The thing is, though

“i just work here” turned out pretty well, as poems go. But that’s just it, it’s a poem. The thing is, I do dream of America. I’m on the complicated end of thinking right now. We accumulate tons of information and then we compress it and simplify it down into patterns and rules and rule sets and all of that. It’s the learning process. Right now I’ve got a lot of observations – about this country, political noise, and the glorious and terrifying path that we uproarious humans are all on together – and they haven’t compressed yet. The rules haven’t emerged in my mind.

Right now I have a theory. In extremely broad strokes, my theory is that the left has a pretty solid handle on which issues are important to deal with in the quest for quality of life for the masses and being good people and loving our neighbors and all of that. The right has a pretty solid handle on what works and what doesn’t, in terms of practical procedures. So in my mind it would be nice if we could recruit democrats to set the “what” – the overall agenda – and republicans to work out the “how” of the implementation.

Better yet, let’s throw all the extremists from both sides into a cage match and let moderates quietly step up to run everything. It’ll be a next-gen reality show that we’re ALL IN.

Dream on, right? I’m so hilarious.

Thought of the Day

Being genuinely good to people is not only subjectively and morally preferable, it is also objectively more effective for the purpose of achieving growth, motivating change, and acquiring information.

Speculation #627b

Every so often the back of my mind serves up an idea that feels huge. I can’t prove this one in any way, shape, or form. It’s just a what-if, one that spawned out of reading this comic and then this NASA article about dark matter and dark energy. It goes like this:

What if our corner of the universe is imbued with an awareness of being observed? The stuff of our reality – the matter, the energy, etc. – reacts to being looked at… what if that’s not normal? What if it’s an experimental property? And, what if that’s what Zen practice tries to move past, or shut down, or suppress, or disempower?


The Garden

I was in our garden a couple days ago, pruning. Pruning is satisfying on such a deep level, it feels spiritual. These thoughts jumbled about in the back of my head as I worked: I am guiding a living thing, making a choice for it’s betterment, helping it to thrive by deciding what to preserve and what to remove. As a gardener, I am a steward of life. I have authority over the plants in my garden. One could say I have dominion, and I exercise my dominion gently and for the good of all life in my garden by deciding what stays and what goes. If one were to assign a moral perspective to it, I become a good and just steward of the Earth by knowing what is good and what is evil.

These are the things I learn by gardening.

And that’s when it hit me. What if there is another way to imagine the story of Adam and Eve? What if they were not the first humans, frolicking in the Garden, expected to remain innocent and punished for seizing knowledge? There were other humans when they left, after all. And God charged humankind with dominion over the Earth.

What if Adam and Eve were the first gardeners? What if the purpose of their time in the Garden was to learn how to be stewards of the Earth? And what if the apple was the sign that they had gained enough understanding to nurture a healthy plant to produce good fruit? With sufficient instruction given in the Garden of the Lord, it was time for them to go out into the world and teach.

Imagine them describing the Eden to people who were cold and hungry, seeking to inspire them to take up the studied mantle of dominion. Might the cold and hungry not ask, “Why did you leave such a place?” And what if they then answered, “We had to.”? Any explanation that followed might have fallen on deaf ears, for someone cold and hungry might not readily imagine that somebody would willingly walk away from a plentiful garden, a paradise on earth.

“What do you mean, you had to?”

“We learned what we were supposed to learn, and now we have to go out and teach.”

You had to leave because you were done learning? You had to come out here, where it’s cold and painful and we’re hungry? Sounds to me like you were punished for gaining knowledge.

Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden… always such a compelling story. And such a negative one. And yet, as the immediate precursor to its telling, we have Genesis Chapter 1, verses 27-31:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”

What if the story doesn’t mean that God created man of mist and dust and breath, after the seventh day – He had already created them, male and female, in his image, on the sixth day. What if a man and a woman were charged to be of the water (mist) and of the earth (dust) and of the air (breath)? What if they were sent into the Garden to learn HOW to fulfill the divine purpose of man?

The world feels a little different when I think of it this way. Vibrant and loving and full of purpose. As it should be.

Broken Mugs

About six years ago, my husband and I moved halfway across the country, from New England to Bozeman, Montana. We had no connections there. We weren’t moving because work required it. We moved there because we visited and we fell in love with the place.

We got rid of a lot of stuff and put the rest in boxes, as you do. When we first arrived in our new apartment, we bought a couple of things so that we could perform Basic Life Functions while working to unpack. These things included a pair of mugs.

I loved those mugs. They were black, with a pretty gold-brown vine and leaf design on one side. Honestly, they were nothing particularly special in the grand scheme of things, but I loved them because the were big, so I could go a good while before refilling, and the bottoms were stable, so they never tipped over. They were my favorite mugs, and I always smiled at the recollection that they helped welcome us to Bozeman.

Fast forward six years. We got married in Bozeman. We found incredible health care support and did a lot of healing in Bozeman. We had our daughter in Bozeman. We, against all odds, shut-ins that we are, made some wonderful friends in Bozeman. We even had found a restaurant that serves the best sushi we’ve had everywhere, in freaking landlocked Bozeman. But it was time to pack it up and be close to family. We agonized. We cried. It was a hard decision, because it was a decision between two amazing things. I feel blessed and grateful to have been burdened with such a choice.

In the last two weeks before the move, I broke one of the mugs. In some impossible twist of how-on-earth-did-the-physics-work-there, it practically leaped out of my hand while I was washing it and hit the bottom of the sink just so. I decided it was a sign. I put the pieces of the handle inside the cup, stuck it on a windowsill, and asked my husband to make sure that it was the last thing we threw away, because I am a weirdo.

Fast forward again. We’ve been dealing with all the monumental emotional strain of uprooting life, finding new vendors and health care and restaurants and trying to remember where the hell we packed our socks. (Answer: with the toolbox and last remaining holdout VHS tapes, obviously.) And the adjustment of our baby girl going to daycare. Insanity. Stress like I don’t remember ever having dealt with before.

Yesterday, I heard a crash from the kitchen. “You okay?” I asked, as I do.

“Yeah… I broke a mug,” said husband.

“Oh,” I said. “That’s okay.”

He poked his head around the corner and held up the surviving black and gold-vine mug. “This one,” he said.

I blinked at it and decided I couldn’t possibly have an opinion about it right then. “Okay,” I said, and went back to surreptitiously feeding our child dinner while she was too distracted by More Important Things (read: Muppets) to object.

This morning I woke up and thought about it again. I realized that I had been treating those mugs as symbolic of a beautiful chapter of our lives, and wondered if I was about to start bawling because it was such a clear, stark reminder that it was over. But then it hit me that I wasn’t upset about it at all. I felt relieved, and free.

These physical tokens, these material reminders, are never up to the task of containing our experiences long term. The treasures of our lives are far too big and important for that. The experiences we had while living in Bozeman are a part of my heart and soul forever, and in that, I will never truly leave.

Imaginary Argument #1, AKA I Love Dory

“Everything is going to be okay.”

“What a ridiculous thing to say. You can’t prove that. And obviously everything isn’t okay, nor is it going to suddenly become okay. Just look at <insert favorite gripe topic here – war, famine, global warming, politics, disease, etc. etc.>”

“That’s true, I can’t prove everything’s going to be okay. But you can’t prove it won’t. ‘Everything is going to be okay,’ like any statement about ‘everything’, is a statement of belief, not of provable fact. We live in the present, and the present is the only moment to which we have direct access. Statements about the sum total of the future are pure speculation and fabrication.”

“So you admit it.”

“Of course – do you? Think of it this way – if ‘everything is going to be okay’ and ‘everything is terrible’ are both statements of belief, I’ll take the positive one, because it has a direct impact on the quality of my present moment. Why on earth should negative belief be assumed to have more dignity and realistic weight than positive belief?”

This is what happens to my internal arguments when I start reading about Zen. I could probably sum up the whole darn thing with a quote from Finding Nemo:

Marlin: How do you know something bad won’t happen?

Dory: I don’t!