Archive for October, 2011

Showing up

October 31, 2011

I have had people in my life whom I experience as predatory.  One of them I grew up with, one of them I worked for on and off for decades.  There have been great separations and then attempts at reconciliation, but the relationship seems to founder in the same way over and over again.  I don’t know how to relate to these people in a way in which I am not harmed.  I would like to, in part because these people desire a relationship with me, in part because I feel for my own growth I should be able to figure out how to have a functional relationship with them.

It occurred to me this morning that maybe for now what I can do is to express admiration and even gratitude that these people just show up for life, given their limitations (I know they suffer, I also know their behavior and modus operandi are damaging).  For the rest, my technique, rightly or wrongly, is to ask the universe to do for them what I can’t do for them myself, including loving them as they would like me to — kind of like giving them a spiritual gift card from afar.  Would I like someone doing that for me?  Probably I would feel somewhat rejected by the refusal of personal intimacy, but on the other hand, I think I would welcome the benefits of the universe’s help and try to focus on that instead.  And I would try to find my way to acceptance of  the thing I didn’t like, in part through re-framing it and looking for what the lesson for me might be.

So, I think showing up is the thing I can be grateful for with regard to some people, that I can see their just showing up as their (important) contribution to our collective dance.   I can use my discomfort with them as an opportunity to learn greater patience, my dissatisfaction with the situations as an opportunity to practice letting go, and my concerns about what these relationships mean for my other relationships going forward as an opportunity to deepen my willingness and faith.

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Physics as a recapitulation

October 29, 2011

I think it is the case that physicists struggle with explaining how the laws of physics that are understood to apply to large things relate to the rules embodied in “Quantum Mechanics” that apply to very small things.  I was thinking that that relationship might approximate the relationship between how things work on the spiritual plane and how they work in the material world.  There the difference between the two systems seems to me to be due to different numbers of dimensions involved, and hence we use parts of our mental apparatus unimpeded by issues of dimension to navigate the spiritual realm.  I’m not sure exactly how this applies directly to what the physicists are grappling with, but I suspect there’s something like a ratio equivalency involved that they could use to find a hint of a direction in which to focus their investigations.  For all I know, the micro level in physics corresponds to the spiritual realm in terms of the workings of its dynamics, kind of like the branches of the tree and its root system having some kind of correspondence to each other, with the trunk as a conduit inbetween.  In that case, I might wonder whether there are more dimensions involved within the realm in which particles operate.

Dad reports

October 29, 2011

I know my dad reads David Brooks’s columns in The New York Times, I know he reads the Times pretty much in its entirety — he even has a story that he learned English with The New York Times and a dictionary.  I sent him an email asking him if he was going to send in a Life Report as the most recent column asked, and part of his reply to me was a request that I join with him in making his report if he makes one.  And I thought this would be a very interesting thing if it comes to pass, to collaborate with my dad on something like this, to hear what he thinks about his life, beyond what I’ve already heard him say, and to hear how he would present it to a different audience from family and to an audience he might feel a particular kinship of values with.  I told him I would enjoy that, and even offered to take dictation, if that would help.  That gift David Brooks was asking for would in a way produce a gift for me, too, then, and maybe it already has.

While I was writing this, my periodic guest Tiffany from the Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped by to catch up and share spiritual talk.  I often receive such visits directly after I write something “preachy” on line (Mormon elders, Baptist ministers, they seem to come at such junctures as if summoned).  What I am also enjoying this time around is that one of the biblical passages Tiffany pointed out to me included an admonition from God to pay attention and follow his commandments, that peace and righteousness would then ensue — sounded very Brooksian, and I am quite a sap for synchronicity.

Understanding God through social science?

October 29, 2011

I guess what I really mean is, “Understanding where to look for God, or how to understand God’s existence through social science,” but that seemed kind of long.

It’s nothing new, it’s in that (Noel) Paul Stookey song, “The Wedding Song,” it’s in the story of the blind men feeling the elephant: God emerges from our loving interactions with each other.

But the thought came to me that maybe people who don’t roll with this love notion or religious parable thing might be okay with seeing God as an emergent property, through a notion developed by the rational thinking people at the right institutions with the correct credentials — those people have their role to play, too.

If I don’t react well to seeing the divine left off the list, it’s similarly not okay for me to leave off these fellow seekers.

Lasting gifts

October 28, 2011

For about nineteen years, on and off, I’ve thought about how a woman who was like a second mother to me (her “fourth daughter,” she would say, and from the time I was eight until I was in my mid-thirties) literally would not let me in her house anymore shortly after we adopted for the second time.  I grappled with trying to understand, especially after my husband died and I realized the extent of that previous loss, whether I ever really knew her or she me.

But recently it dawned on me that, whatever happened to the relationship, the changes in me her warmth and love effected over all those years continue on, that she gave me a lasting gift in that way, and for that I am easily grateful.  So I focus on that and try to let the rest go.

Promises and patience

October 28, 2011

I’ve noticed two seemingly conflicting themes in my life, promises that turn out to be empty and insufficient patience on my part.  When I feel called upon to decide in a given situation to which category in fact a new situation belongs, I sometimes come to the realization that I can’t figure it out myself — I am aware that my mechanisms for doing so have been too severely compromised by previous experience.  But I also know that this means I have the happy consequence of feeling nudged into the recognition that it is not a matter of my needing to come to a conclusion on that particular question myself anyway, but just the continuing need for me to be willing and to be open to the possibilities, to seeing what outcome will have apparently served my greater good, and to learning what the lesson for me will have been.

Violence measured per species or across species?

October 26, 2011

Having encountered yet another discussion of the recent book The Better Angels of  Our Nature:  Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker, and having wondered myself whether violence is just a symptom of something else that actually hasn’t decreased and is manifesting elsewhere, I am wondering whether the argument in this book takes into account violence expressed against other species, such as in overfishing or deforestation.  Maybe I should read the book.

Illegal immigration and common-law marriage

October 26, 2011

I wonder if there might be a helpful analogy between illegal immigration and common-law marriage that might give us a framework with historical underpinnings to help resolve the position of illegal immigrants in the United States.

God brooks no rival

October 26, 2011

What I actually intended to write about this morning was about how to square a relationship with God with a relationship with a fellow human being.

I hear humor sometimes in what I hear in the universe.  Once I was putting away a child’s doll made out of wool, and I heard the pun that it was a “dolly lana.”  In a similar fashion, I once heard the phrase “God brooks no rivals” as a phrase to meditate on.   Given the direction my life seemed to have taken when I became a widow, I first saw it as kind of an absolute.  But then it occurred to me, that with humor, it might actually be a puzzle in a way, that it could be taken as one of those sentences that changes meaning with how it is written, like the string of words “Woman without her man is nothing” that changes meaning depending on how it is punctuated.  So now I’ve being trying to see not only how to “re-punctuate” my meditation, but what that means for my life.

I was dipping into The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis, because it occurred to me after having a day yesterday like I used to have with God, how that compares to forgoing that in favor of having a day with a human being.  For me, the day with God has become a lot easier than the day with people, it’s like a big relief.  It occurred to me this morning shortly after I got up that maybe that’s selfish, and that maybe it would be a great act of something, some kind of a gift, I guess, to put that aside at least partly in order to relate to other people.  Then the task becomes how to do that, because I know I need to maintain the God relationship, too.  Lewis makes the point that loving God is a safe bet, while giving one’s heart to some else includes the risk it will be broken, includes allowing oneself to be vulnerable.  In a way, to insulate oneself from the consequences of giving one’s heart to another is a selfish act that shows how selfishness backfires, here by keeping us from experiencing some wonderful things life offers.  I think what spoke to me this morning in a way that I could work with better is that taking on the costs to oneself of human (I’m pretty sure this is not about getting another dog) love relationships can be thought of as a gift to the other and a manifestation of that love.

For me, the part I can’t figure out is how to toggle between the two without losing either or, in the alternative, how to conceptualize the two so that there is no opposition.  If I lose myself in a human love relationship completely, do I necessarily lose my current connection with God?  I suppose not if I am relating to the divine within that person as well as to their human details.  And maybe that’s it, that I don’t relate sufficiently to both simultaneously in people, and that if I did, I would not only see the different ways to write that sentence but also not see them as mutually exclusive.

Steve Jobs and Princess Di

October 26, 2011

As I said in my comment to Maureen Dowd’s column today, I have avoided much of the Steve Jobs coverage.  I just don’t see what other people apparently see in the story, just as I didn’t see what other people apparently saw in Diana, Princess of Wales.  In both cases, their deaths prompted huge outpourings from many in the public.  I could see that their deaths were difficult, that they did many significant and even laudable things during their lives, that they were human beings with flaws and families, but the size of the outpourings in both cases seemed outsized to me.  Maybe they each embodied some ideal many people aspire to — that’s the closest I can come right now to guessing what it is that produces the effect their trajectories have on other people.