“Through life it turns out we are all scientists—experiences our data- expression the release of our subjective results. We take it in through our collective senses, process it, consciously and subconsciously cross-reference and crunch the numbers, and then…whooosh! We let it out!… in whatever ways we’ve found works for us, or at least in the ways that are known to us. Through work, art, behavior, relationships, words, song, prayer, reflection, … in groups, or alone… we all, without external encouragement, find a way to appeal to our compulsion to “LET… IT… OUT”. We put ourselves into something- even if that something is simply the style or way we cut our food, the route we drive, or the way we organize our room or design a plan for the future. We feel we must express our perspective, even if subtly and only in the nuances of our daily motions, but still, in every act, gesture, and decision we put it out- doing things our way, seemingly, a necessity for living. Because we are driven and compelled by an often undetermined and undefinable inner desire to express ourselves, our ideas when documented almost effortlessly build on their own until…BANG! Our ideas often go from contained, abstract and lifeless to suddenly having an explosive definition, assuming a body, a form, and even a perceivable energetic theme. And strangely, believing we’d been doing nothing for quite sometime, it appears that we’d been working all along on a project right under our own nose.”
“I think, therefore I am” is based on the blind assumption that I can even exist at all apart from the basic interconnected systems of life, such as family, oxygen, nutrients, and the sun.
Even though I can think, my thinking self was not created in a vacuum. I did not just appear out of nowhere, independently self-actualized apart from everything else. I am, because all these other things are.
Whether or not your brain is in a vat, without the life supports and energy provided to you by the planet, your brain would not be able to contemplate whether the earth is real in the first place.
Life under the sun is impossible without the sun.
When life gives you lemons, don’t just go and make lemonade.
Look at those lemons. Hold them in your hand. Feel them and squeeze them and zoom in.
Then zoom out and see if you can tell which tree they fell from.
Then zoom back in. Peel the skin back and look inside. Really look. Do you recognize that lemon?
Take responsibility if that lemon is yours.
If it’s not, cut that thing up and make crazy awesome lemonade.
Or, if it suits you better leave the skin on and chuck that lemon as far as you can throw it. Watch it go until you can’t see it anymore, can’t remember what it looks like. Forget about it. Forget you ever laid eyes on it.
Sometimes lemons are so bad, they can’t make good lemonade. And that’s okay. There’s other good stuff to drink.
You won’t go thirsty.
Do what you have to do, you know?
photo via GooshoMatic
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Rainer Rilke Maria from Book of Hours, I 59
photo via the amazing shortformelissa
I have distinct memories from when I was younger, waking up in the morning before my mother came in to wake me and lying in my bed. So quiet. Nothing but the sound of the birds in the evergreen tree outside my window chirping. I would look up at the ceiling and trace a circle eight on the sheet beside me.
Over and over I would trace these eights. I can’t remember if I was thinking or what I was thinking, but I do remember feeling the rhythm of the movement and hearing the sound of my fingernails dragging against the sheet.
I remember at this same time of life doing something similar at school. Except with my feet. And on the baseball diamond. I would swing my feet backwards in half circles behind me. Fast. Like a dance. It would make the shape of eights, or one long “intestine”, as my friends would call it, in the baseball diamond sand. I would skate my eights across the sand. Again, the movement, the sound. Then I’d stop and look to see the shape I’d created in the sand.
There is something about this process. Movement eases the mind. As does sound. And if we can create something in the process, it is highly gratifying. Even if it’s “intestines.” It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be something. A sound, a mark in the sand. Something we can hear or see that reaffirms our existence, our very real place in this often surreal world.
This is what art is to me.
Art is not fancy paint and studios and lofty statements. Art is what comes out of you, be it pretty or ugly, sensible or foolish, small or large. It is the outward manifestation of our inner happenings. And it doesn’t matter what it is, only that it is and that it is done with our whole hearts.
Those figure eights in my bed didn’t leave a mark, and the ones in the baseball diamond sand blew away. Art, like life and everything in it, is temporal. But the process of making art is what stays with us, and is what is worth all of the effort and more in the end.
Recognize your art today.
photo by Andrea DiBello
When I was in Junior High I went away to Christian church camp. It was February. Snow on the ground, boots on my feet, mountains in every direction the eye could see. My friends had gone sledding, but I ventured off alone. I can almost still hear the crunch of the icy snow beneath my boots as I walked to the frozen lake for a view. There hadn’t been fresh snow in a while but the landscape was still very alive. It, and the crunching, kept me company.
And the sound of my exhale.
I stayed at the lake for as long as my extremities would stand for it, then wandered inside to the camp store where I sifted through the mostly uninteresting piles of books and trinkets. Back then it was cool to trick your backpack out with buttons and patches, so I bee-lined for the keychains in hopes of finding something to hang from the zipper of my bag. Something cool. Instead I found a silver heart that read:
This world is not my home
although it seems to be
My home is with my God
In the place He’s made for me
He’s coming back real soon
The signs are very clear
So when the trumpets sound
I’ll be out of here
Not much of the keychain made sense to me, save those first two lines. I bought it and wore it on my bag all throughout Jr. High. I read it often and took comfort in it. I’d always felt like a stranger in this place, on this planet. Like I didn’t quite belong. Like perhaps someone had dropped me here by accident, or on purpose only with the wrong set of instructions.
I suppose in this way, my place in creation, surrounded by mountains, has been alone. Loneliness is as much a part of me as my brown eyes, and I have always experienced just enough of it to keep me seeking, searching, crying out for help.
Loneliness is in me.
In the quiet hours of tramping the snow alone, in those moments where the world goes silent and you can only hear the sound of your own breathing, and the biting air whistle in your ears, one comes into contact with one’s dark places. That darkness settles in and around and sinks down into your chest. It feels like it may cave in. Breathing becomes hard. Your cheeks, numb.
There is weight in knowing this world may not be your final place.
And yet, herein lies a gift and the gift is there is deep beauty in the seeker’s journey. There is opportunity to grow in wisdom and knowing if you don’t lose heart. Indeed, between the unknowing and the knowing, is where I am found. In the brokenness of my soul, in The Place Apart, my loneliness settles in like a good friend. We share a cup of tea and warm our winter bones and I am home.
For now at least.
photo by le-photographer
I liked to sew in a past life. Aprons, purses and anything else that didn’t require a pattern. I’ve never been one for patterns. Freestyle or die. Much like following a recipe when cooking, if bringing something into existence requires me to follow a set of directions, I’d just rather not bother with it. There’s no fun in that, no freedom in the process.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve never compartmentalized life.
For me, life blends. Work is life and people are people, no matter where or how we meet. Ideas are ideas, wherever they come from. Whatever life brings me, I live it and I accept it and I don’t judge it. If it resonates with me, it becomes a part of me, and that is that. I don’t care much for where it came from. All that matters to me is what it is. I learn from it. If it is good, I live it. If not, I discard and move on.
This may sound ambiguous. It is. There’s no list-keeping here. Lists are stagnant. Seamless living is fluid. Like life. In this way, it is a highly organized way of living. It’s simple. When you start to compartmentalize life, you start to pay less attention to what’s in front you and you start living less. Experiencing less. Taking in less. You are too busy trying to make sense out of things and make categories. Stop that. You’re wasting your time.
When you put life in boxes, you lose momentum. When you free life up, you create vibrations and life expands. Once life expands, you then have space to identify the threads running quietly throughout. You see, a seamless life has many threads that hold it together.
“When we reflect on our lives, it is possible to discern repeating themes and patterns, which if acknowledged and unfolded would allow us to see the bigger picture.”
photo by .nevara
I have never had favorites, I have always hated awards, and I definitely don’t make or pay attention to Top 10 or Best Of lists.
I remember from a very early age - kindergarten, as it were - having to fill out an “about me” poster to be laminated and shared in front of the class. It was full of fill-in-the-blanks. My favorite food is _____. My favorite color is _____. When I grow up I want to be a _____. I was stumped. I wasn’t a cheater, like, at all, but I think if I could have looked at a friend’s poster for these answers I would have. Instead, I just thought back to my last meal, looked down at the color I was wearing, and said I wanted to be a professional soccer player because, well, I liked soccer well enough.
I was never one to throw all my love behind one thing. I saw too much beauty in everything, had too much love for many things.
I’m still like that.
And awards. Well. Awards always wreaked of subjectivity. What I found beautiful or valuable never seemed to get the award. And when I was on the receiving end of an award it always left me in a daze. “And Most Inspirational Player goes to Jocelyn!” Uh, thanks, coach. I definitely was hoping for MVP. Like, duh. But anyways, thanks for taking the wind right out of these apparently “inspirational” sails. Purpose defeated.
Best Of and Top 10 lists are equally disorienting to me. Whoever makes them is asserting their false authority. Whoever or whatever has given them their authority is nothing more than a manmade structure, a mere publication or business title - nothing I find worthy of my attention. And don’t think for a second that these manmade structures are without politics. They are riddled with them.
We are reviewers of life. Each one of us. Lists and awards act to steal our power of active observation and analysis and turn us into robots. This is wrong.
We need to know our power and decide for ourselves what is beautiful, valuable, good. We do not need to be told by someone we don’t know what to think. A commitment to seeking after beauty and truth is a more difficult track, yes. It might require you to actually work to know what you believe about life, to feel how people and art and god and all the things people talk about move you. But I assure you this ability to discern is built into everyone of us if you take the time to dig deep.
There are few things I fear more than a world in which we all fall prostrate to the same ideas, the same standards of beauty, the same heroes. How boring! That’s what all the insecure boys did in Jr. High when the alpha male decided who the hottest girl was and then every other boy decided he thought she was the hottest, too. Those boys all got smarter eventually, didn’t they? Shouldn’t our world get smarter, too?
No more Top 10 and Best Of lists.
No more awards.
Don’t ever ask me to tell you my favorites.
I don’t have them.
Favorites are for suckers.
– Kate Braestrup
– Anne Lamott
The following is a poem, So You Want To Be A Writer? by Charles Bukowski. Although I identify with it as a writer, its title lacks verve because the poem offers deep insight into any life pursuit. I’ve found myself saying very similar words in a past post regarding starting a business:
“…if your heart is screaming at you to do it and leaving you no choice but to scream back, well then do it! For god’s sake, tame the beast!”
Things that are real - particularly creative pursuits - will feel beastly and you’ll have no choice in the matter of bringing them into existence. They will come out of you, like it or lump it. There will be nothing to force.
Enjoy the poem.Read more
The art of living…is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past and the known on the other. It consists in being completely sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.
This is not a philosophical theory but an experiment. One has to make the experiment to understand that it brings into play altogether new powers of adaptation to life, of literally absorbing pain and insecurity. It is as hard to describe how this absorption works as to explain the beating of one’s heart or the formation of genes."
– Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity
Ditch your pity party. You’re invited to life above it!
Well, I’m awake. It’s 3:39am. I could have a massive pity party right now given the hour and given other things I could tell you about, but I’m not about that. I’m above that. Plus, right before I woke up I had a really amazing dream. So, you know, there’s that.
Listen, I have many issues. That is to say, God has given this rose many thorns. It may not even be fair that I just referred to myself as a “rose.” However I am happy to report that jealousy has never been one of my thorns. Get behind me, Satan, because I feel that even just having typed that, I am baiting a dual. Like, I suddenly feel I am a matador who just flashed my red cape and shouted “Toro!” at a bull named Satan. Tell me this isn’t happening.
Jealousy is a real thing that a lot of people deal with. In the words of a woman very near and dear to my heart, jealousy is a “nasty beast.” The California girl in me might change that “nasty” to “gnarly,” but whatever your adjective of choice, you get the idea.
Somehow, my parents brought my brother, sister and I up to not be jealous people…or maybe was it just not in our DNA? No. I think this not-jealous-thing was, indeed, a learned behavior, and something I have to thank my wonderful parents for. Looking back I can’t remember a single time they said anything that marked of jealousy.
Now. Maybe Mom and Dad just had it all. Afterall, they did have the best kids ever! *winks* Come on, I had to.
Pretty amazing though, right? Not once did I ever hear Mom or Dad say “Wow, it’d be great to not have to walk outside to get to our refrigerator,” or “Man, I wish I didn’t have to share a bathroom with my three runts—a bathroom that only has a stand alone tub and no shower!”
Yeah. True story. For five years of my childhood, our fridge was outside on the back patio and the menfolk had to take baths with rags to cover up with in case someone needed the potty. But that’s another blog for another time and honestly it’s #firstworldproblems.
Not to take anything away from the rents, but I’ve read a lot about how your mind is a muscle and you gotta keep it up or else it’ll get a big beer belly. (Stella, you’re doing us wrong!) It totally makes sense in terms of school smarts, SAT words, and that sort of thing. But I also believe that keeping your mind right means checking that darn pity party at the door. This includes 3:30am wake ups, and it includes setting those jealous feelings to sea when you feel they might be coming on.
Can I tell you how wonderful it is to be happy for a friend? Holler if you feel me!! It’s an amazing gift to be truly happy for others in the midst of their happiness. They are happy, you are happy, and it is one big, obnoxious ball of happiness.
Don’t be jelly. Save the jelly for your toast. Really.
Tight spins, tall archs.
Life is full of these juxtapositions. The fullness of life is, in fact, found and experienced within these awkward opposites. It is a delicate and important balancing act. Toes on the tip of the board.
Battle that board today.
And the next day.
Don’t be afraid to crash. Rest when you need to. And most of all - feel it. Every last bit of it.
It’s easy to question it all after a long day. For some of us, it doesn’t even take a long day. What’s it all about? What’s the point? Why do I spend 8 (or more) hours of my day at this desk, this register? In this truck, this uniform?
For some of us, we work so that we can play - so that we can do the things we really love to do. For others, work is the thing we love. Whatever work is to you, there’s one thing that is for sure - work is human. And while that holds true, it’s also true that work should not define us. Rest assured that when work becomes the single thing that defines you, you are totally screwed.
So what should work be? Human beings have always worked, since the beginning of time. It’s clear that we were created to be in service to one another. We’ve been created with talents, abilities, and gifts that we are driven to use. We are happiest when we are applying our talents.
I’ll take it one step further and say that it is our responsibility to be proper stewards of the talents we’ve been given. We shouldn’t be sitting on our hands, doing nothing, when we know we have something to offer the world. “Git up git out and git somethin!” Yes, even if you are unemployed and no one is paying you, you can still be working! A paycheck does not validate work.
But there is another thing to consider here. At the end of the day, it’s not just about applying and using our talents. We have to answer the question of, “Who?” ”Who are we working for?” “Who is on the receiving end of our talents?” ”Who are we in the large scope of our company?” ”Who is our company in the large scope of our communities, our world?”
You see, work is about relationships. It’s about participating in something greater than ourselves. It’s about creating something, somewhere where ideas can flourish, where PEOPLE can flourish.
Work is about people.
In all of our talents and gifts and abilities we reflect divinity. Yes, we are divine creatures. We are walking, talking, works of art. We need the breath of others so we can grow and become all we were meant to become. This can only happen in connection with other people. And this is the meaning of work: to share and develop our gifts, cultivate relationships, and participate in something greater than ourselves.
Ask yourself, what is the mission of your life? Does this fit in with the mission of your company? Then ask yourself, what can I do to participate in the real meaning of work?
[Photo/quote via tinybirds]