Monday, March 30, 2020

Uncommon Sense -
Finding Wholeness in a Shattered World

Imagine a world of wholeness, where everything is contained in everything else and we are all part of each other, like drops of water in a pond. On that imaginary planet, the reality is that things are not what they appear to be: objects are not separate, apart and solitary, but all are part of the same thing, like facets of a jewel. And everything sensed and experienced on that planet comes from a shared and common ground of existence, as the inhabitants realize that they are all manifestations of an incarnating, creative spirit or, from a naturalist perspective, the result of binding an underlying sea of energy into building blocks of particles that, in turn, form larger, visible objects.
Of course, I'm saying that imaginary world of wholeness is actually our own planet, that all of us are part of each other and, indeed, are part of the earth itself. We are generally unaware of that basic underlying fact because at least three things sustain our illusion of self-hood, of being alone and apart when, actually, we are not that way at all.
1. Language divides the world into separate subjects and objects, operated on by verbs.
2. Our senses - touch, taste, small, vision and hearing - indicate, on a physically built-in level of awareness, that each of us is a unique individual separated from everything else, which we apprehend through the senses.
3. Social custom and tradition reinforce the idea of being alone and isolated from each other and the world. We are trained from early awareness that this is the way the world is and have little encouragement to consider other possibilities for explaining how reality works. Even questioning the basic tenets of the world view we inhabit can seem absurd and heretical.
In fact, I cannot convince you with words or mathematics to reexamine the foundational premises and axioms on which our shared world view is constructed. There are no logical theorems or mathematical formulas I can use to convince you to change your mind, nor can I ask you to take what I say even on faith, because each of those methods relies on higher cognitive functions while the underlying ground of being to which I'm referring operates on a much lower, nearly pre-cognitive level because it is the baseline of our existence. So, how do we get there?
I suggest going into nature, wherever you can find someplace to be completely away from other people, whether it's a forest, a desert, a river bank, the sea shore, a high plateau, a mountain ridge, even a park, someplace, any place, where you and you alone can immerse yourself in nature and, in that isolated place, ask one question: "Is this all there is?" Meaning, is what you're experiencing at that moment the sum total of existence, all this vista and creatures around me? Then be quiet and just listen. If the answer you hear is "Yes," then you've simply had a hopefully enjoyable experience outdoors. And I include in this answer any traditional religion, philosophy or spirituality that divides the world instead of uniting it.
But if the answer is "No" or "Maybe not," then you begin a journey of miraculous discovery and you will never be the same again. You will realize that you are not just connected to everything else, but are actually part of, and contained in, everything else. Your very values will change, as you will want to unify, to enlighten, to harmonize and to heal with the world around you and of which you are now a conscious part of and not apart from. You will find yourself on a new path on which you will increasingly want to interact with yourself and others with kindness, patience, humility and respect born from unity and harmony.
In that society of newly-changed people, we will seek cooperation, not competition, because what sense does it make to compete against others when all it means is that we are working against ourselves? By working together, we can heal the planet instead of just using it, because we are healing ourselves as well.
Instead of consumerism, we need communalism, with the entire planet as our community, where everyone has shelter, food, health care, education, transportation, and engagement in productive activities. All of that is possible by working together and not against each other. We can finally have lives of accomplishment measured not by how many things we can make and sell, but in the amount of good we accomplish for each other and the planet. And we can get paid to do it because a market economy values whatever its users value, and now our values are changing. Let us achieve projects instead of making products.
Let robots and artificial intelligence make the widgets we need for a civilized life as they will eventually take over all production anyway. That will free us to nurture the planet, which makes sense if we think of it as a giant flower, with us as its gardeners, providing fertile soil, nutrients, clean water and fresh air so that the flower grows into its fullest potential as a strong, healthy, beautiful, vibrant plant and planet.
So go into nature, ask the question, "Is this all there is?" and follow the answer wherever it leads.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

      He came into my heart when I needed him most. The early January death of Riley, though expected, was nearly more than I could bear, and here I was, a dog man without a dog. It was not a good place to be and wasn't healthy as I found it harder without a dog to take me outside myself. I was trapped with my sorrow. Though Dido was still here, she also missed her brother, as did Zephram, her human companion.
     I waited four months before feeling emotionally ready for another dog, and Zephram took me to a local SPCA kennel. I was cautious but eager; what would I find? We walked to the first outdoor pen, and this face looked up at me, and I saw Riley in it, and I knew this was the dog Riley wanted me to have. He leaped up and into my heart. He chose me as much as I chose him. He had already been returned by two different families and we soon found out why with his rambunctious energy that would not make him good with children. He did bond with us, but there were issues. For a small dog he was strong, and, in his eagerness to explore and to run, he pulled his leash out of my hand several times on walks, then I had the joy of watching his curly-haired butt bounce down the road, having no idea where he was going, yet also not caring. Fortunately we caught him each time, and realized it would take time before he could be trusted to run free with us. Even now, six months later, that is only done on a limited basis and only when the 15-foot tie-out is securely fastened. Zephram and I are too old to be chasing Chief for long.
     Still, he has greatly improved. He taught me that he needed to poop immediately after supper, a lesson we learned many times the hard way. We took him, perhaps too soon, on a family trip to Maine in July and everything was new and needed to be barked at. It was a long trip in many ways, but we made it and he never ran away.

                                                           On the way to Maine with Dido

    He loves Dido, his bigger, older sister, and probably more than she loves him as he wants to play with her long after she's worn out and wants to be left alone. We're still working on that. In the evening, Chief assumes his drag name of Champagne, that's Miss Champagne to you. And he knows it as well as he does Chief. He's learning to rest during the day between walks and drives as he has an entire sofa on which to lay. He follows me upstairs at night and joins me in bed. Unlike Dido, he doesn't like to be covered up, even with his thin coat of hair which doesn't look that warm to me.  Now that it's winter, he sits in front of the coal stove and worships the fire god.

     He's learning our daily morning route that takes the dogs and I along the creek, and even in the creek when it's low enough. There's a path through the woods we also follow, at least usually, since he is easily distracted by smells and the neighboring farm dog who often comes over to join us. He is not good with other people, perhaps because he rarely sees them. We had old friends as Christmas guests and I thought at first things would go well when I let him greet them, but something happened as he suddenly turned and ferociously attacked Chuck,. even to drawing blood with a claw. I hastily put him upstairs where he and Dido stayed the rest of the visit. However, Michele later sent a beautiful water color she made of him.

     So that's where we are now. Chief is a beautiful incarnation of the spirit. Sometimes I try and project myself into his psyche, to get an idea of how the world looks through his eyes, since we are all facets of the same jewel. It's good practice to extend myself beyond myself and the illusion of separate individuality. I rejoice in him daily.

Friday, January 17, 2020

     It was a dark and stormy night. A truck was racing along a slick, leaf-covered lane, turning a corner in the rain. Suddenly, there appeared a lump on the road, then it moved. Brakes squealed as the truck skidded to a stop just in front of the figure that now had stopped moving. As the driver got out and approached the form, he noticed that it was a mass of matted fur, laying prostrate in the middle of the road. He picked it up and a limp head rolled back, showing a tiny, bony kitten whose legs moved slowly as he held it. 
     He brought it to the truck and got in, holding the kitten close to his neck as he began to drive slowly away from the curve in the road. Suddenly, there was a sound. The kitten yelped and came to life, clinging to the warmth of the driver's neck and pushing its head up under his chin. 
     This little creature had reached his solstice, the darkness of its brief existence and then, miraculously, began its journey towards life and light again.
     The kitten was named Chancey, saved by chance, and in a few months grew into a great, fluffy ball of fur, with yellow eyes and a flat face and an inquisitive personality. He followed us everywhere outside, discovering the world for the first time, every experience new and exciting. 
     Chancey's long, thick fur was brown and grey, striped along the back in an intricate pattern of golden swirls. He was a Celtic Seelie Wicht, a lucky cat from the other world, come through to charm and brighten our lives. 
     He is a reminder to me of other times of darkness that we pass through, always alone, unknowing if we will reach any form of light or clarity again, but knowing that we are no longer what we were going into the darkness.
     At this later date in our lives, we approach this new solstice with a seasoned eye to more change and loss, more death around us. We remember more than we hope, but this experience of going into the darkness one more time is the possibility of a magical change, a hand reaching out of the wet, cold darkness towards us, picking us up off the road as we lay unconscious, and offering us new life, a life beyond clutching for survival. 
     Nature shows us the cycle that our lives follow, and guides us slowly to our fate in the unknown, passing into the longest night, from the shortest day. 

From the brothers at the Hermitage, our best to you this holiday season.