Friday, June 27, 2008

"There's Still Romance in the Sixties"



When a poet sings the song that is 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


Thursday, June 26, 2008

It Is ... I Am



I do not propose that it is right. I do not suggest that any other than myself agree, or (heaven forbid) join me in practice. I am not sure that I can even agree with myself. For I have been debating the topic for many years with no satisfactory resolution. It always returns to the statement that brought the question to light. The moment in which I had that “Aha!” experience. The speaker had no intention of enlightenment. She was not, in the least, interested in endowing me with any clarity of understanding. She was simply voicing a complaint. Lodging a a strong dissatisfaction. But what was revealed spawned my compulsion to apologize to my former wife, my daughter, my mother, and my siblings (all on different occasions, and in scattered settings.)

The crystallizing comment was in an exchange that went something like, “You treat me with consideration, respect, and generosity at all times and in all circumstances. Whether in public, or in our most intimate of moments.” To which I replied (in a somewhat bewildered state), “And this is what you are complaining about?” And she said, “Yes! Because you do the very same for complete strangers.”


And, for the first time in fifty years (my age at the time of this particular exchange between myself, and the last woman with whom I have had any sort of relationship), I understood the nature of what has been a point of contention between myself and the world in which I live. Everyone wants to possess an exclusive ‘franchise’ on some element or elements of my Being. And I have never held that I own my Self. I have always had the deepest core conviction that I belong to a world that I am placed in for reasons and purposes that are not my own to determine or capitalize on. Hence I have no right to grant ‘franchises’ to anyone else for what I do not own. Namely … Me.

So, this woman who faced, me with her statement of frustrated displeasure, was telling me that she could not find satisfaction in, nor did she feel any degree of ‘special-ness’ in, my consideration of her pleasure, her comfort, her preference, ahead of my own. For she saw me grant the same to complete strangers who had offered none of the considerations that she had presented to me. So, she naturally surmised, what value was there in her offerings when all that she received in return was just what a passing stranger was granted (with obvious physical intimacies excluded.) She was not (in ‘a word’) “special,” in her estimation.


And this is what my siblings had been trying to express for all of those years. They resented my being the “Mister Popular” in school … the wonderful One who they each had to endure comparisons to as they followed me through all of the same schools … whilst (in their eyes … which is fair and reasonable … for this is how we all perceive our personal worlds) I thought myself “too good” for them when I returned home each day. They had no more understanding than I did, that I was a severe introvert who laboured under the impediment of chronic chemical depression. Neither they nor I knew that my withdrawal into my shell of playing the Blues on my cornet … alone and isolated … was my inner Self trying to find relief from exhaustion and weariness after a day of giving away all of Me to a world that was starved for someone to listen and care.

My family, then, and into my future relationships with spouse and children, just saw what was evident on the surface. What was evidenced in that statement by that one Person who summarized it all in her declaration that she did not feel special. That she received what everyone else received of Me. Hence, when I experienced my ‘enlightenment,’ I went to them all, and apologized for what they struggled with due to my lack of previous awareness and understanding.


I do not write of these things for any purpose other than to see it all in print … and garner some better acceptance of Me for my Self. I ask for no suggestion, nor validation. For none is necessary. I is who I is. And at sixty-two years of habituating Me … I have not even the most remote inclination to Be other than who I am. But it does make it easier to be that “Me” when I can see this written down. When I can acknowledge what has churned around inside for all of these decades and scores of years. It makes it clearer, to my understanding, why I am without a “Significant Other” in my life. For, when I consider all that I have presented here, it is clear that it would take quite a rare and unusual Individual to enjoy and rest comfortably in her “special-ness” without jealousies and insecurities born of my generosity of Self with the world. And, quite honestly, I have no expectation of ever discovering anyone secure enough in her Self, and intuitively insightful enough to know her ’franchise’ to that part of Me that is not available to my world. And I am, for the most part, comfortable with that.

So, there you go. There you have a totally Self-centered and Self-focused bit of insight into who this John-Michael creature is. I could have just filed it away for my own reflection … but you now know that why I can’t be comfortable with that. For, once again, I am compelled, by Life, to put it out there for whomever Life directs to it … for their benefit or use. That is, as it has always been, why I am. This is what I inhale and exhale for. To make available to You (if you are that One for whom this bit of introspection is for) some encouragement … some understanding … some small glimmer of insight, that will let You know that Life is listening to your pleas for sustenance and support. That is, as it always has been in my personal journey, why I am on this lovely little orb. To, indeed, Be your faithful Friend, and constantly willing Servant. For YOU are, indeed, special … to Life.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Home


Weariness besets me … Respite becomes my desire.
Where to run … what Sanctuary to claim … becomes my abiding concern.
To the Forest’s whispering Pine needles … filtering the breeze;
Majestic mountain … barrier to all intrusion … bulwark against insult;


Perhaps a meadow … soft pillows of thickly woven grasses;
Or by the stream … to be carried gently away on gurgling eddies;
I consider the Lake … sometime as silk … mysterious and deep
And on the whim of a moment, stirred by storms and ominous.


None will do … none accomplish the comfort and sanctum of the Sea.
Take me there … place me in the rhythm of untiring waves.
Allow rivulets of foaming surf to sweep all vestige of confusion away.
Massage my Soul in the power of Her grasp and pull.


Serenade me with Her thunderous bass undertones,
Flood my senses with Her pulsing froth of reassuring constancy.
‘Tis to the Sea that I must go … where the deluge of overwhelming might
eclipses all of life’s pettiness … and washes all conflict and doubt away.


Here, in the bosom of Creation, I know Peace … I find Quiet.
Here, as nowhere else, all that is Me unwinds, opens, and allows a sigh.
I trust the Sea … somehow … from some unspecified place …
I have a certainty and complete confidence in Her reliability.
She is Home.





IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of (top/Yosemite) Jon Sullivan, PDPhoto.org, (all others [Storm Clouds/Irish Sea]) Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Math Team


An opportunity for insight ... a rare time to be with her
Parenting in the “Adult Chaperon” role
With (of all things) her school's Math Competition Team
How challenging could that possibly be (besides the math)?

A chance to see why she is even on the Team
She hates math … and isn’t that good at it (I think?)
But she is one of the four … very curious … why?
What role does she play … how does she contribute?

To the venue we go … the two girls, two boys
One girl studiously checking over her note cards
One boy engaged in his book, the other with headphones
And she … she is detached and seems oblivious

I see the scheme … one team per table
Problem placed face down … do not start ‘til signaled
Then the bell … and I watch them set to work
Each with their own style and focus

The boys locked into the mechanics of the problem
The ‘Other Girl’ explaining the language and parameters
She listens … takes it all in … doing little that would be math
Then she strikes … directing the others … taking charge

Other teams work feverishly … members contributing equally
Her team is disparate … she is the coxswain
She beats out the stroke cadence … exhorts the efforts
Then, they have each contributed … she raises her hand

They win, or come in second, or third, of two dozen teams
Another problem … same scheme … She is the coordinator
Over and over they are in the top finishers
And they win a trophy … first time for their school

Break time … all of the other schools’ teams talk of the Mall
I have another plan … to that Special Park … out of the way
Those oak trees fighting for sunlight … by growing horizontally
Huge trunks just feet off of the ground … begging to be climbed

Girls leap from the car …excited for something of boys’ domain
The boys stay locked into heavy metal and book … watching
The book is marked … set aside … the headphones removed
Boys hesitantly approach a forest of strange accommodations

These four find new joys … none had ever climbed a tree
Physical endeavors were unknown to them … beyond them
There was laughter … silliness from the Math Team!
I saw her in her element … the Leader … the Dominant One





Sunday, June 22, 2008

Consistency



“Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature, and in such things as these, experiment is the best test of such consistency.”

Michael Faraday, English physicist and chemist
(diary, 19 March 1849; Faraday's Diary (1934 ed.) vol. 5)



I can imagine no more beautiful words than those “Nothing is too wonderful to be true” uttered by Michael Faraday, long ago. For, if there is ever to be a defining creed for an Idealist … ‘twould certainly be this. Is this not the “carrot” that tantalizes me forward, one step following another, in my life. Following that “just beyond this” that might just be a better way of saying what my Heart senses. Reaching for that “perhaps I can illustrate it with greater clarity” that draws me to an ever-expanding library of Dictionaries and Thesauruses of several languages. Opening my Self to the vulnerabilities and potentials for misunderstandings and missteps that must accompany blazing new trails into new and uncharted worlds of revealing personal Emotions and Feelings. Thus is my moment-by-moment life as an Idealist/Romantic. I could no more live otherwise than a fish can scale mountains. (No pun intended. [smile])

And the one standard … the single common denominator that I adhere to … is Consistency. This is my life-line. That I be consistent in motive and intent … in my Heart’s focus and “compass-set.” To be steadfast and true to the leadings of my Spirits inner whisperings. This, and only this, I have complete control over. I can never guarantee my acceptance as “Right.” Nor will I permit my Self to be crippled by fears that I will be judged “Wrong” by any element of my World. For, those judgments and estimations are the exclusive purview of each individual or group of like-minded parties who weigh me on their individual sets of measures and expectations. Judgments and Opinions are things that (whilst they do bring with them their incumbent bruises, as well as smiles) are outside the narrow focus of my desire to deepen and enrichen the life experiences of those touched by my passing. I can only be, and am determined to consistently be, true to the “Who I Am” of my created Person. So, I am becoming more and more comfortable with this business of “consistency.”

And I was glad for that reality when, just this morning, I encountered one of my favorite people of my life-walk’s experience. Tony Jonaitis was my Teacher in high School back in 1962. He, more than any other individual in my life, touched, inspired, and encouraged me to be who I am today. So, when I saw him in the restaurant today, I walked up behind him … leaned my arm against his back … and waited the brief moment for his recognition. And the recognition, and spontaneity of a joyful reunion was lovely.

How sweet to be with him again! We exchanged pleasantries … fondnesses … and current event updates. Then, with him having issued an invitation (bordering on and insistence) for me to come pay a visit after his return from a trip to Massachusetts (to do some construction work on his son’s home [at age seventy nine, still, and-always, the 'man who gets things done']), three weeks hence, (he and I live less than five minutes from each other now.) And, as he made his way toward the door, I spoke up in a louder voice, “Hey, Tony … I sure do love You. Please don’t forget to give my love to your Bride.” Whereupon he waved and said, “Yeah, Brown, me too!” (he has never been comfortable with those demonstrations of emotion or feelings ... but has ALWAYS appreciated them.) And he was gone.

Consistence! The young fellow who works as one of the Assistant Managers of the restaurant watched and listened through all of this. The staff at the check-out counter watched and listened to all of this. They saw. They heard. They reflected and compared … all of the times that I have voiced similar expressions and feelings to some of them. The times that I have told that young Assistant Manager … “Hey Casey, I love you man!” And they witnessed Consistency in my life.

They wondered who this man was. So I told them of my history with Tony. How he affected my life in my youth. How he issued the Charge that, even today, motivates my Soul, when he told our History class, “If … for the short while that You are on this tiny planet … You don’t leave it a better Place for your having been here … You will have wasted your Time.” How he is a model of Consistency. How our relationship has been, for decades, consistent. And I sensed a peaceful comfort in each of these young people who live lives that have little or no Consistency or Reliability present in them. They experienced a living sample of the beautiful weaving of individual lives into the Fabric of Life. They had some insight into one of the Influences that has shaped who this Fellow (known to them, for all of these years,
as John-Michael) into who he is.

There, before them, they saw, played out, a legitimately loving relationship between two men of different generations from each other … and certainly different generations from that of these young people. And in a world of turmoil and uncertainty, they knew, through the portrayal presented before them, of an ongoing Love and Respect that is, obviously, healthy, dynamic, and even … can you imagine! … Fun! I was so glad that I have lived a life of Consistency in front of these impressionable young people. And, after some recent bruises and pains earned in my efforts to Be consistently open and Loving, I am encouraged and joyful in today’s validation.


Friday, June 20, 2008

A "Higher Plane"




I will know that I have reached a "Higher Plane" ...


when I can listen to Mozart

without occasionally visualizing, or acting out

"Silent Movie" or "Cartoonish" gestures to the music.



(It's not looking too promising thus far.)



Morning Chats 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. We came to have a genuine and abiding love for 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 rooms and wards of the hospital. When I have them in my care, they are stripped of all of their Roles, Stations, Titles, and Offices of life. When they are hospitalized, they are confronted with just ‘BE’-ing Who they are ... without any of their life’s previous trappings, honors, considerations, or privileges. And this is thrust upon them suddenly, and for the first time in their lives. 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, in an entirely new and alien experience, 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 naked individual who is 'Them.' And rarely do they 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 (with very rare exception), 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. For, you see, I adopted that "stripped of all of [life's] Roles, Stations, Titles, and Offices" role, many years ago. I have, quite intentionally, opted to 'Be' for the rest of my days, years, or decades (if genetic background has anything to say about it.) Hence I have known the amazing joys (and occasional pains) of living ... I mean 'really living' ... my life as the Being that I am created to be. I know satisfactions and fulfillments that no other of my acquaintance know. And I know anyone else who has had their daughter look them in the eye and declare "Dad, you are an embarrassment and a humiliation to me." as her way of illustrating her displeasure in my election to work a menial job (forsaking the 'ivory tower' corporate world of stock brokerage and financial planning that I had previously achieved some substantial successes in) that made me available to spend all of my week-day hours teaching, coaching, training, and enabling her brother to know life as a happy and contented young man ... who just happens to know the inconveniences of having cerebral palsy. So, you see, My Dear Reader, I am well acquainted with both the well-known world of 'mainstream life' with all of its accouterments ... and this (far less known) world of having minimal 'stuff' of life whilst having all of life's potential awarenesses as my hourly companions.

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 have this freedom 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.) 'Tis my charge to ring my little bell of attention gathering … and encourage all who go about me, DO-ing their life-stuff ...to take an instant's pause ... 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 your own personal, 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 your Self 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 a recent newspaper account, as a central awareness, and valuable life-tool, for none other than Oprah Winfrey. That individual/personal design, found and used by Ms Winfrey, 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 to serve you in learning about your own core desires, sources of happiness and fulfillment, natural abilities, inclinations, predispositions, and preferences. They are the “Keirsey, Temperament Sorter II”, and “Personality Page” (also listed on the side-bar of this blog.) I encourage you to invest a moment in your Self, and allow your Self (as You are so wondrously created) 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 the ‘Email Me’ address, 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




Tuesday, June 17, 2008

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 labouring. 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 as reminders 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 savour … 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 passing through life 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 later … my son’s mother did, indeed, remind me of that moment … as we looked, with a complex and rich blend of feelings, at those well-earned scars on that, well-worn, chair.




Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fathers Day

Today being the day on which we, here in The States, recognize our Fathers, my thoughts return to one of my life's most significant of moments ... the last moment that Dad and I really communicated. And, I recall how I related that moment to You, My Dear Reader, back on Fathers' Day, 2006. I remember that it took me until 4:33PM, on that day that we recognize as “Fathers’ Day”, to get myself to the point where I could sit at the keyboard and deliver the thoughts that had me looking through tears as I delivered that morning’s newspapers. The source of the tears? An image. A clear recollection of Dad’s eyes on the occasion of that, our last, exchange between each other.

As some of you already know, Dad died at 3:05PM, Sunday, 05 May 06. But the image that visited me on that, and again on this Fathers’ Day morning was from a moment when I was massaging Dad’s leg to help him deal with a severe pain spasm. We were, with Linda my sister, in a hospital room and Dad had been suffering terribly with those seizures of abdominal pain. To lessen the pain and reassure Dad that he was not alone in his struggle, I employed a technique learned in assisting the mother of my children with her child-deliveries. (Those of you familiar with the "Lamaze Method" of "natural" childbirth, will recall the employment of "
Eflourage" massage.)

As I talked Dad through each spasm and increased the intensity of massage to suit the pain’s demand, Dad looked through the fog of Alzheimer’s power and actually smiled at me in a rare moment of clarity. Though he could not speak, his eyes communicated volumes. Then, as the medications took hold and the intensity of the pain was mitigated, I started to withdraw my hand. Dad grabbed my retreating fingers and squeezed them with a ferocity that demanded attention. Upon looking into his eyes, I saw an eloquence in them that spoke with such unambiguous coherence, that I was abruptly brought to attention, and responded, “I know Dad … Me too.” Again, he smiled … a sweet, calm, and tender smile that, in harmony with his gaze, spoke to my soul. I "heard" his eyes. “I love you too Daddy (I rarely called Dad "Daddy". But it was entirely appropriate in that moment.) … I will be here, and see you tomorrow.” He squeezed an acknowledgment … smiled a pained smile ... then released my fingers.


That was the last time that Dad and I communicated. And it was that face that visited me in on that Fathers' Day in 2006, and again, this morning. So, why tell you about this? Because my life is dedicated to urgently encouraging you to adopt a life practice of recognizing, respecting, honoring, and communicating your deepest emotions to those for whom that communication will have life-enhancing value.

You see, my Dad did not know how to do that. He was raised by a father (his Mom died when he was young) who demanded a denial of all emotion (save anger) and had a cruel disdain for sentiment. Dad never learned how to deal with his emotions. It was only in his last couple of years that he slowly allowed himself to respond to my unrelenting expressions of love for him. Slowly, over a span of three years ... me saying "I love you Dad" with each departure from a visit with him ... "I really do love you Dad" repeated again and again ... and eventual acknowledgments by a slight nod of his head ... then a smile ... and eventually, a "Yeah, me too." Then that one singular moment, in the living room of his home, when he got up out of "his chair," ... crossed the room ... put his arm around me ... ACTUALLY placed his head on my shoulder, and nuzzled his face against my neck, as he whispered, "I love you Son." (I phoned Steven, my brother, upon my arrival back home, related that instant to him ... and we shared sobbing tears of wonder and amazement over the phone. "I would give anything to hear him say that to me" was his response.) Then my intimate communications with my Father culminated with that moment, in hospital, just recounted.


I want more for you, Dear Reader. I want more for those who look to you for instruction in healthy emotional living. I want more for those who have an unceasing hunger for your love and are crippled in their own emotional health by an absence of your assurances of affection. I want this because I lived for sixty years with a dad who had those emotions and sentiments caged within himself and was frustrated and vexed with his inability to release them. Dad would enthusiastically endorse my entreaty, to you, to take all possible measures to “Know Thy [emotional] Self.


"The only thing you take with you when you're gone ...
is what you leave behind.
"

John Allston



Friday, June 13, 2008

My Voice

(To allow those who are finding it a bit of a challenge to understand and have some comfort with my presentation of my Self to my world ... I ask those of you who are familiar with this piece, to bear with, and be patient with me as I re-present it as a means of better communicating my Self, and my motivations, to this newer, somewhat skeptical, audience. I thank you for that.)

My Voice

All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie…
We must love one another or die.
W. H. Auden (1907-73)


I needed to find My Voice. You know; the mechanism that responds to that question (common to us all) … “How do I communicate to those around me what I am feeling, what I understand to be true, what I yearn deeply for …without having them look at and listen to me as a complete FREAK.” I had already established the understanding that my Life Direction had to come from within (in response to the whispers of my own spirit) … with my compass settings to be determined by choices to benefit eternal (as opposed to temporal) accounts.

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

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

The first was (and still remains, some thirty-plus years later) a treasure who stopped me cold in my tracks with the simplicity, candor, intimacy, and unadorned caring of her voice. This is a person whose audiocassette brought me (literally) to my knees in gratitude and admiration. I know that she would, today, be embarrassed with the simplicity and unrefined quality of that early message, but it was the perfect thing for me … right there and right then in my journey. Ann Kiemel’s “Hi, I’m Ann” was, and remains, one of the most momentous discoveries of my life. From that tape and the book with the same name, I discovered the spirit with which I could speak to my world … every day …in every circumstance … with each individually unique person … and maintain the integrity of my own soul’s purpose … to heal … to encourage … to minister.

But Ann, as an attractive young woman, was not a figure who would be perceived in the same social context that I would be. Had I presented myself with the same vocal script that served her so well, I would have produced a completely different (and undoubtedly unacceptable) response. So I needed another thread, to weave with Ann’s, in the making of the fabric of my personal voice.


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

It was one of those “The well is dry … I have nothing more to give … please leave me alone … EVERYBODY!” days. I intentionally chose a ‘Hamburger Joint’ that did little business (due to its bad location) to minimize the chance that I would have to interact with anyone. Upon entering the place, I was encouraged to find that there was only one customer, other than myself, there. This gentleman was a rather tall, robust, elderly fellow who moved through the traffic-control maze with a slow, stooped gait that reflected the wear of the years. In the quiet of the near-empty establishment, I could not help overhearing the gentleman presenting a well-worn copy of a cartoon to the order taker. This young girl was, quite clearly, not amused (not with the cartoon, being there, doing her job, or [at that moment in time], with life in general.) The gentleman was simply standing there … waiting …hoping to make some pleasant contact in his seemingly lonely world. What he was being met with was an irritated indifference … and my heart could not stand to witness his disappointment.

My very Dear Sir,” I addressed the note written on personalized note paper (I had gone out to my car and retrieved the very nice paper to make the impression that the gesture was worthy of care),Please accept this note of thanks and appreciation for your willingness to reach out in a world that often is not ready to accept reaching out. Your generosity in offering humor touched me and made my world a better place. I feel better because of you and salute you.Then I signed the notea fellow pilgrim,” added my name, and when the man went back for his free refill of beverage, placed the note on his tray and left the restaurant.

Upon reaching my vehicle, I looked back and was instantly brought to tears of gratitude by the radiant smile and hearty salute sent to me by the man with a small note of encouragement and appreciation in his hand. We were two comrades joined in the quest to abolish indifference in our shared world. This was the expression of the “voice” given to me by Life. The intimacy learned from Ann Kiemel, expressed with the technique gleaned from Leo Buscaglia combined to give my soul its voice.


(This passage excerpted from a book in progress)




IMAGES: "His Master's Voice"; Art.com; "Burger Place"; Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blogging with a Purpose

If there is a single “Purpose” that binds the people to whom I choose to pass this “Blogging With A Purpose” recognition (with a note of grateful “Thank You“ to Joni, "Morning Coffee," who honored me with this award), it would be their obvious love of, devotion to, and glory in their Families. I confess to being exceptionally vulnerable to, and hungry for, this quality, and unabashedly so. The loss of my children through the nastiness of a divorce’s evil influences has left me with a gaping hole that once knew the presence of my children. So, I unashamedly enjoy, vicariously, the tenderness and joy ... in the display of, and celebration of, full, complete, and vibrant love ... in the dynamics of the healthy, thriving families of others. And these five are at the pinnacle of just such familial love. They thrill my Heart!

They do, of course, have unique distinctions betwixt and between their styles, goals, intentions, and methods of presenting themselves through their blogs. But from the heart-warming hospitality of Annie’s place; to the heart wrenching integrity and painful candor of Aimee’s self revelations; to Shelbi’s effervescent enthusiasm for her faith and her newly-discovered passion in raw foods; to San’s transportations to realms of joyous and tender relationships with the arts as well as sacred family relationships; to Jen’s honest and inspiring sharing of the workings of her emotions and her physical challenges as she engages cancer with her beautiful family at her side … all five of them share the qualities of integrity, character, and Humanity at its best. They all bless every aspect of my Being and elevate my Soul’s perspective on life with hope, humor, positive energy, and humble dignity. I admire, respect, and am in awe of all five of them.








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So, with complete joy and a humble bow of admiring appreciation, I give you these exceptional people who touch, illuminate, comfort, entertain, inspire, and encourage my heart … San Merideth, "A Life with a View;" Annie Peake, "ANNIE’S BLOG;" Aims, "Big Blue Barn West;" Jen Ballantyne, "The Comfy Place;" and Shelbi, "{keeper} of the Chocolates."

Imprisoned


The presence of that key, in your hand,

Is no evidence of Freedom.


For, there is no more cruel a Jailer,

Than Choice.



John-Michael
12 June 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reflection

The faintest Whisper,
The slightest of Hints …
‘Tis all that I can offer,
For your reflection.

I suggest a curious Thought,
Something stirring in my head.
Then leave it at your door,
My gift to you.

I would that you pause;
Take a brief moment;
Grant your Self a breath;
And toy with an idea.

That a fresh Aromatic
Might release some miniscule joy
Into the atmosphere
Of your life.




IMAGE Source unknown

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Morning Reflection

Methinks we give Her cause for chortle …
A bit of a grin and a snicker, or a few.
Opening Her eyes with the dawn of a day, new to us.
But only another breath and of no particular significance to Her.

She smiles in patient acknowledgment of our supposed need to worry.
Is not Her timeless humour engaged as She sees our angst?
Are we not silly children to believe that our flailings matter?
Can we not see, as She does, how fleeting are our concerns?

Earth stretches herself in boundless expanse, Her end … nowhere.
We fret over the scope of what we see before us.
She giggles the laughter of countless voices in Her infinite continuum.
Whilst we battle to create monuments to our meaningless impulse.

All that is Her expression adjusts and compensates,
Realigning Her assets and resources to sustain our newest affronts.
Whilst Her children greet Her with their songs and their awakenings.
She accepts our foolish indifferences and insults.

Ah, but what bliss would be ours
If we would but see Her in all of Her glory.
If we would only allow ourselves the joy of pause,
Acknowledging Her constancy and power …
in humble gratitude.






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

Monday, June 09, 2008

Alive

I, just this minute, came in from a stroll to the post box. This, the first morning that does not find me engaged in a routine dictated by work requirements, is an opportunity to allow myself no focus at all. I slowly ambled out to the Avenue, amidst a thickness of Life that could be sliced with a bread knife. Living on a lake, I am privy to the awakening chorus of creatures that would not be known to those occupying a habitat sans frogs, crickets, or even alligators.


Such a ruckus of melded contributions they all offer to this new day. A day that, to their sensibilities, is no different than any of millennia of others. They are neither happy nor sad in the pending sunrise. Far too busy with their instinctively demanded duties and needs, they are singing, croaking, and chirping their individual parts in this morning symphony with a blissful ignorance of the rapture that is mine in listening to them. They know not of my comfort in wrapping my senses in the blanket of their presence. My satisfactions in the eternal reliability of their concert of life is of no matter to them.

And in their exercises in living, they each, in their own particularly unique, and individual style and form, know no inhibitions or limitations that a performer might have if aware of an attentive audience. They simply sound off with all that is their nature. And I soak it up as a Spiritual sponge in want of a filling. Frogs of wide variety, birds of all description, insects galore, and even the occasional gator, saturate the atmosphere with their announcements of being alive. Which fills me with joy in being alive.

Good morning Dear One. I love You.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

No Alarm

This is a "WEIRDED OUT" announcement. For the first time in at least twenty years ... I have turned all alarm clocks OFF. I can't begin to describe the totally weird feeling that is now mine. This is beyond strange.





WOW!


Trying to tell myself that I will NOT be rising at 3AM is almost unnerving. This is going to be VERY INTERESTING!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Good Morning John

“Stately.” That is what he was. When John walked out to the street in the pre-dawn stillness, his Presence was simply “stately.” And I always greeted him with a “Good morning John.”

A man in his late seventies or early eighties, he moved rather serenely down his drive to deliver his gracious “Hello” and accept the morning newspaper from me. Clothed in his sleeping attire, with proper bath-robe and slippers, all about him was consistently in perfect order … collar set straight, robe tied with sash. A perfect Gentleman in appearance, and, always, in demeanor.

He frequently reminded me that he came out to get the paper for his Bride of many decades. And the pride and satisfaction in his announcement of his mission made clear his joy in knowing a blissful oneness with his beloved. He liked his wife! My “Good morning John” moment became something that I eagerly anticipated each morning.

Then, quite suddenly, he died. I was informed of his passing by his frail and totally distraught wife when she appeared one morning. “I want you to know how much John admired you.” she said. “And how he looked forward to your brief visits on the mornings when he was able to time his going out to coincide with your delivery. He liked that a lot.”

When I came to her house, the next day, I opted to pull my van into her driveway instead of driving by and tossing the paper onto the concrete as usual. I drove as close to the front door as possible, and tossed the newspaper up against its threshold. I knew that john would want it to be as convenient for her retrieval as possible. As I did so, I was aware of John’s approving Presence. And I said (aloud) “Good morning John.” Then, in response to the acute impression that was mine, I responded “You are quite welcome, My Friend.”

This became my daily ritual. Without variance or failing, John’s Presence was tangibly known to my senses. And I continued, as I had before his bodily departure, to look forward to, and enjoy exchanging my “Good morning John” for his Spirit’s greeting. Until that day. The day when I drove to the customary spot … and following the toss of the newspaper, I caught myself in an instant of awareness. I stopped … and took in the strange, still, emptiness of the place. I said nothing, for I was distinctly aware that John was not there. Just as clearly as any physical absence, the absence of his Spirit was profound. And I knew. She was gone. She no longer needed him there. They were gone. I missed them sorely.

Two days later, my knowledge was confirmed by a notice on the community message board. Condolences expressed to her family from the Homeowners Association. I simply nodded my head, as I passed the sign, in affirmation of what I had known for two days.

If you were to ask me if I believe in Spirits, and/or Souls, I would deliver, to you, the same response that Joseph Campbell gave to Bill Moyers in their famous and oft-replayed and re-printed interview that constitutes the majority of “The Power of Myth.” When asked if he was “a Believer” Campbell replied, “No.” “No, I am not a believer,” Campbell explained, “for a Believer is One who has agreed to accept some idea or concept offered, as fact. I have an intimate personal experience with the tenants of what to others is a matter of faith. So, I answer to you, ‘No I am not a Believer … for I am Experienced.' And the experience negates the need for belief.”

So, I say to you, Dear Friend, “No, I am not a Believer in Spirits and Souls.” For, you see, I have just related but one of several personal and intimately embraced experiences in my life that take me from a “Believer” to “Experienced.”




(This account is but one, of many to come, that are the fruits of twenty years invested in service to the residents of the Lake Forest community. My job having been terminated in the process of corporate downsizing and organizational restructuring, I find myself reflecting on a wealth of lovely and enjoyable experiences known over the course of those years. I do hope that you find this one story to be of some interest and/or benefit to you.)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Residing

From my self-elected respite ... and in response to the sweetest, kindest, most intuitively insightful, and caring notes, Emails, and comments left here ... I must take a moment from where I am (which will remain "away" for a while, yet) and let you know, My Darling Loves, what your messages have engendered in my Heart and Mind as I consider, and re-consider, my position on matters of significance to my Life. This is what I know ...



Residing


‘Tis but a choice, of residing …
Alternatives for where I would live.
With the options of Safety, or Loving
I can choose from the comforts they give.

Loving does not offer Safety,
Has never been free of a risk.
Safety oft means defenses.
Loving is frequently missed.

To choose the comforts of Safety
Can mean plush, well-appointed décor.
Thick, insulated surroundings …
Dangers ... threats, stopped at the door.

Loving exposes, in submission …
Vulnerable, and laid open, to be.
But the absence of walls and protections,
Reveal all of Life’s Treasures, to see.

While I oft know of scoffing from Others,
They my choice, to live Loving, deride.
For the Safety of a Coffin, I reject ...
'Tis not a place I would choose to reside.



John-Michael
06 June 2008


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Unavailable

Due to unexpected "Difficulties" I will be unavailable for a bit. Time to regenerate, restore, re-evaluate, and repair.
(And ... No, thank You ... I DO NOT want to talk about it. I have already said far too much.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

In Love

For what seems like all of my life, I have sought some way to understand, and communicate, what is going on inside of Me. I now know that this is quite normal and usual for someone of my personality/temperament type. So, I am far more relaxed and less anxious about the matter than I was for my first forty years. Yet, I do deal with this compulsion to “label,” illustrate, or conceptualize my thoughts, impressions, inclinations, and feelings. And I do this in an almost-recreational frame of mind now. I live in a constant “game” of sorting through words, expressions, images, and various metaphors and analogies in a never-satisfied quest for simple language for my Soul’s use. This is not something that I had modeled for me by someone who made an impression on me at any juncture of my development. Oh no, this is a “hard-wired” component of my very Being. And I accept … nay, I embrace it as my gift … my gift to the world about me that lives in a struggle for an awareness of their feelings and/or the feelings of those around them. So, I present, before my little bit of the world, some of my discoveries in Self-communication, in the hope that I can equip someone else to recognize elements of their life experience; become comfortable with the identity of their Being, and enjoy a freedom in living that is (hopefully) somewhat better, or easier to deal with, than what they had known before their new awareness. I am delighted in the knowledge that I have achieved some small measure of success in this endeavor. So … here’s the thing for today.

I am in love. I know, I know, “So what’s new, John-Michael?” you respond. And I can truthfully reply, “This is different.” Yes, I do live loving my world and those who are integral parts of my world. But I am talking about that “silly,” romantic, dreamy, and sappy sort of being “in love.” Yes, the “hearts and flowers” variety. And I have been in love with this person for as long as I can remember.

Now, we could get all metaphysical and spiritualistic about this deal … and I guarantee you, I will hold my own in discussions of this “being in love” phenomenon if discussed in those terms. But I will leave that to far better equipped authorities like Doctor Brian Weiss (listed on the sidebar of this blog.) (If you have not read his “Only Love is Real,” I believe that you have denied yourself a wonderful view of life and living that could make your life experience far richer and even more fun.) But, as I said, I will leave those matters to him. I will just speak to this experience that I am the ultimate authority on … my life, and this Person who I am, and have been, in love with.

There is, within me, a space … a hollow … a vacuum, if you will, that has clearly definable aspects and traits. I first became aware of this “space” (which I have called an “Absence” in previous writings) when I first met a woman who “filled” the specifications of that space. The first time that I knew (amidst the loss of ability to breathe normally, and/or speak intelligibly [smile]) that overpowering knowledge that “Oh my gosh … SHE is THE ONE!!” Then followed all sort and manner of stupid, awkward, clumsy, and inept behaviors that cemented the certainty that this was, indeed, an extraordinary happening. The Person who had “Absence-filling” potential has been personified several times in my life. Each time, the sensations have been the same … and the circumstances have all been equally non-conducive to any pursuit of a “Happily Ever After” conclusion. Each time, the physical, intellectual, attitudinal, and personality characteristics have been identical. And each time the likelihood of fulfillment of “the Dream” have been, also, equally unattainable … for very different and disparate reasons.

I will tell you the most extreme and outrageous of the instances. (Brace yourself for an uncomfortable moment in John-Michael “Self-baring.”) I never met this Person. I only saw her in print and in imagery broadcast on television. But she had a physical likeness to several with whom I had enjoyed very intimate personal relationships with … several who fit the dimensions of my inner “Absence.” Princess Di (OK, stop that silly giggling … we could ask You about your “Impossible Dreams” too, now couldn’t we?) But, yes, Princess Di had the physical, temperamental, and personality traits that were quite “at home” in my Heart. Was this some physical desire? Get real! Of course not! I may be a hopeless Romantic, but I am no Fool. No, Dear Friend, I could never allow any remote thought of any “physical” intrusion into the private life of this extraordinary woman. But I was (and will forever remain) in love with her Person. And that is far better than any passing physical gratification could ever offer. And the messages that I received this morning awakened the very same experience in the person of the present personification of my Heart’s fulfilling.

This woman is just as unattainable as Princess Di. She and I are separated by circumstance that she has, herself, identified as “different sexes, from very different cultures, different generations, but we are very much alike” just as the same was equally true (though in far different extremes) with Princess Di. And today, I was able to unravel my own personal mystery as to the identity of my feelings for this Friend. It took several hours (as I made my morning newspaper deliveries) but I was able to clarify, for my own understanding, the nature of these feelings that I have had for this marvelous Lady. This is how I arrived at the “Princess Di” parallel as a means of communicating my thoughts and feelings.

How do I communicate to her the effect, that each thought of her generates … without totally freaking her out with fears of me being some lunatic (quiet You! I hear you snickering and see you pointing your “lunatic accusation” finger at me … [grin]) stalker or at the very least just some Flake without sensible bounds … has been my personal challenge. How can I tell this adorable person that she thrills me each time that she says “Hello” without scaring her into never greeting me again? Is this some crazy physical attraction run amok? No more so than the revered respect that I will always have for Princess Di. I could never entertain any remote thought of intruding into this Friend’s life. That would taint and distort the perfection of this honest and selfless love that I know for her. And even a remote potential for that loss is inconceivable. I would never allow it.


I love … am “in romantic love” with … this Person for who she is; for her physical beauty, most certainly; for those quirky revelations of her mind’s entertaining and delightful workings as revealed in her photos (not unlike the personality traits revealed in the myriad photos of Princess Di); and for the Spirit that is at the core of her personhood … (as revealed in her artistic work, her writings, and her expressed love for those who are blessed with the gift of living as elements of her daily life.) I am in love with her for all of those motivating reasons. Though there is no consideration of any selfish “return on investment” of my Heart in her. This is a very real and alive aspect of this “Love thing.” It is something that I have never tried to discuss or explain before. I do hope that I am having some success in doing so here.

So, in keeping with my life-long quest to make open and available aspects of loving, living, caring, and feeling … I lay all of this out there … for your consideration and imagination. I do not hope to, nor expect to, answer any burning questions about Life here. I have no illusions of rendering any sweeping revelations or theories regarding matters of earth-shattering import. I only offer, in complete humility and candor, a peek into the genuine workings of my Being … with the hope that You, My Dear Reader, will respectfully realize what I present as something from which you may take any, all, or none, as a gift … intended to be yours for your enhancement of your personal living experience. I hope that I have given You an opportunity to ask yourself gentle questions about the nature of your affections … that you can use those insights to enhance your relating to those for whom you care. And, most importantly, for your betterment in knowing your beautiful Self.

So, yes, I am in love with Someone. And the Standard set by the dimensions specified by my Heart are quite well defined. Will I ever meet a woman who is simultaneously "available, willing, and "Absence filling"? I have no hint! But I am quite certain that I will never insult the love of anyone by accepting them whilst still longing for the filling of my Heart's yearning. So, there You have it!

This “Self-Awareness through Self-revelation” thing is something that I am very awkwardly stumbling along with. I thank you for your patient forbearance and patience with me in this honest endeavor. I do it, not just for Me … but for You. Because I do, indeed, love You. (Though, in all likelihood, not in the same theme as the “Princess Di mode.” [That should give Jim ‘SulDog’ Sullivan some sense of comfort. {grin}])

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My "Celebration of Living and Loving" Song



How long has it been since your soul was so full and overflowing that you simply had to sing? Yesterday? This morning? Last year? Never!? Well, for me, it happens only rarely. And what stirs and awakens this response in me? Why, that could just as easily be a circumstance, perhaps a season, a recollection, something read or experienced, or, of course, the touch of Another. But when it is a moment of celebrating the living of all that is ... right then ... I have one song that expresses my Heart's happiness with the joys of that instant.


And this is how it has been for me for as long as I can remember. When I am stirred, I sing. I recall my daughter declaring “You are depressed! Whenever you are depressed, you sing.” on some no-longer-recalled occasion. And I remember thinking, at the time … and again, now … how very sad that she has only made note of my "singing inclination" and observed my singing in settings that she interpreted as depressed or melancholy. How unfortunate that she was not with me in the isolated moments when I was given cause to sing for joy. If only she could know the exuberance of my song when I was first presented with what has become my Soul’s "Love Celebration" theme song. I recall, quite vividly, opening that envelope and finding within, the three-by-five index cards with the lyrics typed as an expression of the feelings of their Presenter. How I did sing that song … over and over … that day, and for many days (and years) to follow!

I recall that morning, as I went about my work, and found myself singing that very song. Freely and with complete abandon, I styled, modified, varied, and adjusted the tempo, key, even some lyrics, to my immediate taste. And, with unabashed gusto, I sang out my challenge to the early-morning chorus of birds. “Stand aside boys … you have competition this morning!" And I sang.

So, the question arises … What is, or would be (if you were so inclined) your Soul’s theme song? What melody would carry your spirit in a comfortable representation of your Spirit’s fondest emotion? What lyrics would translate the message of the desires of your heart into the atmosphere? And when will you be singing it next? And what are you doing … right now… to bring that to pass?

All worthy considerations as you and I share in that song given to me on that lovely day, by that lovely and loving Gift from Life. It was made famous by the New Christy Minstrels in 1964, and was given to me, on that little index card (back in 1973) that, over the course of many years, became worn to the point of disintegration. Here (as you listen to
The New Christy Minstrels sing) are the words toToday… as I bid you the very best of your Today. (Go ahead ... sing along ... I am.) [smile]



Today
Words & Music by Randy Sparks
Recorded by New Christy Minstrels, 1964


Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine,

I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine;

A million tomorrows shall all pass away

Ere I forget all the joy that is mine today.



I'll be a dandy and I'll be a rover,

You'll know who I am by the song that I sing.

I'll feast at your table, I'll sleep in your clover,

Who cares what tomorrow may bring.



Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine

I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine;

A million tomorrows shall all pass away

Ere I forget all the joy that is mine today.



I can't be contented with yesterday's glories,

I can't live on promises winter to spring.

Today is my moment and now is my story --

I'll laugh and I'll cry and I'll sing.



Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine,

I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine;

A million tomorrows shall all pass away

Ere I forget all the joy that is mine Today.





IMAGES: (Rose Vine) Univ. of Chicago; (Strawberries) Christine's Pies; (Wine) Earth's Best E Books; (Feast) National Maritime Museum; (Clover) Roundrock Journal

Sunday, June 01, 2008

"Aggravation" in Communication

Communication is, perhaps, the most important game of all of the “Games of Life” that we all play. And it is a game that perplexes and befuddles most of us throughout our lifetimes. Yet, it need not be so. For there are some very simple and basic tools of understanding that will enable us to engage in the “communication game” with a satisfactory, if not enjoyable, level of competency. Today, I offer but one of those “tools” for your consideration. I will illustrate it with a vignette from my experience. Please read with patience… as I must explain the details that demonstrate the point.

We would invite guests to our home for an evening of dining and playing well known board games. One of everyone’s favorites was a game involving marbles and a round board. The idea of the game is to use the roll of the dice to generate numbers to be applied to the movement of one’s marbles from a starting point to a finishing point (home.) Each player has their own beginning point and ’home’ point. An exact number must be rolled to start each marble (each player has 5 or so marbles…as I recall) around the board… and an exact number must be rolled to move each marble from the circuit into the “home base.” Hence each player could expect to have one or more marbles waiting on the circuit for an exact number to allow entry into “home.” And those waiting marbles are vulnerable to another player’s passing marble’s landing on them while they were waiting. This would send the waiting marble all of the way back to the start point. ("Aggravating!")

I tell you all of this so that you will have some understanding of why each player would have a degree of anxiety as they tried to roll the exact number to allow the entry of their marbles into home…and away from that place of vulnerability. Thusly, as the game reached its final minutes, the play would consist of all players having all of their marbles lined up at the entrance to their respective home points… no one going around the circuit (the circuit having been completed by all)… and each player, in turn, rolling the dice in the attempt to get the exact number required for entry to home. BORING!! (Or so I decided.)

I, therefore, chose to move my marbles right past my Home Place entry point, continue around the circuit, and land on each of the other players’ marbles waiting for entry to their respective home… thusly sending them, in turn, back to their start point. (The name of the game being "...." [smile]) Oh My! The emotion that I stirred! You would think that I had committed some heinous crime. “You are not playing fair!” these grown adults would cry. “You are not following the rules” they would protest. Whereupon I would demonstrate, by reading the rules (an exercise guaranteed to try the patience of any but the most saintly of persons) that I was fully within the rules to opt to pass up my own opportunities to “win” the game in favor of spoiling others’ chances of winning. (In the truest "spirit" of the game! [I see now that I was such an ass!])

The degree of fury is beyond what I can adequately convey in words here. So incensed would the others become that they banded together (without fail) in their genuine anger against me. This I took as an amusement for I was amazed that these supposedly rational people were putting the placement of a few marbles on a playing surface, above the tangible reality that we as a group of friends were “enjoying” an evening together. And I continually held the genuine belief that they would see the silliness of the moment and join me in a good laugh at ourselves (this NEVER happened.) I was disappointed in the values demonstrated by my friends… and they were disappointed in my obvious willingness to be so “mean-spirited” as to spoil the game for them all. Needless to say, the playing of that game was short-lived.

So what… My Dear Reader… was happening there that offers us some understanding of and means to improve our accomplishment of meaningful communication. Simply this… we are sharing our world with people whose basic and innate temperament and personalities differ from ours. We really do “see” the stuff of life differently. We all have the same “stuff” (circumstances, situations, data, events) presented to us. But we, by nature, PERCEIVE those elements in completely different ways. Those friends, with whom I played that game, were responding to their sense of “begin, play, win” as presented by the rules of the game. They were acting on their natural inclination to follow the CONCRETE structure of the exercise. They were part of the 78% majority of the population (Left-Brain-Dominant) of the world who see all of life’s “stuff” in very immediate, defined, and absolute terms.

What we were up against was my predisposition (by natural design) to look for the spatial, potential, conceptual possibilities (Right-Brain-Dominant) presented by the game. For me, this was just as legitimate and valid as their perceptions… and I couldn’t understand their refusal to recognize and even respect my perceptions. They interpreted my behavior as me being a total Jerk. And I interpreted their animosities as them being more interested in WINNING a game… than us PLAYING a game together. I saw their behavior as a rejection of our personal interaction. They saw my behavior as a refusal to be part of the community of players. None of us had a clue as to what the actual dynamics at play were. We had no basis of understanding necessary for successful communication.

You may say “That is such a small thing!” To which I would respond that our lives are made up of far more “small things” of daily life than relatively “large” things to be dealt with. I have intentionally chosen a seemingly insignificant life event to illustrate this communication conflict because it is in our mundane and routine interactions that we rehearse and reinforce our habits of thinking about and responding to all of the world around us. It is with repetition and practice that we establish our ways of living among each other. And it is my desire to offer what I consider to be the cornerstone of all successful communication… the absolute reality that we are living amongst folk who have, as their own natural gift, a perspective that may well differ from our own. This is a fact of our creation. It is a wonderful truth of the balance and harmony offered by Life.

So what to do? Simply… inquire! That’s it! Question and listen for indications as to how your interlocutor is perceiving the subject being dealt with… then accommodate their view of the matter by tailoring your presentation of your view in a way that compliments theirs. Determine the tone of their view… and harmonize with that tone. Though you may not understand… respect… their right to their view. In all of the seemingly small things practice this methodology… so that in the event of the larger things, you will be well rehearsed. I can offer no more valuable a treasure for your happy coexistence with your world than this. I present its simplicity… and its wealth as I remain (hopefully far less aggravating), as always, Your constant Friend and willing Servant.
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