Friday, December 07, 2007

There Is No Death

Life knew of Dee’s loss. I did not. So, when I discovered the complete text of a poem that I had previously known of only in part … I simply smiled a knowing smile and expected that Life would soon tell me why it was important that I mark the page in the book of poetry. Not more than an hour later, I read an Email from one of my dearest of friends, Carole, and she asked that I prayerfully keep Dee in my thoughts. For, just this Tuesday, she lost her Dad.

There was neither question nor hesitation to turn to the marked page, type the poem, and place it here … to encourage Dee’s heart … respond to Carole’s love for her friend … and provide yet another example of the wondrous workings of Life’s Spirit when we will but be available and responsive to its Voice.

Please accept this work by J. L. MCCREERY … my gift to Dee, Carole, and to You, my dear Reader.


THERE IS NO DEATH

There is no death! The stars go down
To rise upon some other shore,
And bright in heaven’s jeweled crown
They shine forevermore.

There is no death! The forest leaves
Convert to life the viewless air;
The rocks disorganize to feed
The hungry moss they bear.

There is no death! The dust we tread
Shall change, beneath the summer showers
To golden grain, or mellowed fruit,
Or rainbow-tinted flowers.

There is no death! The choicest gifts
That heaven hath kindly lent to earth
Are ever first to seek again
The country of their birth.

And all things that for growth or joy
Are worthy of our love or care,
Whose loss has left us desolate,
Are safely garnered there.

Though life become a desert waste,
We know its fairest, sweetest flowers,
Transplanted into paradise,
Adorn immortal bowers.

The voice of birdlike melody
That we have missed and mourned so long,
Now mingles with the angel choir
In everlasting song.

There is no death! Although we grieve
When beautiful, familiar forms
That we have learned to love are torn
From our embracing arms …

Although with bowed and breaking heart,
With sable garb and silent tread,
We bear the senseless dust to rest,
And say that they are “dead,”

They are not dead! They have but passed
Beyond the mists that blind us here
Into the new and larger life
Of that serener sphere.

They have but dropped their robe of clay
To put their shining raiment on;
They have not wandered far away …
They are not “lost” nor “gone.”

Though disenthralled and glorified
They still are here and love us yet;
The dear ones they have left behind
They never can forget.

And sometimes, when our hearts grow faint
Amid temptations fierce and deep,
Or when the wildly raging waves
Of grief or passion sweep,

We feel upon our fevered brow
Their gentle touch, their breath of balm;
Their arms enfold us, and our hearts
Grow comforted and calm.

And ever near us, though unseen,
The dear, immortal spirits tread …
For all the boundless universe
Is Life … there are no dead!

J L MCCREERY

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Your Life's Meaning

“Is this what gives meaning to your life?” A question that I have oft asked of myself. “Is the energy of this moment the defining power of your living?” “Is the music, inspiring your life’s dance, the melody that most honestly speaks the desires of your heart?” “Are you being true to all that is the precious core of You?”

I do not grade or rank the worth of the task or activity in which I am engaged. No, Dear Friend … I, instead, weigh the merits of my heart’s intention‘s in my engagement in any enterprise. And … only then … do I ascribe my own quiet appraisal of value in my endeavor.

I will not accept anger as my life’s meaning. Nor hate. Not even irritation. And certainly not malice. How dreadful I would feel if I felt that my life’s meaning could be defined as any one of those or their miserable cousins; bitterness, contempt, hostility, or vengefulness. I can not even consider carrying the burden of such as my daily baggage. For I opt, to the contrary, for a daily walk made lighter by the lifting spirit of a heart made glad by contemplation of all that is good. I am, you could say, made lazy by my addiction to easiness of spirit.

I write of these things today, in response to what I have recently seen and heard in the lives of some with whom I share my life path. I have witnessed the pain of their insistence on dwelling on all of those crippling voices of dark considerations. And I cannot bear the destructiveness of such a walk. Finding myself in proximity to such an environment of negative waste tears me down and renders me weak and useless. So I remind myself … as I refresh your memory … in the recollection of one of my favorite scriptural formulae:

“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

There you are! What, I ask you, could possibly be simpler? For how can we allow a seed of anger to be “planted” in our mind … and then ask why we are not reaping joy? Can we rationally expect peace to be the fruit of our allowing hatred to take root in our thinking? Does frustration and anxiety render a harvest of satisfaction and contentment? Please, My Dear Reader, permit me to suggest the beauty of the simplest and most rudimentary of formulae. Only cling to what you want to embrace as worthy of your life’s meaning. And gently turn your back on all of the world’s encouragements to devalue yourself with tabloid noise.

In the hope that you find a bit of encouragement in these considerations, I remain (as always) your loving and caring Friend and willing Servant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Empty Nest

Having, in love, cared for, nurtured, and celebrated the gift, to my life, of a few, very special, beautiful, and unique 'injured birds' ...





Enabling them, each
in their own time …
with my unreserved
support and encouragement … and following their own individual inclinations …
to fly away …



I am, now, alone …
save the accumulated
feathers of marvelous,
colorful, and sacred
memories.







IMAGES: (upper to lower), www.iaw.on.ca, www.pionusparrot.com, www.terryco.us

Monday, November 05, 2007

Alien

My life pathway occasionally intersects that of a person who has touched my core … and my soul aches for her. For, what I hear from her is a crying Spirit that is lost … and I am intimately familiar with that pain. Whilst my miseries are something of my past, the awareness of feeling as an Alien in my personal world is forever fresh. Thusly, I am doing the only thing that I can for this young woman … I am telling her, here, that she is known … she is heard … and she is loved. And she is, above all, not alone.

Alien

An alien to all that constitutes her environment …
Wanting … no, Needing to find a place of comfort …
Plagued by her exceptional capacities carried within her notable qualities,
She cannot naturally meld into the safety of obscure anonymity.

So she must camouflage herself with defacements common to the others,
Assume the language and behaviors that conceal her innate endowments,
And avoid any challenges to the legitimacy of her portrayal …
Most importantly, challenges borne of her own awareness.

Unknown to her, the others find validation for their behaviors,
In her degradation of her appearance and demeanor.
For they all see the extraordinary gifts that are naturally hers,
Making their shared cycles of mimicry for comfort, an endless waste.

Only in those still, lone, and quiet moments of painful reflection,
Does she find herself confronted with unidentified frustrations,
As dissatisfaction, and Self loathing drive her to Self punishment.
Inflicting wounds … tangible, real, and knowable … for all else is too dark and unknowable … while these are accepted as deserved flagellations.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hidden Spirits

“How do you lift spirits that are hiding and refusing to come out?”

This is the question directed to me by a new acquaintance last week. And, before I could respond, the person initiating the question informed me that they had decided to retreat behind the walls of their familiar fortress of sarcasm and feign indifference to the matter.

I am left, therefore, to offer an answer to the question, posed in a moment of fleeting openness, and hope that even if that person does not choose to consider it … perhaps Life has someone else at a point of readiness or need for this thought. For, I readily recall that on more than one instance, in my own life, the same perplexing query challenged my mind. So, I ask that you consider, with me, the possibilities in this idea.

For, My Dear Friend, the answer to why we have some aspect of our Self “hiding” and not allowing our conscious awareness to address it … just may simply be … Fear. That’s right … we do indeed hide parts of ourselves away from the dangers of ridicule, rejection, disapproval, and belittlement. And, unfortunately, the source of all of those negative responses is, all too often, ourselves. So we are saving ourselves the perceived possibly of conflict with ourselves … as well as all of the world round about us. Which leaves us still with the question … “What to do?”

The easy (yes … it can, indeed, be easy) answer is … create an environment that will be supportive, respectful, and honoring of all elements of our particular and individual inclinations, appetites, opinions, and persuasions. Generate a space, in thought and in practice, that validates the innate worth of that “spirit” that is seeking the shelter and protection of concealment. Accept and then rest in the knowledge that every element of each of us has merit. And should be treated with dignity and respect (whether it is socially, politically, or culturally “correct”, or not.)

To the rescue; Dr. Edwin O. Timmons of L.S.U. (Louisiana State University.) Now settle back a bit and consider, with me, what Dr. Timmons had to offer. He illustrated this conflict between the all-inclusive ME and the ME that I allow myself to acknowledge, and make known to others… as an ONION. That’s right, your garden variety vegetable (or whatever an onion is.) It was his idea that if we were to chart a description of our natural Creator-given traits and connected the points on that chart with a line we would have our true inner selves represented by what he called “our inner zigzag.” Pretty high-tech stuff huh? Bear with us now, it gets better, I promise. Let’s suppose that when we first make some expression of our little “zigzag” our expression is met (probably by Mommy) with some form of rejection or reproof “no, no, mustn’t do that…” We, for the first time in our fledgling experience, modify our behavior to avoid conflict or gain acceptance and/or approval. This “layer of behavior” Dr. Timmons referred to as an “onionskin” of behavior put in place to protect our ever-sensitive “zigzag.” That “spirit” that we hide away behind our protective “onionskins.”

Over the years of our lives, we develop, through countless experiences with innumerable persons in myriad circumstances, an infinite number of these layers of behaviors that insulate our inner-selves from any chance of hurt to ourselves or offense to others to whom we feel responsible. So what my friends recognized as ME … and I permit myself to accept an awareness of … was the carefully accumulated “onion” that I, with the best of intent, had painstakingly surrounded my fragile inner spirit-self with. This is what I give license to be perceived from without.

Now … with this insight, perhaps we can relax a bit, and put out a “welcome mat” for those aspects of our Being that have been, heretofore, so painfully repressed. “It’s all cool!” we can tell ourselves, “All that I am is valuable and worthy of my acceptance, respect, and yes, even celebration. And I will accept nothing less from those who would be my life companions. What I am, and who I am is my gift from the Creator. And I am grateful.”

With my sincere gratitude to the One who sent that original question to me … and my loving desire for those who may benefit from this little insight to find something of use in my expression … I bid you, Dear Reader, all kindness and happiness as we walk this life-path together.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Living

I share my celebration of my brother, Steven, with you today. For, you see, he is an embodiment, of this poem, who I appreciate an intimate knowledge of. And, in knowing him, I know a pleasure and delight that makes my life richer and happier.

Living
(author unknown)

To touch the Cup with eager lips and taste, not drain it;
To woo and tempt and court a Bliss … and not attain it;
To fondle and caress a Joy, yet hold it lightly,
Lest it become a necessity and cling too tightly;
To watch the sun set in the west without regretting;
To hail its advent in the east … the night forgetting;
To smother care in happiness and grief in laughter;
To hold the present close … not questioning hereafter;
To have enough to share … to know the joy of giving;
To thrill with all the sweets of life … is living.




IMAGE Steve Rannie (viewer), BBC News

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

View of Life

Some call it a “Romantic” view of life. They insist that to see the beauty, to hear the harmonies, to feel the gentleness and opt for kindness is to be “unrealistic” in perspective.
Their argument would have us devalue the very real presence of life’s best. But alas, Dear Friend, for us to adhere to what is proclaimed by news media, public forum, and religious rantings as the “factual” and deny the always-present good and lovely … is to harden our Spirit’s ability to respond to the elements of living that nurture, encourage, stimulate, and enliven its existence.

I choose (and it is, My Friend, a matter of individual choice) to embrace every small moment of joy … to proclaim the merits of all that is beautiful …
to encourage and celebrate each act of kindness, thoughtfulness, loving generosity, and selflessness that I am aware of … to all of the world that is so starved for hope, happiness, peace, and loveliness.

Does this mean that this old Romantic is oblivious to the overabundance of mean, unkind, greedy, ugly, and even evil forces and influences that are a constant presence all about us all? Certainly not, Dear One! All of those aspects of life on this ever-shrinking globe are options that constantly clamor for my focus … but I choose to protect my soul from the excessive pain, discomfort, and agony that would accompany my opening of my Self to their influence.
Again, it is a matter of disciplined election.

So, in keeping with that understanding, I send these hope-filled, spirit-stirring, and deliciously inviting images to your Soul and Spirit today.
Because I do, indeed, love You … and am committed to contributing all that I can, to a joyful and peaceful Today … for You.



These IMAGES through the gracious courtesies of Ian Britton (upper and lower images), FreeFoto.com; and Jon Sullivan (center 2 images), PDPhoto.org

Monday, October 15, 2007

Beneath the Surface

As you begin this new week ... please allow me to challenge you to slow yourself ... take a healthy, cleansing breath ... and go just a bit beneath the surface of the experiences offered to you by Life this week.
For, My Dear Reader, I promise you that there is beauty and exquisite wonder beneath that superficial conversation ... that surface phone call ... that exchange with co-worker, family member, neighbor, or friend. If you will but simply relax for a moment ... and permit yourself to drift with the current of the instant and discover the wonder that lies just beneath the surface of your life's fleeting happenings.

I am anxious to hear, from You, about the treasures that you find as you enjoy this exercise.


These IMAGES are from the BBC's presentation of winners of a photo competition sponsored by the conservation group Reef Check … celebrating special life forms found on Australia’s coral reefs. The UPPER IMAGE is by John Natoli, and the LOWER IMAGE by Justin Gilligan

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Those Who Are Wronged

Whilst reading one of my favorite writers (Ken Follett) today, I came across an intriguing paradox that had the 'ring' of a quotation. I was impressed enough to search for the source ... and though I find the thought expressed by several ... none is attributed. It matters not ... for I have my own preference in stating the idea.

So, Dear Reader, whilst you enjoy this image gleaned from Jon Sullivan's travels to Ireland, I offer my perspective on the paradoxical idea gleaned from my reading. I ask that you consider, with me, the behaviors of those who have treated us shabbily ... and now act as though we have caused them some offense as victims of their misbehavior. I smile in rueful recognition. (enjoy the image!)
Those who are wronged … are never forgiven.




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

Friday, October 05, 2007

LadyBug

When the self-induced demands for more energies ... to apply to even more passion
generated needs …


Find themselves echoing off of the walls of my ‘resource well’, drained dry by my spent focus on more cries for caring than I can give Myself to …


I have learned (through the curriculum of painful and expensive experience) that I can find respite …

In Life’s littlest of romances.







One of my favorites is the romance that is generated by the presence of the humble Lady Bug.

I can find release and renewal in the unimposing and simple innocence of this tiny creature





Its beauty and honesty … free of any demands, expectations, requirements, or encumbrance …

Lightens my Soul’s burden … brightens my path … and encourages my Spirit … just by its mere existence.



So, My darling DM, and others of You who have had your ‘plate’ of Life loaded to overflowing this week …
Please accept this, my gift of a moment of tranquil serenity, as an expression of my loving appreciation of You and gratitude for the marvelous gift of this most-insignificantly wondrous of Life’s miniscule creations … These sweet little … Lady Bugs.






IMAGES (top to bottom) Kidzcraftz; PlanetNatural; Franklin; gtotem; St Michael's Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers

Friday, September 28, 2007

Acts Revisited

It has all culminated in darkness.
Though each impetus for thought was one born
of a past moment … each ripe with positive potential …
They all found their conclusion in an empty void.

The spotlight illuminating their future path
accompanied each participant, at the close of each act,
in my repertoire of life encounters.
As they, each in turn, turned from our dialogue,
and made their exit.

It is not as though I harbor an appetite for recurrent gloom.
For, whilst I am among those applauding
the ascension of each of former leading ladies …
I … even as the very least of Stagehands …
Yearn for my companion at the closing of the day’s production.

John-Michael
28 Sep 07



IMAGE: UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE ARTS

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Namaste

na·ma·ste
EXCLAM. a respectful greeting said when giving a namaskar.
namaskar
noun a traditional Indian greeting or gesture of respect, made by bringing the palms together before the face or chest and bowing
It began with my interrupting my newspaper deliveries by pulling to the side of the road, allowing the driver of the garbage collection truck to pull adjacent to the window of my van. He (having no idea who I was nor what this potentially annoying maneuver was all about) pulled cautiously up to my location. “Good morning My Friend … might I offer you a morning newspaper?” I offered. And as I did so, I looked him directly in the eye that he might see that my intention was to pay him respect, and offer him a kindness as an expression of that respect. His faced beamed pleasure, and he accepted my offer with a statement of appreciation. Which has been our commonly accepted and customary experience after these quick exchanges through the years since I initiated that first contact. (And neither of us has even learned the name of the other … that would be an unnecessary detail.)

Again, this morning, I pulled into his path and extended a copy of the newspaper out of my window … a mute salute and repetition of our, by now, many-times repeated exchange. After a rich, though fleeting moment of mutual recognition and honor (including the embracing of each other‘s extended forearm while exchanging “How are you?”s)… I drove away with an up-lifted spirit accompanied by a smile of satisfied pleasure. It was then that I recalled something learned, from Joseph Campbell’s writings, many years ago. The significance of a “namaste” moment.

Joseph Campbell rendered the definition of a namaste/namaskar moment as an outward expression of “The Spirit within me honors the Spirit within you.” I was moved to a deep appreciation of all that is encompassed by such a sentiment when I first read it. And have since incorporated it into my daily walk. For I am thrilled by the potentials and possibilities that such an attitude makes available to every encounter in life. And (though my gesture and words were not in accordance with tradition) that is exactly what I enjoyed this morning with the driver of that service vehicle. And I am compelled to relate it to you, My Dear Reader, and recommend the practice to the betterment of your personal walk.

I have, many times, offered the traditional gesture to Another … then to make clear the intent … told the recipient the meaning behind the gift. A moment of reflective appreciation is always the result. A seed of mutual respect and honor is planted in the mind and heart of another soul in my world. The cost is quite affordable. And the up-side potentials are inestimable.

So, Dear Friend, to you I offer my namaskar with “Namaste.” For I do, indeed honor that beautiful Spirit within you … which is a pleasurable aspect of loving you (which is, also, a choice that I am delighted to have made.)




IMAGE: The Moderate Voice

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The One Amongst Thousands

With its beautifully stated, yet simple truth ... I offer this poem by Francis William Bourdillon ...

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes



The night has a thousand eyes,

And the day but one;



Yet the light of the bright world dies

With the dying sun.







The mind has a thousand eyes,

And the heart but one;



Yet the light of a whole life dies

When love is done.








IMAGES: (Stars) NASA/ Weekly Reader
(Setting Sun) Triad Mohammad (viewer), BBC News

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Language

Language is what we use to process our thoughts. In fact, our thoughts are made known to us with the Language … the words, phrases, and expressions that we are familiar and comfortable with. It follows, then, that by increasing the depth of our reservoir of Language skills we expand the scope of ideas that we can explore … and communicate … firstly with ourselves, then with others.

It is my desire to introduce the Language of Love … of Intimacy … of Caring … into the world that I touch. In so doing, I hope to awaken an awareness of vistas of affection, respect, appreciation, and adoration for the marvelous Creations that we are. How wonderful it will be when we can look into a mirror … or into the face of another … and say “I love you” with the same comfort and ease that we have in criticizing or discounting the worth of that individual.

To that end … please accept my sincere “I love you” … to You. For, you see, I am convinced that we have shared this brief moment of your reading, not by chance … but as a gift from Life. And that gift is worthy of my love.

This my contribution to your lexicon of Language today.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Expression

From the earliest ... we have had a desire to express our innermost visions ... our perceptions ... our experiences. And to make known, to others, the truths, beliefs, values, and impressions that are ours. That the treasure of our having known Life ... will be theirs.



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

Bliss

(MARVIN and DAD)

Life’s Pinnacle of Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Bliss



Image: Martina Brandstetter (Photo Contest Winner), BBC

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Good Receptionist

"I'm sorry ... He's busy right now ...
You'll have to come back later."





IMAGE:Felix Wong (viewer) BBC

Beauty

… if eyes were made for seeing
Then beauty is its own excuse for being.


Ralph Waldo Emerson
From The Rhodora




IMAGE: Thor Beverley (viewer) BBC

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Jane Tomlinson

Though I (regretably) did not know of her until today ... I am touched and my life blessed by her and her story. I entreat you to click on this link http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2585103.stm
and allow yourself the same gift that I have just been granted, courtesy of the fine people of BBC.

Whilst her efforts received scarcely little note during her quest from San Francisco to New York, I offer this moment as a tribute to her from this admiring Yank.


"Thank You", Mrs.Jane Tomlinson, for making my world, and this world of those willing to welcome you into their hearts, a far better place for us all.



All Images: BBC News, UK

Monday, September 03, 2007

Our Soul's Yearnings

It would seem reasonable, to the rational mind, that a man in his sixty-second year if life (having completed his sixty-first year in April, last), would have it all settled, understood, and well in place. (“It” being the emotional “stuff” of life.) But, alas, it is not completely so. For, you see, I have been dredging the depth of my own pit of personal depression and discouragement for a bit of a while now. And … in that state, quite unable to detach myself from the numbing, disabling weight of the experience enough to allow for as much as a sensible defining of my malaise. My belief that I was containing my plight, was proven wrong when a loved friend wrote from New York a week or so ago. She asked why I was sounding so “down.” She could “hear” from that distance, what others in close proximity did not. So, today, I am responding (at some considerable length) to Susan’s caring concern.

I knew that something was “up” when I took my cornet out, and left its case open and the instrument available all day (as it is now.) This is something that was a norm for me during my high-school years. I would return home from a day at school … busy, being the campus “Jerry Lewis” character that I was known to be by students and faculty alike. I was engaged in making everyone’s every moment lighter and more pleasant, from my first step on campus to my departure for home, and my solitary hours enveloped in the playing of the blues on my trusty companion … my cornet. Those who saw me as the “wittiest” of my graduating class (or “class clown” … depending on individual definition) had no idea why I was so compelled to engage my environment in the role that I had assumed. Nor, for that matter, had I. Only now … in distant retrospect and through the lens of much study, reflection, psychological testing, counseling, and much experience … do I understand. It is for the same reasons that I have my cornet next to me now. I was … and am seeking some satisfaction of my Soul’s yearning.

Yearning is a word that I never used … nor heard used … until my discovery of the work of Bates and Keirsey. I was introduced to them through my determination to follow up and fully understand the results of my first Meyers/Briggs Temperament Evaluation. “Please Understand Me” by Keirsey and Bates … and subsequently, “Please Understand Me II” by Keirsey … addressed, for the first time in my personal experience, the matter of the yearnings of each of the different temperament types. I am writing today out of a refreshing of my awareness of those truths.

For, My Dear Reader, I have learned … and continue to deepen my understanding of, the truth, and significance, of my yearnings. And … most importantly … the power that those yearnings have in the core of Who I am created to be. What, then, is that power? What is the relevance, of our yearnings, to the scheme of our lives? This! Our yearnings are our “appetites” for the expression of our Spirits’ needs for nourishment and sustenance. Restated … our yearnings inform us of our particular needs for the strengthening, maintenance, and encouragement of our individual Spirits. And, the good news is that we all are not “fed” by the same aspects of life. We all have different “appetites.” Our diverse and particular personalities, temperaments, and characters require varied forms of nourishment for a healthy level of functioning. What may seem to be superfluous and extravagant “desert” to others of different temperament can be … and most often is, a staple of (and critical to us, as a basic fare for) our unique nature.

Thusly, when I learned that 39% of the world’s population is rejuvenated and restored by satisfaction of their yearning for belonging and another 37% find the same in making an immediate impact on their environs … and that achievement serves that purpose for 13% … then, well … it makes more sense to me to know that the 11% portion of those created with such innate inclinations (the group of which I am a part) find their renewal and restoration of their Self … in romance. This informs my rational mind and makes clear the impulse that I have been, of late, struggling with. That impulse to discount and negate the validity of my yearning for romance in my life, as simply superfluous “desert.” For the majority of the world about me would influence my thinking to be predisposed to the acceptance of Belonging, Impact, and Achievement as worthy aspirations whilst Romance is but a silly exercise in inconsequential foolishness. Not so! For, My Dear One, I have just been reminded that … while culture, religion, society, and politic may not recognize its value … romance is just as valid and crucial to my personal nourishment as the other three forms of renewal and satisfaction are to the other 89% of my world’s population.

So, looking back … and next to me now … that constant Friend, my cornet, has been a source of respite for a soul starved of sustenance as it cries out its need in the form of The Blues played with mournful expression not possible with simple words. But today (unlike those yesterdays) I understand that the making better of life for my friends does not bring the satisfaction that Jerry Lewis portrayed in those old movie roles. For, you see, he always found romance in the person of someone who responded to his loving of his immediate world. And, alas, that part of the story is but a fantasy.

And there you have it. The reason for my absence from writing in the blog recently … and the lack of responses to kind and loving Emails. The Person who does those things is, at present, a bit drained for want of restoration and nourishment. But give me a while … I’ll be back. I promise.






Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Quality of Life

Because I am one of those “right-brain-dominant” people who process life’s input in a conceptual way … I have learned (from many, many combined years and experiences) to back away from things … allow my funky brain to process the elements of what has been observed … permit my mind to form a perceptual image that comes together in a coherent form … and only then … respond. Here is an example.

I was raised in an environment regulated by a set of standards that demanded perpetual self-deprecation and denial of worth. This system is based (to some twisted degree) in the fundamentalist, religious teachings that would have us see ourselves not as loved and wondrously created individuals … but as innately flawed and unworthy. That was the climate of my earlier life … no more! There is, in that still-thriving-world, a prevailing demand for dismissal of recognition and declination of compliment. And all in the name of “humility.” I now offer what I have learned … to the contrary.

My memory of that sphere of stifling dictates was recently stirred by a dear friend’s response to my public mentioning of his act of loving expression. His comment (after reading my acknowledgement of his thoughtfulness) was,
“the personal recognition was not necessary, but appreciated nonetheless.” Kinda leaves you chilled, doesn’t it? I was left with a feeling that has taken me a while of contemplation and consideration to sort through (in my INFP, right-brain sort of way.) Here is what I have concluded from that thought process.

Contrary to his statement, my expression of my heart’s sentiment is, most assuredly, necessary. Absolutely necessary and elementally required … for the sustenance of the quality of life that I am committed to being individually responsible for. For, My Dear Reader, I am not satisfied with the idea of living some cadaverous form of life, maintained at the rudimentary level that would be reflected in that image of one who is bound to existence by the barest of “life support” mechanisms. Indeed not! Each breath of my life is invested in knowing the highest “quality of life” that can be realized in whatever circumstance presented. And I have committed myself to the same for all whose lives I am given an opportunity to affect. I intend the highest possible quality of life for us all.

I know that I can enhance the most barren of surroundings with a kind word. The most stark of settings can be transformed with a smile. A song lightens the darkest of moments and the beauty of even the most childish of artistic efforts serves to elevate any setting. And, I ask you, are any of these “necessary?” Of course they are! They are necessary to a finer quality of life lived in that moment. They are the necessary response to any moment’s option for betterment or diminishment. Necessity is the presiding rule when considering whether or not to enhance any situation with our offering of our better self … if we want to make our world an ever better one.

So when you offer that kindness … demonstrate that loving sentiment (in whatever form you are comfortable with in that moment) … say that generous word … or give that gift that is the expression of your heart’s desire … I will acknowledge your spirit of willingness to make my world better … with a simple “Thank you.” And I will thank Life for your contribution to my life’s betterment. I will be happily grateful for your enrichment of my present-moment world. And I will lift the spirits and hopes of others with my telling of your willingness to contribute to our world’s beauty and enjoy-ability. This is a worthy “lens” through which to view our time together … and I am committed to polishing and offering that lens for your viewing … as frequently and in as many ways as possible.

So I ask that you … STOP … before responding to the word or behavior of another. And … consider … if what you are about to say or do is going to validate, or cast a veil of doubt, over their offering. Are you at the brink of dashing their expression with a cold splash of self-deprecation borne of less-than-uplifting habits learned in your past? Please allow me to urge you to make the choice to, instead, encourage, support, and contribute your part to that person’s willingness to improve your world … with a loving … “Thanks.” Then lean back … and bask in a world made better … in whatever small way.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Responsive Spirits

I was in dire need of a touch today. And Life knew that. So there they were … messages from two of my loving Friends. One from Carole, who has been a cherished element of my world for nearly forty years and whose life-stories I know many of. The other from Debra-Ann, a far more recent Friend whom I know very little about. Carole (knowing me as she does) sent a story that she knows is in tune with my Spirit, whilst Debra-Ann sent a brief note of encouragement and endearment. Both were received by a thirsty soul and each ministered to a painfully aching need in my present day. I share, with you, the story forwarded by Carole. The note from Debra-Ann I keep private. To them both, I extend my sincere “Thank You!”

The Story from Carole (source unknown)

Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. She dictated and I wrote:

“Dear God,

Will you please take special care of our dog, Abbey? She died yesterday and is in heaven. We miss her very much. We are happy that you let us have her as our dog even though she got sick. I hope that you will play with her. She liked to play with balls and swim before she got sick. I am sending some pictures of her so that when you see her in heaven you will know she is our special dog. But I really do miss her.

Love,
Meredith Claire

P S: Mommy wrote the words after Meredith told them to her.”


We put that in an envelope with two pictures of Abbey, and addressed it to “God in Heaven.” We put our return address on it. Then Meredith stuck some stamps on the front (because, as she said, it may take lots of stamps to get a letter all the way to heaven) and that afternoon I let her drop it into the letter box at the post office.
For a few days, she would ask if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch. Curious, I went to look at it. It had a gold star card on the front and said "To Meredith" in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith took it in and opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers, "When a Pet Dies".

Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God, in its opened
envelope (which was marked “Return to Sender: Insufficient address” ). On the opposite page, one of the pictures of Abbey was taped under the words "For Meredith" We turned to the back cover, and there was the other picture of Abbey, and this handwritten note on pink paper:

"Dear Meredith,

I know that you will be happy to know that Abbey arrived safely and soundly in Heaven! Having the pictures you sent to me was such a big help. I recognized Abbey right away. You know, Meredith, she isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me--just like she stays in your heart--young and running and playing. Abbey loved being your dog, you know.

Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets! -- so I can't keep your beautiful letter. I am sending it to you with the pictures so that you will have this book to keep and remember Abbey. One of my angels is taking care of this for me. I hope the little book helps. Thank you for the beautiful letter. Thank your mother for sending it. What a wonderful mother you have! I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I am in heaven but wherever there is love, I am there also.

Love,
God and the special angel who wrote this after God told her the words."

As a parent and a pet lover, this is one of the kindest things that I've ever experienced. I have no way to know who sent it, but there is some very kind soul working in the dead letter office. Just wanted to share this act of compassion.


And here, My Dear Reader, you have a lovely story that illustrates what I have benefited from today. That is … two caring souls responding to that impulse to reach out and demonstrate a loving spirit. Such has been my gift today. And I am happy to share my joy with you as I thank both of my Friends for their willingness to follow the leading of their hearts.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Your Voice

You have, within you, a Voice … a whispering Messenger awaiting your attention. It’s constant desire is to give utterance to your Soul’s higher aspirations. But, alas, the cacophony, of your life’s daily requirements, drowns out that Voice’s requests for attention.

It is into this place that I step. It is in this place that I have chosen to respond to my heart's calling. For, you see, I am compelled to devote my energies to the provision of a receptive and advantageous stage for your inner Voice. A stage that will feature your Spirit’s finer motivations. This is the reason for this blog. And, in this blog, I offer whatever staging; whatever “orchestration”; whatever environmental enhancements I can provide … to support your appreciation of … your respect for … your celebration of … your own individual finer instincts.

For, My Dear Reader, I am aware of those finer potentials held within you. I relish those nobler thoughts and choices available to you. And I will do whatever I can to allow you the same awareness.

And, all the while, I thank you for your willingness to invest a moment of yourself in visiting this site and opening your heart to my entreaties. For, I remain, as always, Your constant Friend and loving Servant.



IMAGES through the extraordinary talents and gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan, PDPhoto.org

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Vote-Worthy

We are in a season of electioneering and campaign rhetoric ad nauseam. I find myself wanting to hear some report, some testimonial of any act of caring, generous, and selfless living, demonstrating a humble involvement by any candidate for public service. There seem to be countless methods of evaluation and analysis for selection of a person deemed to be worthy of a vote … all based on political blarney and self-serving resume building. Here I offer, as a simple and direct method of evaluation, an alternative means of measurement for us all to reflect on … At Set of Sun.

At Set of Sun
If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went…
Then you may count that day well spent.


But if, through all the livelong day,
You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay…
If, through it all
You’ve nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face…
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost…
Then count that day as worse than lost.


GEORGE ELIOT

If, At Set of Sun, you find your day accordingly “well spent”… you get my vote! Serve happily.



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

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Experience of the Bee

When here … at the center of this miracle of artistic, geometric, chromatic, and physical wonder … there is: no world conflict … no political discord … absence of theological dispute ... no clamour of individual dissention … neither expectation nor disappointment … only the mesmerizing invitation to ever-deeper enfolding of myself in the delicious delicacy of these tantalizing petals.

In this moment, I understand and envy the experience of the bee.




IMAGE (from Chelsea Flower Show), BBC News/Getty Images

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Just ... because!

Without theme, moral, lesson, insight, or method ... It's My blog and I can share something of uplifting beauty and splendor with you ..."Just ... BECAUSE!"


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

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Under the "Take a Moment Tree"

It was on 7 May, of last year, when we last visited this thought. And today, I am drawn to the subject, yet again. So, come … please join me, here, under the “Take a Moment Tree” … and I will tell you what this matter of “Accountability” means to me.

I am accountable to Life for the answer to THE big question… namely “How good a job did you do and/or are you doing at BEing John-Michael?” Not “what titles did you hold?” nor “what roles did you play?” nor “what offices did you hold?” Not “how much?” of anything will determine the success of my short while on this earth, but “How did you respond to and use that unique treasure and gift of your very own individual design by which you were created?” That is the scale upon which I will be weighed day by day and through eternity. So I am compelled to respond, without reservation, to each opportunity served to me each day in the knowledge that all things are under the control of the Creator of it all and my opportunities each have a purpose. And I do not want to disappoint myself … deprive that other person … or lessen the value of that experience by withholding any part of ME from each moment.

For example, there was the moment when I pulled over to the curb and exchanged salutations with the lady who was walking her dog in the early-morning, before-preparation-for-work, pre-dawn stillness. (This is the time that folks are accustomed to seeing the newspaper delivery guy [me] who has been there every day for the past fifteen years.) We shared comments about now-forgotten things, and then (in response to the urging of my “Still, Small, Inner Voice“) I said something like “Please forgive my intrusion, but I detect in your tone, an obvious lack of enthusiasm for the job that you are engaged in.”

This is the moment when LIFE rewards my exercise in courage with an affirmation that I have ventured onto “prepared soil“. The lady began to unreservedly reveal her unhappiness with both of the presently-engaged-in jobs that she felt trapped into. Like so many today, her economic requirements necessitated her working more than one job and, like many, if not most, she found no satisfaction in either of hers. I then revealed to her the possibilities available through career counseling and gave her some examples of successes that I have known personally. I explained the functions of some of the testing tools and illustrated the ways in which the test results can be translated into a satisfying and even enjoyable career.

Some months later, in response to my passing wave, she stopped me and told me that she had decided to follow through on researching options for herself. Still many months later, I saw a ‘U-Haul’ trailer in the street with several people engaged in the never-enviable task of moving-day labor. To my surprise, the lady flagged me down (I didn’t even know that she lived there) and announced “I took your advice. As a result of the testing and counseling that I pursued, I am (as you can plainly see) moving to a new location to begin a new career that is the fulfillment of my dreams. Thank you for your advice.”

I went my way and she hers without even knowing each other’s names. All that matters is that I gave Life an opportunity to let that young lady know that there was a waiting and ready potential for something special for her individual, unique life. And all that was required of me was the willingness to allow Life to use the experience and knowledge acquired over my personal walk and offer it to this person who was ready for it and receptive to it. Her life was transformed… and I am forever blessed.

So, you see, My Dear Friend, willingness, availability, and receptiveness are the only requirements for us to be of immediate and tangible service to that world that is all around each of us… moment by moment, through each day that is given to us. And in the participation in these opportunities, we can make our world a bit better… person by person, experience by experience… you and I , living in love, can change life for the better.

I invite you to be bold, open, and alive in the moments of your life. And, as we look into each of our personal, intimate, and private “mirrors” of reflection, we can know that we have responded appropriately to those gifts presented to us by Life… those fleeting opportunities that were given to us… that we responded to Life’s summons to BE that unique individual that was needed in that fleeting moment. And that we embraced our personal calling for or own Accountability … to ourselves… to that other soul … and to Life.

Please trust me… it’s great fun!



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

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sunshine and Rain

Today ... I am enjoying a beautiful recollection ...

Life causes the sun to rise on the Evil and on the Good ...

and sends rain ... on the Just and on the Unjust

I am so very pleased that I have these references to be recalled ... and shared with you.



TEXT: the 5th chapter of the book of Matthew, verse 45 (my own version)
IMAGES: Through the talents and gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan, PDPhoto.org

Friday, August 03, 2007

War ... Truth

In war, Truth is the first casualty.

Aeschylus
(525 BC - 456 BC)



IMAGE: Neil Jones (viewer) BBC NEWS

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"What a Wonderful World"

The sound (and feel) of rolling thunder greeted me this morning as I prepared my first cup of “getting ready to go to work” coffee. “Going to be a morning of delivering the newspaper in the rain” I said to myself. I enjoyed the drive to the warehouse in the absence of the usual summer humidity that was the gift of the slow drizzling rain, and appreciated the cooler air brought in with the weather ‘front’ that passed through yesterday.

Then, I turned the radio on to set a mood and tempo for the morning’s work. Static and noise was all that greeted me. “Well, I guess that the antenna has finally given way to allowing rain to soak into it, or its cable, or connections, or all of the above” I surmised. “Can’t expect much more from it when it has performed so well for seventeen years.” I then turned the radio off, and decided to choose an “internal soundtrack” for reflection as I went about accomplishing my tasks. The one that I chose was the one that played on the radio yesterday … prompting me to shut the radio off at the final note of the song, in order to preserve, and allow me to dwell on, the echoing of the melody … the image of the singer (the incomparable Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong)… and the sweetness and rich profundity of the lyrics … for the balance of that day. So, this morning, I resurrected that song from my mind’s archive … and accepted it as the soundtrack for my morning. I share it with you now … and will comment on it after …



WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

(George Weiss / Bob Thiele)

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
They're really saying "I love you"

I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Oh yeah


Ahhhhhhh … how sweet it is! And there you have it, My Dear Friend and kind Reader … the power of choice of soundtrack. For, you see, I can do nothing about the rain (which is responded to, by most [if not all] of those whose job is to deliver newspapers in it, as a misery and an inconvenient complication to life.) I have no ability to correct or undo the effects of rain water seeping into some hidden part of my poor old van’s radio antenna. But I, and I alone, have infinite control over … as well as absolute responsibility for … my personal choice of a spiritual, mental, and attitudinal “soundtrack” to accompany the given “lyrical” details of my life.

And I am here to tell you that my choice, this morning, resulted in a lovely and rewarding symphony of circumstances. As I played that song in my soul, I stopped at the entrance to one of the cul-de-sacs, that I make deliveries into, and responded to Life’s whisper within, by turning right where I always turn left. This brought me into another cul-de-sac as one of my customers was carrying out trash cans for this morning’s pick-up. Whereas this reclusive and shyly solitary person and I do greet each other with distant smiles and enthusiastic waves … this morning’s exchange (while brief and fleeting) was one of eye-to eye gladness of presence accompanied by a very few words of sincere well-wishing. A wonderful rarity that would not have been possible absent the accompaniment of the spirit of that song in my heart … and my openness to the quiet whisper of Life’s “still, small, voice” responded to. I proceeded from there with a grateful “Thank you Life” whispered within.

Then, as I progressed further along, I saw another who (had I not chosen to alter my usual pattern) I would not normally see. She was also carrying the accumulation of cans, boxes, and ’stuff’ that were destined for pick-up by the trash haulers. She was attired in a ’frumpy’ house-coat, or bath-robe (whichever may be the case … I am not much for awareness of appropriate names for such), her hair wrapped in some sort of bandana or kerchief … altogether fitting in a drizzling rain, and the requisite slippers. She looked up at my approach … I reached out of the van’s window with the newspaper extended to her (to save her having to pick it up … wet … from the driveway) … and playfully commented (with appropriate theatrical emphasis) … “I just LOVE the fashion statement!! … No, No, I REALLY do!” (Big smile) I then bade her a good day and drove along my way.

But wait!! There is more. I have never … in all of these nearly-twenty years that I have been delivering her paper … had an opportunity to tell her what has always been on my mind, and in my heart, each time I have seen her. (Song playing in my spirit and me willingly giving myself to it) … I put the van in reverse … she stopped what she was doing and looked up … “I was willing to take a moment to be a wise guy … now I am willing to take a moment to be truthful … Since the very first time that I saw you … I have been smitten with you! So there! There you have the other side of the coin.” I waved. She said a quiet “Thanks” accompanied by a lovely smile. I drove away once again and continued my work.

Simple little “Life Things.” Uncomplicated and unscripted human exercises. Unplanned responses to opportunities. All made possible because I was willing to employ an enabling background to the factual, elemental, concrete “lyrics” of my life’s pathway today. I made the conscious choice to place the “paints” of my life’s details on a “canvass” of beauty. The “stuff” of life is handed to us through the circumstances and details of our environment and our responsibilities within that environment. We can, quite often, do nothing about that “stuff.” But, My Darling Reader, we have, as the gift of Life’s beautiful providence, all power over our election of accompanying soundtracks for our individual “dance of life.” Whilst I thank you for your patient consideration of mine … I lovingly bid you … give yourself the gift of a magnificent symphony … today.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Patience

“Why must I learn Patience?”
I asked of Life.

“Hold that thought …”
Life responded,
“… and I will get back to you.”




IMAGES: (upper) Science Daily, (lower) University of Leicester

Monday, July 23, 2007

Write a Caption

We do hope that no one remembers that you were, at one time, part of us.




IMAGE: BBC NEWS

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Boundaries

{boundaries}
LIMITS, parameters, bounds, outer limits, confines, extremities, barriers, thresholds.
The NEW OXFORD
Thesaurus of ENGLISH


It seems to me that what we seek in a relationship with another is in radical opposition to the concepts encapsulated in consideration of personal boundaries. I am hearing, more and more frequently, a call for the establishment of individual boundaries … and this in discussions centered on promoting a rewarding relationship. Please forgive my simplistic reasoning here … but isn’t that somehow akin to the building of fortifications as a form of creating closer neighbors? Are boundaries not a form of protective structures with the express purpose of staving off unwanted attention, advances, or intrusions? If so, then how, in the world of reason, can we hope to create, build, and enhance oneness with another when we are focused on constructing systems, methods, and predispositions designed to limit or exclude that other from sharing a life experience with us?

And this thinking is not limited to interpersonal relationships. There are the same sort of conflicts in philosophy being dealt with, at this very moment , by nations, communities, and organizations who are desiring the benefits of unbounded commonality … whilst clinging to ethnic, national, religious, or ideological singularities that are threatened by those very wishes for a more embracing unity. Automobile makers want to offer special qualities inherent to another particular brand of car … so they buy that unique company with the intention of enhancing the depth and range of the parent company’s portfolio. But they then find that by maintaining the identity and character of the acquired brand, they, as a parent concern, cannot integrate the new acquisition into the “family” of existing systems, methods, and philosophies that form the character of the owning organization. The European Union is an openly obvious illustration of a diverse group of individual entities wishing to enjoy the familiarities, conveniences, and economies of a single statehood … but struggles, even as we speak, with the desires, of each participating nation, to maintain their selected and chosen boundaries in a variety of particular considerations. So, My Dear Reader, this conflict between desires and intentions is not something particular to nor unique to your present struggles in your interpersonal interactions. So … what to do?

If I may be so bold as to reduce an infinitely complex set of considerations to a childishly simple scale … allow me to offer this “lens” through which we may see a manageable perspective. First … clear the “table” of all of the conflicting elements. Then … place on that table of consideration the one single, lone, and overriding desire that motivates us to engage in the exercise. Simply put … “What do we want?” But only in one short sentence … even better … one word. No embellishments. No amendments. No ancillary addendums. The one single, primary desire. Now … anything else to be considered must be weighed against its enhancement of … or diminution of our core desire. This is not hypothetical. Do it now! Take a moment ... or many moments ... and "know thyself."

It is a well-established fact that all personality/temperament types have, as aspects of their natural make-up, specific sets of inclinations and preferences. As example … some thrive on constant intimacy whilst others find intimacy to be something best “taken from the shelf” only on occasions deemed appropriate and timely. Therefore, we are best served by recognizing our individual propensities, and those particular to those with whom we wish to live comfortably, when seeking some state of harmony between what we have elected to place at the center of our table of choices, and what is the choice of those who occupy places of significance in our world. If our desire is for intimacy and theirs is for autonomy, it is pre-ordained that we will be engaged in a constant effort to tear down barriers and boundaries that are being hastily constructed and reinforced by the other as they attempt to protect their “space.” A situation that, obviously, holds little promise for a relaxed and enjoyable relationship.

How many times, over my lifetime, have I heard one spouse relate their frustration with their attempts to engage their mate in a desired activity only to be met, repeatedly (and often for many, many years of repetition), with rejection and even occasional hostility. Something that could have been easily dealt with if only they stopped … set aside all of the accumulated detritus of experiences wasted … and shared with each other their single and central desire. From which they would be able to agree to accommodations that would support each others’ wishes. (The underlying conflict could, of course, have been avoided if only they had taken the requisite “moment” to be still … and look rationally at themselves prior to binding themselves in the constrictions of an ill-fitting commitment.) But ongoing warfare and conflict can … and often does, become a comfortable state of unhappy being. Far too often preferred to that fearsome and dreaded (by individuals, nations, organizations, and groups alike) savior … communication. (A saving mechanism usually avoided with the excuse that we want to “avoid conflict.” How bogus is that?!)

All of this having been said, I offer you this. If you exercise the rational good sense to avoid a hostile environment … you will need little thought of establishing protective, defensive boundaries. If you find that your energies are being depleted in constant efforts to establish and reinforce boundaries … perhaps you are in need of … relocating. A habitat that compliments and supports your desires needs no fortifications … only more avenues for the importation of beneficial experiences.

I thank you for your indulgence and patient consideration of my little ideas and perspectives … and for your continued hospitality and gracious kindness. As I remain, Your constantly loving Friend and willing Servant.
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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.