Look Up. Look Higher. [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding out the truth about anything.” ~ Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

This will read like a blazing generality and I do not intend it to be so. Some of the best people I have known are readers of the book(s). They learned along the line to read their book(s) as metaphor instead of literally, as a history. There are, after all, many paths up the same mountain.

As for me, I was cured of religion when I was a boy but it’s taken a lifetime to understand what and why – and to find language to express what should (to me) be obvious to all.

It only takes a moment to lift your eyes from the book and look up – all the way up to the sky. The book is a human invention, as are the gods and the stories of the gods told in them. The sky, on the other hand, complete with stars and suns and universes beyond imagining, are not human inventions. The book lives in the human mind. That which the book is meant to illuminate is…wholeness…all around us. We are part of, not separate from. That’s it. It’s that simple. The game of separation and unity.

We are part of, not separate from. This word “Love” is unity, the absence of made-up-separations.

The book will have you believing that your body and its myriad of impulses are, like nature, in need of taming. Separation from yourself. The book will promote the notion of a chosen few, the singular path, a destiny that is manifest. Separation from other. Elevation for team-white. Moral authority for team-straight. It’s probably good to feel above others and certainly feels powerful to believe yourself keeper of the book’s rules. Isn’t it blatantly obvious that the rules were/are made by men to justify, as-the-voice-of-god, all manner of privilege and cruelty? Separation, separation, separation.

Here’s what I understood as a boy: any god that promotes separation in any form is very small, indeed, and probably not worth worshipping. At the very least it is a man-made god meant to make folks feel better about their obvious impermanence in an infinite universe.

There’s so much in this life worthy of our worship.

Whether or not we walk as one or decide to beat the hell out of each other for the color of our skin or the natural orientation of our sexuality has nothing to do with the vast universe outside of the book. We create the separations to justify our fear or to protect our property.

We are completely capable of love. We are completely capable of reaching across the unknown and living our short time on this earth in full support of the rich myriad of wonder and diversity expressed through us in this infinite possibility called life.

The book is an abstraction. The person standing before you is not.

Love is love. Love is not separation or division or privilege or a skin color or gender or sexual orientation. Love has nothing to do with how much money you have or do not have. Separations are the province of small people inventing small gods for very small reasons – so they can feel good about being separate and small.

Love is love.

read Kerri’s blogpost about PRIDE

Stand It Up Again [on Two Artists Tuesday]

OY copy

On the high shelf above our sink are 3 tin letters that spell the word ‘Joy.” They’ve lived up there for a long time and have, until recently, been faithful spellers of joy. Lately, the tin “J” has lost all sense of balance. Either that or it has developed narcolepsy. Either that or it has a drinking problem. Either that or it’s developed a dreadful case of self awareness and, like a shy two year old, is hiding behind the “O.” In any case, our “Joy” now routinely defaults to “Oy.”

We’re sailing through some choppy waters so it’s tempting to assign too much meaning to our “Oy.” After finding the “J” once again laying down on the job I said, “Maybe that’s the universe talking to us.” Kerri punched me in the arm. She said over her shoulder as she left the room, “You better knock on wood.” Apparently the universe listens but does not speak. To be safe I did as she suggested and knocked on the cupboard.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. ~ The Beatles

Live by the sword, die by the sword ~ Aeschylus

Isn’t there is some truth to the notion that what you put out into the world is related to what you get back from it? Of course, then there is this little pinch of conundrum: bad things happen to good people. Also, true. In story terms, it’s called competing narratives. Many people have spent their lives attempting to reconcile or explain this beautiful opposition.

Kerri came back into the kitchen, grabbed a chair , jumped up and returned the “J” to its sober position. “Joy” once again reigned in our kitchen. Perhaps there is no connection at all between what you put out and what comes back to you. I am certain it is one of those great unknowable questions that make believers believe, professors write, preachers pronounce, and seekers seek.  I am also certain that, in the moment, the only thing that really matters is our capacity to see the “J” amidst the “Oy” and stand it back up again.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about OY!

 

laughing website box copy

Make Space

754. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am cleaning out and clearing space. It is spring and spring-cleaning is normal at this time of year but my impulse to make space is deeper than the cycle of spring. I’m giving stuff away. I just threw away half of my clothes (they needed throwing away) and the other half will soon go to the thrift store.

I’m purging the studio. I installed paintings at Geraldine’s Counter yesterday and Gary, the owner, asked why I had not included prices on the labels. “They are old paintings,” I said, “and I’m in the mood to bargain.” I don’t want the paintings to come back. I need the space for the new creation. I need the space for ideas.

Possibilities require space. Sometimes life stories get over crowded with drama and details. Sometimes our days get too crowded with tasks. Possibilities will never shoulder their way into cramped courters. Why should they? Lack of space is a signal to the universe that you are doing what you want to do. Or, lack of space is a signal to the universe that you are afraid of doing what you want to do; existential hording leaves no room for possibilities to breathe.

Once, I ran a school and I encouraged my students to look out the window. Daydreaming is intensely important for healthy living and a vital creative life. Daydreaming is space creation. I encouraged my students to imagine. I encouraged them to breathe and make space and wander. I encouraged them to explore and discover and uncover. We were constantly cleaning out the building. We were constantly making space for the new. Those lessons are coming home to me again this spring. On my horizon a tsunami of potential is flowing toward me. I know it is coming because I am making space.

Catch A Glimpse

741. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Deep in the alcove of the side entry to an old building lurked a man wearing a faux bear hat and a too big worn out raincoat. He was doing a slow dance, in invocation and I stopped to watch him. Our eyes met for a moment, just long enough for me to know that he did not mind my witness. His slow pushing and pulling of the air seemed out of joint with the pace of commuters racing to get somewhere. This man seemed to come from another era. He was not of the city; his dance was a nature dance. After a while I left him dancing in his alcove.

I passed a family hunkered down in a doorway. They were tourists. They were dressed for Florida and seemed surprised that it was cold in Seattle. They were confused by the rain; their map of the city was dissolving into mush. “What do you want to do now?” the father asked his kids, trying to buoy their wet spirits. There was no reply. They wanted to be warm. “How about finding that glass blowing place?” he asked.

As I crossed Pioneer Square I saw, laying near the memorial to firefighters, an empty jacket, pants, socks and shoes. It was as if someone had lain on the ground and disappeared, leaving their clothes behind. I wondered if this was the work of faux bear hat man. No one else seemed to notice so I walked on.

A man stepped in front of me and asked if I was up to doing a good deed today. Then, he asked me for a quarter. I imagined he must be a genius marketing executive gone destitute. As it turned out I was up for a good deed this day and thought his ask was too low so I gave him all of the change in my pocket. I had a lot of change in my pocket. He looked at me like I was a slot machine when I handed him a fist full of coins. He smiled when I said, “Great pitch!”

Worlds collide. I once saw Stephen Hawking talk about multiple universes, like bubbles that sometimes brush against each other. In those moments of bubbles touching, we catch a glimpse into the reality of the other universe. Today it seems that we are, each of us, a bubble universe. How else can I explain these strange and wondrous glimpses?

Show Up

707. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” Neil Gaiman

The clichés are ubiquitous: fingerprints and snowflakes, each of us is unique in the universe. There will never be another like you and if you’ve ever looked through a telescope into the universe you will recognize how profound a recognition that is. The universe is vast and you are unique in it. You are vast.

The paradox of our uniqueness, of course, is that we want to fit in. As E.O. Wilson suggests, the strongest human impulse is to belong. The question becomes do you need to sacrifice something essential to fit into someone else’s idea or is bringing to life your unique perspective the very thing that will make you belong?

I recently heard a speech and the speaker was making a case for self-love. She spoke of the myriad of opposing opinions she’s heard and sometimes entertained about who she should be. Like most of us, she spent many years trying to conform herself to those conflicting ideas – other people’s ideas of who she should be. Aesop wrote a fable about that and the moral was clear: you will lose it all if you don’t listen to yourself. No one has the capacity to love you like yourself. When you come upon your idea of who and what you want to be, and strive for that, there is no conflict or sacrifice. You will fulfill it all when you listen to yourself. This, too, was the speaker’s conclusion.

To me, the shorthand is to orient your life according to what you bring to it and not according to what you get from it. Show up as you know yourself to be not as anyone expects you to be. Let yourself be seen as who you are: unique in all the universe.

Join The Symphony

685. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

The exercise in class was a word cluster, a free association exploration about stepping into personal truth. Afterward, Winifred shared an image that surfaced during her cluster. She told the group that it was as if every living being on earth was a musical note in a song. When she stepped into a global perspective, she heard all the notes combine into a chorus. As she moved further out into a more universal perspective, the planets had songs and everything combined into a symphony of notes, high and low and everything in between.

According to her revelation, no note was insignificant; the symphony, to have full power, needed all the notes – so to diminish or minimize her self was to diminish the voice of the symphony. She said, “The world needs our notes.” And then, after a pause, she added, “…within every individual is a universe and each emotion is like a single musical note. In order for an individual to fulfill their universal note, they must feel the full spectrum of music within themselves.” She said, “Even suffering is a note, a note necessary to complete the symphony.”

Her message: Living your truth means to play without inhibition in the symphony of the universe. We need your note to complete the sound.

Feel The Possibility

650. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am in the backseat of Lisa’s car. It is night and we are driving one of those amazing highways that knows no large city. This road is a ribbon connecting the occasional community, none with more than 10 stoplights. It’s been several miles since we passed through the last town and it will be many more miles until we see another light. My face is resting on the window because I cannot believe how many stars are visible when not obscured by the glow of a city. And I am counting my great good fortune because on this night there is a meteor shower. It looks as if stars get so excited that they have to flame and run. “There’s one!” Megan calls. “Where?” Lisa says, peering over the steering wheel. “You missed it.” I rest my face on the glass so in love with this moment and my two companions that I can barely breathe.

We pull off the road so we can gaze at the stars without worrying about driving. We stand on the edge of a fallow field, shivering in the cold winter air, necks craned to the sky. It is not lost on me that we are returning from Kansas where we attended a Launch for presenters; a workshop that, when we are old and rocking on the porch, we will look back and say, “That two days with Kevin Honeycutt changed the trajectory of my life.” And on the way home from a life changing experience called a Launch, the universe decided with great humor to coordinate with Kevin and gift us with a meteor shower. “This is what love is supposed to feel like,” I think to myself, linking arms with Megan who gasps, exclaims, “Oh My God!” and points to the latest sky streaker.

Shivering, I remember Holly from my coaching class having an epiphany, saying, “I feel possibilities. I make lists of them, all of the endless possibilities! They are visceral, like stars! It’s like, constantly discovering a new star, feeling the possibility – the gratitude extends to the possibility and the possibility extends to helping someone and the helping circles back to me! It’s a cycle. It’s an adventure and I feel it!”

“OH!” Lisa, Megan and I gasp and point at the same moment. “Did you see that one?” we chime in unison.