Sunday, April 30, 2006

Art Appreciation and Sewage Disposal

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The incongruous union of the titled subjects is a fit parallel to the ethereal notion of love and the physical abstraction of desire. It is my contention that the element of desire is but a natural impulse to physical reproduction while love is of the spirit and, inasmuch as the spirit has no need to reproduce, the impulse to love is free of gender specificity. Where my body may respond to the physical attributes of one of a given sex, my soul responds to the incorporeal aspects of one'’s spirit exclusive of gender consideration. The two worlds of cognition are as disassociated as the titled "“Art and Sewage." One addresses the non-material transcendence of the inner self while the other relates to the consideration of an all-too-real life necessity. Neither is of greater or lesser value in the balanced estimation of life, as we know it, and both are worthy of individual attention.

The limitations of the physical/material world are, inherently, visited upon the relationship that pivots on them. Decay and decline are the inevitable companions of all that is of "‘the flesh" and will be mirrored in the union that is bound by those material and/or physical attributes. That is... as all of those physical elements that fascinated, intrigued, excited, and stimulated are affected by the passage of time, those who have based their affections on those changing properties will become acutely aware of the evolution (or, more to the point... devolution) of their interest. Where the relationship is borne of the spirit... in response to the mystical and intangible qualities of the adored one... it seems to me that that relationship grows with the development of new and refined aspects of that admired spirit. The "gift wrapping"’ fades in significance while the dynamics of the evolving "‘gift" give birth to new levels of appreciation.

With this said, I can surmise that I can love beyond gender limitations, and experience sexual gratification and satisfaction within separately defined boundaries. Restated; I can (A) love without bounds and (B) celebrate sex within my own individually determined discriminations and preference. Simply stated (I know... Finally!) I can freely love "He"s and "She"s exclusive of and apart from any physical expression, intention, inclination, or realization while, separately and independently, indulging my physical passions for the natural focus of my personal desires. And where the twain meet... Oh my!

So, Dear Friend, when I exercise my sense of freedom to let you know that "“I love you", you can relax and be comfortable in the knowledge that what I am expressing has no sexual context (unless I make quite clear a contrary intent.) Acknowledging and celebrating the joy of being "in love" with your personhood... your unique identity comprised of all that is your temperament, intellect, spirit, and even soul... is completely asexual and the greatest pleasure that this life affords me. And I live each moment in respectful appreciation of the gift of loving.

It is my hope and intention that this little discussion will introduce some new vocabulary into our transactional thought and behavioral processes, freeing us to be more at ease with and responsive to each other in our appreciation of the transcendent "Art"“ that is the eternal essence of who we are. For, don't you know... I love you.

IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan, PDPhoto.org

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Life With Tears

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“Dad…Why do you always cry? You cry when you are happy and you cry when you are sad. Why?”

I knew that this was one of those rare moments when my concrete thinking daughter was open to an insight that could have long-lasting consequences in the development of her ability to relate to her feelings. I had best be brief, succinct, and accurate. “Please God” I silently prayed.

I cry because I allow myself to feel… and tears are an important part of the feeling system. You see, Sweetheart, we were created with our hearts capable of feeling both joy and sadness. But our hearts can’t contain too much of either. So…we have a safety system that keeps our hearts from breaking if we feel too much of either sadness or joy. The extra comes out as tears. They can be happy tears or sad tears. But they both come out so that our hearts don’t have too much of either to hold. Because I permit myself to feel a lot… I have a lot of extra.”

Those with whom I have shared the first part of my emerging book 'Why I Am Here and You Are There', will know that I live my life in response to the leading of “The Master Gardener” as my “Still Small” inner voice speaks to my heart. Today I awoke with the recollection of the dialogue (with my daughter) that I just shared with you and an acute sense that there is someone, some “plant” in the “Master Gardener’s” care that is in need of the nurturing benefit of this little message of encouragement. In my capacity of “Minister of Manure” I am compelled, by previous commitment to the Master, to spread some of the “compost” of my past experience where preparation has been made and a receptive heart is readied. So, My Friend, whoever and wherever you are, here is the answer to your petition.

Go ahead… it is OK… allow yourself to feel… to embrace…to experience… to savor life as it is being presented to you at this very moment. Your heart will not break… tears will protect it from the hazard of too much (and the garden all around you will benefit from the watering of the excess of your courageous participation in the adventure at hand.) Live life… all of it…saving it is not an option… invest YOURSELF in living. And if tears are the result… let all (your children, your family, your friends) know that the tears are from a heart overflowing with the excess of living life.

Friday, April 28, 2006

'Tis Friday

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Yes, ‘tis Friday. We have put together all of the elements of another week in the construction of this edifice that is to be defined as “Our Life.” An appropriate time to sit back and allow the words of my favorite poet to guide our reflections on what we have accomplished through our application of talents in the space of the past few days. I give you, in Love, “The Builders.”


The Builders

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

All are architects of fate,
Working in these walls of time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our todays and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house where gods may dwell
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble, as they seek to climb.

Build today, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall tomorrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turret, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.


IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"Un-Nichable"

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I have always had a ‘macro’ awareness… the ‘micro’ stuff of this world is something that I have had little patience with. My constant perception has been in the eternal… the spiritual… the idealistic. Those aspects of daily life dealing with the details of routine and ordinary material business are but fleetingly temporary in my estimation… while spiritual matters involving attitudes, motives, spirit and intent have the quality of permanence to me.

The lessons of scripture (drilled into me from my earliest recollection... and validated by extensive experience) have been more ‘real’ to me than the axioms of this physical world. I now understand my predisposition, by virtue of my innate temperament/personality type, to the idealistic, spatial, and conceptual elements of our existence. The overriding government of all that we are aware of (as well as those things that we have but a hint of) by a guiding and controlling Power has been my central certainty and core conviction.

I have acknowledged and communicated with this Power (with the identity of Lord, God, and Father) all with equal comfort. But I acknowledge the validity of the nomenclature of other faith groups, cultures, and practices that know the same Power by names and identities harmonious with their histories, cultures, and traditions.

The transcending authority of that Power has vested me with a patient tolerance of the inept (at best) or criminal (at worst) government of this thing that we know as ‘time and space’ (our world) with all of its abuses of and disrespect for the diverse customs, politics, faith, and individualities of others. But I do not enjoy living in such unkind environs.

Given these perspectives and predisposed convictions, finding a niche into which I might fit comfortably is an ongoing challenge. I think myself, rather, to be… infinitely and eternally… ‘Un-Nichable.’

IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFotos.com

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We Need To Talk

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It is in the moment created by some extraordinary circumstance that we are presented with the opportunity to make dramatic change in our lives.

“Where are their fathers?” I asked of the director of the United Cerebral Palsy Center. “Oh, they frequently say that they ‘just can’t deal with the situation’ and leave“ he replied. I learned, then, that not everyone commits to change when immovable or uncompromisable circumstances present themselves. Some choose to simply ‘run for the hills.’

I know well the grip of fear when life declares, through that uncompromisable circumstance, “WE NEED TO TALK!” The “need to talk” imperative is never a welcome one whether presented by our unavoidable inner voice (our conscience, or soul-voice) or the challenging voice of another. The message is always the same “you must consider something different and/or acknowledge present insufficiencies.” and none of us eagerly embrace either insufficiencies or change. It has been well said by some ancient “It is easier for man to accept the miseries of a poor life than for him to confront the fears of change” and I can affirm that truth from my own struggling experience. Hence I am writing to let you know that the beginning point for my venture into my tomorrows was to take an isolated moment with myself and say, “WE NEED TO TALK.” (I then refused the impulse to run for the hills.)

Talking with one’s inner self requires both asking and listening (with patience) for answers. “As a man thinketh… so is he” came to my awareness. Please make note here… it is not what he thinks, not a matter of quantity… but HOW he thinks… with what qualities. That is, in other terms “where my thinking was coming from” or what my motivations were. We are not talking about “goals” or “dreams” here, but instead, the “music” behind the “lyrics” of our thoughts, the “core” of us. If our intentions are self-serving then they must be acknowledged to be just exactly that without the prejudice of any possible outside perspectives. If the mind-set of “I am looking out for what will serve my best interests” is what you choose to drive your voice, then have the courage to say so to yourself and to the world around you. This “sit-down” is just with yourself and no outside valuation is appropriate. If your intentions are ridiculously altruistic, then that should be the set foundation for a confidence in the thinking’s value and worth. Remember… As you think, so you are. It is in this mode that you will find yourself thinking things that, heretofore, you have never thought (perhaps for fear of judgment, mockery, or rejection.) In my case, I became aware of a voice that was not familiar… a spiritual (though, most definitely, not “religious”) voice that expressed thoughts beyond those to which I was accustomed.

I found comfort in the knowledge that all of the world’s cultures have been aware, from earliest time, of an influence that shades our thinking. We have identified this influence as “higher” or “lower”, as light/dark, evil/good, positive/negative, yen/yang, etc… How often have we heard the well worn “you see the glass half-empty/half’-full” label for our thinking or predisposition? Such is the “music” to which I refer when I make mention of the foundation of all of our thinking. This is, most definitely, NOT a matter of attitude or whimsical mood. This is the “Spiritual bent” that guides our thought processes, the “He seems to see the potential for good in every situation” kind of Spirit versus the “You can be sure that he will find something to complain about.” mode. The “Well, you may not know what his decision will be, but you can be sure that it will be based on ____ “ (and you can fill in the blank with the character trait that you are certain will drive that choice to be made by him.)

Herein lies the “As he thinks” mechanism. There is NOTHING else in our complete control in this life. In this and only this can we exercise complete sway … the spirit to which we trust all of the processing of our thought. We actively choose the “As” of our thinking. Our basic ability to think may be impaired or even enhanced by Life’s touch, but regardless of our capacity for mental function, we all (with some clinical exceptions) maintain moment-by-moment control of our willingness to surrender our thoughts to a greater or lesser, bitter or better, higher or lower Influence. This is the ultimate power of our will.

I recall an old story that illustrates this principal to my satisfaction. It seems that an old man was visiting with his guru for the purpose of learning, further, how to discipline his thinking. “It is like there are two dogs fighting over control of my mind” the old man offered, “the dog of anger pulls one way while the dog of peace pulls the other.” “And which dog wins the battle?” asked the guru. “The one that I say ‘sic-em’ to” answered the man. You do, of course, see my point. The “dogs” of influence and guiding perspective will ALWAYS be there, vying for dominance over the “musical soundtrack” accompanying our thought processes. The choice of music is constantly in our control… soothing/clashing, harmonious/discordant, uplifting/downgrading, … etc., etc. We, though, have the one and only deciding vote to determine which voice is told to “sic”, or take dominance over, the other.

My focus in this reflection is, therefore, on creating a beneficial setting for a comfortable and mutually respectful exchange of insights. A setting that will serve as a stage for a harmonious intercourse as opposed to an arena or field of battle, first within ourselves, and then with the world around us. I should note that it is also critical to recognize the kind of “music” accompanying the messages offered by those with whom we hope to achieve a harmonious exchange. Which dog is in control of each of your spirits? Can you imagine anything more pleasant than two people meeting with a spirit of generosity motivating both of them? “I want to be more generous than you.” “No, no, please allow me to be more generous than you.” The possibilities boggle the mind but reality is, most often, quite different. The point of beginning is, however, the same for us all… LISTENING to the “music“ of our own spiritual soundtrack. And then deciding… actively and responsibly… how we want to “orchestrate “ all of our tomorrows.

IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan, PDPhotos.org

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sharing Smiles over the Miles

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I do love stories of human beings engaging each other in respectful...but irreverent social intercourse. Here I share a lovely piece that was echoed through "The Net" but may have missed you...and the delightful chuckles to be gleaned from it are simply too precious to pass by, So, Dear Reader, without knowing the identity of its author and not attesting to its authenticity, I give you this moment...To smile.

In case you need a laugh: Remember it takes a college degree to fly a plane but only a high school diploma to fix one.

After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet," which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas' pilots (marked with a P [Problem]) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S [Solution]) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident.

--------------

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.


P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces
a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!)
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be
serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

And the best one for last..................

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a
midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.


IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Sunday, April 23, 2006

We Need A Moment... Please

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We need a moment... Please.


No profound thought.

No matters of significance.

No input of ideas or data.

Simple, quiet, serene, and tranquil respite.


Thank you for joining me.







IMAGE: Trough the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Flexible Containers

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With our conceptual perceptions as the '‘containers' and the truths brought to us as '‘substance'’ for our '‘containing'... it would behoove us to be reminded that the container is not the measure of the quality of the substance contained and should be readily reconsidered when the demands of the substance outweigh the capacity of the vessel.

Therefore, with the understanding that the confines of religious practice, nomenclature, ritual, and dogma are but feeble attempts to encapsulate spiritual truths that transcend the bounds of earthly expression... might it not be a good idea to (as spiritual insight and awareness grow and develop) adjust, modify, reconstruct, refresh, revise, and/or discard those practices, rituals, nomenclature, and/or dogma (containers) that no longer accommodate our evolving awareness (substance)?

Ah, the joy of freedom in expressing new truths and understandings in an environment of healthy, positive, and dynamic enthusiasm!

John-Michael/ 11 August 1998


IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Something or Someone

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"How many cares one loses
When one decides...
Not to be something...
But to be someone"
_____________
Coco Chanel


IMAGE: "Christina", By Martina Brandstetter, BBC News

Consider the Rose

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Is a Rose any less... a Rose,
When rooted in manure?

Is Love any less... Love,
When germinated in imperfection?




IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Friday, April 21, 2006

Finding Center

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This is the convergence of two recent trains of thought. The first was expressed in the piece entitled “The Storm” and the second was the thought processes giving rise to “Thanksgiving.” The catalyst to my presenting this ‘convergence’ to you was the response to “The Storm” sent to me by a friend here in The States. Her question, after affirming the legitimacy of the need for concentrating ones focus on being ‘centered’ in life, was simply “OK… now HOW do I go about accomplishing this task of centering myself without shutting out the world about me and the ones for whom I care?”

In answer, I will relate my experience of Sunday, 20 November, just passed. I received a telephone call from a friend who related a phone conversation that had been shared with a party for whom I have not only a biological relationship with but also a tender, intimate, committed, and devoted love. It seems that this party, when asked about the status of current interactions with me, replied “He doesn’t love me any more. He is interested in other things now.” I was devastated at hearing this. Though I understand completely the truths behind those words; the limited capacities of the party to grasp conflicts felt; the influences being exerted on that party; the spirit governing the environment in which that party lives; all of that known by me and acknowledged at the ‘head level’, it pained me to hear it. So I went to bed that night with my mind torn asunder with the combating elements of rage toward the instigators of the lie, compassion for the party who is not capable of sorting out feelings, comments, influences, desires, and emotions due to innate intellectual challenges and handicaps, and frustrations with my inability to remedy the situation due to concerns for putting the party ‘in the middle’ which would only exacerbate that persons already overloaded capacities.

After three hours of tossing and turning with sleep becoming more and more elusive, I got up from my bed with the express intention of taking charge of my mental and emotional processes… that is, becoming centered in a healthy and constructive fashion. The ‘tool’ provided by Life for the accomplishment was a single verse of scripture of which I could only recall a brief portion. I knew that this verse encapsulates the essence of untold numbers of volumes dealing with positive thinking, self-direction, individual responsibility, and myriad other ‘self help’ topics. I attacked my bookshelves, located the verse, wrote it on a piece of paper, recited it out loud and repeatedly, then went back to bed reciting it silently. Every time that my ‘navigator’ for centering (my mind) would try to take me back to the conflicting rage, pain, confusion, doubt, frustration, etc., I would increase the silent ‘volume’ of recitation. I was asleep within ten minutes. The verse in discussion:

“Whatsoever things are true;
Whatsoever things are honest;
Whatsoever things are just;
Whatsoever things are pure;
Whatsoever things are lovely;
Whatsoever things are of good repute;
If there be any virtue;
If there be any praise;
Think on these things.”
Philippians Ch4, V8

Herein rests a potential device for the answering of my friend’s earlier –stated “how to” question. From this recent experience, I can, and do, recommend this point of focus as a workable implement for centering oneself in a mental, emotional, and philosophical point of advantage for accomplishing positive, constructive, and enjoyable life goals.

On the arrival of Monday morning, I again recited this device repeatedly, for myself, and went to work. Later in the day, I sat down at the computer, considered things true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good reputation, virtuous, and praiseworthy… and I wrote the “Thanksgiving” piece in grateful appreciation for all of those whose paths have been directed by the forces and influences of Life to intersect mine.

I don’t believe that I could be any more candid, transparent, intimate or honest with you, Dear Friend, as to how I personally struggle and deal with life’s challenges. I trust that there is, within this accounting, some thread of benefit for you as I remain… Your Friend and Servant, JohnMichael/29 November 2005

IMAGE courtesy NOAA

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Navigating Your heart

  Posted by Picasa I had just gathered my daughter from her school and was engaged in her recounting of her day'’s activities when accosted by an exercise of parent-testing in the form of her first-expressed four-letter expletives (at least, the first tested on my ears.) A casual glance in her direction was all that was required to confirm my understanding that this was a probe of my reactions and that I was being toyed with by my nine-year-old offspring. I responded with a smile and "Those are only words. They have neither power nor significance beyond the intent with which they are delivered. Apart from a message from your heart, they have no value, either positive or negative. If your heart is right, I don't care what words you use, they will be welcomed by me. But, if your heart is wrong... if you have a mean spirited intention in your heart when speaking... no words of any kind will be acceptable or tolerated. So, (and I called her by name) the only thing that I will respond to is the condition of your heart... not the vocabulary that you express your heart with." We, then, shared a mutual smile of understanding.

Hence this little missive to you, My Dear Friend. Please grant me this intrusion into the intimate privacy of your spirit where I ask that you consider a focus... an aiming, if you will, of your heart toward simple... Nobility. Thinking the kind thought. Speaking the generous word. Letting go of your 'rights' and allowing grace and felicity to govern your environs, if but for this moment. For, you see, this is the essence of the "Spirit of the law"” as we have oft heard compared to the "Letter of the law." This is, if you will, the "True North"” as opposed to the "Magnetic North"” on this ‘"planet"’ of our lives. And what I am asking is that you navigate to the "true" noble value of life while the majority all about you are navigating to the "magnetic"’ sets of common standards that (while headed in the same approximate direction) have their direction compromised by accommodation and expediencies of circumstance. In the development of the ever transitory "‘letter" of the laws of acceptable choices, the world all too often seeks the path of least resistance to motivations that are far less than noble. But that "Still Small Inner Voice" within our hearts will always permit our discovery of the "‘spirit"’ of those laws if we only take a moment to stop and inquire "What is the true intent of this law... this protocol... this standard?"” I can assure you, with certainty, that you will discover a core value and worth... a spirit... behind that direction of governance (be it scripture, legal directive, community regulation, or family tradition) and you will easily discern the response that will be immediately comfortable and natural, for you. You will, then, hear the "voice" of your heart and know what your personal best response can be. Please be forewarned, this election may very well be in contrast to the choices of those around you. But this is your individual purpose in life; to interpret, illustrate, demonstrate, and offer the options that are your contribution to life. Herein, please be confident, and fail not. For it is from our individual choices made that we establish our self esteem and confidence of character.

I hear myself offering, with ever-more increasing frequency, the advice to intimate friends (and even casual acquaintances [when opportunity allows]) to "trust, honor, and follow your heart." For, you see, Dear Friend, in the final estimation, this is the only defensible position that we, as responsible individuals, have.

To say that we acted, chose, spoke, or decided based on any exterior influence (whether religious, corporate, social, professional, familial, or cultural) is to say that we abandoned our personal responsibility and hid behind some alternative standard (regardless how noble or honorable.) But when we have adopted standards to the degree that they are the conviction of our heart and have a living presence in our soul of souls, then we can act on our heart'’s convictions and assume undiluted responsibility for our behavior. We can say, "“I followed my heart"” and rest in that simple statement as sufficient reason for our choices, behavior, and intentions. And it is my constant hope that those internalized convictions are, in every instance, tempered with the spirit of respect for, care for, and kindness toward the world around us.

So, My Friend, you can hear the message that I tried to convey to my daughter, those years ago. There is forgiveness and acceptance in the understanding that our words may err and our actions may accomplish results apart from our intent. Mistakes and blunders will always be our companions in the living of this life. But if our hearts are right... if our purpose is focused on kindness, generosity, and the best interests of others... the clumsy words; the stumbling presentation of our ideas; the failed execution of our best plans; will be easily embraced by all who know our hearts... and love us for our attempts... for our following of our heart's leading.

IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Be Still... and Listen

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Know thyself
Ascribed to: Plato, Pythagoras, and Socrates

The spirit is the true self
Cicero (MarcusTulliusCicero[106-43 BC])

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man
.”
William Shakespeare(1564-1616)Hamlet(1601)

Let’s take a moment to consider our least known, but most valuable personal resource. That whisper that speaks to you in the stillness of your aloneness. But, pay heed... you have as a constant “resource” a multitude of voices that would try to convince you that all of the inclinations of your heart (the revelations of that frequently referred to, still. small inner voice) are “deceitful.” This white-bearded old man is here to tell you, in the strongest and most confidently clear voice imaginable, “value YOUR inner messenger.” This “still, small voice” is not emotion, or mood… not feelings or sentiment… but the insight and cognizance born of That which is beyond us. Do not allow outside voices to erode your confidence in the worth of either you (just exactly as you were created) or the Spirit to which you have committed the expression of yourself.

Here is a real-life story that reinforced my certainty in the worth of our inner voice. It was presented in a documentary dealing with a British anthropologist who went to the Bush to study a group of Aboriginal peoples. His specific interest became the Shaman or Medicine Man of the group. By the standard of the Westernized scientific world from which this academic came, this Shaman was as unimpressive as could possibly be imagined. He had but a few teeth remaining, a small stature, skin that made a crocodile’s look fair, but eyes that revealed the universe with a smile that compelled complete trust and confidence. The Shaman looked into the camera and said “I go to my places by the same path again and again. But sometimes my inner voice tells me ‘today a man waits for you with a sharp spear. Take another path today.’” And the Shaman’s face folded into a smiling cacophony of wrinkles as he concluded, “I have never met a man with a sharp spear.

He always, without questioning, doubt, or hesitation, took the different path. He paid heed to the Spiritual message delivered as a quiet whisper to his consciousness. I was personally sold on the merit of this man’s inner voice when the documentarian closed his presentation with the fact that the anthropologist abandoned his previous life to become the disciple of the Shaman.

I am continually reminded, by Life’s frequent gifts to me, of the far-reaching value of “Be still and know…” For it is only in stillness that we can really hear. In that documentary, I heard my Spirit saying “listen, pay heed, and proceed with confidence in your trust of Me.

Don’t you see? The Shaman didn’t inquire of his tribesmen, nor did he
examine the trail for forensic evidence. He went through no religious or ceremonial rites, nor did he wait for a study of the choice at hand. He simply listened to his inner voice and responded with confidence in Its distinct directive. It is so for me when I reach a point where I can tell that I have read all that I have need of reading, I have discussed all that is required to clarify my thinking, and I need only to allow that inner Resource to sift through all of the materials installed in my mental, emotional and spiritual archives to present the message for that present moment in my life… to “Be still and know…” Herein lies the wonder of BEING. That is the being of ME. The ME that answers for and accepts the responsibility for responding to Life’s prompts. The ME that is eternal.

IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, Freefoto.com

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Using My "Voice"

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“All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie…
We must love one another or die.

W. H. Auden (1907-73)

Having established the understanding that my direction had to come from within with my compass settings to be determined by choices to benefit eternal (as opposed to temporal) accounts, I needed to find my voice. You know; the question of “How do I communicate to those around me what I am feeling, what I understand to be true, what I yearn deeply for…without having them look at and listen to me as a complete FREAK.”

So, how does one find his or her “voice”? Where can you go to learn a way to express what you have seldom been able to whisper to yourself in a moment of introspection? I had no one to go to for directions. Even if there had been a mentor figure (and who, pray tell, is so blessed) I am certain that I would have been incapable of framing the question. What does one ask…”Excuse me, but I am in search of a voice, and wonder if you might have a recommendation?” No, the way seemed to be to listen to the voices around me and sift out all of those incongruous to me with an increasingly discriminating mesh to single out that one, or combination, that comfortably sang my spirit’s song.

For my quest, I found two. They sang different parts in life’s chorus,
and they produced a harmony in which I, for the first time in my life, felt free in expressing myself.

The first was (and still remains, some twenty-plus years later) a treasure who stopped me cold in my tracks with the simplicity, candor, intimacy, and unadorned caring of her voice. This is a person whose audiocassette brought me (literally) to my knees in gratitude and admiration. I know that she would, today, be embarrassed with the simplicity and unrefined quality of that early message, but it was the perfect thing for me… right there and right then in my journey. Ann Kiemel’s “Hi, I’m Ann” was, and remains, one of the most momentous discoveries of my life. From that tape and the book with the same name, I discovered the spirit with which I could speak to my world… every day…in every circumstance… with each individually unique person… and maintain the integrity of my own soul’s purpose… to heal… to encourage… to minister. But Ann, as an attractive young woman, was not a figure who would be perceived in the same social context that I would be. Had I presented myself with the same vocal script that served her so well, I would have produced a completely different (and undoubtedly unacceptable) response.

Then came the discovery of Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D. From Leo, I learned the art of approach… address… and retreat. The language and manner of those elements, in caring and honest combination, allow me, almost daily, and sometimes frequently in a single day, to approach complete strangers with a message of how they have touched me in some specific and enhancing way. Let me give you an example.

It was one of those “The well is dry… I have nothing more to give… please leave me alone, everybody!” days. I intentionally chose a ‘Hamburger Joint’ that did little business, due to its bad location, to minimize the chance that I would have to interact with anyone. Upon entering the place, I was encouraged to find that there was only one customer, other than myself, there. This gentleman was a rather tall, robust, elderly fellow who moved through the traffic-control maze with a slow, stooped gait that reflected the wear of the years. In the quiet of the near-empty establishment, I could not help overhearing the gentleman presenting a well-worn copy of a cartoon to the order taker. This young girl was, quite clearly, not amused (not with the cartoon, being there, doing her job, or, at that moment in time, with life in general.) The gentleman was simply standing there… waiting…hoping to make some pleasant contact in his seemingly lonely world. What he was being met with was an irritated indifference… and my heart could not stand to witness his disappointment. “My very Dear Sir,” I addressed the note written on personalized note paper (I had gone out to my car and retrieved the very nice paper to make the impression that the gesture was worthy of care), “Please accept this note of thanks and appreciation for your willingness to reach out in a world that often is not ready to accept reaching out. Your generosity in offering humor touched me and made my world a better place. I feel better because of you and salute you.” Then I signed the note “a fellow pilgrim,” added my name, and when the man went back for his free refill of beverage, placed the note on his tray and left the restaurant. Upon reaching my vehicle, I looked back and was instantly brought to tears of gratitude by the radiant smile and hearty salute sent to me by the man with a small note of encouragement and appreciation in his hand. We were two comrades joined in the quest to abolish indifference in our shared world. This was the expression of the “voice” given to me by Life. The intimacy learned from Ann Kiemel, expressed with the technique gleaned from Leo Buscaglia combined to give my soul its voice.

(This passage excerpted from a book in progress, John-Michael)

IMAGE courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Your IDEALIST Neighborhood Card Shop

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We Idealists are, if you will, the “Neighborhood Card Shop” of life’s market place. We do not offer the “essentials” of life… the lumber or nails… the motor oils… the bread or butter, nor the wine or cheese. We offer, instead, the reminders of the ideals that make all of the essentials worth their pursuit. Meat and potatoes we do not present… but we do offer the bouquet, the candles, the card that expresses the sentiment that we wish to convey over the fine dinner prepared from the meat and potatoes. We do not provide essential nutrients for the sustenance of the flesh... we offer the reminders of the spirit and soul, the emotion and desire that inspire the heart as well as the mind. We provide the ’soundtrack’ that adds dimension to the ’movie’ of life.

There are far fewer "Card Shops" than there are other merchants. There is good reason for their infrequency. Life’s day-to-day requirements have material need for far more of the providers of ‘essentials.’ It is also true that The Almighty created a fewer number of us Idealists in life’s mix.

I know my place. I do not offer myself as your provider of your day-to-day material essentials. But, My Dear Friend, I ask that you grant proper acknowledgement and acceptance of… respect and care for my place in the “shopping district” of your world. I will serve you happily and faithfully.

John-Michael / October, 2004

IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

A Moment With God

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A young boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of Root beer and he started his journey.

When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man. He was sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old man looked hungry, so he offered him a Twinkie.

He gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. His smile was so pleasant that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer. Again, he smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave, but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old man, and gave him a hug. He gave him his biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?"

"He replied, 'I had lunch with God." But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what? He's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"

Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked, "Dad, what'd you do today that made you so happy?"

He replied, "I ate Twinkles in the park with God." However, before his son responded, he added, "You know, he's much younger than I expected."

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Embrace all equally!
__________________________________
Please note, My Friend, that this little item is NOT of my creation... It was, in fact, sent to me by a loving friend (via e-mail.) But I believe it to be worthy of passing along to you with all due gratitude to its unknown author. I do, however, know the source of the:

IMAGE courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFotos.com

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I Love You

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Yes… ‘Tis true.

Immediately your inner reflex is to say “but you don’t know me” or perhaps (as is true in many of the instances applicable to the majority of those to whom I am sending this note) “we have never even met… it is not possible for you to love me.”

Oh, My Dear Friend, I do love you because I choose to love you. I love you because to do so is the inclination of spirit that I have opted for in my living of life. I love you because you and I have been introduced… our paths have intersected… our spirits have bumped into each other in accordance with the direction of the Power that orchestrates all of the universes both known and unknown. This is the eternal and immutable fact that I am as certain of as I am of the blink of my eye as I type these words in this moment.

You may be one of those to whom I have been sending messages for a while and have never heard a response… or heard from once or twice when your spirit was touched by a particular note of harmony with my thoughts. Or, you could be one of those with whom I have an intimate and constant contact and am involved with every element of life. It matters not what circumstance surrounds our knowledge of each other. What is of imminent importance is the reality that Life has blessed us with each other. And with that awareness… with that gift… with that singular window of opportunity comes the chance for the exercise of will. My choice is to will myself to embrace you, without reservation, and give, to you, the election of your own response… free from expectation, requirement, anticipation, or even, in many instances, knowledge of who you are. Yours is the opportunity to know something that you may be completely unfamiliar with (for I know that I have no model, in my experience, to follow). You can enjoy the availability of a friend for whom you have nothing to offer beyond … simply your friendship… and only as much, or as little of that as you wish. And, better yet, this gift to you is not even contingent upon your friendship offered in return… it is a gift without strings… no requirement for any reciprocation or even acknowledgement. This is my choice for my heart. This is what I give myself… my very soul… license to do with every opportunity offered by Life. It is my desire to make every effort possible to give away every bit of love that I am capable of mustering. My delightful experience in this quest is that there is an exponential multiplying of my capacities to love with the exercising of the option. (How cool is that?)

Mind you, I am not talking about a ‘socially correct’ kind of ‘community caring.’ I know that the fulfillment of my yearning… the satisfaction of my desire… the attainment of my goal… is only possible if the love is genuinely for you… the individual person that is the entirety of you. And, while this is a concept completely foreign to and perhaps unacceptable to the world about me… I am convinced that the days that are mine on this globe are granted to me for the purpose of planting, nurturing, and encouraging seeds of genuine love in the hearts, minds, and imaginations of every life brought my way.

So, My Very Dear Friend, perhaps now you have a little better idea of why I continue to communicate with you… why I smile when I see your name in my e-mail address book… why I express feelings, thoughts, and impressions that seem, at times, to be a bit apart from what you feel is the ‘norm.’ Loving each other is, sadly, not our world’s norm… but it is the norm for the One who created us… and I enjoy, thoroughly, communicating that eternal norm, that overriding and all-encompassing norm that will outlast all of the strife, doubt, anger, bitterness, mistrust… every fruit of love’s antithesis conceivable.

There you have it… now another piece of that puzzle in your mind is provided. I am grateful for and thank you for this opportunity to share my view of this life that we share… together. My sincere desire is for the genuine intent and commitment of my spirit to be known to you… at this moment of your reading… for, don’t you know… I Love You.

I remain, as always, Your faithful Friend and willing Servant,
John-Michael/ 29 April 2005

(IMAGE Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

HE PRESUMED

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Pre-sume /verb/ suppose that something is the case on the basis of probability [The New Oxford American Dictionary]

He went forward on the presumption that he had the necessary understanding of the situation to equip himself for success. The elderly gentleman (assumed to be the next-door neighbor) told him that after he overcame the locked door with the assistance of the ax offered by the neighbor for that task, he would encounter some resistance due to the rug that the occupant of the house customarily kept rolled up against the door as a deterrent to cold draught. And, indeed, after smashing the lock mechanism with said ax, he did, in fact, realize a firm, but yielding, resistance quite natural to a heavy rug. Hence, after persuading the rug to allow the opening of the door for a distance barely sufficient for his body to crawl through, he flattened himself to the floor and projected himself into the smoke-filled room and made his first attempt to evaluate the situation. Having never before confronted a burning building, he was encouraged by the realization that the long ago learned (from sources not remembered) theory that there would be a space at floor level where the smoke would be eight or ten inches above the floor itself. And surely this was the reality that he encountered as into that narrow space he crawled and inched toward the room where he could clearly see the flames hungrily consuming every element and surface. But this was the room that the neighbor had told him that the three children were normally in. Three small children who had been left by their mother who had gone for a quick visit to the store that was but around the corner. Three small children whose voices had been heard screaming for help just a short while before he had appeared upon the scene. And now he was trying, through the acrid, oxygen-starved haze of that narrow corridor at floor level, to locate the children. Back out of the room he came to recharge his lungs with air. Choking, spitting, and coughing out disgusting remnants of that life-denying gas, he steeled himself for another entry. Again, he pushed past the rug-impaired opening and extended himself still further into the kitchen and toward what seemed to be the now fully consumed dining area of this small tinderbox of a dwelling. No luck… nothing… not a single child in sight and the heated chemical residue of all that the flames were converting into toxic gases scalded his eyes and his throat. Back out, across the tiny deck that served as the back porch and into the small yard that was itself becoming engulfed in the stench of the fog of the fire. This time the neighbor was there with water (from some source that was not noticed) and offered to cool and wash his face. The water was gratefully accepted and used to wet his handkerchief, which he placed over his now-parched mouth and nose for his last foray into the hellhole of that inferno. He could only think of three small children who had not been heard from nor seen for what seemed to be forever. Cursing the bulk of that damned rug for its bulky resistance, he pushed yet again into now known territory and this time beyond until his lungs demanded retreat. Failure! With the mucous of a pulmonary system ridding itself of intruding threats pouring from his mouth, his nose, and even his eyes, he heard the arrival of the fire fighters. To the first man to come into the back yard where he and the now still and silent ancient neighbor stood he yelled the information that he presumed to be a statement of all pertinent facts. The fire fighter gave him a look that was a puzzlement to him though it lasted but a fraction of a second. Then, to his astonishment, this huge (or so he seemed clothed, as he was, in all of his fire fighting equipment) fellow simply took a seat on that self-same tiny porch. He just sat there… “How absurd” thought the young man who had just moments before used that surface as a launch area for entry into the chamber of unspeakable horror. “How can he be simply taking a seat and not doing anything?” he thought and wanted to scream. Then… calmly… with measured deliberation that fireman leaned back, reached behind himself, around the still-open door, and, obviously (from the grimace of effort registered on his face) grasped that rug that had thrice been such an impediment to the would-be rescuer, and pulled forth not a rug… oh no… a small boy! As he cradled the inert form in his arms and hurried toward the waiting medical equipment at the front of the blazing structure, the professional Angel of mercy looked at the pair of dumbstruck observers and said “The children always go to the nearest door… and that’s where we usually find them.”

He had gone past that child three times. He had presumed the bulky weight to be what he had been told to expect there. He had presumed that he had all of the information necessary to do his best for the best outcome. He was ignorant of unknown probabilities. It is now thirty-seven years later and he still feels… really senses the actual awareness of the soft, ungiving weight of that little boy’s body as he pushed against it… cursed it for its impediment to his efforts to reach the children. Every time he hears or sees a fire truck on its way to affect a rescue he instantly relives that moment. That boy would be somewhere around forty five years old now… but he is not. He never had a chance to be. And I… that’s right, I… will never stop regretting the presumptions that I made that day.

If there were no other reason for my efforts to share my perspectives… my ‘lessons learned’… my little insights into this business of life, the provision of an expanded set of possibilities for your consideration would be reason enough. I will do everything that I can to equip you with a wider understanding, a broader scope of outlook, a more useful set of possibilities for your use in your entering into whatever areas of unknowns that present themselves to you. I can never accept the possibility that my reticence left you vulnerable to the pain, the unhappiness, the disappointment of missing the potential blessing of any experience because your presumptions were left minus the possibilities that I could have equipped you with.

When I pledge myself to you as “Your Friend and Servant” as I so frequently do, there is always, in my soul, the awareness of the weight of that ‘rug’ against which you may be pushing in your life. And I must help you see the life that could be there if only you know where to reach… what to grasp… how to react.

To that end, I remain, as always, Your faithful Friend and willing Servant,

JohnMichael/29July2005

(IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com)

Victorious Surrender

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He that is down
needs fear no fall,
He that is low no pride.
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.

JohnBunyan 1628-88
The Pilgrim’s Progress (1684) Pt.2 ‘Shepherd Boy’s Song

In reflecting upon a line spoken by one if the characters in the movie As Good As It Gets, I was reminded of an essay by James Allen entitled “Divine Love is Selfless.” The line delivered by the movie character was “The best thing you have going for you is your willingness to humiliate yourself.” Though I was not clear on the import of that thought, I did make note of the line as I watched the movie (yes… I make notes during a movie… another of my ‘endearing quirks.’) As I considered that line over the course of several weeks, I saw that the character speaking those words was aware of the barrier that his pride and self-promoting spirit were to the fulfillment of his heart’s desire. He was so firmly ensconced in his ‘fortress’ of self-preservation that his defenses had become his prison. I saw the lesson of the merits of our willingness to humble ourselves, or, if you will allow, to put aside our pride in exchange for the benefit of a selfless love portrayed in this tormented character’s yearning. Wow! That insignificant line from the movie (that was delivered for comedic effect) has something of tremendous value for our consideration.

So, Dear Friend, you will see how the essay from the late Mr. Allen (whose work I commend most highly to you) put me in mind of the movie’s message as I quote to you the following excerpt:

Divine Love is Selfless

He who has realized the Love that is divine has become a new being, and has ceased to be swayed and dominated by the old elements of self. He is known for his patience, his purity, his self-control, his deep charity of heart, and his unalterable sweetness.

Divine or selfless Love is not a mere sentiment or emotion; it is a state of knowledge, which destroys the dominion of evil and the belief in evil, and lifts the soul into the joyful realization of the supreme good. To the divinely wise, knowledge and Love are one and inseparable.

It is toward the complete realization of this divine Love that the whole world is moving; it was for this purpose that the universe came into existence, and every grasping at happiness, every reaching out of the soul toward objects, ideas, and ideals, is an effort to realize it. But the world does not realize this Love at present because it is grasping at the fleeting shadow and ignoring, in its blindness, the substance. And so suffering and sorrow continue, and must continue until the world, taught by its self-inflicted pains, discovers the Love that is selfless, the wisdom that is calm and full of peace.

And this Love, this Wisdom, this Peace. This tranquil state of mind and heart may be attained to, may be realized by all who are willing and ready to yield up self, and who are prepared to humbly enter into the comprehension of all that giving up self involves.


(This is an excerpted portion of James Allen’s larger work entitled “The Realization of Selfless Love”)

In bringing this to you I recall a conversation… no, actually two conversations that I had with a young lady whose name I never knew but whose path crossed mine in the course of my early morning newspaper deliveries.

The lady had a boyfriend who shared her home with her and was gentleman enough to go out each morning to pick up the paper from the walkway in front of their townhouse. He and I shared passing waves of recognition, then, over time, salutary greetings, and eventually, brief conversations about trivial matters of no great note… but altogether enjoyable nonetheless. Then I realized that I had not seen him for quite a while.

Some time later, the lady flagged me down and came over to the window of my vehicle saying, “I know that you must have noticed that my boyfriend hasn’t been out to speak to you as he did in the past. Well (pause) we broke up. You know how hard relationships are. We just didn’t seem to be on the same page (or something equivalent in meaning.)” Being unprepared for this conversation and at a loss for the ‘right thing’ to say, I agreed with her that relationships are, indeed, “hard” and that it was unfortunate that they had to suffer the pains of breaking up. I thanked her for her generous thoughtfulness in letting me know and went on my way. Then I began to consider the import of what we had said to each other and determined that, if Life allowed an opportunity for another encounter, I would amend my remarks.

Surely enough, some time later, we saw each other and I apologized for my initial response to her stated summary on relationships. I then explained that nothing could ever possibly be easier than a healthy relationship inasmuch as there is nothing easier than surrender. Letting all of the defenses down, turning off all of the self-preservation systems, and permitting free and all-accepting vulnerability to reign is the easiest of all possible exercises. The only proviso that enters into the equation is being certain that the person to whom you surrender yourself is going to honor the ‘terms of surrender’ and join with you in making the efforts necessary to accommodating a mutually respectful environment of peace. Then that “tranquil state of mind and heart” spoken of by James Allen can be realized in that “Selfless Love” to which he refers.

There, in three settings, I hear the same message presented, reinforced by my recollection of the scripture passage: Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25) Again, Selfless Love expressing itself in humble surrender for the realization of the peace and tranquility that is known in a love that is truly divine.

So, Dear One, I submit, for your consideration, potentially new “litmus tests” by which to evaluate a relationship. Do you, I would ask, allow your “significant other” an opportunity to safely and confidently surrender to your shared relationship? Is the environment that you create one of calmness and peace born of selflessness? Are these the attributes that you recognize as being offered to you by the object of your affection? Is it ‘hard’ to maintain a relationship or do you find yourself enjoying the efforts made to secure a comfortable haven for your trust? Are the setting aside of your self-defense barriers and a comfortable willingness to ‘humiliate’ yourself common to you?

To the end that I can offer a perspective that serves your happiness and joy, I present these thoughts in humble and caring love as I remain your constant Friend and Servant.

(IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.Com)

Friday, April 14, 2006

MY CAFE (A Metaphor for My Life)

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As I sit here…at my table on the sidewalk of this modest little ‘cafĂ©’ that is my life…I read, I listen, I observe, I feel, I think (a lot), and people pass by.

Occasionally, someone will wave a “Hello” to which I respond appropriately. At some times, an individual will stop by and chat.
There are moments when someone will pass by in traffic and speak through their open window or even pull over for a moment in the temporary “Load/Unload Zone” and visit at greater length. Rarely, a chair will be pulled out and occupied for an extended time and we will speak of deeper and fuller things.

All the while, the world passes by… doing all of the things that need to be done and going to all the places that require going to… while I can be counted on… even want, more than almost anything, to be counted on… to be in my spot for whatever kind of invitation is deemed necessary by whomever deems it so. And I am delighted to be there for each and every one.

What I yearn for is someone to share my table with… permanently. Enjoying the sights, sounds, fragrances, pains, joys, and events that visit our place. Happy to be with me… of me… in me… and never jealous, resentful, or envious of the complete focus that I give as my loving gift to whomever requires a part of me. This I yearn for hourly.

(IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of; Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

We Can Do This

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This is the week that Frank’s spirit set itself free from his weary and worn body. Frank is my friend. We met in the early morning darkness, as I was delivering a newspaper to the lady across the street from his condominium. I was taking my customary care to toss the newspaper either close to the lady’s gate, or, when possible, over the gate. I had noticed that she sometimes didn’t pick the previous day’s paper up, as I delivered the current day’s. So I deduced that she had some physical limitation that made going out to the parking space sometimes-difficult… hence the ‘close to the gate’ ritual.

On the particular day when Frank and I met, I had completed the lady’s delivery and was backing my van out of the parking space when in the corner of my eye I saw movement. Here came an elderly gentleman, shuffling his feet with what was obviously some effort, and doing his best to, simultaneously, wave a “wait” message to me. So, I waited… and waited… and (well, you get the picture.) After what seemed a passable version of ‘forever’ he arrived at the window of the van. When he had established his balance and reclaimed some semblance of normal breathing, he introduced himself and asked me for a favor. “That lady that you deliver the paper to is my daughter. She doesn’t read the paper but has it delivered for me to read. I sometimes have had a difficult time getting out to pick the paper up. And sometimes, you throw it over her gate and I can’t get to it. If you would just throw it out in her parking space, I can get to it there. I would really appreciate that.” Well, you can imagine how I felt. Here I had been laboring under the assumption that I was accommodating someone with physical limitations… when, in fact, I was creating an insurmountable hurdle for this very gracious gentleman.

From that day on, I pulled up into Frank’s parking space and threw his paper just as close to his back door as I could manage to. And while Frank and I never had the opportunity to visit in customary terms, we formed a bond of deep, quality mutual respect. We shared frequent waves and salutes when I made his delivery. He often made a special effort to be at or near his door when I came. And we had infrequent but rich occasions to exchange lingering handshakes flavored with verbal expressions of appreciation for each other. I had the opportunity to give Frank a few “I love you, My Friend.”s and he voiced his, more reserved, sentiments. I was given the gift of assuring this fine and gentle man that he was noticed… that he mattered… that he was admired… that he had worth… that he was loved. I will miss his presence. There is, as of this week, a “Frank shaped hole” in my world.

“So“, you ask “why do you tell me all of this?” I tell you, Dear Reader, because I am frequently presented with statements like “I’m just not like you… I can’t express myself to others the way that you do” or “I am just not comfortable with doing the things or saying the things that you do.” or, “People just won’t understand what I’m doing… or why… like they do with you.” And here is, for your reflection, an illustration of just how easy and simple and uncomplicated it can be for us to touch our world for love. It’s like the words of the old song “You gotta have heart… there’s nothing to it but to do it” . That’s all, My Friend, simply listen… allow yourself to see… take the moment… take the moment… take the moment… (see there, you were already getting impatient with that illustrative repetition… GOTCHA!)

Please believe me… you and I can make a difference in our individual little worlds… with love and willingness, you just wait. You will see. In tiny ways, life will Become more enjoyable and internally rewarding.
Trust me… We Can Do This.

As I remain, Your faithfully loving Servant, John-Michael/ 13 April 2006

So What?

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A fair question… “So what does all of this information; this insight into our ‘inner selves’ mean to us in useful, meaningful, and constructive, tangible terms?” I can best demonstrate with an example from my own experience.

I have a love of and for books. Just as I derive a sense of comfort, peace, and serenity from being on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico… inhaling the fragrances of the brine-enhanced breezes… feeling the damp coolness of winds laden with the moisture of far-traveled waters… absorbing the rhythm of undulating waves pounding their percussive music on sands that advance or recede to unseen pressures and forces… and… listening to all of life’s symphony as presented by constantly changing players expressing their natural voices… I am at home with books. This affinity is not one shared by many in my life. I can tell you, in fact, that I endured many years of being belittled, ridiculed, mocked, and derided for my fondness for books as though my love of them was some sort of grotesque perversion.

I have an innate sense of comfort and am, at once, at home in a library. No place is more ‘cozy’ and ‘snug’ than the place embraced by walls lined with books. The thoughts, feelings, emotions, dreams, and wonders of the ages are all present and alive in those books. My very Being yearns for all that is there for the edification of my soul. Here, with books, I am encouraged and humbled simultaneously and it is perfectly ‘OK’ and natural… for I now know and embrace the reality that this is simply how I am created… and this awareness gives me peace.

Some years ago (before I knew anything about this natural and innate taste of mine… and while I was still laboring under the belief that my ‘fancy’ for books rendered me somehow flawed) a client and friend called me with the news that he would be allowed only a limited quantity of books on his relocation to missionary work overseas and that he would have me inherit whatever of his remaining library I chose to adopt; I was exultant (for I had long-admired his collection)! This joy was not matched when I came home with boxes filled with my treasured “Old books.” And, over years, the collection was dwindled through pressure to cull the lot (a pressure that I, to this minute, regret relenting to.)

How then can I adequately describe the relief and reassurance; the validation and vindication that I felt when I read from Keirsey’s “Please Understand Me II (pg. 236)” this small portion of description of a person with my “Temperament Type”:

“[Idealists] are imaginative and creative around the house… and everywhere books, not only books of philosophy and poetry, but books on religion and mysticism, personal growth, novels of all kinds, and often children’s books”

As I look about me, even now, I see the embodiment of that described house… “everywhere books.” (And of the variety described, as well.)

A small thing, you may think… yet this small thing when combined with all of the many other ‘small things’ make up the person that is Me. And so it is for you, My Friend. That small thing is but one of the fibers that, when woven together, make up the design and consistency of our individual ‘fabric’ of personhood. And to know… to be in possession of the hard, tangible, reality of the ‘fabric’ that constitutes your values, tastes, preferences, inclinations, and style gives you a concrete confidence to press ahead with the agenda for life that is of your own choosing and design. For, don’t you see, by knowing the capabilities, the style, the ‘colors’ of our ‘fabric’ we possess the knowledge that enables us to fashion; ‘tailor’, if you will, that fabric into whatever finished product we desire… with complete confidence in the likelihood of it’s optimum performance. This, My Dear One, is no small thing. So… I challenge you to proceed… go ahead and discover ‘yourself’ and claim your own responsibility for that fashion that is you.
John Michael /30 March 2005

(IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of: Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Stream of Life

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I trust the stream of life. The flow that begins at some point before my knowledge and goes beyond the limits of my awareness. I am confident in the perfect balance, purpose, and harmony of life’s flow. It accumulates all that joins it and carries all to an appropriate end. The fallen leaves of Autumn; the blossoms of Spring; the bits of ice in the Winter… just as the circumstances, events, challenges, and blessings of our individual lives… all, in their own season and appropriate to their purpose, fall into the flow of life and are carried to their fitting purpose. All under Life’s control.

So it is with the items that I write and publish. In other venues, I have composed thoughts and transmitted them with the singular understanding that it was necessary for me to do so. I simply and trustingly responded to that “Still Small Voice” within my spirit… that “Muse”, if you will, that gives all of us a quiet, yet clear understanding of what we are to say… or do at a particular time and in a specific place. And, Dear Reader, this is the source of what you have seen, thus far, and will see hereafter in this little vehicle… this BLOG.

The reward and validation that I enjoy is the response from the one for whom the message has merit and meaning. The “How did you know?” that comes from one whose need, desire, or conflict I was completely unaware of but was known to the Source of my Inner Muse… Life provides a dynamic, all encompassing, and reliable flow that carries those of us who are willing to participate. And I am.

Hence, you will see some articles written long ago and some penned in the current time. I am simply listening and flowing with the stream of Life’s direction. (And happy to have you along.)

Your Servant, John-Michael/ 12 April 2006

(IMAGE: Courtesy of FREEIMAGES.co.uk )

Four Loves

I have, on four occasions in my lifetime, allowed myself to cognizantly, and with some measure of mature discretion, fall in love. In each of the circumstances, I was, initially, caught up in the euphoria of the spellbinding enchantment of Her and the moment. But, at some point in each episode, I became subtly aware of the infinite reality that there was no possibility of long-term union for us.

The first of these experiences was quite short-lived. After the epiphanal upheaval of emotion that encompassed the experience had elevated to the point of a “next step” expectation, I went to her, at her place of employment, and said (in a state of bewildered resignation) “I care for and respect you too much to allow you to build any expectations of me… I must tell you that, in a short time from now, I am to be married…I simply admire you far too much to lead you on with any false understandings.” I will never, no matter how long I may live, forget the kind, gracious, loving look in her eyes as she took my face in her hands and kissed me on the cheek. Had there been anyone in my life at that time with the wisdom, understanding, and willingness to mentor me on the significance of that moment, I have no doubt that I would never have followed through with that scheduled marriage.

I recall the exact moment when, in the case of my second of these engagements, I frustratedly attempted to dissuade Her from her love for me with the declared “This can not possibly go anywhere…we are both married and neither of us is willing to terminate that commitment.” What I had presumed would snap Her into a rational awareness only caused her to consider me even more lovable for my concern for the care of her heart. And I found this acceptance to be even more compelling in my love for her. The plain fact that we were both temperamentally predisposed to a yearning for romance that was not shared by either of our spouses left each of us acutely vulnerable to the other. And discovery of each other was a treasure the likes of which neither of us had ever anticipated experiencing. The parting of our lives’ paths severed our physical proximity to each other and the next time that I heard from her was to receive an invitation to her wedding to the man with whom she enjoys a full life (God willing) to this day.

My third license to love I granted myself when I was presented with an invitation to romance. Romance in all of the idealized splendor of possibility and hope. After what a learned Friend and counselor defined as “A run-away train” (I still have the cassette tape with the ‘Runaway Train’ song on it that he mailed to me…fond memories) had run a dizzying course of other-earthly magnificence, I became aware of a gnawing certainty. “Our ‘train’ is going to slow… then stop at a point at which you are going to want to… need to disembark. You are going to want to set out on a new life path. You will be uncertain of and insecure with your ability to walk this path alone…I will walk with you. You will still feel a need for some of the ‘baggage’ of your past…I will carry your baggage for you. At some point you will say ‘I don’t need that stuff any longer’… I will cast it away for you and it will be gone forever. You will become stronger, grow in confidence, and recognize your powers more clearly… you will not be able to ask… I will turn and go back to the ‘station’ alone… knowingly and lovingly.” These are the actual words that I shared with her. She wept and demanded “Never…No… I will never want that to happen” but I understood that blended in with her tears of fear and love was the recognition that what I said was inevitably true… she had sensed it to. And so it was.

The fourth of these openings of myself came only recently. I am far wiser now… I have had the mellowing of fifty-eight years and many miles of experience with matters of my heart to serve as instructors to my willing student of a soul. So, when presented with this opportunity to lay myself out… open to all of the possibilities of and vulnerabilities to freely loving… I said, “Go ahead Heart.” I understood fully that she was in no position to return my love. Her circumstances precluded any possibility for reciprocity… so “Why” you might ask. “For her” is my answer. I would allow myself to ride that whirling ride of ecstasy and delight with no expectation of anything that would satisfy this world’s definition of ‘benefit’… but would I not indeed benefit from the joy… the fuel for the soul…the energy of emotional expression… the ultimate delight and fulfillment in giving the gift of my Self to Her? Yes… my Self as I know myself… an eternal spiritual Being not limited to the confines of geography (for she is thousands of miles away), or time (for she is of a younger generation), or of culture, nationality, religion, or native language. No, My Friend, I am limited by none of these earthly considerations… for I have committed my life to the reality of the infinite Eternity… and this short pilgrimage with all of its ‘limitations’ means not a thing in that scope of life. I, therefore, willingly gave my heart to her with full knowledge that when she reached a point, in her own pilgrimage of progress, she would feel me an awkward encumbrance to her progress… be it an hour from now… a day…month…whenever… it matters not. She will have the knowledge that she has all of the elements of Being that enchanted, mystified, engaged, and swept this old Romantic completely off of his silly old feet... and he fell willingly.

I have given my heart away four times in my lifetime… I repeat. I know many who have never had the blessing of knowing that thrill and satisfaction even once. I am blessed… and happy. Happy in the understanding and knowledge that four lives are, in some measure, better for the introduction of my heart into the recipe of their life. Their fulfillment and individual successes in each of their chosen paths gives me satisfaction. And, while there will forever remain a chamber of my heart that is warmed by the glow of recollection with each of their names on the door, a part of that chamber will forever ring with the hollow echo of emptiness…

Love is never without cost. / 26 November 2004


(IMAGE: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Did I Do Something Right?

When Garrison asked Concert Pianist, Andre Watts, if he would be unnerved by the presence of any significant individual at one of his performances, the gentleman said that the presence of his last teacher, a Mr. Fleischer, would give him some apprehension. “I would imagine that he would be saying ‘I told you not to do that’.” Mr. Watts said.

What concerns me here is the revelation that Mr. Watts' thought was centered on the possibility of condemnation… a recognition of “what I did wrong.” Why, I wonder, do we instinctively anticipate a negative critique? All too seldom, to my thinking, do we think that the appraisal of another will be in the theme of “Oh… how pleased I am that you did those good things so well!” Is not a positive endorsement of more worth and value than a “constructive” criticism (or, at least, of value equal)? Why, oh why do we feel that a correction is of more merit than the recognition of the things done well? No!… and again I say “No!” to this habit that we have adopted to feel compelled to offer only a “helpful” suggestion as our first and primary comment when presenting our impression of the performance of another.

I ask that you consider the response of this famous and well respected concert master of world renown… our aforementioned Andre’ Watts… who has all of the talent, training, and experience that could, reasonably, establish himself above vulnerability to anticipation of the criticisms of any other. The majority of us, at any age, are not nearly so well equipped. Thus, for him to reveal his inner concern for and vulnerability to insecurity serves to accentuate how pervasive (and even, possibly, irrational) this common fear is.

Please, Dear Friend, listen to yourself when next you have occasion to comment on the behavior or performance of another… let’s lift one another up on the arms of kind consideration. Wouldn’t it be a marvelous thing to have others hoping that you will be the one in their “audience” in life because they know that you will be supportive, appreciative, and respectful of them?

It is my prayer that I will be that person in your life.

(IMAGE: Martina Brandstetter,BBC )
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Unless expressly stated, all original material, of whatever nature, created by J. Michael Brown (John-Michael) and included in this weblog and any related pages, including the weblog's archives is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.