clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world


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The Power and Irony of Words in the Age of Technology

Words have power. This statement is known to be true by every person who has ever read, written or studied language, including stories, poetry, song lyrics and rhetoric. Words shape our world, our societies, our institutions. Words have power to destroy worlds, and they conversely have power to heal ourselves and our world. When you think about it, what an amazing superpower is the word.

wordshavepower

While what I just wrote is true, it is also true that words are everywhere, as ubiquitous as grass, as sand, as leaves, as stars. We talk or hear others talking in a constant stream (or river or even ocean) every minute of every day of our waking lives. Out of all those uncountable words that we take in and give out, only a few have real power in our lives– the kind of power to change, heal or save us. What makes those particular words special, and all the others just so much static on our consciousness’ radio?

 

The internet and mobile devices have exponentially increased our global ability to use words (and images) for communication and persuasion. Here are some statistics for you (from hostingfacts.com):

Internet Statistics 2017

  1. There are now 3.74 billion Internet users in the world as at March 2017.
    This is compared to 3.26 billion Internet users in 2016.
  2. Asia is the continent with the most Internet users. Asia now accounts for 50.1 percent, or more than half, of all Internet users in the world. The runner up is Europe, with 17 percent of all Internet users.
  3. China has the most Internet users of all countries. At over 731 million Internet users at the time of writing this, China currently accounts for more than 25 percent of Internet users worldwide.
  4. As at January 2017, the United Arab Emirates is the country with the highest Internet penetration in the world — with an impressive 99 percent of its citizens, or about 9.2 million people, using the Internet.
  5. The internet influenced sales to the tune of $2.1 trillion in 2016.
  6. Over 5.5 billion Google searches are made every day.
  1. Over 2 million blog posts are published on the Internet every day. (this figure is a low estimate, and according to http://www.worldometers.info/blogs/, today there were over 4,500,000 blog posts uploaded to the internet!!

As you can see, usage of Google, blogs, social media and the internet generally is literally increasing daily. Over a third of the world’s population is online at any given moment, and undoubtedly this figure will increase exponentially in years and decades to come. This brings up many questions, such as, what are people reading on their devices? What kinds of images are they viewing?  How much of it has actual content beyond a momentary flash or the briefest acknowledgment? Out of the millions of words and images one might glance at (or even consume) in a day or a week, how much of it actually touches the human heart and mind? What influences one’s behavior, and why?

Clearly, these questions are being studied by researchers worldwide. The times we are living through now are seminal for the decades ahead. Through our ongoing fascination (addiction?) with virtual reality, we are forging a new world of partial realities:  partially flesh-and-blood, brick-and-mortar, 3-d reality, and partially a new kind of sensory reality that has nothing to do with three dimensions. This is simply what is occurring; there is no stopping this new world, it is here and will only gain in speed and intensity during this century.

Technology is the new power of the word in our world. Rhetoric, that art with its roots in antiquity, is alive and growing in the Age of Technology. But I think the fundamental questions of humanity remain and demand to be addressed, now more than ever:  What is Truth? How do we live good lives and care for all other living beings? How do we live with moral integrity, and give all people the dignity and respect they deserve?  Is it even possible in the present times? How shall we create the future world so that our planet, Gaia, upon whom we still depend for our very lives, stays intact and protected from further destruction?

We can argue about getting down on one knee in an act of rebellion towards the power-elite, spend all our money on trivialities via our cellphones, squabble all night long with strangers through facebook, and otherwise waste enormous amounts of energy and time on things that ultimately do not matter in the big picture of our lives and collective world. So, I ask again, which words have real power, and how do we find them? How shall we share them in this age? And how will we use them to create a future world that is based upon respect, love and light? How can we best use this incredible power of the word we have been given?

When I first began this blog back in 2012, I used it as creative therapy for my loneliness and sense of isolation, due to living in a foreign country where I felt completely out of sync with the people around me. For a time, I dedicated my creative efforts to writing every day, connecting with other’s blogs and finding a very small community of like-minded folks to connect with virtually. snoopy-writer1

Now, nearly six years later, I very much feel that my small, nearly inaudible voice through Clearskies, Bluewater blog is utterly inconsequential (although it’s been fun!) For the small handful of readers who have followed this blog and encouraged me through its lifetime, I am grateful for your support and readership. I feel that it’s time has come to give it up. With two to four million blog posts every single day, there is an inconceivably vast amount of words out there to explore.  And judging from my WordPress statistics page, the irony is that an old blogpost I wrote years ago, entitled “Tits and ass, cocks and bosoms, etc.” still gets the most hits from searches across the world.  I wrote that one-off as an experiment to see what kind of response I’d get: Ha! Just as I suspected, people are still caught up in that low vibrational place, looking for some kind of momentary titillation I guess.

Dear Readers, whoever of you decided to read this post, I would love it if you would also take a moment to hit the like button. And if you have found value in this blog over the past years, please comment and tell me what you found most interesting or valuable.  I’ll keep the blog alive for a few more weeks to give folks time to comment or like.  And I’ll write a final post before I shut it down.  So, if you’ve felt shy in the past, here is your opportunity to open up and tell me anything you’d like me to know!

 

 

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Why embracing idealism is being a realist now

It is the end of September, 2016. Here in the United States, the presidential elections loom before us in about six weeks. As I am sure you are aware, the ostensible choices for the next president (POTUS) are leaving the majority of us quite disgusted, to say the least. Never before have the American people had such absurdly unpopular humans running from the two main political parties. Never before have so many had the quandary of feeling they are not being represented by their political leaders. In short, this election is a fiasco.

But: We, The People, in fact DO have choices that many simply do not, or cannot yet see. The old and extremely tired argument that we MUST vote the lesser of two evils is simply one of the biggest lies ever fed to Americans by the power-elite. It is simply not true that we must vote for one or the other party, or else we throw our vote away. If only people would wake up to realize this, our votes would have infinitely more power than they do. There is no law stating that an American must vote for either the Republicans or the Democrats. It is not mandated by the laws. In other words, we have the ability to change our system by voting for a third, fourth or fifth party.

Reclaimpower

Look, most of us realize by now that the American system is grossly corrupted, that there is no actual democracy (if there ever was) and that the power-elite are running this world. The United States is a major, though not the only, decider of what goes on in our world. Folks, when you look around you, what do you see? Obviously we are in a tremendous crisis moment here on Earth. However, within crisis is opportunity, as Taoism reminds us. And right now, this election, is one of those opportunities to actually change our trajectory from disaster towards a world that is healthy.

When I look around and listen to what others are saying and feeling, I observe great cynicism, denial, resignation, anger and fear. All of these are the tools of the power-elite, to keep us ‘in our place’. What is that place? One word sums it up: Powerlessness. The solution? Take our power back.

When Bernie Sanders ran his presidential campaign, millions of people in America, and also the world, heard him. Millions of people got behind him, because he was speaking Truth to power.

Speaking Truth to power.  Isn’t this what we really need to do? Where is your power, where does it live? We are a country made up of 320 million humans, and we are astoundingly diverse. And, we are simultaneously similar. I firmly believe that the vast majority of us desire to be free to live our lives and raise our kids in peaceful and healthy ways. We desperately want to save our planet from further destruction. And yet, we give our power away to idiots and blackhearts every single day. Why? Because we are living from a place of deeply rooted fear. Fear blocks us at every turn, and paralyzes us from standing up and speaking out for what we deeply believe in. As long as we do not raise our voices and our fists to the elite power structure (read: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and all of their supporters and money-backers) NOTHING WILL CHANGE.

Tragically, Bernie Sanders stepped down from his fight for the presidency. The real reasons for his decision are still unknown, but I can imagine he had good ones. But, Jill Stein is still in this race as the Green party candidate. If you haven’t yet heard her platform, please look her up and hear what she is standing up for: it is for the human beings, the animals, the land, for the Earth and for peace. These values are at the very heart of what the whole mess we call Life is about. If you don’t think so, then I implore you to look inside your heart and find out what is inside it. Where do you stand? Why are you taking up space on this planet, if you are not here to help the Earth, the animals, the land, and the people?

nodapl

The times of ‘it’s all about me’ are done. This is a new time and the time is now to stand up for what you truly believe in, to awaken to the realization that we are the ones we came here for. Our first nation tribes are fighting for the Earth, for the Water, Land, Animals and People in North Dakota. They are putting their bodies on the line, they are opening their mouths, they are shouting, dancing, singing, standing up and praying: Save our Earth. It’s really so simple. Save our Earth, save ourselves.

dapl5

Will you vote with your fear voice in November? Or will you finally allow your heart’s voice to sing out loud and clear across this country, across this world? Our future is being created now. What do you choose?


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The Cruelest Holiday

There is a waning crescent moon outside my window tonight, reminding me that there is still a sliver of light within even the darkest night. Tonight is the eve of the rather ubiquitous Valentine’s day, a holiday that, more than any other which falls within the calendar year, serves to remind one of the folly and pain of love for those who are not currently in a hot relationship or happy with their partner.

Working inside my local and very mainstream American grocery store today, everywhere was decorated with products emblazoned with pink and red, while roses, chocolate covered strawberries, hearts, flowers, and every other kind of kitch imaginable to sell shoppers this holiday of love is on offer. Ugh. The whole thing made me want to run screaming away (as I do so often while working, but especially so today.) Another marketing extravaganza for the great American consumer society to lap up. And lap they do. In the cheese shop section of the store where I work, many slices of creamy, sexy (?) brie cheese were bought by couples, as well as many other delicacies for their lovemaking weekend of bliss. Now, before you, dear Readers, think I am just an old sourpuss for not thinking it is sweet or fun, please know that I understand all too well just how sensual and wonderous food and wine can be, especially in concert with other kinds of sex and romance on just such an occasion. Back to my original point, which is the pain and folly of romantic love for some of us humans walking around the planet this weekend.

For the handful of you who read this blog, a few may remember that when I started writing, I was living with my Danish love in the country of Denmark, a bit lonely for my homeland and friends, but in love nevertheless. That was back in 2012, which feels like ancient history by now. Fast forward four years, and here I am on Valentine’s day eve, with no lover to dip strawberries into whipped cream and drink champagne with, among other delights that I won’t go into but instead will leave up to your imagination. It has been a long time since I have written honestly about my personal life on this blog, since I decided that it seems more important to write about what is happening in the larger picture of Earth and humanity than my own small life and problems. But. Tonight I am indulging myself in a bit of emotional processing for my own sanity, and you are invited to either read along, or delete this blog post. Your choice, as always.

Love Day, once a year?

This evening at work, I heard a couple of co-workers’ stories in short form. One, a woman about my age and a New Yorker through and through, described her life as a series of interesting jobs, a failed marriage, leading to her life completely coming apart, a brief stay with her father in southern Florida, meeting a nice man, working with, then moving in with him, and one day about a year ago, getting on a plane with him and coming here to Denver, where they remain to this day. There was a lot in between the lines of her story that I intuited, which involved pain and suffering. Then I heard another story, by a man who started the same week as I, who told me that ten years ago he was on track to finish his degree for becoming a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), when suddenly out of nowhere, the financial aid woman told him he’d borrowed his limit of money for school, and cut him off. He had only 4 courses to go to finish his degree. Zap, just like that, there he was with a big debt, no degree and no CNA career ahead.

I am guessing that, were I to interview others who work at that big, highly corporate grocery store, I would find many more variations of the same theme: people who have gambled with their lives and mostly lost. It is a kind of land of broken dreams that I now find myself in, and I admit that I fit right in with the other lost and broken dreamers. I too have gambled with my life and lost, many times. In fact, I could make the case that I have mostly lost everything that mattered to me at one time or other. Sometimes I get very down about this fact, and feel like a real loser in this game we call Western Contemporary Society. I see others who look like they are winners, and I feel badly in comparison. Now, some of you, dear Readers, may want to tell me to just change my attitude and raise my self esteem and everything will be just fine. Well, maybe. On the other hand, when I look around and hear fellow travelers’ stories, I have to shake my head. There are many of us who have not ‘won’ in this game we are forced to play. Very often I have only wanted to escape, and somehow find another way to live that doesn’t involve winning and success in order to be happy. I have had glimpses into these other worlds, alternative lifestyles, or ‘off-the-grid” living situations. They seem nearly ideal to me, and I have wanted to be able to stay there for the duration. But never was I able to do that, something or someone always pulled me back into mainstream life again. So here I am, summoning my will strongly each day I have to go into that job, putting a smile on and asking folks if they want to sample some cheese. I am a cheese pusher now.

Tonight before I left work, I caught the last five minutes of the Republican debate in South Carolina. I heard three of the candidate hopefuls give their last pitch to the good old conservatives of that state, to try to convince them to vote for him in the primary election. Each one of those men said very similar things, and the gist of it was as follows: “I will be the man to help get our great country back to being great again, to having its values restored of one man and one woman marriage, of having God be our authority and not the government, to getting rid of Obamacare, to abolishing the IRS (granted this is not a bad idea), to keeping our enemies afraid of us, and most of all, to once again being the most successful country in the world.” After each candidate spoke, there was a burst of applause as the audience obviously agreed and liked each man’s words. What I realized from hearing these speeches tonight, is that we are still very divided in the United States between the folks who want to keep things as they remember them being for much of their lives, and don’t like the idea of anything changing (this is obviously a very large topic), and the folks who are at the completely other end of the spectrum, like me, who are very much wanting things to change radically for the betterment of humankind, starting with better laws, much greater equality between classes, races and economic divides, more honest and progressive people making decisions for the rest of us, and of course, a lot greater protection for our environment and all the beings living here. For folks like me, the concept of “winning against our enemies” does not exist, it is about quite other issues entirely.

How can we humans possibly resolve the gaping split that divides us? How can we meet and agree upon the most pressing issues of our times, when half the population simply wants to pretend that we can keep doing business as usual, and even return to pre-catastrophic times here on planet Earth, just denying and not even being willing to see the state that the planet, the country, and many many many of the people are actually in? Just right now, on this rather depressing evening before Love Fest 2016, it is feeling slightly impossible. Then again, I recall my dear friend’s admonition to me: “We’ll do the possible today, and the Impossible tomorrow.” Tonight I can only say, We’ll see.


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Tell It Like It Is

At the start of this new year, 2016, the world is looking messier and more chaotic than ever before.

In nearly every arena, from political to economic to cultural to environmental, people are behaving badly, with cruel and barbaric actions the norm for far too many humans on Earth. How much longer will we collectively tolerate such inhumanity on this planet? Why do we keep allowing it to play out this way? What can we do to turn this boat around, if anything?

As I look around at the industrialized world (both in the larger world via various internet sites and my own small, personal world), a few things feel crystal clear. One, the vast majority of people remain committed first and foremost to their own small world of themselves, their families, friends, pets, and work. This accounts for (I am guessing) about 90% of their thoughts, feelings and actions in the world. The other 9% seems to be divided into leisure activities such as drinking and eating, sex, shopping, and entertainment. For those few humans who have 1% of their thoughts, feelings and time free, the ideas of charity, do-gooding and saving the world belong here. Hence the state of our planet currently.

Perhaps this completely unscientific analysis seems rather harsh or unfair to you, dear Readers. After all, the people who read this blog are those few and rare individuals who probably spend considerably more than the average person’s amount of time and resources on doing good in and for this world. For that, I can only simply say, Thank You. But tonight, after seeing too much news, mainstream television (about 5 minutes is too much for me), and listening to ‘regular folks’ talking during the past week at my new job (as cheesemonger for my local grocery store), this is what I have surmised: few, if any, care about anything other than themselves and their own lives.

This is not the first time I have felt discouraged about the state of humanity, obviously. But at this moment at the beginning of this new year, this knowledge saddens me more than I can express. Even the simplest actions, such as recycling metal cans or glass bottles, fails to register as even mildly possible to do for far, far too many people. Sometimes I feel pretty hopeful about the future of this planet and its humans, even contemplating the idea that one fine day we will wake up as a collective and realize that killing each other and destroying our home, Gaia, is senseless and an utter waste, and we will stop it. Then I remember. People can’t even figure out how to set a can in a recycle bin, how are they possibly going to find out how to live with each other and the planet in a non-harmful way?

My big fascination right now is following all the folks who are grassroots organizing for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In the past month, thousands of people across the United States have sprung into action to help get him the Democratic nomination. It has been very inspiring for me to see what seems like many people actually rally around this humble man, as he bravely and tirelessly tells us all where it is really at in this country, and why it seriously needs changing. The word he and his followers is using is one that is at the heart of what the United States was founded upon: REVOLUTION. It is a word that some people (the ones who have had an iron grip on this country for far too long) are deathly afraid of, and will probably stop at nothing to prevent from happening. And yet:

Stop it they cannot, for the time has come, things have coalesced to the point in time and space where The People (at least some of them) are standing up and shouting, with Bernie Sanders as their leader: NO MORE BULLSHIT. WE WANT CHANGE IN OUR GOVERNMENT THIS YEAR. EQUALITY. LIBERTY. JUSTICE. INTEGRITY. HONESTY. WE WANT OUR ELECTED GOVERNMENT TO WORK FOR US, HERE AND NOW. WE ARE MAD AS HELL AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.

SANDERS_Bostonrally

Americans are pinning their hopes on Bernie for president in this year’s election.

Words and rants similar to these were used during the American Revolutionary War. Those were also some dark and painful days in the history of the United States, and hope seemed dim against huge, nearly insurmountable odds. Yet the Americans eventually won that war against the English king and government. Some of the most beautiful words ever written were used as the foundation of the new constitution. And now, 240 years later, it is time to declare them again, just as vehemently: Give Us Liberty or Give Us Death!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, Bernie-WEderiving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The United States Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

 


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Humans and their ghosts

Hello again Dear Readers! It has been a long stretch since I have written a blog post. Incredibly, a couple of new bloggers have recently found their way to my blog, which has given me a little push to write again.

This summer I am working in a place full of ghosts. Although no one can see them, I am completely sure that they hang around and delight in wreaking havoc at every opportunity. You see, the restaurant where I am a cook is located within the Denver Botanic Gardens, and that is built upon the remains of an old and very large graveyard right in the heart of Capitol Hill. Once upon a time in the middle of the 18th century, it was the spot for Denver’s poor and unfortunates to be buried, many with no marker to honor their memories. Then around the turn of the 20th century, one of Denver’s elite city planners had the brilliant plan to use the land to build a lovely park for the upscale residents. In order to do this however, hundreds of graves would have to be dug up and removed. The plan was approved, the graves dug up and the remains removed, and Cheesman Park was created on top of the old burial site. (which really riled up the dead who were perfectly and peacefully resting in their graves.) Then after WWII, during a period of growth and prosperity in the city of Denver, the planners made the botanic gardens adjacent to the park. Hence, more grave digging and removal– and stirring up the ire of those spirits who could no longer sleep in their graves.

Fast forward to summer of 2014. The Botanic Gardens elite has an outdoor bistro built in a strategic location, at the south end of the Monet Reflecting Pool, to coincide with the opening of the Chihuly glass sculpture exhibit that thousands upon thousands of visitors will be experiencing all summer long.

Chihuly-“Green-Hornets-and-Gold-Waterdrops”

And so The Hive is born. From day One, it is one catastrophe after the next. On a daily basis, things go wrong, stop working mysteriously, accidents happen, things come crashing down frequently from shelves (including the shelves themselves) : we do our best to keep up with the daily multitudes of hungry guests while working under very stressful conditions. The place is an utter paradox– the utter beauty of the flowers and plants all around us, the sometimes claustrophobic presence of a continuous stream of humanity, and then the mischievous and often malevolent ghosts as they gleefully create an obstacle course for the restaurant employees each and every day. Whew!

Of course, nearly everyone to whom I tell my ghosty explanation for all the weirdness and frustrations, don’t say much in return, and probably write me off as the crazy old lady cook in the back of the house.

But I swear I can feel their presence. Ghosts love to be where the living are, and this new restaurant is too good an opportunity for them to pass up a bit of fun at our expense. Damned annoying is what they are, and sometimes dangerous. Several people have gotten hurt in one way or another this summer while working. I even went so far as to suggest to my chef Jesse that we come in one morning with sage to smudge and do a ritual cleansing of the space, nicely but firmly asking all the ghosts to leave us in peace. She smiled and then went on with her day.

By the way, if you have not heard of nor seen the amazing glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly’s studio, I hope you will look him up online. The sculptures are brilliantly colored and gracefully formed, and perfectly compliment the graceful and flowing plant forms and colors of the gardens.

Dear Readers, I apologize for not being much of a blog reader or follower this summer. Since I have been working so much, I am spending the majority of my days living life rather than writing about it. Perhaps when summer is over and the cooler weather comes, I will again take up the blogging. In the meantime, I wish you all well in your various endeavors and locations around the globe. Namaste to all my friends near and far! Leigh


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Relics, artifacts and books

A new phenomenon has arrived on street corners here and there in the United States and England. You may have seen small, sometimes cleverly decorated boxes, much like an old-fashioned postbox, with a sign offering “Free Books, take one or leave one.” When I first discovered these in England last summer, I was sincerely charmed. What a gracious, lovely idea, to freely share books among the populace. By now, however, I have realized a darker (more sinister?) side to this free book giveaway.

Are book giveaways as innocent as they seem?

Are book giveaways as innocent as they seem?

Perhaps it is obvious to some of you already, dear Readers, that one probable reason for all these free book giveaways is, there are simply millions of books floating around in the hemisphere, and not enough people reading them. Books are starting to enter the classification of relics, artifacts from a time fast disappearing, when people loved and enjoyed them, carried them around, re-read them, passed them on to family and friends.

The age of technology has its merits and its drawbacks. In an extraordinarily short span of human time, computers have entrenched themselves in our collective psyche like a virus infecting a body, deeply and somehow irreversibly. The powers-that-make-technology in our world are working hard to make sure that everyone alive is signed up on the plan. That means every man, woman and child, no matter how young or old, is to be inextricably hooked into the beast of technology forever more. They are pushing to make sure babies are weaned from the breast to the computer screen, that no hand goes without a computerized phone-internet-camera-toaster-oven-what-have-you device, and the list just goes on ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

The death of bound books is nearly inevitable in our lifetimes, I lament. Not only is it a sad commentary on the state of our society, but just a sad thought altogether. When all the written words are available only on virtual screens or in your eyeglasses or whatever, how will that affect us as a people; our thinking, our motor skills, our ideas about life? The implications are truly enormous if one ponders them. What will become of libraries, our esteemed repository of the worlds’ wisdom, literature and knowledge? What will become of us?

The digital age we find ourselves in today has vast implications for our world. One of the most maddening is the inevitable loss of sensory perception and basic motor skills. Young children who most need to develop these skills as their bodies are growing and changing the most are at risk of not learning them, and that affects their brain development and basically their whole physiognomy. Using a keyboard or touch screen does not do the same job for developing bodies and minds as making sure a child can pick up a pencil or scissors and use them effectively. I shudder to think of how tomorrow’s children will manage in the physical world of which they are still a part. What will humans do when they have lost the ability to use their hands, their fingers, their bodies?

Will children in the future still know how to read bound books?

Will children in the future still know how to read bound books?

The world is changing so fast right now, society itself is spinning ever faster on its axis. I am watching it happen, even as I am turning into a relic of the past, along with bound books and dead philosophers. I admit that I do not wish to live in a world without books, sensory stimulus, physicality. I was born into physicality and I will remain within it for the rest of this lifetime. Probably I sound hideously old-fashioned, like those parents who frowned disapprovingly upon early rock and roll music and its proponents. And yet. This new technology age is profoundly disturbing. It seems we have been sold a bill of goods, yet what have we really purchased– if not the death of our souls?


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Attempting to keep calm and carry on

Dear Readers, as the sun shines so extremely brightly today in Denver, reflecting upon the white, frozen snow and ice everywhere, I feel I can hardly stand all the energies that are pounding us puny humans right now. Weird happenings are popping up all over, including school alarms and closings due to strange chemical leaks and possible bursting pipes the past two days at both schools I was to work at in the afternoons. Accidents, the possibility for accidents, and just all around INTENSITY is the order of the day and night. Plus, the temperatures here have broken records for cold on this date: Not so hideously frigid as the midwest has been this winter, granted, but still miserable enough for this body to try to grapple with. I despise extremes, and with extremes becoming the norm, there is not much one can do except to work on the ‘Accepting What Is’ theory of life. Sigh.

It feels like the rubber band of polarity is becoming stretched to the point of soon breaking completely. What will happen when it does, is anyone’s guess. One thing it clear to me, there is no such thing as ‘business as usual’ anymore. The past couple of days have been rough. Yesterday I spent two hours traveling by buses to the farthest outpost of civilization (well, sort of), at a big school for my after-school art class, only to be greeted by a police officer who was reluctant to allow me to enter, as a chemical leak of some kind or other had closed down school and all activities for the day. There I was, in the middle of nowhere, in freezing cold temps, with no choice but to turn around and wait for another bus to bring me back to central Denver. No phone, (because I have no funds to sign up for the plan yet) no car of course, and I really felt helpless. What the hell (that has frozen over) is going on here, I asked God. What am I doing here and why? The futility of the situation was ready to overwhelm me. Then, mercifully, the site coordinator for the after-school program drove up in her warm car, and offered to take me home, miles out of her way. The moment of Grace arrived once again.

Knowing that I am not the only one having a hard time is cold comfort, however. I am trying to find the humor in all of this, or the irony, or basically ANYTHING redeeming in it, but am not having much luck. My mind wanders, as bits of all sorts of strange thoughts, memories, song snippets, lines of poetry, overheard conversations and all manner of detritus float through it. At moments I feel as if I am in a waking dream, unable to fully focus or grasp what is really happening here, on Earth. It becomes surreal, unreal, with only the biting cold or empty purse to remind me that oh, yes, I am still embodied, I am a human in a physical body, and it is not pleasant right about now!!

I read positive words galore: rejoice Humans!! You are doing great, you are magnificent beings, doing great work on behalf of us, your spiritual counterparts. I read lots of stuff by other humans, who sound so wise and positive and upbeat, like nothing unusual is going on, like everything is hunky-dory.

But it sounds hollow to me, not quite real. If ever there was an unusual time to be alive, this has got to be it, wouldn’t you agree? England is drowning in floods, California is dry as the driest of bones, snow in Cairo a few months ago– and weather extremes are only the most obvious signs of significant changes for us humans.

Keep-Calm-and-Carry-OnThe collective energies are imploring us to “keep calm and carry on,” as evidenced by this slogan, from WWII England era, now revived and popping up everywhere. It is an apt reminder for us all. In moments of near despair, I find myself torn between wanting to stay under the covers all day, and being down on my knees in prayer. The prayers often do not even have words, though. Because what is going on is so huge, so beyond anything we have experience with in recent memory, that it is more like a state of profound awe. These words from Aisha North’s blog seem to sum it up for me right about now:

“By and by, you will find yourself becoming very new indeed, but still, it may not even feel like that to you. At least, not superficially, for as all of those brand new parts of you start to kick in, your focus will automatically shift, and you will switch seamlessly into your very new way of BEing. Those deepest and most profound transformations that you go through may not be perceived as such, for they are so profound, you will lose any contact with that old version of you, and looking back, it will be like looking back on someone else’s life altogether. Or it will be like looking at a piece of fiction if you will, a play acted out by actors, each one performing their designated part in what has been titled “your life.” And this is in fact exactly what has taken place up until now, for what you have lived through, has all been designed to give you the opportunity to be exactly where you are at this exact point in time and so, as you are reading these lines, we can only congratulate you all on a job very well done indeed.” – Aisha North, Manuscript of survival part 394


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The thin rope between emotional states

Balancing between the old life and the new is big work, dear Readers. I don’t know how many of you are feeling somewhat the same, but if you are, I have total empathy for you. There are several things I could choose to write about this evening, as my life now is full of so many impressions and thoughts and ideas within the course of a day. But tonight I find myself wavering yet again, even as I am walking along that dangerously thin rope bridge which hangs so high above the vast, bottomless abyss of the unknown below me.

Denmark pulls at my heartstrings again tonight, calling me to remember moments there when I was happy, when Danish was in my ears, all around me, and even though it nearly constantly frustrated me with its difficult intonation and impossible pronunciation, I grew to love it in some strange sort of love-hate-love relationship. Three years and more of living in any foreign country has got to rub off on a person, after all, and those Danes got under my skin in a particularly fond way, I admit. I miss my friends there, and the kids that I taught at the little school. Of course you all know that I miss that man who remains there,even as I am now thousands of miles away on another continent. The other night I wrote that I was ‘way beyond self-help books by now,’ — well, I guess that was not entirely the truth.

What I meant by saying that is, that reading books and hearing phrases and even listening to others telling the ways to overcome one’s neuroses and issues and stuckness is all well and good, but until I take the words and make them my own reality and truth, they remain just nice words on the page.

walking_alone_by_pix_cel-d4pky45In other words, I can tell myself that Today is a New Day! Be in the present moment, don’t live in the past or the future. Be mindful. Remember to breathe. Let go of the past. Focus on what I want now for my life. Go beyond the little me, embrace the Divine Me! And so on and so forth, til the cows come home. But. What I am learning, every single day, in a hundred small ways, and a few big ones, is that I simply HAVE to honor where I am at NOW: in Each Moment of my life. Some moments I am really so fine, smiling, embracing the divine me, walking along, even singing a tune for no particular reason other than I feel glad. And then, at other moments, some trigger will get tripped, and the next thing I know, I am in pieces again. This is not the same as wallowing in self-pity for long periods of time, or anything like that. Perhaps I am finally comprehending the Buddhist exhortation to simply Be what you are Now. Whatever that is. If you feel angry, Be the anger. If you feel sad, Be the sadness. Don’t push away the emotions as they rise up, instead allow them to come, feel them completely, and then let them dissipate again. I am finding that this is the most useful method for dealing with all these emotional states I find myself in. Those old masters definitely knew their stuff.

Recently I read a highly enjoyable and wise novel, called The Humans, by Matt Haig. It is the story of a being from a faraway planet, which is based purely on mathematics and logic, who comes to Earth to fulfill a certain mission. This book is screamingly funny, and also poignant and very, well, human. Haig is a master at showing ourselves our human frailties and absurdities. One thing that has stuck with me from it, is that he (the otherworldly being) makes the observation that on Earth, everything is apparently a Test of one kind or another. The being cannot go anywhere or do anything or meet anyone, without being tested in some strange way. I really am in agreement with him about this. In some very real ways, Life on Earth truly is a whole series of tests and quizzes, designed to see if a person can jump through enough hoops and perform enough tricks well enough to ‘pass’ and so go on to the next level. Kind of like one of those computer games that are so popular, where the player must go through all sorts of dangers and enemies, in order to proceed to the next level. Trouble is, we really have no idea what actually exists on the next level, although it is a good bet there will be more of the same, only even trickier, once we get there.What a tiring game this thing called human existence is, all too often.

I watched a fascinating Youtube video the other night, by a man named Matt Kahn. Regardless of what you might think of him, he certainly made some salient points about human nature and the reason for being alive. At one point, he told the audience, so calmly and clearly, that our lives are really all about learning How To Live. That we actually do not really know how to live, and so we are here to learn how to do it. I have pondered this statement, and I agree with him. Our overall mission here is to learn How to Live as a human being. After so many lifetimes, you would think that we would have figured it out by now. But no. For I believe that if we had, life would not be nearly so difficult. Or confusing. Or painful. Or would it?

Related:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kSnt5n4ADw  (the Divine Plan by Matt Kahn, worth watching!)


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Life gives you what you need

“God doesn’t give you the people you want, He gives you the people you NEED, to help you , to hurt you , to leave you, to love you and to make you into the person you were meant to be…”– anonymous

Hello again, Dear Readers. This morning the sun is shining and the sky is blue overhead. There can be no denying that Spring has finally come to Denmark. Thank goodness.

Many thoughts are spinning around in my head today. I wish to try to write something cohesive but please bear with me if it comes out a bit of a mess. Guess my soul is in a process right now (is there ever a time when it isn’t?) If I had a life motto, it would be, Work in Progress.

Last night my husband and I watched a movie by the filmmaker Robert Altman, called Short Cuts. It was made twenty years ago. The story takes place around Los Angeles and Bakersfield, and is filled with many characters who are neurotic, dysfunctional, angry, lustful, bored, frustrated, and just trying to get by in this crazy life. There are stories within the larger story, and they are woven loosely together through their relationships to one another. There is much irony in this film, just as there is in life. It was a long story, three hours running. Within this time, we witness people living in the middle of modern life’s sicknesses and excesses, trying to cope with themselves and each other. All the large themes are present: love, jealousy, avarice, lust, deceit, vengeance, desperation, despair, death. People living lives of not so quiet desperation. We watch, helplessly, as the characters hurt one another, lying to each other and themselves, without much compassion. Few of them are innocent, and the one character who is blameless (the good wife and mother, played by Andie Macdowell) is rewarded by having her just-turning eight year old son get hit by a car, go into a coma, and die during the course of a couple of days. This film takes no prisoners, there is no redemption for these people; only the continuation (for most of them) of this endless, sometimes utterly senseless and absurd theatre we know as Life.

The film did what all good stories ought to do; it showed us ourselves in the rough, without gloss or soft lighting. Whatever else you can say about life in a human body, you can also say that, shortly put, we’ve got issues. We’ve ALL got them, there is no one walking the planet today who is immune. We are in turns small, scared, angry, frustrated, guilty, guilt-ridden, loving, sweet, selfish and selfless. We toil, endure endless drudgery and suffering of many fools, not the least of which is our own self. We suffer, and suffer some more. We make decisions out of need, desperation, and desire for relief. What helps, what heals?

Facing the trouble, whatever it is, is a help. Naming it, speaking it out loud, seeing that we are not, are never alone in it. No matter what the trouble is, no matter how ashamed or filled with pain and remorse we may be, we must remember that we are not alone, not the only one with that heartache. On the contrary, there are many others with that same wound, carrying that same pain as us. Rilke once wrote that ‘perhaps all the dragons of our lives are simply princesses who are waiting for us to see them for who they truly are.’ My interpretation of his words is that even the most dark and terrible secret that a person can hold is something to help us learn how to love, how to become more human. The holes in the heart of one can and are healed by sharing them with another. It is painful to share these, yes. It takes time, maybe many years, for the healing to happen. But it CAN happen, it does happen, the miraculous thing is that by sharing one’s wound with others, instead of hiding it away, the wound can be cleansed, dressed, cared for, attended to, healing balm applied, sunshine and fresh air given it until it becomes smaller and smaller, and finally is gone.

We all want healing. We all have wounds and broken places. We are all of us singing over the lost bones of our lives, singing them alive again, calling them back into being. Yes we have lost our way and forgotten totally who we actually are and where we come from. Anyone looking around at the current state of the world will readily agree with that. The question is, are we lost forever? Will we continue sleepwalking through our lives, unwilling to feel or see that others’ pain is equal or perhaps greater than our own? Will we succumb to our own feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, letting the weight of life’s cares crush our spirits and smash any small sprouts of hope?

sometimes all you can do is laugh....

sometimes all you can do is laugh….

There is no one solution to this problem of living, but there are wise ones who have found some tools to help. I have a slip of paper (one of many) at my desk that states, “Practice looking at each situation in your life and forgiving everyone and everything throughout this lifetime, and most especially, yourself.” This is ongoing, daily practice. And it makes good sense, because if I cannot forgive myself for the messes I have made and the hurts I have given to others, then how can they ever forgive me? We are our own judge and jury in this life, ultimately. As in the Robert Altman film, each of us is walking about trying to keep our heads above the swirling waters of insanity which are all around us. How can we cope, unless we begin with self-forgiveness? And after that, forgiveness of everyone else, as difficult as that may seem, is really essential. We cannot possibly change this world into something kinder, more loving and peaceful, as long as each of us still carries hatred, greed and revenge around in our souls. In the movie, there is a woman blues singer who sings at a jazz club every evening. One of the songs she sings talks about being a ‘prisoner of life.’ You could say that this idea is the main underlying theme of this film. It is so easy to feel this way! I have, a thousand times over, and have felt quite justified in doing so. And yet. I am realizing more and more, that if I am life’s prisoner it is because I myself have been my own jailer. Realizing this makes finding the key to unlock the door much easier.

In the end, it is true that Life gives you what you need to grow and become a better, not a worse, human being. In the kitchen last night, after the intense experience of watching the three-hour long film, my husband and I spoke together. He mused, “I actually suffer much more than you do, however I carry my suffering with a lot of dignity.” I gazed at him a moment, and then replied, “Yes, you certainly do. You really have a lot of dignity, and it is one of your most beautiful qualities.” He was pleased to hear my words, and I meant them sincerely. Carrying one’s suffering with dignity is extremely important. So is the ability to laugh at the craziness of this life.

 


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Being here is so much

Rilke said, ‘Being here is so much.’ It is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed. We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free. The more lonely side of being here is our separation in the world. Many of our attempts to pray, to love, and to create are secret attempts at transfiguring that separation in order to build bridges outward so that others can reach us and we can reach them–John O’Donohue from http://makebelieveboutique.com/2013/04/09/5618/

Since being back in Denmark again after the transformative days in Tuscany, I have felt particularly restless and uninspired. I suppose I am experiencing what John O’Donohue calls “the more lonely side of being here, our separation in the world.” None of my attempts to create any kind of belonging to the world seem to work these days. Even the blogging has gone stale in my mind and heart of late, I admit. I haven’t a name for this feeling: entropy, ennui, stagnation, boredom, frustration all come to mind but no one word or phrase really sums it up.

Tonight I took some time to wade through the never-ending list of blog posts in my WordPress reader, in hopes of finding something interesting to inspire me. It was a disappointingly uninspiring blogroll, dear Readers. Most posts seem to fall into a few basic categories; either meant to be uplifting, ‘look how great and wonderful you are now becoming, dear Human being!” or the ones reporting about the ongoing fall of the evil empire which is responsible for the terrible mess that we are collectively now in, or else they might be reporting upon a particular event, problem, or drama of one sort or another. I am looking for meat, and only coming up with boiled potatoes. Perhaps some of you are feeling similarly?

Being in Italy and experiencing the glorious art, architecture and culture of that land for myself has inspired me in way: now I am reading up on the Renaissance and learning again about the time period from the fall of Rome at the end of the fifth century C.E., through the sixteenth century, when the Renaissance hit its peak. There is a lot to learn and I am not the world’s most methodical scholar. Still, it is fascinating reading! I have found a wonderful book called The Renaissance in Europe, by Margaret King, a professor of Renaissance history, in which she does an amazing job of giving a concise sequence of events and highlights some of the most important figures of each century leading up to and through this hugely important and eventful time in western civilization.

What strikes me as I read King’s book is just how similar (in some basic ways) life today is reflected in the centuries leading up to the Renaissance. Our world might seem smaller and more connected now, but the same power struggles, use of domination by force, political intrigues and moral questioning of the leaders of state remain today just as they did a thousand years before. We humans have copious amounts of hubris and ego enough to believe that we are somehow oh-so-modern and new, that we don’t need to remember or learn about our collective past, that for whatever reasons, our history is simply no longer relevant. The more I learn about it, the more blatantly obvious it becomes that this kind of thinking is largely responsible for getting us into the mess we are currently in.

English: Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. R...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most brilliant humans to ever walk the face of the planet, once wrote, “Blinding ignorance does mislead us. Oh wretched mortals, open your eyes!” The times we are living in are times of blinding ignorance. Everywhere one looks there is vast evidence of this. One small example that shocked me recently was when I sat with the Danish kids for a lesson just after returning from Tuscany. I was telling them about the wonderous artworks I experienced in the Uffizi Gallery and how I saw a marvellous painting by Michelangelo. One girl had a strange expression on her face and asked, Michelangelo, wasn’t that a character from the mutant teenage ninja turtles? And that’s not the worst of it.

We in the western world are clearly becoming dumber and dumber. There are more ways than ever to keep people stupid and ignorant, not the least of which has to do with technology. A two-edged sword, computers in their various guises can be wonderful tools to access knowledge and learn entire libraries worth of history right in your very own living room, or can be used to zone out, obliterate the former pastime of reading books for pleasure and knowledge, and effectively put a mental strait jacket on humans (particularly the young) to the exclusion of nearly everything else. What is to be done, dear Readers?

The beginning of this blog tonight began with these words from Rainer Maria Rilke: Being here is so much. Well I will clarify that large understatement to say, Being here CAN be so much if only we recognize its enormity, if we are awake to the wonders of being alive on this planet at this juncture in time and space. If we were truly awake, we could begin yet another renaissance, as the energies are actually ripe for a rebirth and reawakening of the triumph of the human spirit. Perhaps some of you would even argue that humanity is undergoing a kind of new renaissance of the spirit. I would say it seems more like a phoenix rising time, although at the moment the fires are definitely burning, Rome is in the middle of falling, and things will most likely become much more chaotic before the phoenix can rise again.