Archive for the 'remembrance' Category

Thinking you remember

December 23, 2012

I wrote a post here some time ago in which I referred to computer programming in Basic, to “if … then …” structure, and as I wrote it, I could feel myself not really remembering the details, in terms of the programming, of what I was writing about.  I’m not sure it mattered in that post, the concept I think I got right.

But that experience gave me a window into what some people apparently do when they continue to act as sources of wisdom after they’ve lost the knack of discerning in a way that gives access to profound understanding.

This is easier to see within a belief system that includes reincarnation, although maybe after I explain it that way, I will be able to see how to translate it into a system that doesn’t.

Somebody attains in a particular lifetime the ability to see beyond dualism, to no longer see things in opposition to each other but to see unity, to harmonize seemingly conflicting strands organically merging and to see unity without intellectual rationalizing.  I think what I’m referring to is what Richard Rohr describes much better in his book The Naked Now.

But they are missing something in their spiritual development and are reborn to explore that.  (I don’t think everybody develops themselves in exactly the same sequence.)  They grow up and they have a vague sense they should be offering wise counsel and they have a vague sense of how to do that.  And they have a fleeting thought that even if they don’t do it exactly right, it won’t matter in terms of whether their audience notices.

I think they don’t want to do what it would take to regain the ability to see in unity (again).  It may be that what they are looking to explore in this lifetime of theirs is the humility to relearn alongside of people learning how to discern in stereo for the first time.

That learning requires, I think, a huge amount of openness, and coming to that state of openness can be quite painful.  I suspect that for some reason the person in question just really doesn’t want to go through that, perhaps because they have a vague sense of what it would entail from having done it before, and they don’t have the vague sense that that’s just the point — to go back and do it again.

I’ve struggled with the explanation that maybe they have a good reason for not going through the learning process again, for not becoming more open.  In the end I think I made no determination on whether they could have done it successfully, because it became clear that, regardless, they weren’t agreeable with trying.  So somebody else took their place, in terms developing this particular talent.  And the original person tried to continue to offer wise advice, although now, in this lifetime, they were doing it while relying on their imperfect recollection of how to discern it.  And they did not pursue the lesson they had come to learn.

If I try to explain this without reference to past lives, I guess I would say it’s someone faking it, maybe after reading a description of how it’s done but not actually going through the process described.

For my own part, I’ve come to see that my lesson may be to learn that people don’t have to follow through on what they set out to do, that I have to stop believing their self-reporting that they will, and that eventually some other way of serving the greater good needs to be used.  Eventually, the “This is so stupid” aspect of the situation comes to trump any concern about whether finding another way to resolve it is “fair;”  who cares about who spilled the milk?  We can clean up a spill, regardless of who or what contributed to its occurrence, if cleaning it up is the important thing.

I’ve also learned not to wait around for the other person to perceive the situation as I do.  Jewel may sing about not being “made useless with despair,” I’m more worried about being made useless by waiting for something to happen that won’t.

Which brings me back to the issue of belief, or not, in reincarnation.  Because some of these people take the attitude that I should wait, that they really will get to it [in this lifetime].  What I see is that maybe they will get to it, but it will be during another lifetime.  That explains their sincerity and my disbelief.



September 22, 2012

I succeeded in restraining myself from showing Katie Jordan’s picture yesterday evening (see previous post), even though they came down to eat Chinese food in the kitchen while I was watching the NewsHour on line.

Maybe I should add the unspoken point that Jordan emphatically doesn’t want me to show his friends things like childhood pictures.  Jonas, on the other hand, brought his last girlfriend home for me to meet and sat with her on the livingroom couch going through old family photograph albums together.

But last night when I went upstairs to get ready for bed, I walked into my room and noticed my laundry basket was other than where it usually is.  So I asked Jordan, thought maybe he had moved it while using the phone or something.  But no, he had moved it while he was showing Katie artwork of his that I have propped up on a marble-topped antique piece of furniture we bought because I loved it, not because I had a particular need for it. (The basket usually sits in front of it.)

The inside panels of the doors to the cupboard part of the piece of furniture (I think Elinor, from whom we bought it, called it a commode, but I suspect that will conjure up the wrong image for some people) are hand-painted with what look like stenciled flowers.  In that part of it I keep my childhood photos and wedding album and some embroidery I did with someone else’s somewhat mysterious help, and other things that tell me where I’ve been — I have another collection in the attic in an antique doll’s trunk that has smaller items like wedding rings and a teddy bear and a scarf my dad brought me back from a business trip abroad and a hat and mittens my mother knitted me.

So on the top of this piece of furniture in my bedroom I have the children’s later artwork.  Earlier stuff is up on the kitchen walls, some sculptures are around the house.  Other stuff is packed away in the basement or attic.  I kind of ran out of room to display more art effectively and unobtrusively in other rooms around the house, so I then sort of arranged it in layers propped vertically on this piece of furniture in my room.  The children’s memorialized baby shoes are there, too.  (On the other hand, so too are my shampoo, conditioners, and sunscreen, comb — it’s got a marble top … ).

Stacy who used to run an antiques cooperative in Waltham once was sharing with me how during those tough times with children, it sometimes helps to take out and revisit those “I love you” cards and pieces of art.  That’s kind of what this collection on this piece of furniture is about.  I think it all postdates Willy’s death.  My kids are not big on birthdays and holidays, but they do periodically come up with beautiful poetry addressed to me (or their dad) and a cooked meal of my favorite foods, and they give me much of their art.  Jonas also recommends songs to me and things I might like to do.  Part of Stacy’s point was that if your kids do things to express their love on a less predictable schedule, it may also mean that they come deeply from the children’s hearts.

Well, I’m not sure what the artwork and artfully presented poetry mean to Jordan, but he was showing them to Katie last night before she left, and it struck me that this was an improvement over if I had shown her youthful photos of Jordan.

Comforting the bereaved

July 27, 2012

I had mentioned to my dad that I was going to the cemetery where Willy is buried, so I thought I’d tell him about the Auschwitz ashes buried there, too, when I spoke to him today.  He and his immediate family fled Germany in November of 1938.  Not all of his relatives got out, including a grandmother he was particularly close to.

He told me he had read about that practice, and he wondered how it made sense given that the ashes were unlikely to be those of a relative’s.  I tried to explain how maybe focusing on part as a substitute for the whole was effective not just as a literary device.  I talked about how the living express their caring, remembrance, and respect for the dead, and not just the dead whose ashes they are burying, in the process of interring the ashes in a cemetery, and how that might be efficacious in helping both the living and the dead.  I mentioned a concept of grace, how when we do all we can, sometimes God and the universe fill in what we can’t.  I pointed out that the issue was not just about physically burying ashes but about emotions, about other aspects of our lives.

Those ideas didn’t speak to him.  He’s caught in needing it to be the remains of the particular people for it to be an effective rite.  That’s, I guess, where what he went through left him, those are his needs, and this sort of interment doesn’t meet them.

That’s another layer of sadness in the legacy.

My neighbor

September 18, 2011

I keep thinking about the neighbor of mine who steered me to the grief group at his church.  He was the real deal — not only did he recommend the group, give me contact information, talk to the leaders in advance, he even offered to, and actually did, come to the house and mind the fort so I could go (he couldn’t deal with the dog, though — I think Jonas had to keep the dog in his room while Richard (Mr. Bruhn) was there, Vietnam War vet though he was (to be fair, the dog was difficult to anyone who didn’t take the time and effort to establish a relationship with him, and when you did, you might get, as my father did, the dog insisting on licking your ear while you were reading the newspaper)).

He died this time of year a few years ago, maybe more — he fell off a ladder while working on his house.  He was a very religious man, his license plate said “I AM HIS.”  We talked about religion, he was respectful, but hopeful, I think, I would come to share his beliefs.  The part I always danced around was the authority of “Scripture.”  When someone’s basic position rests on a belief that there are no mistakes in written religious texts, it’s hard to know what to say.  As a classicist and medievalist, this makes absolutely no sense to me, and as someone with spiritual inclinations I think it’s mistaken from other perspectives, as well.

But Richard also took time to try to help Jonas.  He paid him to help with heavy yardwork in Richard’s yard (Richard had war injuries, so sometimes I think he needed another pair of hands, sometimes I think it was mainly for Jonas’s sake he hired him).  Richard was good with him, but Jonas pushed him away on the grounds that Richard was too preachy — too much God talk or something.

Richard helped lots of other people, too — the front of his house, with the flag of the United States draped in front of the front door, is included in the mural at the local bus station in recognition of how he was involved in helping others.  He could figure out the next step up that a struggling person was capable of and call upon him, in a tactful way, to do it.  It was a beautiful thing to witness.

I don’t know Ann, Richard’s widow, so well.  One of their daughters and her husband and kids live in the other piece of their house, so I know she’s not alone.  She isn’t particularly religious.  I did write her a note after Richard died, including how much it meant to me the interest he had taken in Jonas — I knew she probably knew he walked the walk herself in general, but I didn’t know whether she knew about how he had reached out to Jonas and how much that had meant to me, and probably to Jonas.

I pass their house when I walk down the street to where our street forks off of Mass. Ave.  Flag’s still there, the other one they used to hang before their other daughter returned from military service isn’t, so I’m thinking she’s safely home.  I think Richard is in his own way safely home, too, and I would love to know how it compared, when he encountered it, to what he thought it would be.