March 6th, 2008

cirque du soleil trapeze

Morning -

I look out on another exquisite day.  I am with the power of painting to ease pain.   I feel quite fine today, though subdued, and my breath is expanded and light, which means I am.   I recommend painting as a way to spread your heart on paper or canvas and see what is there.  It is relief.   Or maybe you like to play with clay.  Try that, too.

I am reading Karen Armstrong's book, The Great Staircase.  She became a nun at 17, and lasted seven years.    Through my Rosen work, I have met two women who also became nuns at the age of 17.   The Church knows now that is  too young for a girl to commit, and yet, it has worked well for the two I know, though they admit they wouldn't do it again.  Still,  they are very involved in the world and travel for their work, and do not look like my idea of a nun, "the penguin," as the Blues Brothers put it, in black habit and veil.  My friends, my colleagues, wear jeans, make-up and color their hair. 

I know another who also entered young and then withdrew.   What I hear from all of them is how difficult it was to absorb the changes of the Vatican when the altar was turned around, and guitars brought in.   They had entered a place of silence, and now, there was noise. 

There is a film I periodically enjoy called Into Great Silence.  It is by Philip Croning.  In the film, you enter and are part of the Carthusian Monastery.  All is silent and yet it isn't.   There is no artificial light in the film, and the light sparkles.  I recommend it if life has you down, and you are wanting to silence some of the patter in your head.  Just watch and absorb. 

This comes from Truthout yesterday.  I found it so upsetting, I could not contemplate putting it here then, but, now, I do.  I feel well enough to face the insanity of the world.

US Officials Defend Drug Spraying in Colombia.  You can check this and other issues out at:

Truthout reporter Thomas D. Williams reports that US presidential candidates are ignoring painful Colombian environmental devastation fed by billions in US aid. "The viewpoints are literally the powerful corporate north country versus the vulnerable, impoverished agricultural south country. It's US politicians ignoring the painful cries and complaints of human and animal sickness and environmental as well as massive crop and food destruction from Colombian and Ecuadorian indigenous peoples."

What amazes me is how we think we have the right to spray another country, another group of people.   That is bad enough, but how can we think that spray doesn't come back at us, doesn't poison the whole system?  It is insane.  I may need to bring my paints back upstairs as I now deal with the anger, that is replacing the grief.  I'm sure if I paint today it will be very different from what poured forth yesterday.

Let's enjoy this day as we pray a wee bit of sanity creeps into the orchestration of our government.    I have determined lately that anyone who survives the presidential campaign must be insane.  

I  was reading Sylvia Boorstein yesterday, an excerpt from her book Happiness is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life.

I place the end of the excerpt here.

Sylvia Boorstein:

    "So here is the ongoing question that is the core of my daily practice, "In this moment, am I able to care?" Not, "Am I pleased?"  There are all sorts of things I don't like. And, in response to what I find unpleasant, I often feel dismayed or impatient or annoyed or disappointed or grieved. What I try to do is keep my mind from fighting with my experience, confusing and isolating myself in self-centered despair.  The contentious mind is, by definition, confused. It hasn't remembered that struggle creates suffering and graceful response creates clarity.  I am trying to stay unconfused and connected to my own kindness.  Whenever I do, I relax, see what my options are, and choose the best of them. I won't always be pleased, but I'll be happy.

    It's not a mistake that contentment doesn't get established once and for all. Life is an ongoing series of changing circumstances to which human beings are continually called upon to respond.  What the Buddha taught is that we could respond happily."

Happy response to you today and every day, until all days are one.

deep sea turtle

politics -

I say to myself I am done with politics and will post no more about it, and then, this comes, so once again, just one teeny-tiny piece, that is huge.

Time to Bow Out
    By Marc Ash
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    Thursday 06 March 2008

    Hillary Clinton had a good day on March 4. She reminded us she exists in her own right, and we may feel free to assume she played more than a trivial role in the Clinton presidential administration of the 90s. That said, she is the second most successful Democratic presidential candidate running this year, not the first. The most successful candidate running this year is Barack Obama.

    Can she make a comeback? Sure. But it would necessarily involve "politics by other means." Scorched earth politics, to be specific. As Jonathan Alter, writing for Newsweek, points out, Hillary does have an unsolvable Math Problem. To put March 4 in perspective, with three wins out of four primaries (and a caucus in Texas), Clinton gained a grand total of 12 delegates. That's according to the New York Times. Bottom line, she's not going in the front door. Obama will arrive at the convention with a pledged delegate lead in triple digits.

    How we got here matters. The Clinton campaign assured us in advance they would prevail in the "big states" of Texas and Ohio; and so they did. But what made them so sure? They pursued a big state strategy from the onset, the traditional Democratic strategy of the last two decades. The Obama camp, however, went with the newly minted Howard Dean strategy, a small state, small ball game plan. Obama won. The delegate race is effectively over.

    Dick Cheney was up front with Bush campaign minions during the 2000 Florida recount, "Just get control of the Oval Office ... it doesn't matter how ... just do it." Machiavelli could not have said it better himself.

    If you are a Democrat, you really need to ask yourself where Hillary Clinton is going with this. Well, if she's not planing to make a frontal assault on the White House by going over the fence and charging across the lawn, then she will undoubtedly be planning to sway the Democratic Party's favored nominators, the super delegates. She must argue that the super delegates set aside Obama's victory by the rules, the results of a six-month-long campaign gauntlet, the will of the voters, and hand her the nomination. That's it. That's where this is going.

    At that point, two things can happen: The Democratic Party can stand on principal and let the results of the primaries/caucuses stand, or allow the super delegates to speak for all Democrats. The second option is, of course, the explosive one. If the super delegates overrule the process, the Democratic Party could easily be looking at 1968 all over again.

    It's said the Clintons really don't like to lose. But how far will they go to win? As far as Bush and Cheney? As far as Machiavelli? Farther? This past weekend, the Clinton campaign, taking a page directly from the George W. Bush campaign manual, played the "Terra" card in their "3:00 AM" ad. Where do we go from here?

    Over the past seven years, the nation has suffered immeasurably at the hands of those who would rule rather than serve. The heart and soul of a democracy is the will of the people. The time has come for Hillary Clinton to respect the will of the Democratic voters and stand aside for the good of the country. Pressing on regardless is reckless and beneath the dignity of the senator from New York.


Book Cover

looking at the light -

Today, I participated in a discussion of the woman, the latest, who wrote a memoir, that wasn't about her life.  What are the ethics around false writing and claims?   What is truth?   What is a story?   One woman, who is in the publishing industry, said that the publishing industry, and note that word industry, is so corrupt that one has to do whatever they can to get published.  She doesn't judge the woman. 

I respect that, and it  sounds to me like the excuses politicians make when they run ads they know are untrue.  Where does it stop?

 Anyway, all of this led me back to Rachel Naomi Remen's wonderful book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, Stories that Heal.  I highly recommend this book.  I read it over and over again.  My copy is inscribed by Rachel with these words  "For Cathy, whose daughter-in-law Jan loves her - Blessings from Rachel," and then, there is a little heart.   Rachel and I had quite a discussion when she signed it as I hadn't wanted to bother her, and Jan felt it was important.  I was in chemo and had no hair.  Rachel spoke to me of what a blessing it was to have children so I could have a daughter-in-law who loved me like Jan.  It was the end of a long evening for her and for me, and here she was taking time to speak to me of the blessing of children, and to tell me how much she wished she could have had them.   Rachel is as beautiful and touching as you would expect her to be from her work and her books. 

I open the book and begin to read a wonderful definition of this thing called "story" in her introduction.   

One of her chapters is called "Silence."  As an adolescent, she had a summer job working as a volunteer companion in a nursing home for the aged.   She took a two-week training course on communicating with the elderly.  Her first assignment was a ninety-six-year old woman who had not spoken for more than a year.  A psychiatrist had diagnosed the woman with senile dementia, but she had not responded to medication.  Rachel entered the room, carrying a basket of beads.  They were supposed to string beads for an hour.   I pause here to interject a plea that I am never considered so old as to have nothing to do but string beads.   It is one thing to choose it, and another to have it foisted upon one as a project to fill the time, as though you are a child at camp.  

To continue the story, Rachel saw two chairs in the room by the window and the woman was sitting in one, looking out.   Rachel sat down in the other chair,  with the basket of beads in her lap.  She couldn't think what to say.  She could only see half of the woman's face as the woman continued to look out.   Rachel decided to sit with her in silence, ignoring the beads.  She enjoyed the peace.

    "The silence was broken at last by the little bell which signified the end of the morning activity. Taking hold of the basket again, I prepared to leave. But I was only fourteen and curiosity overcame me. Turning to the old woman, I asked, "What are you looking at?"  I immediately flushed. Prying into the lives of the residents was strictly forbidden.  Perhaps she had not heard.  But she had.  Slowly she turned toward me and I could see her face for the first time.  It was radiant.  In a voice filled with joy she said, "Why child, I am looking at the Light.

Rachel continues:

     "Many years later, as a pediatrician, I would watch newborns look at light with that same rapt expression, almost as if they were listening for something.  Fortunately, I had not been able to find a way to interrupt."

     A ninety-six year old woman may stop speaking because arteriosclerosis has damaged her brain, or she has become psychotic and is no longer able to speak.  But she may also have withdrawn into a space between the worlds, to contemplate what is next, to spread her sails and patiently wait to catch the light."

calder mobile miniature

Holiness -

I continue reading Kitchen Table Wisdom.   Rachel Naomi Remen speaks of a man who doesn't act quite as she had thought a "spiritual person" might, yet, he accomplishes a great deal of good in the world.  She speaks of how it is possible to use everything.  I relate this to the woman who wrote the false memoir.  We don't know her motivation, but we can choose our response.  With each experience, we learn and respond. 

Rachel says:  "A ruthless man may be able to open doors that a more kindly and traditionally spiritual person could knock on forever.  Without judgment, many things can be made holy."