Posts Tagged ‘Non-violent action’


E.O. Wilson wrote that cooperation works for groups and he’s certainly right about that.  Last year a quail couple allowed a solitary male to join their small family. In a striking show of cooperation, he joined the two adult quail and their three chicks, and stood watching over them while they ate, feeling useful and important (or anyway it looked like that).

This year?  Holy cow.  There’s the biggest passel of quail either one of us has ever seen.  Several mother quail, two males (one ENORMOUS), and nineteen babies.  NINETEEN.  It was hilarious and transfixing to watch them taking dirt baths in the slightly moist and cool compost pile, sliding down the side and stepping all over each other.  Later on they all sacked out on the back garden path and went to sleep for a few minutes.  It was almost weird looking at all those inert little bodies; but after they’d rested they went on to demolish the sowbugs in our front garden bed.  Plus some strawberries, but the sowbugs were well worth it.  It was also quite interesting to see that quail moms are just like any other moms.  In the crowd of kids and adults they looked a whole lot more alert and focused, not to say just the teensiest bit stressed, and although no sounds were heard, when the inevitable quail baby went the opposite and wrong direction as at least one always does, the mom’s shoulders were tense, her eyes were bright, and one can only imagine what message the baby got as it abruptly scrambled into line, completely chastened.

We also have our annual frog, and this time a skink too, living in the yurt.  The frog has been a marvel of cooperation.  Although he initially wanted to stay on my bag of almonds, being disturbed at all was just more than he could tolerate and he’s figured out a place to hang out between meals that is out of our way.  Unlike the last couple of years where everyone wanted to live in the muffin tins and that was that, this guy pays attention, and obviously does Not Want To Be Disturbed.  He makes a lot of noise all night long, hopping around and ponging on the inside of the zinc tub, but seems to be responsive when we ask him to be quiet.  Either that or we’ve both gone crazy, thinking we can talk to frogs.

Which of course brings us, Gentle Reader, to my more frequent and normal train of thought which is, in fact, all about crazy.  What IS crazy, after all?  I realize now that being different allows people to apply that label, and conflate things that don’t really go together at all but can have a lasting and damaging effect on a person.  (Or, I suppose, a frog)  The danger is that when you’re a child, you cannot really differentiate the judgments people make, understand that they’re probably just off balance, and make a decision about whether or not to accept them.  You just take them in and bingo! You either think you’re OK or you think you’re really NOT OK.  Then you toddle off into the world.

Of course, in my experience it’s usually the people who ARE technically crazy who believe they are not- and really, who’s to say?  Hearing voices isn’t a helpful thing when one is looking for a job but they are still real to some extent and therefore, as real as anything else.  None of which is actually real in the sense we all want to think it is.  The truth about reality? It’s not stationary, humans are not the hottest thing since sliced bread, everything is dependent on everything else.  Nonetheless, it has also been my experience that if you are different from those around you, they will treat you as though you have some affliction along the lines of hearing voices, and that can really put a cramp in things.

So, what to do? (As always.)  We find ourselves in a world where, for example, FIFA is so rife with corruption it truly stinks and then they make women play a world cup on artificial turf.  Just a little of that old time punishment for being different? You have to wonder how they believe they can get away with the totality of their misfeasance, financial and social, but they seem to be doing it.  Then? Some person who really WAS crazy shot a bunch of people in a church because they were the wrong color in his opinion.  Where did the poison he was filled with come from?  Perhaps, and this is what I’m thinking, the “power elite” (we’ll call them that for convenience) are the crazy ones?  A person who looks like them and behaves in a crazy way that they understand- violently- gets a pass.  A person who doesn’t look like them?  Fuggedaboudit.  There’s a kind of insanity that seems to be almost institutionalized at this point.  I realized, for example, that the fact that my long time physician told me that everything going on in my body was in my head (and I believed her having had a lifetime of being told just that) led to the physical problems I didn’t interpret correctly, and further to the hospital experience that came close to ending my life.  But I’M the one who’s depicted as being crazy in that particular paradigm.  A black person can be told from now until the cows come home that we’re “post racial” and racism doesn’t exist.  I saw a white man from Idaho say just that last night on the news: No racism in this country at all, according to him.  Placing that against the daily reality of seemingly invincible racism must make a person feel…well, crazy.  You do come to expect your place at the end of the line but that doesn’t make it right.

I believe with Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr and HH the Dalai Lama that non-violence is the way, however long it takes.  But I finally realized what you have to do to make that work.  You have to truly be yourself, no matter what ANYONE says, and be the best you possible.  As fearlessly as possible- so, no pressure, right? (And. Obviously the best you possible is not the you that cheats and steals and lies and hurts others as a matter of course.) This makes connections manifest and action possible.  It’s hard to do, of course, and you won’t find a whole lot of help in the endeavor but sooner or later you will find cooperation.  However small it may be in the beginning I am convinced that this is what will eventually make the difference and allow us all to move forward.  However afraid I am that the people *I* think are crazy and who are currently running things will win out?  In my heart I know they cannot.  Because they don’t cooperate.  Things can only be accomplished through love, not through power, and the true craziness of the world today is that people seem to think the reverse is true.  Fortunately we have quail and frogs to show us otherwise.


oh, Sam

Nobody was too happy today when I arrived on the other side of our hill to do some work.

It’s where Sam, Dog of the West, lives, who is my Boyfriend (we’ve had words about the paw on the boobs, for example) and Posterdog for Goofballness.  Sam was a picture of dejection today such as I have seldom seen.  Apparently he got a bad scratch on his side and had to be taken to the Vet as a result,  from whence he emerged wearing one of those big cone collars animals get to keep them from messing up injuries.  He didn’t even come to give me a kiss, and I saw him crouching between a fence and an outbuilding, with cone and forehead resting against the wall.  Shoulders totally dropped and nose down in abject misery.   This is about the first time he’s had this major sort of consequence- he got ‘fixed’ and that didn’t phase him one bit, and also a fight with the other dog who lives here left him with a bit of an eyescratch but nothing much.  Usually Sam is just smiling and happy and lovable if you don’t let his largeness, big paws, and jumping get to you. But this!  I don’t know if he thinks he’s being punished, or if he’s going to die, or what, but he is not taking this at all well.   I do hope he will be back to his customary bounce and joie de vivre soon, but it did make me think about all the other animals whose paws and claws I’ve held in similar circumstances.  Usually they’ve all either come right up to me or dashed by with very specific communications along the lines of HELP!  Some have had reactions to medications, had new fellow pets in the home, gotten chewed up in unfortunate kennel visits, and a few have even had cancer.  There’s often the thorn in the paw or the flies on the face, but there has always been a very clear and specific request and for the most part, successful treatment.  Animals are often a WHOLE lot easier to work with than humans.  In this case, though, Sam seems to be acting just like a person in terms of feeling the unfairness of it all.  And, insult to injury, a cone to wear!  Leave me alone!

The question then is, what do you do when there appears to be a need but you are not invited to deal with it?  This is a pretty crux-like thing as it turns out.  Help can so often be either something that makes the other person (or dog, of course) feel as though there’s something wrong with them, something that must be “fixed”.  It can also be someone doing something they simply need to apply to their own lives.  It can be, I think, something that comes out of an operational base of power, and not love.   Timing is everything in this, just like it is in everything else, and in order to be truly of use and service one has to, in a sense, step outside of clock time and into the other kind of time, which is more about what it actually takes to do something.   So even if you know what might be a good thing to do, if the time isn’t right and the situation not receptive, it isn’t the right thing to do.

I don’t know how the injured Sam came together in my tiny mind with Bruce Lee, but there it is.  We watched the movie about Lee’s life yesterday, and the Partner remarked that one reason Lee had conflict with other, local, older martial arts schools was that he taught fighting before philosophy.  In a traditional setting, you practice blocking and living the philosophy before you ever really fight,and the point of it is to avoid fighting if possible- especially since the consequences can be very serious.  The Grand Masters were individuals who knew ALL the schools of kung fu, which made them essentially pretty intense guys- who’d be crazy enough to fight somebody who knows all THAT? So it’s a long training in observation and what not to do, along with training yourself to have that observation be a reflex that informs your actions and guides you.  Less is more, actually.   One result of this shift in approach was a lot of fighting without the conceptual framework, and in only one manner depending on where you studied.  The conceptual framework learning is something everybody who’s tried to learn anything has struggled with.  But without it, you wind up executing actions that don’t resonate and aren’t proper.

I recently read, somewhere, that warriors and healers walk the same path and I think that is actually true.  In looking at Sam, I have to see that although I may “want” to “help” him, that isn’t what is needed in the moment based on his behavior and wishes.  I may think I know what he needs, but that may not only be irrelevant but untrue as well.  He may need another school altogether, in short.  The same thing goes for being a warrior.  You may indeed want to smack someone into another galaxy, but it’s not always the correct thing to do.  You may want to learn how to fight and defend yourself, but without a framework of observation, practice and understanding, you won’t accomplish anything beyond muddying already dark waters.   It all takes time, more than we in this culture feel we have to devote to anything. Which explains, I think, why Bruce Lee took the tack he did, in an effort to increase knowledge and awareness in a way he thought might work.

It does just take a lot to know what to do at any given point, especially when so often there ISN’T anything to do right then except watch and wait.  It’s a whole different way of life, based on responding to the environment you’re in and not reacting to what you think it is.   Everything takes on a different dimension, and although there is always that moment when the hill you’re climbing turns out to be a giant turtle’s back and you slide off in a completely different direction than you started from,  the habit of paying attention does pay off.  It pays off because even when you’re flying through the air off that turtle’s back, you are able to see that, really? You’re going to land in a much better place.  I’ll see if I can explain that to Sam later.

always learning

And yes, we are, Gentle Reader.  First, the animal report.  The pigs we’ve been watching grow are so big they collapsed their little shelter on top of them.  Now they’re sprawled over it whilst hammering out z’s.  The continuing dialogue between citizenry and police (cows and cow dogs in this case) continues, with outstanding stare downs and dogs slightly on the minus side in terms of Imposing Their Will on The Cows.  And, speaking of cows, a brand new crop of babies are suddenly, delicately, on their hooves in between being nestled in the still green grass like little pieces of obsidian, and having long philosophical discussions with their mothers.  Add to that the smoke trees blooming by the river? and it’s perfect.

So as usual,  the things of the earth are resplendent and wonderful.  Even while we’ve got solar activity pelting us all to the point of feeling like our heads may explode from the pressure, and while Nestle continues to bottle water here in California where they say we’ll run out all together in about a year.   It is sad to think that a company involved with chocolate, the food of the gods for mercy’s sake, is just so completely…well, evil.  Let’s us make a lot of money selling these poor fools their very own water back while they can’t flush their toilets for lack thereof.

But at the same time, it is spring, I just had a restorative visit with dearly beloved friends, it’s almost my birthday again (made it through another year! award time!), and although the amount of weed pulling before me is beyond daunting and our basic position vis a vis the World seems to be on a razor’s edge, I’ve learned something that will keep me going for a while.

To wit: It really IS about how you respond to things.  Especially now, when things just look so completely grim and hopeless all over the place- at the same time people are doing wonderful work and the light is made to shine in unexpected places.  We all do want to be happy.  Recognizing this just puts you on a, metaphorically, level playing field with everyone else.  We all want the same things, but the challenge arises in the manner in which we pursue these things.  Often people go after experiences and things  in an effort to find this happiness, but the problem arises when they haven’t figured out what really gives meaning to their lives.  Willy nilly, rushing around in pursuit of the external, perspective gets lost in the quest for gratification of whatever sort.  Everything really is connected- the business of a butterfly affecting things on the other side of the globe is quite literally true.  The fact that we can’t always SEE the ramifications of what we do in the moment, and the corollary that many aren’t even at the point of caring about those ramifications for various, numerous reasons, brings us to the world we have today.  Which is in truth a mess filled with human created obstacles and congestions and blockages.  A mess because of US.  Not “God” or space aliens or anything else.  Just us.

I think the basis for all of this is fear.  Fear is the big stick that keeps us coloring inside the lines even if we hate the drawing and crayon color.   The reality is there is so much more going on all the time than we can possibly take in that we should find relief in that fact, and focus on paying attention to what we truly see before us instead of confabulating stories about what we are told might be out there.  In time we can get to a place where we actually SEE what is there, and if one has the ability to tread lightly with that awareness, all sorts of things unfold.

Love is the motive force, but love is not an ego based deal.  Love is what happens when you unlock the gates in yourself and let everything go in and out.  It isn’t about “results” or outcome driven processes or anything like that.  It is like a huge beam of light that moves through everything and allows even the darkest, worst moments to shine with meaning and potential.  Love doesn’t mean you’re even going to “like” everyone you come in contact with; but you don’t actually have to worry about that.  Cleaving, as it were, to what really is true- and basically that is that we all want to be happy in an existence full of change and often of pain- what happens?

What happens is you can smile.  This is what I learned this week.  I found myself uncontrollably smiling at people (except, it must be said, the two idiots on the interstate who just about killed me by, respectively, tail gating behind and slamming brakes on in front while everyone’s going 85 mph- sadly I succumbed to non-equanimity and flipped them the bird) and my gosh.  Everyone put their shoulders down and smiled back.  If I can keep doing that until my time on this planet is complete?  I’ll have gotten something accomplished.  Now, on to the Great American Novel, and birthday cake selection, and continuing to behave as if ALL life matters- because it does.

big wheel turns and turns

Amazingly enough, Gentle Reader, I got monster flu number three! Yes! From my neighbor who flew halfway around the world and brought us all back….bwha hahawb..cough…..cabin fever.  This was especially festive stuff which turned both my eyes bright red and caused mucky ooze to stick them shut.  Plus…well.  Never mind.  Viruses are fun, especially the mood swings.

Whilst trying to remember it WAS “just” flu and marshalling herbs and things to combat the infestation (I recommend usnea, elderberry, ginger to drink as teas and oregano, thyme and ravensara oils to breathe in.  Works wonders.) I watched a fair amount of television and my eyes had ungummed enough to sit through Lawrence of Arabia over the weekend.  Followed by hearing the aptly named Larry Fink, grand mucky muck of Blackrock, interviewed by Charlie Rose.  There, when I had just got my head uncongested, I went and let it explode again.

Lawrence of Arabia really floored me.  When I first saw it, I was of course struck by the Grand Sweep, The Romance, The Handsomeness.  This time? It seemed more like a documentary or something you’d see on the news now.  Same places and towns, same fights, same viciousness and perversity, same black flags, same evil multinational manipulation and same half crazed individuals taking center stage.  Really? A hundred years later and we are still in the same place?  I felt like a foolish and deluded bear for sure.

Then, there was the Interview of Fink.  Hannah Arendt was very right when she described the banality of evil.  This guy? Aside from the manicure and slash mouth, he looks in fact quite banal.  And seems to be thinking that the propaganda the Legacy Group dishes out is true or at least ACTS that way.  I wonder if in his own mind he knows what total shits he and his cohorts are?  An incredible thing he said, as a good economic indicator, is how great technology is.  America is uniquely positioned to gear up for manufacturing jobs again, and the great thing is they won’t require many human employees.  So the employers could actually “pay them five or ten more dollars an hour”, there being fewer of them and all.  And since the labor costs are lower, YEEHAW.  Profits up the kabonga.  He also thinks more entrants in the oil and gas production sector will make more product available and more people will buy that product, i.e. gasoline.  In one swell foop he just shovels cement over the deep holes of unemployment, poverty and inequality, and of course climate change.  I wonder who the hell is going to be able to consume all the crap he visualizes being made? When they don’t have jobs which would provide them with money.  Also when the earth has been so destroyed by human activity that you can’t do anything anyway.  Maybe I’m missing something here.  The one thing he DID at least admit is that we don’t need the Keystone pipeline.  Kind of a shocking admission, but even then he extolled the safety of a pipeline and drilling over rail transport.  Those dratted rail cars to tend to turn over and despoil vast areas, after all. ( I guess he and Warren Buffett may not be seeing eye to eye.  Anyway.) Why not just blow it all to hell to begin with and get it over?

Honestly.  Some times I despair.  But then I think, well.  I’m still here and that must count for something.  There must be some balance somewhere and things do change.  In the meantime, Spring has made its brief appearance. They joke up here, yes, that if you go away for the weekend you’ll miss Spring and it is true.  A couple of years we had a splendid pink radiance from all the buds on the oak trees before they became green, which was totally astounding.  This year the poor dry things have just leafed out, overnight, with their translucent green brilliance.  It is amazing and all the bluebirds and jays provide just the spark of color needed.  The shooting stars have come up and some of the California Valerian and Queen Anne’s Lace.

I kind of thought (” “) in the press of all the recent stuff that a sensible course of action would be to fill my brain with the awe I feel looking at those leaves outside instead of the rage I feel when listening to what passes for Power in our world.  You can’t pay attention, and you can’t NOT pay attention, and one element in today’s weirdness is that even though supposedly there’s all this information around so many people are completely unaware of what’s going on three blocks away from them- so therefore it doesn’t exist.  It’s an interesting effort, because one thing that happens, if you’re honest, when you listen to those Power Puffs, is that you realize they not only don’t care about you.  It’s that they really find you completely expendable once you don’t fit as a cog somewhere in their apparatus.  You truly have no value.  Since the things the Power Puffs are talking about are often matters of life and death it is hard to know what to think.  But I’ve decided at long last, and I think I can stick to this, to go with the magic I know outside the walls instead of the destruction being offered inside them.

It can be hard to live a life based on proper foundations.  We confuse our wants and needs and complicate things over and over, expecting something outside us like another person or a job or whatever it might be to provide peace and satisfaction.  That isn’t really the way it works long term, however, and things built on faulty foundations wind up falling down and having to be rebuilt.  We’re all obviously right smack in the middle of such a coming rebuild, and perhaps the best thing to do is to concentrate, refine, simplify.  Once you’ve done that on a material level, the real fun starts because then? You get to do the same thing in your head! Good fun and well worth it, however. And we definitely have to approach our lives with a different set of concepts than we started out with if we want to get somewhere different.  Which I think we do.  What would we look like if we let ourselves just simply be who we really are?  Not the exploded drag queen/superstar/perfect toothed/master of industry/size 00/rich/monetized-so-I-Think-I’m Happy version of it, but just the real day to day unsequinned version- the humor and endurance that makes the full dress version of oneself, when it comes out, so wonderful.  A real endeavor, this- to see it is all always there, and somehow that we may pick a path that, if not totally good for all, at least does no harm.  My Bulgarian yogurt came out well, and that I suppose is a good start, and finish, for today.

Blessings and thanks.


It’s good when things are clear, don’t you think Gentle Reader?  Even though it can be monstrously unpleasant.

Like now, for example.  Maybe it’s just the ending of a fast but long, hard year.  Maybe it’s the looming anniversary of a friend’s death.  Or, maybe, it’s about the total uncertainty around all the edges of things now.  Whatever it is, this Ferguson thing just got me down with a sort of finality.

The finality of losing the last illusions, perhaps.  Because I really did have alot of ’em, it seems.  I thought we lived in a country that…that what?  That didn’t routinely kill its citizens.  A country that didn’t have a militarized occupation force posing as police.  A country where a person actually had some civil rights and a degree of freedom.  But, no.  It turns out that those are not the facts.  The facts are that is totally OK to kill people (except of course an undeveloped fetus.  That’s a no-can-do.)  Unarmed people.  Especially if those people are “colored” (and isn’t THAT a concept?  I’d go for purple, myself.) or “different”,  or especially all those scary young men who have nothing to do and nowhere to go- except maybe the Army.  We are sold food that poisons us and causes pain, for which we then take drugs that get us addicted.  We live in a society where the only rights enforced seem to be those of property- and then it most definitely depends on whose property we’re talking about.  We live in a country now where bald faced lies come to seem more refreshing and revealing than one more celebrity kiss-up on the news.  We live in a country that seems to celebrate ignorance and mediocrity. We live in a country where all are not even considered to be equal, and if you don’t believe that you clearly haven’t been outside in a while.

It’s odd that this thing was kind of a last straw.  It is not, after all, my first time at the rodeo nor did I just fall off the turnip truck.   I still cling  to the presumption that we are all created equal in the eyes and truth of whatever did that creating. Standards, perhaps, I still harbor a fondness for.  And a belief in the need for a real rule of law- where the values of the community are nourished and upheld and protected.  Not lied about and twisted and manipulated so that everything that gets said can’t even be taken in because on its face it is corruption.

My whole world is, in many ways, gone.  I can accept the results of my own actions with greater or lesser ease and grace depending on the level of horrid debacle, accept the fact that things are deeply different now and time passes, some good and some bad.  But I cannot accept the fact that we now have a country here in the U.S. where it isn’t freedom that rings but bullets and cash registers up top.  Over and over.  This really has to stop.  It may seem too big to stop- too big to fail? But all of our lives are on the line  and not changing course now seems to be incredible folly.  IMHO.  It really, truly, is not hard to do the right thing in life: You just have to be aware of what it is. We might start with that first commandment and move on to something more philosophically expansive.  Like gardening.  You think?

Thank you.


Come on now/say you will…..Oh.  Ahem. Firstly: thank you, Gentle Reader, for being there, for reading, for writing.

I’ve been in a period lately where old songs constantly spring into my head with new words related to the moment’s current situation.  Like, “Forced to be Nice” (from the hoary chestnut “Born to be Wild”) the other day when the Partner just would NOT accept a compliment about a diplomatic parking job he did in our local Parking Lot from Hell.  Or, today’s tune, above (which I believe is originally “Say You Will”).

It might have been because I was awake ALL EFFING NIGHT and had just barely found  sleep at about 5 am.  In any event, when I was jolted from my tenuous slumber by a pounding bass line, I was disoriented to say the least.  That sort of sound still gets equated in my mind with cars driving down city streets with handguns pointed out of them with arcs of fire you could see at night; vestiges of Richmond perhaps.  And really, you don’t expect that sort of thing in the literal middle of nowhere- even if you should, as it turns out. In any event, it was 7:30 in the morning, my eyes were stuck shut, and the noise was intense.  Weird, really.  I realized that my prayer for whoever was making that infernal racket to just be lifted off the face of the earth was probably not going to be granted.  By this time the Partner was up and…..well, long story deviation.  With my eyes still largely stuck shut I put on a t-shirt with a picture of a bear on it and tottered over to the source of said noise which turned out to be, charmingly, our landlord.  Who proceeded to have, in essence, a hissy fit, right off the top.  Maybe it was the bear.  But.  It really doesn’t get too much better than that, does it?    Huffily claiming he had work to do I found myself facing our landlord’s retreating back, at which point I assured him I had no wish to interfere in his life other than to insist that he keep his taste in music to himself to a larger extent than heretofore.   I probably shouldn’t say this but I have never been a Def Leppard fan.   Anyway there we are, all before 8 am! Good fun.  I resolutely pushed aside the thought that he’d probably go turn the water off all day now, just because.  All the while, of course, being pretty clueless about just what might have propelled this whole scenario in the first place, and hoping that we’d all feel better…..soon.

Still, however, the lingering gas cloud of WTF!  I felt so despondent about it all, given that if we can’t even keep it together in terms of common courtesy, how the devil are we going to work out all the rest of this mess we find ourselves in now?  Realizing how non-productive that line of thought was, I turned my attention from my coffee tankard to The Rabbit.  This is the little guy who’s been living in the back garden this year, and he’s started playing with the Partner.  They were involved in a bit of hide and seek by this time, The Rabbit being somewhat hampered by his still growing frame, which seems to leap inadvertently from time to time on its own, surprising him greatly.   It didn’t produce any great insight into the issues at hand, except further evidence that this is one really cute bunny.

It seems, though, that we all want to do what we want to do when we want to do it, period.  Consequences or other people’s feelings don’t seem to factor in terribly often.  I’m beginning to think that a good part of this stems from current political and social disarray, certainly in the U.S., which is creating a miasmic atmosphere.  People know, somehow, that things aren’t going well at all, even if they won’t admit that to themselves- I mean, hey! We’re back in Iraq- maybe this time people will stop pronouncing it eye-rack, at least.  Things have really changed- or maybe they actually haven’t but the veneer has worn completely off- and the propaganda and messages stay the same. ( Cognitive dissonance with a bullet.)  The advertising industry, for example, seems to be giving the insurance industry a run for its money in terms of currently sucking ALL the air out of the room, buy this buy that.  I often wonder just where they think all this purchasing power is coming from, given the reality of what wages and jobs are like.  You’d think, watching TV here, that the absolutely most important thing EVER was funeral insurance.  Followed by insurance for your phone.  Followed by health insurance of dizzying variety and monotonously regular non-service. In short, you should expect to be very ill and spend a lot of money on that, then have an expensive funeral.  But you’ll have unlimited talk and data, depending on if you live where there’s service or not. And in the meantime, most of the people around you will be furiously avoiding feeling what they’re feeling.  Then picking fights with each other when they back into themselves while stepping all over you.

It’s puzzling because things seem so intractable and the smallest things can turn into Armageddons before you even blink.  We know, of course, that they aren’t really either of those things, simply by virtue of having been alive for more than twenty minutes and thus seeing that everything moves, all the time.  Things are in the order they’re in, and there is much to be grateful for.  Color, magic, figs, purple potatoes and pico de gallo.  At the moment, though, I feel as though I am constantly addressing brick walls.    I’m really trying not to be one myself.



the search for equanimity

At the end of a rather long, sticky, malaise-ish day, I found myself watching an ancient temple being blown up in Iraq by the Caliphate Installation Crew.  This made me think that perhaps the tide is about to turn.  The people, who have endured unspeakable, unnameable, unthinkable awfulnesses all over that part of the world for so long- those people may finally be at a point of saying, LOOK HERE PILGRIM.  YOU’RE FINISHED.  YOU GOT TWO SECONDS TO GET YOUR RAGGEDY ASS OUT OF TOWN.  Or words to that effect.   Finally it gets to be simply too much.

I’ve had this (what I think of as a bit of a) fantasy for a while.  It involves the sheer weight of the evil in the world toppling itself over and crumbling, from its own rottenness.  Even though the Partner looks at me when I say things like this in a, poor soft headed thing let’s get her a HAT sort of way, *I* think it’s kind of like a martial art where you use the energy and strength of your opponent against him without overly exerting yourself.   It has been so easy to leap to judgment, have opinions about all this stuff, because after all.  Evil is recognizable.  The situation in Palestine is beyond travesty, and just like so much of that part of the world, stems from the business/corporate/political lines that got drawn after the World Wars by the “winners”.    The War Against Terror?  The whatever-it-was in Viet Nam?  The apotheosis, if you will, of petroleum?  It is really too easy to afix blame and add yet more anger and intemperance to the mix.

So there we were yesterday, sweltering and covering our faces because of all the smoke from the fires, just pondering all this.  A moment of sliding downhill, thinking about groundlessness and in that particular moment, that thinking having a rather “why bother?” cast to it.  If indeed there is nothing to hold on to, no comfort, no overt “reward”, why do we practice?  Because.  Once you start, you have to continue.  This is true of meditation, life, gardening, keeping your nails trimmed, everything.  The headlong plunges we all take into unproductive thought patterns are just signs to pay a bit more attention.  The difficulty I was having, in part and as always, had to do with just what does one do to shift things in a more positive direction?  Living in the United States one automatically is inundated with propaganda about (among other things of course) religion, which includes the apparent diktat that Israel can do no wrong.  Yet I observe Israel pretty much doing unto others that which was done unto them.  Easy to place blame there.  At the same time, all that oppression and corruption on the other side?  Doesn’t leave them in a sparklingly spotless place either.  I live in a country that really does, in fact, do a lot of very incredibly rotten things.  So there we all are, yes?  Is this about pointing fingers about whose hands are dirtiest?

No.  It’s about realizing that we all feel  and want the same things.  Period.  This is the only real immutable truth- we really are one.  Even those at the tip of the social pyramid who seem to think only of destroying everything in their paths.  Things in nature are good as they are without manipulation and technological “advances”.  Time, as I decided yet again this morning, to put the stick down and lift up the heart.   When things look awful outside of you, they’re probably a reflection of how you feel inside.  Simplistic but true, even insofar as it extends to things like dust-rhinos under the table, and definitely as it extends to wanting to shoot someone.  The pressure of this time, which is intense, is all about things needing to get on a balanced footing before we all tumble irretrievably to destruction.  I have a hard time believing that the human race really is this stupid- that humans cannot look at what is pulling their strings and refuse to cooperate in the perfidy any more.  Then you get to the fun part where you get to do the cooperation joyfully.  More on that, I suspect, to come.  But perhaps the simple thing of putting a smile on one’s face and feeling it is a good start.   The next big thing is about how Doing Nothing isn’t as easy as it seems.  I’m sure it all fits together though.  Somehow.

level of difficulty

Life is kind of like knitting.  Knitting patterns are marked in terms of “level of difficulty” and can be absolutely fiendish and at times soul shattering.  What this  meant in practice, for me anyway, was being able to estimate exactly how soon I’d burst into tears at the realization that it wasn’t a yarnover THERE or the always sobering realization that I could not, unlike everyone else at the stitch and bitch, do ANYTHING ELSE while knitting.   Be that as it may, I did progress and got to the point where I could manage something that was at a 3 needle out of five level of difficulty.  No intarsia need apply.  In my copious spare time I still imagine knitting a lace pattern shawl- probably while performing some other Herculean feat such as vacuuming.

Anyway, this morning’s guidance was: See the other person’s point of view.  Oddly, I had woken up being in full awareness of another person’s point of view.  It was an instance where a long standing condition makes an individual behave in a certain way, a way that one might find Massively Irritating if one were not paying attention.  What I realized in today’s waking moment, however, was that I felt what that other person felt at those times.  I felt in myself that irritating behavior coming up, saw what the origin of it was, and thought:  Good Heavens.  If this were a knitting pattern  I’d be getting to a virtual Alice Starmore level of difficulty.  If you knit you will know what I mean.  If you don’t, just picture it as an Olympic level of accomplishment.

Just like knitting, daily life presents all these opportunities to learn and hone one’s skills.    It does, eventually, simplify things in actual life, this learning.  I’m still not sure about knitting ever getting any easier.  Perhaps though, in knitting it is easier to see where you simply must start over or make an adjustment.  (Notwithstanding the possibility of the unintended dog sized sweater vest result….)  In this particular case today, what I saw quite clearly was that this other individual’s irritating behavior was, guess what, precisely like MY irritating behavior given the same stimulus.  We feel the same; we just don’t respond the same way.  Maybe this is the rudimentary skeleton of compassion- if we both feel the same way, how is that- what’s it really like?  What makes me feel calmer in the face of all this?  How can I keep my energy and focus on forward movement rather than reactivity and tail chasing?   Perhaps what it also is to a great extent is changing our perception of time.

When we’re irritated or in a hurry or in whatever distraction has us sucked up, when something appears to impede us, we get irritated.  I don’t have time for this, sort of thing.  We push the irritating thing aside without acknowledging it truly, and this is where the trouble starts to look like one of those tiny little pellets you put in a glass of water and it becomes an expanding dinosaur whose snout quickly rises up and out above the lip of the glass.  Our sense of time gets distorted, things become abrupt and abrasive.

But what is it we really don’t have time for?  In truth it is all the to-ing and fro-ing that we probably REALLY don’t have time for.  Vanity, pride, acquisitiveness, mean spiritedness, probably all are things we don’t really have time for.  What we do, and must, have time for is paying attention to each other- in fact, it is often the case for me that if I just stop and pay attention the whole megilla gets taken care of much more easily and swiftly that it ever does when “I don’t have time for this”.

As it happens, I am the sort of person who then thinks, well, what about axe murderers, rapists, and vicious capitalists? I spent a long time pursuing that line of thought and found that in the end,  I was still stuck in a reactive position because I was expecting a particular sort of result.  Like expecting a tomato to sprout from a patch of poison oak, I was just SURE that I could “help”.  One of the important reasons we must pay attention to each other, though, is to ascertain who we should NOT be paying attention to.  Kindness and humility are essential, always, but also essential is the learning of where to put the focus.  Where the focus is placed can be what keeps a person from going off the deep end- the simple act of blinking and looking somewhere else. Not in an attempt to ignore what is happening or “make it” some way it isn’t, but just breaking up the thought train a bit.    We are, as my teacher said, human BEings, not human DOings.  And we can be aware, and kind, and better to each other.

It’s odd, to swing between feelings of competence and blithering idiocy, watching the world go by like some completely insane combo shooting gallery/ merry go round.  What is the point?  The point is to give up the grandiose, I think.  As in, I know I will never manage a Starmore pattern.  BUT.  I can knit a darn good, serviceable little thingy to keep you warm, and that is progress.  Even if it is to a higher and thus dauntingly unknown level of difficulty, however discouraging it seems at times and especially how little it seems an individual can do….these are all the illusions we have to pass through and conquer.  What matters is what each of us does, how we live our lives.   The things that happen that cause difficulties are always to show us a better way, a more inclusive way.  I’m hoping that the places I fail in this endeavor at least bear the stamp of having tried to work it through to the end of the pattern.


I decided yesterday was a Study Day and sat facing my zillion pound book on reading the pulses.  Too bad the tv was on and the news streamed through endlessly, disturbingly.  According to the BBC, WordPress got attacked, and all kinds of nasty other things happened besides the Big Nasty Thing in Boston.  I managed to concentrate on the meaning of wide, absent, full, hollow pulses nonetheless.

The quotidian crud has, indeed, been driving me a little batty of late.    I did manage to get my taxes filed online after some effort (and got a charming email from the IRS congratulating me on my success)  but I can’t help but wonder how it is that I had to pay when…well.  Let’s just say it’s a bit incomprehensible….Pfizer has no reportable income.  Pfizer? No reportable income?   I also have been struggling with confusion over how, exactly, U.S. Social Security can be termed an “entitlement” when one has paid into it for lo, so many years.  And, as usual, I wonder how “elected officials” can blatantly disregard the instructions and wishes of their constituents in favor of the corporate interests (NRA, this is about you!) who pay for that privilege if not any others they benefit from (like, you know, infrastructure and stuff).  So I’ve been pretty mad, actually.

I think it has to do with the sense that people who really don’t care about anything except money have so much control over how all the rest of us live.  Or don’t. Who gets electricity or bandwidth or clean water or education or doctor visits.   Finally it seems to me that their time must be coming to an end.  The historical sweep of what has often been referred to as the Piscean Age, with its patriarchy and authority substituted for things of the spirit- JEESH.  ISN’T TWO PLUS THOUSAND YEARS ENOUGH?  I saw a man in Tikrit and a man in Boston yesterday on PBS, both in the same situation and both incandescent with pain.  This sort of grisly, meaningless violence really just has to stop, and stop now.  And the only way that can happen is if we all make it so.   Given that we have to make an effort in life anyway, why not make an effort toward the good?  Toward curiosity and cooperation?  It’s hard.  It’s not impossible.  You just, as Martin Luther King Jr. observed, choose love.  Hate is too heavy a burden.

There is also a question of time.  As in, we don’t have that much.  All this stupid stuff? Really it makes me wonder.  Do we really have time to be obstinate and uncaring toward each other and toward the earth we all live on?  No.  But the question does arise as to what one’s proper response is when experiencing such things.  I still think that stepping back, taking a deep breath, and being open even while not accepting abuse, just has to be the first tool we pick up every day.  I’m more convinced than ever that even though non-violence takes a long time, it is the only workable way to proceed.   Since this is something I have a bit of a time with myself, we’ll keep working on it with the daily variations in levels of success and all that implies.  Dealing with one’s intrusive thoughts is a big piece of all this, and there will be more on that topic to come.  A key to balance outside oneself is balance INSIDE, and that has elements of being a habit that can be developed.  Until next time!

Needles and Haystacks

I woke up thinking about driving this morning.  As it relates to mood.  AS in, we’re all on this journey and quite often we’re out there seeking our objectives which are, as the Partner remarked, like needles in haystacks.  So I thought about the drive we took on my birthday, during which we both realized we were in fact on a Quest for something that we’ll only know when we find it.  Namely, a place to Be.  Which, in this particular event, we didn’t find although we did see a fantastic pair of cranes rising up from a pond, which was quite wonderful enough.

Then I thought about how one’s moods and feelings, or more specifically mine, go up and down and all over the place.  At another challenging juncture in my life, I often found myself driving in a particular place by Santa Cruz with Henry the canary.  I was in my recently dead husband’s car and had my recently dead best friend’s canary in the passenger seat.  We were in a place we both liked, a long road that went way up and way down but gently, with long swooping passages of both and lots of green on one side, the ocean on the other.  Henry would be swinging back and forth on his swing, singing along to his favorite part of DON GIOVANNI (where the Commendatore bursts through the wall on that gigantic horse) and we’d just….drive.  Somehow that made me feel able to carry on.  This morning as I thought about how excited I get about plans and potentials now, then shortly thereafter hopes appear dashed, it occurred to me that really it is all very much like those drives with Henry.  Long stretches where it seems as though nothing happens but it really does.  Often our own efforts at “making” something transpire do nothing more than keep us in a holding position.   It’s a delicate balance between intention and right action and there is actually more time spent quietly observing than you might ever expect.

As I watch the people around me go through all the things they go through, I’m struck over and over by a couple of things.  One, we all do a LOT to avoid feeling our feelings.  Two, reality and time really are fluid and there is a lot of both in ways we are not trained to see.  When the phrase “you create your own reality” comes up, it really is true.   You can, indeed, choose your focus and proceed accordingly.  Then it becomes a matter of acting from the impulses of your heart and not from those of your fear.  This procedure seems to be one of ongoing and at times apparently insurmountable difficulty.   It is so easy for us to lose touch with the basic reality of our interconnectedness.   When we are able to operate from that basis it really is easier even if as we are practicing it, so to speak, it seems harder.   All those opinions and sheltering protective Attitudes! When the reality of it in a huge way is that we are all one, beating, universal heart.  I wonder why we are often so far from that.  Then I remember how often I stifle myself from giving someone the finger on the freeway or visualizing something even more intense for them.  This from someone who, in a way, falls in love with every client every time because when I work with them, I “see” them and that, in the end, turns out to be the biggest reward I could ever have received.  So we’ll see what happens on these swooping ups and downs, Gentle Reader, shall we?