual plight. Agreeing that anybody would want better choices.And then saying, “But. Here you are. Now what are you going to do?” That would help. If you could do that much for me, I will be just fine. 11/11/2011
  141. Silver Lake Sunrise, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC—If we knew what to want—what we ought to want—and wanted it, and lived in its service, the world would be a quite different place. For the most part—that is, for most of us, most of the time—we know what we want and don’t know, or knowing, we don’t care about, what to want, what we ought to want. The spiritual quest, the Hero’s Journey, is growing up, out of our facilitation with what we want, into our allegiance to and alignment with what we ought to want and living in its service. The catch here is that what we ought to want has no necessary connection with what we think we ought to want, with what we have always been told we ought to want. It is not a simple matter of doing, finally, what your Mamma says—and it is not a matter of NOT doing what she says. Growing up is growing into our own sense of how things ought to be, no matter what anyone says, and being right about it. There is a mysterious, numinous—that is, holy—sense of “YES!” when we are in the center of “the beam,” when we are “on the right track” with our lives. Joseph Campbell says, “We know when we are on the beam and when we are off of it.” There is nothing worth wanting  beyond the beam, nothing worth doing beyond living in its service. The trick is being okay with not knowing what we are doing there, but knowing that it is right, and trusting ourselves to it no matter what Mamma or anyone else says. 11/11/2011
  142. Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., Lake Brandt Panorama, Greensboro, NC—Sin is refusing to grow up. All sin can be lumped under the heading: Emotional Immaturity. Refusing to bear the pain of contradiction. Insisting on having our way NOW! Waiting nothing out. Running stop signs. Failing to heed—or read—any of the signs or flashing signals. Barreling down the road of life to destinations we deem worthy. Not listening. Not seeing. Not inquiring. Not understanding. Serving our agenda at the expense of ourselves and everyone else. Thinking if we do this, that will happen, and being undone when it doesn’t. Being undone. Doing whatever we do as a strategy to get what we want. Thinking we know what to want. That we know what we are doing. That we know where we are going. That we know who we are and what we are about. Thinking we know. 11/12/2011
  143. Blue Ridge Vista, Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC—Remember in the 70’s the solution to the drug problem was recreation centers? Tennis courts, soft ball fields? Give kids something to do and they won’t do drugs? That didn’t work out so well. I think it should have been meaning. Give kids meaning and they won’t do drugs. Or, not as many of them will. That’s tricky, though. How do you give someone meaning? Meaning isn’t like a rock that we can pass around. We don’t find meaning so much as we bring it forth. We bring meaning forth in our lives by living meaningfully—by living in ways that have meaning for us. And we are the only ones who can say what that is for us. How do we know? How do we know pie or cake? Chicken salad or spaghetti? I don’t now how we know, but I know that we know. We know what has meaning and what does not, what brings us to life and what kills our soul. And we know when we are living in the service of a substitute for meaning, ersatz meaning, sham meaning, pretend meaning, no meaning at all. It all hangs on our willingness to do what is meaningful. No more kidding ourselves. It all hangs on that. 11/12/2011
  144. For Rent, Price Lake, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—We are going to be dead a lot longer than we are alive so. We better do everything we can think of to be as alive as we can be in the time left for living. We don’t have, as they say in the deep south, a minute to waste but. That’s exactly what it takes to be alive. Wasting minutes. Throwing time away in the pursuit of nothing. Sitting silently. Walking slowly through the world with our eyes open. Being not what the world would call productive but. Being alive. In the moment of our living. Open to what is happening here and now—and to what is trying to happen, to what needs to happen, and doing what we can with what we have to work with to assist its happening, to bring it forth in the world of space and time. Not imposing our idea for the moment on the moment but. Listening to the moment and assisting the coming forth of what needs to come forth in each situation as it arises. Being alive to the time of our living and dancing, playing, with what we find there for the good of the moment. Amen! May it be so! 11/13/2011
  145. Bodie Island Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, near Nags Head, NC—Brooks Vance told his wife, Louise, “Don’t keep track of the liabilities, Louise. It’ll only depress you.” You couldn’t find better advice in the entire Book of Advice. The losses add up. Some of them are large. The cumulative impact of our losses, even only the small ones, will take our breath away. No. Will take our life away. Now look, it isn’t just our life. We think it is. We think, “It’s our life and we can do what we want to with it.” Two things are wrong with this position. One is it isn’t our life, not wholly, not entirely. Two is we don’t know what we ought to want, just what we want and what do we know? We don’t know nothing. Remember that the next time you think you know when to quit living because your losses have added up to “Stop!” We don’t know nothing. And our life isn’t all ours. We have the hopes of the invisible world riding on us. We live for more than ourselves. The world of unconscious, invisible, psychic reality intersects this world of normal, concrete, apparent reality in and through us. We are the interface between worlds. We have responsibilities and duties we don’t know anything about (because they are unconscious). There is more to us than meets the eye. If you are going to believe anything, believe that there is more to us than meets the eye and that we live for more than ourselves. Explore what that might mean in the time left for living, and don’t be surprised if you discover you’re living in behalf of some of your biggest losses who are now counting on you to live for them. The invisible world has some strange twists and turns, and we don’t know nothing. 11/13/2011
  146. Cedar Island Ferry Panorama, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—I’ve been retired from the ministry (Presbyterian Church USA) nearly a year now and what strikes me upon reflection about Sunday morning worship services is how loud they were. The organ was loud, the hymns were loud (“Sing it like you mean it now!”), the anthems were loud, the guitars and percussion were loud… Reflecting the principle “In order to be good it has to be loud.” My friend Bob Taylor taught middle school band early in his career and told me the secret to Jr. High (and high school, and college) half-time shows was to make it loud. “Have the band march toward the home side of the field with the brass blaring and the drums beating and everybody will think it’s great.” Loud is a substitute for good. Give me the infinite echo of a Tibetan singing bowl, the resonating peace of a chorus of “AUM,” the silence of many minds experiencing Mind… Think of the most worshipful, non-church, experience of your life. How loud was it? Turning up the volume is simply a way of letting ourselves off the hook. We impact ourselves with pseudo-WOW and avoid having to do the work of facing the truth of our lives in order to discover God-with-us there. The ground of worship is the individual work each of us does in order to see things as they are and also are in each moment of our life. Work? Did somebody say work? Just bring on the band at full throttle! 11/14/2011
  147. Pisgah National Forest, Davidson River near Brevard, NC—We connect with the invisible world through symbols engaged with our imagination, and we exhibit the connection in the way we live our lives. Our nighttime dreams are rich in symbols (it is a rare dream that is to be taken literally) which we decipher and interpret imaginatively, consciously. When we sit quietly, what arises? We are constantly generating, creating, fantasies, stories, scenarios—what themes are being borne out? When our mind “makes something up,” what does it make up? What symbols are being presented to us from the unconscious? What do we make of them, do with them? Are we always scaring ourselves, imagining terrible things happening to us or those we love? Try this: Tell your unconscious that you can be trusted to deal with the absolute worst life can do, that it can rely on you completely, that you will protect it and your relationship with it under all circumstances, as though it is your child and you are its loving parent. And that you will consult it about its needs and concerns and be open to it expressing those to you in dreams and waking fantasies. Your imagination is the interface with your unconscious, you can direct it and consciously make up a story, say about horseback riding in the west, and in the middle of your story something completely surprising happens. Our imagination works both ways, from us and to us from our unconscious. We read the symbols and incorporate our interpretation into our lives, collaborating with our unconscious in a life of joint partnership. Let the adventure begin! 11/14/2011
  148. Pied-billed Grebe, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We keep trying to make sense of things but. It’s as though there is another side at work in the service of disorder and nonsense. The more rational and logical we make the world, the crazier, chaotic and out-of-control the world gets. Insanity erupts. Unless it is honored, respected, allowed its place at the table. Rationality has to get off of its high horse, as they would say in the deep south. We have to take the emotional, irrational, ground of existence into account—in our politics and in our personal life—in order to integrate the whole and make room for all. We cannot just think our way into our life, we also have to intuit our way there, hunch our way there, and feel our way along. Insanity is never without its basis. Chaos is order from far enough away or close enough in, and order is chaos. Sanity and insanity work the same way. Insanity is as sane as it gets from a certain point of view and sanity is crazy as hell. We think AND we feel—consciously, with awareness—and we take both thinking and feeling into account in seeking out the way forward together. 11/15/2011
  149. Geese Landing, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—There are 10,000 ways of letting yourself go, most of them bad, like, for instance, eating potato chips by the bag full and ice cream right out of the carton, smoking and refusing to exercise beyond walking to the refrigerator. That isn’t the idea. The idea is to let ourselves go in the direction of our heart’s flow toward its life. The idea is to let our heart have its life. We all have a bent, a lean, a tendency toward some things and away from others (And I’m not talking potato chips and ice cream here). We override our innate tendency toward our heart’s true love to our long-term, one might say eternal, detriment. We refuse to let ourselves go. It’s too outlandish, too expensive, too absurd, too far removed from what we are supposed to do, or not do. The excuse list is long, one might say eternal. We have good reasons for not being who our heart needs us to be. If you are going to override something, override your refusal to be who your heart is calling you to be! Let yourself go! Experience being alive before you die! 11/16/2011
  150. King of the Pond, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We grant ourselves, each other (and all others) the benefit of the doubt and see where it goes. We would all do better if it weren’t for something. So, cut a little slack, grant a little grace, dish out a little kindness and see what happens. 11/16/2011

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Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters, three sons-in-law, and five granddaughters, and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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