Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I've been listening to my blissed out friend Alton again. He inspires me because he is Alton, and I love him. Alton has actually quite mysteriously become my "cyberdad." (How did that happen, I wonder.) I have also been in touch with my other blissed out friend Shayne, who always helps me cut through the considerable fog of life, straight to what matters. If either of you guys are reading this today, I tip my imaginary tiara to you, with a wink, of course.

Another person I've been thinking about and trying to summon is Joe.

Whoever you are reading this, I appreciate you being here and hope you find something of value in what I am about to say.

Here is what Alton sent today, "the four questions," asked by Katie Byron. First off, my radar ears of skepticism perk up here because by claiming only four questions she is dismissing many others and making assumptions that might not be true. Yet her questions concern truth.

Here they are:

1.) Is it true?
2.) Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3.) How do you react when you believe that thought?
4.) Who would you be without the thought?
My gut reaction to question #1 is:

How the hell do I know?
I do know, however, that truth arrives (at times) with clarity obscured.

I have lately been engrossed in a fascinating memoir, Broken, by William Cope Moyers. And by odd coincidence, he and I have a number of connecting points. One of them is that we were born the same year, less than two months apart, in the same city. Another is that his oldest son was born on my eighteen-year-old nephew's birthday, and was given the same name as my nephew's uncle. But the main connection I feel with the author of this book, however, is that I sense in him the same familiar deep-down longing I have always felt, which is to be understood, and to understand.

On one level, I tell myself: "You don't need to show anybody anything, nor do you need to explain yourself. True friends don't need your demonstrations of worthiness." Yet what a contradiction that is! Life is all about showing, and explaining, demonstrating, and the like.

And it's also about success and failure. Consider this: Could it be that failure to understand the true meaning of success, in an individual and a collective sense, is failure to grasp the meaning of life?

Back to the book I mentioned, in part of it the author describes how his boss at work responded to his news that he needed to leave his position in order to move on to something different. Although Moyers had received clear direction about the path he should take, the lack of support from significant people in his life (including his father) had an impact. He wanted his boss to say, "That's a courageous decision. I am proud of you." But instead, he received discouragement and disappointment. (Likewise, his father later confessed to him that he thought his son had gone nuts.) He knew on a deep soul level that his decision was the right one, though. It would have been nice to have the blessing of these significant people in his life, but he knew what he had to do, despite all objections.

There is no good reason to vilify people we care about. What purpose does it serve, except to bring shame?

"When we become aware of our needs, anger gives way to life-serving feelings." Those words were written by Marshall B. Rosenberg, in Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Time and again, I refer back to this book when facing difficult life issues.

I will admit I am angry, at certain friends and at myself.

Yet what it comes down to, according to Rosenberg, is that we come closer to getting our needs met when we empathize with those who have offended us and express our needs and feelings nakedly, even though we place ourselves in positions of intense vulnerability when we do so. (I think of what Moyers has shared in his memoir.) In other words, Rosenberg is suggesting authenticity.

If we create an atomosphere of hostility and mistrust, we can only expect negative responses. In other words, trust must be present in order for there to be understanding.

Rosenberg goes on to say: "It is a rare human being who can maintain focus on our needs when we are expressing them through images of their [other people's] wrongness." I am not that rare being. The only thing we win by telling people what is wrong with them is the "success" in using these judgments to intimidate them into doing what we want them to do, or what we think they should be doing instead of what they are actually doing. If a person changes his behavior because he feels frightened, guilty, or ashamed, that is not a gain (win) but a loss. In other words, my needs are not met when someone only wants to avoid my wrath.

Breathe deeply, Rosenberg advises. Do not blame. Do not punish. Identify the thoughts that are making you angry. (Injustice is often at the heart.) Harsh judgments are tragic expressions of unmet needs.

Some of these needs are for inclusion, equality, respect, connection. The idea, according to Rosenberg, is to transform anger into needs and need-connected feelings. Before one person can truly connect with another, however, s/he must be able to empathize with that person, authentically.

Back to the four questions, can you absolutely know that it's true? And how do you react when you believe that thought? Who would you be without the thought?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tribute to Patience

Please join me in sending out good vibes and energy to Paul, my dear friend who has been dealing with the inevitable loss of his beloved kitty companion of fourteen years, Patience. (Click on her name to read Paul's tribute.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I've been revisiting the details of the assault I described on January 25th , and have added a few amended thoughts about it, and will probably continue doing so throughout this process, which might be long. That situation is still unfolding and it is becoming clear that what should have been a simple investigation of a crime has turned into something completely different. Honest mistakes are one thing, but deliberately covering them up is something else. I hope with the time, trouble, and considerable expense going into correcting this situation, that in the end, sanity and justice will prevail.

Monday, February 19, 2007


This is a photo of an outdoor labyrinth on the campus of one of the community colleges here. Walking a labyrinth is an experience that reminds me of how "in the moment" life needs to be, in order to be lived well. It always comes back around to that, every time.

Friday, February 16, 2007

"It started out as paradise. Then, as now, the garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things. The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe. It's part of an urgent territorial drive that we can probably trace back to animals storing food. It's a competitive display mechanism, like having a prize bull, this greed for the best tomatoes and English tea roses; it's about winning, about providing society with superior things, and about proving that you have taste and good values and you work hard. And what a wonderful relief every so often to know who the enemy is - because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time. And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth and growth and beauty and danger and triumph - and then everything dies anyway, right? But you just keep doing it. What a great metaphor! I love this so much!"

Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Anne Lamott, with Yours Truly (Rose)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mark, whose blog I enjoy reading, commented on an image I posted a few days ago, of a watercolor painting in black and white. (Thank you, by the way.) It must be said here that art is my personal savior, and I really can't imagine what life would be like without it. (The word lackluster comes to mind.) Soon, when it is finished, I will post an image of what I am currently working on, a watercolor(ful) painting for my daughter. It was intended as a Valentine, but ... well, other things have prevented me from finishing it, but we're almost there. As I was saying, art saves me; and when I am creating art, unseen helpers guide the way of my hand, holding its paintbrush, its pen, its charcoal, or whatever it is holding.... Do you ever experience that? (Image above courtesy of Miriam's Milestones.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More about David ...

I was just sitting here and thinking of how this person on the other side of the world has influenced my life. We might not ever meet in person, but this guy deserves a lot of credit. Out of the goodness of his heart, he volunteered to coordinate an art project I was involved in last year. He never received any financial compensation for the hours and hours of labor he put into this project, yet I wonder if he realizes the value of what he did. I hope so! David, you are an inspiration. Here is one of his paintings.

Friday, February 09, 2007

One of the people who I have met online, David, has reminded me of some good things I did in the past. (Never mind the bad stuff, which is better off forgotten anyway.) Here is an image of a watercolor painting I did several years ago, for my father's close friend, Walter. He never received it in his lifetime, although I painted it while he was still alive; but I got the chance to give it to his son Zane this past year. He told me he is going to frame the painting and hang it on his wall. Thanks, Walter, Joan, Zane, and Holly, for so many memories. I will always love you.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It is often said that if the end justifies the means, those "means" are pretty much irrelevant. But if the following sentence is true, then the separation of the two makes the point pretty much moot.

"As the means cannot be separated from the desired ends, nonviolence cannot be separated from peace, for it is the value system and dynamic that makes peace possible." (From an article, "If We Listen Well," by By Edward Guinan.)
And what is peace if not an absence of its opposite? I cannot help but think of what James Hillman writes about peace in his book, A Terrible Love of War.

"I will not march for peace, nor will I pray for it, because it falsifies all it touches. It is a cover-up, a curse. Peace is simply a bad word…. The dictionary’s definition, an exemplary of denial, fails the word, peace. Written by scholars in tranquility, the definition fixates and perpetuates the denial. If peace is merely an absence of, a freedom from, it is both an emptiness and a
repression. A psychologist must ask how is the emptiness filled, since nature abhors a vacuum; and how does the repressed return, since it must?"
Do we really want peace at any cost, as long as it's peace?

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I had another dream this morning.