Rumi – Why I love him..

A Teacher’s Pay, by Rumi

God has said Be Moderate with eating and drinking,
but never, Be Satisfied when taking in light.

God offers a teacher the treasures of the world,
and the teacher responds, “To be in love with God

and expect to be paid for it!” A servant wants
to be rewarded for what he does. A lover wants

only to be in love’s presence, that ocean
whose depth will never be known.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I love Rumi. It’s that simple. I know, I know: Join the bandwagon. But there’s a reason bandwagons exist, isn’t there?

There are those men and women who are able to reach far beyond the superficialities of gender, nationality, or even time, and expose that which is in themselves in such a way that it is begun to be revealed in ourselves. We are probably not- not yet- as eloquent as they are about what we have discovered in ourselves, through their courage in writing; but isn’t it thrilling to know that what they have uncovered strikes a chord within us- one that we are able to begin to hear?

I love Rumi because he makes my body sing.

He tells me why I can lose myself in the magenta of a swamp mallow, or in the flight of a heron from one side of the lake to the other. I look up at the sky and know almost nothing about what I’m seeing, but I love looking anyway. And I share that ignorance with everyone at some point in the depths of space- we are all a part of a Mystery whose depth cannot be known, yet we are attracted to it, bound together by our attraction to it, and each other, and all that is.

My curiosity is insatiable. Don’t tell me to put a lid on it or tear away at the edges of it! There is Light there somewhere and what I know is that the Light will lead to more Light, and that it someday will absorb me and on that day I will be a part of the symphony and I, and you, and the swamp mallow, and the heron, and you, too, will resound eternally.

Rumi tells me it’s OK to think that way. I believe him.

"Road Hazards Affect Driving Conditions"

That was the top-of-the-page headline in this week’s local paper. Really.

In a small Texas town, it’s sometimes a challenge for editors to fill a paper with enough “news” to be able to pretend that it’s the news, and not the advertising, that is the reason for the paper’s existence. This is not to say, of course, that the local paper doesn’t have its share of “normal” bad and unsettling news, but the weeks between “Major Drug Bust on West Side of Town” and “Local Man’s Death Going to Grand Jury” are way more numerous than they are in, say, Dallas or Fort Worth.

So why do I love reading the local paper each week? It’s precisely because headlines about driving conditions are the norm and not the exception. Local newspapers do not have as their primary purpose the scaring of their readers into a state of fear and submission to advertisers for more information about pharmaceuticals, better security systems, and this weekend’s local Gun Shows. Small town newspapers, quaint and funny as they sometimes are, reflect lifelong local attitudes that have been shaped by less noise, less hurry, and- around here anyway- this:

moon crop 

This is the moon. I can see it almost every night, along with stars, planets, and the occasional meteorite. If it’s not cloudy, I can watch the sun rise and set by looking east or west from my backyard. If it is cloudy, I can join the rest of the town in hoping that it rains, or snows. Snow here is not only rare and pretty, but, like the rain, life-giving. It’s not an inconvenience on the 40 minute morning commute through traffic fumes and toll booths. It’s moisture for the fields, ponds for both the cattle and coyote, and the promise of springtime wildflower extravaganzas.

The rhythms of rural areas and small towns are determined by the land upon which they sit and the skies under which they are nestled. Going to bed with the glow of the moon coming through the bedroom windows is- for me- a far superior way to go to sleep, than with the light from street lamps, Taco Bells, and passing police and fire trucks ever was. (24 years in Dallas; almost 5 years here)

And while I have no way of measuring it quantitatively, I wonder often how it is to experience such an earth and sky centered existence for a lifetime? I wonder about that because, having lived in both urban and rural settings, I observe a richer awareness by people here in the countryside of where their humanity is rooted. The explosion of wildflowers every spring may, for some people here, become passe. Nonetheless, they are seeing them; the colors are filling their minds whether they are aware of it happening, or not. The Big Sky they have looked up at everyday since they were bouncing in backyard strollers,  is an ever-present reminder that humans are not at the top of any apex concocted in a corporate boardroom or automobile showroom.

I wonder about those things, because not only do I observe them, I feel them. I can hear ducks out at the lake, coyotes in the early evening, and the rustling of mesquite and mimosa trees almost anytime. I can see people I know driving by the house. I never hear obscenities like “Hump Day” and “TGIF” from people bound to share their misery at work that day with me. I feel the calm of the moon on the horizon and I feel a serenity in the calloused hands of ranchers as well as in the sounds of the Friday marching band on the football fields a few blocks away. I’m reminded of truths which really matter- like, ‘road hazards affect driving conditions.‘ And I’m not so prone to be addled by the subtle but relentlessly fearsome noise of emergency vehicles and morning drive time.

I have a clearer, more ready, less encumbered, and desirous view of this:

wildflower

Tao Te Ching 5

 

The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn’t take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold on to the center.

When we fall into the clutches of judgement, we fall away from the embrace the Tao. As we seek the image of ourselves in others, we turn our backs on the Image of God in everyone.

It is there: in the confusion of Love, the misperceptions of Beauty, and the ignorance of Truth, the Source of perfect Love, universal Beauty, and unfolding Truth, is still to be recognized. We can perceive it. We can, even if it is only a hunch, be assured of its Presence. We can begin to be embraced again,  and we can be healed of ourselves.

Our tethers to the heart of God are those who live in wonder, whose questions outnumber the answers they’ve found, and whose lives are lived in perceptible and widening circles of inclusion. In those persons, and in each blade of grass and every towering oak, we can touch the Tao.

Flaming Lips- "Do You Realize?"

Miranda, one of my favorite bloggers (here), began some discussion about the Flaming Lips song, “Do You Realize?” It was a song I’d never heard of, but now have watched the video of about ten times since she brought it to my attention. Watch it, then tell me or tell her what you think. Or read what my son says about it – AFTER YOU”VE WATCHED IT! He’s nailed it. (Like son, like father..that is so much fun to say!)

An excerpt of my son Joshua’s comments on this video:

“That’s pretty heavy: Death, then, is only an illusion. It’s not an end, it’s not even real, and certainly not something to fear or dread. Hmm…

“From where I’m sitting, the sun is setting outside my window. But it’s not setting. Nor is the sun rising elsewhere. The sun isn’t even moving. And that is what The Lips want us to see, that we speak and think in antiquated terms. That the definitions of our world (and ourselves) are still flat conceptually.

“Now you’re job is to let your loved ones know that. Only, of course, you can’t, because you don’t know that yourself yet, because it’s the hardest thing you will ever come to know, so hard only the best among us ever figure it out.

“And here we see what the song is really trying to do. It’s not trying to tell you that you’re going to be okay because the worst thing that’s going to happen to you in your life is that you will die, and that dying isn’t that bad, because dying is just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.

“No, it’s asking you to tell that to someone else. Knowing that if you can tell someone else that, and explain it to them so they will understand it and be comforted by it, then you just might begin to understand it yourself. And what a thing that would be. “

(I love it when it when I get to learn stuff from the younger ones. Really! Thanks, Miranda. Thanks, Joshua. I love you, too! And you get it- that’s too cool!)

Build a Shelter of Light and Air..

I ran across this phrase, and it fascinates me:

shelter light and air

It is fascinating to me because of its Simplicity and Truth. And that Simplicity and Truth is found not only in the images or recollections which the phrase gives rise to in our imaginations or memories; it is the clean nature of the statement itself.

Build a shelter of light and air

Stated in the imperative, it is like a command that has been waiting to be spoken. It is a place which I am perceived to be ready for now- by whom?- and being invited to enter. But first- the imperative- there is work to be done, assembly to be undertaken.

The first task, for me, is disassociation from those things- things, stuff, material- that I have allowed to define me and, in the process, bend me. Because that is what stuff does, it bends the shape of the Image of God, the humanity in us, into the shape of whatever shiny baubles attract us. I have learned to feel my way in the dark with my wallet. I breathe in the smog of others’ desires for me to have the satisfaction that only they can sell to me. I am vulnerable and I have been injured, over and over, because I have traded too many times the security I was born with- the security of community with others- for the individual and illusory safety of bank account numbers and one more gadget.

I have forgotten so much about sharing. But I have remembered enough to know that holding my hands outward, toward others, is eminently more rewarding than holding them clenched and thrust within my pockets. I want to make room for the Image of God to be growing again, through the presence of others, and not stunted any longer through the weight of all my stuff. So it begins there.

The second task is to “let there be light.” Yes, that Light. The Light that comes not from the sun, and certainly not from any incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs; I want more of the Light the ancient rabbis called First Understanding. I want the Light of more Knowledge, yes, but even more than that, I want the Light of Appreciation and Acceptance of what I already do know. I want to spend less and less time criticizing, evaluating, deciding, and then second-guessing, than I do in feeling passionately about and cultivating the facts, ideas, and opinions that are already in me and that I know to be valuable. I want to continue moving from whatever is dark in me, toward that which is Light, and awaits me.

And then, to breathe. I want to breathe through walls which separate me from the pulse of the world around me. I want the Air, the lightness of being which surrounds us all, to be the only barrier between myself and others. I do not want to fight for air behind musty walls of tradition, or within stale spaces of ancient standards. I no longer want to gasp for air within the stench of dogmatic death.

I want to feel the ruach, the breath of God, always blowing against me, always being drawn into my being. I want to feel led by the Spirit into open spaces, and not pushed by the status quo against the brick walls of fear built by others.

I want to build a structure of Light and Air with others, for others, because of others, and live there, too.

That is the only structure, a structure of Understanding and Freedom, that will withstand the onslaught of those who live, instead, in forts, ready to fight and die for the beliefs they cherish and store within dark, thick, impermeable walls. It is the Structure of Light and of Air in which I will live and toward which I am moving.

I beg you to come along. We will need each other, to help each other disassemble, unpack, and even tear down some of what we thought, by ourselves, was precious. We will need each other to remind the other that the Light is sometimes uncomfortable but always illuminating, and that the Air is often harsh and cold, even as it is life-giving and clean.

We will build a structure of Light and of Air and we will say, “Welcome” to all who come nearby.

e e cummings..birthday

he was born in 1894 so

if he were alive today he’d be dead anyway

along with dos passos he took the cubes being painted in europe and transposed them into the poetry that has been shaping music  and literature ever since

here

i shall imagine life by e e cummings

i shall imagine life
is not worth dying,if
(and when)roses complain
their beauties are in vain
but though mankind persuades
itself that every weed’s
a rose,roses(you feel
certain)will only smile

I watched the moon last night and it was so beautiful I had to stop..

From the movie, “Grand Canyon,” this tiny snatch of dialog:

Dee: “Jane, do you ever feel like you are just this far from being completely hysterical twenty four hours a day?”

Jane: “Half the people I know feel that way. The lucky ones feel that way. The rest of the people ARE hysterical twenty four hours a day.”

~~

There is this place, by Jacksboro Lake on a southwest bluff, where I have spent days (weeks?) over the past four years, losing myself and then having to go find myself again.

Last night, just after dark, I took my dogs there so that they would anchor me to reality in the way I knew I needed to be anchored. The moon was full; “full” as in “ready to give birth.” Maybe, I thought, to me. (Again)

I sat on the end of the most ergonomically awful concrete picnic table ever designed. I can’t sit still anyway, even in the most comfortable of places, but that place at the table was the perfect view of the moon itself and the slowly pulsing green-then-white guidelight of a nearby airport’s single runway. So I sat, and stared. At the moon, and into a mirror.

I am at a time of year, professionally, when a series of planning, administrative, and evaluation meetings are looming. I have said “yes” to a few too many other responsibilities in the community as well, and they feel oppressing- despite their value and necessity. On top of that, always on top of that- through all that, under and around all that- my Mom is dying slowly of Alzheimer’s, and the last few days have brought bad news and more bad news about her slow descent into a brain functionless body.

And my laptop is not working, so I am trapped inside walls, beneath a ceiling, and when I look up from this keyboard I see wires in the wall and not the sky or the neighbor’s soaring pine trees. And I need that sky, and those trees, as frequent reminders that I am not what I am feeling: a mere set of wires myself, in the wall of others.

We all have a God-enabled, generations-old template of Beauty in our souls. We recognize Beauty from a distance and are drawn to it. The particulars of that Beauty for each of us differs; there are those parts of it we all share, and there are those parts of Beauty which have been particularly with each of us, I think, from our conception.

We can stand in a crowd and collectively be in awe of a particular sunsrise or moonscape. Some will weep, others will try, try, try, to share with others how that Beauty within has been touched. Some will even leave litter or denigrating comments behind them after such an experience, but it is only because they are afraid of how they have been touched by the Beauty they try to culturally suppress. Even in their brash and ugly actions, they are confirming Beauty’s affectiveness.

Or, by ourselves, or with a small (always small) group of others, we might discover Beauty that is so particular, so meaningful only to us, that we will wonder why others are walking away in seeming boredom, possible confusion, or what we might mistakenly call their blindness. van Gogh saw such Beauty in the potato-eater’s rough lodgings. Picasso saw it the screaming of a dying horse. O’Keefe saw it deep within the folds- there!- of desert flowers.

I see such particular Beauty- a field of wildflowers, for instance- that I cannot help but wade into, touch as many colors as I can, watch insects symbiotically propogating, write snatches of poetry about in my mind, thank God for, get lost in to the point where my name and whatever else I hang onto that I ‘think’ is important become meaningless, and wonder why others won’t or can’t follow, or why others must talk about football scores or fashion, or.. why something must be wrong with me to react so crazily, so often, to these kinds of visions.

And then, I react in a truly crazy, not mistakenly crazy way: I want that field of wildflowers. I want to build a wall around it or put up No Trespassing signs. If others can’t/won’t appreciate it, then I’ll just go there by myself. Those kinds of ridiculous thoughts, I know, do not not come from the God-Image in me or anything else that is real, but from the culture in which I have also been immersed since conception. I want what I cannot have, allow myself to get frustrated because it is not mine, and then remember- back in the day- how I could pour brown liquids on the whole damn egoistic-societal-cultural mess in my mind and make it go away. For awhile. For a very short while.

No, I am not even close to going down that wet dead-end path again. But I have been warring with myself about where, why, and who I am, and I am trying to find a way to surrender. I am in a profession, and have made numerous other bad and good lifestyle decisions, that have caused me not to have deep roots in this place I live, or anywhere else. I will never have the experiences of rootedness that others around me have, and I would like to. I am subject to being told to move elsewhere in my job as well. I don’t think I can do that again. I need more permanence, more anchors; I don’t want to float away, from myself or anyone else.

And I don’t want to be watching my Mom die, day by day, while always hoping that tomorrow will be The Day.

I want to flee to the wildflower field. I want to be drunk on the colors there, and write about them on my laptop there, and turn to others and say “Look!” and know they will be excited as I am to be there, too.

I want I want I want what I cannot have in the way I want it, when I want it, and how I want it. I am a pistol-whipped, selfish Westerner and salt is being rubbed into my wounds by Beauty. But, oddly enough, I would have it no other way. And that is the realization I have come to and that is the understanding which keeps me sane, functioning and getting better.

My wants are unrealistic, artificially-inspired to some extent by my status as an American consumer, and even fanciful. Beauty is real. But Beauty is only to be perceived- owned!- on its own terms. Beauty is, has been, and will always be. I am the impermanent one in this relationship. How silly it is of me to try to squash it to the point where I can have it my pocket, or exclude others from sharing it. So I am embracing and holding onto that part of the wildflower field, or the moon, or my dog’s exuberance, which is mine to hold onto, and letting the rest thrive- for others to react to as they will, and not as I think they should.

I am, like Jane (far above), always becoming more and more comfortable in feeling hysterical. You’d think I’d have gotten used to the particular music to which my mind and spirit dance by now, but sometimes the beat is just too fast for me to keep up. Make of it what you will, but that’s where I’ve been, and I’m feeling pretty darn good, most of the time, for having been there. And for being here. Now.

~~

 

Also from “The Grand Canyon”:
Mack: Of course, it would also be nice not to feel bad most of the time.

Dee: Yeah, but that’s how you get yourself in trouble. By thinking how nice it’d be to be happy more.

 

Google Earth (and Sky)

Like most people, I’ve looked at the rooftop of every place I’ve ever lived, flown from Texas to Paris a dozen times, and tried to see what my kids were doing in NYC and Boston. Google Earth never ceases to fascinate.

And apparently, it never will. Recently added to the program is the ability to explore the skies. (And you can get it here: google earth (and sky!)) You can choose specific coordinates, a particular planet, star, or region. Or, you can see the sky directly above wherever you happen to be at the moment, as I’ve done in the pictures below:

Here’s where I live. Right in the middle of the picture is a fairly empty block, with a D-shaped driveway. That’s me.

GoogleEarth_Image

Directly above me, is this:

GoogleEarth_Image(2)

And deep, deep above me is this. To get there involved flying through what looked to be a snowstorm of other galaxies. But, I made it:

GoogleEarth_Image(3)

I don’t know much about the sky, but I’m learning. And Google is helping- a lot, from my layman’s point of view. Google is continuing, from my point of view, to “not be evil.”

Beauty Over the Years..a video

This is a fascinating compilation of Hollywood actresses from the 20s through today..It is the same format as the collection of women in art which was popular several months ago. But it is revealing in some interesting ways, too:

1. There is a “sameness.” These are beautiful women, but they are within a narrow definition of beauty. It is a standard that has more to do with genetics, but there are millions of teenage girls who struggle outside of that standard, and millions of teenage boys on fruitless quests to find it.

2. Sophia Loren still wins. Hands down. Don’t even try to argue with me.