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Monday, August 27, 2012

Being vs. Changing

The Serenity Prayer says it well:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
--Reinhold Niebuhr

In a lighter vein, an old popular song says it this way:

"There’ll be a change in the weather
and a change in the sea, 
and from now on there’ll be a change in me.
My walk will be different, my talk and my name;
Nothin’ about me’s gonna be the same."

The one thing I truly believe cannot be changed is the fact that we live. I believe we lived before conception and that we’ll live after the change called death.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet pondered, “To be, or not to be?” My take on this is that he was asking the wrong question. To presume that simply because an individual dies and disappears he or she no longer exists is a questionable premise. Yes, that person may be “dead” to us, but to himself or herself? Does anyone actually know?

How stupid is the human mind to think it’s brain is the whole of it when the brain is merely the computer, a vehicle awaiting a driver who can operate it. That's about as sensible as saying the number 3 is confined to the digit on the page. I say also that the human mind is arrogant to think it can operate on its own like some self-perpetuating robot. Who or what is the thing that prompts it to act or not act?

The way I see it, the human mind is merely a first glance view of the grand Mind that humans call God.  We mortals are mere infants, trying to get things sorted out. We're like "the light that shineth in darkness but the darkness comprehended it not." (King James Bible) We need to know ourselves as light and get out of the dark.

Now, the question modern day Hamlets might ask is this: To be as I think I am? or To change my perception into what I really am but don't completely know yet? 

Looking back I can see how my beliefs, perceptions, temporal conclusions have morphed through the years. The know-it-all attitude I had in my youth has become more questioning in my old age. Surprisingly, like fruit, the riper it becomes, the sweeter, and then it is ready to drop its seed into the ground and grow again. If not that, who knows where the idea of it goes? Divine Life must have a multitude of surprises for us!

Way back in school I learned that matter is that which can neither be created or destroyed. Matter can only change and we’re getting the intelligence to change it for the better. Quantum physicists are close to questioning if there even is such a thing as matter the way we think we know it. We can also change our minds as to the reality of matter vs. the appearance of it. I’m thinking that we can and will exchange the limited mind for the divine Mind when we’re ripe enough to start along that narrow road and strong enough to persist to the place where it turns into a celestial highway.

If we oldsters have our wits about us we can renew our youth in old age by becoming willing to change for the better. We can get out of our ruts and become like little children. Speaking of "rut" I once heard death described as a long rut. In little ways I try to change and do things better every day. (There's ample opportunity and need for that!) I have laid aside many of my old prejudices and self-righteousness attitudes and become more childlike, more teachable. I really haven't gotten over feeling like a first grader in the schoolroom of life.

I believe the only things we cannot change are purely spiritual and perfect already. Like: Love always wins, Truth cannot become untrue, Life is always alive, therefore eternal. It’s good to get things straight in our old age and to figure out so far as we can the meaning of life, what is changeless and what is changeable, then act accordingly. 

As a little child we came into this world. I believe we can go out the same way.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Blogging Business

Start a blog and you’ll find your fears of going public with your thoughts and daily doings are baseless. That’s because not as many as you think are going to read the blog. I can understand that and fully appreciate the facts that:
  1. Even the word “blog” is a turnoff to many, and 
     2. You don’t really expect everyone to drop everything just to read what you’re thinking about, do you? 

This blogging business is like casting your pearls and even some of your junk jewelry onto a country road. Someone or two who take the time to walk along the road may see them and start a collection. These are your fans and followers. Others have their heads turned up to the tree tops and mountains as they walk. These busy themselves with their own thoughts. They don’t look close up or stop to study a patch of gravel. Among all these near-sighters and far-sighters are some of your dearest friends and relatives. Few will bother to read, to criticize or beg to differ. That doesn’t mean they don’t love you. They’re just too busy. I respect and love them all. I’m choosy about what I read too because time is at a premium.

I’m sure Johnny Appleseed’s apple seeds did not all germinate and grow but the ones that did no doubt brought harvests of pleasure. That’s why we bloggers bother to blog. We are looking to give pleasure, share ideas, and articulate our own take on life. But if these are not appreciated by everyone, just think how nature provides abundantly those seeds and how few take root and grow to fruition..

Yesterday I received two responses to my most recent blog. First came this from my sister-in-law: 

Sorry to say I don’t seem to care to share in the blog world – or Facebook either.”

I’d sent her a copy of the blog to share the news of my great granddaughter’s visit and save time telling it in the e-mail all over again. I confess it’s what I should have expected from her and my gift was destined to be dumped unopened. Lesson no. 1: Don’t obligate your friends and relatives to read your blog. Lesson no. 2: Don’t diminish yourself by getting hurt if they don't read it for whatever reason. Her message did hurt at first but when I tried to see from her point of view I could tell it wasn’t meant to hurt. I think she's more comfortable reading about fictional characters of a certain delicate, old-fashioned past in musty little books gleaned from used book stores than seeing family members' activities on line. I understand that.

The second response was from my granddaughter, Sammie’s Cousin Erin. 

I love this, Grandma! I'd like to also claim Native American values of not having "should" in my own personal dictionary. I guess the word "ought" can join "should" in the rubbish bin, too. :)
Your writing is so enjoyable, and it's great to hear that Sammie is asking difficult questions, she's really growing up.”

In between these two types of response are the readers who read but don’t respond except when you meet someone who says, “Oh, I read your blogs and love them!” These are the ones who enjoy your blogs enough to let them stand alone without the need of becoming a fan or a critic. They have no urgent desire to get to know you better than the blogging world pieces offer. You’ll likely not meet the bulk of them or have any idea of how many or few there are of them. But just to know they are there, those silent ones, is quite pleasant. You’re not talking to the wall after all.

People who live alone sometimes need to watch that they do not overcompensate their loneliness by dominating the conversation when in the company of others. I’ve known these and I feel sorry for them until I can get away gracefully. That’s what’s good about blogging. It’s a genuine take it or leave it proposition. Put your heart into it, try not to bore your readers to death, say it and be done. Like this: 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Shoulds and Woulds of a Six Year Old

It was something a friend once observed. She said, “I learned something interesting about the American natives’ languages. In them there is no word that expresses our word - should.” I can’t verify that, but I love the sentiment.

On my computer dictionary I read: “should: a word used to indicate obligation, duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.” For this reason if I ever have occasion for apologizing about my own actions (or inaction) I find it comforting to call myself a native American, even if I cannot claim this genetically.

Changing “I should” to “I would like to” makes sense to me. That’s why I generally do things I should when and if I want to. 

When I was a child growing up I took naturally to this idea because of my mother’s example. Mother died when I was fourteen but she had been the one to set the example for doing things I should with a genuine relish and also to never neglect the purely fun things I relish more naturally. If she suddenly got the notion to go off on foot to the nearest fishing hole to spend the afternoon, she did. I must have known instinctively her need to go alone.  She craved that luxury of being in quiet company with nature and she was able to leave us children because Daddy was always at home since our home was a country gas station.

In those days most mothers were stay-at-home-mothers. They also knew the need to be free of children once in a while so found things like the Sewing Club or Ladies Aid Society or Women’s Christian Temperance Union or Parent-Teachers Association to fill this need. Mother’s choice was her Sewing Club that met on Thursday afternoons and an occasional spontaneous outing to the fishing hole whenever she could squeeze it in. Fish would then end up being our supper’s menu. If she’d been extra lucky there would be a couple of trout along with the usual suckers.

I have to add that we children would go fishing with Grandpa occasionally, so Mother wasn’t denying us the fun. Nor did she always go alone on other outings. In the spring she took us with her into the woods to find wildflowers. There were violets, Dutchmans’ Breeches, Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Mayflowers, and Ladyslippers. We were careful not to pick too many and we always left their roots undisturbed. 

Mother also loved to play the piano and drove us five miles every week to the neighboring town of Lanesboro where our piano teacher lived. She was the wife of the local Norwegian Lutheran minister and her home was a model of polished floors, Oriental rugs, and sheer curtained windows wherein stood the stately grand piano. When my brother had his lesson I’d sit on the porch with Mother and read children’s magazines. Although Mrs. Nestande was strict, piano lesson day was fun. So piano practice provided a kind of “Should” that held hands willingly with my “Would.” 

I couldn’t help thinking of that these past three days when my little great granddaughter, Samantha, visited me. She is just turning six and eager to learn how to play the piano. She’s talented too and ready to have lessons. I hope her parents can find a Mrs. Nestande for her.

I guess the point of this blog is summed up in the philosophy of letting our “Shoulds” be pals with our “Woulds.” In those three days with Samantha I had the blessed help of my daughter, Robin. We both became six year olds again with Sammie and what a joy! Swimming pool, art fair, jig-saw puzzle, beachfront lunch at The Greeter’s Cafe in Laguna, and a child’s choice of at-home movies, (Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, Sound of Music,) crafty stuff, piano fun, picnic patio breakfasts, a trip to Target to get another Barbie doll to assuage the trauma of Snow White getting her arm chewed off by Dolce, Katie’s little Chihuahua!

Sammie’s visit was like a re-visit to my own childhood. She was full of questions, some of them hard ones, like “Why did Auntie Robin and Uncle Dan get divorced?” Or “Who are you going to vote for for president?” And, of course, “Why? I like the other one!” Don't tell me six year olds aren't often serious.

When there’s a six year old in the house it all rubs off on you. My own six year old is still here after Sammie went home last night. I haven’t done a lick of work all morning but I’ve had breakfast on the patio, read the newspaper, checked my e-mails and Facebook and now am finishing this blog. Time for the “Shoulds to step up and woo the “Woulds.” I’ll pretend it’s like playing house. But first, What shall I have for lunch?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Last Person You're Likely to Get to Know

The lyrics of a song from “The King and I” have been coming to me lately. “Getting to know you; getting to know all about you...” Life keeps us busy getting to know others but when time starts running out we might wonder if we've even begun to know ourselves. Now that my great grandies are coming along I’m guessing we get to know ourselves better by observing children and remembering what it was like to be a child and how we became what we are two generations beyond.

By the time you’re a great grandparent you may begin to see yourself in your great grandchildren. Oh, I don’t mean physical similarity but just the way a baby looks at life. A baby has both an inward, dreamlike sense of life, one he apparently brings with him, and an objective waking one, new to him in every way. We cannot know what goes on in the infant’s mind but we get a glimpse of how he or she is adjusting to waking moments when trying to make sense of this new world. 

I’ve been told that age is infancy. In old age we begin to gather up memories like dreams and if you’re like me, I am selective of the ones I want to keep in case they go with me into another new world. Already I see myself becoming more interested in the outside world, both this one and the suspected worlds beyond. I know about as much of these as a babe. It takes some degree of pondering to get to know both the outer universe and the inner psyche you take into it. 

Others either see you as declining mentally or stepping into a life beyond this one. Each day I feel like I’m doing the latter.

That’s my wish for today. Robin, my daughter, would call that “a rocket of desire.” Mary Baker Eddy says, “Desire is prayer...” and I say? Well, I say that I see a couple of conflicting rockets going out from me: 
  1. order in my life
  2. spontaneity in my life

Both are good rockets, so why do they not cooperate? Why do they fight for first place? 

Well, I won’t get the answers here. They’ve been evading me too long. But you see, that’s why I can’t seem to get a grip on order. Spontaneity wins every time. Write a schedule, plan my time, and the next day I get an invitation to go out with my daughter to an afternoon matinee showing a movie we’ve been wanting to see.

I suspect we all have our rockets to deal with, and getting to know the real me? Well, even now there’s always at least one more tomorrow.