if I should happen to croak one day soon … or, well, even if I don’t
1. We are not here for ourselves! This took me a very long time to articulate for myself. Decades & decades. But I believe it 100%. We are here for each other – to learn from each other, lean on each other, hang out with each other, help each other, love each other. Everything is sooooo much bigger than just “me!” (I’m just a little speck – but together we are (or can be) some awesome! I guess you could summarize it this way: It’s ALL about connection. To each other, as well as to the Earth.)
2. Separation is the big mistake at the centre of human culture. We didn’t always act as though we’re all separate beings. In our early days as a species, we knew we belonged to each other profoundly (without thinking about it, even, I expect – i.e. unconsciously). Are meant to hang together like flocks of birds. Schools of fish. Herds of turtles. Well, you know what I mean… I doubt we even had a concept of “self” back then. Everything was all about us, a collective. The tribe.
3. The problems with the human species go back 10,000 years or so, now – they are not new, sudden, or recent. It has taken us a very long time to get to this point. Some of us have tried our whole lives to “help” – to “save the world” – you know, all that jazz. & it was always doomed, ‘cos the problems go back so very far, & are so very deeply embedded in what we call “civilization” … & the “unintended consequences” are the eventual crash of this run-away train we’re all passengers on. So … your mother spent decades on a game that was “up” long before we were born, even! My heart was in the right place, I think, though … right?? (& I have no, or, well, few, regrets about all my efforts … all the activist stuff has been simply awesome, in a whole variety of ways. I had to find my tribe ... you see?)
4. Motherhood has always been the really big deal for me. Not just as literal mother to you two, but a lot of my work has been mothering-type, nurturing-type work … do you see? Took me a while to see it myself. Then, I sort of cast my eyes backward one day, & went “Yeah. It’s all been mothering/nurturing work in a way, really…”
5. The divorce. Lots I/we could say … most of it far too personal for this venue. Just know I believe it was a heartbreaking rift in our lives, for at least some of us. & that the wounds go deep, & that it is sane & sensible (essential, actually!) to acknowledge that … & to allow ourselves to feel the grief. "Stuffing" it is not the best way to deal with it, shall I just succinctly say. (Over the years I’ve come to think of divorce as being a little like a war. The world blows up in one’s face. It's a very big deal! Grief over what has been lost is inevitable. Acknowledging – & articulating – our pain over such things, is much healthier than stuffing or ignoring it. As Joanna Macy has said, we need to "Honour our pain." Heck. No one escapes from a war unscathed.)
6. This is a really, really, REALLY dark time in human history ... the history of our species, I mean. I am 100% unable to put a pretty face on this. So very sorry. :(
7. The people who really run things on our beautiful planet? They are way nastier and more evil (yes; I choose the word evil advisedly) than one is easily able to believe, even … so mostly, I think, most of us don’t really want to believe it. Shield our eyes from the truth of it, even. Took me, oh, six decades or so, to grasp how nasty. Sigh. It sucks very very badly. To put it awfully mildly.
8. I have learned a lot of really helpful things from various therapists, workshops, books, conversations, audiotapes & lectures, over the years. It is a smart thing to ask for help when you need it. There is a lot of very good, helpful help out there!! :)
9. Looking good is kind of the central organizing principle of the culture/civilization we find ourselves in (this insight gained from The Landmark Forum weekend I attended all those years ago now). It’s an obsession – & not a healthy one, I’d have to say. Instead of focusing on looking good, we might all have done better to focus on being good. Doing good. Screw looking good!! But, ah, never mind, eh? It’s pretty much impossible to live outside this toxic cultural paradigm/obsession. (The obsession is very deep-rooted. I suspect it goes back that same 10,000-year time frame or so. Loss of tribe, & all that, you know? That was a very big deal. To put it mildly...)
10. Life is still improbably wonderful! We live in the midst of a thousand kinds of shitshow (more & more shitshow/s by the day, I’ll warrant). But still, life/Life is an incredible gift, truly – a grace we have been granted. I highly recommend a gratitude practice as one sure way to maintain one's sanity. Even right up to the very, Very End. The very last moment. It can be the difference, I think, between sanity & losing our mind. Really! I’m not kidding. I wouldn't lie to you. (Of course I am a devout believer in the life & sanity-enhancing power of walking and being outside, in Nature, also. And books. As you know...)
A man travelling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself over the edge.
The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.
Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man then saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other.
How sweet it tasted.
A few other quotations that spring to mind
Alexander McCall Smith has the character Angus Lordie say, in Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers, “He [psychiatrist Dr. Macgregor] told me that the solution to so many problems is to talk about them. If you talk freely about a problem, then you take away its power to distress you.”
“Many of the things we all struggle with in love and work can be helped by conversation. Without conversation, studies show that we are less empathic, less connected, less creative and fulfilled. We are diminished, in retreat.” – from Reclaiming Conversation – The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle
“It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” – Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s ‘Bookworm’ radio show
“Love life. Take great pleasure in small offerings. Believe that the world owes you nothing. Understand that every gift given to you is just that.” – Maya Angelou
“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.” – Richard Rohr
“People think that because it’s common for families to break up, children must weather it okay, but I don’t think they do. I work with families for a living, and for their sake and for mine I’ve held out against the idea that breakups are apocalyptic―but they are. For children, it’s an atom bomb going off, no matter how tactfully parents manage it. Family life, whatever the quality, is the medium children live in. They’re not separate from it. An individual self that can prevail, that can withstand change and loss, is a wobbly construct at the best of times. It’s theoretical or, if it exists at all, must come sometime later. Maybe by middle age we have a self. In a child it doesn’t exist. A child has no skin. When the adults come asunder, the child does too. They just do. I know this mournfulness in [her daughter].” – from Starting Out in the Afternoon – a Mid-Life Journey into Wild Land, by Jill Frayne
“..gaze bemused when our children are ripped almost crazy when we separate.” – Dr. Martin Shaw, in the foreword to Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, by Stephen Jenkinson
“If a thing is never spoken between people who know each other well, and each knows the thing well, maybe it’s not a secret. …. It’s a powerful thing, that ability to tell the truth when the truth is upon you, but it has another power entirely when you don’t tell it.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul
“If you can’t say something, you can’t see it either.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul
“Don’t fight forces – use them.” – Buckminster Fuller
p.s. there are some helpful links at the end of the posting 'Psychopaths,' if you want to dig a little about how truly (beyond) nasty are the folks who run things. Bear in mind, I've learned this stuff over decades of activism. It takes a long time to put together all the insights & connections you start to see. Plus, we do get a lot of help in understanding things from other activists & truth-seekers. I get it that people don't really want to know how ugly it is – the way the folks in charge run roughshod over the rest of us. So just stay away from it, by all means, if you prefer. It's not a pretty picture, I'm afraid... 6 months later: but the truth is, what you don't know, or insist upon sweeping under the carpet, may very well bite you on the ass. So you kinda ignore all this awful stuff at your eventual, likely peril. Sorry!!! But .... I didn't make up the rules here on Planet Earth. & as you know, I tried very very hard to make it a nicer place. I really, really did.
p.p.s. needless to say, there have been many books along the way that have taught me important stuff. Many, many books. You've seen my bookshelves! In the Absence of the Sacred - The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations was very key for me. I think of Ishmael as the "Coles' Notes" for that one. Ahhhhh, books.... How I love 'em!!