Posts Tagged With: living

We Are All Gods, Every One…

Now, before my theist friends begin formally filing charges of blasphemy and my atheist friends just roll their eyes (yes, I have atheist friends!), please hear me out.

I am not saying any one of us bundles of mental energy wrapped in dust is THE God or that you have to even believe THE God exists (though I myself do). We’ll save that discussion for a mountain hike or trout stream or over beer and pizza.

What I do mean is this–every last one of us is creative. Some of you are going “Not me…I’m about as creative as a rock.” Well first of all, how do you really “know” that rock isn’t creative? But that too is another discussion for another time. I assure you however, you ARE in fact creative. You may not be an artist or musician or poet or novelist but you are creative.

In fact you are creating right now. You are creating thoughts about this blog post or God or beer and pizza or something else. Those thoughts are jostling their way in among the myriad other thoughts dancing about your mind. Some of those thoughts will dance enthusiastically enough to really get your attention. They will grow and take on a life of their own by spawning other thoughts and captivating your focus. Most importantly, some of those thoughts will be be spawning actions (or non-actions). Those actions and non-actions will then have much to do with what happens in your life. In a most very real sense, you are creating your own life. Right now. Moment by moment, thought by thought, deed by deed.

Why not create something beautiful?

Categories: Body, Mind, Miscellany, Spirit | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Word About Words

Words intrigue me. They are a paradox, weighty and weightless.

What do they mean? Common usage assigns meaning, and dictionaries crystallize it. Still–I may speak or write a word or words and mean something utterly different from what common usage or the dictionary would indicate. I may be deceitful or misunderstood. Words have a power, but the power is limited by the one using and the one receiving.

It doesn’t help that words are wiggly things–they morph over time into new meanings or fade from usage entirely and are replaced by others. They are shaped by context and tone. And while as symbols they have been a powerful tool for our species, they never quite seem to capture the reality they represent. A word is no more the thing it symbolize than a cup can be the water it carries. I “love” my wife. What does that mean? Everything and nothing. Can the word every really capture that particular reality?

In a world awash with words it would seem some caution might be in order. Speak and write with care. What is weightless to me might be crushing to you. Read and listen with care. What I receive may not be what you intended. Just because something can be said doesn’t mean it should be. These admonishments seem fairly obvious.

But there are other, less obvious hazards regarding words. Beware of deifying words. They are as imperfect as we humans that use them. We want to set them in stone. We want them to be the thing they represent. But they are not. They are images, and images easily become idols. People maim and kill, emotionally and literally, over idols.

Words also become filters of sorts. I identify myself as “this” and you as “that”. All my perceptions become colored by my “thisness” and your “thatness”. So words become walls that keep us apart from and blind to the fullness of being of those on the other side.

Yes, we must walk carefully in this world of words.

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A Thanksgiving Greeting

Where ever, and who ever you are, I hope this day you can find at least a small sense of blessing. I hope you may a know a little peace and a little fullness. I hope your eyes can be opened to some wonder. I hope a soulful smile will find its way into the world through you.

I hope there’s some music in your life–a favorite song, the sound of your loved one’s laughter, or just the wind whispering through the trees. I hope there’s some good food and drink and even better company. I hope there is much love, and that all the little irritants that seem to slip between loved ones in our daily journey can be set aside so only the love remains.

I am mindful that for some, even the simplest of these hopes seems a fantasy. Some lives are mired in difficulties that make my life seem like a heaven in comparison. I have no savior complex. I’ll likely not change that. Not for every one in every place anyway. I am captain of no ship but my own, and the challenges of that job are quite enough. But if my ship can be a refuge and place of rest for someone else for a bit then I hope to have the wisdom and compassion to provide that refuge.

For who knows? Today’s abundance may become tomorrow’s want. Most all of us are adrift in wild seas from time to time. So we must savor the blessings while we have them. Even if the only blessing is but a breath, breath means life and life means possibility. And what a gift possibility is. Sail sweetly friends. There is a great big horizon out there, and who knows what lies beyond?

Categories: Miscellany | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Five Miles

Five miles really isn’t anything. A very finite and relatively short number of steps and breaths. A tiny percentage of one’s life. Pick your feet up, put your feet down. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat until you are done. And you are done almost before you know it.

Doesn’t that sound easy? To someone fairly fit or who trains consistently, it generally is. To a person that isn’t particularly fit–or that is positively unfit–the experience can be everything but easy.

I ran five miles today. In a race. With a number pinned on my chest. I am not terribly unfit but my training has been very inconsistent this year so I am not especially fit either. I was looking forward to the race, but also dreading it a bit. I haven’t fit five full miles together all year. Until today.

You need to know this for only one reason–that if I can do it, you likely can as well. Yes, there are people with real health issues that preclude them from running at all. I’m not suggesting that anyone who has a serious health risk just lace up and try to put in five miles. But most people don’t have serious health risks. Yet. Most people can run or walk or bike or whatever. They just don’t. They have other priorities. Trust me, I have been there. Motivation is a constant struggle. But the science is pretty clear on this one. While there are no guarantees and sometimes exceptions, the fact is active people tend to live not only longer, but better. By better I mean they enjoy their lives more. They feel better physically and emotionally. In the long run, it is a far greater risk to not move one’s body than to move it.

Five miles really isn’t anything. But for you (or me) it might mean everything. It might mean the difference between an old age spent with serious chronic disease or an old age without. I might mean the difference between actually living into a happy old age or not living at all. It might mean the difference between enjoying the other things one enjoys for years to come or having that enjoyment cut short. Five miles isn’t anything, but it could change everything.

So why not carve out some time this week and find your five miles? Maybe it starts with one mile. Maybe it’s just walking. Maybe it’s in a canoe or on a bike. Your five miles can be on whatever you want it to be. Running isn’t for everyone. You don’t have to be like anyone else. Just move. It will improve your life. It will give you confidence and relieve stress and give you better health. And chances are you’ll meet some fantastic people and enjoy some real fun along the way. You’ll have stories to tell about yourself rather than stories about others to watch on the television. You’ll come to find that moving doesn’t just improve living–it is living. I mean, on a primal level isn’t that what separates the living and the dead? The living wiggle while the dead can’t. Yet so many of the living squander this basic gift of life–the ability to move. To get out and live life.

My last post I encouraged folks to run for Boston. I still think that’s a good reason to get out and move. But if you do that, I hope you get the pleasant surprise of finding out that really, you are running for yourself. We can honor and remember and inspire others, but the only life we get to live is our own. So live. Actively. Actually. Five miles. Do it.

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Let’s Talk About Money

Specifically, let’s discuss the reality that I have very little of it these days.

I cannot lie, since leaving my previous career path last summer there just isn’t as much of the green stuff to go around in my world these days. I also will not pretend that the lack of green doesn’t cause moments of occasional stress. My life is different. There is a good deal less sureness in my world. I have to think before I spend and decide exactly how to pay which bills in what order. I have to bounce things around a bit to make sure there is food in the cupboard and fuel in the heater. I have to work harder to make sure the lights stay on and the debts are paid. I really didn’t plan to be at this place at the age of fifty.

Having said all that, some truths are emerging. I’m discovering things I knew but didn’t believe. For instance, a person really can be happy with less. The list of things we need is much, much smaller than we believe. I continue to have food and shelter, my bills are being paid, and with these things I am learning  to be content. The truth is I have an unhealthy attachment to stuff, despite a lifetime of preaching against materialism. Addiction comes in many forms. Some addictions obviously bring great suffering into the world, but all of them do to some degree. Just because I can’t see the sweatshop conditions that exist to meet my wants because those conditions are around a corner of the world, doesn’t mean those conditions don’t exist or that I am not contributing to them.  So if I can make a dent in that reality, even a small one, my lack of “disposable income” not only can be but is an actual improvement in the world. In that very real sense I am better off with less.

I’m also seeing the truth of what Jesus said about  worrying. It can’t make single hair blond or black (but it can certainly make them gray or perhaps even fall out). We spend so much time living where we are not. Maybe it’s a past that cannot be changed or a future that cannot seen. Maybe it’s in the places we imagine to be the halls of power such as Washington or London or Berlin or the corporate boardrooms on Wall Street. Why is it so hard to see the irony here? When we imagine the halls of power to be in other places and the decisions of power to be in other people we create that reality in ourselves. We actually give other people control of the state of our minds and hearts.

While certainly we should speak to the things we understand to be evil in the world (firmly, carefully, with gentleness and grace), we must not make the mistake of surrendering the power of our lives to others. We do this when we invest in actual circumstance as opposed to our management of our response to it. The question is not what will or will not happen–but how will we live whatever happens? Will we live whatever happens? Many is the soul who has found more life even in death itself than others who have biologically existed into old age but never really seen anything beautiful or lovely or praiseworthy because they kept waiting on circumstance to meet their expectation–because they kept living somewhere other than where they actually were and thereby not really living at all.

So, I find myself with less these days but actually having more. No, “having” is not the word I’m looking for. Our lives do not consist of the abundance of the things we possess. Living is actually the word I am looking for. Embracing uncertainty, breathing deeply, finding joy even in mundane labor. Savoring my life and the people in it and the small acts of generosity I am graced to give and receive. Tasting my food and drink with mindfulness and seeing the beauty and tragedy in the world all around me every day. When I think about it like this, less really is more. But it’s not having–it’s being.

Categories: Mind, Miscellany, Spirit | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Eclectic Lives

You have likely noticed my blog is a bit eclectic–a post on fitness is followed by a post waxing spiritual or philosophical which is followed by a post about the natural world or backpacking or fly fishing or whatever. The thought has crossed my mind that I would likely get more readers if I stuck to a more specified theme or developed more than one blog and built each around a particular topic. Such an approach suits the Western mind which is very adept at classifying and compartmentalizing. We have a work life and a home life and a personal life and spiritual life and on and on and on it goes. Sometimes we even consciously act to keep these aspects of life apart from one another.

But a simple truth of our living is that try as we might, our life doesn’t have neat little compartments that we walk into and out of. Life is in fact holistic–the different aspects of our lives interact with one another constantly on both conscious and subconscious levels. Work seeps over into home and vice versa. Our health affects just about everything we do and how  we view the world can have much to do with both our mental and physical health.

Additionally, everything we do as individuals happens interactively with the rest of the world as whole, including not only human culture but also our impact on the natural world in which the human culture exists and upon which it depends. Truly no one is an island, and even should we try that act itself would influence in its own way.

So my blog will stay eclectic because my life is–because our human life is and all life is. While I will no doubt emphasize certain topics due to my experience and interests, I will try to keep myself open to new ideas and experiences. No human mind can learn it all nor experience it all, at least not while wrapped in the finitude of our current existence, but it seems to me that the wider our experience here the deeper and richer it will be. And since we are here, living and breathing and learning and loving, why not engage everything with all the depth and richness we can?

Categories: Body, Mind, Miscellany, Nature, Outdoors, Spirit | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Your Life Is (Now)

The present. The only life we actually possess. Regardless of spiritual persuasion the life that counts is right now.

I have become a person reluctant to speak in absolutes. There is just so much more to what I don’t know than what I do. So both humility and reality encourage care in the the choice of words, and absolute words easily stray beyond that care into recklessness. But I speak absolutely today about living the life we have been given in each moment we are given it.

Everyone has a worldview, and everyone’s worldview contains an element of faith. By that, I mean only that we interpret our experiences and knowledge and are forced to say “I believe” about a great many things. There are things we can’t “know” in the same sense we know things by experiencing them. Even history is an exercise in faith–I believe a person called “George Washington” existed though I have never met him and cannot absolutely prove the evidence for him isn’t an elaborate hoax (wouldn’t THAT be a hoot!).

Even so, amidst this uncertainty, I remain convinced the life we have right now is what matters most. Not the life we have had–gone into glory or gloom and never to be recouped. Nor the the glory or gloom we might have at some uncertain point in this life or the next. But the life we have right now. Today. This hour. This moment.

Every person who reads this will have a history–some good stuff and some bad. If much of that history is negative, will it then become our present and then become our destiny? Will we be ruled by the hurts of history? So much of the world is in slavery to what has been. How needless this is. How much suffering it causes.

Every person who reads this will believe something about a life beyond this place. Some will believe it exists, some will believe it doesn’t. Some will be unsure which way the evidence points. What all these perspectives have in common is right now. Right now matters if you don’t believe in something beyond this place because this is literally the only life you will ever have. This is your golden ticket. Mark the cosmos constructively now with your presence–with your passion and compassion–because there are no “do overs”.  As Andy DuFrame said in The Shawshank Redemption, get busy living or get busy dying.

Maybe you do believe there is something beyond this place–if so I am with you–I envision a life beyond. But it pains me greatly when I see so many who believe in something beyond just treading water here. Waiting for a glory to come without thought to the fact that right now is the starting point to everything that will be. Transcendent glory must be tasted now to be devoured later. If there is a next life, surely the trajectory of this life will determine the destination in that one. So, are we busy living or busy dying? Loving or fearing? Trudging or triumphing?

Or maybe you haven’t a decided position. Is death a wall or hall? What does it matter? The moment still stands. Now. The life you have. We humans are so different in outlook and understanding, but this great truth binds us all–life comes to each exactly the same way. Some of us seize the day we have and become fully alive. Some of us don’t, or won’t. And that will make all the difference.

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Forest Folk

With the large amount of time I have spent in the woods lately, it would be unjust for me not to mention the forest folk I have become acquainted with. No, I am not referring to elves and sprites, but I have been in some magical places that if such creatures exist they surely call such places home. I am referring to the people who I have shared work with over the last few weeks, clearing trails and roads of blown down limbs and trees from a fairly severe storm we had this past June.

For instance there is Mark. Mark fights fires for the US Forest Service in the summer and teaches people to ski in the winter. He is a beast with a chain saw and remembers about 97% of the jokes he has heard in his lifetime (which is more than a few because he is in his mid-fifties). He eats hot peppers in the same way people generally eat apples (I mean that literally!) and tunes in to NPR in the truck every morning. Did I mention he wears his hair is cut in a Mohawk and and he has about six inches of braid hanging from his beard?

And there is Andy. Andy repairs musical instruments for a living. I watched him carry a chainsaw eight miles one day, refusing every offer to give him a break. Andy remembers 99.4% of the funny lines he’s heard in movies or from comedians and still laughs at the retelling. He also offered to let several of us camp on his property for free. Pretty generous, when you consider how people camping for a week while working tend to smell.

Then there is Sarah. Sarah is a flower child. She grows them for a living. At least she did until her crop failed this year and she decided to take the summer off–a decision she described as less than lucrative but that she doesn’t seem to regret. Sarah is easy to talk to and just seems to enjoy being alive. She isn’t afraid of work and utterly ignores the fact that she is the lone woman in the group. She is probably better on the crosscut saw than I, but don’t tell her I said that. She is off on an adventure out west when she is finished working this gig with the USFS.

Also there is Adam. Adam is into telemark skiing. He is currently letting a kid from out west stay at his place for free. A kid he had never met until his brother showed up at his door with this kid in tow. Adam looks at the forest with the wonder of a child, and is easily distracted by interesting plants and mushrooms and the like. But he will work hard when the need arises, and is sometimes heard singing while he does.

Then there is my own son. It has been such a pleasure watching him pitch in and do work. In his own way, he loves the woods every bit as much as I do, as well as the things that live there. He grabbed a black rat snake along the trail the other day, and it grabbed him right back. He calmly pried it off and after admiring it for a bit turned it loose on its wild way. He came off the hardest day on the trail pumped up and ready to do it again. Ah, the fire and fitness of youth!

My words don’t do these people the least bit of justice. Each has been a pleasure and blessing to be around. They all smile most of the time. They all laugh easily. They all tell good stories. They all pitch in and share loads and food and water. I’m really gonna miss them, and maybe that will give them a bit of the justice my words can’t.

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Making a Life

Recently, I foolishly did the wisest thing I have ever done. I quit a job that paid quite well in the midst of this terrible economy. There were many reasons for my stepping away from a career that spanned nearly a quarter-century, but the simplest is that I could find no life in that particular work any more. Trading life to “make a living” is far more foolish than trading financial security to find life, even if on the surface it appears otherwise, because time is the one commodity we can never recoup. I long to make more than a living–I long to make a life.

That foolishly wise decision has been followed by a terrible and wonderful insight. I have no interest whatsoever in “finding a job”. I want to make it clear that I have no issue with working. Working honestly and properly balanced with the rest of life pays the soul as much or more than it pays the bills. But I know too many people just dying for Friday to arrive and dreading every Monday.  The key word there is “dying”.  Slogging through five days in the hope of living for two is a devil’s bargain, a subtle slavery in which I have no interest.

Jesus said “Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” This begs a question–what am I looking for, and what doors am I knocking on? We tend to impose “religious” teachings on Jesus’ words but he seemed far more concerned with just living. “I have come so that you may have life, and have it to the full.” That doesn’t sound like one of my old Sunday sermons. Go looking for a job or a way to pay the bills and that is likely all we will find. Perhaps it is time to look for something bigger.

My wife, in a brief discussion of this subject, immediately asked me “How do I do that?” She is big on the practical side of things and I appreciate her for it. I’m an idea guy, and idea guys need people who asked hard practical questions. Immediately two words came to mind. Passion and compassion. Whatever I do with my days needs to be able to feed the passion for living in my heart. But it also needs to be larger than my ego and my selfish tunnel vision. It needs to feed my life but also the life of the larger world. We aren’t discussing the smallness of selfishness here, but the largeness of  living fully and returning that life we have been given back to the larger Life from which we all spring.

But what of revenue? We all need money, right? Generally yes (though often not as much as we suppose). I know only that Jesus said we weren’t to worry about tomorrow, that God clothes the flowers and feeds the birds and will certainly feed me as well if I seek what matters. And one of the most successful business people I know told me recently that he always felt if he tended to what was important the revenue would come. Again, not without activity, but certainly without worry and without making money one of my little gods. So here I sit with a strange peace, having found something to do with my hands for a few weeks, something that taxes my body yet frees my mind, something that pays enough to buy food and pay the bills and leave me content. And that is enough.

Categories: Mind, Spirit | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Passage

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,

And a time to die…”

So begins the third chapter of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Such a statement isn’t revelation, only observation. As I type, the days grow shorter and the nights longer. The leaves on the trees have begun to shed their summery green and some are already tinged with the hue of autumn. The clock ticks, the earth rotates as it orbits the sun, another day is born only to die and give birth to another. The mystical dance of life and death goes on with every rhythmic second.

Passing is on my mind today. Today is the burial day of a young police officer killed here in my home state last week in the line of duty. By all accounts he was a fine young man, very much alive, trying only to serve others. I did not know him personally, but know several who did. And yesterday, I sat by the bedside of a friend soon to leave us. I was blessed to offer her a drink for comfort and to say a prayer with her and hold her hand. She drifted in and out of lucidity, and at times her eyes were focused on Something not of this place.  Her husband and grown children were present, and Love sat with us, so real that the five physical senses could almost define it.

So passing is on my mind. Not in a spirit of depression, but only in the sense of how birth and death mark the boundary of our time here. I emphasize “here”. I am not certain at all they mark the boundary of our time. Not certain at all. In fact, I strongly suspect they are about as real as the imaginary boundaries we draw upon the face of the earth and call borders. That death is a passage not a passing.  But that is a matter of faith, and we will save it for another day.

Today, I only wish to take note of  that shadow on my horizon. It approaches, but I am not afraid. I am determined only to make the most of the days I have, be they many or few.  To savor the love of wife and family and friends and give it back. To be a blessing where I have opportunity. To draw strength from the beauty around me. To live while I’m alive. Passing is on my mind, but living is in my heart.


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