Archive for March, 2015


March 30, 2015

I have been listening to the Pine Hill Project’s performance of “Rain Just Falls” here, having heard it live at their concert last Saturday night.  I am mulling over the commentary with which Richard Shindell introduced the song at the concert, in which he pointed out that the song could be seen as making a case against intelligent design.

So I have been listening to the song, because I like the way it sounds and because I have recently discovered the treat of Larry Campbell instrumental solos, and trying to discern what I can hear behind the sung lyrics.

What I hear is that the rain does its thing when it falls — that’s its “job” or role, so to speak, to fall.  What happens next is not its issue, and if it supports flower growth, that’s a separate thing.  The focus on just falling maybe even allows it to fulfill its potential more effectively.

How to put together the fall of the rain with the nurture of the flower, well, I guess I would say that is done at a position outside that of the rain’s and the flower’s respective roles, if it is done at all.  The rain doesn’t fall with awareness of a connection between the rain falling and the flower growing.  That doesn’t exhaust the issue of whether a connection between the two activities is perceived at all;  maybe the question is really about whether putting together the two activities is done at all, according to the song.

The sequence of rain falling and flowers growing certainly forms an observable pattern.  If someone is there to observe the pattern, I think the pattern can have significance even if there’s no strong intentionality to it.  If we see sequence as completely random and coincidental instead, I suspect we have gone to far in the other direction and thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

That’s where I am right now in mulling this over.

Lovely concert musically last Saturday night, an extra perk to have given us food for thought.


Religious faith

March 22, 2015

I knew a person, over a period of many years, who pretty clearly thought himself a faithful and devoted son of his Church, the Roman Catholic Church.  And he pretty clearly hoped I would convert and join, which did not happen.  One of the last times I saw him, maybe 7 or 8 years ago, he talked briefly about his faith while we were having lunch.  By then, I had spent a good deal of time and energy on things spiritual myself, and so maybe that was why that time around I noticed things about his faith that had never struck me in the decades I had known him before.

When he talked about his belief in God, it was flat, it was a thought about Jesus Christ being a friend, and it was like a memorized response about ritualistically calling upon Jesus and/or God.  I remember thinking, “Well, everyone is entitled to their own version of faith, but it is so different from my own experience of engaging with God and flow.  I thought his faith would come across as more substantial — after all, it is he who thinks I am the one in need of ‘saving.'”

I said something during the conversation that revealed to him the depth of my belief and faith, and I remember he seemed startled that I knew whatever it was I disclosed and that I could express it in my own words and metaphors and from my own experience.  But I was not there to play “¿Quién es más religioso?”

I bring it up because while I had previously realized that faith is always a very personal thing, I learned that I cannot know what another person means when they say they are religious.  It could mean any number of things to them, and chances are, it doesn’t mean the same thing to me.  My point is that we would be better off talking in specifics rather than making a general claim about “being religious.”  For example, for me, being religious involves being intimately connected to my own soul, being able to submerge the elephant rider of the ego into the elephant of the greater self, being able to throw myself onto the waters and float, being able to pull my thinking and emotions out of the way and hear guidance bubble up, being able to distinguish what I want from what serves, being able to find compassion for someone who is damaging me (and not expecting, instead, for them to have compassion for me).

I am glad if people are religious, even if their way of being religious is very different from my own.  But that doesn’t mean the implications of our respective ways of being religious will be the same.  Maybe it takes a lunch conversation to find out.


Unique music

March 21, 2015

I was thinking about free will this morning, and what I came up with was that we have it in order to make the freely willing choice not to exercise it — and in so doing, we arrange our energy in a way that allows us to find spiritual union.

That arrangement we can call surrender, but I’ve learned that for some people, “surrender” has the connotation of some particular dominance/submissive thing such as we see in certain kinds of sexual relationships.  Surrender to God, to the forces beyond us in the universe, does not feel like that at all.  Apples and oranges.

So that’s why I find the vocabulary of energy sometimes more helpful, because it’s more neutral, got fewer overlays and connotations.

And it has to be a continual willingness to give rise to the relationship of union.  People crash when they initially have the willingness and attempt great heights and then something shifts their trust momentarily before they have finished a particular spiritual experience, and they fall.  Kind of like climbing the rope and deciding it can’t be done while you are halfway up.  Not a good idea.

I have no problem if other people see faith as belief that an unanchored rope can be climbed.  It is a little bit like that, I think, only in the non-physical realm that belief actually makes a difference, whereas within our consensus reality, I don’t think individuals can make radical changes and override its current structure;  what we can do is figure out how to minimize drag and harness force and achieve lift, and we can participate and help achieve a different consensus reality.  (There’s a lot of air flights in physical aircraft every day;  if more people learned how to achieve spiritual lift, I think that would be something.)  Our consensus reality is not the only game in town; we can see mistakes and limitations in a child’s thinking;  I think more of us should entertain the notion that adult human thinking has its mistakes and limitations, too.  With regard to faith, it isn’t faith if it doesn’t include an element of something beyond what we can see and control in the physical world — it must be a rope trick.  It’s just that in things spiritual, the rope trick works.

So if we have free will and we use it to its ultimate capacity, we use it to put it aside.  And if everybody does this, we all end up on the same page and glide along without the high degree of friction we currently have, and the ecosystem of which we humans are a part functions so much better.  I think an impediment we have encountered is that some people who think they like friction, persist in that thinking because they’ve found some way to avoid the feedback for engaging in friction.  That could be through finding an enabler, it could be through bullying, it could be through refusing to see the impact of the downside of friction on others.  The other usual mechanism for ending an infatuation with friction is satiation, and it is well recognized that people with certain kinds of profiles (I would say, with certain kinds of damage) don’t become sated, their hole is bottomless.

But the opportunity for us to have free will and then the further opportunity for us to decide to put it aside, and learn to actually do that, I think creates some unique and beautiful music in the universe.  I just wish more people could lend their voices to that song.



“Please relay this message”

March 19, 2015

Suppose you got such a request from the soul of someone who is locked outside of the person to whom the soul is related.  The connection between the physical incarnation of the person and their soul became so tenuous that the physical person was no longer sufficiently in touch with their soul, and their soul was locked out in the cold.  Kind of like going for a space walk and then finding oneself locked out of the mothership.

There’s a soul who has made that request of me:  “Please tell my person to get in touch with me so we can re-connect.”

Well, I can’t get this person to even accept that such a connection is possible, I can’t get them to listen to me, much less have a direct dialogue with me, during which I could try to suggest how, if they were willing, I could try to teach them to find and expand their connection to their higher self.  They do not appear to want to have contact with me.

But their soul is a great buddy of mine.  In fact, Gita refers to him as my Buddy.  For a long time, I’ve thought my Buddy extended down into his person, that my connection with this soul, the physical person was in on, too.  But Gita advised me not to assume that other people are as integrated with the vast reaches of ourselves beyond the tips of our iceberg that is our self in our physical body as I am.  (This integration is what allowed me to help my mother at her passing.)  She said to me, “Find out if this person is connected enough to their soul to be in on the relationship with you.”

So, are you?

In the meantime, I am trying to figure out how to deal with their soul.  Does that soul have to keep waiting out in the cold while their person reads books on love and maybe becomes willing to have life experiences that will re-open their connection with their soul?  How much do I take that soul into my heart, even temporarily, if that is not going to happen at the other end?  What is my responsibility, what do I feel called upon to do, what would be enabling, what would be cruel not to do, what do I actually feel capable of doing?

Not sure.  Gita says I should put the question out there, wait for an answer, and act according to that answer (or the lack thereof).  That plan is certainly an improvement on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I hope I have taken the first step with this post.



Being too competent?

March 17, 2015

I was on the phone last night with a friend, talking about such topics as asset basis and non-resident domicile and tax returns and account registrations and settling parents’ estates.  A large piece of his advice to me was for me to stop displaying and using my competence so much and to instead play with the accountants and lawyers the role of a character he called “Jane the Dunce.”  He threatened to start calling me “Jane,” just to remind me.  The issue, as he saw it, was that nobody but me actually cared about getting the stuff right and that I should remove myself from the role of trying to get this stuff done properly.

I had a neighbor named Jane, who would be appalled at her name being used thus — she reveled in her competence.

The countervailing issue, which he did understand from his own experience, is that as a fiduciary, I am answerable to others — this isn’t just about my own stuff.  But he said that the standard in that context is not for me to act as a professional accountant or as my lawyer is expected to, just to act as a reasonable or prudent layperson would act.  Which he said is more like his character of “Jane the Dunce” and less like me.

Now we’re into territory about whether it’s ever a good idea not to use your own style and to try to act like someone else.  Some people, of course, ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?”  and nobody thinks that will end badly.  But aiming in the other direction, I have my misgivings about that.   On the other hand, there is the risk of getting everybody mad at me as I try to get the forms corrected or the transactions adjusted.  I could win some battles and lose a war.

My friend and I agreed that this is why many people, himself and my father included, end(ed) up trying to do all these tasks all by themselves.  (Interestingly, both my friend and my dad seem to have similar issues with their wives about financial matters.)  Which, actually, is a large part of why what I have now on my plate is so complicated — my dad arranged things his own way and without a lot of regard to what would happen after he was not there to handle the stuff.

Anyway, my friend said that he and his sister just signed what the lawyer (when he did use one) put in front of them, they didn’t check it over.

It’s a thought, but it’s certainly not how I was brought up.

I certainly see a challenge for me here.  The challenge seems to me to be something about striking a balance between pushing to get things right and not alienating others, between picking up other people’s slack and keeping my equilibrium, between my responsibilities to others and taking care of myself.  It’s a work in progress.


Too much communication

March 15, 2015

I’ve had that from some people, most particularly a certain family member, who will remain nameless.  I was thinking about it recently, because it unfortunately came up this winter when a social worker for the aforementioned but unnamed family member behaved in, at best, a careless way that threatened to undermine the boundaries I had built up with this relative over more than 20 years.

I try to make sure this relative has the information they should have, and I try to do right by them in other regards, but I learned from experience that I need strong boundaries with respect to them.

What I say, and what is all too true, when I decline to have the relationship and communication they desire, is that I can’t — I can’t have the relationship they want, I can’t engage in the communication they want.  I can’t, as in, I am unable to.  I really am unable to.  And it is, as I said, all too true, I can’t.

I have made the point that if the person shows evidence of change, things might be different and maybe it would become a situation I am able to handle.  How would I know?  Probably when the person backed off and showed some evidence of taking me, my needs, and my words into account.  (They don’t hear the word “no,” for example.)  And when communication did not fall into the same scripts and I did not feel preyed upon and provoked.

It’s hard to argue with an “I can’t.”  I don’t say it because it is hard to argue with, but because it is true, and I can’t do what I can’t do.

I would add as a footnote that, for people without knowledge of the history here, I may look like Attila the Hun, but I’ve learned to live with that, too — it’s the lesser of the two difficulties.


Visigothic widows

March 15, 2015

I am pretty sure I’ve mentioned my old project about Visigothic widows and succession to the Visigothic throne.  When I was doing research on that, I couldn’t help but notice in legal texts like the Theodosian Code how children of first marriages were put in jeopardy as to their inheritances by the remarriage and subsequent children of a parent.

I got somehow involved recently in a colloquy online about divorce of wealthy parents, and I made reference to this issue.  So in keeping with the initial premise of this blog, this post is to spell out a little further what I meant.  To spell it out even further than what I’ve written would require me to get that part of my brain out of mothballs and then get up to speed on the subject again.

New Year’s resolution 2015

March 15, 2015

I didn’t think about New Year’s resolutions when the calendar turned this year because I was so busy with my mother and her affairs.  But now that she is gone and buried and her affairs are at a point where they take up less room, at least temporarily, on my plate, the question of what I want to work on this year came to my attention.

I decided I want to work on my defensiveness.  I know it gets in my way.  It gets in other people’s way, too, I think.

My next thought was a memory of Willy sitting in an office with someone who was supposed to help our family, about whom I had my doubts and suspicions.  And there he was, sitting on the couch in her office, leaning back and with his arms so undefensively crossed above his head, his torso exposed (beneath shirt, tie, and jacket), talking so genially.

I can’t say how effective his attitude was in that situation, and I know it was not self-consciously produced.  But he was offering no resistance, and that, I am pretty sure, can be a good thing in some situations in which I unhelpfully introduce my baggage of fear about what may come next.  The thing I want to try doing is staying in the actual moment and worrying less about where it will lead.  I don’t mean suspending my practical judgment and not making a photocopy of an important document before I send it out, but I think there is a point of balance that I have overshot; perhaps I have learned to overshoot it, but we can unlearn survival skills that got us through one situation that are now getting in our way.

So that’s, I think, going to be my approach, to try to stay in the moment, discern what I am called on to do without so much concern about what comes next, what sort of a limb I might be going out on or what trouble might ensue from the other end (will the office process my paperwork correctly and how can I, in how I prepare it, guard against it doing it incorrectly, for example) — I want to try to wait to see, to wait and see, and not get all tensed up about it.  I want to put my best foot forward instead of arranging it according to what I think may come next.

I got a sense of what that would feel like both when Willy died and when my mother died — it was as if I got a preview of how I could be, and I have to say, it felt great.  It wasn’t irresponsibility but something like allowing everything to take its appropriate place.  Having gotten that preview, I have to figure out a way, I think, of how to develop organically to get from where I am to that place — the sensation and attitude did not stick.

I think this may apply to personal relationships as well as to business contexts.

We’ll see.  At the very least, I am hoping that I feel lighter, that I feel less regret that I have contributed unnecessarily to the creation of vexed interactions with others.  I am pretty good at figuring out what I want to do in other ways so that I have least regret, but I think I have not yet addressed how my defensiveness can produce difficulties in that regard.

In some ways I think it’s a question of editing out that aspect in my presentation of myself to others — I doubt I will have no concerns about what will happen next — but in other ways I think it’s about “turning things over” more — I tend not to turn over my love life or my bureaucratic life enough, I think.  That would be about feeling less of the concern that produces the defensiveness in the first place.  If I give more space for the universe to work in those situations in my life, I am hoping I will feel greater peace, the sort of sensation I got a preview of when my loved ones died in my presence.

Subsequent conditions

March 13, 2015

I am in the process of transferring my mother’s accounts into accounts registered to her Estate.  This morning I had, in connection with that, an experience that I surely didn’t like, but which also allowed me to see other, past situations more clearly.

Last evening I was told that a second of my mother’s accounts at a bank was being transferred in to her Estate’s account and that I would see it, online, posted to the Estate’s account later that night.

This process has been an arduous one, because, despite what my mother was told when she moved, she really needed to have closed these accounts in the NJ branch and reopened them in a MA branch office of the same national bank.  She was advised that there was no reason to, that the only difference would be the deposit slips she would need to use if she left her accounts registered as they were.

It turns out it does make a difference to New Jersey and its taxing authority, in terms of demonstrating change of domicile and leaving NJ with a conduit for trying to tax assets upon death.

My mother moved to MA with the intention of living here permanently.  She sold her house, filed a permanent change of address card with the USPS, took a year’s lease on an apartment, found new doctors, etc., etc.  I know because I helped her with most of the heavy lifting involved.

When I didn’t see the money posted to my mother’s Estate’s new account last night, I thought that maybe it would show up after 8:00 a.m. this morning on the account.  It didn’t show up then either.

So this morning I called.  It turns out there is a note in the file that they need another document from me, a bill mailed to my mother showing where her residence was around the time of her death.  I faxed a copy of her January electricity bill for service at her apartment and sent to her apartment.

But I was most definitely not a happy camper (or happy Personal Representative).

I do understand the need for evidence showing my mother’s change of domicile, I don’t mind faxing copies of bills, leases, doctors, whatever.  But I found being told everything was all set when it wasn’t, not okay;  the imposition of a subsequent condition I found upsetting.  I had calibrated my expectations in relation to what I had been voluntarily told, I had worked my schedule and arranged my work on the Estate around things being as I had been told.  I probably wouldn’t have minded so much if this hadn’t been a big hump to have gotten over — I had been told we had gotten over it and now I was being told that we hadn’t.

I’ve had this sort of experience in personal relationships, where I find it upsetting, too, but in the midst of the he said/she said type of argument that usually ensues in such cases, it can be more difficult to see what has happened and the issues at the root.  The person does actually say one thing, it is relied on, not unreasonably, and relied on in a difficult situation that will be ameliorated by the assertion’s being true, and then later the person says something else, something that removes what has been relied on.  The root of the problem is probably that what was said means things of different importance to the the person saying them and person hearing them.

In the Estate banking situation, I have more detachment than I often do when this sort of dynamic comes up in other parts of my life.  I can more easily see that timing is an issue (they could have told me this last evening) but that so also is substance:  my mother did change her domicile, according to general legal principles (I don’t know whether NJ’s statutes replace those rules with something else — my lawyer, who thought everything was in order before she went on vacation this week, gets back next week), and the bank personnel did inform me the paperwork had been completed and the money was in the process of being transferred.  In personal relationships, on the other hand, for example, we are rarely so precise about things, and when we are, it is usually an indication that relationship is not working.

So what have I learned?  That some people really do mislead a person in a way that the person misled cannot see until the damage has been done.  Whether the situation can be cleaned up to an “all’s well that end’s well” conclusion probably depends on particular details of the situation.  Such a conclusion would probably heal the damage.  In its absence, there is always acceptance that people are limited, there is always the choice to take the experience as a challenge to find compassion for people when they behave in this way and to see people as they are, not as they tell us they are or as we wish them to be.


Post Script:  As I was editing this, I got a call from the bank that the rest of the funds are being transferred, and I can see online that they are.


Ulterior goal affects the experience

March 11, 2015

If I am merciful with the goal of having others show mercy towards me, I will have a quite different experience from the experience I will have if I am merciful for the sake of being merciful.  I think the latter gives rise to more peace within the person, more openness, and less baggage that gets in the way.  Of course, it’s a whole other situation if the situation from the get-go was entered into on the understanding that there would be reciprocity.  And it’s a (different) whole other situation if the situation once entered into is clearly one in which reciprocity is the norm and hence to be expected.  (In addition, if person A has no ability to be merciful, it also doesn’t mean, it seems to me, that they will not be shown mercy.)

Pace Rohr.  Or maybe I’ve misunderstood what he’s saying.

I just think it is too limiting to think of being merciful while one is thinking about whether others will show one mercy.  They may not, but that, I think, is a separate issue, to be dealt with, but not in terms of whether one is oneself merciful;  the decision, to the extent it is a decision, to be merciful has more to do with one’s own capacity, in general and in the specific situation, it seems to me.

My meager understanding of religions is that Hindus are more oriented towards an open-ended attitude than Buddhists or Christians are, who seem to tie together one’s own doings with their possible consequences.