Puzzling With Purpose

“puzzle time” by Sherri Lynn Wood is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Puzzling With Purpose

By Jane Tawel

November 14, 2020

These past months as I have been reading and circling through the deep treasures in books by Victor Frankel, Abraham Joshua Herschel, Shane Claiborne, Gary Wills, A.W. Tozer, and Chief Joseph Riverwind, I have been filled with the paradoxes of longing/knowing, seeking/ remembering, learning/ yearning, and wondering/wandering. I have also felt myself taking spiritual baby-steps, and as another favorite of mine, C.S. Lewis wrote, heading a bit “further up and further in”.

My readings led me to rough-draft through a slight meditative acrostic. As the old adage goes, “writing is never finished, it is only due”; and maybe if we thought more that way about each day, each life, each person, we’d be a bit more joyful, caring, kind, and hopeful in our life’s journeys toward meaning. Aren’t writing and communication always really just today’s rough draft in expressing who I think I am, what I think the Big Themes are? Isn’t each day of life, just a bit of a second draft on yesterday, and another rough draft today, with hopes for perfection, or at least a passing grade, for tomorrow?

I enjoy word puzzles, but then I think that everything we human beings say or do or write are chock- full of puzzles — puzzles of intent, puzzles of consequences, puzzles of meaning. We are after all the species who speaks, the critters who communicate; we are the beings who are perhaps, just a little lower than the angels, but constantly fighting our own worst demons.

In general, I adhere to the wisdom that in writing, function should always come first and come first from the heart and later the head. But sometimes it is useful to start with form, and then find function in the very strictures imposed. I thought perhaps that was an especially interesting philosophy to play around with when looking at some of what we call the issues and ideas I have about “Life’s Meaning”. So, I started with the form of an acrostic to see where it led me about the function of expressing thoughts on what “it all” means, this Life. I also liked this idea since a form of acrostic is a form of poetry that was used in some of the Psalms of Judaism and the ancient Hebrews; and those are poems I have long loved, because they express still the universal human longings for meaning that all people have.

When we look for meaning, as all humans do, we are unaware of how the puzzle pieces will all fit together. We see only the edge of today, the bent pieces we messed-up yesterday, the corner of the puzzle we have almost, not quite put together, perhaps because we fear we are missing a piece. Then there is the fact that the Table holds lots of people’s puzzles and some of us are working on our own deciphering as well as the ciphers of several others’. Sometimes we try to put together the puzzle with someone else, but each person isn’t necessarily working on the same part of the puzzle, or even the same type of puzzle that we are. While I am working on this part of the jigsaw, someone I love may be working on another part, and so our communication with each other may end up frustrating or confusing us both; like someone trying to communicate with Morse Code while the other one is using JavaScript. Perhaps the greatest life mystery is how we ever manage to communicate at all in a truly meaningful way with another human being.

We are constantly in the rough draft stage of writing our own life story. But we are never meant to go it alone. We may look inwards, outwards, upwards, and beyond for hints and clues. We will have good and bad “teachers”, fans of our story, critics and foes; helpful and harmful life-story editors, sacrificial helpers, guides and mentors, promoters and beneficiaries. It is, always, however, at the end of each page, my story to write. And it must be my decision about who and what I will keep in, and what I will edit out, in order to form the great themes in my own life-story.

Every life-story is looking for meaning and each is the same as all the others, and each is completely unique and separate from anyone else’s. This is the paradoxical puzzle of You and We and I.

So back to acrostics and writing one. In all writing, we may start with form and hope function follows. Or we might embrace function and trust the form will naturally evolve. I think it more likely, though, when all is said and done, that every story, like every life, is a patchwork of form and function, not seamless, but beautiful in its complexity. Maybe when we are most in touch with our search for meaning, we ebb and flow between form and function, perpetually and poetically in motion. Like a river. Like a breeze. Like a baby being rocked in the arms of a Loving Parent. Like the whole world circling towards Tomorrow and coming back around to Now. Like a Story that will have no End.

I think it is important however an individual chooses to do it, that he chooses intentionally, purposefully, with great wells of deep hope — to work on the puzzle of his own life’s meaning. By searching for and finding my own meaning, I find The Meaning of all human quest and all human concern. In this way, my part of The Puzzle, is connected to all the parts of The Puzzle, and I am connected to all others in time and space in this great experiment God has granted us. The earth experiment that we are part of, we participate as subjects of it. At the same time, it is the experiment we humans on Earth are researching and overseeing, supervising, hypothesizing about, and reaching conclusions by which to live. We are both the supervisors and the substance of The Grand Experiment of Creating a Meaningful Life.

Find your puzzle today, whether it is a book whose themes you wrestle with to decipher; a relationship with someone you try to understand better; or a task that makes your brain sting and sing. Formulate your questions, and don’t rush the answers. Enjoy each day as a rough draft, that will only get better in tomorrow’s version. But for today be content to sit awhile with the great mysteries in the heartbeats of your very own little puzzle of a life.

And whenever possible, as The Good Parents always advise their children to do: Whenever you are puzzling out meaning? Try to use your words.

© Jane Tawel 2020

Star Trail - 1
“Star Trail – 1” by cknara is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

An Acrostic

By Jane Tawel

L ove first — The Creator and the Created.

I can, I must, I Will myself to do it.

F ollow the Leaders of Light and Servants of Hope.

E mbrace Mystery. She is Wisdom’s Helpmeet.

Pause and Punctuate the Moments.

S eek Eternal Values found outside the temporary storehouses.

M ates and moments are more precious than money.

E njoy the journey. Take one step at a time; look around at everything; look ahead with imagination; look behind with forgiveness.

A gain and Again, Time is our Current. Time is the Tide flowing backwards and forwards, until it becomes The Circle, covering over, revealing; an endless ebb and flow of the Big Questions, and the Last Mysteries.

N ice-ness in narcissism is a fool’s paradise; but Truth in Love is heaven seeking earth.

I n the care of the soul, perfect calling meets greatest need.

N othing can separate us from The Love without our permission. Grant Love permission to have the last say and the ultimate power.

G od asks only for enough faith to do Good.

S halom; and in Wholeness is Beginning and Ending.

© Jane Tawel 2020

Part II: The Only Questions

Here is the promised Part II in my series, “The Only Questions You will Ever Need and Should Always Ask”.  Please click on my name in the picture below to be taken to my friend’s  page on Medium.com  Thanks as always for reading,  Jane

View at Medium.com

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?