Monday, April 26, 2010

Come in, we're open

Life is suffering. That's the basecamp of Buddhism and really any world religion or life response for recognizing shit we've all got to wrestle with.

We lose loved ones. We get sick or watch family and friends get sick. Our heart breaks when we hold our daughter or son as they cry from a fall or hurt feelings or being scared. We get divorced or have a falling out. We get worked over physically or emotionally. And if you are like me sometimes you just can't help asking, "What the fu**??"

We create or adapt our armor to protect us from or help us deal with suffering. A helmet like, 'everything happens for a reason.' A shield like, 'if it doesn't kill us it makes us stronger.' Chain mail like, 'this too shall pass.' And I think all these things are true.

But none of them explain suffering. None of them get at they why? or name it understandable. At base, it's just there, whether we build our lives to try to hide that fact or are able to have it out in the open.

Suffering sucks. And yet it's our response to suffering that defines who we are, how we live and how we love. It's likely that if we suppress or deny suffering that we do the same for our capacity to love.

I am not a sage. I hold no answers and make no claims to. But being open seems a better way to live than being closed. What sign we hang on our door determines who or what will come into our lives.

When I am open, grief can flow out when overfilled and love can enter to fill the room. The opposite is also true, but if I don't cling too tightly to grief it can leave again, making room for love.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shared Spring

A found robin egg. A leaf plucked from a branch they couldn't reach last year. A proud smile riding a bike on two wheels.

Avid explorers of the mundane, the mud--the incredible when examined through the lens of eight and five. Every day discovers a new skill and invents a new game.

Top of the lung screaming and laughing, running full-tilt in the breeze, bare feet on spring grass, newly cut. The girls orbit around us in impromptu firefly shapes, lighting parts of the yard as they go by.

These are things that bind our childhoods, mine and the girls'. A spring day in Oxford for me was in a marsh, building trails and forts til sundown. Or a bike ride to Doc's Quick Shop or Bringmans or the park. Skipping pieces of oyster shells on the Tred Avon.

It's funny being now the one who cuts the grass and warns for cars, while still remembering clearly my own Huffy, Big Wheel, tree climbing rumpus days.

Raising kids where I grew up, I think about them smelling the same smells, shaded by the same trees, ankle deep in the same water, but all different for how they see it and all new now, because it is.

The girls run over yelling a name I've only had for a few years, hands cupped around a cracked blue robin's egg and I cut the mower off to listen to their story and what it is and what they'll do with it and I know, in that moment, why I am alive.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chasing Jelly Doughnuts

Life is full of jelly doughnuts. Words of wisdom from an exhibits specialist at the museum where I worked, contemplating The Simpsons.

There is an episode, at least 10 years ago or so, where Homer has somehow become smart and is unraveling life's dilemmas, getting to the important stuff, when a jelly doughnut rolls by.

"Mmmmm... jelly dough-nut," and Homer abandons the line of thinking and chases the doughnut.

Life is full of jelly doughnuts. My exhibitionist friend framed it perfectly. There are any number of distractions, tangents, notions that pull us away from the stuff we'd be better served by focusing on; all jelly doughnuts rolling by calling us to chase after them.

It's a balancing act, really. I mean, who wants a life free of jelly doughnuts ;) But if all you do every day is chase doughnuts then before you know it you are 500 pounds, can't get off the couch, watching Montel Williams wishing you could conjure back some version of your former self or remember what it was you were reeling in before the doughnuts. Metaphorically speaking of course, not dissing the real Montel...

Sometimes I feel like I am chasing down a dozen doughnuts of no consequence with no way to catch them all and what good if I did? And other times I can sit on the front steps with Robin, watching the girls chase each other on their bikes or practice cartwheels in the front yard, drinking coffee, eating doughnuts, in their proper place.

So there's a Monday morning thought. Full disclosure, I took down a Dunkin' Donuts gem with morning coffee. I'm not sure what that says ;)

Monday, April 5, 2010

From Denzel to the Truth, or Props for props

I'm the dork who notices the books that characters in movies are reading. And if the title or author strikes me as interesting, I'll Google it to find out more. A pathetic practice, sure, but I find books all kinds of ways and movie books have netted me a few keepers.

I'm pretty sure that Matt Damon's intellectual smackdown in "Good Will Hunting" was the first place/time I'd heard of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." That's a book that reminds you that there is more than one story to be told around any historical event, that the less told stories are a critical part of getting a more complete picture, and that we rarely get close to a complete picture in history classes growing up.

At the end of one of the X-Men movies, Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier asks a new group of mutant students if they know T. H. White's "The Once and Future King." As a nine-year-old in fourth grade, I named our Golden Retriever "Morgan" after King Arthur's sister Morgan Le Fay (not so much endorseable as a namesake, but I liked the name ;). Any creative re-telling of the Arthurian legend will get my attention and White's "King" sits on my bookshelf as a keeper--one which is a favorite of my brother-in-law as well.

In the movie, "The Hurricane," as Denzel Washington lies in bed in his prison cell, there is a scene where he is reading "The Awakening of Intelligence" by Jiddu Krishnamurti. JK is not one you'd come across in school, but maybe he should be.

Krishnamurti has become one of my peeps. A philosophical/spiritual seeker who shuns the known/the expected, poo-poos the concept of gurus and won't be spoon-fed anything by anyone. He encourages us to find ourselves and to find things out for ourselves and to learn from our experience in the present; not to be so conditioned by the past that we lose the chance to live, to learn, now, for ourselves.

So that's my Monday morning thought for today. And Krishnamurti's "Freedom From the Known," thanks to a tangential introduction from Denzel and co., now ranks as one of my favorite slim books (124 pages). Feel free to fire back your own slim book favorites, which will perhaps be a post unto itself.