Tales from outer turnip head...

Tales from outer turnip head...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Where trouble melts like lemon drops...

Pot of Gold:
Driving a truck on a gravely old road—tires spinning in 4 wheel drive—on a warmish fall day is exhilarating. Pressing forward over the crest of a hill through a little rain and fog—visibility diminished to only a few hundred feet—is mysterious. To turn onto the smooth newly-paved surface of a downward slope and be confronted by a harvested field—adorned with the light of a full rainbow, tip to tip—is joy. Such is a Berkshires moment in late October as experienced by a middle-aged man driving like a teen-age boy down a country road in search of nothing and happening upon something (it's a metaphor, yeah?)...

There is so much exhilaration, mystery, and joy in each day that contrast the shadowy elements. I am not sure what the lesson is for me today—or my purpose—beyond sharing the feel-good emotion I have deep in my core. So, on this Sunday I offer up a picture of my rainbow and include Bruddah Iz to help spread a little bit of that feel-good thing that I have in my core. Enjoy, and let the sweet sounds of the voice of Hawaii fill you today...

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow
Blue birds fly
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Dreams really do come true ooh oh
Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That's where you'll find me
Oh, somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to,
Oh why, oh why can't I?
Well I see trees of green and red roses too,
I'll watch them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Well I see skies of blue
And I see clouds of white
And the brightness of day
I like the dark
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people passing by
I see friends shaking hands
Singing, "How do you do?"
They're really singing, "I, I love you."
I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,
They'll learn much more than we'll know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world world
Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That's where you'll find me
Oh, somewhere over the rainbow way up high
And the dream that you dare to, why oh, why can't I?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The donative heart: An implicit promise for the future...

The quirks that give us away: It is not so strange when we acquire language from others that is unique, quirky, identifiable as such by those who pay attention to language; I say wicked (Boston), and ya'll without a drawl (Mid-Atlantic). I make my A's long (Can't and Aunt sound like Ant), and turn my T's into D's (Baltimore is BALL-di-more, hon). The web is full of question and answer games that place your linguistic footprint, or try to guess your location from these clues. [Here is a really interesting one from the NYTimes. The graphics are such fun.]

Of acorns and trees: But it is a little more strange when we acquire words—or more importantly word usages—from individuals (that is not so regionalized), and are able to gain an insight into where we picked up that usage...

The heart of the giving: One such word is my love of the word donative. I've used it for years, preferring it to it's kin, charitable. It seemed normal to use, yet I have realized that others around me do not always understand how I use it. This summer as I was speaking with my father about kindness and giving while using the word donative my father pointed out to me that he likes how I use the word; I realized then that I use his word. I had not specifically thought that it was his, but realized that I have long heard him use it; it makes sense that I picked it up from him. He pointed out to me that the word is not used much anymore, and I laughingly told him it is a good word anyway...

Popularity of the word "Donative."
Donative shows up in writing in the 16th century, but has Latin roots. The oldest Latin is just "to give," and over time came to be a formal giving tied to an organization. I realize my father and I use it incorrectly. The definition of the word is:

It seems so formal, this definition. It is not how we use it. We use donative in a way that describes the spirit of the gift, the heart of the intent as a selfless act. There is a purity implied in the way we both use the word to describe, that reflects our deep value of the charitableness that we are all capable of when we place the other ahead of ourselves—the love that is implied in the act of giving. It is not about merely cutting a check for a charity we like. It carries with it the baggage of Kindness (with a capital K), the example that he might attribute to the love of Christ, or I, the full understanding of a bodhisattva's compassion...

An implicit promise for the future: I have been blessed with such a wealth of positive relationships in my life that I am at times overwhelmed with the gift of it all. I continue to grow and see more and become more as a result of these people in my life. One good friend recently sent me a book of meditations on everyday words by a poet named David Whyte, Consolations. The following are excerpts from his entry on giving. Although I have stripped these lines from their larger linear context, I believe what I offer below represents good wisdom. It captures what I see as part of the heart of that word donative that my father and I use so similarly...

Giving is a difficult and almost contemplative art form that has to be practiced to be done well; to learn to give is almost always the simple, sometimes heartbreaking act of just giving again.

...all gifts change with the maturation of their recipients.

...it means getting beyond the boundaries of our own needs, it means understanding another and another's life...

Giving means paying attention and creating imaginative contact with the one whom we are giving, it is a form of attention itself, a way of acknowledging and giving thanks for lives other than our own.

...to surprise the recipient by showing that someone else understands them and through a display of giving virtuosity, can even identify needs they cannot admit themselves. The full genius of gift giving is found when we give what a person does not fully feel they deserve...

To give is also to carry out the difficult task of putting something of our own essence in what we have given. 

...but to give appropriately, always involves a tiny act of courage, a step of coming to meet, of saying I see you, and appreciate you and am also making an implicit promise for the future.

Quotes from David Whyte's Consolations. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Touching the Divine...We are the stories we tell ourselves...

The Virgin Queen: In 1998 Shekhar Kapur directed Elizabeth, one of my favorite historically oriented films. It is not accurate historically, but rather is accurate in how it captures human endeavor; it is a political/romantic drama loosely based upon the early life and struggles of one of the greatest Monarchs in history. Cate Blanchett plays an attractive, desirous, intense, educated Elizabeth who grows into her role as an effective power broker in a political world dominated by men and in a period of uncertainty for England. IMDB, Roger Ebert, and Rotten Tomatoes all give it solid, but not astounding, ratings. Nonetheless, it is one of my favorites. I have a lot of favorites. Movies are such amazing vehicles for telling stories...

Laterna Magica: Movies are magic. They are magical. They can bring the stories we tell ourselves that craft of image of what we believe right before our own eyes. These stories we tell and watch are ours for our collective inspection, and although the film and sound are the same each time shown, the reception and perception of those stories is as varied as the viewers who watch them. Anything we think can become reality, and those various realities can be shown to us through all sorts of the stories we tell, including film. Walsingham, in Elizabeth, says "All men need something greater than themselves to look up to and worship. They must be able to touch the divine here on earth." We are compelled to find meaning and expression for our beliefs. We hold in our hearts and mind beliefs about the world and the divine, and we construct stories for them that are meaningful, fanciful, mundane, irreverent, whimsical, and so much more. But deep within our stories lie our core beliefs, and in those core spaces might lie the capital "T" truth and the divine that we seek to touch here on earth...

Panic, Chaos, The Source, Waiting to be hit by the universe... Touching the Divine: So today's "meditation" is borrowed from one of these storytellers, the director of Elizabeth, Kapur. These comments about how he approaches his story telling are from his TED talk "We are the stories we tell ourselves." The comments that follow are just a taste of his presentation. If you like what you read you should take the 15 minutes to watch his whole talk. He says:
When I go out to direct a film, every day we prepare too much, we think too much. Knowledge becomes a weight upon wisdom. You know, simple words lost in the quicksand of experience. So I come up, and I say, "What am I going to do today?" I'm not going to do what I planned to do, and I put myself into absolute panic. It's my one way of getting rid of my mind, getting rid of this mind that says, "Hey, you know what you're doing. You know exactly what you're doing. You're a director, you've done it for years." So I've got to get there and be in complete panic. It's a symbolic gesture. I tear up the script, I go and I panic myself, I get scared. I'm doing it right now; you can watch me. I'm getting nervous, I don't know what to say, I don't know what I'm doing, I don't want to go there. And as I go there, of course, my A.D. says, "You know what you're going to do, sir." I say, "Of course I do." And the studio executives, they would say, "Hey, look at Shekhar. He's so prepared." And inside I've just been listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan because he's chaotic. I'm allowing myself to go into chaos because out of chaos, I'm hoping some moments of truth will come. All preparation is preparation. I don't even know if it's honest. I don't even know if it's truthful. The truth of it all comes on the moment, organically, and if you get five great moments of great, organic stuff in your storytelling, in your film, your film, audiences will get it. So I'm looking for those moments, and I'm standing there and saying, "I don't know what to say." So, ultimately, everybody's looking at you, 200 people at seven in the morning who got there at quarter to seven, and you arrived at seven, and everybody's saying, "Hey. What's the first thing? What's going to happen?" And you put yourself into a state of panic where you don't know, and so you don't know. And so, because you don't know, you're praying to the universe because you're praying to the universe that something -- I'm going to try and access the universe the way Einstein -- say a prayer -- accessed his equations, the same source. I'm looking for the same source because creativity comes from absolutely the same source that you meditate somewhere outside yourself, outside the universe. You're looking for something that comes and hits you. Until that hits you, you're not going to do the first shot.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Buddhist Still Life... sunday monkey mind

It is a rainy day, damp face, warm sweater, wrap your arms around yourself and smile kind of day. Glowing fire in the stove. It is a climb a mountain with the one you want and shuffle though damp leaves sort of morning. Hot tea on the sill. It is a sit in the clutter, sorting the chaos, putting things in boxes, letting go of the old, kind of solitude. Calming music from the speakers. It is a steam bath, sweat brow, skin cleanse, day-dream, deep sigh sort of sit on a marble slab. Fresh laundry on the shelf. It is a half-mast eye gaze, mind open, heart slowed, listen to the world sort of afternoon. Good book in the lap. It is a smell of baked bread and wood smoke mixed with sandalwood wisps and musky fall dew kind of space... ahhhhhhhhh!

"My eyes already touch the sunny hill. Going far ahead of the road I have begun. So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp; it has inner light, even from a distance and changes us, even if we do not reach it, into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are; A gesture waves us on answering our own wave... But what we feel is the wind in our faces."  --Rilke

[I am reminded of a post two years ago, by the way... A quiet pleasant melancholy Cycles and patterns eh?]

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Butterfly Effect...

"Look deeply: every second I am arriving...": I've been thinking about "chaos" this morning. All morning, in fact. I've been struggling to find my way to articulate an understanding of a system that I admit I can only understand through my own perception—a perception that seeks to find concept in the concept-less-ness of that very thing I wish to articulate meaning about. I'm out of my league here...

"I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry...": But I perceive a world of chaos around me, and perceive that that chaos disturbs many people for their need to find definition and order... I am like that too. But the chaos and entropy that swirls around my thoughts about the universe I experience feels comforting. It is my lack of ability to find the words to express my appreciation of that universe that causes me angst...

"I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river...": I know that there are those who look into the abyss and see something that they find great beauty in, that there are those who gaze into the random nature of a system and see pattern where most of us see mess, that there are those who "know" that order exists in all things, in all ways, all at once. I yearn for that certainty. Does the entropy of a system reverse itself if given enough time to move towards chaos? Does the chaos itself have an order all of itself that is beautiful? I suspect yes, and seek to see it. Yet I have no answers today, a lot of questions and a willingness to continue to just listen to the universe and listen for the sound that its found in the the white noise of the distant stars...

... ... ...

“I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.”

― W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

... ... ...

"There are only patterns, patterns on top of patterns, patterns that affect other patterns. Patterns hidden by patterns. Patterns within patterns. If you watch close, history does nothing but repeat itself. What we call chaos is just patterns we haven't recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can't decipher. what we can't understand we call nonsense. What we can't read we call gibberish.
There is no free will. There are no variables."

― Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

... ... ...

“Real love is always chaotic. You lose control; you lose perspective. You lose the ability to protect yourself. The greater the love, the greater the chaos. It’s a given and that’s the secret.”

― Jonathan Carroll, White Apples

(Poetic headings borrowed from the poverty of Thich Nhat Hanh.)