Monday, January 25, 2010

A good reminder, part III

Not always able to FEEL this, but having done so in the past is a good enough, great enough, best enough reminder that I will indeed again or perhaps, even more-so, will myself to in the present:

...great joy, overflowing joy, as if the land and woods and spring were all praising God through me. The sense of angelic transparency of everything, and of pure, simple, and total light. The word that comes closest to pointing to it is simple. It was all simple. But a simplicity to which one seems to aspire, only seldom to attain. A simplicity, that is, that has and says everything just because it is simple.

-Thomas Merton, January 6th, 1965

Saturday, January 23, 2010

These gentle words

Found surrounded by a cluster of phrases less-than-so, but still. 12 together discovered today amidst the clatter of the external world, newspaper-surrounded-by-bodies-and-coffee-shop, reminding me of the deep excitement felt within that comes from engaging with all things quiet:

The animals humans fear are the ones that need love the most.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Presenting my spirit animal...

ha ha. yes. yes, the title I know. But actually true. I give you the nudibranch....

On grieving

and not sure how to do it
or who to do it with and how to even articulate needing to,
how to do it
or who to do it with (repeat)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And of things that happen on trains...

My friend Miriam who is awesome-awesome-awesome and I happily found ourselves on the same train recently, and also happily found ourselves wanting to play a game of cards. We had none, so we happily made them from very thin sheets of paper. This may or may not have been unbelievably frustrating to the folks around us who wanted a bit of peace and quiet....

The gem of the pack in my mind is her Queen of Hearts who I re-named the CakeMan and gave special powers to during our games, as really, CakeMan would definitely have abilities that go beyond what a typical Queen of Hearts would have, no?

Here then, are photos of her dearness and our insane excuse for a deck of cards.

Visuals, of late. Winter space.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I've recently been asked by a fascinating acquaintance to facilitate the upcoming discussion of the
University of the Streets Cafe around Beginnings.

For those who are interested and don't know what the University of the Streets program is all about, it's basically a classroom-away-from-a-classroom, minus the teacher and (potentially) all things academic. So maybe not so much like a classroom at all, actually. Picture an informal gathering of people who are all interested in jammin' on a certain topic together, and you have a fairly concrete idea of what I am talking about here.

When I was first approached to engage with the notion of beginnings, I felt a little pitter patter in my rib-cage, and yet didn't know quite why. Said friend who had initially contacted me mentioned how hard he finds beginnings to be. He touched on grappling with the slothfulness and inaction within to get into 'doing stuff'. Questions arose around how we find stuff to do, or why trips away from home feel so gut-wrenchingly overwhelming? Why do we feel weird about telling someone we have a crush on them? Etc...

And at first, these were the questions I found myself interested in too, and they certainly are worthwhile to think about. How do inertia, fear, indecisiveness all play into my ability to take risks and keep going? I thought about focusing on this active component of beginnings, the part where the train starts getting pushed down the tracks, the pen bleeds onto paper, the dreaded but exciting phone call is made.

Because in a way, I feel like that's where many people I know are stuck. Myself included in heaps of ways. The overwhelming concern around being rejected, or of looking foolish, or of being wrong equals resting on the laurels of the places-I'm-comfortable-but-don't-really-want-to-be.

Yet at the same time, this is also one arena that I have had plenty of experience in. For better or worse, I am someone who tends to be risky in certain ways - be it by making the first move, emailing a stranger, asking for a job I am completely unqualified for, chipping away at the stone wall first.

So my relationship to beginnings is very particular to this component of my little narrative over here. And while I am electrified at the ways these impulses and actions have made me feel alive and truly, truly humble at times, through years of initiation I have begun to look at beginnings as more of a serious responsibility towards my own desires, expectations and needs in relation to the creatures that surround me.

This perhaps is slightly unclear. What I mean is that what we often see as beginnings are often more a middle-piece, or end, to a process of deliberation and decision making concerning a beginning. Consider TS Eliot's musings on the subject:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

Or, a visual analogy - when a seed is planted, it is not evident as a THING persay, or anything at all except to the person who did the planting. After a certain amount of necessary care-taking (watering, monitoring, patience) the seed pushes through soil to appear as a plant, a living creature, a being. Suddenly its existence is known not only to its gardener but also to anyone else who should happen to run into it. Due to this physical manifestation it achieves a type of validity of existence that it couldn't possibly have appreciated prior to this time.

In many ways, beginnings are very similar to this plant. If asked when a plant becomes a living thing, it would be very understandable to consider it as such when it breaks ground. But, in reality, in its gestation period, it is as much alive as it is when 2 feet tall, surrounded by wild birds. Beginnings aren't really manifested when I-ask-you-out or on the first-day-of-the-job, but when they first appear in my mind as possibilities, and then I choose to care for them or not.

Phew. This is getting really wordy. I could go on, but perhaps I will save the rest for the discussion. Needless to say, I am not suggesting that the breaking-through-soil is easy, or that it's not a truly important action to collectively muse upon. But I do allude to the point that perhaps a deeper challenge is to know what beginnings to give water and time to, and what ones to let go. That's where a responsibility for mindfulness of self and others comes into play. More on the subject live in a month's time!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One good thing about getting older

Not that there's only one. Many, many, many, birds in the sky doing that sweeping motion together for some mysterious reason, maybe mid-afternoon group exercises, maybe a strange hommage to their god with the big beak.

That said, there's one in particular that I am thinking of now (great thing about getting older, not bird). When I was younger and milk spilt and heart ached I recall feeling totally confused and angry about how things around me just kept on keeping on. It was unbelievable to me that the world could keep on turning despite my frustration and pain. Things should indeed slow down or altogether stop, cars run out of gas, cats run out of me-ow....

Now as I am getting older, I feel this reaction completely shifting. Suddenly what I found dishearteningly cold as a youth, (the ability for things to keep going) I find ravishingly comforting as a slightly-older individual.

That the heart can pang in one but the sun still rise for all. It reminds me of not only a responsibility of the earth to keep behaving in ways I can relate to and appreciate, but also of my responsibility to it to respond in turn by remembering the sun really and truly doesn't revolve around me. I do not experience the bumps and bruises I live through in a vacuum, but amidst others with their own pains and joys and ducks and tree-tops and fountain heads.

And oh the joyous awareness of other-than-self in this way. To the magic of the mundane then, this is dedicated, that despite the fact that I might constantly overlook it I shall never truly forget it nevertheless.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What Arthur Russell meant to tell me

was that I think right now is a time to be fallow, to a degree. This is very, very hard for me even though I'd be the first to suggest the same for you, if needed.

The discomfort of waiting or of being open and aware without action. I suppose for some, like anything (hand-gliding, nose-putting, returning-to-sender) this is easier-accomplished than for others. Yet buzzing, foraging, rummaging has been, for eons now, as much a part of my natural instinct (perhaps) as it has been a solidified component of my concept of self by the culture I am surrounded by.

There are so many quiet voices within that I know I need to listen to, and don't. Watch your field and wait for it to regenerate. Don't think too much but ask it whispered questions, about what it wants to be next. The health of a greater balance is held within these types of actions, or un-actions. Non-actions.

The same for the body - what does it really need, what do I offer it? So often, although I dread admitting this, my brain ignores what so many other areas of my whole-self say in order to do what is immediately pleasing.

The same, too, then for the spirit, in terms of being still. Waiting. Or observing. Being open to the world in order for the things that aren't necessarily immediately pleasing, but that are most definitely necessary, to present themselves.

A visual metaphor - sometimes I am expected to act in the play, or stage manage, be part of the direct action and therefore focus on the specifics contained within. At other times, best to sit in the audience (as an active member, mind you) and really take everything in. Watch. Listen. At the end, stay behind instead of getting up to go to the next immediacy. Maybe fall asleep in the aisle.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Time Away

I'm taking time away to dream
I'm taking time out to clean up my room
and when I clean up, my room will gleam
because dreams aren't as unreal as they seem.

I'm taking time away to dream, I'm taking time out.

Put my records in their covers and then
I'll put the albums back into their place
and I'll sweep up this morning and when
I look at the clock, I see it says ten.

I'm taking time away to dream, I'm taking time out.

Well I just can't be sure any more, I just can't be sure.
No, I just can't be sure any more, I just can't be sure.

I'll pick up my pants even though
I might wear them, wear them today;
smooth out my covers on my bed so,
after I wash them I've got some place to go.

I'm taking time away to dream, I'm taking time out.

Well I just can't be sure any more,
I just can't be sure.
No, I just can't be sure any more,
I just can't be sure.

I'm taking time away to dream,
I'm taking time out to clean up my room,
and when I clean up, my room will gleam,
because dreams aren't as unreal as they sweem.

I'm taking time away to dream, I'm taking time out

Arthur Russell

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Anxiousness and anticipation...

Of the things/people that go up stairs in the evenings.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

If only it were that simple.

I saw a fairly ironic or at least somewhat puzzling site today in the metro. As I haven't taken public transport or been near any University campuses for some time, I had all-but-forgotten the folks who stand with literature and signs lambasting the evil American government for this, that and the other atrocity. They are always, always extroverted and usually quite grouchy. I am sure I am related to them somehow.

Now, most of the time on a basic level I agree with what they shout about. I don't exactly have fond memories of George Bush, and I don't think that the majority of actions democratic nations take on a governmental level make sense for just about anyone. If I sound simplistic here, well, perhaps that's part of the point I am trying to make. The generalizations strewn about in that sentence I just penned look like nuanced, ambiguous references in comparison to the wholly black-and-white accusations the folks with these slogans muster up.

Which brings me to today. A sign blasting the periphery of my left eye showing Obama with a Hitler moustache with the words, "Obama's Changed" across the top. I only assumed this was in direct reference to his new 14-countries (and counting) screening agenda currently available at all American airports. While I totally agree with the fundamentals of what they're saying, (that the policy is hugely racist and highly, offensively problematic) I am so bewildered at their delivery of said state-of-mind.

Has Obama actually changed? Is he now effectively Hitler, a ridiculous and rather insulting comparison (and not just to Obama)? Or is he someone who perhaps is a bit more nuanced than folks had dared to imagine? Could he be in fact, human, and not the perfect solution to all of North America's (and the globe's) woes around the ludicrous actions and ideas coming out of our parlimentary systems?

In saying this, I do not take the anti-responsibility shampoo in my bathroom and give the man a good washing. People need to be human and this means being in part, imperfect, yet also accountable. I just think that we all saw this coming from a mile away and tried to fight it. I know I did. There is something so wondrous in believing that change can come from an almost mythical hero. Hopeful or wishful thinking is not necessarily a bad thing. We had a type of hope at the time he came into office, however, that was likely inflated and bound to disappoint. Barack Obama, the pefect president, best friend, man to marry, woman to date, child to rear.

To hope is in some ways to plough on, so good on everyone for having a bit of that magic left in the heart. But when heartache comes, don't go running to blame the image you've created in your mind of a person or place or life that doesn't actually exist.

What I mean to say is that more often than not the external world doesn't change, but we (be it our bodies, thoughts, viewpoints, or understandings of) do.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The song remains the same...but somehow sounds different

I just finished a really amazing and somehow expansive, (at least for my little noggin') book on ancient egypt. Aptly titled The Egyptian, by Finnish writer Mika Waltari, it's a fictionalized story of the incredible journeys of a doctor during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten at the end-(ish) of the New Kingdom. What that means in terms of timeline is that Ancient Egypt still had hundreds of years to go as a hugely influential and powerful realm, but was on its way out.

The book itself was written at the tail end of the second world word, an interesting fact in and of itself due to the history of Finland in relation to its surroundings at the time. Both the writer and his subject matter were wrapped up in distinctively intense and turbulent environments. Perhaps this is why Waltari chose Ancient Egypt to study - the difference between a civilization that endured for 3,000 years and the strange global village? entity? smear? that is experienced now is so vast that maybe he was able to find a much-needed escape penning the tale he did.

And the tale is one worth paying attention to, not only because Pharaoh Akhenaten was a fascinating character who pushed gender boundaries and spiritual concerns further than we might ever comprehend standing on this side of history. For me, it was the position I had on the other bank of the creek of time, the crack that opens into another world, that was the most enriching.

For years I have waited to become passionate about the history of things from a broader perspective than a basic understanding of art and music in Western Europe. Here, then, in this book, is my gateway. I have always been overwhelmed by the shape of things, and how despite thousands and thousands of years, so much remains the same. Suddenly, simultaneously, I want to know more of the details of the sameness of things. It's clear that ego and lust and greed and joy and love and pain and oxen and shovels and sheep and your brother all effect the outcome of each day, year, group of folks. But the Egyptian brought me sensually closer to the specifics of these generalizations for certain people - the linen, the smell of myrrh, the difficulties of practicing medicine during wars with chariots...

And similar to how I might respond to a slap in the face by a mostly-friendly stranger, I feel awoken. The trickle of human history and how it trails to the life I understand. A deeper sense of where the spill is coming in and in turn how to describe it to those around me, or just my own lone-some self. Collections of stories for the basins of water surrounding us.