Check out my new post by clicking on my name when the picture comes up or on the link below. Thanks for reading. Jane
I hope you will check out my latest post on Medium.com. It is rather long, but something I have been working on and meditating on for a long time. It is about how to live, how to think, and how to get balanced. There is also a good exercise (I think) that I have invented for relaxing into finding balance in your life. My philosophy is called The Parallelism Philosophy based on the idea of parallelism in writing and also the metaphor of a see-saw. I hope you will find it useful and encouraging.
Shalom, Jane To read about my ideas, just click on my name in the link here:
I recently published a piece on Medium.com. Medium is somewhat like WordPress, but different too. It’s a great place to check out all kinds of stuff and almost daily I will make time to read some things I find on their website. I also follow a few writers there, as I do on WordPress. I hope you will check out my latest and give me a clap if you like it. If you don’t like it, find something else you do like and give an author a shout-out. Authors, no matter how loudly they may write, are really timid and shy forest animals that need coaxing into the light.
My piece on Medium is an essay I reworked and did a major rewrite on called “Suddenly, God”. If you have already read it on Medium or found it via my LinkedIn page, thank you. If you haven’t and want to read it you can go to my “friend’s link” here and click on my name in the picture:
Thanks for reading whatever you may find yourself reading today. In these Orwellian times, reading seems vitally critical to the existence of humanity, to me at least. But then reading has always been important to me. To riff on Harper Lee , “Until I feared we would lose it, I didn’t preach about loving to read. One does not love breathing”.
Don’t just read the headlines or infomercials or even the plethora of self-help blips, and I read all of these things. But set aside real time to read deeply and enjoy a good novel or short story or essay — there are lots of them. Read stories and poetry and fairy tales and essays. As George Martin said, “The reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The person who never reads, lives only one.”
Live your lives today, one book at a time.
Maybe Only God Can Make a Tree, But it is Up To Us To Plant Them
by Jane Tawel
July 5, 2019
Yes. Now. This. Trees. Please, Trees. I am a life-long lover of trees and Ents. If you can, please support a tree’s life and growth today, somewhere, somehow. The earth needs trees as direly as Middle-earth needed the Ents. The following is a poem by Robert Frost, another lover of trees and the earth, that seems ever more poignant today than when he wrote it.
“The Sound of Trees”
by Robert Frost
I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.
This is a picture of one of the last remaining camphor trees on my street in my little town. The rest were all murdered years ago so that people could build houses and sidewalks and not have their plumbing messed up by long, deep roots. This stately, kingly 100-plus- year- old tree messes up our house’s plumbing and our sidewalks. But I have told my family, if any one cuts down this leafy tree, I will, as the old joke used to go, “make like a tree myself and leave”. This is the tree that I “wish to bear forever close to my dwelling place”.
I am a pessimist by nature and yet hope springs eternal within my chosen worldview. At the end of this post is an optimistic article on the very real possibility of planting trees in order to save our planet. It will not involve reducing food-supply acreage nor will in impact urban areas, although I hope people will make changes on both of those fronts. As a literary call to arms for our planet, I will use an other’s words, rather than my own. From J.R.R. Tolkien:
“The world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.” Words from that sage Ent, Treebeard and J.R.R. Tolkien
I believe that we absolutely must start feeling both much more guilt, personally and collectively, and much more hope. We also must learn whom and what to love. We must know what love means when it comes to our planet. When we love our children, we care for them. The earth and all her wonders, are first of all a Creator’s children and by reason as well as command, the earth and her wonders are human beings’ adopted children. And we have treated those earthly children of Nature, too much like pesky mosquitoes or weeds we don’t find attractive, or, maybe we are treating Nature’s progeny, more like we have the children of those pesky, asylum seekers at our borders. The Earth Herself seems to me to be crying out for asylum. Will we continue to destroy and deny Her her rightful place or will we become once more the caretakers and saviors we humans were created to be on our planet? I have one suggestion if you only have time to do one more thing on your to-do list today. Go outside somewhere, and look at something that man did not make or tamper with or create. And just for a moment, let the beauty of a dandelion, or a sparrow, or an apple, or a wriggly worm, or a star, or a crinkled, brown leaf touch you. And whenever possible, find a tree and let its beauty, smite your heart. And feel guilty for a moment at how we have forsaken our planet, and then let hope return.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor, high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him”. J.R.R. Tolkien
So, let’s all start somewhere today, shall we? Here are some things I try and need to try to do much better at.
Remember, the number one thing we can do is to reduce — reduce our use and need for more, more, more, more. Don’t buy anything in or of plastic whenever possible. Ask to be sent less paper and when necessary, reuse the backs of paper products for making grocery lists. Use as little water as possible. Eat in and eat everything on the plate. Walk when possible, take more time, slow down, breathe, and look around at the trees.
Then we need to re-use. Use again, and again, again. Wash out that baggie, and use it again. Better- don’t buy baggies (see above on reducing). Buy a food compost-er. Shop less, get outside more and …. look at the trees.
And finally, recycle. Give things away to people who need them more. Make sure that cities and towns recycle goods appropriately. Recycle in-house, by using jars for vases, old sheets for rags, holey towels for doggie beds, and any other creative thing that people suggest for recycling ideas. There are great sources in magazines, books and newspapers. And read them online because of course in that way you will help…….. save a tree.
I get discouraged, until I think of Frodo and my own favorite LotR character, Sam Gamgee. I have never seen the movies and hope I never will (my kids think I’m weird) but I have read the trilogy at least six and half times in my lifetime. I feel like reading it again just talking about it. But though I am easily disheartened, I try to reduce my discouragement, reuse the hopes of history, and recycle the wisdom of all great saviors, both fictional and real. And I start again. Because as Tolkien says through the character of the disciple Samwise, “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish”.
So, while often my head wants to explode and I think, what’s the point?! I humble myself and do my small bit for the environment. On those walks I take when I see all the ugly pieces of trash people throw onto sidewalks and streets to litter my neighborhood, instead of feeling helpless to make a difference, I set myself the goal to pick up as many pieces of other people’s garbage as I can carry and give them decent burials in the closest trashcan. I hope that if someone sees me, they might pick up as many pieces of trash as they can — or maybe just not throw their trash in the first place, onto our beautiful planet. Each time I stoop down into the gutter to pick up someone’s tossed straw or plastic lid, I reward myself with the dreamy notion that I have saved a dolphin today, and that makes me carry on. I try not to grimace, although sometimes I admit I do. I smile and hum that old hymn, “This is My Father’s World”, and I hope to honor The Planetary Parent by caring for Her Creation. Sometimes, I will hum some remembered lines from the childhood of my heart: “Inchworm, Inchworm, measuring the marigolds. You and your arithmetic will probably go far. Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds. Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful, they are.” So, I pick up something ugly, and I look around, like the proverbial reformed inchworm I long to be, and I admire how beautiful the world’s metaphoric marigolds really are. This helps me stop the arithmetic in my head of how many pieces of trash I won’t be able to pick up today and throw away. So I measure how much I am doing, and vow to add more. Save the dolphins, save the trees and save the planet, one additional attempt at subtracting trash at a time.
I have shamed my family by conserving water through the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” routine, and I turn the faucet off between face splashes, dishes, and leg shaves. I use a container in the sink and shower when possible to catch water to use in the garden. I am working on my addiction to buying things and of course, I am lucky enough to live in California where most stores don’t use one-use plastic bags any more. There are environmentally friendly bags, albeit still plastic, for when I walk my dogs, so buying and using them is at least a step in the right direction. I haven’t figured out how to scoop poop with paper bags, so….. again, my motto is at least do everything I can today. Feel guilty when I fail. Feel happy when I succeed. And tomorrow do more.
All of my tithes and offerings now go to planet changers and people changers. There are many good people and groups and organizations throughout the world to choose from and to give even a couple of bucks to in order to support the cause of helping our planet live a bit longer than the projected 5-10 years we may have to turn it all around and to help re-achieve sustainable economics for people around the globe. I remind myself, that I have been admonished to bring the kingdom of God to earth, as it is everywhere in the heavens or in the unknown parts out there somewhere in God’s un-fallen, un-sinful, unpolluted cosmos.
I cheer my little, wee unimportant self on with the stories of Meg Murray and Calvin O’Keefe; of Frodo and Sam and Treebeard and (you won’t find in the movies these characters, also among my favorites!!) of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. I remember the stories of Abel and Boaz and Abraham; and of Gandalf and the Lorax and Jesus; and, oh, yes!– of all the real and imaginary small people who believed that the world did not belong to them but that they belonged to the world. I privately ask myself and I soul-search among the Universe and the gods and The God; and the great Wizards and the long-memoried Ents; and the family that I love and the friends that I love,– I ask myself, in light of all of these –“what will my story be”? I ponder in my prayers to that Friend of Sinners, just as that wee hobbit Sam wondered to his own friend and Master: “What a tale we have been in, Mr. Frodo, haven’t we?”, Sam said. “I wish I could hear it told. Do you think they’ll say: Now comes the story of Nine-fingered Frodo and the ring of Doom? And then everyone will hush, like we did, when in Rivendell they told us the tale of Beren One-hand and the Great Jewel. I wish I could hear it! And I wonder how it will go on after our part.” Oh yes, it is humbling and necessary to reflect on how The Story will go on after my part, if I do my part.
Oh, look around today. Look at the kaleidoscopic colors and shapes of trees and the lovely hues of water. Look at faces of beloved ones, not just your people, but including the faces of trees and squirrels and marigolds. And ask yourself, “I wonder, how it all will go on after my part”?
One of my favorite authors and TED Talk presenters is Kathryn Schultz. In her book, Being Wrong, Adventures in the Margin of Error, she writes about both the foolishness and the miracle of being human. I think what she says is of scriptural proportion when it comes to wondering about and wandering along on our planet as human beings:
“To err is to wander and wandering is the way we discover the world and lost in thought it is also the way we discover ourselves. Being right might be gratifying but in the end it is static a mere statement. Being wrong is hard and humbling and sometimes even dangerous but in the end it is a journey and a story. Who really wants to stay at home and be right when you can don your armor spring up on your steed and go forth to explore the world. ” “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t.”
I feel it is past time for us to stop being static when it comes to caring for our world. We must don our armor, as Schultz preaches, and go forth as humble heroes. We must not only tilt at windmills, we must make and use more of them to meet our need for energy. We must not only seek the holy grail, we must reuse the one we already own. We must not only change the course of our planet’s history, we must recycle the wisdom of saviors, and sages, and fiction-writers, and TED talkers, and trees. I sort of hope that someday, my tombstone might read: “Here lies Jane. She really tried”.
I am embarrassed and ashamed at how little I do and feel silly posting this with so many who are really living radically or responsibly. Please read about and find out about the real world-changers who are living lives well-lived before they return to the earth and before our planet is irrevocably changed for the worse forever. At the same time as I state how often I am wrong and how often I get bogged down by the world and the way it is, I encourage any one reading this to just try. Just as I am trying to do, make a start. And try as Ms. Schultz says, to “see the world as it isn’t” and add, “yet”. The world isn’t perfect yet, but it can be. It once was. We just need to start doing our part and changing the story’s falling action and rewrite our fears and hopes about the story’s end. As Sam Gamgee did. As our favorite fictional nanny might say to us children of the earth, “well begun is half done”. Just do it, and one small act will, when laced with and lashed to hope, lead to another small act, and all of us small people on our small globe really can make a difference, in our own hearts and lives, in our own communities, and I pray, on our own small planet.
We do not know what our own particular “ring” to carry might be. We never truly and unselfishly and without a great degree of fear, failure, and pessimism, want to take up our own cross to bear. Much as The Christ did not want to take up his cross but did anyway, we must just say, “No matter what I don’t know, no matter what people may think, no matter how afraid I am, no matter how I may fail–well, I’ll do it anyway”. And as Frodo found, in the end, it is the people who say, “I will take the ring, even though I do not know the way” who live best for The One who is The Way.
I am learning much from native and indigenous teachings on how to live in harmony with nature. I have also found the collection of poetry and reflections entitled The Psalms to be good food for the soul in terms of living universally with other beings and the matters of the universe. I am encouraged by novels like “The Lord of the Rings”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, and “Howard’s End” along with the poets and visual artists who nudge us with reminders of earth’s beauty, in words and paints. Musicians like Ludovico Einaudi and Mozart and Dolores O’Riordan make my heart throb with both pain and with hope for humankind. There are many good books on spiritual paths to living in harmony with the Creator and Creation. Find one at your library that suits you. We have been tasked as human beings to care for the Creator’s creations and the created world we live in. In this, we do what we were designed to do in the beginning. In this, we are the imago dei and only in this, do we practice love to all. All.
The old chestnut by Joyce Kilmer, much memorized by school children in the later century, is considered sappy (are you following my intentional puns so far?) and has justly been rooted out from the vast forest of poems that are considered classics. But as a lover of poetry and a writer of, (and I apologize) at best, C- poetry, myself, I think it is unjust to lop off Kilmer’s creative intent and toss it into the woodpile with his sapling-sized rhymes. I mean, c’mon, the guy had to contend with being called “Joyce”.
My secret dream is that someday, when I am old and ready to pass on to the great unknown, my family can bury my body as food for the worms, wrapped in an ecologically-chemically free shroud near a body of water, next to a tree. If there are any weeping willows left on the planet, that would be a fitting place for this old romantic. I will be happy to give the last thing I own, my body, to feed a tree because so many trees have fed me, body and soul. My family thinks I am morbid to think about being eaten by worms and tree roots, but when I think about it, I feel hopeful. Hopeful that when I die there might still be bodies of water and trees that still exist to feed the bodies and souls of my children and my children’s children. I hope to leave fewer carbon footprints behind but perhaps I shall manage to leave behind the footprint of one small skeletal love as a gift to my planet. I hope the world will receive the hopes of this insignificant person’s offerings, and that even in death, my love for this old world will be met by the hope of a new heaven and new earth. As the Great Man said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”(Jesus as related in John 12: 24-25)
The seeds of our destruction are horrifically being sown everywhere, but if a tiny acorn can grow into a mighty oak, then I too, may hope to sow, where I do not reap, and to plant seeds of hope that may one day blossom into a restored and renewed world, for my children and my children’s children. I wear on a chain around my neck a small container of mustard seeds. My daughter, Justine gave it to me as a gift when she was very young to remind me that all I am required to have is a mustard-seed sized faith. Here’s a picture of a mustard tree and encouragement to believe what all our minuscule mustard seeds and a bit of faith in the goodness of our planet might achieve:
In 1981, a program was started to help lost children survive in the wilderness. It was called “Hug-a-tree”. In 2019, it is the trees that are lost and losing and that we must help to survive. Become a tree-hugger today. Perhaps, as the poet wrote only God can make a tree, but right now, right this minute, it is up to us to care for them. As Frost wrote, someday, I shall have less to say, so today I shall make the reckless choice and speak out. The Way of Truth and Light and Love is always the path least taken, but more of us need to start taking it if we want to save the world. Yes, let us take the path less taken, without trod-ding on more rain forests, or depleting more glaciers, or extinguishing more critters; let us take the path less taken of humility and hope and love for our planet; and in that way, we shall make all the difference.
Below is a link for the article from The Guardian on planting trees to save our planet. You will find many other good articles and resources in their section entitled “Environment”.
I simply don’t post food pictures to the public, and so this post is not about a recipe for oatmeal cookies but a recipe for a dream.
Today as I made these (and I confess, ate a couple of warm ones); I found myself thinking: If I could just sit down all the world’s leaders at my kitchen table right now, and say, “If you will stop hurting people, and stop destroying the planet, and start being nice and playing well with others, I will let you have as many of these yummy, warm cookies as you would like. Would you prefer a cold glass of milk or some hot tea with your cookies?”
And then all the nations’ leaders would put warm cookies in their mouths instead of words of hate; and with their fingers they would tweezer up the crumbs, instead of pulling triggers; and then they would smile at each other with little bits of cookie stuck in their teeth; and all the world could get back to their families, and jobs, and playgrounds in safety, and peace.
Well, if John Lennon could “Imagine” it, why not I? Remember that old optimistic song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”? Today, I’m just really, really deeply feeling, “I’d like to share with the world a warm cookie”. . .
In the spirit of the world’s children and in the spirit of warm cookies, here is my silly take and quixotic dream-like riff on that famous children’s book by Laura Joffe.
If You Give a Louse a Cookie
by Jane Tawel
If you give a louse a cookie,
A louse who rules the world,
He’s probably going to want some milk to go with it.
And if you give him a cookie in one hand,
And a glass of milk in the other hand,
Well then, that louse-ey ruler,
won’t have any hands to hurt people.
And if the louse eats the cookie and drinks the milk,
He’s probably going to want to help you
make more delicious cookies,
Which means he won’t have time to
And if he doesn’t have hands to hurt,
or time to plan destruction,
and has a belly full of warm, delicious cookies;
Why, then he’s probably going to want a nap.
And if he take a nap, well then,
He probably won’t want to wake up to a world
where all the icecaps, and clean air, and giraffes
have been destroyed.
And if he takes a deep breath of lovely air,
and pets a beautiful giraffe,
Why then he’s probably going to want to
tell someone about it.
And if that lousy ruler sees a needy person next to him,
Well, then, he’s probably going to want
to share a cookie with that person.
And if the ruler shares a cookie with another human being,
They are probably going to smile at each other.
And the ruler is probably not going to want
to be a louse any more.
And if he isn’t a louse any more,
and treats others as he would like to be treated,
well, then he will probably have finally worked up
an honest appetite,
for an honest day’s work.
And if he works that hard
at making the world a better place,
rather than a worse one,
Well, then he’s probably going to need
a glass of milk.
And if you give him a glass of milk,
He will probably want another cookie
to go with it.
Resurrection is a Threat, Not a Promise
Shared Thoughts of Julia Esquivel and Parker Palmer
from Jane Tawel
April 13, 2019
It seems a “good” time to share once more excerpts from this poem by Guatemalan Poet, Julia Esquivel. This poem, written as witness to the horrors inflicted on the people of Guatemala in the 1970’s and 1980’s, is now perhaps even more tragically relevant to us in this place at this time. Who are we in light of this current onslaught of naked need? I include as well, a short meditation on this poem by Parker Palmer from The Active Life.
If we are not being threatened with resurrection today, and especially if we are the sort of people who are still planning on celebrating the upcoming Good Friday and Easter / “Resurrection Sunday”, perhaps we still don’t really “get” this whole Christ thing? Perhaps we don’t even get this whole Human thing? To paraphrase Palmer, “If we are to take seriously those who complete their own “marathon of hope”, The Christ’s calling, perhaps we too must undergo some form of dying.” I fear and feel deeply and spiritually that if we do not, join the “least of these”, the lost, the poor, the sojourners and needy, in, as Esquivel writes, this “marathon of hope”, we will never reach “the finish line which lies beyond death”.
I hope you will read Ms. Esquivel’s searing poem and I hope, as I am, you will be threatened by it. Resurrection is not a promise for believing in Christ’s life, my friends, it is a threat for those willing to die with Him. The King of The World lived not in the safety and cushy-capitalistic “Christianity” of my lifetime, but in the threatening and threatened world of self-imposed poverty and outcast status of the Judeo-Roman last century B.C. Jesus has threatened us with these words: “For as you have done it unto the least of the world’s humans, you have done it as unto God.” Those words are either terrifying or hopeful, depending on whether we hear them as promise or threat. Perhaps we need to hear them today as both threat and promise. As Esquivel says, “then we will know how marvelous it is to live threatened with Resurrection”.
Hear the threat. Seek the threat. Embrace the threat. Be the threat.
“They Have Threatened Us with Resurrection”
by Julia Esquivel
It isn’t the noise in the streets
that keeps us from resting, my friend,
nor is it the shouts of the young people
coming out drunk from the “St. Pauli,”
nor is it the tumult of those who pass by excitedly
on their way to the mountains.
It is something within us that doesn’t let us sleep,
that doesn’t let us rest,
that won’t stop pounding
it is the silent, warm weeping
of Indian women without their husbands,
it is the sad gaze of the children
fixed somewhere beyond memory,
precious in our eyes
which during sleep,
though closed, keep watch,
with each contraction
of the heart
in every awakening.
Now six have left us,
and nine in Rabinal,
and two, plus two, plus two,
and ten, a hundred, a thousand,
a whole army
witness to our pain,
What keeps us from sleeping
is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!
Because every evening
though weary of killings,
an endless inventory since 1954,
yet we go on loving life
and do not accept their death!
They have threatened us with Resurrection
Because we have felt their inert bodies,
and their souls penetrated ours
because in this marathon of Hope,
there are always others to relieve us
who carry the strength
to reach the finish line
which lies beyond death.
They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they will not be able to take away from us
nor even their death
and least of all their life.
Because they live
today, tomorrow, and always
in the streets baptized with their blood,
in the air that absorbed their cry,
in the jungle that hid their shadows,
in the river that gathered up their laughter,
in the ocean that holds their secrets,
in the craters of the volcanoes,
Pyramids of the New Day,
which swallowed up their ashes.
They have threatened us with Resurrection
because they are more alive than ever before,
because they transform our agonies
and fertilize our struggle,
because they pick us up when we fall,
because they loom like giants
before the crazed gorillas’ fear.
They have threatened us with Resurrection,
because they do not know life (poor things!).
That is the whirlwind
which does not let us sleep,
the reason why sleeping, we keep watch,
and awake, we dream.
No, it’s not the street noises,
nor the shouts from the drunks in the “St. Pauli,”
nor the noise from the fans at the ball park.
It is the internal cyclone of kaleidoscopic struggle
which will heal that wound of the quetzal
fallen in Ixcán,
it is the earthquake soon to come
that will shake the world
and put everything in its place.
it is not the noise in the streets
which does not let us sleep.
Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!
To dream awake,
to keep watch asleep,
to live while dying,
and to know ourselves already
The longer that one dwells on the poem, the harder it is to say exactly who threatens us with resurrection. The poem itself is like the kaleidoscope whose image Esquivel uses; each time you turn it a new pattern appears. So the poem imitates life, in which the “threat of Resurrection” comes both from those who dispense death and from those who have died in the hope of new life… If it is true that both the killers and the killed threaten us with resurrection, then we, the living are caught between a rock and hard place. On the one hand, we fear the killers, but not simply because they want to kill us. We fear them because they test our convictions about resurrection, they test our willingness to be brought into a larger life than the one we now know. On the other hand, we fear the innocent victims of the killers, those who have died for love and justice and peace. Though they are our friends, we fear them because they call us to follow them in “this marathon of Hope.” If we were to take their calling seriously, we ourselves would have to undergo some form of dying. (Parker 147-8)
On and To Bloggers (but maybe we need a prettier name?)
from Jane Tawel
April 8, 2019
One of the very great things I have discovered about blogging, besides my own creating and thinking with words, is being made aware of how many other creative people there are in the whole wide world posting their creative words, art, and ideas in the medium of online personal “blogs”. This idea of blogging has changed greatly and I think for the best, as it is now a huge, flexible, and fluid medium for expression of all kinds. It is so huge that it is hard to know how to find those folks out there that might appeal to one’s aesthetic or personal needs and desires. Just by luck and through my own blog, I have come to find out about people I would never know about otherwise — people in Germany, India, Canada, Atlanta — people who make pottery and write about it as if the pots were darling children much like I write about my own darling children; people who create pen and ink drawings and then write heart-searing essays, full of “the warp and woof” of human experience; and people like Tebatjo, someone I may never meet in this lifetime but hope to someday in Eternity — people who dig into their need for writing that most modern-age maligned of arts, poetry, digging much like Scarlet dug potatoes from her decaying plantation, promising “I will never go hungry again”. We who write poetry, feel the metaphoric hungers of the world, and share our own provisions to stave off the starvation of soul-less-ness.
This blogger award to bloggers was a very wonderful thing that the originators came up with, because it is named Liebster, which in German means, “kind”. And it is truly about kindness, isn’t it? It’s all about kindness, not niceness, but about being kind; kind to the planet, kind to others, kind to self, kind to God. I have found the world of fellow bloggers that I personally have heard from or have read to be a community of kind people, people from all walks of life, genders, colors, places, ages but people who share the quality of kindness.They share kindness through comments, through encouragement, and through this award. I think any one who attempts to create art or who tries to teach other people something about how to live, no matter how bad, unjust, angry or frightening the world is — those people must have a core of kindness in order to create. No matter how much one rants or provokes in one’s art, art itself will bring one back to a sense of a world of nature and other beings, who are just waiting — just longing — to be kind; if we open ourselves to it, it is there. I have found the kindness of creativity in a “nation” of fellow bloggers.
It helps my own wee soul tremendously to know there is an unsung “nation” of souls in the world who create because that is what humans should be doing. Whether you get fame or money is beside the point, the point is as beings created in the image of a Creator-Being, we must. That’s it, we must. Creating may not be our job, but we embrace it as necessary for our lives. So it is with humility and joy that I accept this nomination (prizes awarded in January 2020), which may seem silly to some, but to me represents a whole world of people that I respect greatly and people that the word “blogger” does not do justice to. The word “blog” rhymes with things like bog or fog or smog — not things that one wants to immerse oneself in or at least stay in for long. The bloggers I am privileged to be a citizen with in The Nation of Bloggers, are thinking, creative people who give a lot of time and energy, heart and soul, to making the world a better place, whether they have one follower, one reader, or thousands. They are the liebsters of the world, whose prizes wait for them, awarded in Eternity by that Great Creator and Lover of all those who with suffering and kindness, create in Her Image. Thank you all for rest, inspiration, provocation, and joy in the journey. You are “liebstered” — you are valued.
******You will find below the award details, the intriguing questions I was asked to answer; the blogs I am nominating but also recommending for readers to check out; and my questions for the nominees. As a reader, you might have some fun answering all or one of these questions and posting them in the comments.
THANK YOU, TEBATJO MALAKA!
A hearty and heart-felt thanks, to fellow blogger and poet, Tebatjo Malaka for nominating me and my blog for the Liebster Award. You can find Tebatjo’s profound blog at https://onhillsofglory.wordpress.com/.
What is the Liebster Prize?
The Liebster Prize is an award that exists only on the Internet and is awarded to bloggers by other bloggers. The first case of the award goes back to 2011. Liebester in German means sweet, kind, dear, charming, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. It really is an excellent way to meet other bloggers and gain more visibility in the community.
There are some simple rules to follow:
Add a link to the Official Liebester Award page in your blog post the Global aussie
- Thank the blogger that nominated you.
- Display your award.
- Answer the questions you were asked.
- Nominate at least 5 other followers to do the same post.
- Ask 6 new questions to your chosen nominees.
- Let each nominee know you’ve nominated them and give a link to your post.
- Literaa Poetry
- The Alchemist’s Studio
- The Mad Servant
- Deanne Davis at Tablespoonoflove
Questions I was asked to answer by Tebatjo:
- How do you define life?
Wow. Right out of the gate, a question that leaves me a bit stunned and silent and the point is to write about it, but I’m assuming I can’t write a 5,000 page tome, which is what it would take. So, for now —I define life, I guess, as something we are given on our birth date, a great and wondrous and often, ponderous, gift, and then as we live, each human has the choice to accept life as gift or to see life as work. We can use our lives to construct something meaningful, or we can choose to deconstruct or destroy those essential and unique elements we are given as human beings. Now, some people are given more viable and good options in this lifetime than others, who get the short end of the stick or are exposed the evils of the world in ways that are completely unjust. And whether you are born into a life of ease or a life of hardship is not at all fair, but if you believe, as I do, that we also have the choice to not let this short passage of time that we live out on Earth, be the only and finite life, the only definition of what a life means; then the option of choosing a spiritually-led life is yours no matter your circumstances. In fact ironically, Jesus makes an interesting comment that scares some of us fat cat first worlders — he said, it is harder to live a meaningful life if you are rich and powerful than if you are poor and unjustly persecuted. But as all things are possible with God, even entering the life of God’s Kingdom, then seeing life as gift, no matter our options, will ensure that someday, somehow there will be a life of justice and truth, love and peace, and a wholistic life that for now we can only see and experience dimly or in pieces. However, the crux of the matter is, how I define my purpose in living, for just this morning, this day, this moment even – that is a reflection of how I truly define “life”; which should be paradoxically sobering and freeing.
- Based on answer in 1. above, how often do you think about death?
I think about death pretty much every night before bed and first thing in the morning, when I am pleasantly surprised not to be dead. I wouldn’t say I think much about death in between those times, except to rather daily frantically pray for the people I love to not die that day. If you do read my blog, you will no doubt fairly soon discover that I have more questions and more thoughts about what comes after death than about death itself. I do find this question interesting because I think Americans and perhaps all First World-ers are in dangerous denial about the one certain fact of this life – we will all die. You can use all the Botox, build all the safety nets (or walls) you like; but you cannot protect yourself from the certainty of death. However, see the John Donne poem below in my answer to Question #6 for some hopeful philosophy on our deaths. Or I might recommend a meditation on The Christ’s view of life after death as found in the book of John, particularly John 5:24 and 11:25
- If you had a clone, would you be pleased in telling him/her your life secrets? And how would you accomplish the task of reassuring him/her that everything is going to pan out alright when he/she is about to give up on life?
So, I have to assume that my clone doesn’t know everything I know. (For a wonderful meditation on whether we would really like to have a clone or not, watch that old chestnut “Multiplicity” with Michael Keaton). And I have to assume that I know or have “life secrets”. And are these life secrets about my own life’s journey, or about the “secrets of life” or are both always connected? And then I have to assume I am dealing with someone who is suicidal – Yowza! In terms of telling someone my life secrets, I would tell them to someone I trust and someone who could learn by them. I have told my children some of my “life secrets”. But the tough part of this question of course, is how to talk with someone who is “giving up on life”. I come from a dynasty of “cheerleaders” who believe in the old “buck up” method of encouragement and that the best thing to say is always: “I’m proud of you and you are great and all is going to be fine for you”. But then your kids grow up or your spouse gets sick and you realize, “so what if I’M proud of them? And also, things do not by any stretch of the imagination always turn out fine.” And isn’t pride actually, in the end, the problem, not the solution; either the lack of the right kind of pride or too much of the wrong kind of pride.
So what to say to someone who has gotten so far along the road in life undetected, or unswayed by the cheerleaders and encouragers, that he / she feels life is not worth living? The problem starts with thinking life is all about me; which in the end, even for those who are famous, wealthy, powerful etc. is never enough, as we find to our sorrow with the famous, powerful, wealthy, people who commit suicide. The deeper issue is with making me, myself and I the trinity idols of my life. And this is such an insidious religion of humanism masquerading as Christianity, or Judaism or Islam now, at least in my country, it is. What blindsides us in the end, is that people don’t realize that self-worship is what they actually believe. They think they believe in God or have faith in Jesus or practice living like Buddha, or will die for king and country; but we have so long been afloat in the sea of materialism, humanistic idolization, greed and power masquerading as success and fulfillment; and self-pride, that with the first moderately strong waves of despair, depression, fear, or failure that eventually assault our sense of meaning, we are capsized into despair or we drug ourselves with religious feeling or pharmaceuticals or more stuff to make the bad feelings go away. But the waves keep rolling. So I guess if my poor clone wakes up one day, as truthfully, I do some days, and says, “Original Model Jane, I don’t feel like living.” I hope I would simply give Clone my time, that most precious of treasures for now. I hope I would simply sit and hold her hand and make her some tea and maybe a scone or two. I hope I would stop talking and advising and cheerleading, and just listen – even if it means just listening to the small, faint sound of her heartbeat and the miracle of her breath.
- If beauty was defined in terms of a moment, what/how will it be?
Looking at my baby’s face, breathing in the scent of the back of her neck, caressing the little limbs, chubby and soft and helpless, hearing his little bleating cries or his soft coos of contentment as he nurses nourishment from me, looking up from her soft downy head at the great big world, and feeling that sense of awe that this beauty has been given to me.
- Between cooking and eating, what’s best, on the assumption that none of the two is obligatory?
Cooking, because cooking means that I will have family and / or friends around my dinner table, enjoying something I have made just for them. The joke in my family is that I cook as if all the field hands on the ranch were coming in hungry to chow down. I cook as if all four kids were still coming in to dinner each night, along with all their friends – hungry as only kids can be and wanting leftovers of their favorites for later. I am not a gourmet chef but I cook as generously as I hope my heart is generous.
- Do you believe life is a function of fate or destiny (note: destiny is the direct antithesis of fate.)
Ah, the old Shakespearean conundrum: “Is the fault in the stars or in ourselves?” As asked by Brutus, that most wretched philosopher /friend in the play “Julius Caesar” or take Edward in Henry IV: “What fates impose, that men must needs abide; it boots not to resist both wind and tide.” Or The Player King in “Hamlet” “Our wills and fates do so contrary run, That our devices still are overthrown; Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.”
Alas, these are all quotes from plays in which people die and die and die some more. So what does Shakespeare or any one for that matter, do with the great Worldview Questions, especially the one about death and dying, when they answer it with, “well, that’s fate”. I posit that the great poets and artists and philosophers of our times, know quite well, that “fate” or “destiny” is never actually an answer – it will always remain a question. It is one of the ultimately unanswerable questions because only God can look at us, our world, and the element of Time from outside those elements and determine the true meaning of anything. We are not even 20/20 in hindsight, as there is always our very personal interpretation of what we see in the rear view mirrors of our lives, compared to what any one else might see or assess.
I’m also not entirely sure I agree with Tebatjo that destiny is the “direct antithesis” of fate. See my answer to question #1 on life, but if we have any kind of Judeo-Christian philosophy, then we believe that all human beings are created for the same destiny: to love and glorify The Lord God, Creator of All; to live a life of justice-seeking peace, kindness, truth, and fulfillment; and to work at loving others as we love ourselves. This is everyone’s “destiny” but not of course the end result of every human being’s choices. In fact, woe is me, it is the end result of very, very few of us.
Of course, Shakespeare is also wrestling with this conundrum of fate and choice; God and humans as little gods; and none of his characters have it completely right, only pieces of it, which is why Shakespeare keeps on asking his characters and his audiences this question. Shakespeare’s questions on fate and human beings versus Providence or A God are much like you can find in the Biblical book of Job – a play with characters worthy of Shakespeare for sure. As you can see, I find it necessary to turn to those great Questioners of the ages in terms of questions like this one. If you check out Job, you will find that God Himself questions Job. The gift of art is the gift of living in the questions. And this for me includes the question of “fate or fault”, “fate or destiny”.
In terms of fate, I refer readers to find some munching on material in, perhaps, the views of two great poets –John Donne and Emily Dickinson.
Superiority to Fate (1081)
Superiority to Fate
Is difficult to gain
‘Tis not conferred of Any
But possible to earn
A pittance at a time
Until to Her surprise
The Soul with strict economy
Subsist till Paradise.
Death Be Not Proud
The Holy Sonnets by John Donne
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
- If you were to write a five-line poetry for that one person in your life, how would it look like?
I do write a lot of poetry for the people in my life, my husband and children. Yesterday my husband and I had one of “those” fights. So here is my poem for Raoul, my one person, for today.
Five Lines, by Jane Tawel
You and I, muddling through.
There are days you hate me and I abhor you.
But we keep living the gift of a long-term love,
which all but God fall badly short of.
We both mess up badly, but our love remains true — you know, I love you.
Jane’s Questions for the Nominees:
- If you could get out one all important message to the world, what would it be?
- You can build your house on either a mountainside, in a forest, or by a body of water. Which would you choose and why?
- What one book of fiction would you recommend everyone read at least once if not many times in his / her lifetime? Why?
- You must choose between lots of money and fame right now or being recognized after your death as a profound and meaningful artist. Which do you choose and why?
- Pick at least three different artistic mediums and name someone who has effected your life through their creations.
- Why do you keep doing what you do?