Friday, April 27, 2007

Life's Ultimate Challenge

Our ultimate challenge in life is not... to establish the priority or dominance of either...

our Idealist Spiritual Self or our Rational Physical Self... over the other.

But rather... to reconcile or bring into a harmonious balance... the Two.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Conversations with Jerry

I met Jerry as he walked his early-morning exercise route, which intersected with my early-morning newspaper delivery route. All of our conversations, over the years that we became good friends, were framed by the window of my vehicle as he walked (or paused for our more-involved discussions.) But within that frame and the confines of that time, we learned much about each other.

I learned that he was a Registered Nurse in a large regional hospital that provides care for military veterans. And with that experience as his point of reference, he commented one day “You know, when we talk about the difference between the ‘DO-ing’ stuff of life and the ‘BE-ing’ participation in life, I think about all of the many patients that I have in the wards of the hospital. They are stripped of all of their roles, stations, titles, and offices of life when they are hospitalized. And virtually all of them are confronted with just ‘BE’-ing who they are, without any of their life’s previous trappings, honors, considerations, or privileges, for the first time in their lives, when I have them in my care. They are all dressed the same, fed the same, housed the same, and treated the same as everyone else there.

And, in thinking about them in that light for the first time, I am aware of the common look of overwhelming un-readiness that they all have when, for the first time, they are either reduced to or elevated to (depending on your point of view) just being the person that they are. They have nothing to hide behind. They are simply that person who is Them. And rarely do any of them have any knowledge of or experience in how to BE who they are. Life is too far gone for them to have an opportunity to discover who they are as an individual soul… much less experience being that soul. And they are all sad. And it makes me sad for them.”

Now, My Dear Reader, I readily acknowledge the necessity of getting done all of the stuff that needs to be done in our world and in all of our lives. I am the first to confess that if the world adopted the mode of living that I chosen as my own, the results would be catastrophic. And, I am grateful for and appreciative of all of the different personalities and temperament types that, in fulfilling their individual gifts, make possible a world in which I am free to be Me. Which brings me to the responsibility that is mine (in fulfilling my role as the person that I am created to be) to ring the little bell of attention gathering… and encourage all who go about me, DO-ing their life-stuff, to honor that wondrous Being who is the core soul and identity of Themselves. I beg my world to allow an awareness of their individual uniqueness and particular qualities. I entreat all who will permit my voice an audience, to embrace and nurture their personhood and respectfully incorporate that Being into the doing of their daily activities. I encourage everyone to see who they eternally are, and celebrate the wonder of those traits that are theirs alone, in the enrichening of their personal world with… Them. Yes, Dear Friend… as I refer to ‘Them’… I am, specifically addressing ’You.’

For it is You, that you will give an accounting of your life to, when you are in that quiet moment of aloneness. It is your Self that is (even in this moment of your reading) aware of a stirring, at your core, to discover, identify, embrace, elevate, honor, and exercise all of the talents, desires, and abilities that are yours and yours alone. For we all know that there has never before been nor ever after will there be another… You. So, Dear One, I encourage you to discover… introduce yourself to… introduce your loved ones to… give to your world… You.

My own experience, with finding my Self, began with my discovery of that inner design that was recognized by the attentive awareness of figures such as Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle… and currently was written about in this past weekend’s newspapers, as a central awareness, and valuable life-tool, for none other than Oprah Winfrey. That design is easily defined and understood by using what is commonly known as the ‘Myers-Briggs Personality/Temperament Style.’ Though many of us have been exposed to this device at some past time or in some other setting, I encourage a fresh look… right now. I provide two resources (just to the right of where you are reading right now [on the blog]) to serve you in learning about your own core desires, sources of happiness and fulfillment, abilities, inclinations, predispositions, and preferences. They are links labeled “Keirsey, Temperament Sorter II”, and “Personality Page”. I encourage you to invest a moment in your Self, and allow your Self to be discovered. If you find that this first step in your adventure of Self discovery generates some vexation or question for you… I invite you to Email me (using one of the ‘Email Me’ links, also provided just to the right of this article [on the blog]), and I will, enthusiastically, give you any assistance or clarity that I can.

With my gratitude to Jerry for his stimulating conversations, wonderfully caring friendship, and delightful laughter… as well as my appreciation of you, My Dear Reader, I remain, as always...

Your faithful Friend and willing Servant, John-Michael

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Love's Creator

On the eighth day of this month (April 07) I completed the sixty-first year of my personal pilgrimage on this silly little globe. Yes! I do see it as silly… inasmuch as I choose (often) to see the “realities” of life in my own contrarian way. As all about me are declaring the grandeur of our place in God’s firmament… I say “Not so!” For I am convinced that all that we now see… all that we perceive and understand… is but a fraction of what is. And that, My Dear Friend, I find exciting and inspiring. That there is so very much that I have no hint of. That beyond the elements of life that I am thrilled by (and there are many, many such elements… among them, You, as you read me now)… there are realities and worlds that are being born and completing their own cycles of life… without even the slightest of awareness of them, in my perception.

But I digress (as is often my way)… from my central thought of this day. And I would not navigate, today, from what has occupied my thinking for many years now… for I now feel confident enough in my understanding (and in my chronologically established right) to state what has pulled and tugged at my being all of that while. And that is, simply, that there is the Voice of… the message of… the intent of my Creator in every element of all that is. And all I need do, to know… to hear… to have a moment with the Voice of our Creator… is… to be willing. There is a portion of scripture that speaks to the “foolishness” of preaching… and puts in a healthy perspective what we have presented to us by all-to-human voices around us. Another that advises that “if they do not tell of Me… the rocks will speak of me.”… which I always remember when science discovers some new truth about our world’s past… from rocks, with their record of history sealed in their structures. And, for years now, I have read, listened, observed, felt, heard, and enjoyed the growing understanding within my core Being, that the One who Created all that is and maintains all in a beautifully choreographed dance of sublime perfection… withholds knowledge and intimate awareness of Him (if you will allow my use of a gender-specific identification of the One who created gender as we know it)… from… no one! Our Creator is transparent in every aspect of possible consideration… if I am but willing to know. To “be still… and know.”

It is my continual joy to see and hear and discover more about this life in (literally) every day of my life. I listen to what you say when you speak to me… and I not only hear the text of your message… but (because I am listening for it… because I am willing to hear it) I hear the texture of what you communicate to me. I hear the ‘music’ accompanying your lyrics. I sense the depth and breadth of the portrait that you paint… even while you intend only to give freedom to feelings and concerns that you have been wanting to make available to a caring ear. I learn from You as I learn from every source and force influencing my life. All because I am willing to know. I have adopted a lifestyle and adapted to a set of life-circumstances that permits me the luxury of taking whatever time necessary to stop and dwell on the tiniest of details of life. Because I want to understand… I have willed myself to understanding. And what I understand is, without the slightest of hesitations, that every culture… every society… every people of every place in time and locale… has had available to them the insights and understandings to know all that they want to or are able to know about our Creator and the omnipotent Love that governs our very existence… at every level… past, present, and most certainly through whatever Eternity is.

What has served as catalyst for my stating what is my personal conviction and knowledge, is the present (though certainly not new) state of discord in our world… which exists primarily as a direct result of sectarian ‘religious’ influences. Power Centers that use as their ’justification’ some ridiculous idea that they and they alone have an exclusive franchise on access to the One who created us all… equally. Equal in our ability to hear the Voice speaking out the messages of the rocks. Equal in our abilities to exercise our will in accepting or rejecting the influences of ego, greed, avarice, pride, and hate… as well as charity, forgiveness, humility, generosity and love. Equal in our abilities to nurture and care for each other and bind the wounds inflicted by circumstances of all sorts.

The Creator of all of us has no ’brand name’… no stylish ’logo’ that is a registered stamp of authenticity. We were created before the existence of any of these nonsensical marketing organizations that sell their religious product under labels of protectionist divisiveness… be they operating from mosques, churches, temples, teepees, huts, or under trees. What they are marketing is what has been and will always be before them and after them. And their performance of the illustrative play that tells the eternal tale, is just as it was well before recorded history. A play that has its script spoken through the spirit of EVERY person who has ever been. A script that is the Voice within each breast of each willing listener. And it is the purest folly to make feeble attempts to literal-ize the play performed as a human expression of that script… that individually realized spiritual understanding… and played out in the scriptures of each particular culture and society in the costumes, in terms of the customs, in the language and dialect of the peoples to whom that truth is revealed. For even the most cursory of studies will readily reveal the absolute fact that from the earliest of cave carvings through the recordings of Mayans, Native Tribes of all the world, Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, European, and Western worlds… all have always had at their core… the very same script… the same revelations… the same myths, the same stories and legends, all the same! And the only denominator common to all of them… is their shared Creator… Who has always whispered truth into the ear of every willing soul… individually.

So, My Dear Friend… with this understanding at my core… you can see why I am distressed and saddened by all that we are inflicting upon each other in our world today. And all under some variation of a flag of religious, sectarian, legitimacy. Such a foolish waste! I prefer to “listen to the rocks.” I enjoy hearing the song of nature that awakens each day and serenades the world with reassurances that are consistently there… for all who will but be willing to listen. It is my personal choice to respect and find common ground for understanding with every soul that Life allows me to meet. I celebrate and find delight in learning new variations in the performing of my Creator’s script as presented in other belief practices. I have, indeed, put on my very own set of ’blinders’ that shut out conflict… and, instead, focus my gaze on harmonies. For, My Dear and patient Reader… I am absolutely convinced of the overriding truth of one of the very earliest of scriptures taught to me… “God is Love.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"There's Still Romance in the Sixties"

When a poet sings the song of my heart's yearning... I can but bow in gratitude... and share its beauty with you. Hence, with thanks to John Keefe, I offer his "There's Still Romance in the Sixties".

With you beside me it is Spring for ever.

Blooming small white flowers…
velvet-soft in first warm sun;
purple and blue carpets of violets and bluebells.

No more winter with its icy winds…
its damp-cold snow and dismal rain.

With you beside me it is Spring for ever.

First warm earth-days of a new season.

An old sweater’s warmth, while sitting on the stump
of a once proud oak tree…
watching the tiny birds flit into budding branches overhead.

Wood creatures bustle about refreshing their minds, after a long winter’s watch.

With you beside me it is Spring for ever.

Out of the cold life of a wintertime and into young-time.

Like the trees I feel a budding and tingle… as the life giving juices seep through my body.

I raise my arms like tree branches to the sun, and give thanks for you beside me.

With you beside me it is Spring for ever.

With you beside me it is winter no more; it is Spring, then summer and then autumn… and for the next winter I’ll have your Spring charm, your Spring warmth, Your Spring flowering, your Spring loveliness to blanket me.

With you beside me it will be Spring for ever and ever and ever.

IMAGES (Upper to Lower), Susan Mander, Tim Burgess, Gill Edwards, Elinor Teele; all are viewers of BBC News

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Life's Scars

“Thank you, Muse.”

I just had a recollection of a conversation that I had with my son’s mother subsequent to my presenting her with a gift. If memory serves well, it was a Mothers’ Day gift. Our son was quite small… was involved in all manner of tests, therapies, and training… all related to his cerebral palsy. One of his accoutrements was an elaborate system of metal and leather leg and foot braces that went from his shoes to a thickly padded ‘belt’ around his waist.

His mother was voicing her concern that the metal of the braces was doing damage to the beautiful finish of a lovely rocking chair that I had given her for Mothers’ Day. “One day, you will look at those gouges and scratches in the wood… and recall fondly the moments when we held and rocked him in that chair. Those will be treasured reminders of the circumstances and the feelings that are now so fresh and real to us. Let him record all that he can in that chair’s finish… for our later enjoyment.” I responded.

And isn’t it so with all of life’s wounds, scars, and bruises? Do we not have, at our option, the ability to recall the pains endured in their acquisition with some measured sense of accomplishment… or at least a dollop of gratitude for our survival through it all. So, My Dear Reader, I offer this little encouragement for you. Please do not turn your back on those circumstances in which you find yourself laboring. Choose, instead, the option of embracing all of what is this moment’s engagement, with a spirit of eminent victory over passing impediments. And an awareness that, in some future time and venue, you will have, at your command, some “souvenirs” of these challenges to revisit and allow to remind you of your victories and accomplishments along the way.

So, today, and in all of your days, I encourage you, My Dear Friend, to embrace all of Life’s offerings to you. Fully know and appreciate… live and savor… sense and indulge in every element of your life experience without fear of or concern for the possibility of “scars” that may result from your allowance of complete involvement. For to live a life governed by a focus on “scar avoidance”, is to risk living as an unblemished cadaver… absent any experiential “wounds”… but totally Lifeless. Your “rocking chair” may be show-room pristine… but the cost would be the loss of a treasury of memories and blessings. And what a waste that would be! I urge you to accept, embrace, celebrate, and enjoy all that Life gives you (even the bumps and bruises.)

And… yes, these many years since… my son’s mother did, indeed, remind me of that moment… as we looked, with a complex and rich blend of feelings, at those scars on that, well-worn, chair.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Dating Site

In response to the inquiries into my experience (to date) with the “dating site” I can only say… “If you want to take a genuine and objective look at who you are in the eyes of your world… subscribe to a dating service.” Oh, my gracious! What a slam-dunk into a barrel of ice-cold “reality water”

I can see how those who have no concept of themselves, as a defined and delineated individual, could get a case of “chameleon cramps” as they change colors and patterns to accommodate the stated desires and preferences of individuals to whom they are attracted. But, as one who has a crystal-clear knowledge of, and respect for his Self-hood… this exercise is one of stark and alienating confrontation with a world marching to a beat foreign to my own rhythm. Only because of my recognition of, and comfort with, the diversity of humanity’s conglomeration of personalities and differing temperament types, can I maintain a sense of sanity and yes, even humor with my own set of individual yearnings, desires, inclinations, and tastes as set in comparison to the sampling of the world as involved in the “dating game.”

I have come to the momentary conclusion that I am, presently, ill-suited for any Other. My “on the edge of poverty” economic status places me at a distinct disadvantage when holding myself to the mirror of what is desired by those seeking a mate, companion, or friend. I am fully aware that I am only “on the edge” of functional poverty because of my adoption of a life-style and methods of daily function that compliment my meager means. Means that are substantially below the ’poverty level’ (as defined by governmental standards). Thus, I have ’enjoyed’ (he says with metaphorical tongue firmly in metaphorical cheek) setting myself on the scales of popular measure and taking a “real world” measurement of my “weight” in this world in which I live.

Thankfully… I am at peace with and have complete respect for my elections and the choices that have me where I am… and as who I am. I am wealthy in the riches of the dearest of Friends that anyone could ever hope or dream to have. I am showered with the blessings of beauty in the treasures of art, music, and ideas as reflected back to you, My Dear Reader, through images and messages that I share with you. And I bask in the immeasurable “returns on investment” realized through the lives in whom Life honors me with opportunities to have a (sometimes fleeting… sometimes lasting) touch. Who could possibly be richer? What wealth could be greater?

If there exists some soul to whom I would be irresistibly attracted and in whom there might be a spirit of respectful accommodation toward my personal commitments to Life, the needs of Others who Life brings my way, and the environment in which my soul functions… I will rejoice and celebrate with unbounded investment of all that I am (for all that I have would be far too little to consider.) If only Life deems it timely to bring that unique One into the realm of my awareness. “Hope springs eternal in the breast of man.”

In the meanwhile, I am meeting and having the genuine joy of offering myself… as I am… and who I am… to an entirely new set of delightful people. This is an absolutely Good Thing!

IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"We Need To Talk !" (please)

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 ancientIt is easier for man to accept the miseries of a poor life than for him to confront the fears of changeand 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 equipping us for the creating of beneficial settings for comfortable and mutually respectful exchanges of insights. Settings 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 thinking... for all of our tomorrows.

IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan,

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Again... Listen "As a Little Child"

In a world ever-more drawn to the demands of voices of sectarian exclusivity (be they Political, Social, Economic, or Religious), I humbly beg you to allow yourself to "Be Still And Know" by listening to the voice of your own Spirit-driven "Inner Child".
For, "Unless you come to Life in the spirit of a little child... you will never know..." Truth.

The Book of Mark, Chapter 10, Verse 14 (paraphrased)


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"As a Little Child"

"Unless you come to Life in the spirit of a little child... you will never know..."

The Book of Mark, Chapter 10, Verse 14 (paraphrased)

IMAGE: Arthur Jenkins Ka Wai, BBC

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


“Enough!” she said, “Enough of dreaming… time to be about the things, the details of life. Dream no more.”

“No! And, again, no!” I replied. For I know that there can never be enough of Dreaming. Life cannot be known in the absence of dreams… only endured.

Can my soul have enough of Music’s sustenance… or my mind enough of stimulation through the Imagined? Never!

Will we grow together as One if some measure of Intimacy is ever thought to be enough… or thrive in an unsatisfied hunger born of some claim of enough Adoration? Impossible!

As surely as the heart requires the supply of its blood… a Life worth living demands its Adoration, Intimacies, Imaginings, Music, and, forever and always… its Dreams.

(03 April 07)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Revisiting a San Antonio Lunch

Since very early this morning, this moment has been on my mind. No... I don't know why... nor do I question it. As those of you who read me with some regularity know well, I simply pay heed to that Muse speaking to my spirit... and I respond.

Therefore, for that One for whom this moment from my past will have some significance and/or purpose... I am at your service... enjoy!

A refuge… A safe harbour… A respite from all that threatens without… My Friend… My Companion… What a blessing to find, in our moments together, if not renewal… at least a lull in the never-ceasing demands on our limited resources.

A smile, however weak, still ministers… Some silliness that means absolutely nothing… An uncomplicated touch… A pat – or two… A silent “it’s OK” given in the freedom of non-commitment… All elements of a survival dialogue between two minds in harmony.

Observations, reflections, spontaneous and unconnected thoughts… All can be shared without need for explanation… And even if volumes of overstated explanation do ensue… that too is endured generously.

Such is friendship…Thus was our gathering today (if two can constitute a gathering)… Where tenderly and almost imperceptibly we shared the same space but did not take any away from each other… Yes - we are there for one another… No – we don’t have to do or be anything beyond ourselves to make it so.

John-Michael/ (originally penned 21 September 1989

The house-turned-restaurant, where that moment was enjoyed, was either removed or closed up (I can't remember which... I only recall sadness that it was not as it had been) the last time that I was in San Antonio, Florida (a small community Northeast of where I live.) So, as you can see, I went through an assortment of bed and breakfast images and chose one as close as possible to the one where we shared the last lunch that we ever had together. And I made this record of that time together because it is an incredible thing to have someone that you can just simply "BE" with.

IMAGE: Elkader Bed and Breakfast
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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.