Monday, June 18, 2007

Second Chance

“Please allow me to show you how much of what you have spent a lifetime of effort to accumulate … does not belong to you” was a phrase that never failed to grab the attention of clients in my past life as a financial advisor. Though his perspective was not the one that I referred to in those moments of economic structuring and planning, the statement made by Chief Black Hawk certainly sums up the discussion with eloquence and finality that supercedes any that I have ever made. For when he grappled with the problem of reconciliation with those invading “Settlers” wishing to lay claim to lands and properties that had been known to the Native American as a place provided by The Breath Giver for the benevolent sustaining of life, he said “Nothing can be owned but such things as can be carried away.” And, as one who has been present as a man left this mortal plane and translated into that which lies beyond, I can attest to the fact that nothing was “carried away.”

Of late, I have had my attention drawn to the business of what we, as individuals and as a nation, are investing ourselves in. How much of ourselves we are translating into those things that we will never "carry away.” And those alternative considerations that promise unending dividends in the enhancement of the lives of others and even in the welfare and health of our planet. “So” you may ask “how do we determine where the investment, of my life’s efforts, is being made?” Look to your deposit receipts. “For where your treasure is accumulated … there your heart’s intention is also” is the direction given by biblical reference. You see, Dear Friend, when we survey our “deposit receipts” we see either material stuff, or things of spiritual value. And that tells us where our affections lie. For when all of our energies are directed toward the enhancement of our physical comfort with ever-greater housing, entertainment, adornment (clothing, jewelry, cosmetic enhancements), and sensory satisfactions, there can be little doubt as to whether or not we have our hearts set on what we perceive as our ownership of this physical vehicle in which we exercise a fleetingly-brief habitation. Whereas, when we reflect on our yesterdays and see smiling faces, enhanced lives, benefited communities, and enrichend spirits, we are appreciating deposit receipts that show account balances in non-degrading and inflation-proof investments.

I genuinely hope that peoples of the world at large do not avail themselves of the opportunity to look at real estate advertisements in The States. For I would shrink in embarrassment under the scrutiny of the many who live healthy and happy lives without the convenience of indoor plumbing facilities whilst we here in the US advertise for buyers of mini-castles that flaunt multiple “full” baths and numerous additional “half” baths in structures intended for occupation by but one small family. And we have convinced ourselves that to have even more unused bathroom facilities is something that is a social and financial necessity! I smile with delight when I peruse advertisements for homes in other countries and see “space sufficient for installation of toilet” offered as an enhancement for those requiring such consideration. What is deemed an absolute necessity for rational living in this country is seen by others as an optional possibility.

Then I read about and listen to accounts of the kindness and generosity of spirit and resources exercised by many peoples around this tiny globe that we share … set against the parallel accounts of a society that is investing its mental, emotional, and physical resources in monuments to excess that can never “be carried away.” “Why is this of importance to me in the living of my life today?” you may ask. We are not only at a personal crossroad each time that we opt between “for me” and “for you” when considering our behaviors and attitudes … but, I submit, we, as Americans, are at a crossroad of global significance right now … at this very moment.

I pay heed to several recent interviews of former advisors and counselors to the very highest offices in the US, who are now stressing the critical importance of a new, three-pronged national mindset that must be adopted by the leadership of the United States if we hope to reclaim a position of global respect and prominence in esteem. They state that we must make a priority of (1) Respecting the Diversities of others and their beliefs, (2) granting the inherent Dignity of all individuals, and (3) promoting Social Justice for ALL. These three, as repeatedly stated by prominent thinkers and leaders, are all critical necessities for the mindset and national commitment of the peoples of the USA if we hope to ever regain any claim to the respect of the rest of the world.

Did you notice that none of those necessities are of a material or physical nature? No … they are all of the stuff that has lasting an ever-compounding value. They are the very essence of spiritual worth. So, what the discussion, on panels of thinkers and responsible leaders, is focusing on is the absolute necessity for the investment of our nation’s resources in aspects of meaningful and responsible living. Therefore, I heartily recommend your reading of “Second Chance” by Zbigniew Brzezinski, in which he quietly and beautifully describes how the United States can claim a “second chance” in redeeming herself in the eyes of the world that she shares. This is about as political as you will ever see me be … for this is not, in fact, political at all … it is the business of Life … for us all.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sowing and Reaping

With the guilt-inducing implementation of the all-too-simplistic adage “We reap what we sow”, I fear that we inflict crippling handicaps upon ourselves. Ever since the Calvinistic-inclined Scottish Enlightenment that shaped the fundamental foundations of much of the world’s value systems, we have laboured under the yoke of an understanding that our griefs and pains are the direct result of some behavior, choice, or even Adamic curse upon all of mankind. The most evident beneficiaries of this cultural malady are the religious organizations that espouse the concept of “sinful nature” and the psychological and counseling industries that thrive in direct proportion to the proliferation of religious fundamentalism.

Those of you, who have read me for any appreciable length of time, are fully aware of my absolute insistence on our responsibilities for the effects of our own lives. There is no doubt in my mind that we are most effective and satisfied in the living of our lives when we embrace our individual responsibility for ourselves. Hence, to the degree that that personal responsibility has effect, I am in complete harmony with the “as you sow… you reap” mantra. But, as is true of any and all “fundamentalist” dogma, that cliché is profoundly inadequate in presenting a full and complete picture.

For, My Very Dear Friend, what you and I “sow” … all that we initiate … whatever we generate, construct, enact, or do, is done in a “field” or environment that comes to us with its own set of influences and consequences. The very nature of the ground (if you will) in which we sow our efforts and commit our acts of constructive or destructive (as the case may be) behaviors has, as a natural aspect of itself, “fruits” to be dealt with. To illustrate … we all can accept the fact that aggressive and wild driving of an automobile can result in dreadful consequences. If I were to say that you can expect to cause yourself and/or others some sort of physical harm if you drive recklessly, there would be little argument. For we would all assume that such driving would be executed in the field of our familiar motoring setting. But, I recall the video that I enjoyed watching, that was made of Stevie Wonder driving his automobile. I know … he is sightless … and we would all anticipate that him behind the wheel of an automobile would be a recipe for disaster. But, you see, to allow himself the joy of the sensation of driving his car, a different field and set of circumstances was established. So “what he sowed”, that is, his actions, did not produce a harvest to be reaped in some auto-repair shop or hospital. He drove on an abandoned airfield with very involved coaches in the car with him. So he took responsibility for his sowing (his actions) and ensured that the field of his planting would accept his actions and yield a product that would be savored as joy. So, you see, what we would expect as a direct result of his behavior was not, in fact, what was the outcome. He had a “blast!”

Now! Why do I venture here? Because, Dear One, I have, throughout my life, been burdened by the suffering and pain of many whose paths have crossed mine whilst they needlessly bore erroneous condemnation for what they were taught was, solely, the result of some choice or behavior of their past. Countless are the number who, at this very tick of life’s clock, are weighted down with that most sadistic of monsters … guilt … inflicted by their belief that they are reaping their own personal fruit of their own sowing in the form of sickness, infirmity, disability, misfortune, rejection, condemnation, hatred, or even death. They have been trained to this belief that they and they alone, are responsible for all of the suffering that touches their lives. And, I have never in all of my three-score and one years heard anyone say “Look at the field!” Are we not all growing in a natural life-field that is replete with inherent maladies and adversarial elements?

When we plant a new and delicate seedling, do we not pay heed to the preparation of the soil and environment that will be the bio-world for that plant? We do that because we recognize that the fruit of that plant is vulnerable to all of the natural forces of the environment in which we plant it. Is it any less so with each of us. Do we not all respond to the elements of our growth-environs? Have not family, neighborhood, school, church, friends, job, community, and even geography had an impact on us in every aspect of our development and daily function? I think … absolutely, Yes! So, My Friend, can we not accept the truth that what we perceive as the “fruit” of our lives is going to be only a partly influenced by our own individual elections (though a very important part … and the part that we are responsible for.) While much of that Fruit is going to reflect the myriad influences of that Field in which we are planted and cultivated.

So … when considering those “outcomes”, or consequences visited upon us in the course of this life … be aware of (as you hear the vintners speak of the soil and weather on a particular vintage of wine) all of the elements that influence the harvests of each day of our lives. Give every consideration to all that exercises effects on our journey … and (while accepting appropriate responsibility for your influences) celebrate the successes that you have enjoyed over those elements that might have had a detrimental effect beyond what was realized … were it not for the attention … the love … the care and devotion that you invested. Then go forth from this moment looking forward to an even better harvest … a more excellent vintage … tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Breakfast With Herman

“Bring your breakfast out here and keep company with me and my friends this morning” Herman said. So, I did. And as I took a leisurely breakfast, Herman reminded me of our past together. How I had taken him, as a pit (or seed, if you will) from that delectable avocado, and carefully placed him at just the right depth in a glass of water. Then onto the shelf in the window. How I maintained the correct water level as he sent those first little shoots of root toward the glass. And, when he had developed a thick and strong network of roots with a delicate head of sprouting greenery, introduced him into his first tiny pot of rich soil.

We have shared many years, and many successive pots as he grew and developed under my tutelage and nurturing. What a momentous day it was when I decided to usher him into the world of Mother Earth with all of the potential opportunities… and vulnerabilities that she represents. He took to his environment with a flourish and grew with amazing quickness into a wonder of some twelve or thirteen feet in height. Then the storms of 2004. The elderly oak, under which Herman had thrived, lost its hold on one of its dead limbs… it fell… and Herman caught the full weight of it and was broken at just a foot above the ground.

I was saddened to have to remove all that we had enjoyed watching grow to full and healthy stature. But I refused to remove all of him from his place there, under the oak. All that was left was a short stump of what he was. But under that stump there lived a healthy, complete, and strong base of roots that had begun in that tiny glass many years before. And those roots sent power and energy to that wounded remainder of my lovely tree… and he began again! This morning, the voices of Life’s Spirit… or God… or my Muse… or Nature… or Herman… whatever source you care to identify… spoke to me and reminded me of the importance of that initial nurturing in life. How critical the establishment of a strong and healthy root network is to the stability and nourishment of any Being. And how, when life’s happenstances allow some force to break us… seemingly beyond hope (and, Dear Friend, haven’t we all had those times of being ‘broken’?)… we will always draw on the energies… the foundational power… the nurturing supply from our well-established roots.

For some of us, those roots may be stunted by inadequate nurturing and care at our beginnings. It matters not. For right now… at this very moment… we all can cultivate a base of understanding… a system of supportive and sustaining spiritual, physical, emotional, and social sustenance that will establish our own place in Life’s garden. All we need do is open ourselves to the guiding care of our Master Gardener… listen to and respond to the still, small, and gentle voice within that whispers “This is for you” with new opportunities to learn, explore, experience, and grow. And we can be certain that as we encounter those inevitable experiences that cause us injury and pain… we can grow back from those ‘breakages’ stronger and more resilient than before. I know. Herman reminded me just this morning.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Off The Air

Due to unexpected "Technical Difficulties" I will be unavailable for a bit. Time to regenerate, restore, re-evaluate, and heal.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Perhaps Love

As John Denver was struggling with the pains and conflicts of a separation from his wife and impending divorce... he told of the time alone in a remote place of contemplation where he was overcome with a flood of recollected elements of his love that spilled from his pen as the lyrics to "Perhaps Love." Upon completion of the work, he overnight-expressed a copy to his wife, that she might know the depth and scope of what he was feeling. I was so moved by the video telling of the story (by both John and his ex-wife) that I am compelled to share the lyrics with you today.

Perhaps Love John Denver

Perhaps love is like a resting place
A shelter from the storm
It exists to give you comfort
It is there to keep you warm
And in those times of trouble
When you are most alone
The memory of love will bring you home

Perhaps love is like a window
Perhaps an open door
It invites you to come closer
It wants to show you more
And even if you lose yourself
And don't know what to do
The memory of love will see you through

Oh, Love to some is like a cloud
To some as strong as steel
For some a way of living
For some a way to feel
And some say love is holding on
And some say letting go
And some say love is everything
And some say they don't know

Perhaps love is like the ocean
Full of conflict, full of pain
Like a fire when it's cold outside
Thunder when it rains
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love
will be of you

Perhaps love is like the mountains
Full of conflict, full of change
Like a fire when it's cold outside
Or thunder when it rains
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you

LYRICS (edited) From
IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Needs versus Desires

I enjoy many wonderful and satisfying friendships with an exciting assortment of unique and delightful individuals who have blessed my life by knowing and accepting me as the person that I am. But, today I think about the absence of what we so lamely refer to as a “Significant Other."

I have discovered that what I want… really, really at the core of me want… in that Relationship of relationships… is to be desired, enjoyed, and appreciated. That doesn’t sound all that difficult, does it? Am I being so very unreasonable or demanding in this appetite? If not, then what doth hinder the realization of this desire? I am of the opinion that the hurdle lies in our world’s system of matching folks up by the “needs” of each other. We function on a needs basis rather than a desire motivation. Survival, not joy, is the stimulus. Thusly, what I offer at the table of economic benefit or social status is of more significance than the person of Me.

It seems to me that we are taught (by our culture) to seek someone who will enable us to know a sense of economic safety, security and status rather than someone who will add an element of embellishment to our already self-determined and independently established sufficiency. And therein lies the seed of discontent in so many relationships all around us.

We are encompassed about with people who have joined themselves to another for purposes of utilitarian and pedestrian necessity… survival… and are left with an unaddressed hunger for happiness, passion, adventure, silliness, and camaraderie. This is a great boon to the travel, entertainment, and recreation industries. For they are increasingly enriched by multitudes who are in relationships of necessity, compromise, and convenience, who seek fulfillment and satisfaction in superficial experiences… because there is no joy in the still quietude of intimate time alone with their partner in daily life. So “where shall we go?“, “what shall we do?”, “how shall we distract, amuse, and entertain ourselves?” become the ever-present questions. A whole lot of Antique collecting, Fishing, Golfing, Craft creation, Bowling, and other diversions are practiced to fill this vacuum. While small are the number of couples who have delight and fulfillment in simply “Being” together.

I am now of the opinion that a “needs-based” relationship is something that is a handicapped form of an undeveloped character and personality. To seek, in another, a means of satisfying a Need, is to construct a situation in which, once there is no longer a “need” for that ’other’… when the need is sated… when security is established…, discontent rises to the surface. Whereas, for us to establish our own security and identity as a self-complete individual … and then open ourselves to the possibility of someone who will add a dimension of celebration, enjoyment, appreciation, and good old desire to our lives… means that that person will be free to be Themselves… unencumbered by any burden of concern for the wholeness of the other person. We are then free to appreciate, celebrate, and enjoy each other for all of our individual qualities and potentials… unencumbered by requirements.

I have spent a goodly number of years addressing myself to the needs of others. There is nothing noble in this. It is, simply, an expression in life-style, of my temperament and personality type… what Myers-Briggs labels as an “INFP”, “Idealist/healer. And, after all the “needs” of all the people who Life has visited upon the scene of my life have been met… Surprise! … they don’t need me any longer. And I am left (you guessed it!)… alone. Now, mind you, I do not for a moment regret, nor have anything but appreciation for the countless opportunities that I have found satisfaction in, as I met the specific needs of others. But it has taken me until this juncture in life to recognize the reality that what was appreciated… what was appealing… what was desired of me… was not Me… but the satisfaction of that particular need present at the particular moment of my being welcomed into the life of that particular person. Embracing me has been (for them) a matter of their “survival”, and met their immediate need.

Now, those friends who I mentioned at the outset of this little treatise, are folk who are well established in themselves. And, for them, I am an enhancement to their already-balanced lives. So we enjoy and appreciate the added gift that our friendship brings to our respective lives. This is the stuff of enjoyable friendships. But, today, I am still yearning for that “special someone” who “has it all together” and finds, in me, that someone who brings a smile of happy and unabashed delight and makes life even richer. And, I will carefully identify and respect those situations of “neediness” and respond to them in appropriate ways. See there… I’m learning.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dress Up


IMAGE: Annie Maclean (Viewer), BBC NEWS

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hanging Out


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