Speechlessness

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We say something leaves us speechless when we are moved, or shocked, or stunned to silence.

As a metaphor, it’s pretty powerful, though, as I’m sure some critics will say, somewhat trite.

It’s different though, then something has left one literally speechless.

I have no voice — that’s a terrifying statement to me. It call us visions of powerlessness. Trying to explain, trying to fix, trying to express — all in vain.

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Fortunately, my lack of voice is the passing effects of a chest cough. Laryngitis, nothing more. It has prodded me to raise my voice again through this blog. There are things going on that deserve comment and discussion. My friend Byron calls it Tower Time. I wake in fear, voiceless, trying to cry out against the apocalypse. My son worries about the fall of civilization, of the barbarians overrunning the gates. We talk, only half serious, about stocking up. We count our assets (water in the creek, a cool crawl space for food storage, half an acre of farmable land, room for fruit and nut trees. In the meantime we could live from my always bursting pantry, and black walnuts, wild berries and dandelions.

Is this merely delusional paranoia or are hard times upon us. We’ve just come through hard times — more than a decade of war, six years of “worst recession ever” (aka, a depression). Layoffs, health problems, strife and loneliness, afflict nearly everyone I know.

But I repeat, There are things going on that deserve comment and discussion. We need to talk to each other, raise our voices in passion and with insight, not insult. Tower Time means it is upon us now: if not the apocalypse, then the responsibility to turn our steps to a new direction, where we can avoid that pit, those broken and bitter foundations, and build a better way.

It’s a new year and a time for new hopes and new resolutions. Let us resolve to make those hopes rooted and grounded in love, to bring about stronger foundations that will not tumble from the carelessness of greed or fear. That’s a resolution worth keeping.

And so it is.woman singing

Revisiting an Old Favorite

Sometimes the important things you read as a teenager or young adult make you wince when you come across them again years later.

I was (big surprise) browsing in an antique store this past weekend and came across an old favorite that didn’t disappoint me forty-five years after I first read it. In fact, I bought the inexpensive framed poster and just need to figure where to hang it. Anyway, I thought I’d share this and see how it strikes others, whether it’s an old friend or a new:

Desideratagreen road

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
woman singingBe yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

brigitTherefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

As always,

Blessings to All

“…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

It’s the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, which ranks in my mind as one of the “big three” of American documents the underpin not just the laws, but the heart and soul of America. With some loose talk around of secession, and agonizing wars overseas, it’s time to rededicate ourselves to this sentiment.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

–Abraham Lincoln

Amen.

Things Big and Little

Holidays often provoke a thoughtful and slightly sad reaction in me. So many milestones passed, for good or ill. So much done already in life, and still daunting mountains to climb.

I look around at friends’ lives, and I see that we’re all facing challenges — things big and little. An old friend facing a cancer diagnosis; one whose marriage may be stressed beyond redemption; another facing persistent financial lack; overwhelm at work; insecurities about work; boredom, sorrow, fear and loneliness.

Through all these saddening lenses, I also see glimmers of hope: things big and little that give grace and laughter. A bird’s song outside my window; a friend’s supportive and loving wife; petting my cat’s silky fur; listening to music while I knit; a leave fluttering down in the soft summer twilight; my pink petunias waiting to be transplanted; a leader’s decision to speak out and bring hope to thousands; a child waiting impatiently for Mr. Softee (yes, he still exists!).

Things big and little make up our lives. We pray for big joys and small sorrows, but often encounter the reverse. But joy and sorrow need not have binding qualifications. Joy can know no bounds, whether from a bird’s song or a newborn’s wail. Sorrow can be lessened through joy, no matter their relatives sizes.

This Memorial Day, I thank my son and your sons and daughters for their service. I pause, grateful and moved, at the sacrifices of so many. I remember my husband, my parents, and too many friends who have already left us, leaving holes big and small in our lives.

I wipe away a tear that blinds me with refracted sunlight, hear a bird singing in the yard, and listen for the wisdom, big and little, that relaxes my tightness, deepens my breath, and finally transmutes the fears, the sorrows, the pains into peace.

And so it is.

Gee, I feel like heading to Ft. Lauderdale… Oh wait, it’s only Spring Break!!!!!

I’m done. Finished. On time. Every single assignment. All week ahead, with nothing but time to knit, read books, knit, get some laundry done, knit, meet friends for a drink, knit.

……After this week, we come back for only another month (something a little screwy with that schedule, isn’t there?). Then it’s time to start the planning and deciding and juggling schedules, funding, priorities for another semester.

Actually, I love it all. Even the deadline pressures, the moments of “what the heck does that professor want!” or “that can’t be right!”

I’m going to recommend going back to college in your later years as a comical, self-deprecating Fountain of Youth. You’re buoyant with excitement, with the newness of the challenges, the changing semesters, and humbled by the energy of the young, the certitude, and the sweet, sweet callowness.

First One Down

Well, I finished my first semester at College yesterday. It was interesting (at least most of the time) and I feel a pretty good sense of accomplishment.

I’m now the proud possessor of 19 new college credits to go with the old 24 from the past. AND a 4.0 average!

Yes, I’m proud — even though I minimize it to myself because it was all easy stuff, first semester, things I already know, blah, blah, blah….

But still, 19 credits represented a good workload for someone getting into the groove 40 years after high school.

What does it say about me, though, that the thing I’ve been gnawing on most of the day is the fact that I totally tanked my Algebra final — I mean totally — with a 66. I knew I was having an off day from the minute I sat down, and I completely misjudged what to spend my review time covering. My lousy showing wasn’t enough to undo the consistent high A from the other tests and grades, but still…. I feel a bit ashamed.  For Pete’s sake, I have a 4.0 average, so why doesn’t that outweigh the sense of failure at blowing one solitary exam?

Human nature continues to fascinate, doesn’t it?

We Can Too!

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This great little image is from the artist who blogs at  http://agreenearth.blogspot.com. She’s initiating a weekly add-on post for positive change a baby-step at a time. 

I’m giving the “We Can Wednesday” meme a shout-out in part because I just love the image. It’s a pretty terrific concept, too. Report on positive change “small or large, personal or worldwide, action or concept.”  — Go girl!

The change I’m seeing is more laughter — in my personal life and at work. Sometimes it’s an effort to laugh rather than bitch when things go awry.

In his classic You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought, the late great Peter McWilliams said, “if it will be funny later, it’s funny now.”  Reading that statement for the first time set off one of those inner bells that lets you know it’s a profound truth — at least for yourself.

Another favorite quote is from Paul Simon, as he tried to sing “Still Crazy After All These Years” in a turkey costume on Saturday Night Live, “they told me, ‘Paul, you take yourself soooo seriously.'”  Oh how that made me wince!

So, I laugh at me, and foibles and mistakes, at the world’s antics, and in return I see the smiles, the lightened burdens, the spontaneous chortles, and the growing glow in people’s eyes. 

Happy We Can Wednesday.

Completion…or Not?

 

Completion

Don’t you love the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle?

The satisfaction of finishing something is an important motivator along the way — eventually we get to that last piece, enter the last word in the crossword, set the last stitch, hammer the final nail…

But in daily life, those moment of completion rarely get savored for long. The next project pops up, often even before we’re finished with the last!

Delighting in those moments of satisfaction is so important, though. It strengthens us for the next journey, the next challenge.

So take the moment to breathe in satisfaction and pleasure. Enjoy that sense of accomplishment. Even knowing that it won’t last, that it’s just a moment’s pause in the journey, relish that inner smile, stretch those moments out with everything you’ve got… then take another breath and move on!

Osho Zen Tarot’s interpretation of Completion:

This is the way of Zen, not to say things to their completion. This has to be understood; it is a very important methodology. Not to say everything means to give an opportunity to the listener to complete it.All answers are incomplete. The master has only given you a direction… By the time you reach the limit, you will know what is going to remain. This way, if somebody is trying to understand Zen intellectually he will fail. It is not an answer to the question but something more than the answer. It is indicating the very reality….The buddha nature is not something far away – your very consciousness is buddha nature. And your consciousness can witness these things which constitute the world. The world will end but the mirror will remain, mirroring nothing.

  
   aaaaa                               Osho Joshu: The Lion’s Roar Chapter 5
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Commentary:
Here, the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle is being put into its place, the position of the third eye, the place of inner perception.Even in the ever-changing flow of life there are moments in which we come to a point of completion. In these moments we are able to perceive the whole picture, the composite of all the small pieces that have occupied our attention for so long. In the finishing, we can either be in despair because we don’t want the situation to come to an end, or we can be grateful and accepting of the fact that life is full of endings and new beginnings.Whatever has been absorbing your time and energy is now coming to an end. In completing it, you will be clearing the space for something new to begin. Use this interval to celebrate both – the end of the old and the coming of the new.

“The Fool on the Hill”

zen001TheFoolInfinite possibility!  A brand new moment, each moment… endless freshness of being, eternal spring, eternal youth and optimism.

“Are you brave enough?” ask the cards.

Creativity requires courage, inspiration and willingness to work hard. That moment of suspension between what once was and what is now possible…. what a heady and frightful moment!

There is a  great wisdom in seeing each moment fresh for what it truly brings, rather than what habit or belief dictate we should see. The new idea, the new sonnet, invention, recipe, or relationship — regardless of the arena of expression, the creator must experience that moment of perilous faith at the start. 

Standing on that cusp, the soul trembles, steps forth, and soars.

Commentary from the Osho Zen Tarot website:

Moment to moment, and with every step, the Fool leaves the past behind. He carries nothing more than his purity, innocence and trust, symbolized by the white rose in his hand. The pattern on his waistcoat contains the colors of all four elements of the tarot, indicating that he is in harmony with all that surrounds him. His intuition is functioning at its peak. At this moment the Fool has the support of the universe to make this jump into the unknown. Adventures await him in the river of life.The card indicates that if you trust your intuition right now, your feeling of the ‘rightness’ of things, you cannot go wrong. Your actions may appear ‘foolish’ to others, or even to yourself, if you try to analyze them with the rational mind. But the ‘zero’ place occupied by the Fool is the numberless number where trust and innocence are the guides, not skepticism and past experience.

Fear of the Ordinary

I’ve always resisted being “ordinary” – whatever that means. I’ve felt I had to stand out and be noticed, but not too far out. Too far out and one becomes a target, not a light.

But in the struggle to find that perfect balance, to stay on the edge of special, to be a little different, a little better, and little more, much can be lost.

The breath of relaxation, of lack of self-consciousness. The simple pleasure of being in the moment, for the moment’s own sake, not for appearance, or judgment, or loss or gain. The simple ordinariness of being is the extraordinariness of it as well.

Ordinariness

Ordinariness

The lovely tarot card from the Osho Zen deck, Ordinariness, embodies this duality so perfectly. See the commentary below, gaze into the landscape and allow the moment by moment experience of the every day give you grace.

Let the light burst forth from your soul not from its stretched out limits, but from its whole center, unfettered, unstrained, unstudied. Stand on the bridge of self and watch as you move beneath in natural and joyful action.

Have an ordinary, extraordinary day.

Sometimes it happens that you become one, in some rare moment. Watch the ocean, the tremendous wildness of it–and suddenly you forget your split, your schizophrenia; you relax. Or, moving in the Himalayas, seeing the virgin snow on the Himalayan peaks, suddenly a coolness surrounds you and you need not be false because there is no other human being to be false to. You fall together. Or, listening to beautiful music, you fall together. Whenever, in whatsoever situation, you become one, a peace, a happiness, a bliss, surrounds you, arises in you. You feel fulfilled. There is no need to wait for these moments–these moments can become your natural life. These extraordinary moments can become ordinary moments – that is the whole effort of Zen. You can live an extraordinary life in a very ordinary life: cutting wood, chopping wood, carrying water from the well, you can be tremendously at ease with yourself. Cleaning the floor, cooking food, washing the clothes, you can be perfectly at ease–because the whole question is of you doing your action totally, enjoying, delighting in it.

 Osho Dang Dang Doko Dang Chapter 3

Commentary:This figure walking in nature shows us that beauty can be found in the simple, ordinary things of life. We so easily take this beautiful world we live in for granted. Cleaning the house, tending the garden, cooking a meal–the most mundane tasks take on a sacred quality when they are performed with your total involvement, with love, and for their own sake, without thought of recognition or reward. You are facing a time now when this easy, natural and utterly ordinary approach to the situations you encounter will bring far better results than any attempt on your part to be brilliant, clever, or otherwise extra-ordinary. Forget all about making headlines by inventing the latest widget, or dazzling your friends and colleagues with your unique star quality. The special gift you have to offer now is presented best by just taking things easily and simply, one step at a time.