Sunday, December 24, 2017

A little holiday perspective

Driving to work last week I saw two signs in a nearby yard.  The first read, "Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to GOD except through HIM."  
The next sign situated in the same yard along the walkway, read, "NO TRESPASSING. KEEP OUT."
Of course, after I laughed aloud at the ironic signage, I was struck by what it unwittingly revealed. All too often religions espouse a monopoly on what is "right" or just and cling to it with closed fists, minds and hearts.  In one yard, two signs provided a perfect metaphor for how the story of Christmas, with it's little family looking for a place to rest and deliver a child, is all to often overlooked.  
There is no room at the Inn. 
"NO TRESPASSING. KEEP OUT!"  
How often do our beliefs, ideologies and misplaced moralities ward off travelers who are merely looking for refuge or safe harbor?  How often do we think ourselves in possession of the truth and find our minds and hearts hardened toward an open embrace?  This year has challenged many of us, politically, socially and personally.  We have watched our collective shadow parade across the social screen with all the pomp and circumstance of a bad reality television show (is there another kind?).  We have retrenched and barricaded ourselves behind values, platitudes and ideals, while climate change, environmental degradation, racism, misogyny, prejudice and greed run amuck.  All of this brought to mind Carl Sagan's words following the Voyager expedition forty years ago to photograph the planets of our outer solar system.  At the very end of the expedition, just as NASA had decided to turn off the cameras to conserve energy, Sagan convinced the powers that be to turn the cameras around and photograph the Earth from that great distance.  The resulting grainy image revealed a small, pale blue dot in a ray of solar light.
 Of this blue dot, Sagan wrote:
"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."
With this in mind perhaps we will reconsider our sharp adherence to beliefs, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Non-dual, Agnostic, Atheist, Republican, Democratic and the list goes on.  Let's reconsider this KEEP OUT! I'M RIGHT,YOU'RE WRONG model of self preservation.  Conceivably, we could open our hearts and minds and make room in the inn for a new vision of humanity.  One that welcomes and stewards the living things and preserves this miraculous pale blue dot, spinning through the vastness of space. Our common home.  

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwaanza, Shab e Yalda, Solstice or whatever your family celebrates, with the deepest meaning and spirit of the season.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

death, words and connection

Death comes unbidden, like a salesman in the night marketing unwanted wares.  My soul's companion and dearest friend for two-decades died this year.

At first grief fell like a torrential downpour, wet with tears.  Next, it arrived in a series of emotional tsunamis leveling everything in its wake. Eventually it settled into the ebb and flow of feeling. Loss is simply there, like a familiar friend who sometimes draws close enough to hold my hand and walk with me awhile before leaving and lifting the heavy mist of sorrow.

With my sister's passing, all creativity ran dry.  My verbosity and delight in words simply stopped.  I gave away my paints, put my loom in storage and my notepads gathered dust.

I simply had nothing left to say.

Words, my long time companions, simply proved insufficient to this part of life's journey. They separate totality into this and thatsubject and objecthere and thereyou and me.  Words provide a conceptual framework but are incomplete by design. Silence is better suited to the paradoxical simultaneity of life and death, in all it's disguises.

Silence.

And yet words can also connect.  Syllables reaching out from the individuated bias of personal experience toward the warmth of understanding in others.

A verbal thaw has begun. Words melt toward union... toward connection... toward life.