May 31, 2020 § 5 Comments
In some ways, we have achieved the heightened awareness the post suggests, something we often only gave lip service to before the pandemic.
“Getting it done” often begins with a list:
Bathe the dog, pickup a dozen eggs, lose thirty pounds, finish reading the book started last summer, bake bread, call my sister, write that memoir….
The “how” of “getting it done” will fall somewhere between the following two choices:
1.You juggle. Everything on the list will get done incrementally. A little here, a little there. You move fast and leave each project with an I.O.U. and an apologetic, “Hey, I’ll be back,” and hope no task hits the ground before you can catch it again.
Upside? If you’re good at juggling there is rarely a big mess to clean up, and you don’t disappoint anyone–at least not completely.
Downside? Completion of each task comes with, at best, a moment of relief before you rush on to one of the other projects keening for your attention.
2. The single-project strategy: I will sit in this chair until I write ‘The End’ on this damned memoir! All other projects can pout, twiddle their thumbs, even wither and die because, for me, there is no other project.
Upside? The payoff is huge. You’ve slain the dragon! This calls for a ticker tape parade! A new national holiday!
Downside? You look up, and all your other projects are sickly and wilted, and those who have a stake in those other projects, or simply wanted a decent conversation, are good and ticked off. Still, for some there is only one project and it is worth living for, maybe even dying for: martyrs and saints, writers and artists, scientists and dictators—the rest of us have spouses, bosses, friends, and lists that natter at us too loudly to be ignored.
But neither strategy solves the underlying problem.
Time is the get-it-done problem that can never be solved. Time, a river that flows without end, is infinite. We, the list makers, are not. We, ourselves, are items on a list of a higher order and we will, one day, be crossed off.
As finite beings we have limited time to get anything done. Perhaps we should expend a little of that limited commodity to question the whir that keeps us in constant motion. Perhaps we should sometimes set it all down and do…nothing.
This idea can cause panic. Americans are a get-it-done people. Whether in increments or in one long march, we define ourselves by what we accomplish. The busy person seems far more important than the guy sitting on a bench enjoying the warmth of sunlight on his face.
Still, let’s entertain this idea as a third strategy.
3. Don’t get-it-done. Don’t do anything at all. Just be.
Sit still and feel the sun on your face and call it only, the moment.
You won’t vanish. You won’t depreciate in value. And you won’t sit quiet for long before you are, once again, doing.
But sometimes…sometimes…it is better to be the rock in the river, the rock that simply is, as the river rushes by.
April 12, 2020 § 3 Comments
God sat slumped, his hands on his knees.
When he had unbottled the primal soup that got the whole universe-time-life thing going he had unleashed a festival of possible outcomes, but perhaps he had added too much of that one ingredient, change.
Or perhaps the element, striving, which was shared by all things lit with the spark of life, was too strong.
Or it could be that he had stirred in too little of that moderating element, balance…
But for whatever reason, once in a while one of the competitors in the panoply of living species went rogue. It out-competed and overwhelmed the others.
There was that time with the locusts, a rustling conflagration that blackened the sky…
Prior to the current Corona virus plague, the species now under attack, the one self-named Homo sapiens, had mounted a plague of its own, one that made locusts look like pikers.
Homo sapiens were indiscriminate when it came to who they plagued: elephants, trees, fish, water, air, and earth.
But now, they were the ones in trouble. The ones snuck up on, and they were scared.
God sighed. He had a soft-spot for Homo sapiens, although their gathered praise embarrassed him (even if he did enjoy the singing). He poured succor down when they suffered, but did not give them what they asked for, which was a fix, a miracle. As much as they begged and flattered, he didn’t change the what-is he had created. It didn’t work that way.
If only they could see existence as so much more vast than what they were experiencing on the pinpoint of time. If only they put their faith in the eternal what-is. Then they would know that everything was, is, and always will be, okay.
But in this moment they are panicked. He’d seen this behavior before, this retreat into superstition; hadn’t he given them minds, curiosity, and reason?
Yes, he had. He’d equipped them with a tool kit to fix just about anything.
Now, all he could do was sit and watch, rooting for the ones with test tubes, charts, determination, and focus, pouring encouragement down on those who were throwing their own lives in the path of the deadly virus, and mourn those who behaved as mindlessly as the virus that was plaguing them.
“Come on, Homo sapiens,” he whispered. “Open the tool kit I gave you. Come on, Homo sapiens. Live up to the name you’ve given yourselves!”
Note: Click “The Never-Ending Adventures of God” page to read more accounts of the Almighty in action.
October 6, 2019 § 1 Comment
I’ve always hated that label, especially when it is used in a context that has nothing to do with consuming. But as the earth signals, in less and less equivocal ways, that we are driving its natural systems to the point of breakdown, I see that, in all contexts, we are consumers, and that we are consuming the very things on which our survival depends.
And we are doing it so casually, so thoughtlessly, because this is how it is. This is what we do. This is our normal, and heck, everyone does it.
As the elasticity of the ecosystems we take for granted disappears we have to look at “normal” with new eyes. Here are four ways to do that.
1.Think like an alien, one who can see the evolving disaster that threatens all life on this beautiful blue planet. Then observe the behavior of the dominant species.
What? These humans use 1.6 gallons of potable water to make a few ounces of urine go away, eat one meal with a plastic fork that will outlast the person using it, bulldoze a stand of trees and build a dollar store?
If you were seeing human activity as an outsider, would you see reason or madness?« Read the rest of this entry »
September 9, 2019 § 4 Comments
My husband and I were driving home from Jacksonville after riding Amtrak down the coast from Trenton, New Jersey. We were tired when we pulled into the I-10 rest stop, ready to be home. The poster about the missing woman was small and faded, easy to walk past without a glance, but what hung there was a story, so I stopped.
It was 2015 when Mary went for a walk.
She was born in ’53, so she was younger than I am by a couple of years, but her walk and the walks I take are different. I always know where I am.
According to the poster: “Mary requires medication and suffers from dementia.”
Her face on the poster looked like the face of a third grade teacher. It was an ordinary, sympathetic female face, one that has not been seen by her family or friends for four years.
The poster persists, appealing to random strangers: have you seen this woman in your travels? Do you see her even now, or do you just need a quick stop in the restroom and something from the vending machine before getting back on the road?
What are the odds of a butt-weary traveler stopping, looking, and recognizing Mary, who went for a walk in 2015?
Mary is a needle hidden in the haystack that is the world.« Read the rest of this entry »
September 1, 2019 § 3 Comments
Does time have weight?
Do we store it in our bones,
or carry it, unwieldy,
in our arms?
Is it the accumulated
weight of time that
wears us out,
makes us old?
can we set that burden down,
travel light again like
a child who lives
in the splendor of right now?
Can that newness be
snuck up on and captured
like a firefly
in a jar? « Read the rest of this entry »
August 3, 2019 § 4 Comments
I’m glad I grew up when I did, when connectivity was restricted to a phone with a curly cord that hung in my family’s TV room–such a public space.
And so, in my one private place, my room, all I could do was yearn and dream and imagine. I spent hours inventing conversations with boys who in real life had said little to me and thought about me even less, putting words in their mouths as we fell for each other.
Those relationships, and even the boys themselves were products of my heated imagination.
Alone in my room I yearned, serially, for each of those boys, imagining hand-holding, slow dances. We could not communicate with each other in that sanctuary. I could only communicate with myself, thrilled as I imagined something I had yet to experience.
The phone was the connection between me and other yearning girls—again public–although I could stretch the cord into the laundry room and close the door on it creating the illusion of privacy, “Do you think he likes me?” But my parents knew right where I was and, come bedtime, made me hang up.
Once in a while the call was from an actual boy–which was awkward with a sister, brother, grandfather, and two parents on a nearby couch watching Ed Sullivan. The conversations were awkward too, never as fluent or romantic as those I had imagined.
July 27, 2019 § 4 Comments
The bad stuff, the scary stuff, resides in the remembered past or the imagined future. The moment we are in is safe, almost always. The take-away is, live in this moment.
Habit shapes a life. A sedimentary process, habit lays down layer after layer. Just as sedimentation creates rock, habit adds up to something solid and enduring.
A small change, over time, can alter the course of a life. It begins as a slight bump, that causes a nearly imperceptible change in direction, but over time the angle widens and life goes somewhere completely different, unplanned. The change may be unobserved until you look back, shade your eyes and see the pebble way back there in your past that caused that slight deviation—and here you are, miles from where you thought you were going.
The smallest part can stand in for the whole. One flower with one insect walking on one petal can embody the wonder of nature in its entirety.
Ego blinds. It causes a person to see everything through the lens of self. It is like that old joke: “But enough about me! Now tell me, what do you think about me?”
Ego is the primary tool in the kit of survival. It justifies snatching something for the self that would benefit whoever snatches it first.
Boredom is the source of all great ideas. A mind, when even slightly entertained, won’t bother to come up with something innovative. The mind is lazy and is just fine with idling and watching puppy videos.
There is a peaceful calm that comes with age as long as the din of an aching body doesn’t shout down that calm.
With one exception, we are, and will always remain, separate from each other. We come together—and then we walk away, each gathering our observations independently. Humanity is a long playing-out of the fable of the blind men and the elephant. Each of us puts a hand on a different part of the elephant and calls what we have touched reality.
May 7, 2019 § 5 Comments
What is real? Real is what you witness with your senses–then it is interpreted through your mind, your preferences, your past, and reality becomes personal.
How do these personal realities co-exist?
Let’s say we walk in tandem, briefly sharing the view. Side-by-side, we come as close as we ever do to seeing things in the same way, but even then, what we choose to notice will differ.
What we notice is based on a lifetime of noticing, a lifetime of learned preferences. Because of that filter, even when together we see different versions of the world, each of us perfecting our individual perception of what-is.
As we go along together we talk, trading an approximation, not of what-is, but of how we perceive what-is, a perception shaped by our individual experiences, our place in the world, our historical moment.
As the one who has gathered those experiences, those observations, we believe we know reality.
But when it comes to knowing reality, each of us is one of the blind men with a hand on a particular part of the elephant, each of us describing, based on what can be perceived through that limited touch, something too big for any single human being to comprehend.
We can become strident about it, insisting that what we have decided is true is the only valid way to describe the elephant. We can be humble and ask others to tell us what they have learned about the elephant. But ultimately, we come to our own conclusions and then forget the question entirely, assuming we know all we need to know about the elephant. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 15, 2019 § 4 Comments
At first, life is an all-you-can-eat buffet.
There’s plenty more in the kitchen!
But time and mortality begin to take
options off the table.
So far it is just friends and family members—
Ones who are older.
Older than we are anyway.
We watch them peruse a narrowed menu
and feel sorry for them.
But the day will come when
we too will have to choose off a limited menu,
one that won’t disagree with who time
and circumstance and our own
have made us. « Read the rest of this entry »