Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The years from late middle age onward are also marked by a steady erosion of ambition. The cause isn’t so much a loss of drive as a growing realisation that you aren’t going to change the world after all. You’re just going to die and be forgotten, like almost everyone else. The knowledge that your existence doesn’t really matter is sobering, but also sort of a relief. It’s certainly changed my approach to paperwork.

Tim Dowling, from “I’m nearly 60. Here’s what I’ve learned about growing old so far.” (The Guardian, June 8, 2022)


Notes:

  • Post Inspired by: “My thirst for life gets deeper and deeper the less of it remains.” —  Anya Krugovoy Silver, from “Benediction” in From “Nothing: Poems by Anya Krugovoy Silver”, p. 23 (LSU Press, September 12, 2016) (via Alive on All Channels)
  • Portrait of Tim Dowling via The Guardian by Sophia Spring.

With you Rachel

The water in the creek is often surprisingly warm. After the first shock, it is easy to stay in. It is perhaps thirty metres long and I swim fast and methodically up and down. I don’t like to talk or mess around when I’m swimming; or it might be more accurate to say that I can’t imagine being able to mess around, can’t imagine being free from my own rules and ambitions, and more accurate still to say that I’m frightened of what might happen if I were. Instead I set myself a target and count the lengths. My husband dives in and swims for a little while, slowly, without particular direction. Then he turns over and lies on his back and floats, looking at the sky.

~ Rachel Cusk, in Coventry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. September 16, 2019)


Note: Photo Gif via poppins-me

Saturday Morning (Basking ‘On the other’)

On one end – excellence, ambition, discipline, defining what you want to be and working towards it, goals, decisions, structure, control, action, obsession (hold on)

On the other – acceptance, peace, polymorphous selfhood, beingness, letting it flow, spontaneity, appreciation of what is not what you want it to be, release (let go)

In this tension – a life.

~ abhumanaex


Notes:

T.G.I.F.: “I’m done.”

Onward to the night, which is to say insomnia, cell phone on the bedside table, the mind drilling away with yet more frantic interior list-making. Don’t forget! Remember to … Have you … Did you …? Whole decades can go this way—and have—not just in domestic detail, but awash in the brackish flotsam of endeavor, failure and success, responsibility and reward. My work, as I say with foolish vanity. Deadlines piled upon deadlines. That devilishly apt word deadline, the heart seizing as if shot, hands wringing for a reprieve—a week, a day? But delivering. Always delivering. You can count on me. That, in fact, is the problem…

What a surprise—to discover it’s all about leisure, apparently, this fugitive Real Life, abandoned all those years to the “limitless capacity for toil.” What a hard worker you are: always taken as a compliment. You can count on me. Smiling. Deadline met. Always. You should try meditating or maybe yoga, yoga’s good, someone suggested when I mentioned the fevered to-do lists, the sometimes alarming blood pressure readings, the dark-night-of-the-soul insomnia. But meditating is just another thing. Yoga? Another task, yet another item for the to-do list. I find I cannot add another item. I’m done.

~ Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Portrait: upne.com

It’s been a long day

In the darkness he was looking sideways at me. I said nothing for a moment; there had seemed to be some special emphasis on the last sentence.

‘Is this also what you meant by being psychic?’ ‘

It is what I mean by hazard. There comes a time in each life like a point of fulcrum. At that time you must accept yourself. It is not any more what you will become. It is what you are and always will be. You are too young to know this. You are still becoming. Not being.’

‘Perhaps.’

‘Not perhaps. For certain.’

‘What happens if one doesn’t recognize the… point of fulcrum?’ …

‘You will be like the many. Only the few recognize this moment. And act on it.’

‘The elect?’

‘The elect.’

~ John Fowles, The Magus


Notes:

Driving I-95 S. With an empty boat.

I glance at the odometer: 80,000 miles. 8 years, 80,000 miles. 80,000.

I read somewhere, some time ago, that the average person has 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day.  Reading this sentence was like swallowing a handful of methamphetamines – my mind was galloping.  How did my mind jump from 80,000 miles on the odometer to 80,000 thoughts per day and some article I read x years ago?  Who’s job was it to count these thoughts?  How did they actually count the thoughts? How many humans’ thoughts did they count to get to this average, and over what period to time to make this statistically significant? And then, a hard turn to Me.  Am I average, below or above average, and if so, why? Do those of us who are carry more doubt have 25% more thoughts than those that are more stable?  This last one set off a burst of fireworks.

I’m exhausted chasing this thread.  Repeat: Mantra. Mantra. Mantra. Let it Go. Let it Go. Let it Go.  Or as Val in Finding Your Middle Ground suggests,  “I inhale peace. I exhale release… I inhale peace. I exhale release… I inhale peace. I exhale release.” I grow impatient with this mantra, my breathing accelerates, I cut it down.

Release. Release. Release.

I pause a second or two between each “Release” and reach for the volume button on the radio. No doubt I average over 100,000 thoughts a day. No doubt. And a small percentage of them can even be nurturing.

And It comes back.

A single thought. A thought that recurs, and recurs, crawling over the millions and millions of old thoughts, to stand on top of all thoughts. One experience, one feeling, during a single hour of Life, one thought that flashes back like tinsel. [Read more…]

It’s been a long day

What many discover is that the need to do, accomplish, and succeed perpetually replenishes itself. My father regarded lulls not as a grace but rather as enemies. His generational, class, and personal baggage was such that the only thing that mattered was Work (of the big W variety, not the small w work of cleaning up and tending to family life). Work was a form of mesmerism and ego refuge: best to keep going.

~ Kyo Maclear, Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation


Notes:

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

hair-back-black-and-white

The invented person, borrowed from the real—abstracted, isolated—is the person we finally know, or feel we know.  I make myself up from everything I am, or could be.

For many years I was more desire than fact.

When I stop becoming, that’s when I worry.”

Stephen Dunn, from “Notes” in Walking Light: Essays and Memoirs

 


Notes: Photo – Eric Rose Photography. Quote: – W.W. Norton

For we need that grace now (Right Now)

george-h-w-bush

In the aftermath of the loss of his first race for office, in 1964, Mr. Bush wrote a heartfelt letter to an old friend: “This mean humorless philosophy which says everybody should agree on absolutely everything is not good.” He continued, “When the word moderation becomes a dirty word we have some soul searching to do.” The words — touchingly naïve and heartfelt — seem to come from a vanished world…

Mr. Bush was the last president of the World War II generation. A decorated combat hero, he nevertheless found it incredibly difficult to talk about himself — a legacy from his mother, who discouraged self-reference and self-absorption by saying that no one wanted to hear about the Great I Am. As a child, Mr. Bush was nicknamed Have-Half for his tendency to split any treats in two to share with friends. His was an ethos of empathy. Mr. Bush always wondered about what “the other guy” was thinking and feeling.  […]

Mr. Bush tempered his own ambition with empathy and dignity. Late in his years as Mr. Reagan’s vice president, Mr. Bush was shown into a children’s leukemia ward in Krakow, Poland. Thirty-five years before, he and his wife, Barbara, had lost a child to the disease, a family tragedy of which he rarely spoke in public. In Krakow, one patient, a 7- or 8-year-old boy, wanted to greet the American vice president. Learning that the child was sick with the cancer…Mr. Bush began to cry. “My eyes flooded with tears,” he dictated to his audio diary, “and behind me was a bank of television cameras.” He told himself, “I can’t turn around,” can’t “dissolve because of personal tragedy in the face of a host of reporters and our hosts and the nurses who give of themselves every day.” So “I stood there looking at this little guy, tears running down my cheek” — “hoping he didn’t see, but, if he did, hoping he’d feel that I loved him.”

Mr. Bush’s is a voice from a past at once distant and close at hand — and a voice we should seek to heed, for we need that grace now, in our own time.

~ Jon Meacham, Nostalgia for the Grace of George H.W. Bush


Notes:

  • Don’t miss full Opinion piece in the NY Times by Jon Meecham: Nostalgia for the Grace of George H.W. Bush
  • Photo: Former President George H.W. Bush during a portrait session for Parade Magazine at home in Kennebunkport, Maine on September 29, 2009. Portrait by Doug Menuez via Stockland Martel

It’s been a long day

hair-red

Beyond ambition,
beyond attainment,
is home.

Contentment,
without content;

peace,
uncaused.

—A.H. Almaas, Ripening of the Soul


Notes:

Sadly, Truth.

chart-success-more


Source: thisisindexed

Driving I-95 N. FAQs in Confessional.

darth-vader

A: Just no good.
Q: Huh?
A: I just was no good.
Q: Elaborate please.
A: Starter pistol fires at 2:30 am. Sprinter explodes out of the blocks. 4 consecutive mornings.
Q: Outcome?
A: Dominos.
Q: Dominos?
A: Dominos, tip, tip, tipping, toppling in slow motion, and then roaring around corners and racing down straightaways at mid-day.
Q: Dominos?
A: Dominos.
A: Bad Ju-Ju.  Darth Vader.
Q: Martyr kneeling to the God of Work?
A: Hmmmmmm. [Read more…]

There is a hole inside of you (Part III – The Grand Finale)

Dr. Craig Barnes

This is Part III of The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes sermon at Wake Forest University’s Baccalaureate service on May 15, 2016.  Part I can be found here: There’s a Hole in You (Part I) and Part II here: There’s a Hole in You (Part II).


And over against that temptation, stand pastors in churches all around the world, right in front of the altar, holding up the sacrament.  And one after another, their parishioners come forward to them with lives that are far from whole and complete.  And there is an extraordinary moment when a pastor and a parishioner meet at the altar. The pastor is holding the broken body of Christ, the parishioners come up one after another, and then there is this moment of spiritual intimacy when the Pastor looks the parishioner in the eye.  We remember the job that was lost.  Or the diagnosis of cancer. Or the prodigal son. Or the dream that is never going to come true. Or the cherished old lover who was left behind in the grave.

[…]

A Savior who commissions us…who gives us not what we were itching for, something far better.  A glorious mission and purpose to lives, lives that can make a world of difference. There is a glorious mission for your life. You weren’t brought here by accident…Don’t try to get your life just right before taking up that mission.

In the words of John Calvin, All Rise.

Leave the garden better than you found it.

That’s your mission.

To leave our society better than you found it.

But you’re not going to be able to do that unless you know how to steward that thing that is missing. This is what gives you freedom actually that thing that’s missing. You’ve got choices as to how you respond to it.

One of the beloved members of my family is a hairy sheep dog. His name is Esau. Religion majors will get that. Esau is not just beloved, he is a good dog. He is obedient.  He is well trained. But if you were to show up on our front porch with a hot dog, he will follow you anywhere.  The beast that he is, he is driven by his appetites. Part of what it means to be made in the image in God, is to have the capacity to rise above your appetite, to make choices that are worthy of you. To use your life to for something that will make a difference even if doesn’t feel good along the way.

[…] [Read more…]

There is a hole inside of you (Part II)

Dr. Craig Barnes

This is Part II of The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes sermon at Wake Forest University’s Baccalaureate service on May 15, 2016.  Part I can be found here: There’s a Hole in You (Part I)

When my daughter graduated from college, I was amazed to hear the commencement speaker peddle the exact same drivel when I graduated from college. He looked out over 5,000 graduates and said to them: you are among the brightest and best we have ever seen. Set your goals high, dream your own dreams, chase your own star, and you can be anything that you want to be.

Really?

He might of well have said: I’m sorry we have nothing for you. It’s all out there, go put it together the best you can. 

And that’s really the assumption that we have that life is something we self-construct, not something we inherit. Not something that comes upon us with glorious mission, but self-construct. And the way we think we self-construct our own life is through our choices.

Anyone who has done parenting in the last generation knows that all good parenting advice has been about helping Johnny make good choices. So when Johnny throws a rock through the window, you’re not supposed to go out and spank him.  You bring Johnny in, you show him the glass on the floor and the rock and ask Johnny: was this a good choice? Johnny’s who a smart young man says: I’m thinking no. Right. Good choice. Good choice. [Read more…]

There is a hole inside of you

Dr. Craig Barnes, Wake Forest University

There is a hole inside of you.

It has been there for a long time, but by the time you graduate from college, you are acutely aware of this thing in your life that is missing. I don’t know what that is.  It may involve a relationship, it may involve something regarding your health, or something troubling in your past. Trust me it does not matter how many degrees you get, you are never going to have a better past.

Or, maybe the hole in your life is a dream that just seems to keep alluding you. It’s not the same thing for all of us. The only thing that’s the same is that we are all missing something.  Trust me on this, your future success depends completely on how you handle this hole in your life.  [Read more…]

Today I’m flying low

photography-birds-breeze-hair-back
Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

— Mary Oliver, “Today” in A Thousand Mornings


Notes:

and then, it was the 6th day

peek-a-boo-photography
For five days,
Kneeling to grit and acceleration.
Velocity wins.

Unwilling to let go of the fiery stick.
Clenched to overdoing it.
Burning.

And here it comes.

The morning of the sixth day.
Fully hollowed out,
a gust kicks up the smoldering ashes.

And there She is.

Whispering.
Be Still. You’re a work in progress.
One by one the fingers release their grip, the fiery stick falls.
The body sighs, and she gives permission.
Let it win.
Just for today,
Let Inertia win.

~ DK, and then it was the 6th day


Notes:

  • Image: Mennyfox55
  • Inspirations: Christie Foster: A work a progress.  Marion Couts, The Iceberg: A Memoir: Either inertia wins or velocity wins. The stakes are at their highest.
  • Related Posts: Scraps

When that happens, you do lose some of the white-hot intensity of your younger years

KwangHo-Shin-art-painting

Ryan Avent has a lovely essay about the reasons modern professionals tend to put in such long hours. As he says, it’s not just drudgery: for many people work is satisfying, a source of a lot more than just money. It can, of course, also be a form of avoidance, a way to avoid the messiness of real life. But anyway, for those lucky enough to have the right kind of work, it’s much more than a paycheck.

I just thought I’d add a note from further down the pike, as someone who’s a quarter-century older than Avent: the nature of the reward from work does change as you get older, although it doesn’t necessarily go away. The phrase that runs through my mind is “the end of ambition.” At a certain point you realize that it’s not about winning another prize, literally or figuratively, getting a promotion, whatever. (And yes, it’s easier to reach that state of mind if you have been lucky enough to get all the prizes you wanted.) Instead, it becomes about the craft, the service, just doing well what you hope you do well. When that happens, you do lose some of the white-hot intensity of your younger years, and (in my case, at least) start trying to make up at least a bit for other things you didn’t do. (Music!) But there’s still plenty of work to do, and plenty of reasons to do it, with — maybe — some new-found serenity.

~ Paul Krugman speaks Truth in: Work, Life, and Everything


Notes:

Riding Metro North. Man With a Plan.

hair-breeze-wind
High School graduation.
Scholarship.
Land of the Opportunity.
He leaves.

Undergraduate Degree.
Marriage.
Green Card.
Graduate Degree.
He learns. [Read more…]

Saturday Morning

sleep-black-and-white

I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. I am still pursued by a neurosis about work inherited from my father. A day where one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever. Tonight I do feel in a state of grace, limbered up, less strained.

~ May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude


Notes:

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