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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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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Change, awe, disgust and disillusionment

(Warning: this post will be a rant, so if you are feeling light and happy and wish to stay that way, don’t bother reading this one. Thanks for your understanding, Leigh)

In the space of the past twelve hours, my emotional soulstate has run the gamut from peaceful, strong and grounded, to disappointed, bored, anxious, resentful, sad, angry, doubtful, curious, frustrated, and even nauseated, and now simply grounded and resigned. Quite a boatload for one day in the life. Are you feeling alright?

If I had a magic wand or superpowers to change this world, I would not hesitate. Everybody would be in for quite a surprise after my rework of this third dimensional world was complete. The first thing I would do, I think, is to obliterate television and all the industry that feeds it while being fed by it. What a disgusting monster it is. It works to portray the absolute basest and worst of human nature while also drawing people into its poison trap. But no, that is only a small sidebar of what I need to rant on tonight, dear Readers.

Paramahansa Yogananda, the great Indian guru who came to the United States during the early 20th century to help raise human consciousness, once said (I am paraphrasing), “This world is like a terrible horror movie. All the people sitting in the audience don’t know that it is only a movie, and so as they watch it they are believing it is real. But the best thing to do is to get to the beam. Get to the light, for it is only a play. What is Real is the light of God.” His words are absolutely true, and more important than ever.

What is real, and where is the beam in 2016? Nearly everywhere I look I see disillusionment, despair, disappointment, disaster and people trying in various ways to cope. Self medication is popular through the use of tobacco, recreational drugs and alcohol, gluttony, and caffeine. Many use electronic devices to distract. There are hundreds and thousands of ways to check out of this world for a minute or a lifetime. Yet for most of us, sooner or later we once again must come back to the basic nature of our life, and we find what? One of the great mysteries, ourselves.

It takes real audacity to live on this planet now, and to do it well, yes, superpowers. I mean this not metaphorically as much as literally. To stay sane and sober in the middle of it all takes creating some super powerful energy from within to develop ways to cope and smile and be compassionate.

Four weeks into my job as a cheese clerk at my local supermarket and I can barely stomach being there. It’s a Great American supermarket, full of just about every kind of food imaginable that’s available in this country. It’s bright, shiny, colorful and packed with foods and merchandise of every description. And it’s all on offer, every single day and night for one’s shopping convenience. All you need is money, honey.

Each shift that I work provides me with yet another opportunity to see how much food gets thrown out for the flimsiest of reasons. To be fair, my store donates a considerable amount of unsellable food to the food pantries, and so helps people to get a myriad of free groceries when they go for their allotment. But. So much more perfectly good food gets tossed into the garbage compactor or industrial compost bin even as people are sleeping on the streets of this town, cold, hungry and about as low as one can get in their station in life. Why can’t any of this food be given to the homeless?

As I am sure many of you know, Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is gathering a lot of momentum now. Following the trail on facebook each day, it is obvious that the Occupy Wall Street movement has devoted itself to getting Bernie into the White House this autumn. He is the Everyman’s Hero, a regular guy who is honest, cannot be bought, has been playing the game of Washington politics for a very long time, and he’s rallying the troops big time. He’s calling out Wall Street and the “billionaire class” for their crimes against humanity, he’s taking names and he’s intent upon dealing with the criminals in the way that so many of us would like: throwing them the hell out of their cushy seats of power and sending them to jail with no bond. Bernie is making all kinds of promises about what he will do to right all the wrongs done to Americans by those evil billionaires when elected. And it sounds so good, and I want to believe it could happen so very much.

Then I catch myself. Our American political system is at the point of being so corrupted, so full of arrogance, greed, self-interest, blasphemy and idiocy, that I honestly do not know how it can really be fixed. It really needs a complete and real dismantling and starting over again. Ben Franklin said it: About every 200 years, governments need a revolution and a new plan. That is where we are now.

Thomas Jefferson engraving after painting by Rembrandt Peale.

Today I saw a video made by a couple of scientists who were in the Arctic in November and filmed a gigantic chunk of glacier ice calving, or splitting apart and crashing into the sea. They said the size of the piece that broke off was around the size of lower Manhattan, except the walls of ice were more than twice as high as the skyscrapers. Watching the short clip was utterly awe-inspiring. Before my eyes, the ice that has made up the top of our earth for thousands of years was deconstructing itself. I do not doubt that it won’t be too much longer before all of the Arctic has melted completely. Then our world will look considerably different than it does today.

http://www.upworthy.com/the-longest-and-probably-largest-proof-of-our-current-climate-catastrophe-ever-caught-on-camera

The buds on some of the big trees in the park near my home are getting fat. It is the last day of January, I am writing from Denver, Colorado. What we used to think was normal, for example, trees budding in late April and blooming beginning of May, is quickly becoming a history lesson for the young. So much of nature is having to adapt to new patterns of growth and decay, or else will probably not make it into the earth’s future. Animals and humans as well. I envision a future where it will be virtually impossible to tell if the creature next to you on the street or in the commuter train is natural or a human constructed android of some kind or other. The science fiction authors are closer to the truth than we can really know.

I admit it freely: this future is not one that I want to live in. Not At All. I know I am an old-fashioned person with peculiar ideas, but living on a world that no longer differentiates between what is natural (meaning not messed with by man) and what has been created in a laboratory somewhere, where no one understands much of anything about the substances they ingest, including what passes for food, and where people are so disconnected from each other and themselves that they can no longer acknowledge another’s presence, is a world that I refuse to be a part of any longer. Sorry, but the game is over for me at that point. And it seems like it is fast approaching, already here.

Send me the map, give me the plan, help me to find the way. The way out of this madness that passes for our world, our common life, and into some nice bubble world where the people are kind, where society doesn’t undermine one’s efforts to simply live in peace, and where things are still Real. Does such a place exist in time and space? I don’t know the answer to that. But I surely want to believe that it does. Over the rainbow, perhaps. On another world. Maybe in another universe even. Tonight, I am ready to have them beam me aboard.

Here’s a quote I found by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Thanks for the encouragement! Pinkola_Estes_discouragequote

 


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Going to summer camp

Tomorrow I leave the city for summer camp in the Rockies. Excited I am, and also a little scared. The image of The Fool, that one who, white rose in hand, bundle of belongings upon one shoulder, is blissfully about to step off the precipice into the Unknown, is my symbol tonight: About to leap, in utter trust, and hoping for a soft landing.fool

The camp I am going to is indeed for kids, from ages 7 through 12 years old. It’s in a beautiful spot, high in the mountains at nine thousand feet elevation. There is a private lake, horses, archery, canoeing, and all the usual summer camp activities. My role will be in the kitchen, as assistant Chef. This means I will be cooking a whole lot of food for hungry kids for the next ten weeks.   I have the feeling we will have a good time together, with all sorts of forest creatures nearby, cooler, clean air and water, and millions of stars for company at night.

Dear Readers, what will you do with your summertime this year? It is such a brief and lovely season, the mornings so fresh and soft, the heat radiating everything and everyone by afternoon, and the evenings so wonderfully long and warm. It is the luxurious time of year, when humans can shed outerwear and sensible shoes, women wrap themselves in sheer and flowing dresses, men wear little more than a pair of shorts and perhaps a tee shirt, everybody wears flip flops or sandals, and as the song goes, The living is easy. Generous, easy and a little bit lazy…… like floating down a slow-moving river in a row boat, swinging in a tree swing, hiking up a gorgeous mountainside full of flowers, or any of the hundreds of wonderous occupations and diversions that one can think of to enjoy himself on a sunny afternoon in summer.

slide_406576_5083186_free

I would like to suggest to everyone reading this post, don’t be in a hurry this summer, or so set on DOING….. rather, focus more of your energy on simply BEING….. enjoying each moment as it arrives, flashes like a koi in a calm pond, and disappears again. No other time of year affords such luxury of time to simply Be. Enjoy it while it lasts, love and appreciate the people around you as much as you possibly can, and most of all, love yourself. You have been working so hard at this game of being human, it is time to reward yourself in many ways this summer. Celebrate being alive, your ability to laugh, hug and breathe the air, feel water on your skin, smell the flowers, see the beauty of our amazing planet, hear the birdsong, taste wonderful, fresh fruit and vegetables from a garden, touch another being. We are all so blessed to be alive, I hope you love it all!!


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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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Inquiry into the nature of pain

Hello again dear Readers. It has been some time since I have written a post here. Following is a partial reason why. Among all of the things Life has handed me lately, I have a fractured fifth metacarpal on my right hand. Translated, this means I am wearing a splint and bandage that covers my right hand and forearm. I still have use of three fingers, while my left, non-dominant hand has had to take over the reigns of doing the work of living. Shortly said, this situation sucks. It leaves me frequently tired and needing a lot of rest.

Being a curious sort of person, I have spent quite a bit of time inquiring into this situation from various perspectives. My mind has asked, “why me? Why now? What is the reason for this happening to me now, effectively stopping me in my tracks from the path I was on?” and on a bad day, the questions take on a more whiny tone, more like, “what the fuck?” Well, you can imagine.

Even heroes get the blues sometimes

Even heroes get the blues sometimes

Being mostly an existentialist nowadays, I realize that the significance of this unfortunate turn of events has the significance I assign it. Various things come to mind: I needed time for contemplating my new life path; there is something fabulous right around the bend, which I may have missed entirely had I kept going the direction I was headed; or perhaps it is yet another big life lesson in empathy and walking in another’s’ moccasins. Had I not broken my pinky finger, how would I know how difficult people have it when they cannot perform simple functions like opening a jar, a door, or tying their shoes? We able-bodied humans absolutely take for granted our manual dexterity and the ease with which we can do all those tasks we learned in early childhood. Now I realize just how tough it is when those capacities are suddenly taken away: Poof. Gone.

could be worse, I guess...

could be worse, I guess…

The pain body is a tough one. Chronic (or acute, for that matter) pain is such a crippling thing, shutting down one’s pleasure, will and desire for most things. Life becomes much smaller, closer, and time seems to drag to nearly a halt. These past weeks have been some of the longest I can recall. It seems there is so much I wish I could do and can barely manage, or not even. Cooking, one of my greatest loves, has shriveled in importance, along with my appetite. Keeping my personal space tidy has gone way down on the priority list, even showering has become less frequent. The amount of aches and pains around and in this body has grown exponentially. I feel suddenly quite old, and it is reflected in the mirror.

Dear Readers, I have no doubt that many of you can relate to what I am writing, and have been through similar situations. I have yet to find out how much longer I will have to keep the splint on my hand, how many more weeks I will be handicapped and unable to function normally. After the splint is off, there will be some period of strengthening and readjustment. Perhaps even some therapy. I feel like the sports player who is benched for the season, and frankly, just as unhappy about it. Now is the season for gardening, which I was looking forward to since wintertime. How unfair life is sometimes!

I realize I sound like a small child, complaining. I admit I have never been good at just ‘bucking up and taking it,” and suffering in silence. So this is also a lesson in maturity-through-adversity. On the positive side, I am learning to be ambidextrous, even cutting vegetables with my left hand. That hand, through perpetual disuse, is inelegant, clumsy, reminiscent of a three-year-old’s attempts with knife and fork. This time is also a biggie in learning Patience. I have to be patient with myself, and kind. I have no choice.

And finally, I am learning that sometimes one just has no control over what happens to them. What we always have, though, is the choice as to how we handle it. I have the opportunity, many times a day, to choose how to react to my hand being incapacitated. When I find myself really down in the mouth about it all, I recall my friend Mokasiya’s words: I can have all my feelings about it, and then I can make another choice. Slowly I am learning that he is absolutely right.


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Pushing through phantom walls of rock

You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you. —
Rainer Maria Rilke

Talk about pushing through what feels like solid rock. On this blustery Saint Patrick’s day, the winds of change are blowing through my soul and I feel like roaring. To all the demons whirling round my head, laughing, jeering, pointing out all the faults, imperfections, and reasons why things are supposedly impossible and cannot be done: I roar, as loudly as I can, FUCK YOU!! (apologies for offending some of my more sensitive readers.) There are simply no other words that seem quite as appropriate at this moment, dear Readers. It takes the strongest energy embodied in those oh-so-american words to send those mocking brutes back from whence they came. Anger, today. It takes anger.

What weapons do you use to fight these guys?

What weapons do you use to fight these guys?

My demons have been more than just brutal, they have been full of guile and subtle trickery. All this winter I have been fighting in the shadowlands of the psyche, sometimes in full armour, sometimes with tatters and bare feet, but I have been fighting. I don’t even know how many days I have wanted to raise the white flag and beg them to stop this cruel and unfair attack. I try to understand why they so wish to destroy me, why won’t they just let me be. It does not matter why, what matters most is simply that I prevail, not them. This is an existential battle of the soul, dear Readers, of epic proportions. The humans embody all their various roles, but the play is one of cosmic proportions.

On the street today, I passed a man whom I have spoken with before. He sells a newspaper, The Voice, that deals with homelessness and its manifestations in Denver. When I asked him how it was going, he shook his head. ‘Don’t ask me that today, man,” he replied. “Today is a terrible day.” Then he went on with his rant for awhile, how it was just one bad news after another. Then he threw down his phone, then his jacket and his papers, and just said, “I am just tired of it. All of it. I can’t do it anymore.” I looked at him, then told him, “I know just how you feel. But the sun is still shining on us. Tomorrow will be a better day, we have to keep believing that.” But he just shook his head. It was an existential moment and I knew exactly how he felt.

When life squeezes you so hard that you feel you don’t have any juice left, that you are as dried up and sour as an old used up lemon that someone forgot to throw in the garbage, what then? How do we make any sense out of any of this senselessness? How can I infuse my life with meaning when I am on my knees from the struggle of existence? Over the weekend I went to a catholic mass on Saturday evening. It was in a beautiful old church where the Holy Mother reigns supreme. There was not a sculpture of Jesus suffering on the cross at the pinnacle of the altar, but a large, beautiful statue of Mother Mary, Queen of Heaven. I am not a catholic, yet I adore the Divine Feminine, which Mary embodies. The priest gave a powerful sermon in his royal purple robe, reminding us that as long as we are living for ‘me and me alone, or me and mine” we are not living in the spirit of Christ. To live in and for Christ means to give of ourselves in the most loving ways we know how, not in words only, but every day from our deepest hearts. He basically called us on our bullshit in a really direct way.

It takes the right weapon to wield inner power.

It takes the right weapon to wield inner power.

Salvation and redemption are not one-time deals. They are not just Christian concepts. The work of saving one’s soul, of redeeming one’s faults and failures and being made new in the sight of God or Creator of the Continuum or the Void or whatever terms you want to put on it, is the work of humanity now. IT is our collective work. If I fall and no one comes to pick me up off the ground, we all stay down. If I see someone hurt and fallen, and I do nothing to help save that person, we all lose. Your salvation is my salvation. We are all in this ride together, aren’t we?

A very real part of this ride is to call people out on their crap, just as the priest did at Saturday’s mass. Someone who meant a lot to me gave me some crap today, and I called them on it. I did become angry because their words hurt me. I let them know it. Just as those who love me will tell me when I have hurt them, so I can know it. We have to know when we are falling short, or else we cannot change and do better. Anger is sometimes the medicine we need, the fire that lights up the psyche so we can pick up the sword and battle anew. I know I am not done fighting my demons, as much as I would like to be. But as long as I stay passively stuck in fear, incapacitated and unable to push through it, they keep winning. Rilke demands of his god, Break in! Come into my stuck place between rock and rock and feel what it is like. Then your transforming will happen to me. Then my grief cry will happen to you. Then we will become one, human and God, united being. And that, I believe, is the whole point.


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A sense of entitlement in an age of need

(Note: Dear Readers, as I looked for an image or quote for this post, I found out that the word ‘entitlement” is fraught with conservative political opinions that I admittedly do NOT share.  Therefore, this post has been a mini education in itself!  please feel free to share your opinions with me, and apologies if this word gave you a different impression than what I meant to say.–Leigh)

When I was young, in the 1960’s and 70’s, my family, and those of my friends and schoolmates, were solidly middle-class Americans. This meant that nobody in my little world ever experienced poverty, homelessness, or lack of necessities. Ever. As a child and adolescent, I was sheltered from knowledge of such things by my loving parents, who thought they were doing the right thing by protecting me from the sad truths of this world. They themselves, along with most of their generation, had grown up during the Depression and experienced Life Without. Being the good, kind and loving people they were, they (being my dad) worked hard every day of his life to provide plenty of the Good Life for his family, and he succeeded. We had Plenty of Everything.

It was therefore mysterious, and disturbing, to my family that as soon as I could possibly manage it, I left home and plunged myself into poverty. I won’t bore you with the long details of my life, dear Readers, but suffice to say, I have never been as well off as an adult as I was as a child. It was as though I somehow, unconsciously, understood that I had been entitled to good education and a clean, orderly and financially stable life without ever knowing why or having a clue as to how lucky I was.

After plunging myself willingly into poverty at the age of seventeen, I began to learn about the other side of life on planet earth. The hard way. Over the course of the next thirty years, I received a fairly comprehensive education about the school of hard knocks, and what life is like when one is not living under the illusion of entitlement.

Now it is 2014, and I find myself living again in Denver, Colorado, ironically enough. Fortunately I am not in the suburbs where I grew up, but in the heart of the city. I have written about what it is like to be here and the people whom I meet and see each day. Obviously, there are many classes of people living in this metropolis of nearly three million, from the richest to the very poorest. My current part-time work is as a reading tutor for some kids at an inner city school. Today I attended a meeting at this school, where the principal and his colleagues spoke about what it is like to teach there. 60% of the students are “English language learners,” meaning that English is their second language and more likely than not, not spoken much at home. This school contains mostly working class families, and many are at or below the poverty line. Through the meeting, I found out that the single biggest challenge the teachers face is concerning parental involvement in their children’s education. As the principal said, many of the parents themselves had a hard time in school, didn’t like it, didn’t do well, perhaps did not finish their education, and they pass those values (or lack thereof) onto their children.

What is a sense of entitlement, and where does it come from? Many of you might have quick, short answers to these questions, and to some degree, you would be correct. And yet. What are we humans really entitled to in this world? Is it having a basic human right to something, like clean air to breathe, clean water to drink? Or does it go deeper, into our constitutional rights to free speech, to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Or does it have more to do with fundamental rights to a good education, a clean and warm home, loving family and friends, healthy and plentiful food to eat, etc?

Or does entitlement have more to do with the idea of not having to work or struggle for what you receive in life, in having things handed to you simply because you are alive and born into a particular family or societal strata, and think that you deserve and have the right to all of it and way more? Perhaps in the way of landed families of old, that the younger generations inherited the wealth and land from their forefathers from antiquity, giving hardly a thought to the poor who had no inheritance, who simply had the privilege of being able to work on the lord’s land, and had nothing in the end to show or pass onto their own children.

Tonight I am simply pondering these questions, dear Readers. My idealistic self would like to change the structure of society towards a more equitable direction, so that it is not only the rich white kids in the suburbs (or the private and charter schools) who receive the best education, but somehow create a society that everyone can thrive in, become truly educated and contribute their gifts to the whole. Where the concept of entitlement becomes something for all people, involving health on all levels, both personally and socially. Dear intelligent friends and readers, your thoughts please!

Related articles
http://privilegeofparenting.com/2009/11/25/the-secret-pain-of-the-entitled-child/


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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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Heart wide open and vulnerable

Do any of you feel like you are on a roller-coaster emotional ride these days, Dear Readers? I know I certainly do. One day, one moment up, or at least holding steady, then the next– bam, slam, and down again. Awake again at 4 am, I finally decided to get up and at least make an attempt at something other than sleeping. The buzzing from an old fluorescent light in the kitchen kept me company until there was a horrendous crash, bringing the framed picture on the wall over said light, down into the kitchen sink below in pieces. Weird, right? Until some moments later, our landlord-upstairs neighbor and friend Bob knocked on the door, asking if we could hear a strange buzzing noise. This was just after 5 am. Sheepishly I mumbled, ‘oh, yeah it is the old kitchen light I have on, couldn’t sleep, so sorry,’ and quickly turning it off again, proceeded to sit in the darkness with only the computer screen for company. Not the best way to begin a new day.

Today was a whirl of emotional states, mostly on the low end of life’s spectrum. I watched myself go through grief, anger, overwhelm, confusion, blahness, and other such things. By the aftLove-quote-elephantjournalernoon I was so tired of myself that I walked over to the part of town where others are also experiencing similarities, known as Colfax Avenue. At least there I could see that I am far from alone in my suffering. First I went to the women’s place, which is a large three story building containing kind-hearted volunteers and helpful women who are helping other women who aren’t having such great lives at the moment. There I received information about all the various services and resources available to me, made a couple of appointments for next week, and left feeling slightly better. From there, I walked a couple of blocks down to Urban Ministries, which is a truly wonderful place. They offer help for the homeless and basically anyone who needs some humanity, in the form of a food pantry, legal aid, help with obtaining ID and birth certificates, job information, computers, the use of telephones and one’s own voice mail box, and access to other resources a person who is down on their luck might need. Today I was there to see about using their food pantry, seeing as ours was a bit empty, as well as my purse. An hour later, I had been given not only an amazing and healthy array of all kinds of wonderful food (thanks to the local Whole Foods market who gives their nearly out-of-dates and perishables to them each week), but also a very kind and friendly young woman was there to listen to my rant and my rage today. I entered nearly in tears, and left with profuse blessings on my lips.

The past weekend I attended a Kadampa Buddhist meditation and talk. The leader spoke about anger, and its cousin, aversion. She said that whenever we have the impulse of No, I don’t want this, and want to push it away, that is a form of anger which has not yet manifested outside of ourselves. As always in Buddhism, the invitation is to look at whatever it is that comes up in the soul, or the mind, acknowledge it, and then simply let it go. Simply let go. Of course, this is the tricky part. Today as I spoke with the young intake worker at Urban Ministries, I realized a kind of vehemence in my words. I had thought I was simply discouraged, sad and frustrated, yet my words once out of my mouth, told me how very angry I am, how helpless I feel. There is so much need in the world now, so many hurt humans walking around not having a clue what to do, where to go, how to fix themselves or anyone else. We are a broken people. Yet, if we ourselves are okay enough, getting by alright, managing our lives even barely well enough, then it becomes easy to simply forget our less fortunate brothers and sisters on the street. What I am finding out now, living in Denver, is that there are many people who are in need. And there are many people who are doing what they can to help. There are hundreds of charity organizations in the greater Denver metro area, working at every level to raise up our brokenness, to offer help, both material and emotional, to the youngest, the oldest, and everyone in-between.

As I walk through the streets on these mostly sunny January days, I see myself reflected back in all the faces– on the bus, in line at the grocery store, everywhere I look I see the human condition. They are me and I am them– we are all part of a great organism, we are each important to the whole. If the man on the street is without a home, money, and self-respect, then a part of me is also. Conversely, it must also be true that the ones who are extraordinarily blessed with wealth, beauty, and every material object their heart desires, also dwell within me somewhere. Inexplicably, it is much more difficult for me to experience them inside of me than the ones who are hurting. Obviously I still have much more soul work to do.

My heart is wide open and vulnerable now, more than ever before. Perhaps this is why I have days like today, where I so profoundly feel the pain of the world within my own personal anguish. Yet I would rather it be this way, than to have a closed heart and mind, unable to empathize or be compassionate. There is nothing else to do: once one’s mind and heart are awakened, there is no going back.