If It Were the Last

Recorta Renova

“Recorta Renova” by Gui Silva is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

 

If It Were the Last

By Jane Tawel

March 26, 2020

About a year ago, before this “WHOLE THING”, you know, before the pandemic that shook the foundations of everyone’s world, I started giving myself little talks about how I should live if this “were the last”.  As an old-school grammarian, I find it best to use the combo of “IF- WERE”, as good grammar used to have it, because using the subjunctive form  ie the hypothetical philosophy of projecting things onto the future of my dreams, desires, or hypotheses suites my worldview best.  And I think especially this idea of using the plural form of a verb implies that this is just a hypothesis – IF – and not a done deal. There could be many things that happen in the future, IF. But I digress…

 

I belong to a particular group of worldview enthusiasts who have this idea that we should live each day as if it could be the last day.  Well, yes, and no.   This “as if it could be your last day on earth” doesn’t really mean you take unacceptable risks with your life or anyone else’s. It also doesn’t mean you waste all your money on a frivolous pursuit or go skydiving if you really hate the idea of falling from any height at all, especially with only an oversized handkerchief inflating above you – hopefully.  But there are many, many good attitudes one can adopt towards oneself and towards others, if we really live as if the end of the, or at least our world could come at any time. Living as if it could all be taken from us  “like a thief in the night”, as  the wise Teacher said, has many advantages.  And doesn’t it seem, really as if this latest thing, this corona virus, has snuck-up on us suddenly and caught us completely unaware with our moral, ecological pants down and our treasures stored away with Wall Street con artists rather than in things that really might last and stand the test of eternity?  Just like a thief in the night, this virus has robbed us of what we were literally banking on and figuratively secure in. Our treasure ended up being stored in plain sight and rather useless and flimsily secured against the thief. Indeed, it seems to make a bit more sense now to meditate on the truth that where our treasure it, there our heart is also.

What I have done over the past year, though is more in the  practical arena than the philosophical.  I have tried to live a more aware and caring life in relationship to the planet I love, and the home I inhabit and love, because long before the virus, I began to realize that I am responsible for how I live my life, my day.  And if I lived my day as if something could be the last of something, then maybe the naysayers are right, and while I wouldn’t exactly save the planet, — I could possibly save my soul. And who knows, maybe just one person or a few persons, doing the right things, doing the moral things, doing the things that need to be done, will save the whole world. After all, it’s been done before.

 

There are a few people in the world who are connecting this horrible pandemic to the ills we have long foisted on our Mother Nature and on the Earth, but it’s hard to hear them when you are afraid you personally are going to die.  But we are all going to die, aren’t we?  Or did we forget that?  But should we be allowed to keep ruining the planet for the people and animals and fruits and vegetables and flowers and insects who want to live after we are dead?  Should that be an option for any one, no matter their age, nation, income, religion, politics, or worldview?  If  nothing else, this whole thing about toilet paper, should surely make some kind of dim light-bulb go on in everyone’s faulty-wired, blinking chandelier. Shouldn’t it?

 

So, as I said, about a year or so ago, I started doing some things as if they were the last – not everything – mea culpa, pleaseforgiveme, really I feel truly sorry and I need to apologize to the future children of the world who hopefully will have a world to inhabit.  But I did start to do some things as if they were the last. And it sort of began, ironically with toilet paper.

 

I have a friend and long, long ago before either of us married or had kids, she told me about how her father would make her, my friend and her five siblings count the sheets of toilet paper they were allowed to take in to do their business in the bathroom.  If their business was the Number 1 kind, then they got two sheets of T.P.  If their business was the Number 2 kind, they got four sheets.  Now, this family was rich, but the dad I guess still believed that even if you are rich, there is no need to waste either money or toilet paper. He also really believed in that old adage of “waste not, want not”.  Might be how he got so rich even with that many kids.  He wasn’t an environmentalist or a religious person at all —  he simply thought that his family should do what he considered to be the right thing to do – for the family.

 

Now – aren’t you wondering if all those people out there hoarding toilet paper for some godforsaken reason or other, are at least, for God’s Sake (and I mean that, For Her Sake), making sure every one is using only enough TP to do their business? Are you a little bit wishing that everyone out there who bought up all the toilet paper will conserve it, use it wisely, not waste it – so that if there really is a shortage, they might be convinced it is in their best interests to share it with the rest of us? Aren’t you hoping that if we really have seen the last of the toilet paper, that people will conserve it and use it wisely?

 

The real question  that I started asking myself about a year ago, and that maybe we all need to ask ourselves as we take a closer look into our own hearts is this –

What am I hoarding or wasting?  And how do I stop doing it?

 

Isn’t is horribly strange that many of us live in nations and cultures who think nothing – NOTHING!—of hoarding or wasting?  We hoard money, we waste food. We hoard space, we waste time. We hoard stuff, we waste relationships.  What kind of insane, unbalanced Society? Community? Culture?  Worldview does those things?  Shouldn’t we have figured out a while back that any group of people who do that for long, won’t exist forever? That any species, any planet that does that for long won’t exist forever? Shouldn’t we have figured out that “like a thief in the night”, death eventually comes and all those things will one day be taken from us? And then what? Have we really become so amoral, so heartless, so short-sighted, that we really don’t care what happens to anyone else after we ourselves die?

I do believe it is important to do the BIG MATH IF’s.  Those are the “If this were my last moment with this person, what would I want them to know?”  or “If this were my last day at work, how would I want my coworkers to remember me?”  or “If tomorrow is Judgement Day, what should I change about myself today?”  Those are good ways to live, indeed, and we should all take more time to live by them, and waste less time on the things that get in the way of the BIG MATH IF’s.  We need to.  BUT – we also need to realize that the LITTLE MATH IF’s  are actually just the yin  of the yang, the flip side of the coin, the reverse view in the mirror of all those BIG IF’S.  What I do with my time  and money– and my metaphoric and literal toilet paper– may some days seem small potatoes to me, but it’s really at the heart of all my Big Worldview Answers to Life’s Big Questions.

 

When I am more aware and mindful of what I do in relationship to the small things around me, things that on a daily basis might seem small in comparison to the Big Things, then I am in fact, doing what humans are truly meant to do as beings with souls and spiritual essence. When I think about how much toilet paper I really need to go Number 1, then I am actually practicing a spiritual discipline in order to form a habit  in order to create a self-sustaining worldview about how important I think a single human being is to the planet, to other people, and possibly even to Whatever, Whoever is Out There in The Universe.

Imagine?! What I do with the small things has endless significance and importance to the Big Things. This is the Butterfly Effect Theory, the small pebble in the shoe of the king or the fork in the road, the drip of water that starts a flood, or the stone that kills a giant. Or maybe the virus cell that changes the heart of the world.

This reminds me of a book I read long ago, and whose title I will riff and satirize here – Imagine – “The Unbearable Lightness of Toilet Paper”.

 

So now for the nitty-gritty.  Here is the way I have tried to change my way of seeing my life, my things, my belief system:  By asking What – If questions about The Last Days. It works for me, a strange nerdy, geeky  lover of Literature and Writing and as a believer in an ancient and ever-evolving worldview that There is Something / Someone Important – more important than I, but also that makes me more important – “Out There”.  Whatever you call that “More Important” thing – please find it – Whether it is your God, your loved ones, your future, your planet, your people – please find that which motivates you to be better than you were yesterday and less better than you hope to live to be tomorrow. I find asking myself these If-Then Questions helps me. I hope they do you, too.

 

  1. If this were my last roll of toilet paper, how much would I use right now to go pee?
  2. If this were my last loaf of bread, how much would I snarf down now and how much would I save for tomorrow or for someone else, and how much would I enjoy each bite while I eat it?
  3. If this were my last light-bulb, would I turn the light off when I didn’t need it? Do I need it on right now?
  4. If I were only allowed a few gallons of water per day to use, how long would this shower be? How would I wash my dishes? How much do my clothes really need to be cleaned? How long would I let the water run to get hot? Or cold?

    How much would I enjoy drinking this glass of water, this cup of tea? How sure would I be to drink it to the dregs and not waste one drop?

  5. If I were only allowed to be on the computer, online, on my cell phone for one hour per day, what would I do with that time? Or if my computer or cell phone was on a timer and if it were left on for ten minutes when no one was in front of it using it, it would self-destruct, would I remember to turn it off when I walked away?
  6. If I had the choice to walk to the store and get all the benefits of being outside moving, to slow down and enjoy the journey, and reduce my carbon footprint just a little bit – would I do it? Don’t I often have that choice, if I’m honest? Shouldn’t I make that choice whenever and wherever I can? What if this were the last time I could use my legs, my eyes, my body to walk somewhere?
  7. What questions can you add? And how can you let those questions inform your choices in order to create habits in order to create character in order to live a more meaningful life?

 

How can we help each other, see the world differently, even after this whole pandemic has, I hope, receded into the past? I am hoping that we do remember, that though this time may pass, and this danger may recede, there is never an end to the real Human Condition. But alas,  there is also  never an end to the dangers to our health and our souls and the dangers to the health and the soul of our planet. Can we ensure, can we plan, can we be practical, can we be in this together, and can we try to also make sure that there is never an end to what we of faith, hope and love, and some good old practical uses and conservation of our stuff and our time — are willing to do to make all things better. Just better. Not perfect, no, but surely, truly, oh please yes — better. Here is to a renewed joy in the journey in this present age and present danger. Here is to many people grasping the “IF I’s” so that the “Then We’s” will thrive for a better brighter and healthier future for everyone – now and for our children’s children’s children.

 

I have long pondered the questions that Cat Stevens raised in his iconic song,  “Moonshadow”.  I am quite partial to my sight and being able to see the world around me and to read books with words and watch my loved one’s faces.  But I confess, I often take my sight for granted for most of the day. I am wrong and wronging, sinful and sinning, and guilty and judged of taking so many, many things for granted. Let’s start with owning up, with confession to each other, and then let’s humbly help each other do better.

 

I had a high school friend who was born without one arm due to her mother’s taking thalidomide before anyone knew it was dangerous. Her poor mom didn’t know, she is guilty of nothing but bad luck. My own mother had an old-school doctor who didn’t believe in giving drugs for natural things like pregnant nausea so that is the reason I and my siblings lucked out. This friend learned to do many amazing things with one arm, and she could actually snap her toes really loudly – a “feat of feet” we all thought pretty cool. She had a great life, married with kids, but I won’t ever let myself think that if she had had a choice, she wouldn’t have chosen to have been born with two arms and hands. So if her mother had known about the dangers of thalidomide, there is no doubt in my mind she would never, ever, ever have taken it for what ailed her.

 

People, we know about the dangers of thinking that we can take whatever we want for what “ails us”. We can not plead ignorance that what we are continuing to do to the planet and to other humans is not dangerous and just as life-changing as if we lopped off all our limbs. We must stop. Change. Turn Around. Make Better Choices. We must ask ourselves the Big Questions and make all the Big People hear us when we ask them to do the Big Things. And we must ask ourselves the small questions and we small people must do all the small things, daily, “never growing weary in doing good”. And then maybe, just maybe, the children of the future will be born with all the advantages for living on this planet that children have always deserved. We must suffer the pains of first-semester nausea, now, while we give up dangerous habits and practices, and we must know that even though child-birth is painful, at the end there is the joy of healthy  birth and thriving life for someone that we suddenly realize — hopefully not too late — someone — our child –that we love more than anything. Someone we would do anything for. Maybe even stop hoarding and wasting toilet paper for?

 

While you are stuck sheltering and maybe feeling irritable or scared today, think about all the things you have right now – at your fingertips, in your sight lines – and yes, these are real physical blessings most of us have as well as metaphors for how we should be more mindful and aware of all our gifts, joys, abilities, etc. We must ask ourselves what it would mean to have them taken from us and what it means about our responsibilities to them, and to each other.

Enjoy and Seize the Importance in what you have today, and if you are willing, enjoy your stuff as if it might all be gone tomorrow. Enjoy and Seize the Importance in the world around you today, and if you are willing, enjoy it as if you were put on the earth to take care of it wisely. Enjoy and Seize the Importance in your time today, and if you are willing, use each moment as if it could be your last. Enjoy and Seize the Importance in your people today and everyone in it, and if you are willing, treat them importantly enough, as if tomorrow you might wake up to find them gone, or they find you are gone. Enjoy and Seize the Importance in your very own life today, and if you are willing, understand solemnly, as true (and if anything is true, this is), as if someday your life will be robbed from you like a thief in the night — so ask yourself — Where shall I store my Treasure? What if this were the last day on earth?

 

If you like, listen to Cat Stevens while you love your life, and I hope, while you begin to use less toilet paper.

 

And back to good grammar, which I guess isn’t a digression after all — If It Were — the Last…… then subjunctively, hypothetically, with all the options still on the table — How Shall We Live Today? Because this is not (yet) a done deal, people. There is hope and a dream for tomorrow — IF?

Image result for image for IF

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow

And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won’t have to work no more

And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if I won’t have to cry no more

Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow
Leapin and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow

And if I ever lose my legs, I won’t moan, and I won’t beg
Yes if I ever lose my legs, Oh if I won’t have to walk no more

And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if I won’t have to talk

 

 

 

Instead of Coronavirus, What About…?

Instead of Coronavirus, What About…?

By Jane Tawel

March 9, 2020

 

People wearing a face masks to protecting themself because of epidemic in China. Selective Focus. Concept of coronavirus quarantine.

 

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Coronavirus.  Here are some of mine.

 

How about instead of being so terrified of the spread of Coronavirus around us, we get more terrified of the spread of lies around us?

 

How about instead of canceling events due to the idiocy of Coronavirus mass hysteria, we start canceling all public events due to the idiocy of a nation that refuses to enact laws to protect its citizens from mass shootings?

 

How about instead of wearing more masks around strangers, we wear more smiles instead?

 

What would happen if everyone stockpiled gratitude, in the same way they are stockpiling sanitizer?

 

What if instead of learning more about beating the bad Coronavirus, we learned more about  being good human beings?

 

What if instead of hoarding more toilet paper for our future sh*#%@$ts, we stopped hoarding more and more sh*&$%!@t for our futures?

 

What if instead of storing water in our town halls, we took water to our refugees at our borders?

 

What would happen if we cared more about those we come in contact with, than we care about contracting something from them?

 

What if all the religious people along with cleansing our hands of germs, also cleansed our hearts of sin?

 

How about instead of listening to talking heads, we listened to the needs of those around us?

 

What if instead of walking our beliefs backwards and becoming xenophobes about other people, we believed in the future, and became xenogogues, guiding the world and all the people in it forwards?

 

What if we lived not as if today was the first day we realized we should care about our hygiene, but we lived as if today could be the last day we could tell people we love that we care about them?

 

What if we had as much faith and hope, as we do fear and anxiousness?

 

What if we thought this moment right now, mattered more than any other moment past or present?

 

What if we thought extending a hand in love to our neighbors, could really make as big a difference as coughing into our elbows?

 

What if we saw an impending viral epidemic of Coronavirus as an imaginable viral epiphany of virtue?

 

What if we knew that we would some day die, and so we better start really living today?

 

What if instead of seizing the day to remain in illness-free stasis, we would seize the day as an opportunity for healthy new growth in body, mind, and soul?

 

What if we thought there was really Someone out there worthy of worship, and not just Someone out there who cheered only for our team?

 

What if we thought Virtues were as important as vaccines?

 

What if we believed as strongly in the soul-born Power of Love, as we did in the airborne power of disease?

 

How about instead of believing in worst case scenarios, we start believing the best about other people?

 

What if instead of teaching our children to fear, we taught our children to share?

 

“Woman and children washing hands” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If the Coronavirus can teach me more than just a bunch of hygienic tips– (and frankly we all should have already been following those tips on staying healthy, so get on board, folks!) —  If I can learn anything from the mass hysteria rollicking through the world right now, I can learn how to be a better human being. But that is something I should be trying to learn every single day I have the privilege of waking up.

 

I should do certain things in order to care for my physical body, my outer-self, but if there is any thing a mass hysteria about a virus can teach me, it is probably more about how to take care of my inner self, my soul.

 

Today I have at least one more day and one more blessed opportunity to:

  • Learn more about things that matter.
  • Stop wasting time on things that don’t really matter in the long run.
  • Get worked up about the pandemic of illnesses humans are causing on our planetary home.
  • Love more. Love more. And then love some more.
  • Stop hoarding, and begin enjoying.
  • Put aside the rigor mortis of despair, and take up the righteousness of worthy causes.
  • Kill the germs of inactive narcissism on my hands, and eradicate the lackadaisical selfishness of my soul.
  • Irradiate truth and share healing words.
  • Take off that which masks me, so I can breathe deeply.
  • Support creative people, create supportive networks.
  • Value the valuable, cherish the charitable, testify for the truthful.
  • Believe that virtue is still viable.
  • And then love some more. And then love some more.
  • Worship the Eternal, not the temporal.
  • Be grateful; sincerely, pro-actively, outward-looking thankful.
  • Be a healer, not a hater.
  • Feel true pity, not false piety.
  • Speak truth.
  • Be kind.
  • Carpe Diem in Imago Dei.
  • Choose to be positive; fight negativity especially in myself.
  • Love some more. And then love some more.
  • And then love some more.

 

 

Because the fact is, folks, the Coronavirus will come and go. Every virus does. And the truth is that we will each of us come and go as well. Every human being does.

 

Every single one of us living through this latest death scare, will one day be dead and gone. We will each die of something or other,  due to something or other, and something or other will be the thing that kills us. So, frankly, just as we should always have been washing our hands and coughing into our elbows, and being more careful out there, we also should have been living every day as if it mattered a whole lot more how we treated others, how we cared for our own souls, and what we spent our time and resources on.  We shouldn’t live this day any differently than we do any other day and we should also start living this day quite differently than we did yesterday – because today we have one more opportunity to get truly healthy, and stay truly alive –outside and inside ourselves.

 

We should live this day as if it could be our last, but also as if it can be the first – the first day to start over, and do better, and make a difference in someone’s life, and enjoy our world and the people in it. Today is the day I can determine not only what I will protect my body from, but what I will  protect my soul from. Today is the day I can decide what I will feed my body with to make it stronger and healthier, and what I will feed my heart with to make it stronger and healthier. Today is the day I may avoid a public event because I fear my soul will catch a deathly illness. Today is the day I may decide the mass hysteria of social media and information is no longer worth my invaluable time. Today can be the day I embrace the world with all my senses and small abilities. Today can be the day I wash my hands of negative thoughts, and reach out my hands to life and love.

 

I can not know if today will be the day I catch some disease, or go somewhere that is dangerous, or develop some symptom and will die because of it. But I can know that today is a day rife with opportunity. I can try to catch a glimpse of heaven on earth. I can develop more love in my heart and more love for others. I can go into the world creating something lasting, because everyone can create those things that will remain. There are things within the world that will remain, long after the Coronavirus is no more. We just need to believe in them.

 

And now these three things will remain forever and ever and ever:

Faith.

Hope.

Love.

But the greatest of these is Love.[1]

“yellow flower 3” by MishaGirl is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Lest we forget, long before the word “corona” became synonymous with a scary virus, the word corona meant a part of a flower, and corona is one of the outermost and largest layers of the sun.  I get to decide for one more day if I will define myself by fear or if I will define myself by love. I get to decide if I will lemming-like join the mass hysteria of living against something, like a fast spreading cold or a flu or death, or if I will live for something, like a slow-spreading peace, joy, and kindness. I will decide whether to define myself as an eternally possible patient, or to define myself an eternally improbable saint. I will decide if I will be something that is dead inside because I fear what is outside, or if I will be someone alive and growing like a flower, or powerful, heat producing, and light-shedding like a sun.

 

I would rather live one more day as a flower. I would prefer to choose that when I, like a flower, return to the dust from which I was created, I will have sought to share a bit of beauty, spread a bit of joy and to mean something to some people that has made them feel loved.

 

And I will continue to believe and have a crazy kind of worldview that has faith in Some Life-Giving Force Out There. And I will struggle along in a sort of fear-inducing worship of That Life-Force with an equal amount of stuttering faith that there is Someone more powerful and light-giving, and healing, and loving, and eternal than any of the Suns in any of the Cosmoses. And I will hope beyond hope that no matter what bodily or soul-sucking evils we humans expose ourselves to, that Love is stronger and that Love will win. And I will try to live this day, as if no matter what any one of us does for good or ill here in our short time on this earth, no matter what —

Love, just like The Sun will remain forever.

“Sun” by Chris Yarzab is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

 

For there is a Sun and Shield; There is a Life-Force Who gives grace and glory; No good thing will be withheld from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)

 

 

 

[1] I Corinthians 13:13

Permissive Advent

Permissive Advent

by Jane Tawel

December 2, 2019

Screen+Shot+2017-12-08+at+12.39.13+PM

This I read today from Jorg Zink—”Take the path that leads inward through the days of Advent. Set aside for yourself, if it is possible, time to breathe in; time to stop feeling that you’re on the run or under stress. Allow something to happen inside you. Turn your thoughts and hopes to the things that count.. . . “We humans contribute to the world’s gloom, like dark shadows on a dark landscape.…But now this man from Nazareth comes to us and invites us to mirror God’s image, and shows us how. He says: you too can become light, as God is light. What is all around you is not hell, but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith. This world is your home as surely as the God who created and wrought it is love. You may not believe it, but you can love this world. It is a place of God. It has a purpose. Its beauty is not a delusion. You can lead a meaningful life in it.”

From Doors to the Feast, by Jorg Zink

 

I am beginning this Season of Advent, by seeking better practices of listening.  And to switch up St. Paul’s words, but I hope, not his intent, one way I hope to celebrate the onslaught of God’s Son living with us in this world, is to “set my mind on” the present Presence amongst us on earth, and not a wishful wannabe in a heavenly future. As Jorg Zink writes, I hope to “turn my hopes and thoughts toward the things that count”.

 

I have spent a lifetime communicating as a writer, teacher, parent, spouse, daughter, co-worker, and friend. But Advent is a good time to remember a man who was born as a baby and who excelled not only in communicating truth and love but in listening.  To listen not only to other human beings, but to listen to the very Earth herself seems to me a life-practice I have too often missed-out on, and I have been sadly suspectful that “merely” listening is not something valuable, active, and meaningful.

 

Listening seems so passive, and of course, for some people it is. It took me years to realize that the reason I talk so much and have so much outer-moving energy is because I think (and fear) that if I am not verbally responding, physically engaging, facially and bodily moving, and passionately involved with others, then I am not giving. In other words, I am so afraid of taking  and so anxious to connect in meaningful ways with any humans within reach, that I overdo the communicating bit. It took me years to understand why I am so depleted after work or social events or even just a car ride or dinner with a family member. It is because I was never really allowed to just be by myself or be quiet around others. I am the “cheerleader”, “stage-manager” who always just wanted to be what she was at heart, a nerdy introvert. So when I am with other people, I am caught-up in my own need to “give” of myself.  This is not altruistic, I realize; it is rather more like a hidden, undiagnosed phobia or syndrome. And to make matters worse, as an empath, listening to others, for me, means feeling everything the other person is feeling, taking it in, and not having anywhere to put it but back out there to “solve” or “help”,  or stored away smoldering and moldering inside my own mind and heart.

 

People who are like I am, end up with running tracks in their brains that often spill out their mouths. We pour out so much, that eventually there is a backwash. Eventually, our communications often morph and change from giving, caring, wannabehelpful and useful bodies of relational communication to unlivable, unsustainable towers of babble. Inside, we end up running along the lines that add tracks of worry to our faces, and fill us with secret fears and criticisms; and these can easily derail, leading off to side-tracks and runaway ramps of angst, anger, and hopelessness.

 

Advent is a time of permissions.  It is a time when lowly, stinky, homeless people were given permission to hobnob with kingly Magi.  It is a time when it was permitted to not just believe in angels, but to sing with them.  Advent gives us permission to come into the light, and stand, kneel, or dance before God. Advent gives us permission to love the world as The Creator loves it. It gives us license to believe there was once a God-man who loved the world enough to be born into it, even though He already had a different and better home; a God-man who had so much hope for and faith in the world and other human beings, that He thought he had enough love to make a difference; and so God gave Jesus permission to live in the world with all of its darkness, and to care for all of its brokenness, and even to die for its future. Now, The Christ waits for our permission to open the door, to let him turn on the lights, and to listen to him teach us how to be like him.

 

What do you need to give yourself permission to do, or not do, this Advent Season?  As you await, anticipate, engage with, and hope for what will born in and with you, what can you do now to prepare for what will give you more purpose and more joy in the journey?  You may find the answer surprising, as I have.  You may find that in not doing something you think you must do, there will be more meaning to not just this super-imposed upon us season, but more meaning to your life. For some it may mean, not buying, not going, not giving (just because it’s a Tuesday), not resisting standing out, or not staying silent but speaking up.  For me, this Advent will begin with instructing my heart to not being afraid to wholly and holy be a listener.  For me, I am giving myself permission to seek a heart of silent anticipation and to practice truly listening. I am giddy with anticipation of what I might hear. I am also a little afraid of what people might think or how I might feel (or not feel).  Maybe you feel the same about finally speaking up or speaking out? Maybe you are afraid to put yourself out there? But we don’t need to fear each other or our own trials and errors in changing for the better, because as Jorg Zink says, this world is our home.  We are safe here. We are together in this. We make the world have its meaning, and it in turn, the world we make gives meaning to our lives.

 

Did you know that because sound and light are both waves, they can conceivably be converted into the other?  May my words become loving light and may your light be converted into the sounds of your truth. May the Light which we celebrate at Advent, give us all the sounds, both spoken and silent, sounding out and holding close,  truth, hope, faith, joy, and love. And may those of us who need permission to shout, shout “Hosanna!”. And those of us who need permission to listen, may we be “still, and know that He is God”.

 

Jesus came to give us permission to be specifically who we were meant to be, just as he was and is. God is among us, granting us permission to live in a Truth that is available and unassailable because it is purely and divinely Love. Christ in us, is our permission to live, and to live fully and meaningfully.

 

Today, how will you share who you are giving yourself permission to be?

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Illustrations by Julie Vivas, “The Nativity”

 

I’d Rather Be a Stone

I’d Rather Be a Stone than a Leaf

By Jane Tawel

November 16, 2019

 

Simon and Garfunkel have this great old song in which they preach to their listeners that they would “rather be a hammer than a nail” and they would “rather be a sparrow than a snail”.  Good sentiments, sort of along the lines of Ghandi’s ubiquitous “Be the Change” exhortation.  But you know, the problem is that most of us can only manage to fly like a bird for a very short time, and then we tire out. And being a hammer eventually just makes you an overbearing, hard-nosed, abuser of your power against all the little powerless nails. Being a hammer might be a Samson-like calling in the moment, but eventually all hammers hit too hard, just as much as the powers do who currently hold the hammers.  We dare not forget the ends of stories like those of Icarus and Samson.

 

 

I have learned all of this, mostly from literature and other forms of great writers’ artistic endeavors. Stories and poems and authors like Homer, Tolkien, Rowling, and the writers of what we call The Bible, contain what C.S. Lewis calls, True Myth. These stories about hammers, or powerful heroes, or sparrows, high fliers, often end tragically or at least badly for all the little nobodies – that is for the nails who get wacked by the heroes or the people below the high fliers, who get pooped on from those soaring above the fray.

 

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This is the truth that Orwell and Dickens meant to teach us when they wrote about power and revolutions against that power.  Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities to help people understand that even a great cause, such as the French Revolutionaries had, will eventually fall by the way side when the weak become strongmen, and the powerless become power-hungry rulers. And I always loved to teach my students that Orwell was quite clear that Animal Farm  was not simply about Soviet Russia, but also about Fascist Spain and Capitalistic America, and well, about all of us, everywhere, always.   We have been warned—all humanistic, prideful power eventually is corrupted from within.  One only has to look to the powers that those who claim God’s favor, ie all religions, but perhaps today, especially what we call “Christianity”. We have only to see what those in the name of religion or God have stolen, dictated, grasped, and abused, and continue to grasp and abuse, to understand that humanity is always falling prey to either an immoral sense of entitled faith in someone else doing the moral, salvation bit, or  prey to a self-righteous sense of doing for God something that He refuses to do  miraculously for our own entitled sense of greed or benefit.

 

 

I  very often feel guilty and helpless and humiliated, that I am not out there hammering and soaring and fighting and shouting and pledging and contributing and warring and protesting and well, flying.  It has helped me to read great story-tellers, who believe that getting rid of one power to be replaced only with another power will forever condemn history to more greedy and power hungry rulers. If you  say you believe in Jesus, you should have no doubt that he believed this, even for himself, and he had the edge in being the Son of God, so….But we are not allowed to believe that we are to do nothing; that we were put on earth merely to save our own measly excuse for an individual soul and  hightail it to a “Heaven” somewhere out there without all the mess we’ve created here. We are supposed to believe that we were put in charge on this planet, of these beings, and plants, and animals, and volcanoes, and lakes, and rivers, and children. We are meant to believe that there is a way humans were meant to “do good” and “act rightly and righteously” and to make this planet and world and other communities of humans better, more the way we would all like it to be, and that is what Jesus meant by telling us our job was to make “God’s Kingdom real here on earth, like it is in other galaxies, and places we can’t even imagine, ie, the “Heavens- Out-there- Where God is”.

 

So we seek metaphors, and stories, and poetic allusions to figure out how we are supposed to do this thing called “living”. I struggle at my time of life with seeing myself as a soaring eagle or a powerful tool of politics or religion.  My nickname in my family is “Chicken” for good reason and I am definitely mechanically challenged at the best of times. Not sure any one wants me wielding a hammer, though I am prone to the occasional use of the metaphoric kind in conversation. The best metaphor I have recalled lately, for how I might make changes in the world as only one of the little people, a minor character in the plot, is the metaphor of the stone.

 

I think about that great line in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” spoken by a man who suffers death for the sake of his wife and other women, who back then were considered property, and who are accused and condemned unjustly by the over-powerful, over-zealous self-proclaiming evangelical politicians of the time. These abusers of power in Miller’s story, much like the regimes of Orwell’s Animal Farm, or the monarchy of Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities  are up against, hammers and sparrows, and doves who carry secret messages, etc, but in the end the righteous refusal to budge on an ethical, moral response to wrong, badness, and evil, usually comes through those who simply lay down their lives, like a stone in the road, refusing to be carried away by the justifications of those who will not see the Truth behind the lies of the corrupted. Much like many of America’s past and present abusers of power, such as the current configuration of those like President Trump and Senator McConnell and Franklin Graham’s oligarchical Administration, and the Red Scared three-headed beast once seen in the U. S. Judiciary and  FBI and Senator Joseph McCarthy  during that Make America Great Administration, and the “Evangelical” Protestant Witch hunting White Settlers in the Administration who populate Miller’s play. And so, knowing that he would be condoning evil and doing  wrong, by choosing the “lesser of two evils” and thereby, abusing his own power as a conservative, religious man who only wanted to save himself,  Giles Corey, submits to being unjustly charged as a traitor and not Christian-like and is put to death via capital punishment by the state and modern inquisition by the Church. The Puritans did this by the placing of large, heavy stones laid on a man until they had crushed his chest into his heart. As the weight of the stones placed on Giles Corey, one after another, seem too impossible for his body to survive, and the political and religious leaders think surely this man will give in to their way of thinking and behaving now; Corey tells the “Christian” executioners that no, not only will he not join them for any reason but that they must add, “More weight. Add more weight.”

 

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Add more stones.  Arthur Miller, the playwright, would later, be a Giles Corey character in real life, when he refused to tattle to the corrupt “Un-American Activities Committee”, who after all were only trying to “make America great”. Again.

 

Dickens writes about a Christ-like figure who is innocent but allows the state to kill him in order for someone else to live.  Orwell, however, has no such hero.  In Orwell’s dystopian worldview, the Christian leaders, in the character of a black raven, symbolizing death, flies off with his share of the goodies; and the politicians, one after the other, are revealed to be not just literally pigs, but archetypes whose greed devolves them from being animals to, you guessed it, game-playing, powerful, greedy, over-fed humans.

 

And again, and again, and again and on it goes. No wonder we can feel so helpless and hopeless, and that we keep trying to tell ourselves that either someone like Jesus, already did all the work for us, and that the world can go to hell because we personally will be “saved”,  if we only have a mindful acquiescence to some historical god’s reality; or that someone else, like a president or prime minister, or a Gates or Gandhi, will come along and be our world’s savior, and all we need to do is “pray” for them.

 

As for little old me, I do believe in the kind of Judeo-Christian worldview in which humans matter and that there is a God that cares about our world. I try to hang on to a belief that I find not just in stories from the Bible, but in the history books, and in Nature and even in other humans I meet now and then. I believe that Love matters most of all and that the small actions of small people matter. And that little actions done with love by little  people can not only change the world, but that somehow, they have a larger meaning in light of God’s Kingdom and in some as yet, unrealized idea of Eternity.

 

I do believe that there is judgement and reward, for what we say, think, feel, and especially what we do or do not do. It seems clear that the consequences of one’s own life, and well as the tides of time and history are ultimately determined by those dueling sins of omission and commission that tug us as individuals, sometimes confuse us as they pull us in different and seemingly contradictory directions.   I believe we all sense the truth, that in some way, we have messed up what is fair and good, and this is true whether we believe in a reckoning in a God-futured heaven, or the more easily apparent judgement that Jesus did rightly warn us of. Jesus did warn his fellow humans that there is an inherent judgement in life that is an ever present danger. This danger comes when any one, any people pass the point of no return on earth by “losing our souls, losing what this life was meant to reward us with as individual human beings,  and when we seek only to gain more and more for ourselves at any cost”.

Surely even the most foolish of us sometimes awakes in a terrified sweat to the recognition that we are becoming less human, less of what we want to be, more soul-less, and zombie-like. Surely even the most religious of us must stand aghast at what we have allowed to happen on our planetary home, as children kill other children, and farmers starve on what used to be their land, and the food we eat  to nourish us causes us deathly illnesses, and whole species of animals die out, and people wear gas masks to breath, and fires rage, and sea levels rise, and those who are supposed to unite us, divide us for their own gain.  Surely, even the most atheistic or immoral of us understand that there is something horribly, horribly wrong on our planet, in our species, in the inner most parts of who we are?

 

And like me, you may feel angry, depressed, frightened, sad, and helpless and hopeless. After all, what can you do? What can I do? What can we do?

 

 

It came as a consolation and a warning and a judgement and a prophetic goading to me, this past week to re-read the part of a story I was reading.  I will share great swathes of it with you here, but I encourage you to read the whole thing for yourself.  This is from C.S. Lewis’s Science Fiction Trilogy, and specifically from Perelandra.  In it, the character of Elwin Ransom, a human being, has gone to another planet which has just been created by God, who Lewis calls Maleldil. On this planet, there is a sort of new Garden of Eden set-up, and there this traveling spaceman, meets this planet’s archetypal “Eve” character.  Ransom also meets up with the only other fellow human, a man named, Weston, but who according to Lewis, has become an “Un-man”. Weston has allowed evil, “Satan” to take over his mind, body, and soul, but it happened incrementally over the course of time and Weston did it for all the right reasons, much like people today claim to do. The story’s conflict lies between these two humans, who have a different worldview of what God wants from us, although both claim the Bible and God as their source. They also have different ideas about what is the best way to make the planet of Perelandra and her inhabitants, “Great”.  Oh, it is truly relevant, is it not?  I encourage you to read the story.  But what may encourage you today, as it did me, is C.S. Lewis’ own wrestling with his conscious and the pleading voice coming through in the character of Elwin Ransom.  I have taken the liberty here and substituted Lewis’ name for God, “Maleldil” for the more earth-friendly one, “God”. Ransom is at a loss for how to stop the evil and “bad stuff” happening around him. He has tried and failed so far to save The Lady and the planet, and time seems to be running out. Now he is feeling helpless, and thinking dark thoughts in the darkness, thoughts and feelings much like mine at times. Perhaps much like yours.

 

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Why did no miracle come? Or rather, why no miracle on the right side? For the presence of the Enemy was in itself a kind of Miracle. Had Hell a prerogative to work wonders? Why did Heaven work none? Not for the first time he found himself questioning Divine Justice. He could not understand why God should remain absent when the Enemy was there in person… Suddenly and sharply, as if the solid darkness about him had spoken with articulate voice, he knew that God was not absent… had never been absent, that only some unconscious activity of his own had succeeded in ignoring it for the past few days…. But where is God’s representative?

The answer which came back to him, quick as a fencer’s or a tennis player’s riposte, out of the silence and the darkness, almost took his breath away.  “Anyway, what can I do? I’ve done all I can. I’ve talked till I’m sick of it. It’s not good, I tell you.”  He tried to persuade himself that he, Ransom could not possibly be God’s representative… And then—he wondered how it had escaped him till now—he was at least as much of a marvel as the Enemy’s.   He himself was the miracle.

 

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Yes, we too often forget it. My life itself is a miracle. But we must be careful, for like Ransom, many of us who believe this today, stop there.  Ransom tries to convince himself that this belief, this “faith” in God and in goodness and in his being in “God’s hand”, is enough.  He pats himself on the back that he really has done “his best” and that “God would see to the final issue”.  But Lewis, knows that really, honestly, this is not true-Truth, not even on a mythical planet.

 

 

Not one rag of all this evasion was left. Relentlessly, unmistakably, the Darkness pressed down upon him the knowledge that this picture of the situation was utterly false.  His journey was not a moral exercise, nor a sham fight. If the issue lay in God’s hands, Ransom and the Lady were those hands. The fate of a world really depended on how they behaved in the next few hours. They could, if they chose decline to save the innocence of this new race, and if they declined its innocence would not be saved.  It rested with no other creature in all time or all space.  This he saw clearly, though as yet he had no inkling of what he could do.

 

 

As Ransom realizes, we must realize that God cares through Us, not just for us. We are each, each day, standing alone on the precipice between the salvation of the world within and without and the death of all that is in both me and the planet, all that is Good and Right and Healthy. I am the only person right now who is utterly responsible for what happens in my own soul, in the souls of others, and on the planet. This is not the vanity of the powerful nor the hubris of the hero, this is the reality of what it means to be a created human being, created in the likeness of a God.  Ransom, however, can not accept this blithely, just  as I can not do, maybe as you  cannot do, and Lewis through his character, rebels and protests these thoughts.

 

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The voluble self protested, wildly, swiftly, like the propeller of a ship racing when it is out of the water.  The imprudence, the unfairness, the absurdity of it!  Did God want to lose worlds? What was the sense of so arranging things that anything really important should finally and absolutely depend on such a man of straw as himself? And at that moment he now could not help remembering that men were at war and awaking, like him, to the preposterous truth that all really depended on their actions; and far away in time Horatius stood on the bridge, and Eve herself stood looking upon the forbidden fruit and the Heaven of Heavens waited for her decision. He writhed and ground his teeth, but could not help seeing. Thus, and not otherwise, the world was made.  Either something or nothing must depend on individual choices.  And if something, who could set bounds to it?

A stone may determine the course of a river.  He was that stone at this horrible moment which had become the centre of the whole universe. The angels of all worlds, the sinless organisms of everlasting light, were silent in Deep Heaven to see what Elwin Ransom of Cambridge would do.

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And so each and every day – perhaps moment by moment– one must ask oneself:  Will I be a leaf, blown this way and that by life’s ebb and flow, to eventually be nothing more than the dust from which I grew?

 

Or will I be a stone?  A pebble in the shoe of the king, can irritate him into stopping and perhaps, in that way, the pebble will upend the powerful forces marching towards destruction.  A rock in the road, can cause the jeeps and tanks, to perhaps change direction, and in that way, change the direction of a war. All the little bits of gravel, can build each other up, and change the course of the mighty seas of history, damming the floods of greed, pride, and injustice, restoring the waters to their intended nourishment and life-giving abilities.   And one little pebble found in a righteous slingshot, can slay a Goliath.

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The Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom, proclaimed, that should we fail to be the stones of God, that God Himself could easily raise up actual clods made of dirt and minerals. Should I fail, God does not lack for hands and feet and wings and claws and trunks and even pebbles; for on Ransom’s Earth, on Lewis’ and my planet, a man once came to show us how to live. And this Son of Man, proclaimed that even “the rocks themselves can do our job of crying in praise, ‘Hosanna’!  Blessed is the one who does God’s work on earth, as it is done in all the Heavens and in all the Cosmos!”

 

If I have delayed in my life, ‘til now, skipping a rock on a lake, or dropping a pebble into a pool of deep water, I must delay no longer.  I can not know whether my little stone of an action will create far-reaching ripples, the consequences of which I shall not know until Judgement day; or if my little stone will sink to the bottom of our raging waters, and there, perhaps, small and still as a god’s voice, will change the course of the tide, at least perhaps for someone else.

 

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All I can know without doubt, with fear and even sometimes loathing, is that I must be the stone that God has created me to be. I must use the hands God gave me, the feet God entrusted to me, and the voice God expects me to use. And so, like a good stone, I cry, “Hosanna!  Good news!  God is with us.  And the Gospel is –We are the saviors. We are the ones that God created us to be as the makers and caretakers and workers for Love on our planet. We are the Christ.”

 

We are not called to be innocent bystanders, like dumb rocks by the wayside. Because bystanders, are not innocent, they are just dumb. We neither are called to be dumb as in stupid nor dumb as in silent.  I may be just a stone, but I am a stone that is resting on the Cornerstone, and that Cornerstone, called The Christ, Messiah, Risen Lord and King, has changed the whole course of Time and History. On Christ the solid rock, I stand. Or am crushed. My choice.

 

The next time you are out in the world, stoop down and pick up a little grey pebble. Is it not truly a miracle of creation? Each of us, too, can be that small little stone that is in Truth,  a miracle.

 

Will I be a leaf or a stone?  Daily, moment by moment, I choose. And though, I am not all that important in the great scheme of things, I am the only miracle I have today. But then again, I am the only miracle, I need today.

 

And in the end, after all, as Elwin Ransom realized, as C.S. Lewis, and George Orwell, and Charles Dickens realized, and perhaps as you have realized, accepting that I am the miracle God has sent is not only enough, it is everything. My being a small stone is everything. In fact,

The fate of the planet depends on it.

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All Photos from https://creativecommons.org/

Ten Small Radical Things To Do Each Day

Ten Small Radical Things To Do Each Day

by Jane Tawel

October, 2019

Here are Ten Small Radical Things that I think we should make daily habits, but that we can at least try to do today. These come from my own succeeding and failing at each of these. Try one, or a few of them today. Each day make time to live with hope and joy — these Ten Things could help.

  1. Laugh until your sides hurt. It’s best to do with someone, but if that’s not possible, do it with the person who “gets you” the most — yourself. Laugh with a comic book, a funny video, a comedian, or watch a squirrel or a puppy (often great sources of humor).

2. Hum a tune. This is a great way to relax your mind and your body. It activates the all-important Vagus nerve. It is incredibly fun to do on your own and can also be a great way to drive someone else crazy (should you need to).

3. Take care of something small that you don’t usually make time for. Sometimes, it is as simple for me as taking time to brush my hair for fifty strokes — so relaxing! I find taking care of my finger and toe nails to be a helpful reminder that I really do have time for small things if I stop letting my time be gobbled up by the big, bad things, like the “Busy-Ness Monster” or the “Blob of Ennui”. Try spending just a wee amount of time caring for some small part of your garden, either figuratively or literally. Or do something for just one part of your body that needs attention. Try a face mask or hair treatment or just elevating your feet against the nearest wall. The important thing is to do it yourself, not spend any real money on it, and do it in solitude, caring for your inner self as you care for something outside of yourself. Most of all, enjoy doing it, not as a task, but as self-care.

4. Chew more slowly or drink more deeply. Actually and intentionally tasting what you are imbibing or masticating will give you two important, transformative things; it will give you more pleasure and more gratitude.

5. Go outside. If it is too hot or too cold, stand on your porch or your stoop and let your body really feel what is going on. If, like Goldilocks, the weather is just right, take a walk. Of course, Goldilocks may vary. The best of all weather for me, here in the desert, is rain. I love to walk in the rain. But even if you just have a three-minute break today, go stand outside. But don’t do it for steps, or exercise, just go outside to BE. Be in a real environment called “The Outdoors”, with no fake lights, no fake air, no fake animation. Enjoy the Realness. Look. Listen. Feel. Breathe. Unwind.

6. Wave and smile. If it’s to a stranger, that is the best kind of gift since all you will hope to get in return is a wave and smile back. If they don’t smile or wave back, you will still feel better. If you make this gesture to someone you are working with or someone in your home that you see day after day, a little wave and smile will be a happy reminder to both of you that you are both human, and you are both trying your best. That connection will remind you that two people can find a little happy moment together, no matter how much stress you may be experiencing. A smile and wave cost nothing but bring joy to the giver and the receiver. Better than words sometimes, is the unspoken gesture which requires neither deflection nor acceptance. A wave and smile will interrupt any flow of negativity, at least in the giver, and hopefully, in the receiver.

7. Play with some thing. I keep a little canister of Play-doh near my computer. I also have a life-long habit of playing with a strand of my hair. Play with something that does not require any thought at all — no Sudoku or Crosswords (though I love both for other reasons). If your teacher will let you, (and I always tried to), play by tapping your pen on your desk. If your husband will let you, just play with his hair or his earlobe. Stones and leaves and rolly-pollies are good to play with, as is mindless doodling in the margins, or by amusing oneself with a piece of string or sticky tape. Playfulness leads us away from childish behavior into child-like behavior, and in that makes all the difference towards enjoying a life well-lived.

8. Be a hero and save something. Save water by using less. Save something from the trash that should have been recycled. Save someone from having to stand, by offering your seat. Save some time to volunteer to help needy bodies rather than always working on your own body at the gym. Save a bit of time to call someone for a chat. Save a bit of money by making your own coffee then giving that money to the homeless guy on the street. Be a small hero in some way every day and give yourself commendations for heroism and bravery and moral achievement. And with enough small acts of heroism, you will develop the super-powers of love, hope, and joy.

9. Relax. Turn everything off. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Meditate or Pray. Stretch out or curl up. Nap or take a bath. If you absolutely have not a single moment for any relaxation, go into the bathroom cubicle, sit or lean against the wall for a minute, and give your mind a one-minute vacation. Think about ocean waves and sun. Think about swooshing down a snowy slope. Think about floating on a raft down a lazy river. Think about splashing in puddles in the rain, holding hands with your best friend. Think about a place and go there. Immerse yourself in the imagination of that place. Find a moment of tranquility there. The mind is an amazing tool for accomplishments; let it do the same amazing magic and restore you.

10. Tell yourself something good about You. This is not like an affirmation or mantra, but rather, you talking to yourself like a positive, encouraging Coach. Find a name for the part of you that you are talking to. For instance, instead of chastising myself and trying to motivate myself through negative “pep talks” (which I do often) such as when I sneer at my two Nemeses of “Gut” and “Butt”; I could say, “Hey, soft, swishy Tum-de-tum-tum, thank you for being strong inside with all your good bacteria you grow there. I appreciate your inner health. And thank you, dear Womb-an, for carrying four babies that are the joy and love of my life. You did a great job and I am proud of you for surviving.” Maybe you would like to say something like, “You know, Silly Sally Mind of mine, you made your boss smile today with your silliness and that is a great accomplishment.” Or you could just tell yourself, “Hey, The Rock, you worked like a beast today. Bravo you!” Or try saying this to You today:

I thank you, Self, for being alive.

I thank you, Me, for sticking with Myself.

I thank you, My Dear, for giving it another try.

I love you, Me for being my best “I”.

Ten Small Things. But as Mother Teresa might add: “Not all of us can do great things. But all of us can do small things, with great love”. Love Yourself. Love the World.

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 “Squirrel” by Matt Peoples CC BY-NC 2.0

The Liebster Award for Jane Tawel and Thoughts on Blogging

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/.

 

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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

https://theglobalaussie.com

Rules:

  • 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.

 

Nominations: 

  1. Literaa Poetry
  2. DaleGreenArts
  3. The Alchemist’s Studio
  4. The Mad Servant
  5. kumarshanu1212
  6. beautybeyondbones
  7. Deanne Davis at Tablespoonoflove

 

Questions I was asked to answer by Tebatjo:

  1. 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.

  1. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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)
Emily Dickinson

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.

 

  1. 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.

For Raoul

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:

  1. If you could get out one all important message to the world, what would it be?
  2. You can build your house on either a mountainside, in a forest, or by a body of water. Which would you choose and why?
  3. What one book of fiction would you recommend everyone read at least once if not many times in his / her lifetime? Why?
  4. 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?
  5. Pick at least three different artistic mediums and name someone who has effected your life through their creations.
  6. Why do you keep doing what you do?

 

Getting My Monster On

Getting My Monster On

By Jane Tawel

August 5, 2018

 

 

 

I am growing older and I would think that having had so many people in my life that I have loved, liked or been irritated by (sometimes all of those for the same person, of course, in the same moment), I would think –that I would think less about me and more about them.  But I find I wake up each morning with myself immediately on my mind.  And it is depressing.  I feel depressed. I feel patched together, sort of like a “human-wanna-be”.  When I look in the mirror or try to hold a conversation,  or actually, try to move any part of my body including my eyebrows, I think to myself, this is what zombie movies are trying to tell us.

 

First of all, I am not keen on an old body. It doesn’t wake up well. Even after stretching while still lying in bed, even though I daily rejoice in good health and the ability to still do things I’ve always done, even if not as fast, my body, well – the song, “the old grey goose she ain’t what she used to be” comes to mind.  My sister, Janet and I decided I shall now call what used to be my daily run, my daily “wog” – a sort of “interval training” of walking and jogging. Thankfully, I have always preferred to exercise alone because a wog is not a pretty sight. Unless you are a toddler wogging, and toddlers are cute no matter what.  Although old people do have many traits in common with toddlers, like balance issues, speech issues, and potty issues, toddlers have change to look forward to, whereas old people have changes to dread.

 

Second of all, I am not that amazed by my mind. My mind is now a bit like the LPs I used to buy, scratched and skipping. Just like old records, old minds tend to repeat a lot too.

 

I am not especially happy with what people now call my “Legacy”.  My personal Achievements? – well, mommy pigs raise their piglets with love and duck teachers inspire their little student ducklings. If animals can achieve it, then what sets my human achievements apart? I realized the other day it seems the only thing humans do in this day and age, even while hanging out with other humans, is to practice using their opposable thumbs. I mean, seriously, you look at a whole airport full of human beings holding these tiny little shiny rectangles and working their opposable thumbs like crazy and you think, well, shoot, Koko could do that! I think it is such a great joke that texting on cell phones is not done with our five fingers but with our two thumbs, making us all look a bit less human and a bit more apelike. This to me is one of the great proofs of my own theory of Devolution.

 

But ultimately what obsesses my ever increasing down -time thinking, is my disappointment and sadness with what I have done and not done with my soul.  This would mean in catechism language, my sins of omission and commission. And be forewarned — I love, like, but am also irritated by those who would give me “pep talks” on this, or write up a nice little disclaimer to attach to these words of self-assessment.  Thanks, but no thanks. Because frankly, any of us who try to learn more about what a good and worthy human is supposed to be must understand that the mirror is cloudy because we keep blowing hot air on it; and the glass is dim because we insist on using our own ego-framed spectacles and not God’s eyes, Christ’s view. Our souls have become more like Dr. Frankenstein’s machine created monsters than the God-imaged creative supervisors of a beautiful planet.

 

It would be humorous if it weren’t eternally damning to look at the Biblical injunctions we choose to take literally and compare them to the ones we choose to take metaphorically. We look at what we like and find personally useful about our own journey in our culture, society, situation, nation, or group and then pick and choose the things we like or don’t like in what God and The Christ have tried to teach us about living this thing we call “being human”.  We argue about context and out of context issues as if we know what the hell – and I do mean hell as in the place – we are talking about and what the heaven – and I do mean heaven as in the place – the other person is talking about.  And honestly, the more I look at what God has created on this planet and how we have abused our rights to it; and the more I look at what Jesus said about being human and how we have abused our rights to do humanness with other humans, I think, I am still completely upside down and trying to walk forward on just my head. And I can pretty much guarantee that we were not created to walk that way. We were, quite simply, to created to walk in love with God and others. But even our idea of what Love is has become a parody.

 

My son Gordon and I like the movie “Young Frankenstein”. One of the most famous scenes in the movie is when Gene Wilder, that great physician Frankenstein, is told by Igor, Marty Feldman, to “walk this way”.  Feldman is a sort of monster with a hunchback and a limp. He of course means that Wilder is to follow him by coming “this way” but Wilder takes it in literal context and follows humorously behind Feldman by walking trying to imitate Igor’s  limp and hunchback. We have as humans taken out of context what God means when He says to “walk this way”, and while we look in our own mirrors and see a human evolved to walking upright, God sees us as the devolved monsters our selfish souls reflect.

 

When God came to live among us, He had to take on the form of us and He asked us to imitate Him and walk this way. God, in Jesus, took upon Himself, a limp and a hunchback and by doing so He recreated what it means to be fully human.  Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, Jesus did not create a monster but revealed to us what monsters we have become. We look on the physical in others and ourselves and see the monstrous there, while never seeing that the real limping monsters  are internal. Unless we daily follow the path set out for our souls, we will keep imitating the wrong way to walk.

 

It seems silly and demeaning to choose to walk with a limp and hunched over, but that is the only way to walk as The Christ did.  His last walk on this earth was hunched under a cross and He limped toward Calvary, condemned as a monster. “Father, forgive them; for they don’t really know what they are doing.”

 

If you wake up some mornings, or all mornings as I do, and aren’t quite sure what you are doing, what you have been doing this whole time on earth, and what tomorrow might mean that you can not do – then the Great Physician, Dr. Christ, has an impossible dream for you made possible only by following His quixotic example. The dream is made possible only by being recreated as a human being, born again.  This means that if The Son of God, the perfect Human, spent His time on earth thinking about others, caring for others, loving others, healing others,  dying for others,  then  if I want to live each day as a real human being, I need to believe that what He proved was possible is possible for all of us. To live is to die to self in order to live forever.

 

It is possible to think less about me and more about Him and more about them. I just need to retrain my way of walking and follow Him.  I need to accept the beauty of a wog well lived, no matter what others think. I need to walk not this way; I need to walk The Way.

 

As I try today to get a view of this world from God’s upright position and not continue to see it while trying to walk on my head, it will, daily feel like I’ve been spun around dizzily like an old record on a turntable. I know I will look as awkward as my wog. But to be reborn, means that if I keep growing, I will eventually be a toddler. And toddlers are cute no matter how they walk.

 

It will hurt to walk with God’s limp instead of my own strident stride forward.  It will seem that I am being silly and unrealistic to hunch my soul over in humility. I may even have to stop using my opposable thumbs so much and turn to the fellow human next to me and love them. But one advantage of being allowed to live as long as I have is the realization that in the final analysis, Jesus really had it right.
“Come, follow me,” says the God-man. “I am The Way. Walk The Way.”

 

Time to get my monster on.

young frank