Sunday Morning Meanderings – Power Struggle


power-struggleIn my own journey, I am coming to a new place. Let me see if I can write about it – cogently, clearly…

As I’ve written before, it seems as if the only real work of this life – of these lives that are ours – is surrender, surrender to what is, to what will not leave, to reality as reality presents itself to each one of us.   How to surrender is quite another thing – how do we surrender to what is?  What is the movement, the action, the non-action we must take to surrender?  I cannot say for sure, although I know many stories – of my own and of others – of those moments of surrender.

Over the past few years, much has been written about the polarity of the people of this country.  We see the polarity played out in so many ways, not the least in the failure to operate of our elected officials, of the Congress, of the leaders of the nation.  “Deadlock” is the political word, I believe.  In a deeper sense, I would continue to use the word, “polarity.”

As I reflected, over time, about the polarity, I began to realize that I, too, was part of the polarity.  How did I see this?  How many times was I able to engage in conversation with someone with whom I do not see eye to eye, someone “across the aisle?”  Truth is, I don’t even know many folks “across the aisle.”  That’s a problem in itself.  And if I know folks “across the aisle,” there are things we don’t talk about!  That, too, is a problem…

But, there it is…

As time passed, I began to see that I am somehow locked in my own thinking – my own thinking with its own definitions of “justice, truth, fairness, equality.”  But how to break out?

Often, I began to think of the current political situation as a reflection of who we are as a people.  Our elected officials are polarized because we are polarized.  And where does the polarity lie, really?  How do I surrender to this?  How do I accept this?

I don’t want to be seen as a narrow thinker!  After all, I’m a progressive, post-modern woman with a history and a sense of time and history of my own.  But – and this is also true – I am locked into my own polarized thinking.  How is that?  “I am right – they are wrong.”  “How can they think that way?”  (How can I think this way?!)  “Don’t they see what I see?”

In the inner journey, the journey that is the real journey of life, the “enemy” is only within.  If I want to be part of a movement to end the polarization so that I can also be part of what moves us forward as a people, then I have to begin by dealing with my own part of the polarization.  It’s easy enough to look at the elected officials, to say, “why don’t they reach across the aisle?”  Why, why not?

My task is to deal with the enemy within me, the one who sees things as “good, bad,” “right, wrong,”  “just/unjust.”  This goes way beyond morality.  This goes to the heart of who we are as human beings.

And “dealing with the enemy within” is no easy job.  It may be the hardest job in the world…  My freedom may lie with this job.  My own freedom, and perhaps the freedom of others.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Ah, yes, sounds good… but how, Jesus???  How do I love, how do I learn to love, how do I act to love this one enemy, within me?

More, later… the cogitating continues!  What do you think/feel/consider/reflect?

*** A good read about the way the brain works that leads to polarized thinking:                     The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,
written by Jonathon Haidt.  You can also see Jonathon on TED talks online.

What Beauty Is

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As I’ve grown older, and as I am more in touch what is within me, rather than what is outside of me, my idea of “what beauty is” has changed.

Let me try to explain. I was surprised several years ago when I took an online “values inventory.”  I wanted to answer the questions as honestly as I could, as close to what I really think are my values, not the values I think I “should” have.  When I tallied up the results of the values survey, “beauty” was number 1 for me.

As a child, I used to love to make some beauty in my room.  I’d carefully rearrange the small bottles of cologne I had somehow found – maybe old bottles of my mother’s from her mirrored vanity – onto a mirrored, gilt-edged vanity tray I must have gotten as a gift, along with a few other pretty, small items, on the tall, mahogany-colored veneer dresser that was mine.  First I’d dust the dresser, then I’d cover it with the cotton doily with a ruffle that was mine, and with an eye to beauty, I’d move my treasures around.

I remember as a teenager having the house to myself one day.  For some reason, my mother was gone.  I spent the afternoon cleaning the living room, dusting the furniture, rearranging a few things, straightening up messy places.  Then I took a trip to the covered farmer’s market on the corner of 28th and Center, where I found a lovely bouquet of peonies, which I arranged to grace the top of the television set.  Finally, I sat down to enjoy my work.  I was surprised – maybe even disappointed – when my mother came home later, obviously noticed what I’d done, and didn’t say a word.

I still love to arrange small spaces in a way that appeals to my own sense of beauty.  A friend once commented that I would make a great window-dresser in a department store.  For awhile, I fantasized about a life I would never have, an artist’s life in New York City, making up the windows of some huge department store.

When I was in Paris and in Florence, I noticed the windows of small shops and boutiques.  Sometimes I stopped at a window to simply enjoy the elegant beauty arranged by some careful European.

Beauty is a high value of mine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t long for justice, that I don’t pray for food and shelter for all people, or that I don’t mourn losses with friends and even foes.  All of those things are true for me, as well.  Maybe having “beauty” as a value is a way toward economic justice, a path toward equality, a marker on the way to reconciliation and peace.

At the very least, I do think beauty in its myriad, abundant forms is an element of justice and truth and equality – and hope.

What Beauty Is, is changing for me, and that’s the purpose of this writing.  Beauty is a walk.  Beauty is my husband’s eyes, the shape of his face.  Beauty is the sound of early Sunday morning, while the city wakes up, slowly.  Beauty is the sound of a train moving quickly to its destination in the distance, the sound having arrived because of a certain wind.  Beauty is the trees across from my window, dancing in the wind.  Beauty is a wind-less day, complete stillness.  Beauty is reading a poem that takes my breath away.  Beauty is an afternoon with humidity in the air in the Bay Area, which drifts me back to my younger years on the nostalgia it brings.  Beauty is the city streets, anytime.  Beauty is the variety of people I pass on a walk around Oakland, each one of them beautiful, too.  Beauty is children’s eyelashes.  Beauty is a deeply wrinkled dark face.  Beauty is the little dog from my neighborhood, running to greet me.  Beauty is breath, and sight, and hearing.  Beauty is listening to a Gospel song, and dancing to it.  Beauty is laughing, gales and gales of laughter.  Beauty is sadness and happiness and goodness and mercy, all rolled into one.  Beauty is the tall apartment buildings rimming Lake Merritt.  Beauty is the skyline of the City from the top of the Oakland hills.  Beauty is the sound of rain after too many seasons of drought.

Most of all, I’m grateful to Beauty for having made Her place in my life a matter of importance to me.  I am grateful to Beauty for teaching me that She comes in many, many, many ways, and that the world would be a better place if we looked into the world, looking for Beauty.

May your day be a day filled, abundantly, richly, justly with Beauty.  And – what is Beauty to you?

What I’ve learned from my cat

FullSizeRenderMeet LiLi!

Let me introduce you to my beautiful feline friend, LiLi.  LiLi has lived with me – with us! – for over 4 years now.  She came to us at 6 weeks old, the runt of the litter.  LiLi is my third cat; she follows in the paw-steps of Schatzi and Beauty, the little black and white cat who never came out from hiding.

I learned to love cats after I married Jeff.  I guess I married Schatzi, too.  I used to say that Schatzi was ridiculous, which she was, but she was also a beautiful Maine Coon cat, small for her breed, and she was the best at napping, her back against my chest.  Schatzi was almost 20 years old the week she sat by the heat register, unable to move.  That was the week my mother was diagnosed with inoperable cancer, and I swear Schatzi lived for another 10 months to be with me during that time of death and grief.

Cats are not only beautiful, wondrous creatures; cats are smart, too.  LiLi, whose picture graces this post, is really smart.  She talks!  When she comes in from outside (this is a cat who would never agree to being cooped up inside all day!), she will stand a few feet from me and talk.  Sometimes I talk in her language, and sometimes I speak English.  Either way, we are both engaged, even if her food dish is full at the time.

My theory is that LiLi is touchy about where she is touched because she was the runt of the litter, and maybe she didn’t learn enough from her mama before she was taken away.

Intuitively I know that LiLi is smarter than I can imagine, although she doesn’t make a big deal of it.  She’s just naturally intelligent, that goes without saying, it goes with the package, the package of being LiLi, cat.

I’ve learned a lot from my cats through the years.  I’ve learned that it’s fun to play, tirelessly, even when panting hard.  I’ve learned that if you wait long enough, someone will fill the dish with food.  I’ve learned that there is always something interesting to see – to growl at – right outside the window.  I’ve learned that being patient is simply a matter of being still.  I’ve learned that it’s all right to spend the whole day sleeping.  I’ve learned that it’s good to keep quiet about the fact that you are smarter than anyone else in the room.  I’ve learned that sometimes it’s necessary to put out your claws, to show that you are the boss in this situation.  I’ve learned that cuddling right up to someone’s heart is one of the best things in the world.

Having a cat has brought a whole world of mystery and beauty and dignity into my life, the life of this city-girl.

Thank you, cats of the world!