Category Archives: New Mexico

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.”

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Reason and Politics

I’ve followed politics closely for the past 28 years or so and I’ve noticed each time that on some level I merely want “my pony to win the race.” I merely want to be on the winning side and oh how disappointing it is when “my pony”, particularly in a Presidential campaign, does not win.  But in this same 28 years I’ve been increasingly conscious that the drama being played out is far greater than my youthful desire to be on the winning side and even in crushing defeats I’ve always maintained that there is some “method to this madness” or that there is a “Divinity that doeth shape our ends, rough hew them how we may.”  In other words, the picture is always much bigger than I can see and the “picture” before me is always merely the latest screen shot of the historical drama that is ongoing.

I have a bevy of close friends here in Taos, NM  who I see quite often and we are on the same page, being fearful of what lies before us but having firm confidence that “the process” will prevail, even if we are disappointed on this occasion.  For life itself is a process, a “flow”, and it will continue even if catastrophe should come, be that a personal catastrophe and my life is suddenly snuffed out, or even if the whole species is wiped out!  The picture is always bigger than the one I see or even bigger than the one that humankind sees at the moment.  We are always caught up in the historical moment and have no idea of what actually is going on.

Of course, some think that they do and have firm confidence in their perspective, often vowing that God has declared it to them.  To them I would merely note that when the flat earth view of the world was crumbling, most people clung tenaciously to their antiquated world view and even put to death many of those who saw things otherwise.  And, of course, “God was leading them.”  We have only a finite view of the world, but understanding and experiencing this finitude is so frightening that we usually disallow it from every seeping into our awareness.

No one’s reason is autonomous.  We think we employ reason to draw correct conclusions but science has proven that reason is always under the control of our preconceptions so that we are inclined to see only what we want to see.  W. H. Auden emphasized the need of our reasoning being, “redeemed from incestuous fixation on her own logic.”  Auden recognized that our reason was subservient to an “incestuous logic” which always provides us justification for our conscious rational grasp of our world.  When we are subservient only to reason, we need to recall the wisdom of Goethe who noted, “They call it Reason, using light celestial, just to outdo the beasts in being bestial.”

Thinking about Momma Nature

A Facebook friend just shared a paean to the tree by Herman Hesse which I will share here when I conclude.  Hesse so eloquently puts into words a passion I have had for the past twenty years or so for trees, part of the love affair I’ve been having with Momma Nature.  For a long time I’ve been telling friends and family that when I pass away,  “Don’t buy flowers.  Plant a tree!  Plant a tree in your yard, in a friend or neighbor’s yard, in the woods, in a park, but plant a tree!!!  There is nothing I feel would honor me more than the planting of a tree, and Hesse’s narrative helps me to understand why.

Nature is a calming presence in my life now.  I see daily the beautiful sights of Northern New Mexico and understand that I’m seeing the handiwork of God.  I’m now an avid gardener and take great delight in finding out what plants and flowers are native to this desert environment and can survive.  My sun room becomes a seedling nursery in late winter and even now still has seedlings ready to find a home outside.

One of the faulty perceptions I learned in my youth was that mankind was separate and distinct from the earth.  In fact, I learned that it was ours to master and control and not Gaia to live in harmony with.  But I’ve matured to the point where I can handle paradox and contradiction, realizing that yes we are “separate and distinct” from the earth but simultaneously “dust of the earth” just as the Bible teaches.  We walk, breathe, live, and die in the Unity of All Things.

FROM “WANDERING” BY HERMAN HESSE

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. It wants to be nothing except what it is. That is home. That is happiness.

 

The following picture is the Rio Grande meandering alongside Hwy 68 south of Taos, Nm.

blog pix.jpg

 

 

 

 

GOD IS IN THE WATER

Taos, New Mexico  continues to teach me. I have long since learned to “pay attention” to what we think and do in our life, especially when it is a significant change. When I arrived here in early February, one of the first things that serendipitously offered itself to me was a weekly get-together with those who would enjoy reading and discussing Karl Jung. Shortly thereafter I “knee deep” in dream work again and paying attention to how the unconscious was guiding me and my wife. And I began to understand what this whimsical move to a new state at age 62, leaving friends and family behind. It was a “cutting of the cord” of sorts and an opportunity to explore worlds unknown.

One of the first things I noted was, “Where are the white people? Where are the white people?” Brown-skinned people appeared to predominate i the population, Hispanic and Native American. And for the first time in my life I experienced “being different” in terms of skin color though this “difference” is not as significant as I felt. Statistically, there are many “honkies” just like me. But it was interesting and emotionally provocative to feel in a minority. It was also provocative to see and feel the whole of a different culture and to take up residence in a house far different than that to which I was accustomed to.

There are many, many differences present which are teaching me. But I want to focus on one of them, the Native American presence here which is reflected in architecture, art, and….skin color, all of which is beautiful. Present just north of Taos is the Taos Pueblo which dates back over a thousand years. This Pueblo is officially not part of the United States and has its own legal and educational system. For more information, see (http://www.taospueblo.com)
And there are many other Native American tribes represented here which contributes significantly to the cultural atmosphere of the region and the state.

Just two weeks ago I attended a poetry reading at our local literary society, SOMOS, Society of the Muse of the Southwest. I was privileged to hear a lovely young Cheyenne woman read several poems and was just stunned at the wisdom she offered. Here is one poem that she recently published on Face Book.”

GOD IS IN THE WATER
by Lyla June Johnson

When I close my eyes at night
I can feel the rock being cut open
by water.

I hear a grandfather song
and it sounds like sand
walking down the river bottom.

In this song they talk about how even
the mighty canyon rivers began as
a meandering stream.

Beneath the gentle waters there are people.
Not people like you and me.
Stone people.

When I close my eyes at night
I am one of them
and God is the water.

Over lifetimes She eats at me
until I am polished and smooth.

She teaches me
about being gentle and persistent,
about patience and commitment.

Her voice
hums in my blood
quiet as a stream in the night
and it is a song about how
we are all
just
so loved.

When I close my eyes she says to me
in trickles and bubbles:

“Journeys.
Take them.
Try to remember who you are along the way.
I have nothing for you but these words.
Take them with you
and I will see you again when you arrive
at the ocean’s throne
as one million kernels of sand”

The eagles dip their talons into Her soft body
and pull a fleshmeal
from the water.

They sing this grandfather song with her
and it sounds like feathers
cutting into the sky.

It is a song about how even
hatred surrenders
to wonder.

Breaking my heart apart like
a stubborn puzzle of granite.

Even the hardest doubts and sorrows crumble
into bits and give way to
Her infinite grace.

And who knew that
growth can sometimes mean
standing in the wind until
everything we think we own
is torn away from us
and replaced with a weightlessness
so profound that we can’t not cry
tears of absolute praise
and run all around the river banks shouting to the
the minnows and the cattails and the crawdads
about the truth of beauty?

The truth of a God that
breathes through the trees
weaves winter from water and night
weaves bodies from dust and light
and carries us down the river of life over
and over until we finally understand
the meaning of forever.

In the language of the stones there is
no word for mistake.

Only the complete understanding of what it
means to be a beloved son or daughter.

I am the rock
and God is the water.

 

I would suggest you look her up on FB. She and many other young men and women have much to offer this world and are now establishing their roots and getting ready to shake up this dog-and-pony show that we are “strutting and fretting” in.

Karl Jung: Our Life is a “Flimsy”

This move to Taos, New Mexico has been every bit the adventure I had anticipated…and more. Yes, the “adventure” has been intense at times as I found that “literallew” is very much alive and kicking in the depths of my heart and does not like change. I wish that rascal would go away! (But, not really! He is a key element in my heart and always will be.)

One of the first discoveries I made out here was a Jungian study group that was being organized by a Jungian analyst who was trained at the Jungian Institute in Zurich. My wife and I joined the small group and proceeded to explore several chapters of Jung’s Tavistock Lectures. This experienced as renewed my interest in exploration of archetypal energies present in my own life and in life itself. Jung had a tremendous ability to explore the depths of the heart, having explored his own even to the point of nearly suffering a “nervous breakdown.” Jung believed that dreams were very revealing about what is going on in our life and will announce what our hidden issues are and will continue to do so until we address them. But in the current reading I have now discovered that he felt that life itself is but a dream, that even our conscious life is the playing-out of our unconscious fantasies and is itself a “fantasy” of sorts. This is what Shakespeare had in mind when he said that “our life is but the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Now of course, Jung was not nuts and realized that “reality” is just that, “real.” But he felt there was more to this “real” world than what most people realize but that most people prefer to live life on the surface, not daring to look beneath that surface and begin to explore those subterranean depths where monsters and ghouls roam about at will. But as Jung noted, “What we resist, persists” and so the hidden dimensions of our life always find expression “out there” in the world, usually in other people. My favorite example of this projection is what I call the Chicken Little phenomena, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” I grew up in a sub culture in the American South where impending doom was a basic assumption of life, where “the judgment of God” was always imminent, where “the sky is going to fall” was a constant fear. I now see that this subtle assumption of that culture…and primarily its religion…reflected a deep pessimism about life and an awareness of just how precarious our grip on life was. This belief system reflected a deep-seated existential insecurity which always requires the compensation of rigid belief systems. The more uncertain you are in the depths of your heart, the more fiercely are you certain about your belief system. And to consider that someone else’s belief system might be equally valid would threaten this certainty, requiring that other belief systems must be opposed or demonized in some fashion.

Here is the full context of the Shakespearean quote above, from “The Tempest”:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.