ALCHEMY OF WORDS
ALCHEMY OF WORDS
Last night I dreamt of the ocean. In all its endless mystery. Of setting out into its wilderness on the journey of a lifetime. Of being on a large ship, in charge of the mast, full of hope and courage. Buoyed by the adrenaline of adventure. And also feeling utterly ill-suited for the task.
What is it about the sea? Its vastness either provokes awe or makes us feel insignificant. Or some combination. Its perfect rhythms offer comfort, but they also drive home how little of this world is within our grasp. The ocean can wash us clean of our earthly cares or – with too little effort to measure -- simply wash us away.
The ocean is also a mirror of our human hearts: wild, restless, unyielding, untamable, unknowable. In that reflection there is both inspiration and terror. To admit that our own hearts are so uncharted, so unknowable, despite a lifetime of effort, is more than a little daunting. And also, we know we must continue to try.
There is so much that is beyond us. We cannot know all there is to be known, as we cannot count the waves on the sea. We cannot read all the books in the store, as we cannot love all the lovers to be loved. We cannot solve the riddles of our own hearts, as we cannot count all the grains of sand.
He that will learn to pray, let him go to sea.
- George Herbert
We are in perpetual need of getting out of our own ways, of getting out of our own heads, of surrendering to that which we cannot know, of letting go of the rocks and the shore and letting the water take us where it will. This, too, is why the ocean calls to us. To share with us its wider view. And to grant us reverence for the one wild and precious life we have been given.
Just as we have drawn imaginary lines to define nations and states, so we have created imaginary boundaries in our own lives, our own hearts and minds. And while some of these made-up borders allow us to get up, make the coffee, put on our shoes and go about our days, they also keep us from the natural human wandering that is required in order to rediscover the magic of just being alive.
Just as I was enthusiastic for a dream journey that I was also completely unprepared to take, so we walk out into everyday of our lives. We ignore the fact that we live in a world that is overwhelmingly designed for things with gills. Not to mention that even that vast world floats on an almost imperceptible wave of the universe’s unknowable sea. Maybe it is because our brains can’t grasp the size of these mysteries that we ignore the greatness of this wonder as we stumble through each day. Or maybe we spend too much time asleep when we think we are awake.
All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage
of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean.
So continues the taunting paradox of the universe. Perhaps it’s the ocean’s great size which makes it all the more poignant that we are both profoundly lost and found in its presence. Even in its memory.
There is not a thing in the world that does not feel the tug of the sea. Though it seems there are some of us more built for adventure than others. Some who have no choice but to seek out the sea. And still more who cannot be content to simply walk its shores and gaze on its beauty, but must be out in it, as close to part of it as humanly possible. And they cannot imagine any other life. They would not feel whole without it. So it is with our lives on land. Some of us are more willing to take the risk on our dreams.
The ocean is the great metaphor of unknowing, the great mystery, the divine feminine, the collective unconscious, the land of dreams. So a dream about the ocean is then a dream within a dream. A dreamer lost in himself. Out in a universe of fluid borders. Where we are free to dream new worlds into being.
How do we see our way out?
The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky not-so-famously said, "Perhaps it is beauty that will save us in the end." I couldn't agree more. And I wrote a piece for Rebelle Society in 2013 on why our most important job is to find beauty. It was true then and it is true now.
I've written before how the world is broken, in many, many ways. And how it is also beautiful. And that we should focus more on the beauty. And I have been criticized for saying that kind of thing, because people mistook it for some kind of spiritual bypass, or they said it was born of white privilege. But despite this criticism, I have never been one to shy away from the full picture. So let's talk about the broken parts for a minute. Let's not shy away or paint glossy pictures of unicorns with rainbows coming out of their nether regions. Let's talk about the state of our modern world.
When this piece was originally written, people were still reeling from a mass shooting in Vegas. The one where one shooter with an arsenal of 23 guns, including semi-automatics and hundreds and hundreds of rounds of ammo, caused unimaginable pain, injury, death, and chaos. By the time you read this, the talk of reasonable gun control may have quieted, and the great majority of the nation may have gone back to sleep. But I hope not. I hope that we are all still talking about how we can fix the many things that are broken in our country. Because the way I see it, they are all connected.
I'll start with a list of what I see is broken, those things I believe have contributed to the state of our world. The poverty, the crime, the mass anxiety and hopelessness, and the every-other day mass shootings, as well as other catastrophes, including the 2008 financial crisis from which we are still recovering:
1. Unfathomable disparity in income distribution. We do not live in a free market. The US grants something like $125 billion or more a year in corporate welfare. And that does not include tax loopholes and offshore accounts. Meanwhile more than 43 million Americans live in poverty. There are 6 heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune who have amassed more wealth than over 100 million Americans. This is not because they are smarter or work harder or are just luckier. It is a rigged system. Add to this the fact that because those 6 people do not pay their full time employees a living wage, our tax dollars must pay for those employees' food stamps. To the tune of $6.2 billion. In another not-so-far-off time, where we weren't all distracted by our smart phones and social media approval, we'd be marching with torches to tear down their walls. And there would be guillotines waiting.
2. A Congress filled with people who do not give a shit about you. Sure, there have been outliers: Franken, Sanders, Warren. But mostly Congress cares about getting re-elected and amassing secret wealth on the side that they do not need to disclose while they refuse to pass legislation preventing them from capitalizing on insider knowledge. The NRA, big banks, big insurance, big oil, and their ilk have each of them by the balls. If you don't believe me, just look at the numerous recent efforts to give billionaires tax cuts while throwing millions of Americans off health care.
It is hard for my mind to wrap around how absurd this is. Mostly because of the fundamental truth that billionaires do not need tax cuts. They wouldn't even notice them. Which leads me to the real problem, which is not greed and corruption, but figuring out why we haven't risen up against this nonsense. Why is it that vast numbers of Americans, who will not benefit from these policies, will likely still re-elect most of these politicians next term. We must correct this problem before any other progress can be made.
3. #45. Look, I sort of get his selling point for some people. We are sick of business as usual in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere in politics. (See numbers 1 and 2, above.) We want big change. We want to break the system into tiny pieces and rebuild it. But this guy was never going be the solution. This guy is the problem. He is the poster boy for The Sociopathic Capitalists Society (except for the ironic fact that he has apparently been propped up by a communist mafia since the 90s). But more troubling than that, he seems to be a bona fide moron on just about every topic there is. Even more troubling than the fact that he doesn't know things, as George Will noted, is the fact that he does not seem to know what it is to know something. That so many millions of people voted for him, and that so many numbers continue to support him, despite his daily incompetence, is disheartening to say the least, and frankly beyond comprehension;
4. The archaic, dysfunctional, and misguided judicial system. We have a Supreme Court who has perpetuated many of our current problems. Including decisions that: (1) grossly misinterpret the second amendment as to allow the NRA to continue its bullying and to allow Americans to stockpile lots of guns that are designed only to kill many, many people very, very quickly. Say from the 32nd floor of a hotel; or (2) the one that equates money with speech and has allowed big money to take over our elections; or (3) the one that gave away the Presidency to a guy who lost the election. And then there is the obvious problem of privately-owned prison systems. And if you can't see the problem with that, just consider how these people would make money if the prisons weren't full. And what a conflict of interest that is for the so-called departments of justice. And consider that the majority of people in federal prison are there for non-violent drug offenses. Many of which are for drugs that are now legal in several states;
5. Our belief in otherness. Despite the infuriating reality of the first four enumerated paragraphs, this is probably the most troubling. From religions, to skin colors, to languages, it seems it is human nature to fear what we do not understand, what is different from us, and how we do things. And maybe there is some anthropological good cause for this. But we have greatly exaggerated its usefulness in the modern era. It is time to build bridges to each other, not walls. Our prejudices far outweigh our curiosity, and we need to flip that.
Maybe you knew someone affected by the Mandalay Bay shooting in Vegas. Or any of the countless mass shootings that happen every year. Maybe just the pure senselessness of any of them have shaken you. Whatever the case, how many wake up calls do we need? How many times, after the immediate shock of another mass shooting, another financial collapse, another election of a dangerous and willfully ignorant sociopath, another avoidable environmental disaster, another murder of an unarmed black man, another attempted racially-motivated travel ban, will we roll over and hit the snooze button? We must demand more from ourselves and our leaders.
And though it may seem counter-intuitive, one of the things we must demand of ourselves is that we spend more time finding beauty in the world. And also more time creating it. Because finding and creating beauty will, without a doubt, change you and the world.
As I have written before:
We have stacked so much rubbish on top of ourselves, that our true beauty, and the beauty of everyone and everything are buried under our prejudices, our beliefs, our pages and pages of worn out stories. Dig yourself out. Brush yourself off. Throw away the never-ending manuscript of why you can’t.
The world is neither this thing nor that thing. It is not our ideas of how it is or of how it should be. The world is the world. Like love, the world contains all possibilities. All darks and lights, all ups and downs, all rainbows of doubt and joy, hardship and pleasure. But I want you to forget all that.
Your job is to find beauty.
Doubt everything. Find your own light.
Socrates made his students answer their own questions. Galileo dared to doubt the church. And Darwin later took up his legacy. The Buddha described his own path, but wanted people to find their own way. Even Jesus was a man of doubt. If not for the doubters, we’d all still be in Plato’s cave.
From Rumi to Rimbaud, the great poets have always been doubters. From Da Vinci to Descartes, our great thinkers have looked through the lens of doubt and reimagined the world.
Bad things happen whenever we excuse doubt from the table at decision time. Without courage to doubt the President, we get a ten-year, two trillion-dollar war. Without courage to doubt our bankers, we see the collapse of a world economy.
If you would be a real seeker after truth,
it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt,
as far as possible, all things.
If faith is the vehicle to carry one's vision to fruition, then doubt is the bridge upon which it travels. Blind faith is as destructive a force as self-doubt. Both are out of balance and misplaced.
A certain measure of faith is necessary and constructive. We must believe in ourselves, our purposes, our relationships with each other and with the universe, in order to be whole. This faith cannot exist in a vacuum, though, or it becomes a senseless and destructive force that is counter to its essence.
Faith in the unknown, the invisible, the passion which moves us is as essential as oxygen to the human experience. Indeed a full human life is not possible without it. Still faith must know its split-apart doubt, in order to serve us.
Faith keeps many doubts in her pay.
If I could not doubt, I should not believe.
-Henry David Thoreau
Yes, doubt has its place. We are supposed to question, it makes our faith authentic. Those who are afraid to question their beliefs tacitly admit the weakness of them. Those unwilling to acknowledge the possible validity of truths beyond their own, become rigid to the natural flows of life.
If we were to peek behind the flimsy curtain, instead of strength, we'd see fragility. If we were to read between the lines of these manifestos, the ink would reveal dogmas, not truths. A building that is too inflexible will crumble when the Earth shifts her weight. A tree that cannot bend will break into pieces in the wind.
So is the mind like these things. When we travel the same thought paths too often, it creates ruts of thought, action, belief. Soon we are limited by where we can go, because the wheels of our brain cannot escape these ruts. Just as we do yoga to keep our bodies flexible, so we need to bend our brains to keep them useful.
Perfect confidence is granted
to the less talented as a consolation prize.
- Robert Hughes
I doubt any of us were put on this earth to accept someone else's story without a question. We were not given such wonderful brains only to follow instructions. We were not built with an innate sense of our own path, to follow a broken compass someone else gave us. We were not handed a blank piece of paper to color in someone else's lines.
If life is a daring adventure, as Ms. Keller told us, then we must not squander the chance to explore. I would rather doubt and be wrong than blindly accept and be right. At least the misjudgment would be my own.
The aphorisms of the ages are filled with encouragement to step to the beat of your own drummer. There has never been anything memorable written about following convention. No soul was ever inspired by lines teaching that life is about following orders.
You are never dedicated to something
you have complete confidence in.
No one is fanatically shouting
that the sun is going to rise tomorrow.
- Robert M. Pirsig
Part of the magic of life exists in the balance of many forces that appear, falsely, to be opposites: beauty and decay, love and hate, fear and courage, light and dark, life and death. This is part of the great illusion.
We must believe and doubt in balance or else neither has value. If we are to build the new world, then like an old married couple who've lost their rhythm, faith and doubt must learn to dance again. Let’s commit ourselves in the coming days and weeks to learn some new steps.
And to never lose our faith in the power of doubt.
Go on. Wrestle that angel.
Lean into her with your whole self. Wrap your arms around and press your torso to hers. Dig in with your heels and feel her weight pressing back. Hold on tight to her arms, her ribs, the curve of her hips, anywhere you can find purchase. Feel her electric pulse course through you. Don't give up. Don't give in. Don't let go too soon.
Our struggles are not curses. They are not mythical demons or punishments for our sins. They are not troubles to be wished away, not obstacles to avoid. There is not another, safer path we should have taken. They are gifts. The trouble is we are conditioned to believe that gifts are only things that come in boxes with wrapping paper and bows. (Or these days, in the last-minute three-dollar bag with colored tissue paper stuffed in the top.)
We're not used to gifts looking like a dark room with furniture we can’t see. Let alone a gift looking like our own darkness. Hell, we’re not even used to acknowledging our own darkness. Other people’s, sure. We’re like forest rangers with binoculars on lookout towers when it comes to spotting (and calling out) anyone else’s shadow. With any hint of our own shadows tucked up neat and tidy underneath us as we lounge in the brightness of our perpetual high noon. Only rainbows, unicorns, and smiley faces here.
Here’s the thing. We’re humans. We’re not angels, seraphim, or saints. We’re not even ascended beings. (If you are actually an ascended being, my apologies.) Which means we don’t generally spend our days floating around on clouds, wrapped in unearthly light, singing with voices like gelato (real Italian gelato, I mean), possessing all divine knowledge, and carrying tiny messages of truth to the besotted masses.
As humans, we’re possessed of just enough wit to want to know what the angels are talking about, but not quite enough to actually understand them. (You can see why we’d want to wrestle them. They piss us off.) If it feels like this is an unfair situation, that’s because it is. And if you think about it, no one promised us anything about life being fair. (Seriously, look on the back of your ticket if you don’t believe me.) Life is an enter-at-your-own-risk event.
So, how again are these things supposed to be gifts? Let me explain a different way. Recently there was a single mobile game app from Japan that grossed up to $75 million a month. The worldwide video game industry grossed over $93 billion the same year. What this means is that, while we complain constantly about the riddles of our real lives, we are perfectly willing to spend hard earned cash, and lots of it, to solve make-believe problems. Or at least to blow them up.
Let me say that another way.
You know how, whenever you are part of any given organization -- be it your job, your math club, or your cult -- someone will eventually decide the thing that will make this group more cohesive is a ropes course? Before it became kind of a cliché, a ropes course was actually a good idea. It allows people to face their fears and to transcend them, generally with the support and encouragement of other humans who are there to face their own demons. The challenges are physical and emotional. And overcoming them provides self-assurance and an opportunity to bond with others.
Life’s kind of like that. We don’t think of it that way, because life is something we do every day all day, not just once, or once every few years. Whenever I have traveled in my life, I wake up every morning excited to face the unknown adventures that await me. When I am back to my daily routines, I strive to remember that I can greet every day just like this. I don’t have to be in another city or country to find adventure or to be excited about my day.
Whether we admit it or not, we like puzzles. We like to be challenged. And not just on the screen. If you think about it, life would probably not be worth living if all the streets were flat, the weather was always perfect, our kids were always well behaved, our thoughts were never troubled, and we had all the money we could ever spend. Wait a second, that actually sounds pretty damn good. Forget all that other stuff I said.
While it’s tempting to think that a life of nothing but ease would be nothing but grand, this is flawed thinking. The only reason we know anything about ourselves is because we’ve had to figure it out. Stop me if I’ve said this before, but how many of us have known trustafarians who are pretty screwed up. Probably everyone. Though it may sound like a good idea, saving your children from certain hardships, setting them up so they’ll never have to work to make a place for themselves in the world is not really doing them any favors.
So give yourself permission to grapple. It’s okay that we don’t have everything figured out. It’s okay that we walk around daily bearing the weight of these small worlds. That our minds are constantly working on these puzzles in the background. That these angels we wrestle make guest appearances in our dreams, our work lives, our arguments with friends and lovers, our endless conversations with ourselves.
We were born to wrestle. It’s part of our DNA. And history tells us the angels know how to lose. So go on. Lean in.
Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
- A Course in Miracles
There are days when the world will break your heart. I don’t mean you will be sad or disappointed or even angry. I don’t mean your feelings will be hurt or you will sob into a pillow. I don’t mean you will be so depressed you won’t want to get out of bed or talk to anyone.
I mean there are days when your heart will break. It will bleed out right on the desk, the floor, the kitchen table. And the pain in your chest will be so great you’ll think you cannot bear it. And everywhere you look, everything you read, every conversation you have will feel like peroxide being poured onto an open wound. I mean that you will not be able to see any future that is habitable, because everything will seem irreparably broken. The meanness of the human race will appear beyond comprehension.
There are days when what you believed to be innocent things will suddenly appear as the opposite of what you thought. When the destructive nature of children and their inhumane treatment of one another, suddenly will explain all the world’s woes. And you will realize that everyone you know is just a child in grown up clothes, with more responsibilities than they are capable of handling, throwing the occasional toddler’s tantrum that is disguised as either righteous indignation or hormonal vicissitudes. And you will understand that their poor treatment of other humans is exactly the same thing as the oversized playground bully ruthlessly making the younger kids cry with his taunting and name-calling.
There are days when the rich will keep getting richer, the greedy greedier, the hard-working even more marginalized, the sick, more in debt. When the insurance companies will continue to steal our money, month after month. When the banks will take our houses and then take some more. And when Congress and our President will seem impotent to do anything about it. Meanwhile they will handover our lunch money to the oil companies, the garden to Monsanto, and whatever is left to the NRA, you know, for protection.
There are days when the world is just mean. That is all there is. Meanness. And the occasional bout of insomnia which shakes us from our chronic slumber of unawareness to acknowledge our inability to do anything about it just before we fall asleep again, exhausted.
There are days where the world will not only break your heart, but tear it out of your chest, stomp on it, and set it on fire, right before your dumbstruck eyes. And you won’t know what to do.
And I won’t know what to tell you to make it any better.
And yet somehow, somehow, you will find a different set of days. In those days, the sun will be warm on your skin. But there will be just enough cloud cover to allow the colors all around you to show themselves. And your world will be filled with beauty. You’ll get buzzed by a hummingbird on your morning walk. And the green and yellow foothills will spread their beauty across the horizon as if just for you.
These are the days that are true. This is what is real. All else is nonsense dreamt up by small minds and feeble imaginations. All else is illusion. All else is the emptiness of delusion.
Come with me. Let's find our own way out. Let’s live all our days saturated in beauty.
Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.
- Richard Feynman
In other words, be like a child again. Not childish, as almost all adults can be -- which is far more annoying than it is endearing -- but childlike. A child is endlessly curious. Though a child does not really need to know the answers. A child just needs to question, to investigate, to dig, and to root, and to turn over stones. Then to keep on digging, building, adding, and tearing down. And starting over with new questions and ideas.
The finding of things is fun, too. But it is not the most essential thing. The discovery of anything will do. Children are masters of serendipity. Their innate impulse is to question, and to go about looking for new things, whether they are water bugs or woozles. The important thing is the adventure, which really never ends. And which is only occasionally interrupted by the silliness of adults making them stop to eat, or to brush their teeth and put on jammies.
For children, the world is stuffed full of magic things. This is because, well, the world is actually stuffed full of magic things. Our prejudices are learned. We are not born with our narrow approaches to life and its inhabitants. Our natural inclination is to seek out and to celebrate the magic. Every day, all day long. I think this is why children annoy some adults and delight others. The annoyed ones don’t want to be reminded of all that they’ve left behind. The delighted ones either still carry a healthy dose of magic with them, or they at least know where to find it.
Certainty is an illusion.
If there is evil in the world, which is at least debatable, the root of it most certainty lies in the desire for certainty. The older we get the more we realize how few absolutes there are in the world. But one of the absolutes we’re all pretty sure about is change. Everything is on its way to somewhere else all the time. There is no standing still. There are no forever answers.
And so how could there really be certainty about anything. When we are young, we think that the answer to the question of who we are is answerable. If we are really precocious, we may even think we know who we are. Or maybe we think, it’ll just take a little more examination, a little more life experience. The older we get, the more we understand that there could never be an answer to this question. And even if there were, it would be outdated as soon as we uttered it. In fact, we can’t even answer the question of what we mean by the word “me.”
As I’ve said before, it’s okay to be uncertain. In fact, it is preferred. Imagine a world without uncertainty. We’d be bored out of our heads. In fact, there wouldn’t be much point to it at all. The corporate, governmental, and religious institutions of modern society and their radical counterparts rely upon our deep-seated fear of uncertainty and our absolute unwillingness to admit this fear. Without our fear, they are nothing. They know that we desperately want someone else to tell us what the fuck is going on.
Don’t give in.
We’re so addicted to certainty that we create and obsess over our daily routines. Even though they create the very boredom we complain about. Even though it is these routines, along with our fear of uncertainty, that are the hands that secure the blinders in place on our heads. And those things make it really hard to fully experience life. Don’t buy in. Don’t sell yourself out. The big lie is that you need to give up your curiosity, your creativity, your desire to cut your own path through life, in the name of becoming an adult. Your curiosity is not the enemy. Any more than terrorism is the enemy. To paraphrase Edward Snowden, bathtubs and police officers kill more people than terrorism, yet we’ve been told to give up our fundamental rights to protect ourselves. It’s a lie, just like the lie that it’s time to grow up and kill your dreams.
We do not need to cast away our curiosity in order to be fully evolved adults. In fact, it’s just the opposite. All of the greatest spirits who have walked the planet have been possessed of fiercely curious minds and hearts. If you are paying attention, there is never a reason to be bored. Wake up. That’s it, really. If we are awake, we cannot help but be curious. Because what is curiosity, really, except the tendency to be awake. And to be looking for more stones to turn over.
To be like a child again.
Alchemists were able to turn base metals into gold. Or so the legend goes. The alchemist must undergo their own transformation. As inside, so outside.
So it is with writing. And the alchemy of words.
You have all probably read writers who have the ability to turn words into gold. But to do so, they must allow themselves to be changed in the process.
Here’s an example of words being turned into gold.
I am honored to share with you that my recent collection of words -- Happiness is an Imaginary Line in the Sand -- has received a Gold Nautilus Award.
Which is certainly enough, all by itself. (I mean, I thought only people like Barbara Kingsolver and Gary Zukav won Gold Nautilus Awards.)
But Nautilus also named the book the Best of Small Press.
These two honors certainly go beyond my expectations. And I find myself a tiny bit at odds as to what to do with this information.
Of course, I want to celebrate the news with you. And I also know that social media has made us all a little weary of all the self-promotion.
Maybe it is just that the world is filled with bad news right now. And I thought I’d share a little glimmer of good news with you.
It is like the book’s titular essay explains. A big part of being happy is deciding to be happy. Creating a little alchemy of your own out of the circumstances of your life. And bringing forth a little gold from inside to light your way.
I hope you are well. And that you are finding reasons, big and small, to celebrate your own lives.
Take care of yourselves.
P.S. If you haven't pick up a copy yet, Happiness Is an Imaginary Line in the Sand is available here.
And my friend and fellow Landmark Prize winner Kip Greenthal also won a Nautilus Award this year. You can find her award-winning novel Shoal Water here.
Trust. As if you didn’t know better.
While we walk around guarding ourselves against every conceivable threat from the outside, most of us betray ourselves in small and big ways all day, everyday. Mostly it’s the little voice that we carry around inside us. The one that nags, criticizes, and unnecessarily narrates our lives all day long. (And all night for those insomniacs among us.) Once we turn on the light of awareness, we realize that all this listening we do to this sociopathic voice in our heads is exhausting.
* * *
Trust. As if it were as essential as oxygen.
We do not give trust its due. Like oxygen, we file away its importance until we are under water. Until we are frightened and our hearts have already slammed shut. And then there’s little chance we’ll remember. But the unspoken truth is that it is trust, not fear, that makes the world go ‘round. If fear were the order of the day, if vigilance were the reigning factor, then nothing would get done. The richest of people on the planet trust countless others all day long, every day. Neither Gates nor Jobs, nor Musk nor Oprah built their empires on their own. We rely upon countless others every day for more things than we can count. Look at that sandwich you are eating. Who grew the grains for the bread, the vegetables, the mustard seeds? Who milked the cows and who cultured the cheese? Who salted and hung the prosciutto? Who mined the metals and built the toaster? Who welded the steel counter where the ingredients were assembled? If we did not trust in these processes, we’d never take a bite.
Give yourself permission to be you.
No one else can.
Life does not come with instructions. No one can tell you what is right for you, where your path will lead, how to find your way home.
The world of humans is drawn in straight lines, because other people are just trying to make sense of it. Most of the time you don’t have to color within those lines. Or walk within them.
You can jaywalk over to where you want to be. Even if no one has drawn an outline for it yet.
That path may end up being pretty crooked. And you’ll be tempted from time to time to judge yourself harshly, because it isn’t neat and doesn’t look like other people’s.
If you walk a crooked-path, take heart. The straight lines others have walked are no measure of success or happiness.
There are no certainties except uncertainty. And this uncertainty is the compost that creates the fertile soil of imagination, of creation, of beauty.
There are times in each of our lives when we simply get lost. Because that is life. The older we get, the more we realize how little we know, anyway. But the best way to know yourself is to walk your own path. No matter how messy.
Some days we are the wind, some days, the feather. The feather’s strength is its ability to let go.
The main thing is to be brave enough to live your own life. Even if you have to break a few arbitrary rules to do it.
So, I am writing this to put out into the world that I am doing just that. Walking my talk. Or jaywalking it, at least.
This has been a long time in the making. And it was ready to launch before covid took over the world. But now I'm making it a real thing.
Jaywalking Between Worlds, a podcast that breaks some rules, in a good way. Stay tuned for dates, times, and debut episodes. Right around the new year's corner. See you then.
Fall is in the air. It rained today for the first time since anyone can really remember around here. And even though us West Coast folks feel like we were sort of robbed of summer, the cooler nights and shorter days are somehow welcome.
We’re ready for something new.
In that spirit, I have more good news. The seasonal winds of change have brought two more gifts to add to the Fall list:
2. A colorful companion Oracle Deck to go along with the book.
Happiness Is an Imaginary Line in the Sand is a down-to-earth oracle to help decipher the riddles of modern life. (Hence the companion Oracle Deck.)
Part field notes from a seeker’s journey and part teachings of a would-be monk who doesn’t get to live on the side of a mountain, Happiness Is an Imaginary Line in the Sand is convincing in its stubborn insistence that a better world is not only possible, but within our grasp.
Best part, it is available now for pre-order! The release date is October 26, 2021. From any of these places: The publisher https://bit.ly/3zXWITI, IndieBound https://bit.ly/2XcgGeM or Amazon https://amzn.to/3zXCGc1 -- or indie bookstores everywhere.
An Oracle Deck designed as a companion to Happiness Is an Imaginary Line in the Sand. Sixty-six unique and colorful cards that correspond t0 each of the 66 essays. Hand-crafted design and available for purchase just ahead of the release date … stay tuned!
Here’s a sneak peek of the book with Essay # 65 Feather in the Wind:
Some days we are the wind. Some days, the feather. Nothing is guaranteed from one day to the next.
To be the wind requires a strong will, a sense of purpose, a willingness to affect change. To be the feather requires a lightness of heart, an act of faith, the willingness to let go.
Life does not come with instructions. No matter what they teach you in church. No one can tell you what is right for you, where your path will lead, how to find your way home.
There are times in each of our lives when we simply get lost. Because that is life. And I don't know about you, but when I am the most lost, there has never been anyone on the horizon with a flag waving me to shelter.
The older we get, the more we realize how little we know. Our knowing turns from youthful certainty towards things like the realization that nothing is forever. That everything is on its way to someplace else, something else.
But I know this one thing: Your wound is your strength.
Like the feather in the wind. Its strength is its ability to let go. To float. Viewed differently, its strength is its inability to stay fixed, stationary. This condition ensures it a life of beauty, grace, adventure.
We should all be so lucky.
Like many other times in our crooked-path of history, these are challenging times. But I want to urge you to take up the challenge. You are more up to it than you think.
Be the feather in the wind. Tossed about by the daily news, the disheartening knowledge of how much fear and hatred is out there, the vicissitudes of fortune. And bring others joy by the beauty of your lighthearted dance.
Because beauty will save us. In the end, light-heartedness, joy in the simple act of living, and the brave act of loving, these things will give us back to ourselves. They will remind us who we are. And what we can do together.
There are no certainties except uncertainty. Tomorrow I may not be here to write any more essays. It is likely far worse and far better things will happen. Still other things will not happen at all. Or at least they won’t happen as we think.
And even the bad things may not be the tragedies we imagine. Because all this uncertainty is the compost that creates the fertile soil of imagination, of creation, of beauty.
Life is built on top of death. Light depends upon dark. And up upon down. Wholeness is just that. It is not the half moon.
In order for us to truly evolve, to move beyond this phase of us versus them, to create the brotherhood of man that Lennon imagined for us, we must let go of our ideas of what we thought life should look like. We must imagine all of the things it could look like.
We must be brave enough to allow life to change us. And to keep kindness in our hearts as we float upon the winds of change.
Every time I sit down to write I am trying to change my life. And the lives of others. And even though it doesn't always work -- even if it almost never works – it is still worthwhile. Even if the words are simply feathers in the wind, maybe they will delight a few people with their dance.
And somehow those words -- even the ones that are feathers in the wind -- they still have the ability to become bridges between me and you.
I think that’s important to remember. That your words, even the ones that are tossed into the wind, they are the bridges between you and everything else.