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Friday, June 11, 2010


"We are the leaves of one branch,
the drops of one sea,
the flowers of one garden."

~ Jean Baptiste Henry Lacordaire

The Mosaic

On NPR yesterday was an interview with Terry Tempest Williams, the author of Finding Beauty in a Broken World:

We watched the towers collapse.
We watched America choose war.
The peace in our own hearts shattered.
How to pick up the pieces?
What to do with these pieces?
I was desperate to retrieve the poetry I had lost.
Standing on a rocky point in Maine, looking east toward the horizon at dusk, I faced the ocean. "Give me one wild word." It was all I asked of the sea.

Williams writes that the sea answered "mosaic." She took this message literally and signed up for a mosaic apprenticeship in Ravenna, Italy. She found out that she wasn't any good making art out of broken bits of tile.

"And because I couldn't create a mosaic out of tessera," Williams says, "I wanted to see if I could create a mosaic out of words.

And I just finished reading "Everyday Survival" by Laurence Gonzales. He discusses the patterns in nature that come about as entropy acts in the universe. That the very structure of things evolves from the law of entropy, which ultimately leads to total randomness, but paradoxically, in the progress toward randomness creates all the patterns and structure of the substance of the living and non-living world.

A mosaic is a pattern that takes random bits of brokenness and creates a beautiful new whole.

It all came together when my son failed a class in his senior year. We knew he would fail, yet he had to finish the class, and take the final, knowing he would fail. He had passed the first semester, and was going through the second semester to get as far as he could before needing to take it in Summer School. He has a severe disability, and the school struggles to accommodate him with what he needs to succeed in regular education classes.

He had gone to a college group at our church, during which a discussion came up about all the disasters around the world, and he told me it was suggested that God allowed these disasters to help the people change course because they were headed the wrong way. But then he asked me that if that is why bad things happen, then why did God allow him to be born with a disability? He had done nothing wrong.

He asked me if I thought it would be appropriate if he could ask the minister this question. I said it was a very legitimate question, one of the great mysteries of existence. It might put the minister on the spot because the question doesn't have an easy answer and might take more than a few sentences to answer.

So we talked and it got me to thinking. Everyone has to come to terms with this one on their own, because it is not going to be helpful to anyone to just tell them a single way to understand the problem of suffering in this broken world. And perhaps that is the point. Suffering grows our souls, but who would choose to suffer if they could avoid it, just to grow some invisible part of us that we cannot see or measure? And so the world does this for us, its something we can't avoid, although we can try to spend our lives minimizing our suffering.

And who would presume to tell anyone that their suffering is somehow good for them, or was given to them on purpose, or as a punishment? Well, not anyone you cared about...

It reminds me of some things said to us and other parents who had lost a child at funerals and other rememberances. "Its God's will" sounds hollow when it is your child lost to you.

After many losses and tragedies, and times when I ran from suffering, was angry at God, depressed, and apathetic, I have come to think that the right answer is the answer that helps you to put one foot in front of the other, and continue to reach out to others, and to still be open to love and be loved. No other answer is sustainable for the long term.

I know faith is not logically deduced. It is inspired within us. Yet as a fairly logical person, the answer came to mind that the only thing that makes sense is that we have existed before we were born, and had some say in the basic framework of our lives, as part of God, before birth. I think God directs us toward expansive experiences, and just as we put away the Candy Land game for Checkers, and then perhaps Chess, we decide to try difficult circumstances to test our strength and skills. This makes sense especially if we survive death. Because from the vantage point beyond death, no suffering can seem that fearful. In a way, then, no one can truly be hurt. Although during this life, developing compassion and the urge to take action to help alleviate suffering is part of that expansive experience. The suffering is real, here and now. And if it wasn't, it wouldn't have the effect of developing our souls in this way. Perhaps that is why we all forget where we came from after we are born, although I think I remembered for a long time before I lost the sensation of having existed in some way before being born.

So I think it is somehow with our consent, perhaps even reluctant agreement, that we need to be here, in the midst of all this imperfection, damage and suffering, so we can become strong working toward healing, toward creating beauty and being part of the beautiful mosaic of life.

I compare this world to a deep forest with all kinds of trees, some tall, some bent, some missing a limb, some growing in different patterns. You can look at any individual tree and probably none of them are the perfect specimen of that particular tree type. Yet taken together, they form a beautiful, calming, even majestic experience. Compared with a field of corn sown in identical rows, all the same height, the experience might still be pastoral and beautiful with each cloud scuttling overhead a unique shape, it is somehow the forest that reminds me of God, and brings me a feeling of everything being in its place, even as my feet crunch in the layers of dead plant material from which everything is growing. Death, disability, and deformity, coexist with vigorous life growing chaotically yet with definite patterns, like music.

If we were to hire a large corporation to build a forest, they might come up with a tree pattern that all their carpenters follow, with a few different sizes, but essentially all "perfect" in shape and construction. Imagine a forest built by us, by a corporation, or by a committee... It might be too messy to have forest litter on the ground, and so no fallen leaves to crunch as we walk. In fact, it might be silent except for perhaps some piped-in music. People might decide that rocks are too hard to sit on, and fallen logs might mess up our clothes, and so nice benches would be placed around neat paths. Now its beginning to sound like going to the mall....

One day I was in the forest, and I saw this magnificent tree that had obviously been hit by lightning half growing and half fallen, and it stood in beautiful contrast at an angle to the straight up and down of the other trees. I thought of my son, growing strong, but providing contrast. Would I have had the tree removed to make the forest look "neater?" I looked at the lovely thick flowering moss growing at its base, the place where an animal had a nest between some roots, and some unusual flowers and mushrooms growing right out of the tree where it was near the ground. All that would be gone too.

I told my son that someday the solutions to his problems, were we to solve them, would help a lot of different people, perhaps all of us, as we age and need more help with things. His suffering provides me, and his relatives and friends, and Doctors and researchers the motivation to invent new ways to deal with tricky situations humans deal with. In the process we learn more about ourselves and how our bodies work and how we interact with our environment and with limitations, and we learn better how we heal, and how to help, and when not to help. How to encourage independence, and when to accept and tolerate differences. How to accommodate all types of abilities, experiences, sizes, shapes and ages.

And in the process we get to see how suffering can be turned into beauty, and better usefulness, and we see ourselves getting stronger, smarter, braver, more compassionate and more resourceful.

I believe we are all one, each individual unique yet part of a whole pattern of humanity and sentience and material and spiritual existence. A mosaic, a part of the vortex of energy that creates beautiful holographic patterns as it moves toward entropy. Some of us have sharp edges, like diamonds, some are smoothed over by time and rough experiences like river pebbles.
"Never let a problem to be solved become more important than the person to be loved."

~ Barbara Johnson

Thursday, June 10, 2010


"Politeness is the art of choosing among one's real thoughts."

- Abel Stevens

On Beng The Employer

"If thou are a master, be sometimes blind; if a servant, sometimes deaf."

~ Thomas Fuller
A Wall or a Bridge

"They say a wife and a husband, bit by bit
Can rear a between themselves a mighty wall,
So thick they cannot speak with ease through it,
Nor can they see across it, it stands so tall.

Its nearness frightens them, but each alone
Is powerless to tear its bulk away;
And each dejected wishes they had known
through such a wall, some magic things to say.

So let us build with master art, my dear,
A bridge of love between your life and mine,
A bridge of tenderness, and very near,
A bridge of understanding, strong and fine.

Till we have formed so many lovely ties,
There never will be room for walls to rise."

Submitted by: Mrs PaulyD
Author: Unknown
"We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry,
or because they remain intrigued with each other,
because of many kindnesses,
because of luck.

But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness."

~ Ellen Goodman
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil
to one who is striking at the root."

~ Henry David Thoreau

"When choosing between two evils,
I always like to try the one I've never tried before."

~ Mae West
"A man cannot serve God and Mammon, nor be temperate and furious at the same time."

~ Mahatma Gandhi
"Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people."

~ Eleanor Roosevelt
"You are the endless sea
In whom all the worlds like waves
Naturally rise and fall.

You have nothing to win,
Nothing to lose.
You are pure awareness,
Nothing less.

You and the world are one.

So who are you to think
You can hold on to it,
Or let it go?

How could you!"

~ Ashtavakra Gita 15: 11-12

“Come again, come whoever you are, this caravan is not of despair.

Come, come whoever you are, whoever you are, come.

Even though you have broken your vows, perhaps ten thousand times,

Still come again, come, whoever you are, whoever you are, come.

Wander, worshipper, lover of leaving, come.

This caravan has no despair,

We travel the road of the friend."

~Jalaluddin Rumi

“If you are but content, you have enough to live upon with comfort.”


“Friends do not despair.
A difficult time has come upon us; our joy must fill the air.
We must not lose our joy of living, we must not despair.
For a difficult time is upon us, our joy must fill the air.”

~Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
"These two paths, the light and the dark, are said to be eternal, lending some
to liberation and others to rebirth.
Once you have known these two paths, Arjuna,
you can never be deluded again.
Attain this knowledge through perseverance in yoga.

There is merit in studying the scriptures, in selfless service, austerity, and giving,
but the practice of meditation carries you beyond all these to the supreme abode of
the highest Lord."

~ Bhagavad Gita 8:26-28

On The Medical Profession's Approach to Hope

"This is something I discovered along the way. (Surviving terminally diagnosed cancer.)

There seems to be a great fear of something known as "false hope."

I've heard the phrase used by Doctors and Nurses again and again in very self-congratulatory ways, as if by exterminating it, they were providing a great philanthropic service to the community.

Now I've scratched my way through this world as nothing, if not a pessimist.
And I will state, unequivocally, that there is no such thing as false hope. It's an oxymoron. It can't exist.
Hope has no connotations of certainty.
Hope carries no assurance of success.
Hope is the one thing in this world that can never, ever be false.
Hope is just exactly what it says; a longing, a desire.
Is there such a thing as a false aching desire?"

~Evan Handler, "Time on Fire, My Comedy of Terrors"
Star of Sex and The City, and Californication,
from an interview with The People's Pharmacy Show 702
And God Said...


I asked God to take away my pride.
And God said, "No."
He said it was not for Him to take away, but for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
And God said, "No."
He said her spirit was whole, her body was only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience.
And God said, "No."
He said patience is a by-product of tribulations. It isn't granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness.
And God said, "No."
He said He gives me blessings, happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain.
And God said, "No."
He said suffering draws me apart from worldly cares and brings me closer to Him.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
And God said, "No."
He said I must grow on my own. But He will prune me to make me fruitful.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
And God said, "No."
He said He will give me life, that I may enjoy all things.

I asked God to help me love others, as much as he loves me.
And God said, "Ah, finally you have the idea!"

© Claudia Minden Weisz

"When we look back and wonder how we ever made it through,
we realize it's not because we are clever, but because God has been wise."

--Author Unknown

Small is the number of people who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
– Albert Einstein

It's no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
– Jiddu Krishnamurti

The eye altering, alters all.
– William Blake

What we do in life... ripples in eternity.
– Marcus Aurelius (121-180)
"When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project,
all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every direction,
and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.

Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive,
and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far
than you ever dreamed yourself to be."

~Patanjali (Indian mystic who established the tradition of meditation. Author of Samadhi.)
"Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tide and gravity,

we shall harness for God the energies of love.

Then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire."

~Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

Visualize Yourself...

"There is a law in psychology that if you form a picture in your mind of what you would like to be, and you keep and hold that picture there long enough, you will soon become exactly as you have been thinking."

~William James, Philosopher, Psychologist, Writer

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nowhere To Go But Here

"Where ever you go....there you are."

~ Buckaroo Banzai

Be Here Now

Being Rather Than Seeming

"When you are with someone you love very much, you can talk and it is pleasant,
but the reality is not in the conversation.
It is in simply being together.

Meditation is the highest form of prayer.
In it you are so close to God that you don't need to say a thing--
it is just great to be together."

~ Swami Chetananda


"The wicked see this universe as a hell,
and the partially good see it as heaven,
while the perfect beings realize it as God Himself.

Only when a man sees this universe as God does,
does the veil fall from his eyes;

then that man, purified and cleansed,
finds his whole vision changed."

~ Swami Vivekananda

Dance as if there is no tomorrow

“What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?”

~ Seen on a T-shirt

I think its all about swing dancing, but that's my own personal bias showing...
"Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother. "

- Kahlil Gibran

"A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism;
but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."

~ Francis Bacon

As quoted in "The Secret Teachings of All Ages" by Manly P. Hall


“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be,
since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”

~ Thomas A. Kempis

“You see, when weaving a blanket,
an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.”

~ Martha Graham

Death and Letting Go

Miss Me But Let Me Go

"When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little--but not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared,
Miss me--but let me go.

For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It's all a part of the Master's plan,
A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss Me--But Let me Go!"

I was at a friend's house the other day, and the person was on the other side of grief from me, so I could get a good look at it. I think friends are good at showing you yourself if you care to look at it that way.

I have grief, lots of grief. I sometimes feel like I have "processed" all the grief and then more layers show up underneath the ones I cried out. But I saw a friend stuck in grief and unable to move on, and this made me think how I was appearing to others with my grief. Is it like watching a dinosaur stuck in a tar pit? Or is it like sentimentality? Or is it the summing up of a life and its affect on those around it?

I wanted to say to my friend, don't let ghosts run your life. And yet there is always this empty chair, this empty feeling in my arms, this sense of milestones lost and a presence felt that never goes away from the place my baby daughter left when she died of cancer as a toddler.

Letting go means you are free to "move on" whatever that really means. To live your life more for yourself again, than when the other person needed to be accommodated and considered and loved. But it was that very accommodation, that giving of love, that gave me so much. Taught me to be what I am, and shaped me. I don't need the training wheels of maturity anymore. The learning what it is to live as much for others as for yourself. But going with out the training wheels requires emotional balance. A centeredness, that doesn't require the compass of another's immediate needs/wants/desires to show me how to have compassion and awareness of the other sentience around me.

I am sure that's what my daughter would have wanted, and my friend's mother would want for her, if she could see past her pain. I want to walk that road for her, but it is a road to walk alone, yet we all are on it together, just at different points along it, I can see her along the path at a distance but she has to take each step herself, like I did, and still have to.

Red Hat Warning


"When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple."

~ Jenny Joseph

Jenny Joseph was born in Birmingham on 7 May 1932.
An Oxford graduate (1953), she became a journalist in UK and South Africa.
Her first collection of poetry was published in 1960.
'Warning', the poem above, is her most popular work, and the inspiration for the Red Hat Society.

I want to put on a Red Hat.
I love this poem. Its about social freedom. I want to wear a red hat sometimes and be allowed to be quirky and innappropriate sometimes without being judged, blamed, shamed and shunned. I wish it were as simple as putting on a hat, or wearing an armband, or a button on your shirt, or a certain uniform.

But I guess this poem could also be considered to be about getting to the point in life where you and your behavior have become irrelevant to society, and so you can walk around the edges of it, incognito, invisible, but free.

But I also work very hard to be the kind of mother I would want for myself. (As in "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.") Which means following the current social norms as much as possible so as to not embarrass and humiliate your children...

Early on, I summed it up in my mind with one word; 'wholesome.' My pattern, my model, was the mother in the old TV show "Leave It To Beaver."

June Cleaver. She was calm, understanding, forgiving, involved, clean, organized, pretty and well dressed. She cooked and cleaned and made being a stay-at-home mother seem like a privilege in a time when most young women were thinking of it as drudgery and had dreams of doing other things. I was one of those young women once. I went to college and dreamed of being Mary Tyler Moore, a working single woman with her own life and career, who made being a woman living on your own seem not just respectful but fun and "spunky."

So as a mother, whenever I am making some tricky decision, I try to ask myself the question "What would June Cleaver do?"

The change came when the children did. My children changed my life. It was very visceral. All of a sudden, it wasn't about ME anymore. The next generation had arrived, and they were as important as mine was and is.

Someday I will wear a Red Hat. But not just yet...

I wonder, does the June Cleaver character, as a woman over 50, with her two sons grown and on their own (hopefully) wear a Red Hat sometimes now?

The Philosophy of Lettuce Planting

"When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce.
You look for reasons it is not doing well.
It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun.
You never blame the lettuce.
Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person.
But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce.
Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments.
That is my experience.
No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding."

~ Thich Nhat Hahn

Today I discussed Asperger's Syndrome with my son's teacher. She has a new child coming into the school who thinks it is "cool" to curse a lot, and she asked me how I dealt with that issue with my son, who doesn't curse at all.

Among other things, I mentioned my philosophy of what works with raising an Autistic child. To correct him, I use what is called a "neutral no." Its a "No" or a correction delivered in a way that a computer might say it. Not personalised. No blame, no shame, no guilt. No additional emotion.

Autistics are not socially motivated. Well, they are, but it isn't in the typical way. The social indications of others, their impulses and responses often get crossed and mixed up and lost and confuse the Autistic, and so, the confused information tends to get tuned out as being like emotional "noise." Particularly since as normal people mature, the social nuances become ever more subtle and complex, and often normal people say and do the opposite of what they "really mean" using body language to reverse the words spoken (which is the essence of sarcasm.) To a normal person, this is less boring as being direct and honest, and is considered playful and interesting. To an Autistic it is puzzling and frustrating. To us they are a puzzle, yet we are just seeing what they are feeling and mirroring to us...puzzled.

The extra emotion doesn't help make the point with a person who is not socially motivated. It only tends to escalate the anxiety of the person without helping them to manage their behavior better.

The thing is, often they are already too emotional, anxious, stressed. And adding more emotion to it doesn't help if they are already out of control emotionally or at the brink of control.

Yet the feedback, the simple information, stripped of the emotion designed to influence the ego of the normal person, helps the Autistic to think more clearly about his/her behavior.

So don't blame the lettuce.

Postulates For The Graduates


"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master,

If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much,

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!"

~ Rudyard Kipling

The Twelve Teachers

“Fate gives all of us
three teachers,
three friends,
three enemies,
and three great loves in our lives.

But these twelve are always disguised
and we can never know which one is which
until we’ve loved them, left them or fought them.”

~ Gregory David Roberts, "Shantaram"

I have learned so much from my children. I expected to be their guide and teacher, and yet they have taught me more than I have taught them.

I don't have what I consider to be enemies, but those I thought were against me have ended up bringing me gifts that I could not have accepted any other way.

The best part of being over 50 is knowing how everything "turned out" and seeing how all the stories have ended...although no story truly ends, and that is another thing I have learned. We all have ripples that go out and cover the world...and intersect with other's ripples creating the holograms we share as our experience.