12/27/2012 — 03/22/2013
- We are all Leaving Egypt—the land of bondage, the house of oppression, the place of enslavement to someone else’s idea of who we ought to be.
Egypt is the Wasteland, where everyone does what they are told. Where no one thinks for herself, for himself, or lives a life that could be mistaken for their own.
In the Wasteland, no one lives authentically. Everyone pretends, fakes it, follows orders or the crowd from the barn to the pasture and back to the barn, every day, all their life ling.
The Wasteland is the dwelling place of those who have lost their soul, who have no heart, who are the walking dead, stumbling through their life without direction, or purpose, or interest, or vision.
We have to leave Egypt to have a chance. We have to take a chance to have a chance. We have to turn our backs to the Wasteland and step into the Wilderness.
The Wilderness is where we come alive. In the Wilderness, we find our own way by seeing what we see, and hearing what we hear, and thinking what we think, and smelling what we smell, and tasting what we taste, and liking what we like, and knowing what we know, and doing what we can do the way we can do it…
In the Wilderness, we find ourselves, our soul, our heart, our vision, our interest, our enthusiasms, our life. In the Wilderness, as “in the desert, we can remember our name, ‘cause there ain’t none there for to give us no pain.”
But, there is pain. The pain of awakening. The pain of birth. The pain of realization. The pain of contradictions and conflict and choice and decision. The pain of growing up.
We grow up or we go to hell. And create hell for all of those about us when we refuse the task of growing up, which is also hell. The difference is that growing up is hell with hope and life at the other end—the Promised Land. And refusing to grow up is just hell and a return to Egypt.
The Wilderness forces all of this upon us, and we discover who we are and what we are made of and whether we have what it takes to live the life that is our life to live and prepare the way of the Lord—the coming one who is hidden away in our own Self, struggling to come forth in our own life, there in the Wilderness between Egypt and the Land of Promise.
- Reedy Fork Sunset Panorama B 01 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 14, 2012 — It takes time. We cannot hurry our arrival in the Land of Promise—The full realization/expression of who we are, of the Self we are asked to be. We grow into that Self, gradually, over the long course of our life and, perhaps, beyond.
How long before I become a photographer. Of course, I already AM a photographer, just as I am, and you are, already who I will, who you will, be. But, how long before I become accomplished, complete? The—my-ideal photographer? The road is long.
There are two words which describe equally well, one might say, “Precisely,” what I do when I go out with the camera looking for photos—looking for something to catch my eye. The words are: Play and Practice.
I play with the camera. I practice with the camera. I learn as I play and practice. I forget what I learned and learn it some more as I continue to play and practice.
Us with our life is like me with my camera. We step into our life to play and to practice. To play at living, at being alive, at being who we are within the context and circumstances of our life. We learn, forget, learn some more.
There are no grade books, no grades, no hell in the wings for those who don’t make the grade, just more play, more practice, more seeing how things work, more understanding our gifts, our art, our business, where we belong, what we are about, how best to be about it. Play. Practice. But.
It is not to be discounted, dismissed, taken for granted, ignored, treated lightly, with contempt and disdain. I honor the camera and my relationship with the camera. To me, it is a sacred thing. Same with my life. Same with you and your life.
We honor our life by living it lovingly, caringly, with consciousness, awareness and consideration. We cannot live any old way. I cannot take a photo of something that hasn’t caught my eye. I cannot close my eyes and snap away and claim to be playing, practicing. It matters how we live. Nothing matters more.
- I feel the need to explain. The 10,000 (eventually, if I live long enough) Reedy Fork sunsets.
There is enough of a difference at the same location each time I go to stir my interest. And it is the same location because it is the best—actually, the only acceptable—sunset location I know of in Guilford County. And it is thirty minutes from my back door to taking a photo at Reedy Fork.
I am not selling photographs for a living. I am learning to take photographs by playing, by practicing, with the camera—and Reedy Fork is a great place to play and practice.
Frequent, steady, reliable, continuing and on-going camera play/practice is essential to developing photographic skills. You cannot not play a musical instrument and be a musician. Michael Jordan practiced basketball all the way to the end of his career. We can’t put the camera on a shelf between trips to exotic locations and scenic wonders. Yet, most of us do not live with a backyard that excites our eye. We can snap the shutter but we cannot take a photograph if we don’t feel it first.
So, when we find a few places a short drive from home where we “feel it,” we have to go there a lot. To play and practice. To honor the muse, revere the art, to be becoming as good as we can imagine being at what we love to do.
- Reedy Fork Sunset B 06 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 15, 2012 — “There is no competition in music (Or words to that effect),” saith Daniel Dareus (The Michael Myquist character) in the Swedish film, “As It Is In Heaven.” We don’t do music to be the best there’s ever been, or will be. We do music because we must, and we do it as well as we can imagine doing it because we must.
What must YOU do is the question. What is YOUR art, your ART, is the question.
An aside inserts itself: That’s two questions claiming to be THE question. If you have been with me for a while, you know that I am all over getting to the bottom of it, of all of it, of it all, and that questions are the beasts we ride to the core, where we will meet, of course, more questions.
We ask all the questions that beg to be asked, and question the answers. Every question is THE question. So I say that a lot. This is THE question and that is THE question. Well, which is it? Which is THE question? That’s the question.
Back to the question. What is your art? What must you do? You don’t decide, you know. Our art chooses us as surely as “the wand chooses the wizard.” And, our art is as magical as any wizard’s wand—transforming us and all those we touch with it’s wonder and grace.
We are all graced by our art. The community is graced by the art of each member of the community, which is why we have no business asking each person to leave their art at the door if they would belong to the community, if they would be a part of the family.
How many families or churches or fill-in-the-blank have excommunicated their members for being themselves? For being true to themselves? For practicing their art the way their art demanded to be practiced? Because it wasn’t kosher? Acceptable? The right kind of art done the way it is supposed to be done?
Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased have abandoned their art, forsaken it, betrayed it and have become art critics, in the worst sense of the term. Don’t let them stop you from doing what you must do or die!
“When you leave home to follow your heart, the birds of the air will plaster you with their poop. Don’t even pause to wipe it off.”—Native American wisdom from Joseph Campbell
- Reedy Fork Sunset D 01 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 30, 2012 — It takes a lot of looking to be able to see. If you don’t look, how can you expect to see? If you want to see you have to look.
What do you look at? What do you look for? How we look, as in what we look at and what we look for—not as in “Don’t I look sharp in this turtleneck?”—determines what we see. If we want to improve our seeing, we have to improve our looking.
We have to look consciously, intentionally. We have to look in ways that take our looking into account. We have to look at our looking if we want to see.
I’ve suggested this before—show of hands here, how many took me up on it? Google “uncritical inference test” and take a half-dozen or so as a way of opening up the way you look at things, particularly your inferences and assumptions.
We have to look at our inferences and assumptions in order to see them. There isn’t much space between an inference and an assumption and a projection. It’s all cooked up between our ears and then “seen” as though it is “out there” in the world of objective—as in measurable, weigh-able, countable, smell-able, touchable, taste-able reality. It isn’t. It’s all in our head.
In order to see what’s “out there” and what’s “in here,” we have to look at what we think we see. We have to inspect it, examine it, poke it, prod it, sniff it, bite it and see if it is as real as we think it is. We have to look at our looking. See?
- Reedy Fork Sunset D 05 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 30, 2012 — There is nothing in it for us beyond the living of it, beyond the experience of it. If you can understand that, accept that, embrace that, you have it made, and are as enlightened as you need to be.
What do you think Jesus got out of it? Or the Buddha? Or the Dali Lama? They are revolutionaries who transformed the world by the way they lived in the world without deriving any benefit from the revolution they led. They all lived with pain, suffering, injustice, stupidity and death.
What do you think there is to get? What benefit would make it all worth your time and effort? What’s the payoff you think would be acceptable? What do you think being enlightened would do for you?
It would enable you to make your peace with the pain of life, of your life, of living, of being alive. Period. It would enable you to live the life that is your life to live within the conditions and circumstances that define and limit your life, your choices, your options. I hope that’s what you have in mind because that’s all there is to it: Being alive in the time and place of our living.
I know when the Blue Heron at the Bog Garden is about to fly. I’m learning to read the clouds and gauge the quality of the quality of the sunset. I know these things by going often to the Bog Garden and watching the Blue Heron, by going often to Reedy Fork and watching the sunset.
The discipline of opening myself to the time and place of my living is bringing me to life there, enabling me to be alive there, providing me with the experience of life in the time left for living. I’m seeing things I would never have seen if I had not gone looking.
We all have to look at the things that catch out eye. It wouldn’t do for all of you to gather at the Bog Garden, or at Reedy Fork. But you all have something that needs you to look at it, to see it, to appreciate it, revere it, honor it. In so doing, you bring life to life in your living. You become alive. And, seeing, you live in ways that transform the world—your world, all worlds.
- Wood Duck 02 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 31, 2012 — A stream doesn’t know where it’s going but it doesn’t quit. It trusts itself to its guide—that would be gravity—and doesn’t let anything stop it, flowing over, under, around and through obstacles and obstructions on its way to wherever it will be when it gets there.
So much for having a goal and a plan and a strategy for effecting the plan and achieving the goal. Trust yourself to your guide—that would be your instinct and intuition and feelings—and go!
Trouble is is it instinct or addiction? Cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and sugar (the list is long) create competing urges within and we do not know what is directing our path or guiding our boat on its path through the sea. When we do not know whether to trust our feelings or where they are coming from, two things help us sort things out: Time and our dreams.
Time will tell. All it takes is time. It all comes clear with time. If we don’t know if the voice is “of God” or “of the Devil,” we wait to see. We wait it out. We wait for a sign. We wait. And attend our dreams.
Our dreams are the language of the Unconscious. Learning to listen to our dreams is the most direct way of attending the other world. Dreams are context and person centered. That is to say your dreams are YOUR dreams and the same dream dreamed at 20 and at 60 would mean different things. There is no blanket, one size fits all, method of dream interpretation.
Start simply by paying attention to your dreams. Keep a Dream Journal. Write them down when you wake up. Pay attention to dream themes that recur over time (that word again). See what you make of them.
A general rule for understanding dreams is to see them as compensation for our conscious attitudes and behavior. A dream that has you showing up for a test without being prepared, for example, may be telling you to loosen up, let some things go. You tend toward perfectionism, obsession and compulsion. If you dream you are driving in a car with breaks that don’t work, you may be living recklessly, ignoring “stop signs” in your relationships or at work.
Taking your time and listening to your dreams are the best ways I know of evaluating your feelings and your sense of what needs to be done. Look for confirmation, affirmation, direction if you are not sure your feelings can be trusted. There is no hurry. You have the rest of your natural life, and perhaps eternity to work it all out.
- The Landing — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 31, 2012 — We’ve got rhythm. Or, if we don’t, we know we don’t got rhythm. We know when we are in tune, in sync, in harmony, aligned and at one with our life—and when we are not.
Why do we push ahead, keep doing, the things that are off key for us? The things we have no business doing? What is our business? What isn’t our business? Who knows better than us?
There is being on track, on the beam, at-one with our life, and there is being off the track, off the beam, at-odds with our life—and we know which is which and where we are at any point in our life.
How to get from off the beam to on the beam is the question. To do that we have to quit doing what we are doing and do something else instead. What do we quit doing? What do we start doing? What’s our best guess about the quitting and the starting?
Most of the time we know what to do, we just don’t want to do it. We don’t want to do what is hard, what asks hard things of us. We want to do what is soft, easy, trouble-free.
“We only want two things, Jim,” says my bud Ogie Overman, “soft and easy.” The Cyclops loves that about us. It makes his job soft and easy. He doesn’t have to show up for work most days. We do his work for him, keeping ourselves off the track, off the beam, at-odds with our life.
The only thing standing between us and the Promised Land, where we live fulfilling our mission to apprehend, bring forth, express and experience who we are, is us. We are the Cyclops—“the marble and the chisel.” What are we going to do about us?
It’s time to pull up the chairs, don’t you think? Sit down? Talk things through? Work it out? Here’s a hint for you: If we could will ourselves past the Cyclops within, we would have done it long ago.
Negotiation and compromise, kid. Negotiation and compromise. And, ask for the help you need—if you are serious about taking the help that is offered. If you are not serious, what’s it going to take for you to be serious? About living the life that is yours to live? In the time left for living?
- Reedy Fork Sunset B 07 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 15, 2012 — The freedom to have an opinion, a perspective, and express it without having to defend it, justify it, explain it or excuse it is one of the hallmarks of my idea of the right kind of community—the right kind of company.
The questions we would be asked would be the right kind of questions, questions for clarification, exploration, rumination—questions with more of a walkabout in mind than probing for weaknesses or scoring points for the prosecution.
The freedom of our own perspective is the hope of the world. It was the cornerstone of the American Revolution, the driving force behind colonization, and is solidly ensconced in the Bill of Rights. But it isn’t widely encouraged or practiced.
People are told what to think and inhibited from thinking for themselves at every turn. Commercial advertisement does not want us thinking for ourselves. It wants us buying what it is selling.
I see the arts as the last holdout for individual expression. The culture would make mass consumers of us all. The arts are counter-cultural to the core. Of course there is a merry dance. Artists have to market their work. Franklin W. Dixon, the creator of the Hardy Boys mysteries hated what he did for a living, writing what he thought of as “pulp fiction,” instead of the masterpieces of literature he thought he had in him.
We have to work it out, that word again, individually, in our own way, knowing that the individual expression of one’s own perspective is the hope of the world in every age.
- Two Mallards — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 30, 2012 — It’s a mess, and we find the way through—a way through. THE way may exist. THE right way. THE optimal way. THE way with the best outcome for everyone concerned. But. Trying to be sure the way we find is THE way expands the mess to completely unmanageable proportions and we collapse in total surrender, which is just another way of dealing with the mess. But. Not THE way for sure.
We are digressing here, and digression is just another way of dealing with the mess. Wander around in a digression and a way appears in the wilderness. Things open before those who walkabout among the options and possibilities, and they find a door where they would never have thought there would be a door, and things shift, and they feel better, and are strengthened for the journey and are able to go on. I already feel better, and I’ve only digressed twice in two paragraphs.
Back to the first digression. Finding THE way is like finding THE college major or THE career choice or THE job or THE spouse or partner for life. Just find one that will do and see where it goes. You will never make a decision that you couldn’t have made better with more time and more information. But. We do what we do and then deal with having done it, and it’s a mess. And we are back where we started.
It’s a mess. And we find a way through by stepping into it and looking around, wading around, slogging around, swimming around, sometimes round and round. But. After a while or two in the mess things begin to come into focus. Begin to click into place. Begin to make sense in a messy sort of way. But. That is better than nonsense any day, and we begin to find a way out of the mess just by being immersed in it for a while or two.
Jim’s rule of thumb here is “Just go live it and don’t try to figure it out. Don’t try to think up what to do to avoid that and make that happen. It will all become clear with time. Step into it and see what you can do with it. Every mess becomes somehow manageable with time. Sometimes it’s a long time, but no mess lasts forever. There is always another one waiting to take this one’s place. And we’ll do just fine there, too. Dive in and see if I’m not right about this.”
- Barred Owl 01 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 02, 2013 — I dreamed I was setting a snapping free from a tight box. I think I am the turtle and my task is to set me free. To get out of the box.
I dreamed I was eating a chocolate cake what wasn’t tasty. I thought as I dreamed it, “Why am I doing this?” I see a connection with the turtle here.
Based on these two dreams, I would say my goal is to be free by allowing myself to do what is needed in the here and now of my living.
No boxes. No eating things, no doing things, that don’t taste right, that don’t suit my taste, that aren’t me.
Dreams are great this way. Dreams come in tandem, or in groups, flocks, herds until we see what they are saying, until we get it. Then it’s something else.
How can we set ourselves free from our fear in order to live in ways that are right for us?
Sit with the question. Meditate on it. Commune with it. Ask for guiding dreams to help you explore it. Do not hurry an answer.
Live with the question. “How can we set ourselves free from our fear in order to live in ways that are right for us?” Become friends with the question. See where it leads, what it stirs up, what occurs to you as you ask it, wonder about it, play around with it.
Or, better, dream your own dreams—and play with them.
- Bur-Mil Moon 02 — Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC, December 14, 2012 — The contrast, or contradiction, between who we are and what is being asked of us can become so great as to be noxious and intolerable. There is some pain we cannot stand. It might appear to be as nothing to other people, with different perspectives, points of view, ways of accessing reality—but it is our world and only we live in it.
My wife can take things I cannot bear. Enjoys things I detest. We are different that way. And it works in reverse. I can handle 6 AM with delight. She sees it as punishment and drudgery.
The rule is simple: Stay away from where you do not belong. I have to stay away from cigarette smoke. My father was a smoker and I had enough of that early on.
Know what you cannot handle and do not handle it. You have boundaries, borders, landmarks. “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmarks,” is a bit of Old Testament wisdom not found in Proverbs. It can also be read as, “Honor your own landmarks and keep them from being overrun or overgrown.”
Know what you cannot do, and don’t do it. Know what you can do for only three days at a time, with a long time between times, and never do it for more than three days at a time.
Seeing clearly begins with seeing yourself clearly. The more visible you become to you, the more visible you become to everyone else. It’s a step in bringing yourself forth in the time and place of your living. It is not easy and you may not be well received but. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover the full wonder of you, wondering why it took so long.
- Banks Presbyterian Church B&W — Marvin, NC, December 24, 2012 — I’m making bread. After a long hiatus. Bread of any kind hasn’t been on my diet for nearly a year, and homemade bread has been off for twenty years. Carbs. Cholesterol. Calories, calories, calories. There’s a small loaf in the oven along with 8 large cinnamon rolls.
Two reasons. I love cinnamon rolls. I can make a better cinnamon roll than I can buy.
The advantage of buying them is that I can buy them one at a time with a long time between times. So. It will be a long time between this bartch and the next one.
The rule here is: Sin boldly and do penance equally boldly. And don’t kid the kidder, which would be ourselves.
- Reedy Fork Sunset C 03 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 28, 2012 — I dreamed a Russian General was naming the three most influential men in Russian history and Dwight Eisenhower was one of them. I wondered “Why Dwight Eisenhower?” but didn’t ask the question because I was interested in the flow of the General’s remarks. All I can remember about the dream is that I did not ask the question.
Ask the question that begs to be asked! I don’t care how it disrupts the flow of the conversation or or life! Belong to the questions! Ask the questions! All of them! Every one you can imagine asking! Be impertinent enough to ask the pertinent questions—the one you think are pertinent, that seem important—every time.
Parsifal, in the story of The Search for the Holy Grail, did not ask “What ails thee?” “What’s the trouble?” “What’s the problem here?” And missed his chance to heal the Grail King (by enabling him to talk about his plight, explore his problem, find his own solution?), and spent the rest of the story in the search for redemption.
Questions are redemptive, transformative, and, of course, disruptive. Questions are thresholds opening the way to the future, to the Land of Promise, to Life. Refusing to ask the questions that need to be asked is death. Sealing us into a life of the living dead. Keeping things as they are: stifling, rigid, frozen in place.
What questions need to be asked that you aren’t asking?
What questions are you afraid to ask? In what other ways is your fear of living keeping you from being alive? Who holds the key to life? You do. Well?
- Barred Owl 04 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 4, 2012 — It’s the sidetracks that get us there. All those mistakes you have made? Critical steps in your development. Every one. Even that one. You know the one I mean. That one. Crucial to your being here, now. Where would you be without having made it, all of them? You wouldn’t be here, now—and we are glad to have you with us. And I am glad to be with you all.
We are here because of where we have been and what has happened to us and how that impacted us—and one thing leads to another, and here we are. And we wouldn’t be here without the sidetracks, the missed signs, the wrong turns that turned out to be exactly right in a strange, inexplicable, kind of way.
So ask all the questions—the ones that don’t seem to fit, but are begging to be asked, even though you know know why and it doesn’t make sense. And all those asides I throw at you—they are not without their own sense of direction, and they usually wind their way back to the point, after making other points, maybe related, maybe not, to the main point, but important all the same.
Don’t mind being sidetracked, distracted, drawn off, away, for a while. Go! Go! See what gifts lie down those roads off the beaten path! See what gold might be found there! it’s all apart of the trail, of the journey.
Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” See where it goes. It may make all the difference.
- January Blossoms — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 4, 2012 — We adjust our stride to accommodate the terrain. We don’t get to dial up the terrain. “Make mine firm and flat, would you—and straight, with nice places to eat along the way, and no surprises I’m not ready for.”
I particularly dislike the surprises I’m not ready for—not in the mood for. Surprises out of the corral, running wild, trampling down hopes, dreams, plans and wrecking lives at will.
If your phone is like mine, it rings with a bad to good news ratio of about 4 to 1. Maybe higher. And we adjust our stride to accommodate the terrain.
Adjusting our attitude is another thing. It helps if people don’t try to hurry us along. It takes time, getting ourselves adjusted to a day, a world, a life different from the one we had our eye on.
”Okay, now what?” When we get to the place of being able to ask the question, we know we are on the way. But. It cannot be rushed. We have to square ourselves up with how things are in order to step into the gap between how they are and how we wish they were—how we want them to be—and do there the work that has to be done, the way it needs to be done, the way it needs us to do it.
We don’t just snap back in place and pick back up where we were before the terrain changed. We sometimes drop a stitch or two. We sometimes have to lie there a while before we can come to terms with letting come what’s come and letting go what’s gone.
We should give ourselves time. “A period of adjustment,” call it. “I’m adjusting myself to a terrain change.” “I’m getting used to a new world, Golda.”
In the meantime, we give ourselves to the things that calm our core, and restore our souls, and recover our peace. It helps to make a list of those things to help us remember what they are when the terrain changes radically and the ground drops out from under us.
- Northern Shovelers 01 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 5, 2012 — I feel better just driving down the driveway with the camera in the car going to look for photos. Fortifies my soul. Restores my peace. Grounds me in that which is good, at least for me.
You have to know what does these things for you, and do it often. If it’s playing the drums, play the drums. Loudly. If it’s riding a horse, ride a horse. If it is sitting with a book and your favorite music…
You are in charge of the care and tending of you. The world is a tough gig. If you’re looking for someone to take care of you and treat you right, look in the mirror. And get with the program. Taking care of you the way you need to be taken care of.
I walk and write every morning and make lunch for me and my wife and take a nap after lunch and go to the bog garden and to Reedy Fork in the afternoon when it isn’t raining, and have coffee with a bud when it is. Those things are my gift to me. I’ll make exceptions for the doctor and dentist, but otherwise, you take a number and wait for me to get around to you.
I can get by with this because I’m retired and the kids are on their own. But, I’ve known what needed to be done for years, and I made timely gestures all along the way, caring for me, tending me, driving out of the driveway, even then, with the camera in the car looking for photos.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Two Geese Flying 01 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 18, 2012 — All we are doing here is waking up. Seeing. Making connections. Allowing the contradictions to work their magic on us and bring us to our senses, enabling us to live amid them as those who know the wonder of living amid the contradictions as sources of life, and light and peace anyway, nevertheless, even so.
It isn’t going to all fall into place. We aren’t going to one day see why things happen as they do and be thrilled. Stop wondering why this, why that, why things like this or that are always happening to me. Why something happens isn’t nearly as important as what we are going to do with it, about it, now that it has happened.
“Everything happens for a reason” isn’t nearly as helpful as “Nothing is wasted by those who are looking for how they can use what they have to do what can be done to make things more like they ought to be than they are for themselves and the entire commonwealth.”
We step into the mess and make things better than they would be without us. We redeem, atone, transform, heal, restore, replenish, make whole. We interpret, spin, clarify, illuminate, perceive, center, reconcile, integrate, make peace—in each situation as it arises, for as long as there are situations. We order chaos to the extent that it can be ordered.
We do it by bearing the pain of seeing, hearing, understanding and bringing what we have to offer to bear on how things are—no matter what they are. And, when we get tired of it, worn down by it, we put the camera in the car and go look for photos, taking pictures which themselves are healing for those who have eyes to see—which need be only the person taking the pictures.
- January Shoreline 02 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 6, 2013 — What, exactly, do you have to lose? What, exactly, do you have to gain? Your answer to these two questions tells the tale.
Our answer to these two questions says what we are willing to put up with and what we are willing to put up with to do something about what we are not willing to put up with. When what is to be gained overshadows what is to be lost, we move—we act—we do what needs to be done, no matter what.
Knowing what we are willing to put up with, and what we are not willing to put up with, and what we are willing to do to do something about what we are not willing to put up with is the matrix within which we live.
What do we have to gain? What do we have to lose? What do I think the answers should be?
Why should you care what I think about what YOU have to gain or lose? Who am I to do your thinking for you? What do YOU think, is the question, and what do you think about your thinking?
“Oh, we don’t want to think! Don’t ask us to think? We aren’t going to think! Just tell us what to think!” Well. If that’s what you think, what do you think about what you think?
Thinking about what we think and going where that leads us is taking up the Quest, and we don’t have to physically go anywhere to do it. But. It can be agonizing just sitting in our recliner, or laying in our be.
There is no growing up without sacrifice, without the right kind of pain, suffered in the right kind of way.
- Pied Bill Grebes at Sunset 04 — Reedy Fork, Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 06, 1013 — When we give ourselves up—hand ourselves over to—the way that is right for us, that is life for us, things happen that serve the way. Joseph Campbell says there will be doors where we thought there were no doors, and hands to help us when we thought we were all alone. But. Don’t think this is easy.
Things also tend to happen which test our resolve, our resiliency, our loyalty, our allegiance, and our faithfulness to the way that is right for us, to the life that is life for us. The Cyclops meets us at every turn.
So we cannot be too quick to declare ourselves to be on the right track when things go our way, and we cannot be too quick to declare ourselves to be off track and lost in the wasteland when things don’t go our way. It’s tricky knowing whether to keep going and ride it out, play it out, see it through, or quit, turn around and try a different course.
We have to persevere for a while. Time will tell, so take it, our time, that is. Look for the signs. Listen to our dreams. Trusting ourselves to intuit, divine, what is good for us, what is right for us, and what is not, in the time left for living.
- January Shoreline 01 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 6, 2013 — There is no competition in art. We all are artists in our own way, doing what we do for the joy of our soul.
Rumi said, “The soul is here for its own joy.” And, we are here to serve our soul. When we are doing our thing—the thing that we do, that only we can do the way we can do it—our soul comes to life and is alive.
Mostly, our soul is dormant, dying, dead waiting for us to bring forth the gift that is ours to give and serve it upon the earth. Our gift is of soul and is soul, and exists to be expressed and exhibited and waved about.
Mostly, what we express and exhibit and wave about is our own excess and lack of respect for limits of any kind. We call it “having fun,” or “having a good time.” We like to party as compensation for being mostly dead throughout our life—for having no life—for being alive only when we are drunk, high, and acting out. Our soul is rolling its eyes, wondering what is it going to take to wake us up.
Waking up is growing up is squaring up to the difference between how things are and how they ought to be is standing up and doing what needs to be done about it (that difference) in each situation as it arises with the gifts that are ours to give is bringing forth our art in the service of soul, never minding what the critics have to say.
We cannot bring soul to life without playing, laughing and having the time of our life—a time that is good in the best sense of the word, and more fun than we ever thought was possible. We are artists living for the joy of our soul. And, if we are not, we ought to be.
- Barred Owl 05 B&W — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 4, 2013 — We have to help people help us. The helping hands that are there when we thought we were alone can only be helpful if we receive the help offered. No one can help us against our will, against our willingness to be helped.
People are bad to say (That might be a deep south phrase, “bad to do this or that.” It means they do it well and often. A person who is “bad to drink” is drunk a lot) they want help and that they will do anything to change their situation for the better—except, of course, the one thing that is required. For the alcoholic to stop drinking, for instance, or the obese person to stop eating and start exercising, etc.
To help people help us means being willing to change—to stop doing what is not helpful and to start doing what is helpful. I knew a woman once who wanted a job “in the worst way,” but she wasn’t about to wear hose to the bank job offer or put up with kids who didn’t do their home work with the school job offer. Makes me wonder what “in the worst way” meant to her. Not what it means to me.
All of which begs us to ask the question, “What are the characteristics of good help-ee candidates?” Sit with the question and see what comes to mind for you—and work those attributes into your way with life as you take up the way that you will not walk without being able to receive the help you need all along the way.
- Earth Shadow Panorama 01 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Access, Greensboro, NC, January 7, 2013 — We are not awake to the things we don’t want to face. Another way to say this is, “We see (or hate) in other people the things we (take your pick of ways to finish the phrase: fear, deny, can’t accept, would be appalled at, etc.) in ourselves.”
When we wake up to how things are, we wake up to how things are in ourselves, to how things are with us.
We can come at it in reverse. We can use other people as mirrors to our own soul. The things we love in others are things we value in ourselves but don’t believe are there, or things that actually aren’t there as often or as much as they need to be. The things we hate/fear/don’t like in others are things that are present in ourselves but which we deny, dismiss, discount (As in, “I am a bit over-weight, you are somewhat bulging at the waist, and he/she/it is obnoxiously obese.”)
So. We read how we are seeing others—how we are reacting to others—and allow that to show us what is true about ourselves. Then we can become acute observers of our behavior and catch ourselves in the act of being more loveable than we might hope and more detestable than we imagine or believe.
And then begins the process of transformation. When we wake up, we reclaim our positives and we rehabilitate our negatives—turning the things we are ashamed of into strengths and servants of soul.
It’s important to not try to get rid of our negative capacities, but to wake up to them, be aware of them. On one level, they make us one with all people in a Thou Art That kind of way, disappearing our judgmental distance and the Superior/Inferior game instantly. On another level, they have their rightful place in our repertoire of responses to the situation as it develops. “Everything in its own time.” There will be a time and place for our Jerk Side to shine. We wouldn’t want to be bereft of the very qualities that are needed to serve the common good, no matter how bad we think of them as being.
Be awake to your capabilities, and draw on them as necessary for the good of soul and of the whole.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Reedy Fork Sunset F 02 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 8, 2012 — Sometimes, what is good for us is bad for us. This is called a conflict of interest. We have to work it out. Conflicts of interest, within and without, are unavoidable. We have to work them out.
We like a simple yes or not, good or bad, right or wrong, and think there is something wrong with us for our oppositional take on things. I’m here to sell you on the importance of contradiction in our life.
“Without contraries is no progression,” said William Blake (In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). Conflict, discord, discrepancy, disharmony, ambivalence, etc. are essential to our growing up, to our waking up, to our standing up and doing what needs to be done about seeing value in all sides. We have to choose, to decide—and therein lies the agony that is at the heart of life.
Jesus in Gethsemane is every one of us in the critical moments, at the turning points, of our life. In bearing the pain—the agony—of decision, we grow up, wake up, and act.
Opposition exists on all levels of life. Opposition to the experience and expression of the unfolding of the Self in our life runs deeply, runs to the core, perhaps of the Self itself and certainly within the psyche. And it is the place of consciousness to bring the conflicts to light, and bear the agony of our own depths.
I have used the word agony three times, not counting this one, now. Paul uses it in his letter to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…” The word translated “race” is the Greek word agonae, agony. “I have run with perseverance the race that was set before me.” Again, “race” is “agonae,” agony.
Agony is the path to the Promised Land, called “the Kingdom of God” in the New Testament. It is the price we pay for bringing ourselves forth—and for bringing the life we are called to live, built to live, forth—in the life we are living. It is nothing we cannot do. It’s just a matter of working it out.
- Mallard in Flight 01 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 8, 2013 — Practice being alive today. Move toward life. Live toward life. Make a gesture—a symbolic act—toward life. Today.
No one knows how much time is left for living, so no one has any business wasting a minute of what we have, a second of it. It is the most precious of all that could claim the title. How can we live with having failed to be alive in the time left for living?
All of which begs the question: What to do?
Don’t do anything in panic mode. Being alive is being consciously alive—not being frantically, unknowingly, reactively alive. Being consciously alive is being conscious of our unconscious leanings and lovings. It is knowing what we know. It is being aware of—and consciously, deliberately, willfully trusting ourselves to—the drift of our soul. Here’s the catch: This takes time.
We move toward life by not doing anything.
We move toward life by simply sitting and being open to what needs to come to life within us and through us in the life we are living.
We move toward life by opening ourselves to the stirring of soul.
We move toward life by noticing what catches our eye and looking closer—and seeing what happens.
We are not in charge of our living. We are not “the captain of our ship, the master of our fate.” We are just along for the ride. We are the roadie, packing the luggage and carrying the equipment and waiting for directions to the next gig.
We begin to live by sitting quietly and listening—and moving slowly in the direction of what calls our name. And seeing where it goes.
- Reedy Fork Sunset F 01 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 8, 2013 — Self-confidence can easily go over into inflation, and arrogance and contempt for the opposition, or just those with whom we are living. It’s hard to keep the ratios just right.
I’m practicing taking flying duck photos. I could practice taking flying Kingfisher photos, but that would be ridiculous. The Kingfisher is to little, too fast, too up and down and too far away. Ducks are easier to manage. I have a chance with ducks.
To take a flying duck photo, I have to have one point of focus active in the center of the frame, and keep the duck in the center of the frame, and I have a beautifully focused flying duck photo every time. Except but only.
There is a stick in the water at the Bog Garden about 50 yards from where I stand. The stick does not move. I cannot keep it in the center of the frame. I move. My heart beats and the camera moves. My arms tire of holding the camera and the camera moves.
A beautifully focused flying duck photo is an accident of grace at work in my life. The duck flew itself into focus at precisely the right time.
This is what it is like trying to balance the ratios at work in our life. Enough self-confidence to step us forth into our life without going over into inflation, arrogance and contempt.
Lay out any value you aspire to on the table. Compassion, empathy, kindness, joy… Fill the table. Every one of those admirable qualities has an equally appalling extreme. How to be just enough the right way without being any of the wrong way is like trying to keep a flying duck in the center of the frame.
in order to have a chance, we have to take it not seriously. We have to laugh, and shake our heads, and try again. And hope that sometimes the duck flies into focus at the right time.
- Clouds at Sunset — Reedy Fork, Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 16, 2012 — When the Buddha named desire as the root of suffering, he was saying we wouldn’t suffer if we didn’t care about what is important to us.
An inscription upon a New England tombstone says the same thing: “It is a terrible thing to love what death can touch.”
I’ll take caring with suffering over being immune to, and untouched by, the impact of life upon love.
Caring about—loving—that which is important to us is life. Take that away from us and we may as well be dead, and are dead—just waiting for the coroner to make it official.
Suffering is the price we pay for being alive. If the Journey weren’t important, didn’t matter, the Cyclops would be nothing. That which stands between us and what matters most would be unable to find where he belonged—but it would be an empty victory.
Artists suffer their art—they pay a price to serve their art, working at it to get it right long past where any normal human being would have quit and gone to bed. Edward Hicks painted “Peaceable Kingdom” over fifty times trying to get it right. Think that didn’t matter to him? Think he didn’t suffer his art? Think he didn’t care? Think he and the Cyclops didn’t go round and round every day? Think he would have given it up for a nice job with good pay that was free of pain?
The life that needs us to live it is not free of suffering. The life that needs us to live it will take us into the depths of Gethsemane and across the face of Golgotha. And, believe it or not, we will be glad to go—because it is LIFE, and we will be dead long enough.
- Wetlands Geese 01 Panorama — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, January 11, 2013 — Trust yourself to the drift of your soul. Do what you can imagine doing to align yourself with—to live—the life that is right for you.
You are in good hands. Those hands would be your own. You know what is good for you and what is not. What is life and what is death.
What do you enjoy? What do you do for the sake of doing it? How often do you do it? How much time do you spend doing what you enjoy?
Your deep joy and your soul’s deep joy are likely to be the same joy. You and your soul should share the experience of joy more often, and see where it goes.
- Lake Jeanette Fog 02 B&W — Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — Do not try to think your way to the life that is yours to live—to the life that needs you to live it—to the life that only you can life. Live your way there!
Your life is an experiment in living, in being alive. You will know all you need to know about living your life by living your life. You will know what works and what does not work but. This is where thinking comes in. You will have to think about what isn’t working about what does not work.
Does it not work because it isn’t right for you or because it isn’t right for someone else? Is it that you better not do that again because you hated every minute of it or because it made someone else really unhappy? Think about why it didn’t work and adjust your living accordingly.
Maybe you don’t ever do that again. Maybe you do it again differently. Maybe you move far away from the person who is trying to direct your life. You have to think these things through. You have to work them out.
Working it out is a thinking thing. Finding your life and living it is a living thing. You live your way to your life and then you think out the details in enabling you to live it.
Knowing what your life is and getting things in place that will allow you to live it require two different skill sets: Feeling and Thinking. You have to develop your abilities in both areas to have a chance at having a life you enjoy living. Oh, and courage. We don’t get far from Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased without courage.
- Wetlands Geese 01 Detail — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, January 11, 2013 — Help comes from strange places sometimes, from unexpected origins. We cannot predict who, or what, will be helpful and who or what will not be. Some of the best trained and most educated can be the least helpful. So, be looking for help at all times, from all directions, in all weather conditions.
Be particularly alert when things are at their darkest, hope is lost, and you are sure that you are beyond any chance of being helped. Of course, the help you get may not be the help you have in mind—so it helps to have nothing in mind.
Be open to help in all forms from all sources. And be ready to receive what comes imaginatively and apply it creatively instead of measuring it by conventional standards of what is helpful and what is not.
Help is often what we make of it, of what is offered—how we take it, and what we turn it into. Which means we are not as helpless as we think, and have a part to play in our own recovery.
- Grebes at Sunset/Reedy Fork Sunset G — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 12, 2013 — The owl has his/her (It’s hard to tell about owls unless you are an owl) flow, the geese have their flow, the rabbits and the coyotes have their flow, you and I have our flow. Of all the things that experience flow, who is most likely to be out of sync with theirs?
It is part of the owl’s flow to disrupt the flow of the mouse. It is part of the coyote’s flow to disrupt the flow of the rabbit.This is part of the larger flow of the natural world, which has evolved in a way that supports both the flow of the parts and the flow of the whole. When the flow is disrupted, there is upheaval for a time while the flow waits to resume again—and does so, on a different stage, but in ways similar enough to be recognizable.
Every living thing has its flow and lives best in synch with it. Of all living things, which disrupts their flow intentionally, deliberately, with their eyes on better things? Or which gives up theirs completely, irrevocably, hoping to avoid worse things? Which neglects or abandons what is right for them in pursuit of what they think they must have?
Our flow may be disrupted but it cannot be denounced, betrayed. No one lives long—certainly, no one lives well—cut off from their flow, regardless of the glory and glamor of their life style.
- Wood Duck 05 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 31, 2012 — Live as much in the flow of your life as you can manage, given the nature and circumstances of your living. And let that be that.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Trees in the Fog B&W — Laurel Bluff Trail, Reedy Fork Access, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — Conflict is a wonderful thing. Where would we be without it? In a world where everything always went our way, we would never grow up, confront opposition, or be aware of anything contrary to the prevailing idea of how things should be. “Our way” would just be the commonly accepted way of doing things.
It is hard for me to imagine individual Amish having their own, personal, unique way of doing anything. “The Amish Way” is the way things are done. Tribal thinking is incapable of expanding to think things the tribe has never thought. Innovation, invention, alteration, improvement, transformation, change are all out of the question. One cow follows another from the barn, to the pasture, back to barn forever.
Carl Jung said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” We grapple with contradiction, opposition, conflict. We live in the “field of action” between the way things are and the way things ought to be (or just the way we want things to be)–and bring ourselves forth in the process, being birthed by the process of being alive—becoming who we would have never been apart from the process of the Hero’s Journey (the Spiritual Quest, the Search for the Promised Land and the Holy Grail) and the hope of “laying down our burden down by the riverside.”
Our burden is our glory, our hope and our life. Without the burden, we are as good as dead—no better than dead, deader than dead! So, Jesus could say, “If you want to be my disciple, pick up your cross daily and follow me.”
The bread of life is the bread of affliction. The cup of salvation is the cup of suffering. So, step consciously into the field of action and do your thing—and see what happens. You will participate in the making of a miracle, which will be you!
- Picnic Table 01 B&W — Lake Brandt Watershed Park, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — If you are going to do anything, do YOUR thing and see where it takes you and what it has to teach you along the way.
- Bur-Mil Park Pier B&W — Lake Brandt, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — Try making someone, yourself, say, care about something they don’t care about. Your best best is trying to make them pretend they care about what they don’t care about—to fake it, to act the part as though they, or you, were playing a role in a movie that had Oscar potential for you if you played your role really well. That’s as close as we can come to caring about things we don’t naturally, spontaneously, straight from the heart care about. We’re kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.
We may come to care about something we don’t care about if we act as though we do over time. I didn’t care about tennis the first few times I picked up a racket. My wife didn’t think much of me after the first date. Some things take a while. And, some things don’t have a chance. But, we can rise to any occasion for the short term. But, we can’t make happen what isn’t going to happen long term.
Knowing what we can ask for from ourselves and others—and what we have no business asking for—sets us up for a better relationship over time than we would have if we gave ourselves, or others, down the river for not liking whatever it is we don’t like no matter how many times it comes our way.
After a while, we have to say, “Okay. You don’t have to eat your green beans.” And let things be what they are.
- Fog Silhouette B&W — Piedmont Trail, Lake Brandt, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2012 — Carl Jung says, “Get out of the sheep and shepherd game. The shepherds are sheep looking for a shepherd—which means there are no shepherds. There are only sheep, gradually waking up over the course of their lives, helping one another with the process of seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, doing, being.” Or words to that effect.
The upshot is that we are all in this together. There are no authorities. No Know It All’s. The early Zen practitioners nailed it with, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!” Because the Buddha out there keeps us from finding and being the Buddha in here, and that ruins everything.
You are the one who knows what is right for you and what is wrong, what is good for you and what is bad, what is life for you and what is death. Sure, there are compromises and trade-offs, but you are smart enough to know when to make them and when to walk away.
So stop traipsing off in search of the latest guru with the shortest cut to the Promised Land. Sit with yourself until you get an inkling of what you need to do and do it, and see where it goes.
- Wetlands Geese 01 Detail B — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, January 11, 2013 — You have to pay the bills and you have to feed your soul. What you do to pay the bills probably won’t feed your soul but. Some of the bills you incur could feed your soul if you incur the right bills. Make sure you incur the right bills. Working in the service of the wrong bills is no way to live—no way to be alive anyway.
- Fog-Bound Grebe — Reedy Fork, Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — You know what is right for you and what is wrong, what is good for you and what is bad. What is right for you now, good for you now, within your present context and circumstances? Well?
- January Shoreline 03 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mill Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 8, 2013 — Don’t think in terms of achieving, accomplishing, acquiring, amassing, having, owning, going, doing—think in terms of reconciling, integrating, accepting, receiving, understanding, seeing, hearing, communing, being with, healing, making whole.
- January Shoreline 07 — Lake Brandt from the Piedmont Trail, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — How much of your life are you enjoying? There are legitimate restrictions which inhibit our being able to enjoy our life, and there are illegitimate restrictions which inhibit our being able to enjoy our life. “If I can’t eat as much ice cream and chocolate syrup as I want to, why bother with eating any? It would just be torturing myself!” Do you see how a legitimate restriction can easily go over into an illegitimate restriction?
Your have to be strong in your own service, in your own cause. You have to take care of yourself, look out for yourself, treat yourself with tender, loving, care. Treat yourself.
Or, maybe, you think the world is going to come by your house today and invite you to come outside and enjoy your life.
Every day that you fail to deeply enjoy some aspect of your life is a day that is wasted on you. A day your soul shrivels like a grape on its way to becoming a raisin.
Don’t give me the innocent, helpless, victim of circumstances defense. If you are not working overtime to enjoy what can be enjoyed about your life, you are a wimp in your own service, a wienie in your own cause, and your soul is a raisin wasting its time hoping for rehydration.
- Fence Row — Guildford County near Summerfield, NC, January 11, 2-13 — There is nothing wrong with us that growing up won’t fix.
Face it! Face it! Face it! Face it! That’s all the mantra we’ll ever need.
The ache of living has its source in our resistance to the experience of life.
We are what we love and we are what we hate. When we integrate what we love and what we hate with who we are we are ready for the next step, which is understanding that we are not one, we are two.
Inflation is thinking we are the Big One. Deflation is thinking we are the Little One. We are not either one. We are both.
Living in the world as it is—as we are—makes True Human Beings out of all of us.
- Flight 01 — Barred Owl, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 16, 2013 — The wisdom of the natural world—that would be instinct and intuition—is integrated with the light of human consciousness in True Human Beings, who bring forth the reconciliation of these opposites as a blessing and a grace for the common good.
Neither the wisdom of the natural world nor the light of human consciousness is ours to exploit for our own, personal, advantage. We do not live for ourselves. We live best when we live in the service of that which is greater than we are—which would collaborate with us for the good of the whole of which we are a part.
Each of us brings forth our gift, our art, our life as an addition to the “primal soup” which is the matrix from which we spring and to which we return—which is made richer by the contribution we make to it during the time we are alive.
- Wetlands Geese 06 — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, January 11, 2013 — Step consciously into your life each day. Allow it to bring forth what you have to offer in rising to every occasion and doing what needs to be done as only you can do it. Mix it up with your life. See what you can do with it. Make it show you what you got. Do your thing without having a stake in the outcome or anything to lose (Because what’s to lose except your chance to show your stuff and do your thing in the time left for living?). See where it goes. I’d bet you $20 if I still did that kind of thing that you’ll be amazed.
- Mallard in Flight 09 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 15, 2013 — We need each other to connect with ourselves. The quality of our relationships with other human beings improves the quality of our relationship with ourselves. Alone we just get crazy.
Together, we prop up one another, encourage one another, goad one another into giving it our best, why not, come on now, you can do better than that, show me what you can do, that’s the spirit, I knew you could do it.
And when we get old and lose ourselves reminiscing about the sorrows we have lived through and seen others living through and it takes our breath and we have to sit down under the weight of life remembered, it’s good to have someone sit with us and say, come on now, you can do it, I’ll help, and some hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll will help us both.
And we make another day, sorrows and all. That’s what I call being good for one another. May we all know what I’m talking about and practice being the right kind of presence in each others’ life!
- Flight 02, Barred Owl — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 16, 2013 — Live your life. Not the life someone else tells you to live. Not the life that is most likely to smooth your way and ease your living. Not the life that requires the least amount of effort, the least amount of trouble, the least amount of rocking the boat, making waves, turning over apple carts, and stomping on eggshells. Your life. The life in which you come alive. The life you relish, enjoy, love, delight in. The life in which you are you all the way to the core. You know the one I mean. Live it.
And when there are conflicts between it and all the other lives you could be living instead, work them out.
- Bur-Mil Pier 02 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — You are what you seek. Everything we seek “out there,” in the world of external, actual, tangible, apparent reality is a projection of what is “in here,” in the world of psychic, unconscious, apparently-not reality, and is striving to come forth through us in our life.
This is to say, if you are seeking love, become more loving. If you are seeking acceptance, become more accepting. If you are seeking justice, become more equitable and fair-minded. If you are seeking security and stability, become a secure, stable, emotional shelter for those who come your way. Get it?
Become aware of what your hunger is and feed the world.
- Greenway Bridge at Reedy Fork — Piedmont Trail, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — Being who we are in response to how things are—in light of how things need to be—is the act that transforms the world. Joseph Campbell said, “The influence of a vital person vitalizes.” The life of an alive person enlivens—and all the alive person does is live in relation to what is happening and what needs to happen in the time and place of her, of his, living.
When we live with integrity—in ways that are integral with who we are, what is happening and what needs to happen—our life resonates with the souls of others, and the spark of one ignites another and LIFE comes alive in the land.
It all starts with individuals being awake to how their life feels, to how it feels to be living the life they are living—and moving toward what feels right and away from what feels wrong—from what doesn’t fit to what does fit.
There is no instruction manual for this shift from where we are to where we need to be. No one can tell you when your shoes fit, or when your hat fits. Some things you have to trust yourself to know, and, if you don’t know, trust yourself to learn by living and seeing what happens, and living differently and seeing what happens, and deciding for yourself what works best in what situations.
We feel our way into who we are. We live our way there. We do not think or way there, or follow the black footprints laid out by our parents, or our religion or some ideology to who we are and how we need to be in each situation as it arises.
We “trust the force” arising within us, carrying us to who and how and where we need to be. We trust ourselves to the drift of our soul. We trust ourselves to know what is right for us and what is wrong—to know what needs to happen and what does not need to happen.
Just as leaves and flowers find the sunlight and ants find the picnic, we find our life and live it, and bless the world.
- Wetlands Geese 12 Panorama — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, January 11, 2013 — A friend said, “Jim, I’m on track on one level and the conditions under which I live are not the right conditions.” My life is right on one level and wrong on another.
This is called walking two paths at the same time. It is also called living with a foot in different worlds. It is also called working out the contradictions.
What we do to pay the bills is not good for us. The bills we incur enable us to do things that are good for us. We do what is good for us allows us to keep doing what is not good for us in order to do what is good for us. Sounds crazy until we try to do only what is good for us. Doing only what is good for us is bad for us. Try it. See how long you last.
- Two Trees — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, January 14, 2013 — What is your pain? What do you live to avoid facing? What is the agony that you will not bear? The ache you will not carry? And cannot escape?
We have to come to terms with our pain and make room for it in our life. We cannot grow up without facing what must be faced and doing what can be done about it and bearing the pain of what cannot be done.
Facing what must be faced is the rite of initiation for all who would grow up and live their own life within the terms and conditions of living. Gethsemane and Golgotha bar the way to life. Life waits for us to understand that—and accept it as how things are. Shouldering the crosses that are ours to bear is the price we pay for being alive.
Squaring ourselves up with this fundamental reality is one of the crosses that is ours to bear.
- Reedy Fork Sunset G Panorama — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 12, 2013 — Living aligned with our center, our core, heart, soul, Self keeps us grounded and whole in the press and craziness of our life. Our focus has to be on maintaining the connection with the inner guides—with the essential values which declare who we are and what we are about—and letting nature take its course.
We are not here to accomplish our goals or achieve our ends or make happen what we want to happen. We are here to exhibit, to express, the truth at the center of who we are by living in ways that are integral with that which is deepest, best and truest about us—and let the outcome be the outcome.
We have to practice finding the center, learning to read the inner signals, trusting ourselves to our sense of what is being asked of us, and learning how to be who we are over time.
- January Shoreline 06 B&W — Piedmont Trail at Lake Brandt, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — Be aware of your conflicts. There is nothing like conflict for creating symptoms. People who are awash in symptoms are awash in unacknowledged conflict.
Conflict is always a conflict of interest and values. It’s going home for Thanksgiving, perhaps, or having our parents, or our partner’s parents, visit us for Thanksgiving. It’s a Situation, either chronic or acute, which you have to endure and cannot avoid. It’s a good that is not good for you. It is wanting what you have no business having. It’s being damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It isn’t something we can do something about.
We can’t disappear our conflicts. Conflict is pain that has to be borne consciously. They are angels/demons we wrestle with for the blessing (that would be growing up), or dismiss, discount, deny, ignore for the blessing (that would be symptoms).
The only way to transform a conflict is to face it, square up to it, bear it consciously over time. We cannot be rid of them without growing beyond them. Remember, there is nothing wrong with our lives, or with us, that growing up won’t fix. The only thing that grows us up is facing diligently the pain we have to outgrow.
Make your conflicts conscious. Do not hide from the pain. Things will shift in time. But. You cannot hurry the time of your deliverance—you can only be conscious of your need to be delivered. You can delay deliverance indefinitely by refusing to be aware of your need to be delivered. It’s your choice. A conflict about what to do with conflict.
- Barred Owl 08 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 13, 2013 — The measure of every doctrine or belief is the impact for good it has on our life—the degree to which it enables us to live a life we would be proud to live—to live the life that is OUR life to live. NOT someone else’s idea of our life, but OUR heartfelt certainty that we are one with the life that is our life to live.
If a belief or a doctrine doesn’t impact our life for the good in this way, it needs to be on the next stage out of town. Living aligned with the life that is our life to live is hard enough without the distraction of beliefs and doctrines that don’t help with the work that is ours to do.
Find what you need to help you live your life, and live it—and let that be enough, because it is.
- A Natural Still Life — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — We follow our own heart to the path that is ours to walk. We are our own guide to the good. But it isn’t what we want that leads the way. It’s what we know needs to be done.
We are at odds with ourselves. The guide is at the mercy of followers with minds of their own. Whose side are we on? There is that which needs to be done, which needs us to do it, which we are perfectly suited for and equipped to handle, and we don’t want to do it. We have bigger ideas. Better ideas. Fancier ideas for ourselves. We have a finer life in mind.
Our heart is not the seat of guiding desire, that would be our eyes. We have eyes for other things. The fruit in the garden was a delight to the eyes. The lights and action of Gay Paree thrill and enchant all those who see them. Seeing is believing and our eyes lead us spellbound to Glory. Only not really.
Lost sheep wake up at nightfall. And follow, not their eyes, back home, but their hearts—their inner sense of direction—listening, finally, to The One Who Knows within, past all the turns their eyes are sure are IT to where they belong, which they knew all along, but dismissed as not worthy of them, beneath them, not their style, with their eyes focused on other things.
- Black-capped Chickadee — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 5, 2013 — Know what your business is and what it is not. Ask yourself, “What’s it to you?” at the right places during your day. Jesus said, “Don’t judge.” Same as asking, “What’s it to you?”
- January Blooms 03 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 22, 2013 — If I could get all of you together in a room, and remove from you your insecurities, and uncertainties, and your need for the rest of them to like you, and have you tell me in front of all the rest of them what you know to be true that you haven’t heard from some other source, and have the rest of them receive that with compassion and appreciation, without thinking they have to refute it or improve it, I’m thinking that would make a difference for the good in the lives of all of us.
Just in case we ever get that opportunity, start practicing by thinking about the things you know to be true that you haven’t heard from some other source, and by listening to what others have to say with compassion and appreciation. I’m thinking that will make a difference for the good in the lives of all of us.
- January Shoreline 07 — Piedmont Trail, Lake Brandt, Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — Who has your best interests at heart? The answer better be you. It would be nice to have a buddy, or a partner, or a spouse you could count on to be on your side, watching your sheep, guarding your coffers, protecting your borders, but. No one has quite the investment in you that you have.
You cannot be casual with you. “Whatever” will not do. You have to rank at least as high as everyone else in you life. You get every bit as much of your kindness and consideration as anyone else does. Do not neglect what is important to you in favor of what is important to someone else all of the time, or even most of the time.
Who is going to take care of you, and your interests, and your life if you don’t? Your life needs YOU to live it—with out waiting for the rest of them to grant you permission or to ask how they can help.
What can you do in the interest of you today?
- Wetlands Geese 15 — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, January 11, 2013 — We spend our lives growing up to be who we are. These are not two things. These are one thing. When we grow up, we are who we are. We cannot be who we are without growing up. When we are who we are, we are grown up.
But, because there is always more to us than meets the eye, we are always becoming who we are—we are always growing up. There is no end to it. There is no steady state of being. We are always becoming, always a work in process, in progress.
And the work is done in the form of developmental tasks. We crawl, we walk, we cut our teeth and talk—and every stage of life has its tasks that are unique to that stage. We cannot skip a stage or fail to work through the tasks that are imposed by that stage. We cannot grow up without completing the tasks required for maturation.
The tasks produce maturation. The most immature among us are stuck in a stage (16 – 18 seems to be a favorite time to not grow beyond), and act as though they still are there.
As we age the work becomes making our peace with the life we lived, saying our good-byes (Not literally, but letting go of the things that have meant so much to us—consciously, intentionally, releasing our hold on what was life, giving away favorite items, perhaps, relinquishing our place—letting the daughters and sons-in-law prepare Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, etc.) and preparing to die. And, of course, no one relishes doing any of these things, so we resist the tasks and do not grow through the final stage of life.
But the work is to grow up to be who we are, and we cannot quit the work prematurely, just because we don’t like the tasks of a particular stage of development. We do the work until it is done, like it or not.
- Grebe Moon — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 23, 2013 — We each have to work out our own life. We each have to make it work. We each have to become who we are within the time and place—context and circumstances—of our living.
Some of us are luckier than others. None of us has it easy. The truth of our life is the bed we sleep in at night and the world we wake up to each morning and what we do with it between the waking and the sleeping.
Being awake is the hard part. Part of being awake is waking up to how soundly we are sleeping as we go through the day.
The work of working out our own life begins with paying attention. Seeing what we look at. Hearing what we listen to. Knowing what we know. If you think that’s easy, take your seat and tell them to open the chute.
- Mallard In Flight 13 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 13, 2013 — Do not reject, dismiss, disregard, disrespect, your current life. Your life will lead to your LIFE when lived with compassion, acceptance and awareness.
The path to the Promised Land begins under your feet, right here, right now. You are standing on it. Start where you are and open your eyes.
Aligned with the Center, with the Inner Self, we are aligned also with nature. Dancing with nature, we are often in the right place at the right time.
Aligned with the Center, the power of the realm—the Force—is with us in the work that is to be done. The Force is not with us for any work, but for the work that is ours to do whether we want to or not.
We cannot trick or manipulate the Force into being with us in work that is off-center, out of sync with the Core of Being and Life, about what we want, and wish for, and dream of, and adore.
The idea that the Universe will throw open it’s arms to welcome and assist you if you think certain magical thoughts has no basis in reality. You will find what you need to deal with the stuff that comes at you when you take up the task of doing what needs you to do it whether you want to or not—but that’s as much as you can expect.
An act that is good, that is exactly what the situation requires, what the moment needs, doesn’t do anything for us, doesn’t return anything to us. What we send out does not come back to us. It goes out beyond us, on and on, indefinitely, creating ripples of good past all reckoning. But to expect anything for ourselves is to miss the point entirely.
We are called to live our life, to apply our gifts, to exercise our art, in the service of the Center and Source of Life and Being. It is a great adventure and we get to experience the full wonder of it when we give ourselves to the work that needs us to do it. It’s called being alive. You can’t beat it with anything, anywhere. It’s waiting for you to say, “Okay. Here I am. I’m all yours. How can I help? Let’s go!” and mean it.
- Hitting the Ice — “ICE? Nobody said anything about ICE!” The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 23, 2013 — We are here to do what we can with it. To see what we can do with it. To be as good for it as we can imagine being.
If you wanted something different, something better, something more it isn’t surprising. Everyone does.
Getting over what we thought it was about and being about what it is about takes most of our life.
You’d think things would be more efficiently run—that we wouldn’t spend our life figuring out what we are to do with our life. That’s baseball for you.
- Reedy Fork Sunset H Panorama 03 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 24, 2013 — There is no straight path to the Promised Land, or the Grail Castle, or the Kingdom of God, or Nirvana, or the Elysian Fields, or Paradise, or the Tao, or wherever it is we think we are going. And no shortcuts.
My best advice is to stay far away from those offering a map and a guidebook and a ready list of Do’s and Don’t’s and a fat promise to get you there quickly if you will just sit down, shut up, ask no questions, believe what you are told to believe, and do what you are told.
You gotcha inner sense of what is good for you and what is bad, what is right for you and what is wrong, where you belong and where you have no business being. You got an inner way of resonating with the outer world, or not. You got the “Uh-Oh Feeling.” And you got your looks. That’s all it takes to find the way that is The Way for you.
You may stumble around some, make some messes, have to figure your way out of some blind canyons, and spend a fair amount of time not-knowing what to do next but. You have all the ingredients to live aligned with the Center, the Core, the Ground of Life and Being.
What do birds know about flying, or kids know about riding bicycles, that can be learned from some guidebook, or lecture, or explanation? You learn to live by LIVING! So, stop worrying about making mistakes and get in there and mix it up. Do your thing until you figure out what your thing is and then give yourself to it whole-hog all the way to wherever it is you will be when you get there.
- Reedy Fork Sunset H Panorama 01 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mill Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 24, 2013 — This isn’t hard. Would you trust me to sweeten your coffee for you? How many of you don’t drink coffee? Show of hands. YOU certainly wouldn’t trust me to sweeten your coffee for you! What if I brought you a cup of coffee sweetened just the way you ought to like it? How many of you would drink that and smile, and thank me, and ask for a second cup?
People you wouldn’t trust to sweeten your coffee for you are telling you how to live your life. If you are going to take charge of your own coffee sweetening—your own coffee drinking or not drinking—what do you mean handing your LIFE over to the spiritual masters, wizards, whizzes and gurus? If they don’t know, or care, about your coffee, what are they doing with your LIFE?
You trust yourself to be in charge of your coffee drinking, or not drinking—to be responsible for making your own menu selections and clothing choices. What do you mean giving your LIFE over to someone else? If you are going to give something away, give away your sock preference. Give away something that doesn’t have implications for your LIFE. Ask the gurus and the whizzes what color socks you should wear. Do your own living.
Make your own mistakes. Figure things out for yourself. Decide for yourself what to do and what to leave undone. And, if you decide you just have to have some authority to tell you how to live your life, look theirs over really carefully before you hand yourself over to them. Make sure they are living a life you would be proud to call your own, right down to the color of their socks.
- Reedy Fork Sunset H Panorama 02 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mill Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 24, 2013 — Cooking is a simple matter of getting the ratios right, and who is to determine what “right” is? That would be the cook.
You are cooking up your own life. A recipe is only good for offering suggestions of ingredients and proportions. Each cook has to modify or transform the recipe to suit the cook’s tastes and interests.
You have to get the ratios right for yourself over time. This means life is an experiment in living, or living is an experiment with life. Get in there and stir something up. See what you think. Try it again with different ratios and ingredients. You will get it right—as you determine right—over time.
And then it will be on to another dish, or aspect of life and living. May you die with cookies in the oven and crumbs on your plate.
- Reedy Fork Sunset H Panorama 04 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mill Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 24, 2013 — The Way is the way it is and not some other way instead. Now, my deep hunch is that The Way is different for each of us, idiosyncratic for each of us—The Way is Our Own Way, perfectly suited for us but. It requires us to be true to ourselves.
This is a significant limitation for those of us who think there are no boundaries and we can do anything we want to. We can want what we have no business having. And to traipse off after some wants is to leave The Way that is our way, abandon the calling that is our calling, neglect the responsibilities and duties that are our responsibilities and duties and wander without bearings or landmarks in a wilderness of our own making. Insisting on having OUR way, we depart from the way that was ours before we were born and deny the truth of our own soul and inner guide.
This is a problem. And it takes us to the heart of the matter. That would be heart. We have to have the heart to remain true to our heart in spite of delightful enticements and promises of fortune and glory unequaled in the annals of time or anywhere else.
We have to be faithful, loyal and true to the truth of our own heart. We cannot be discarding The Way in favor of some more enchanting way, or following The Way as long as the going is easy and we are in the mood for a stroll.
This is our life’s work that we are engaged in. The Way for us is The Way for us and we can’t whistle up some alternative way, some surrogate way that we would prefer or wish were ours. That isn’t how it works.
When some interesting invitation comes along, we have to evaluate it in light of The Way that is Our Way and what it requires and allows. If The Way is not clear, that’s that. “I’d love to, but The Way is not clear,” is as much as we need to say. If they say, “But wouldn’t it be nice if the way WERE clear? Why don’t you see what you can do to move things out of the way?” You have to respond, “Whose way would that be?” Clearly not yours. Your Way is not clear, and to clear it would be to betray your Way in favor of their way for you, which you cannot do and be on Your Way.
Whose way is Your Way? The answer better be Your Way is Your Way. Be true to it no matter what. Being true to Your Way is being true to yourself, to your own heart. It’s the only Way to be.
- This is great, isn’t it? It is for me anyway. I’m iced in, so I eat cinnamon rolls and drink hot chocolate which I made with 100% cacao (to feel righteous) and laced with a tsp of bourbon (to compliment the bourbon-brown-sugar glaze on the cinnamon rolls) instead of vanilla, and write. I call that making the most of the opportunity afforded by being closed off from taking photos.
The subject is sunsets. There are now four Reedy Fork Sunset Panoramas posted, which are actually three. Numbers 02 and 03 are really the same shot, just taken in two different ways. So, 01, 02/03, and 04 represent the range of sunsets available in yesterday’s sunset. I could have started before the sun went down and added several more sunsets to the one sunset on January 24.
In every phenomenal sunset there are a dozen sunsets. The word “phenomenal” is the key. What makes a phenomenal sunset are clouds. The sun goes down every day, but without clouds, it just drops out of sight. I call these “naked sunsets” because there is nothing to “deck it out,” “dress it up,” make it memorable.
Clouds are the key. They have to be high enough, heavy enough, and interesting enough to reflect the sun’s light as the earth turns. A sunset is nothing without clouds, so watch the clouds. Learn to tell when they are right and when they are wrong. And when they are right stay with them until the light goes out—generally about 30 minutes after the sun sets.
Yesterday, the sunset was at 5:36. The show was over about 6:05. And the sky changed significantly and beautifully three or four times during that “going down” of the sun. And the water reflecting the sky changed as the wind shifted and died. Things were different over time. So, don’t think you’ve seen a sunset when the sun disappears under the horizon. Stay with it. Dance with it, as our ancestors have done for tens of thousands of years.
- Cardinal 01 Detail — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 23, 2013 — To say, “Everything is grist for the mill,” is not to say, “There is a reason for everything.” The things that happen to us do not happen for a reason, as a part of the unfolding of some plan that is gradually falling into place, piece by piece, immutable, invariable, indisputable, click…click…click… over the full course of time.
The things that happen to us are the matrix, the medium, the “cosmic soup,” out of which the future comes, where more things happen and more futures are formed and shaped.
We form and shape our future by the way we respond to what happens in our present. The future we had is transformed by the impact of the things that happen to us, and we shape that transformation by the nature and quality of our response. What happens to us is “grist for the mill,” which we take and use in making the “flour” which makes the “bread” that becomes our life in the aftermath of the life-altering event.
Nothing has to be what it is. Anything can happen at any time. What we do about it shapes what becomes of it, and us, over the course of our life. What happens is not nearly as important as what happens next.
- Mallard Reflections — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC, January 23, 2013 — Do what you have to do with such a willing spirit that it—and anyone watching—cannot tell whether you want to do it or not. This is called squaring up to your life.
It is quite different from being compelled to mow the grass because your father commanded it. It is mowing your own grass when you don’t want to because it needs mowing and it is your grass. It is feeding the baby at 2 AM, or changing the baby 25 times a day. We stand up and do the thing that needs us to do it exactly as it should be done
You can even tell the baby exactly how you feel about changing all those diapers if you do it in a sweet baby-talk tone of voice. The baby knows tones, not vocabulary. You can get by a lot with the baby if you use the right tone. Same thing goes with your dog. Your cat might catch on.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradictions, etc., Sassafras Leaves — Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Greensboro, NC, October 27, 2012 — Robert Pirsig, in “Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” said, “The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there.” He could have said the same thing about enlightenment. Or religion. Or The Way.
Pirsig also said, “Truth comes knocking at your door and you say, ‘Go away! I’m looking for truth!’” Whatever you are looking for is standing right before you and goes with you wherever you go.
My recommendation is that you sit with your life—with all of them. There is the life you are living. The life you are expected to live by Those Who Know Best. The life you wish you were living. The life you truly ought to live—the life that is yours to live—that no one but you can live. The life you think you have to live to pay the bills. I don’t know how many other lives there may be, but this is a reasonable start.
Sit with all of these lives. Listen to them all. Converse with them all. Explore them. Investigate them. Walk among them. Get to know them in depth. See all there is to see about them. Do not allow them to hide anything from you. This may take a while.
My idea is that we spend our life running from our life. Our life comes knocking on our door and we say, “Go away! I’m looking for my life!”
Religion is a favorite way of hiding from our life. Religion as it is generally practiced consists of listening to someone else, or perhaps The Bible—but it is always the Bible as someone else interprets it, as someone else tells us what the Bible says and what the Bible means—listening to someone else tell us what to do with our life and expecting to like the life they tell us to live, or thinking we ought to like the life they tell us to live, and thinking there is something wrong with us when we don’t.
Stop hiding from your life! From any of them! Square up to them all. Look at them all and see what you are looking at! Listen to them all. Get to know all of them very well.
This will bring your conflicts to life. Your contraries. Your contradictions and oppositions. You get to wherever it is you think you are going (Paradise, etc) by squaring up to your conflicts—to the truth of your life in all its forms.
No one can do this for you. Some of us can help you bear the pain. Therapists are supposed to be good at this, for instance. But. You have to do the work. The work consists of seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, doing (What needs to be done about what you see, hear, understand and know), and being (Who you are within the context and circumstances, terms and conditions, of your life. All of them).
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Reedy Fork Sunset H 03 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 24, 2013 — We need to take a life inventory every two weeks, which is a completely arbitrary time frame, but it has to be often and it has to be carefully considered. We cannot run through it or check it off in an absent-minded kind of way.
At least two questions need to be asked, and followed up with all the ones they generate: How do you feel about your life? And, Everything is just fine except for what?
In exploring the questions, Three things need to be borne in mind: 1) We are here to grow up and become who we are. 2) We do that by facing, reconciling and integrating our conflicts and contradictions. 3) We avoid that by focusing on what They are doing that makes our life difficult and how They need to change—for example, “My life is fine except for the people in it who will not grow up!”
- Sunrise — Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, October 20, 2012 — The test is to live in the outer world aligned with the inner world. Our ideas for ourselves have to be in line with our Self’s ideas for us. Inner alignment is the heart of a well-lived life.
Working to be aligned with ourselves is a life-long task. The more aligned within we are, the more grown-up we are, the more integrated we are, the more whole, complete and at peace we are.
There is much that would distract us from the work of living aligned with our inner Self, so we have to make the work conscious, and check in with ourselves from time to time by attending our body and looking for the “clues and cues” that might suggest we are out of sync and need to get back on track.
- Sunset — Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, October 19, 2012 — It isn’t what you know, or what you believe, or what you think, or how well you can articulate it, argue the point, win the debate and the day. It’s how you live your life. The life you are living and the life that is yours to live within the life you are living.
Living your life, both of them, will grow you up. Wake you up. Wise you up. And enable you to be good company.
If you are going to be anything, be good company. Be a good place to be. Be the kind of person people are glad to see coming and sorry to see going.
The only value of a belief is the degree to which it enables you to live your life—both of them—the way it needs to be lived in the time and place of your living. That does not mean keeping the rules. It means reading the situation and offering what is needed in the situation—what is appropriate to the situation—even though it might give your mother palpitations and your grandmother would never understand.
Live your life—both of them—the way it needs to be lived in the time and place of your living. And if you don’t know how it needs to be lived, bet it all on what resonates with you, on what brings joy to your soul, never mind what your mother or grandmother might think.
- Yellow Leaves 02 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, November 02, 2012 — We are spiritual to the extent that we are who we are. We cannot be who we are without being spiritual—without being aligned with the Core of Life and Being—without being at one with and intensely, and intently, loyal to the life that is our life to live and the invisible guide to that life and guardian of that life.
So, rather than give us the lingo, the religions of the world would do better by enabling us to find and live the life that is at the heart of each of us, waiting to come forth in the world of space and time.
We each have a life that is unique to us, so what are we doing living bland little cookie-cutter lives that look exactly like everyone else’s? “The spirit is like the wind that blows where it will,” remember. And those who are of the Spirit, that is, spiritual, will be like chips off the old block, following their own course to outlandish adventures and wild arrivals that are peculiar to each.
If you want to be spiritual, be you. To. The. Core.
- Mallard In Flight 14 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 27, 2013 — There are two questions you need to answer: 1) What do you need to be who you are? 2) What do you need to buy to be who you are?
We need to buy the things that will enable us to come forth into our life, practicing our art, serving our gift, applying our genius to benefit the common good. I need a camera, for instance, and a computer. Not the most expensive, but costly enough to do what I need to do.
I need food, clothing and shelter. I need transportation. And after a while I get to the end of the list of the things I need to buy to be who I am.
The other question is trickier to answer and satisfy. I need the right kind of company. You don’t just whisk that up. I need encouragement. I need to listen, to look, to hear, to see. I need to ask, seek, knock. I need to believe in myself, in the validity of my gift, in what I do that is me. I need to be strong in my own cause, loyal to my colors, faithful to the inner core that bets everything on all of us.
This list is long, and I keep thinking of things to add to it when I begin to think I’m about to wrap it up. And were do we go to find the items listed? It’s up to us to find what we need, but where? How?
It helps to know what we are looking for without being too particular about what we want to find. Help comes from the strangest, most unpredictable, places. We have to be open and receptive with few restrictions regarding the type of help that is acceptable. We have to help them help us.
Helping them help us begins with our thinking through what we need to be who we are, and actively seeking the things that are crucial to our development as a True Human Being.
- Mallards In Flight 15 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 27, 2013 — There is a story that I will attribute to Joseph Campbell to the effect that at one period of Japan’s history, spiritual development—that is, the work to become a True Human Being—was postponed until the second half of life, because the first half consisted of too many competing responsibilities: Making a living, raising a family, tending your position in family and society, etc.
When we retire we struggle to find things to fill our time. Then we go to the Home, they play Bingo with us. Giving ourselves to the adventure of True Human Beinghood would be the salvation—in more ways than one—of our later years.
- Bog Gull — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 27, 2013 — Carl Jung said, “Get out of the sheep-shepherd game!” The shepherds are sheep and the sheep are shepherds. Stop thinking of yourself as someone else’s disciple and start thinking of yourself as a collaborator with all those who are engaged in the work of growing up and becoming who they are.
We help each other along the way that is our own unique and particular way. We do not talk anyone else into doing it like we are doing it, except to say that when we do it like Jesus did it, for example, we are doing it like WE would do it.
Jesus did not come laying down black footprints for us to step into. He said, “Who made me judge over you?”—or words to that effect. We have to grow up ourselves. We have to decide for ourselves what is to be done with our life, and do it.
And it helps to talk things over with those who know how to listen—who know how to listen us to the truth of our own life, to the Core of our own being. We speak in order to hear what we have to say, and it helps to have those who know how to listen so we can hear.
It helps to have the right kind of company, the right kind of companions, who collaborate with us in the task that belongs equally to all of us: Seeing, hearing, understanding—knowing how things are and how things ought to be—doing what needs to be done to make things more like they ought to be in each situation as it arises, and being who we are within the terms and conditions, nature and circumstances of the time and place of our living.
We have to work all of this out, and it helps to have the companionship of those who are working it out in their own way along with us—respecting each other’s work and honoring each other for doing it.
- Sunset Mirror 01 — Reedy Fork, Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 24, 2013 — The most radically counter-cultural realization we can make, embrace and live out in the world is: There is nothing in it for us beyond the experience of being alive.
Every New Agey strategy to come along comes down to “How to get yours without doing much for it.” We think the right thoughts and attract prosperity. We pray the right prayer and revel in fortune and glory. The Secret is really The Trick for Getting What You Want By Manipulating the Universe into Paying Off Big Time. “We give to get.” “What you send out comes back to you a hundred-fold.”
When the early settlers moved to North Dakota, they knew they were going into a barren wilderness, but were told by preachers preaching the gospel of the culture, “Rain will follow the plow.” It didn’t but the railroads did, and the economy won even though the farmers lost.
When someone tells you what you want to hear, look for what’s in it for them.
We are here to serve ends that are not our ends. We fulfill our destiny when we live aligned with the drift of our soul, trusting it to be all that we need to do the work that is ours to do. Learning to be so aligned is learning to feel, to sense, what is right for us and what is wrong, what is good for us and what is bad. It is learning to live by instinct and intuition—bringing the rational, thinking, aspect of our intellect into play to solve the problems of working out the details of giving concrete existence to soul’s drift within the world of facts, social norms and codes, and repercussions.
It is not a simple matter to be who we are in a world with it’s own ideas of who we ought to be. Our conscious mind is what we count on to work it out. Our unconscious mind is what we count on to guide us in the work that is ours to do. And, what we get out of it is doing it, having done it, and the experience of being alive, of becoming who we are.
It’s heroic stuff. The Hero’s Journey. Me becoming me. You becoming you. In the time and place of our living.
- Ducks In Flight 01 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 27, 2013 — Make the Hero’s Journey the entire focus of the second half of life. You don’t have to read Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell—you only have to do what you have always wanted to do, what you have always loved to do, and couldn’t do it, or couldn’t do it enough, because all those obligations, responsibilities, commitments and duties that abound in the first half of life kept getting in the way.
Now your life can be YOUR life. You can live it the way you know it needs to be lived. And, if you are not yet in the second half of life, you can work it in as you are able right now, and plan your Escape From Egypt once you are able to make the stirring, bold, soulful proclamation: “Free at Last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty I’m Free at last!”
The life that is ours to live, that needs us to live it, is the life we need to live—and it is adaptable to all climates, income levels and conditions of life. The most unexpected people are capable of the most astounding things. “The stone the builders reject,” remember, “becomes the chief cornerstone.”
So, none of your whining, moaning, poor mouthing and complaining about not having what you need to do what needs to be done. Take the first step toward what needs to be done, toward what needs you to do it, and see what happens.
You have to believe in your life, swear your loyalty and fidelity and devotion to your life, and imagine what you need to do to live it as fully as possible in the time left for living—and do it.
- Hay Rake — Mountain Glory Farm, Patten, ME, September 24, 2012 — Here’s an easy way to practice restoring your connection to, what? Your Inner Guide? The One Who Knows Within? The Source of Life and Being? The Core, Heart, Center of our Soul/Self? Our Invisible Friend?
Jung said, “There is within each of us another whom we do not know.” But we must know. We cannot live the rest of our life as unconscious of this very present Presence For Good in Our Life as fish are of the ocean in which they swim!
We can practice restoring our connection with this Presence by simply asking “Yes? Or no?” before every choice we make and listen for the drift or pull to one or the other.
We open the cabinet for a mug for our coffee and see which one pulls us today, or the clothes we select to wear in meeting the day. Practice sensing, feeling, an attraction to this, an aversion to that—and go with the feeling, without trying to understand, explain, justify, excuse or defend the practice.
We are opening ourselves to the “other whom we do not know.” We are placing ourselves in the service of more than meets the eye. We are taking seriously the invisible ground of existence. And seeing where it goes.
- Big Creek 02 — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN, November 7, 2007 — Living is not a matter of doing it the way we see it being done around us. It’s a matter of listening to our own Core and doing it the way it needs us to do it.
It is strange that we are not taught to do that early on—that we are cut off from the Core early on and told to do what we are told to do—never mind how it feels to do it. And we spend the rest of our lives finding our way back to living in sync with the Inner Guide.
How does it feel to live the life you are living? How do you feel about your life? More on the beam than off? More off the beam than on?
We aren’t likely to live the life that is our life to live by living as we see it being done around us. It’s like learning to walk all over again. We have to trust ourselves to know when we are in sync and well balanced and when we are not, no matter what those around us might think.
- Linville Falls 01 — Blue Ridge Parkway, NC, July 13, 2012 — Just being open to the possibility of an invisible other within whom we do not know—just being curious about the possibility—just being willing to play with the idea that there may be something to it—just being receptive to the notion that our way may not be the best way for us and that there is another’s way that might be better suited to serve our destiny and bring forth our life… helps with the shift from running things with flow charts and five year plans and an inviolable reason for everything we do to placing our intellect, our reason, our rational mind in the service of making the unconscious conscious and collaborating in a thinking/feeling way to create a life that is more whole, integrated and alive than one that either might produce alone. That’s a great sentence isn’t it?
- Big Creek 07 Panorama — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN, November 7, 2007 — Brain Andreas says, “Everything changed the day I figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in my life.”
Of course, those are the things we think are important and not the things other people think are important.
We cannot wait for everybody else to grow up before we do. We have to serve what we understand to be important over their resistance, opposition, objection. That will grow us up. Whether they ever do is up to them.
- Reedy Fork Sunset H 04 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 24, 2013 — Marie-Louise von Franz said, “We have to solve our own problems and find out for ourselves what is right for us.”
Part of the work of growing up is trusting ourselves to our own sense of what is right, of what needs to be done in the situation as it arises, and taking what comes as the price we pay for learning to find our own way through our life.
We can hand ourselves over to our family or our spouse or partner or Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased, and never have to make another decision. Or. We can pick up our own cross every day and go where we think the path is taking us—and, of course, pay the price of our stubborn independence.
This is as difficult a call as there is to make. It is hell being self-determined and self-reliant. And we are afraid to take the chance of finding out if we can do it and survive. Those of us who go that route must have compassion and understanding for those of us who do not, and be a soft presence in our life, for it may be that we may even yet take our chances with the life yet to be lived.
The Sound — Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, October 21, 2012 — Take Marie-Louise von Franz’ statement: “We have to solve our own problems and find out for ourselves what is right for us,” and make it your mantra.
This is the work of maturation. We don’t grow up without doing this. Without becoming skilled at this. Without “solving our own problems and finding out for ourselves what is right for us.” And living in its service all our life long.
- Big Creek 06 Panorama — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN, November 7, 2001 — In each moment, we have to work out the proper ratios between what is us and what is not us. Jerks and SOBs are about 100% toward the what is in their favor end of the spectrum, wimps and wusses are about 100% toward the what is to their detriment end of the spectrum. The rest of us fall out somewhere in between.
It’s a trick being true to ourselves without the sensitive limits of what some situations call for. My recommendation is that you play the role—you play the part the situation requires you to play, and you play it with aplomb, kindness, compassion and grace, and end it when it’s over and exit when you can.
You can play the part the situation calls you to play without violating your integrity or selling yourself out. Hollywood actors are constantly playing parts, assuming roles, that are not who they are. They do not lose themselves doing it. They don’t sell themselves out doing it. They don’t prostitute themselves doing it. They are actors acting a part.
Life calls for the actor in all of us from time to time. We are handed a part by the situation as it arises—a role which calls us to do that which we would never wish for ourselves with a million wishes and 10 left over that we couldn’t imagine what to do with. We hand ourselves over to the actor within and go do the part with aplomb, kindness, compassion and grace. And end it when it is over, and exit when we can.
- False Kiva — Canyonlands National Park near Moab, UT, May 14, 2010 — Our current approach to situations as they develop is two-fold. To exploit them to our personal advantage is our first priority and to prevent others from exploiting us to their advantage is our second priority. How can we hold on to what we have and get more is the question that fuels our way through the world.
That is a question that can come to life in the absence of any grounding, guiding, sense of purpose. When our mission is to have and get instead of bringing forth out gift and serving our art, we have narrow little lives that gauge their value by the size of their house and their bank accounts.
I have a landscaping crew doing some stone work on a patio and a low wall coming up our driveway. These three guys are artists with stone but they work for people who don’t appreciate their artistry—who want “something nice” for the lowest possible price. We should want their best and pay for it.
Instead of trying to exploit the other, or seeing the other as a utilitarian functionary in the production of the grandest life we can manage, we have to think in terms of doing right by the other and the other doing right by us. Even if it does not produce a fundamental cultural shift in how things are done.
- Hooded Merganser in Flight 05 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 28, 2013 — We cannot will ourselves to grow up. We grow up against our will. Against ourselves. We see what is right and accede to it. We yield. Stand aside. Say “YES!” to that which is the way it must be, like it or not.
Every time we do that in our life, we pass a test, turn a corner, take one giant step toward the Promised Land, which doesn’t get any closer, and if we studied that for a while, we would realize that arrival doesn’t bring us anything that the Way doesn’t provide.
Growing up is a process without end, but with gifts and wonders unceasing.
We think it would be easier if someone would give us the map and tell us what to do, and so the popularity of Orthodox Religions worldwide. No one can give us what we want and have it work. We have to not want it. But no one can give us what we don’t want. And so, we have to live our ways into dead-ends and stone walls and sudden drop offs from high cliffs.
“Boom!”, as John Madden would say, what we don’t want blindsides us and steamrolls us and slams us to the mat with a Choke Hold, a Torture Rack, a Back-Breaker Horizontal and a Belly-to-Belly Piledriver—finishing off with a Rude Awakening. Leaving us with no where to turn but in.
So we turn ourselves in. We hand ourselves over. We say, “This is all my fault. I’m so sorry. I will not do that again ever.” And we don’t, but that doesn’t save us from all the other arrogant assumptions we don’t catch until it’s too late and uh-oh here we go again.
We grow up one missed sign at a time. Can’t do it any other way. Can’t read a book. Listen to a lecture or a testimony. See a movie. Believe all the doctrines of organized religion, or have weekly sessions with people who know everything. We live our way there. One missed sign at a time.
We will get to “I’m sorry,” quicker though, and that will help.
- Big Creek 04 — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN, November 7, 2007 — We wouldn’t write it up like this. Our circumstances, which keep coming at us in ways that require us to grow up and be who we are, bear no similarity to the things we would write into the script.
In living our life, we become a different person from who we would be if we lived life according to our idea of how life ought to be lived.
We cannot grow up apart from encounters that grow us up. We couldn’t write up The Truth, any more than we can “handle it.” We cannot imagine reality as it comes to us right out of the blue, blindsiding us with things we couldn’t possibly think up and prepare for.
We have to make up what we do with it on the spot, as well as we know how, learning how to be be better prepared for that if it ever comes again, which sometimes it does, or close enough. Then we can smile and say, “I’ve seen you before, or maybe it was your Daddy. Tell him hi for me when you see him next. He might remember me, but he might not recognize me now.”
- Green River Canyon — Canyonlands National Park near Moab, UT, September 23, 2007 — Freedom is way too much responsibility. We want freedom FROM responsibility, which amounts to bondage. It’s all in how you spin it.
We don’t seem to be able to be any more mature than we are but. And here’s where the hope of the unknown enters the picture. There is more to us than meets the eye. And we are capable of rising to meet any circumstance that comes along. Where does that come from? How is it that some of us can take to hiding the Jews? Or constructing the Underground Railroad?
Joseph Campbell said, “It took the Cyclops to bring forth the Hero in Ulysses.” Circumstance grows us up—against our will—by calling us to stand up and do what must be done. “Face it! Deal with it!” And some do. It is absolutely, beautifully, unaccountable and yet dependable. We cannot predict who will do what needs to be done and who will look away, but some will do the right thing.
I find that to be ground for trusting ourselves to That Which We Do Not Know, which is what we are unconscious of, which, for all I know is The Unconscious that is just on the other side of Consciousness.
Anyway, I feel encouraged to think we are not alone, and that we are being called beyond ourselves—to grow beyond ourselves—to grow up and do what needs us to do it. I wish the way were clearer to being clear about what is being asked of us.
Which leaves it up to us to clear the way between us and The Way, to learn the language of the unconscious, to see what we look at, to notice what catches our eye, and to be receptive to signs and wonders of the most insignificant variety. We’re back to responsibility.
- Silver Lake 01 — Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, November 1, 2009 — Look. It’s like this. We cannot be prepared for the next situation as it arises. We cannot practice for it. We cannot rehearse. We cannot memorize our lines and step into it with confidence knowing what we must to do be exactly what it needs. AND we can rise to any occasion.
What we need is the equivalent of the helmet Luke Skywalker put on to practice feeling his response to a developing situation he could not see. “Trust the Force, Luke!” We need to practice trusting the Force, the nudge, the sense of what needs to be done here, now—and not thinking, but doing it.
Luke made a lot of mistakes. Mistakes are the price we pay to know what we need to know. No one ever found their way to The Way, or stayed on it, without screwing up. You have to be okay with missing signs. We learn to see them that way. And you have to hold out for the possibility that your read was the exactly correct one and that the mistake belongs to those who are laughing at you.
Happened that way with Jesus. Who knows? It could happen again.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Ocean Isle Sunrise — Ocean Isle, NC, May 2, 2008 — We are here to grow up and be who we are. The only thing that can grow us up is the impact of life experience. How we respond to the experience of being alive grows us up or shuts us down, arrests our development, and keeps us running from diversion to distraction, losing ourselves in a life of escape and denial forever.
Here is the truth we cannot handle: What we want keeps us from having what we want. Or, to put it another way: We can have what we want but we have to give up what we want to have it.
We grow up when we face up to the truth of this basic contradiction, and wade right into it, and give it a big juicy wet one right on the kisser, and have what we want, and give up what we want in order to have it, and let that be the way it is because that is the way it is, and we get no choice about some matters.
How we deal with being stuck with the choices that are ours—We don’t get to choose our choices—tells the tale.
- The Shape of Time 01 — Antelope Canyon near Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — There is what we have to do, like homework or going to work, and there is what we want to do like sleeping in or going for a stroll, and there is what we ought to do, like clean the shower, and there is what must do, like whatever it is we know needs to be done in the here and now of our living and we are right there so we say, “I’ll do it!” before we know what we are doing.
Pay attention to the Musts when they come along, to the things that you must do and you get no say in the matter. The things we do in the grip of some force greater than we are—not guilt, or shame, or fear, but benevolent goodwill out of the blue—are the things that know our name. They show us who we are.
Listen closely to these things. There may be a theme to be found among them. It may tell you something about the way that is your way, and give you a clue or two about what to do with your life, at least for the short term.
- Mesa Arch 02 — Canyonlands National Park near Moab, UT, May 11, 2010 — We keep it all in solution, waiting for the solution to emerge. We make all the conflicts conscious. Yes, that is true, and that is true, and that is true as well. And they are all mutually exclusive truths. That’s true, too.
Stand—live—in the tension of competing, contradictory truths, and wait. Do not think you have to make it work—negotiate all the agreements—get the signatures on the newest treaty—make everybody happy… You only have to be aware of the problem, bearing the pain of the conflict, holding it to the light of consciousness, and waiting to see what happens.
A shift will occur. Something you could never predict or imagine. Make a conflict conscious and it will drift toward solution on it’s own. Maybe not in your time frame. Oh well.
- Horseshoe Bend Panorama 03 — Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — Some people can need to be loved so much that no one is capable of loving them to their complete and everlasting satisfaction. “I just want to be loved!” or “I only want someone to love me!” can mean, “I want somebody to do my bidding 24/7/12/FOREVER!” Well, yeah. Take a number and get in line.
I have never in all of my years of listening to people tell me what they want have heard anyone say, “I just want to grow up!” They want someone else to grow up. Their kids, their spouse, their parents, their… The list is long that doesn’t have their name on it.
We are here to grow up and be who we are and we just want to be coddled, and cuddled and taken care of the way we want to be taken care of. And if anyone has a chance of ever waking anyone else up and turning them onto the way of becoming an independent, self-reliant, self-determined, responsible for themselves and their own life human being, he or she is going to have to look them in the eye and say, “We all have to solve our own problems and find out for ourselves what is right for us. We have to see what needs to happen in each situation as it arises and get up and do what needs to be done about it, whether we want to or not, every day for the rest of our life. That’s all there is to it. Now, go do it.”
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Bryce Afternoon — Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon, UT, May 15, 2012 — We throw ourselves into the breech between what life in the world of normal, apparent, reality requires of us and what living in synch with the Source of Life and Being requires of us. This is called living with a foot in different worlds, or walking two paths at the same time.
We negotiate and integrate, make compromises and concessions and find ways of working things out, of making it work.
You can lose your temper, become frustrated or/and depressed, moan, pine, and think it’s hopeless but it all rides on your doing the work of making it work. So, sit with the conflicts, contradictions, opposition and resistance and see what can be done. Ask for a guiding dream. Ask for help from the inner world. Tell them it is not so easy making things fit out here and to see what they can do about sending some instinct, insight and intuition your way.
We can help ourselves simply by being conscious of the clash between worlds. The external world is in constant motion where multitasking is a way of life. The internal world requires meditative stillness for perception to become clear and still, small, voices to be heard.
We blend the opposites, soften the harsh reactions, and see what we can do to make peace and ease relations between the worlds.
- The Shape of Time 02 — Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — As we grow up, we grow in wisdom and grace. We grow in compassion, kindness and understanding. We grow in drawing lines the way they need to be drawn, and doing what is appropriate in the time and place of our living, like it or not.
We grow in saying “No,” when “No” should be said, and “Yes,” when “Yes” should be said. In being what the occasion calls for. In seeing into the heart of things, and knowing what’s what, and what to do about it.
As we grow up, we develop eyes the see things as they are, ears that hear what is being said and what is not being said, hearts that respond to the all-ness of each moment in both worlds, inner and outer, in ways that respect and honor the needs of each, and integrate/reconcile both, without violating the integrity of either.
Nobody can do any of these things straight from the womb. It takes a lot of living to be alive. I hope you aren’t in a hurry to get wherever it is you think you’re going. Nothing slows us down like trying to hurry things up.
- Dome Sunset — Clingman’s Dome Parking Lot, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN, November 2006 — We were praying for millions of years before prayer became rational, logical, vocal. There were the prayers of labor and delivery. The soft prayers of sexual pleasure. The prayers of the dance and the hunt. The prayers of preparation for war and the prayers of battle. The prayers of mourning and grief. The prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude.
They were all prayers of the heart, not the head. Then the head got involved, took over, and no one remembered how to pray. We wrote prayer books to help us out, and developed doctrines and theology to make sense of it. To make sense of it.
Once prayer became sensible it became sterile. What kind of prayer would make sense? Prayer speaks of experience at the edge of life and death. Make sense of that if you dare, then explain it to us as we laugh and walk away, leaving you to make sense of that.
- The Shape of Time 03 — Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — Who is behind The Pose is the question. The Pose being the way we present ourselves to the world. Our Public Face.
Who are we when no one is looking? Who would we be if no one were looking? What’s it to us who is looking?
What do we think we are getting by with? What do we think we are arranging for ourselves by keeping them fooled? Who are we kidding?
Do we think our fortunes ride on hoodwinking the world? That if they found out about us it would be all over, but if we keep up the pretense, and bamboozle them all, we’ll have nothing but “cottages and columbines and room to do handstands when we feel like it” forever?
We are so funny. The ones who care enough about us to see what they are looking at know who we are, and care about us anyway. The others are just trying to get us to dance to the tune they whistle, and have no interest in our fortunes at all.
We want it to be easier than being who we are and working out the rubs. We want to pretend to be someone else and have it pay off. Big time. It isn’t about the pay off.
It’s about, all together now, growing up and being who we are. Focus on that. Let your life take shape around that. Let what you do serve who you are, express and exhibit who you are, reveal and reflect who you are—to the extent that’s possible within the context and circumstances, terms and conditions, of the time and place of your living.
Work you into your life over time. That’s a Life Plan for you worth having.
- Goose Wars 01 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 6, 2013 — I’d bet you $20 if I still did that kind of thing that you think the way to the good is the way of being rational, logical and reasonable. That finding the good is as simple as making a list of pros and cons, deciding where you want to be in five years and creating a flow-chart with carefully plotted sequential steps to that destination.
If I’m right about you, you don’t have a chance. The left side of your brain is choking out the right side. You are taking heavy doses of prescription medication in order to tolerate what you are supposed to be loving. You’re telling yourself things like, “My life is so perfect, why do I hate it?” And you hope a promotion with a few more perks and one or two major purchases will do the trick.
You are waiting for your life to start working for you like you know it will, and you are standing in the wrong line.
You do not do your life. Your life does you. Go sit quietly with this until you see what I’m saying. Then get up and see what your life needs from you—what your life has in mind for you—where your life will take you in the time left for living. If you can make the transition, it will be well worth the work.
- I should say something about the Geese in the Wetlands series—because it wants to be said. It wants to be articulated, interpreted, understood, by me. I talk to you so I can hear what I have to say. You could take offense, being used this way, or you could be honored that I take you into my confidence. Your call to make.
The Geese in the Wetlands series of photographs goes back to my six-to-twelve-year-old-period. I am sure, though I have no distinct recollection, that I saw a picture in an outdoor magazine—Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Progressive Farmer and Ladies (yes) Home Journal are the only magazines that I remember from my childhood. Says a lot about the people who lived with me, and that’s the shadowy background of all of the stories of my youth.
I’m sure I saw a picture in one of the magazines of a scene of Canada Geese rising from the water of a wetlands, and I was taken by it. Captured. Held captive all these years.
The picture spoke to me then of things words cannot say, and in taking similar photographs in this here and now of my living, I am recapturing being captured and held captive, because it was not, is not, a tortuous experience, but one we long for, live for.
Healing photographs are mandalas, healing circles in rectangular form, speaking to us on levels beyond words, bringing comfort, harmony, peace, unity, wholeness, integration, reconciliation, and oneness of body and soul. Art does this kind of thing for us.
Photographs of wildlife and natural landscapes do it for me, speak to me on the deepest levels, restoring me to my soul and my soul to me. And I take this particular photograph of Canada Geese rising from the waters of a wetlands in the rain and fog, reconnecting with the child who found what he needed there all those years ago, and still finds it there, and always will.
I take the photographs, and look at them, because I feel better when I do.
I recommend that you notice when and where you feel better, and give yourself often the gift of those times and places. Without having to know, or understand, or explain what is going on there, then. If it is a good place to be, go there.
Cow pens also do it for me, but that’s another story.
- The Shape of Time 04 — Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — We all are fragmented, fractured, shattered, dis-integrated on our way back together, to wholeness, harmony, integration, peace. The path is the way of consciousness, awareness, realization, maturation and bearing the pain of our own rebirth—as those who are “both the chisel and the sculptor.”
And, of course, we don’t have to do any of it. Long lines of human beings have opted out of the process since its beginnings. We don’t have to ask the first question, spot the first contradiction, make the first connection, withdraw the first projection… It can be all Their Fault. If we can just get rid of enough of Them, WE will all be fine.
My recommendation is that we stop thinking about Them and Their shortcomings, failings and deficiencies—and simply start doing our thing. It will teach us all we need to know. If we do it with our eyes open, being awake, paying attention. Seeing, hearing, understanding. Knowing, doing, being.
What do we need to be awake? Where do we have to go to wake up? What do we have to be shown in order to see? To be told in order to hear? What needs to be explained in order to understand? What is preventing our progress in the process of being awake, aware, alive? What is the problem?
Doing our own thing with our eyes open will answer all these questions and take us speedily to wherever it is we think we are going.
- Hooded Merganser 12 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 7, 2013 — There ought to be a law: Everyone has to spend a minimum of 1 hour a day attending, serving, in communion with his or her creative spirit, and giving expression to that spirit in a manner that is appropriate to his or her heart and soul.
That would make as much difference for good in the world as I can imagine making.
- Wetlands Geese 15 — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, February 7, 2013 — There is not a more counter-cultural (in any culture, across all cultures) act of defiance than the act of being oneself—than the act of seeing what you see, feeling what you feel, thinking what you think, knowing what you know, sensing what you sense and deciding for yourself what needs to be done about it, and doing it in each situation as it arises.
People who do that are called Free Thinkers, Individuals, Rebels, Renegades, Revolutionaries by other people, but, to themselves, they are just being themselves.
Nothing is more of a threat to the status quo than individuals being themselves.
- Goose Wars 02 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 6, 2013 — The natural world has its own rhythms and flow, and we have ours. Aligning ourselves with our inner rhythms and with the flow of our life are two of the tasks of the journey, the path, the way to maturation, wisdom and grace.
The tasks require us to pay attention, to listen within, to notice what is stirring, to trust ourselves to it and to work it into our life—the life required by the context and circumstances of our external world.
We walk two paths at the same time, and must tend the affairs of two worlds, external and internal. How do you honor the rhythms and flow of the internal world? How often do you sit quietly, listening? Follow whims that you do not understand and cannot explain? Live a day without imposing a structure or a schedule? Allow the Inner Guide to determine what to eat, when and where?
Establishing and deepening our relationship with the Inner World is a matter of making the unconscious conscious—of becoming aware of the ways and rhythms, the direction and flow of our own nature, and serving our own instinct and intuition within the field of space and time. Integrating reason with instinct and logic with intuition expands the possibilities of life in the physical world, and opens us to wonders unimagined along the way to who we are.
We are here with the tools at hand—why pass up the central feature of the experience of being alive?
- Lake Brandt Dusk Panorama — Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC, January 23, 2013 — How much money do we need to be who we are? How much money does it take to compensate for the emptiness that comes from refusing to be who we are?
- January Shoreline 09 — Lake Brandt, Piedmont Trail, Greensboro, NC, January 14, 2013 — We just live the moment as the moment needs us to live it, the situation as the situation begs to be lived. What’s hard about that?
Of course, it requires us to live without a script, to ad-lib every scene, to never do similar moments the same way, to have no stock replies, no standard responses, no formula rejoinders, no predictable reactions. No one knows what we will do when, where or how, not even us.
But, we will develop a style. We will characteristically be ourselves, acting “just like” ourselves. No one would take us for someone else. We don’t confuse Groucho Marx with Jimmy Cagney, or take Hillary Clinton for Oprah Winfrey.
We cannot impose our will for the moment on the moment, our idea of what the situation needs to be on the situation. What needs to be done will tell us what to do. What needs to be written will tell us what to write. We just show up, pay attention, see things as they are, stay out of the way, and the way will open before us.
As we learn to trust ourselves to it, things begin to fall into place.
- The Shape of Time 05 — Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — The treasure is within. What we seek has been with us from the beginning. We are the stone the builders reject. We are the builders.
We bring forth from an inexhaustible storehouse, an infinite well, exactly what is needed to rise to every occasion and grace and bless the times and places of our living. It only takes waking up to know that it is so.
You hear it and laugh, or roll your eyes, because it is outrageous, or you change the channel because it is not what you want to hear, but why discount your own gifts or sleep through the times that are calling you to see what you can do?
There is, tucked away in each of us, the very thing that is most needed and most precious, and we do not believe it. We do not believe in our own gift, or treasure our own treasure. We are not strong in our own cause. Are not loyal to our own colors. Are not allies of our own heart’s purpose.
We are only waking up away from being what we need—from finding what we have to be more than we need to grace and bless the times and places of our living. Yet, we dream we are awake, snoring.
- Fisherman — Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, October 23, 2012 — There is tolerable and there is intolerable, and there are good reasons for tolerating the intolerable up to a point. That point might be death. The intolerable can become deadly. Death can be physical, and it can be emotional/spiritual (Where DOES that line lie?).
Why die tolerating the intolerable? Why not die making a run for it? Fighting for life? Doing what we can think to do in the service of life?
Tolerate the intolerable just long enough to make a plan, lay the groundwork, pack your bags, dig the tunnel. It’s amazing how the intolerable becomes tolerable once we start digging the tunnel.
The tunnel to freedom and self-determination, self-development, self-reliance, self-expression, self-hood. Freedom isn’t freedom unless it is the freedom to be who we are.
We cannot just be living to escape the tyranny of our oppressor. We have to be living to embrace the glory of who we are—to bring ourselves forth—to experience the shape of unencumbered emergence. We have to be living to serve the Self within.
We live in someone’s service, that of the tyrant without or of the, well, tyrant within. The Self as Tyrant Within. Now, there’s one for you.
We have to accommodate ourselves to a will that is not our will. We cannot think life is ours to do with as we please. Life is ours to do with as we must. “I have no say in it, Gibbs. It’s the pirate’s life for me.”
We have to square ourselves with the reality that we do not call the shots. We collaborate with the One Who Knows Within in the unfolding of who we are in our life, but we do not get to live the life of our choosing.
Anybody can dig a tunnel. Do we have what it takes to step out of it at the other end? To step into the life waiting for us to live it? To solve our own problems and find what is right for us and do it every day through-out the time left for living?
It is not enough to want to leave Egypt. We have to have what it takes to live in the Land of Promise. We have to have what it takes to be who we are.
- Big Creek 05 — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN, November 7, 2007 — We waste a lot of time talking about free will. We are not free to will what we want or to choose our choices. How free is that? We want what we want and not what we want to want. And our choices are our choices. Give us better choices and we’ll give you better decisions.
Enlightened as we can be, we still have the choices we have. Our life is still our life and we still have to live it—“solving our own problems and finding out for ourselves what is right for us.” Most of us are not deliberately, willfully, mean, evil or stupid, and those of us who are were mean, evil or stupid before we deliberately willed it.
We did not deal the hand we are playing, and we are doing what we can think to do with the world we woke up in, with the terms and conditions, context and circumstances, we found waiting for us when we stepped forth from the womb.
There is very little free about the entire enterprise. And we could use more help than we get. A friend to listen us to the truth of ourselves would be a great assist. A friend to listen without advising, directing, condoning, condemning, converting, saving, shaming, etc—a sounding board to help us work things out for ourselves—and just by listening enable us to say what we need to hear. What a wonder that would be, and we are lucky if we have something that even comes close!
So we need to get off our back about all of this being our fault because of “free will,” and just see it as a mess that can be helped to become as good as it can be with a touch of compassion and grace, kindness and generosity, and giving people the benefit of the doubt and an encouraging word. We are all dealing with more than we know what to do with.
- Heron at Sunset Panorama — Reedy Fork, Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 25, 2013 — We reform the culture and the world by reforming ourselves. We reform ourselves by seeing ourselves, hearing ourselves—by growing up and being who we are.
The culture doesn’t want independent, self-reliant, self-defined, self-determined, true human beings as members of the culture. The culture doesn’t want anyone thinking for herself, himself. The culture distracts us from the tasks of seeing, hearing, and understanding with entertaining pastimes.
The Roman strategy of “Give them bread and circuses” (That would be gladiators fighting lions, tigers and each other to the death in the Colosseum) prevails today. The culture hands us the internet and iEverything and tells us to go play. Go do anything but see how things are, and what needs to be done about it, and do it.
We transform the culture when we see things as they are. And that is not good for the economy. The culture has a lot at stake in keeping us mindlessly unaware of the emptiness of our life.
When we stare into the face of meaninglessness, we begin to look for meaning. Where did we last see it? Where did we put it? What did we do with it?
The culture flashes us with mesmerizing quick-takes of glass beads and silver mirrors—It worked with the Purchase of Manhattan, and has been working ever since—to get us back in tow. But. Once we marry meaning, we are immune to the culture’s tricks of diversion and distraction.
What has meaning for you? Where is your meaning to be found? Go there! Find it! Follow it throughout what remains of your life. It will lead you to the heart of truth and value, and change the world.
- False Kiva Panorama — Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT, May 14, 2010 — We have to work it all out. It’s just a bit ridiculous. No super hero ever had as much on her or his plate.
The invisible world has a stake in our life, and we have to align ourselves with its ideas for us—getting “on the beam,” so to speak, and staying there.
The visible world has a stake in our life. We are supposed to be good company people, not rocking the boat, maintaining the status quo, thinking what we are supposed to think and doing what we are told to do—and we have to keep things reasonably stable there to keep the wrath of Those Who Know Best at bay and give ourselves a chance to bring forth who we are within the context and circumstances of our life for the true good of the visible world.
And we make it work, integrating, harmonizing, reconciling, mediating the conflicts, making peace. We are paving the way here, making a way in the wilderness, if you will, for the one who is coming, that is, for who we are to come into being in the life we are living.
We are bringing forth who we are within the world of space and time. We are envoys of the invisible world within the visible world. So stop thinking of yourself as the child your parents, the partner or spouse of your partner or spouse, the parent of your child or children, the owner of your dog and cat, the employee or owner of your place of employment, etc. You have bigger fish to fry.
You stand between worlds and make it work.
- January Shoreline 08 — Piedmont Trail, Lake Brandt, Bur-Mill Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 13, 2013 — Meaning is a white rabbit, catching our eye, winking at us, calling our name, leading us a merry chase, passing us off, in time, to other white rabbits the way “one book opens another,” showing us a bit more of who we are with each exchange, until, by the end of a life filled with meaning found by following what caught our eye, struck a cord, clicked, resonated, rang true, we realize the wonder of being who we are.
- The Shape of Time 06 — Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — It’s going to be just fine. Why not believe that? Why believe it’s hopeless, pointless, useless and coming to a very bad end? Even if it IS hopeless, pointless, useless and coming to a very bad end, how we live in the meantime makes all the difference. Why not live like it is going to be just fine?
And look for the help we need? And look for how we can make use of what we have until we get the help we need?
What form does your creativity take? You’re not sitting on it are you? Your creativity? You didn’t put it on some shelf in some closet did you? Not in the attic! It will dry up for sure in the attic! When is the last time you used it? Pull it out of storage! Dust it off! Shake it out! Put it on and get to work!
Here you are whining about how hopeless, pointless, useless it is and what a bad end its coming to and you haven’t given your creativity a chance at it! Turn your creativity loose on it! Let your creativity show you what its got to offer! Give it an opportunity to demonstrate what all you can actually do in the meantime if you put your game face on and say, “Give me the ball!”
- Reedy Fork Sunset H 02 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 24, 2013 — Our work is to find the grounding center—the heart—of our life, and live out of that heart. Scratch what we think. Think about what we feel.
What feels right, good, true, real? What clicks with us? Resonates with us? Works for us? Calls our name? Where do we belong? How often do we go there? How long do we stay?
Is it clear to you that you need to reduce the time spent not doing what is life for you and increase the time doing what is life for you? That you need to live in sync with the grounding center—the heart—of what is life for you? And if there is a problem with your other life, you have to work it out?
Pull your creativity out of storage and tell it to work it out. And tell it you are not going to return it to storage because you are going to need it a lot from here on out. And tell it you are going to show it a really good time. And keep your word.
- Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, near Bar Harbor, ME — You know what is good for you and what is bad. What is right for you and what is wrong. What works and what doesn’t work. Where you fit and where you don’t belong.
Think of this kind of knowing as an emotional/spiritual (Where DOES that line lie?) vital sign. It’s all the guidance and direction you need to find your way. So what’s the problem?
You are afraid. You are afraid to stir things up. You are afraid to upset the balance. You are afraid to tamper with your life.
What if, in trying to make things better, you make things worse? What if you incur the wrath of Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased? What if your lose your marriage or your relationship, your job, your kids, everything you ever loved and wind up lost and alone in the world? Better just be smart and play it safe and pray for a miracle.
A miracle would be things getting better with nothing much changing.
What I’m saying is the problem is you. You are the only thing standing between you and what is good for you. We have to get you on your side. If we ever get the two of you together, you will be an unstoppable team. Until then, you’re just immoveable.
Who are you going to trust if not yourself? Where are you going to look for a creative genius to straighten out your life and put it on the right track without it exploding all over the place if not in the mirror?
Do me a favor. Just tinker with your creative imagination. Just play around with it. DON’T DO ANYTHING! Just wonder. Just pretend. Just imagine. Different scenarios, different approaches, sly but significant ways to move from what’s bad for you to what’s good for you—from what’s wrong for you to what’s right for you. Small gestures toward life.
Then, when you’re ready, do something very slight but symbolic and see what happens. You are teaching yourself to be courageous—learning to trust yourself to be creative and self-reliant, alive and who you are.
- Wetlands Morning Fog — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, January 12, 2013 — What do we need to be who we are? Well. We need to get out of the way, for one thing. And off our back, for another.
We have our ideas, you know. We know who we want to be. And we want to hurry up and be there. It takes growing up to get past what we want, and when we want it, and into who we are, and we cannot grow up before our time.
We need time to be who we are. And a good bit of luck. And a sense of humor won’t hurt a bit.
- Goose Wars 03 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 14, 2013 — I sit and watch the stream. The stream has its own direction and flow. The days come and go, and bring what’s coming and take what’s going.
And our role in the play of time with place seems to be that of compassionate witnesses. We are not unmarked by the passing of time, by the impact of event and circumstance. It matters to us what happens. We care about what comes and what goes.
It’s what I like best about us. We have a stake in it. An investment. We are here to tilt things toward the good—to make things better by our having been here.
We feed the birds, and house them, and give them water to bathe in and drink. Say what you will about us, we wash out bird baths and fill them with fresh water—and there is more to us than that. We all should be proud to be one of us, and a part of the stream in its comings and goings.
- The Shape of Time 07 — Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — We are here to do the work, not to get the work done, not to lay it by, not to finish anything. We are polishing silver here. When has silver ever stayed polished?
We’re cleaning out a cavernous warehouse with a concrete floor and dust and gunk and crud everywhere, and lights that don’t work properly, and tools that would be better fitted to some other job, and when we clean the warehouse, we have to do something with it, sell it or give it away, and who is going to want to buy it or take it off our hands? But it’s ours to clean and manage.
Responsibility without control is one of those demonic schemes haunting humankind, hanging over us, laughing. Sisyphus rolls his stone, we play it out. PLAY it out. Make a game of it. Get the last laugh. “The situation is hopeless but not serious” (Walzlawick).
What lasts? What matters? Compassion is high on my list. And humor. Kindness, tenderness, gentleness, mercy, peace, art, music, dance, beauty, seeing, hearing, understanding, a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye… Make your own list of the things that have mattered, that do matter, to you, in your life. Practice those things as you do the work, smiling and twinkling, winking and laughing, transforming your world and ours, through the quality of your living in it.
- January Shoreline 04 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC, January 14, 2013 — The work is growing up and being who we are. We have to be doing the work. We have to be doing our own work.
Psychotherapy is a great idea for helping people do the work but. Too many psychotherapists are not doing the work themselves. Organized religion is a great idea for helping people do the work but. Too many paid clergy are not doing the work themselves.
You can’t help someone with their work if you aren’t doing your work.
There is a problem with doing the work of growing up and being who we are. We don’t want to grow up. We don’t want to be who we are.
We have a better idea. Hanging out with our friends drinking beer, popping pills, having sex, letting the good times roll, really living. You know. Like that.
Who do you know that is working on growing up and being who they are? Who do you know that is working on NOT growing up and being who they are?
How do you get people to want what they don’t want? To do what they don’t want to do? What other people want or don’t want is not our problem. We have our hands full with ourselves, with getting ourselves to do our own work, growing up, being who we are.
- Mallard in Flight 17 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 29, 2013 — Thinking does not replace instinct and intuition. Thinking serves—implements—instinct and intuition. Thinking collaborates with instinct and intuition, takes its direction from instinct and intuition.
Life gets complicated. Increasing complexity is the way of evolution. In the beginning, instinct and intuition could carry the day, as long as tomorrow could be counted on as being a simple extension of yesterday. When we began to create possibilities we had never encountered, we had to devise something more elaborate than instinct and intuition to help us along. We came up with thinking.
Thinking stole the show. Thinking thought it WAS the show. Director, producer, actor, audience. Thinking is great at figuring out how to get things done. it isn’t so great at figuring out what to do—and when to do it. Instinct and intuition are great at knowing what to do when, but need help in how to get it done.
We have to coordinate the effort. Thinking has its place. Instinct and intuition have their place. We have to see to it that they work together for the good of the whole. We begin by paying attention to instinct and intuition. We have to learn to feel what we feel, to sense what we sense, to know what we know—and to trust ourselves to More Than Meets The Eye.
This is not easy. But. It is essential. Start with the small stuff. What are you “in the mood for” for lunch? Go with it. Practice your “in the mood for” sense of direction. Think about how to carry it out. See where it goes.
- Bryce Morning 03 — Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon, UT, May 16, 2010 — Those of you who have been with me for a while have heard me say, “Fooling ourselves is what we do best. No! Kidding ourselves is what we do best. No! Telling ourselves what we want to hear is what we do best. No! Shooting ourselves in the foot is what we do best!”
We could save ourselves a lot of grief if we would only stop lying to ourselves. Self-deception is the root of all of our recurring problems. We cannot grow up without looking ourselves in the eye—without seeing what we look at. The terminally immature will not square up with who they are.
I’m after honest, objective, self-evaluation. Inflation is the result of weighing what we see toward the good. Deflation is the result of weighing what we see toward the bad. Stop spinning you for good or ill. Just know who you are and who you also are. Stop pretending that you are better or worse than you are.
Sit with you. All of you. This is the biggest test. What of you is not welcome? What of you is compensation for the unwelcome part? What of you is hiding, concealing, denying the unwelcome part? You aren’t going anywhere until you all can go together, on good terms. Your relationships with other people will be no better, no more honest, no more intimate, no more vulnerable than your relationship with yourself.
It all starts with, and hinges upon, your sitting with you until all of you is welcome, listened to, heard, understood, received with compassion, reconciled to, and integrated with, the rest of you. We have to work out our differences with ourselves before we can work them out with one another.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Bridge Over Glen Canyon — Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — There is where we belong and where we have no business being. Sometimes where we belong is where we have no business being. Life is great that way. We have to work it out.
We work it out by being intently aware of our conflicts. On one hand this, on another hand that, and on another hand, that over there. Ambivalence, discord, conflict, opposition, disharmony, contrariness… It’s a wonder we ever keep anything down, living as we do on the rolling waves of the heaving “wine dark sea.”
Placid waters are out of the question. We work with what we have. It helps to have the mindset of Odysseus: “I will stay with it and endure through suffering hardship / and once the heaving sea has shaken my raft to pieces, then I will swim.”
”The heaving sea” is the turmoil of our life amid the conflicts and contradictions of living. It is the nature of things to be torn, fragmented, at odds, feeling very strongly both ways, or all possible ways, at the same time.
The worst thing to do is to take a pill or have a drink (or a six pack or two) to numb the pain of dis-integration. We have to do the work of integration, I don’t care how awful it is.
The work consists of being conscious of our conflicts and feeling the disorientation and upheaval all the way to the heart of our anguish. This is called keeping your feet in the fire. It is knowing—bearing the weight of—the full reality of contradictory truths, and reconciling yourself to the fact of that is the way it is with you. You. Are. Torn. So be torn without tearing. Bear the pain. Consciously.
As you sit with the pain, something will shift. This is called healing the breach (Or bridging the canyon). Bearing the pain consciously changes things. This is the work—the magical work—of integration, reconciliation. It is coming to terms with how things are and what can be done about it.
What can be done about it does not necessarily mean disappearing the conflict, as in deciding for one side against all others. It may mean accommodating yourself to the fact of conflict and making it work. Living in two or more worlds at once, for example. Accepting that that’s the way it is. Swimming through the heaving sea.
Maybe you just make your peace with the heaving and swim on, maybe even enjoying the crashing of the waves, relishing the delight of being alive to the complexity and joy of life as it is. You work it out in a way that works for you, there on the rolling wonder of the wine dark sea.
- Green River Canyon — Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT, May 13, 2010 — The unconscious world is simply the world we are not conscious of. It is everywhere and we don’t see it. We walk through it on our way to check the mail but our receptors don’t pick it up. We are awash in the unconscious world, and no more aware of it than a Blue Fin Tuna is aware of the sea.
But. We know something is wrong. Something is out of kilter. Something is just not right somehow.
What’s right about your life? What is not right? Don’t answer these questions with your head. Answer them with your body. Your body knows. Your body will tell you what is right and what is not right, what is good for you and what is bad.
Our body is our link to the unconscious world, not our head. Our head is largely unconscious of our body. If we are going to become increasingly conscious, we begin with becoming conscious of our body, its signals, what it knows, what it can tell us if we listen.
Even when we fool our body and addict it to sugar or to cocaine or alcohol, there is a “deeper body” that knows the craving is a lie. The “deeper body” knows. Our task is to know what the Deeper Body knows and to align our living with its knowledge of good and bad.
What is good for us and what is bad? What is right for us and what is wrong? Takes listening to know. Deep listening. We cannot hurry here. We have to foster a cooperative spirit in league with, aligned with, loyal to what the Deeper Body knows.
We feel what we know. We do not think it. The knowing that is the heart of knowing, the Heart of Life and Being, is felt knowing. We feel it in our body.
So. Here’s your homework. Feel what your body feels. Listen to your body. Feel what “No!” feels like and what “Yes!” feels like. Let your body be your guide the rest of tonight and all day tomorrow. Check everything with your body. Your body leads the way. You follow.
- Goose in the Mirror — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 15, 2013 — See what you can get by with. Take small steps in the direction of who you are. If they catch you at it, feign ignorance and innocence.
They may accuse you of not being yourself when you begin to live toward who you are. Promise to do a better job of being you.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradictions, etc., Daffodils — Bicentennial Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 15, 2013 — We don’t need a Guru to tell us the truth of our own heart’s leanings, our own soul’s deep joy. No one else can tell us when we are centered in the life that is right for us, that is where we belong. Only we know that.
We only need the courage to align ourselves with the life we know is right for us, to do the things we know are ours to do.
It is not all or nothing. There are trade-offs and compromises all along the way. We do things that are ours to do mixed in with things that are not ours to do. The dance is to pay the bills while doing the fewest things that are not ours to do and mostly the things that are ours to do.
There is no plan for your life. There is only your life and not your life. You have to make that choice in each situation as it arises. We make up the form and shape we take as we go. The Plan is to be who we are. The particulars will take care of themselves.
There is that which is right for you and that which is wrong for you. Sometimes that which is right for you is wrong for you, and vice-versa. Taking everything into account, all of the conflicts and contradictions, interests and influences, what will you do?
You have to make the call about what you do in response to what is happening in the present moment of your life. Our life comes into focus, or drifts out of focus, takes shape and form, in the choices we make about what to do in response to what is happening here and now in each situation as it arises.
It isn’t about believing true beliefs about the afterlife and how to get there, it’s about living aligned with a life that is right for us. If we live aligned with the life that is right for us in each situation as it arises, the afterlife will take care of itself.
- Leaves 01 — Bicentennial Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 15, 2013 — The head does not know what the body knows. The body does not know what the head knows, but the body is quite willing for the head to take the lead in the areas of its expertise.
The head, on the other hand, in its profound arrogance, is unwilling to grant the body any area of expertise. The head thinks it knows, and does not know what it doesn’t know, and is not interested in knowing.
Our role is to mediate the relationship between body and head, to ask the body what it knows and hope the head is listening.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradictions, etc., The Shape of Time 08 — Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — What would help us with our life? This is one of the essential questions. Answer it, and you have it made. On my list are:
Squaring ourselves up—making our peace—with our contradictions and conflicts. This is also called facing up to the truth of how things are and also are. This does not mean getting rid of contradictions and conflicts. In means letting them be. This is true, and this is true and this is also true—and if this is true, then that cannot be also true, and that, too, is true. We bear consciously the pain of mutually exclusive contradictions—and in bearing the pain, we wait for the shift to occur and something to change. It could be us that changes.
A place apart where we can collect ourselves, sort things out, regain our perspective, find our peace, remember what is important, return to the grounding center of our life and reorient ourselves toward who we are and what is life for us in order to step back into the fray and do what needs to be done there.
A listening room where we can hear what is going on in our life, see what is happening and what needs to be done about it.
A vibrant connection with The One Who Knows, the Invisible Other Within, the Heart of Life and Being, the Source of Gifts and Calling that are ours to give and to do. We are not alone. There is more to us than meets the eye. We have an inner colleague ready to collaborate with us in doing the work that is ours to do within the time and place of our living. We foster that relationship by treating it as though it is real and entering into dialogue with our Inner Guide—a dialogue which will remain constant throughout our life.
The right kind of company. A small community—which may never know each other—we depend on for balance, stability, and caring presence. The right kind of friends who can listen us to the truth of who we are without advising, directing, controlling, preaching, criticizing, meddling, interfering and getting in the way. It takes work to build and maintain this kind of group, but it is work that makes it possible for us to do our other work, the work of growing up and being who we are—doing what is needed in, and offering what we have to give to, each situation as it arises.
Create your own list. Add to it as things occur to you that would be helpful to you in living the life that is yours to live. The more conscious you an make that life—and the more conscious you can be of the help you need to live it—the more likely you are to live it and the more likely the world will be blessed by your presence in it.
- Wetlands in the Rain Panorama — Guilford County near Summerfield, NC, February 7, 2013 — We live as though it is “out there” for us to achieve, do, acquire, amass, accomplish, see, master, manipulate, manage… It is “in here” for us to bring forth, serve, assist, know, love, become.
The meaning we seek “out there” in our buying, spending, amassing and consuming is found “in here” when we align ourselves with what seeks us—with what seeks to be realized, actualized, made real in us.
Listen! What calls your name? Look! What catches your eye? Why are you overlooking the important things in your quest for what is important? Why are you trying to be Somebody when the task is to be who you are?
- Bass Lake — Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, NC, October 5, 2012 — We wonder what we should do with our life. We should love what we love and see where it goes.
We should find ways of paying the bills which allow us to love what we love. We should not worry about getting ahead. Staying even is good.
We stay even with the bills that allow us to love what we love. If you can do better than that, have at it!
What do you love? How often do you do it? How often do you love what you love in tangible, concrete, present and accounted for ways?
We spend all our time paying the bills and none of our time loving what we love, doing what we love. We mean to, but.
Whatever we think we are buying with the bills we pay is money wasted if it keeps us from loving what we love and doing it.
As Linda Cohn would say, “Are you picking up what I’m laying down here?”
- Used in Short Talks On Contradictions, etc., Mallard in Fight 23 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 15, 2013 — Take care of the babies! The babies would be the inhabitants of the invisible world. We are the caretakers of psyche/soul, and bring it forth in our life like a babe born in a manger, tending and caring for it, aligning ourselves with it, merging with it, so that, at the end no one can tell where it starts and we stop.
Do not think of the unconscious world—that would be the world we are not conscious of—as all together and wise and good and perfect. It’s a mess in there, as the old Romans well knew.
We bring consciousness to bear upon the inner world—growing it up and growing up ourselves in reconciling opposites, integrating conflicts and contradictions, and working out the differences between spiritual and physical reality.
We are all changed by the engagement with the other. The incarnation of transcendence impacts both worlds, which is exactly what we do when we bring forth invisible reality (that would be the life that is ours to live) in the world of space and time.
And people are bored with their life to the point of watching Reality TV. That is not taking care of the babies!
- Cloud Bank — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC, January 23, 2013 — Love what you love. Do your thing. This is not hard. It gets hard when it gets tangled up with ambition, competition, success, who and how we are supposed to be.
You successfully eat an ice cream cone when you eat an ice cream cone. It doesn’t matter who finishes first or who eats the most.
What do you enjoy about your life? Enjoy it. What do you like to do? Do it.
When people intrude, interfere, and get in your way, be kind to them and, as soon as it is appropriate, get back to doing what you like to do, enjoying what you enjoy—with awareness.
When you do what you like to do and enjoy what you enjoy with awareness, you will find yourself being passed along from what you like to do to what you also like to do, from enjoying what you enjoy to enjoying what you also enjoy.
An entire life will develop from following two basic strategies. And you will be a lot more pleasant to be around than if you had diligently pursued being who you were supposed to be and never loved what you love or did your thing.
- Owl Goes Fishing 05 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 20, 2013 — Talk about synchronicity (We WERE talking about synchronicity, weren’t we?)! My life has been uniquely suited to me. It probably wouldn’t have done at all for you. Or yours for me. Funny how it works out that way, don’t you think?
My life has been exactly what I needed it to be exactly when I needed it to be that. If it had been much different, I wouldn’t be here, now. If we change anything, we change everything.
What we have to deal with is what we have to deal with. How we deal with it tells the tale. It is not too late to start dealing differently with things. If you wish things were different in your life, start dealing with them differently. That will change things up right smartly. It’s pretty much the only thing that will.
- Owl Goes Fishing 06 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 20, 2013 — It all has to work together for the good of the whole. WE all have to work together for the good of the whole that WE are. The WE here is both personal and individual AND corporate and communal. We cannot be a part of a community until we can be the individual we are. We have to work together on all levels for the good of the whole on all levels.
You have to be centered, focused, grounded on—aligned, allied, in sync with—that which is deepest and best and truest about you—integrated with who you are and what you are about on the level of heart and soul. You have to live with complete integrity of being, that is, in ways that are integral to the truth of who you are.
If you put your hand over your heart in the Pledge of Allegiance posture, and then close your hand into a fist so that your knuckles are against your chest and at the center of your chest just above your sternum, that is a gesture of connection with the center of your life and being. When we live out of that center, we are at-one with who we are.
The gesture wakes you up to your need to be aware of who you are and what you are about on the deepest level—and of what you are doing in the present moment of your life—and whether the former is aligned with the latter. It is a grounding, centering, focusing, self-adjusting, course-correcting gesture. A way of taking stock and re-orienting ourselves in light of what is truly important and serves the good of the whole, on all levels.
- Owl Goes Fishing 04 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 20, 2013 — I have known people who are constitutionally inhibited from being able to express kindness, tenderness, compassion, consideration or even interest in others. They can’t help it. They just don’t get it. It has never occurred to them that they are not kind. They never think about it.
We cannot worry about THEM. We have our own work to do. A portion of that work entails developing our own ability to be kind, tender, compassionate, considerate toward, and interested in, other people and the world around us. That includes compassion, etc., toward those who are not compassionate—loving our enemies, so to speak. At least, loving those who are working the other side of the street.
Working our side of the street means caring for those who work the other side—without giving them more of ourselves than would be appropriate for us to share. We aren’t their servants, and will need to draw a line, but. We can draw it with kindness and compassion along with firmness and finality.
The work is on ourselves—seeing, hearing, understanding how things are, within and without, and what to do about it in each situation as it arises, and doing it. If we get this down in the time left for living, then we can work on those who don’t have a clue about any of it.
- Owl Goes Fishing 03 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 20, 2013 — A parishioner in one of the churches I served, speaking for a lot of parishioners in all of the churches I served, asked me, “Jim, why don’t you talk to us about things we can understand?” I replied, “I don’t know, Marlene. I wish I could.”
I understood her question to mean, “Why don’t you tell us what we have always heard? What we expect to hear?” Maybe she was asking, “Why are you so totally incomprehensible?”
My reply applies to either possibility. But. Somebody has to hold the door open to things that haven’t been said enough. We can’t just settle for what we have been told or what we are capable of understanding. We have to be pushed, pulled, beyond where we are if we ever hope to be anywhere else—and if we don’t hope to ever be anywhere else, well, why not?
There is more that we don’t know than we do know. We don’t know half of all there is to know. We have to be thinking things that haven’t been thought. Asking questions that haven’t been asked. What kind of adventure is it that keeps everything as it is forever? We wouldn’t go to a movie or a play or read a book like that. Why would we want to live a live we wouldn’t want to read about?
- Owl Goes Fishing 02 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 20, 2013 — We have to dance with our fear. We have to see if we have as much to be afraid of as we are afraid we do. We have to see if it is as bad as we think it will be. We cannot take our word for it.
We would tell ourselves, “Keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone, do what you are told and don’t ask any questions, and you’ll be just fine.” Our ancestors handled Saber Tooth Tigers and Hairy Mastodons. Their genes are dying for an opportunity to step forth into our life and show us what we can do. We cannot keep them in a dark corner with us, under a blanket, hoping that nothing bad happens—that nothing happens—ever in our life.
We have to go looking for trouble. We cannot be running from trouble. We are made for trouble. We are evolution’s crown jewel when it comes to handling trouble.
We are afraid, though, it isn’t so. We owe it to ourselves to find out if it is—if we can rise to any occasion—if we do have what it takes to live our life, the life that is our life to live, the life that only we can live, in the time left for living.
We spend our living time being afraid of life. Being afraid of taking a chance. Being afraid of the unknown. The horse that is our life, that is our life to live, grows sway-backed and feeble out in the pasture while we cower in the bunk house, afraid to come outside because there might be dragons or something worse.
It’s like this, see? We have a life and we have one chance to live it. We have to take the chance. We have to live toward the life that is ours to live and see what happens. How will we ever explain to our life that we didn’t have the courage to let it show us what we could do?
Do something, some small thing, today to live toward your life. See what happens.
- Owl Goes Fishing 01 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 20, 2013 — We are here to love what we love and to offer what we have to give to the situation as it arises.
The situation as it arises calls forth what we have to give and shows us what we are made of. We wake up to who we are by being confronted with situations we would never write into the script.
The life we are living calls for the life that is ours to live. And we think we cannot live the life we are suited for in this old context and these old circumstances. We think we have to have a bigger, better, finer, different life in order to be who we are.
We are waiting for the engraved invitation to the life of our dreams and our life is waiting for us to give it a chance in the here and now of our living.
We each have a life that is our life to live—that only we can live—that needs us to live it. Well?
- Owl Goes Fishing 00 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 20, 2013 — “How am I going to live my life?” “How am I going to be alive in the life I am living—in the time left for living?” These questions are waiting for us to ask, and answer.
- Owl Goes Fishing 07 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 20, 2013 — Finding our way to the life that is our life to live is a matter of listening to our body for direction, not to our head. Our head can figure out how to get there, but our body knows where to go, and what to stay away from.
We come equipped with an internal guidance system that got the species from where we started to where we are, but it cannot work if we ignore it, wishing we knew what to do.
- Green River Canyon A — Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT, May 11, 2010 — All we need is a Clearness Committee. A Clearness Committee is all we need.
A Clearness Committee is a creation of the Quakers whose purpose is to help individuals find their way through the difficult decisions (What job to take, whether to marry, etc.) of their life. I would modify it to helping individuals find their way through their life.
We all need a group of trustworthy people—the right kind of listeners—to help us find our way through our life by enabling us to hear ourselves. It takes an external person to help us hear—to connect us with—internal reality. We are that disconnected. We can only hear ourselves through someone else. So we need a Clearness Committee.
If we all lived in the same town, we could divide ourselves up and be what each other needed. That not being the case, each of us is going to have to collect our own Listening Team.
Parker Palmer lays an excellent foundation for the process in his book, “A Hidden Wholeness.” You don’t need as much structure as he suggests, just a group of 3 to 5 people who know how to listen and ask you “How are you going to live your life?” and wait to hear what you have to say.
We have to explore the question of how to live our life, of how to be alive in the time left for living, from all angles. What is inhibiting us? What is the opposition, the resistance, within and without? What are our resources, our aids? What is calling us? What do we need to do what we need to do?
We explore the questions. We experiment with the possibilities. We experience all that is to be experienced and make it conscious by talking about it, articulating it, giving voice to it. And to do that, we need someone, some group of people, who know how to listen.
Listening is an art that few people have mastered. If you can find 3 to 5 who have it down, you have it made.
- The Shape of Time 10 — Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — Our body senses what (Instinct and intuition), our head figures out how (Logic and reason). Head cannot do body stuff. Body cannot do head stuff. When body and head work together, we hum right along. When they are at odds, or when head attempts to take charge, we jump the rails and plunge into the deep darkness.
Ann Weiser Cornell’s book, “The Power of Focusing,” is an excellent guide for learning to listen to our body and feel our way to the way that is our way.
Now, this is work. We are having to learn to navigate your life and the world in a way that is quite different from the way we have been doing it. We are looking for what is right for us, not for what we want to do, or what sounds exciting, or what looks like fun, or what promises to be a good time.
Our body knows what is right for us. Our eyes can be fooled into chasing after anything that looks (or sounds) good. Our head sits around weighing the pros and cons, the advantages and disadvantages and sends us into Organic Chemistry in our freshman year because that would satisfy any science requirement once we decide on a major. Stupid head. I had no business in Organic Chemistry, and my body knew it instantly, but my adviser had all these reasons and what was I going to say, “But it doesn’t feel right”? To date, the Organic Chemistry “F” is the only one on my undergraduate and graduate record. I wasn’t about to retake the course.
Just saying. Our. Body. Knows.
Our place is to know what our body knows and let our head figure out what to do about it.
- Mallard in Flight 25 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 19, 2013 — How do we decide how we are going to live our life? At any point, multiple futures are possible. What guides our choices?
In light of what do we live? What influences us toward one possible future over all the others? What determines what becomes of us?
Who do we consult in the matter of choosing a future, of choosing a path to a particular future? We have to choose our consultants carefully.
Choosing our consultants is choosing our future. Who are the people we listen to? Who are the people who listen to us, who hear us to the truth of who we are?
I had a bevy of poor consultants growing up. They were not the kind of guides I needed to the future I was designed for, cut out for.
I found the helpful guides in the books I read. “One book opened another,” and I was led to myself by those who were transparent to themselves.
To be “transparent to ourselves,” we have to see ourselves, hear ourselves, understand ourselves. To do that we have to love and accept ourselves, on every level, all the way to the heart of who we are.
We cannot think that we are a good self and a bad self and that it is the role of the good self to get rid of, or convert (same thing as getting rid of), the bad self.
We cannot be who we are until we can be who we are. To do that, we need people around us who can allow us to be who we are.
We need mirrors of the soul that we can stand before and see into the depths of our own possibilities and know which future to live toward.
The kind of mirror we need are human beings who care enough about us to see us when they look at us and help us to see ourselves.
Who sits with us, sees us, listens to us, knows us and helps us know ourselves buy helping us be conscious of who we are?
Carl Jung said, “We are who we always have been, and who we will be.” We are the future we seek. To find our future we have to see ourselves, know ourselves, listen to ourselves, love ourselves, be ourselves—in the company of those who can do that with us.
- Midnight Hole — Big Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN, November 7, 2007 — I have four stones in my office that I selected from the pile of stones being used to build the knee-high retaining wall by our driveway.
The four stones represent the foundation of the world, no, the universe—and all that is beyond the universe. Everything!
You can take four stones—or anything—and see everything in them if you look at them in the right way. The stones remind us to look beyond the stones, past the stones, to what the stones MEAN.
This is the place of symbols in our life. Symbols don’t mean anything in themselves (a stone is just a stone)—they remind us to look beyond them to what they stand for, represent. There is their meaning.
We are the architects of meaning in our own life. We make the meaningful connections. We find the threads of meaning—that have meaning to us—and follow them.
No one can tell us what is meaningful, just like no one can tell us whether the water in the pool, lake, ocean or stream is warm or cold.
“Come on in—the water is fine,” doesn’t mean the same thing to you as it means to me. We will decide for ourselves if it is fine or not.
Just so, we will decide for ourselves if something is meaningful or not. It is meaningful if we say it is, if we find it to be meaningful.
It is meaningful if it means something to us. Otherwise, it is just a stone, or a chalice, or a stream, or a series of words.
We find our own meaning. We have to find what is meaningful to us. We have to look at our life with eyes that see meaning there.
We give our life meaning by the way we interpret our life, by the things we say about it, by what we tell ourselves about living.
What life means is what we say it means. The meaning of life is the meaning we say it has. We make it up.
Our life is as meaningful as we imagine it to be. When I say the four stones in my office are the foundation of everything, I’m making it up.
I am imagining the four stones to be meaningful, to symbolize the actual foundation of everything, but there is no ACTUAL, literal, foundation.
Just to talk about “the actual foundation of everything” is to ascribe a meaning to things that does not exist in actuality. It is imaginary.
Nevertheless, the four stones in my office ARE the actual foundation of everything, and “the still point of the turning world.”
- Mallard in Flight 28 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 24, 2013 — We cannot just fall into any old life. We cannot just live the life that is handed to us, or the life we are told to live, or the one that is easy.
We have to find the life that is seeking us, the life that only we can live, the life that was ours to live before we were born.
I have to listen, and see. I have to have a life that calls for, that calls forth, listening and seeing. I cannot have a life that forbids listening and seeing, probing, inquiring, exploring, looking, poking around, investigating, going beyond what is said and exhibited to what else there is, what all there is. I cannot live the life that is generally required of us all. Can you?
We are cut out for some futures but not for others. The things we could not be are legion.
When we are stuck with having to be who we cannot be, something has to give.
Suicide or addiction sometimes seem to be the only way out. I recommend that we die to something else—not to life.
Die to wanting it to be easier than it is. Die to wanting life delivered to you, wrapped in a bow. Die to what you are told you cannot do.
Die to believing you cannot do what you know you are born to do. You owe it to yourself to find out if you cannot do it. Find out. Be sure.
Homer was a blind poet. Beethoven was a deaf composer. The work finds a way when we devote ourselves to being who we are anyway. Any way.
- Mallard in Flight 21 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, February 17, 2013 — How are you going to live what remains of your life? How are you going to become alive in the time left for living?
I recommend asking for a guiding dream. Seriously. Before you go to sleep tonight, ask your Inner Guide for a dream pointing you in the direction of how to live your life, of how to be alive.
You will have to interpret the dream. Dreams come from the right side of our brain and are dreamed by the left side of our brain. It’s FM talking to AM.
You ask for direction in how to live your life and you get a dream about a polar bear taking a hot shower. What sense does THAT make? The problem is compounded by the fact that no one can make sense of it but YOU. That’s YOUR polar bear and YOUR hot shower. YOU have to understand your own dream.
You may have to work with it over a period of days, or weeks, or the rest of your life. You honor the dream by working with it. By asking for additional dreams to help you find the interpretive thread. By letting it simmer while you wait to find the connection between what you asked for and what you got.
When you get it you will know it. Your body will resonate with your awareness. It will be like remembering the forgotten item at the grocery store. Not cheese, not toilet paper, not salt, COFFEE!
So, ask for a dream and do not throw away what you are given. Receive it well. Turn it over. Walk around with it. Work with it. See what becomes of it. It is the threshold to a new world of possibilities—for the rest of your life.
- Cone Manor Porch 02 — Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, NC, October 5, 2012 — It’s all practice. Why aren’t you practicing? Rehearsing your scenes? Trying on different roles? Crafting your art?
What is your art, by the way? Carl Jung said, “Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.” Our art will not leave us alone until we have done the thing and done it well. We practice our art. Our art perfects us.
Art chooses the artist the way the wand chooses the wizard. We cannot say, “Oh, I’m going to be a poet,” when our art is cutting down trees, or making pancakes, or receiving people well.
It is all practice. It is all art. We practice our roles, our scenes, in order to excel at the art of life, to master the art of living well.
The scene is visiting your mother in the nursing home. How many different ways can you play that scene? Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Then play it and see how you do. How can you improve your performance? How can you play it differently next time?
All those scenes that repeat, repeat, repeat themselves forever unchanging, always, always, always the same? Play them differently. Stop reading from the script. Ad lib your lines. Practice being a different character in the same scene.
The scene keeps recycling, keeps coming around. The sister-in-law is coming again. You get to practice as many different ways to play the scene as you can imagine. You don’t have to do anything the same way.
Art makes the artist. Jung said, “It is not Goethe who creates Faust, but Faust which creates Goethe.” You have an art. You become an artist by practicing your art. As one devoted.
- January Shoreline 05 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, January 14, 2013 — I go looking with a camera. Sometimes, I see something. More often than not, what I see is something I did not expect to see.
You have to go looking if you want to see.
You cannot wait until you are in the mood. You have to go looking whether you are in the mood or not.
It takes self-discipline to be an artist. If you are an artist of looking, you have to go looking. It’s the looking that makes an artist of you. It’s the practice that pulls you forth.
Your have to practice looking if you want to see.
Do not have much to do with people who tell you how to see. Who tell you how things are. Who tell you what’s what. Who spell it all out for you. Who give you the answers. All of them. About everything.
Go look for yourself. Decide for yourself what is right for you. Pursue it. With your whole heart. All your life long. If you can find better advice, take it.
- Duck on Ice — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, January 23, 2013 — May you see what you look at. May you hear what you listen to. May you understand what is happening in each situation as it arises and know what to do about it, and do it. And, in so doing, may you always weigh the best interest of yourself along with the best interest of others and the best interest of the situation, and act in light of all things considered. That should do it quite nicely, don’t you think?
- Lake Jeanette — Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — Our life—the life that is ours to live, that is—the life we were born to live—is always waiting to be lived.
It is never too late to start being who we are. We generally settle for depression, despair or rage for having not been who we are—and continue to fail to do the work of being who we are.
To begin moving toward who we are at any point in our life, we start loving what we love and doing the things that bring us to life.
What do you enjoy about your life? What do you do that you love? How long has it been since you enjoyed it? Did it?
Be who you are. That’s the most important thing. And, if you cannot do that, be who you say you are. That’s the second most important thing.
Being who you are means loving what you love, not what you are supposed to love. Thinking what you think, not what you are supposed to think. Believing what you believe, not what you are supposed to believe. Feeling what you feel, not what you are supposed to feel. Seeing what you see, not what you are supposed to see—or supposed to not see.
Being who you are means asking the questions that beg to be asked, even if you are not supposed to ask questions. And doing the things that need to be done, even if you are not supposed to do anything.
Being who you are frees you to live your life the way you would live it. You’ll do a lot better with it than Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased. Or my name isn’t Rocky.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Katahdin 17 — From the Abol Bridge on Golden Road overlooking the west branch of the Penobscot River at the lower end of the 100 Mile Wilderness near Millinocket, ME, September 25, 2012 —
The Buddha spent most of his life in a deep funk, suffering over the suffering he had witnessed in the world, and finally grew up enough to say, “Well, isn’t that just the way it is, though?” He called it enlightenment and stepped back into his life to free people from suffering about having to suffer.
Suffering got him to the place of being free from suffering and he tried to give people a short-cut to freedom from suffering by telling them how to think about it. It is a wonderful inconsistency, contradiction.
His experience was the path to his own release, but he figured he could save people the pain of that path by telling them about his experience. If you had pointed out the discrepancy between experiencing something and hearing someone talk about experiencing something, he would have said, “Yes! That’s right! I’m trying to save people the pain of waking up by telling them to wake up!”
”Growing up” is another term for “waking up.” No one can grow anyone up by talking to them about growing up. And no one can stop trying to do that.
We think if we just tell people to grow up, to wake up, enough, they will.
My wife wishes I would remember things, like where I put the checkbook. She thinks telling me to remember things is going to flip some switch and I’ll remember them. Last night I dreamed she told me to remember the church’s new address and I told her in the dream, “Telling me to remember something is like telling me to turn green.”
There are no shortcuts to turning green. Or to growing up. Or to waking up. Or to seeing, hearing, understanding. If we get there at all, we live our way there. But. That doesn’t stop us from telling people how to do it. From trying to give them a short-cut. To save them the pain of finding out for themselves.
There are no short-cuts to the realization that there are no short-cuts. We all have to live our way to wherever it is we are going.
- Lake Jeanette Fog 02 Detail, B & W — Greensboro, NC, January 11, 2013 — We have to have the audacity to live toward the life that is ours to live, not wait for it to be delivered.
We numb ourselves to the painful reality of this life by day-dreaming of THAT life—the one we would have if we won the lottery, or the one we could have had if it hadn’t been for whatever it was that forced this life on us.
We are not to waste our time dreaming of some Neverland Life. We have to live the life that is ours to live, beginning right here, right now, with these resources, in this context and these circumstances.
We cannot put things off waiting to be delivered from this life by winning the lottery, or stumbling upon a fairy godmother, or a Prince (or Princess) Charming, or a genie in a jar to whisk up for us a life worth living. That isn’t how it works.
We can’t wait to be delivered! Odysseus didn’t wait for deliverance from the Cyclops. Jacob didn’t wait for deliverance from the angel.
Step into your life and live it—live toward the life that is yours to live beginning now. You may take your lumps but you will get better at it. Better at living your life and at taking your lumps.
That’s a lot better than dreaming forlornly about Neverland.
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