Category Archives: animals

Awareness is All

“Awareness is all” states a bumper sticker on a friend’s car.  I believe this is so true but there is a catch—“awareness” always means to contemplate that our “awareness” is not complete and never will be.  So this “awareness” has a built-in catch-22 so you will always understand that you only see part of the picture. This morning I do think I have some degree of awareness but an important dimension of this “awareness” is that my view of the world is always filtered by biases and preconceptions so that I’m rarely under the illusion that I have complete awareness.  Earlier this morning as my wife and sweet dachshund Elsa sat on the back stoop and watched the dawn unfold, in deep admiration of the experience of the moment, I quipped to them, “Our view always tends to block our view.”  I was aware that as I watched the flycatcher birds cavorting about, scouring for food for their new born, I had witnessed moments like this many times in my life but had never seen the beauty unfolding as I was at that moment.  The process of growing awareness works toward allowing us to grasp our beautiful world in more of its pristine glory.  And I watched the sun beginning to light Taos Mountain for another day, flickering different permutations of shadow and gentle light on these mythical mountains, dressing them for another day of bringing magic to this lovely Northern New Mexico community. As always, Elsa was doing her part to quicken the moment, just setting there on her cushion in all of her exquisite, innocent beauty, licking her ribs and fantasizing about the exciting world she would get to play in another day.

My quip came from the realization that this pristine beauty has been with me from the earliest moments of conscious life.  But like all humans I learned to take it for granted, often seeing not the beauty of the world but my usual image of the beauty, “my view of the view,” not humble enough yet to approach the whiff of “the thing in itself,” less encumbered by the blinders of cognition. These blinders are, albeit, a very necessary part of life but they can become so familiar to us that we never venture beneath the surface and flirt with the aforementioned pristine beauty.

The poet Carl Sandburg understood this truth in his poem, “Precious Moments.”  Bright vocabularies are transient as rainbows./Speech requires blood and air to make it./Before the word comes off the end of the tongue,/While diaphragms of flesh negotiate the word,/In the moment of doom when the word forms/It is born, alive, registering an imprint—Afterward it is a mummy, a dry fact, done and gone.

Sandburg realized that a word is “alive” only one moment, in the “moment of doom” when it is formed after which we will be left only with an imprint.  But this beautiful poem was encouraging us to explore the depths of our heart and discover that flirtation with the pristine beauty of life can be rewarding. This exploration will help us to understand how that our view of life often blocks our view of an intrinsic dimension of life.  This is what Jesus had in mind when he challenged those who live on the surface of life, having “eyes to see but seeing not, ears to hear but hearing not.”

Wisdom from Hamlet

I’ve been awol for sometime!  Technical problems…and emotional problems ( i.e. writer’s block) have stymied me.  But here I am again….hopefully.  Technical problems are not completely resolved!

“We wage the war we are.”  These words from Auden continue to be a recurrent refrain for me.  It is tempting to surrender…but then there will be no more sunsets, or sun rising, or doggie lickings on the back of the leg in middle of the night, or sweet smiles from my lovely wife the next morning!

I think this pretty well sums it up!  As Hamlet’s mother put it, “Less art, more matter.”

The Unity of All Things

The earth is dying.  Having lost any connection with “an external point of reference,” we are doing as Shakespeare said we would do and “feeding even on the pith of life.”  The following story from Truthout.org reports that in the past fifty years half of the mammals on our planet have died out because of our failure to exercise good stewardship of little home.  http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/26536-why-the-web-of-life-is-dying

The problem is our failure to see the unity of all things.  For example, I was brought up in the Judeo-Christian tradition and quickly imbibed the assumption that “God” was “out there” and thus was separate and distinct from myself and this world.  I now see that this was a false paradigm arising from the biases of my culture, precisely that we are not part of nature but are Lords of the universe, destined to rule over our planet and exploit its resources.

But I admit that shifting paradigms from obstinate individualism to seeing the unity of all things is really frightening.  Boundaries have to loosen up and as they do so it often feels as if they are disappearing all together.  The resulting distress always induces an impulse to “hunker down” with preconceptions and biases, the “well-worn words and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness.”  (Conrad Aiken)

However, the human soul has an intrinsic integrity that can handle the duress of wrenching existential transition.  We do have a center that can hold during the tumult but our ego always resists letting go and trusting that center, belying the deep distrust that we have in ourselves, in the world, and in God.  And this distrust is just the tip of the ice burg; for beneath its surface lurks profound darkness through which we can find the glimmer of light.

Listen to the hope offered recently by Anne Lamott, “Faith includes the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”  And do note that she said “some” light not “Light” as the best we can ever do is to “see through a glass darkly” which is contrary to our human nature which wants to see things with certainty.

 

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The Peace of Wild Things

 

A blog-o-sphere friend of mine shared a devotional she has recently written after a return from another country, a trip which aroused in her lots of fear and anxiety. And she honored me with use of a couple of thoughts I have shared here recently.

I too have traveled abroad some and always experience the same hyper-vigilance that she described, terrified on some level with the knowledge that I am a “stranger in a strange land.” I always enjoy the experience of being outside of my native land, thrilled with the experience of “difference”, delighted to note how these beautiful people have carved out for themselves a life so different than my own and how it works just as well as does life in my culture. But, nevertheless, there is the under current of fear and anxiety as I’m not in the comfort of my “hearth and home” and don’t have the security provided by my “stuff”, including the commonplaces of day to day life certainly including my native tongue.

Regarding her anxiety, my friend referenced the beautiful observation of Jesus about the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, “how they toil not, neither do they spin” yet are marvelously taken care of. This brought to my mind a beautiful poem by Wendell Berry that often comforts me, particularly his observation that he finds comfort in the midst of despair with “the peace of wild things” who “do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.”

I have used this “taxation” idea so many times in recent years, often in reference to my two beloved dachshunds, Ludwig and Elsa, who always appear so much at comfort inside their own skin, not having any need to “tax their lives with forethought of grief.” They are simply present…in the moment…following the advice of Ram Dass to “be here now.” (I bought for them the doggie translation of Mr. Dass’s book though I felt ripped off as every word was translated as “arf.”)

Now I realize that the deck is stacked in Ludwig and Elsa’s favor in that they don’t have this neo-cortical machine that is always whirring, plotting and scheming to accomplish the desires of an ego. The good Lord has blessed/cursed us with this contrivance though I feel strongly it can be a blessing if we follow the advice of Jesus and remember these beautiful birds and flowers that are present as a prompt to adjust our focus when the stresses of life buffet us.  As always, we must remember, “This too shall pass.”

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS

BY WENDELL BERRY

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

Ermines and Marriages

DOG AND MASTER
by Henri Cole

Consider the ermine—
territorial, noxious, thieving—
its dense fur whitening
when light is reduced.
Mesmerizing its victims

with a snake dance,
killing with a bite to
the back of the neck.
Born blind, deaf, and toothless,
the male is called a “dog,”

a roamer, a strayer,
a transcient. But huddled
in my arms for warmth,
with my fingernails
stroking his underbelly,

he forgets his untamable
nature. His rounded
hips shiver like mine.
In folklore, he holds the soul
of a dead infant; and in life

he prefers to give himself
up when hunted, rather
than soil himself. Thus is
civilization, I think, roughly
stroking his small ears.

But then suddenly
I’m chasing him around
the dining room screaming,
No, I told you, no! like two stupidly
loving, stupidly hating

creatures in a violent
marriage, or some weird
division of myself,
split off and abandoned
in order to live.

(Need I say more? Well, of course not. But that would never stop me so I’ll add one note: makes me think of the oft-quoted Auden wisdom, “We wage the war we are.”)

Puppies & Flowers All Over the Place

A "puppy" and flowers near Taos, NM

The “puppy” sends his apologies for the social indiscretion!

Decades ago a friend told of her four year old son casually expressing his delight with a springtime morning, describing it as “puppies and flowers all over the place.” I was stunned that a child so young could capture the beauty of the world so eloquently and create a poetic image with complete childhood innocence.

At times I now see this pristine beauty that he saw and have faint memories of my own innocent apprehension of that beauty, though mine are “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought” that Hamlet lamented. Childhood is a magical world and it is sad that we have to say good-bye to it at some point.

But, do we? Well, in a way we do for we have to enter another world if we are to become “human” though if things work out well we will always have access to that childhood innocence though it will probably come to us with some taint of “adulthood.” Children are our most precious resource and should be our number one priority. That innocence needs to be respected as it is the matrix in which the child’s nascent soul, constituted only moments earlier, is given direction and purpose. If that child is allowed to see “puppies and flowers all over the place” quite often, he/she will be able to unfold more as God intended than if he/she is buffeted my misfortune and disappointment most of the time.

These thoughts were inspired by a blog I read this morning from a friend in India who still has that childhood purity and innocence in her adulthood:

Too many good things confuse me especially in May when the flowers are out and wearing Rain, like hi-fashion ear drops. People look great, smiling. I talk to strangers, they talk back. What’s this ? It is beautiful, a Peace returning. Storms wear pretty coats, gray silver lining and gentle breathing songs. Koyal. Milkmen on cycles, newspaper boys fabulous eyes fringed with lash.

I must always go on these walks. I forgave Ms Lily K for the yelling I got flunking a Maths test and how I wept all over my blue pinafore that noon after school, pigtail come loose with shock and horror….

I finally forgave her ; she looked great with the morning light now bright in her little curls. Weird that we remember her curls now, so many dawns down the calendar since that day.

Walks should not be too long. I might bring down all my defenses, all barbed wire and put up friendly posts everywhere… uh. Just a lil walk ‘ll do. Too much heaven complicates this earthling…

(See http://innerdialect.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/too-many-good-things-confuse-me/)

Ludwig on Claire’s Crochet

Ludwig on Claire’s Crochet.

This is my first “re-blogging” effort!  A dear blog-o-sphere friend wrote this beautiful poem about one of my beloved dachshunds, Ludwig.

Loving a dog is relatively new to me.  I often tell Ludwig that God sent him, and his younger sister Elsa, to me to teach me more about love.  For they have tapped into a “love muscle” that lay dormant for much of my life.  Oh, yes I always “loved” family, friends, and even the world.  But my love was always too measured.  But God has sent four puppies into my life to teach me about love in a less measured way—First, my wife Claire, second my first dachshund Sonya who is now deceased, third Ludwig, and then four years ago his sister Elsa.

And an important dimension of this love is merely paying attention to them, recognizing that they have needs, and that my first nature is to give most of my attention to my own needs.  These four puppies are teaching me to “get over myself” and I’m making progress.

So thanks “Inner Dialect” and also thanks Sandeep for sharing the same picture of Ludwig on your web site last week.  Sandeep announced to the world that Ludwig was seeking a beau and since then Ludwig has been very excited at the prospect.  The very next day after Sandeep’s post, I caught Ludwig in the bathroom primping before the mirror, sporting a pair of sexy sunglasses, and dashing Old Spice on his body.  I quietly backed out, hoping he didn’t see me, as i didn’t want to spoil his hopes of “getting lucky” after all these years!