Friday, December 31, 2010

Thank You

In the midst of the Christmas and New Year's bustle, it occurred to me that I had not sent out the one thank you I needed to: to you, my readers.

This exercise was started (almost 5 years ago, if you can believe it) as a vehicle to write and find fame and fortune through the millions of people that would flock to my blog. Since that period of time I've lost one business, had four different jobs, and moved halfway across the US. Over time this has become less of an exercise of become fabulously wealthy and famous (I suppose in the sense that it's not anymore) and more of an exercise in self discovery and hopefully, thought provoking material (at times).

I know some of you. Others I don't. That's okay - either way I am truly flattered that you choose to spend part of a day with me as I have moved through my own journey - and hopefully will continue to do so for many more years.

In speaking with Silverline one time, I mentioned that for an author - for any author I think- the thought that one person - just one - is reading your writing and understands what you are trying to say - truly trying to say, in a deep way - is enough to keep one writing.

To you - to all of you - thank you for reading. It keeps me writing.

Unfurled

It's the last day of 2010.

In the next 48 hours (or so) I will have created my goals for 2011.

I say created, but really when I put pen to paper these are not so much "created" as they are the distilled version of a great deal of thinking and talking and ruminating.

The one difference is this year I will unfurl them - show them to others, make them perhaps not public but not available.

This difference is a similar difference to that of a flag furled versus unfurled. Furled it is tightly clinging to the pole. It does not show what it is. It cannot gloriously flutter in the breeze, it cannot rally the spirits of those watching it, it cannot inspire.

It does not do the thing it was designed to do.

Will I reveal everything to everyone? I doubt it - some goals (or objectives, or intentions - call them what you will) remain too personal except between myself and God. But will I reveal some - certainly.

There is something inspiring - at least to myself - to see a flag full out blowing in the breeze, rippling and straining in the wind as it pulls on the flag rope. Something that makes my own spirits soar.

So this year I will march out, banners unfurled, to meet the year. If I go down, it will at least not be for a lack not knowing what I intended to achieve.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back to New Home

And so, I am in New Home.

This is that odd time of the year, the time between vacation and the New Year, the time between mentally closing everything out and preparing for the New Year while adding to the mix (since we moved) the process of integrating the new things I've learned and new decisions that were made during vacation.

And some were made. Not so much made, I suppose, as reaffirmed. For me to make any decision at all is a fairly significant event, so there are items to rejoice about here: where I want to be, what I want to be doing.

How I am going to get there is somewhat less clear at this point. I see the road, even as I am shrinking from considering all its implications.

But then, this is where I always have broken down in the past: implications. Wanting to do something, yet when the realization of what the cost would be comes to my attention (and there is always a cost) or the simple realization that there is a cost, I turn aside back into the rut of doing what I am doing because there are no implications there. No advancement towards anything of significance perhaps, but no implications either.

But those things are for the morrow and the days after. Today, for one glorious day, I can simply be somewhere, doing something, and not feel that making no significant plans or changes will derail the rest of my life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cloudrise

My last day here in Old Home. Sigh. Every time I come here, I miss it more.

The rain stopped sometime early this morning. Looking out the computer room window, a thick blanket of fog has covered the hill. At this height it's probably not fog so much as clouds on their way to mountains, bringing fresh snow.

Leaning over a little bit, I can see down into the Upper Meadow. The rain has collected at the bottom of the Meadow into a long broad steel gray pond, reflecting the cloud light, waiting to getting through the drainage pipe and start its long trip to the sea. The horses meander to the edge of it, perhaps trying to find their way around or maybe just to spend some more time under the two pine trees that so often provide them shelter.

The clouds are moving on now, the boles of the pine trees dark brown with the water from the night before. Around the bases of the trees the rust-red dead pine needles accentuate the darkness of their trunks.

It's sufficiently cleared now that I can see to the trees marking the Eastern edge of my parents' property, tall sentinels rising over the smaller trees and field underneath them. I wish the clouds were thick enough to give the appearance of furled banners around their trunks; I seem to be denied my wish this morning.

The cloudlight is as bright as it will probably get today, shedding all the light they are likely to today. The light seems to mute whatever green I see on the hillside, bringing out the browns and yellows and rusts of the dormant grasses waiting for Spring.

I will have to tear myself away from this in a few moments: reality in the form of breakfast and packing and driving and flying beckon me, the onrush of a life that does not stop but is only set aside for a little while. But for a few more precious minutes I will deny that such a reality exists as I watch the winter cycle work its way across the morning skies.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rain

I'm watching the rain from my transplanted bedroom in Old Home.

When my parents relocated to The Ranch, they had a three bedroom house as they did where I grew up. Of the non-master bedroom, one became "mine" and one became "my sister's", mostly through a few random pictures and memorabilia scattered about. For the last 10+ years, this is the bedroom I mostly call home when I'm here. I've watched rain, snow, turkeys, horses, and the sun's movement across the field from this room.

I love rain. I have come to appreciate most all seasons of the year, but I believe that winter continues to be favorite. I love clouds, I love rain, I love fog, I love the hint of new life that exists within the seemingly barren months.

I love rain most of all. Rain is not all the same, you know: rain in Old Home comes in long periods, falling gently over time. Rain in New Home comes, more often than not, in high powered downloads of moisture that creates curtains of clear water off the roof and rivers of water that move down the driveway and into the storm sewers - and as often as not, leaves no evidence the next day.

I love to watch rain at Old Home; that gentle hint of flying water almost seen out of the corner of one's eye, waiting to be more fully examined as you focus. I love the sound it makes as it hits the roof and you can hear it. It's best at night: the patter of rain is a fine sound to meditate on, to listen to, to fall asleep to. The water it brings is living giving, running down the meadow across from my window to join the creek through the meadow, which runs to a larger creek, which eventually runs to the river. The spring drinks in this water through the ground and fills the pond in front of it, filling and running over the horse trough as the frogs swim and sing for mates and turtles remain burrowed in the mud, waiting for spring.

The gray of the clouds highlights the green of the pine trees, creating a skyline far more enticing to me than any that a civilized city could offer. Looking up, I see a large oak with moss covering its bark, rivulets of water running down through the moss and clumps of mistletoe. A lone dead leaf, one of a handful still hanging on, continues to twist in the wind as if seeking a reason to make the final long plunge to the ground.

The rains feed not only the land here: they feed my soul, so far away, giving the images and the strength to continue to live, to find my way back - back to this plot of earth, this geographical heart of mine.

Home.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bridging

I woke up this morning thinking about bridging studies - an odd thing, no doubt, to spend one's vacation dreaming on.

A bridging study, for those that don't know, is a study where one takes an old set of data and a new set of data and by performing a series of tests and data analysis, indicates that the new set of data - usually revolving around a new or changed product - is equivalent to the old set of data (product); therefore the new may be used in place of the old.

I'm beginning to realize that if I have any hope of moving my life forward to something different, I'm going to have to essentially do the same thing.

A bridging study is a bridge (hey look, I paid attention in class after all) between two points to get from A to B. I suddenly realized that this is exactly the problem that I find myself facing: where I am on one point, where I want to be on another point, with a pretty severe chasm in-between (I would be tempted to call this chasm reality but I'm not sure that's accurate; let's call it perceived reality).

But in order to build that bridge you need five things: 1) Where you are; 2) Where you want to be; 3) The distance between the two points; 4) A plan to build the bridge; and 5) Material to build the bridge.

So If I look at this list, where do I fit?

1) Where are you - O, pretty clear on that, thanks.
2) Where do you want to be - Much closer to having an idea about this than I used to be, be need clarity.
3) The distance between the two points: This is the most dificult to assess, partially because of point 2) above. Distance can be geographical, relational, financial, and personal.
4) A plan to build the bridge: This requires that you have an exact idea of what kind of bridge you need, how long it has to be, and how long it will take to build it.
5) Material to build the bridge: In theory, this is one of the least difficult steps at all - once you know how far and what the plan requires, you will know what you need to construct it. All (I say "all" as if it were terribly easy; it may not be) you must do is gather the materials.

But here's the great thing about bridge building as I've lined it out above: these are all steps under your own control.

I think one of the great obstacles to change (at least in my own life) is that I am constantly feeling I have little or no control over the process of change; things are too dependent on the outcomes and plans of others. The simplicity (I think) of what I've listed above is that in each case, I can control each step. I know points A and B, I can measure the distance, I can create the plan, I can gather materials. I need wait on no other before beginning.

Yes, there are factors we have no control over - but is is possible that we often cede more control based on perception that we are required to by circumstances?

If you'll pardon me, I have some schematics to go draw...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Cost of Opportunity

This period of time - the last week of the year between Christmas and New Year's - has become for me a time of reflection, a time to reconsider possibilities and plans for the coming year. It's made only more critical -and more poignant - by the fact that we only return to Old Home on a periodic basis now.

Looking through the prism of the preceding 11 months and indeed the preceding years, one begins to more completely and fully question the decisions that brought me here. Every decision presupposes that we didn't make another one; our whole lives become the compilation of the Roads We Did Travel instead of the Roads We Did Not.

It burdens me more this year, I suppose, as I return to Old Home and find others starting to do activities at The Ranch that I had always dreamed of: my father putting in a real garden; their horse renter running electric wire to raise a couple of steers; my father talking about trying to raise some geese this year. I, on the other hand, find myself farther and farther away from any of this, trying to content myself with a 8 ft. circular garden, immersed in the workings of an industry I don't really care for in a place far from Home.

It's then that one starts looking at the decisions that brought one here. There are plenty of them.

Should I have changed schools and majors when I did? Should I have gone to the other school I did? Should I have married my sweetheart? Should I have chosen the major I did, taken the career path I did, moved where I moved? Should I have played the harp more professionally, self-published the book I never did, gone to work for The Firm or have gone back to where I am now instead of sticking a little bit harder with The Firm?

Questions, always questions - "Riddles in the Dark" as Gollum would say.

But in a sense, to review these items is to miss the larger question: what is the goal to which you were heading? Not the goal that you self proclaimed or believed, but the real goal - your heart goal, the one that has subconsciously been driving your decisions.

I'm coming to believe that within each of us is this heart goal: this one thing that our heart is driving towards, consciously or unconsciously. To the extent that we drown it out with the goals that we think we want or that others choose for us, to this extent we will continue to wander, making a series of seemingly unconnected choices, tacking this way and then that against the winds of Life without ever making progress. To the extent that we identify this goal, that we discard all lesser goals, that we remain true to ourselves and not to what those around us tell us, to this extent the cost of opportunity becomes less to ourselves because we are working on those items of greater import not less.

So instead of asking the typical questions about the cost of opportunity in terms of this versus that, perhaps we need to take a deeper and more encompassing view: does this move me closer to my heart's desire, or farther away? Jobs and titles, perhaps even relationships and activities will fade in importance as we realize that at every turn, we failed to move towards the one great cry of our heart.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010

I'm stealing a moment of peace.

It's at Starbucks, of all places - I'm in need of Internet, and this is place I can get it.

At my in-laws house is a bustle of activity as Santa has already made his appearance. Nighean Gheal is patiently awaiting the appearance of her sisters from her aunt's, eyeing gifts hungrily and looking very dejected as no-one has heard from them yet.

So here I sit, Venti coffee in hand (wow, there's a splurge!), O Holy Night playing through the speakers, watching the pink and orange of an Old Home sunrise coming up.

It's a good moment of rest, of pause, before plunging into the next 48 hours of what undoubtedly be a genial, good natured chaotic experience to prepare myself - not only for the chaos, but a reminder of why we continue to celebrate this day 2000 years later.

Because it's not about presents, or trees, or food, or even the family I've not seen since July. It continues to be about the Gift, the Gift of God to a world that could not pay the price of it's own sin. It's about an undeniable, undeserved gift of Love - the Ultimate Gift, the Ultimate Love.

In the chaos of gifts and love, take a moment to remember the greatest Gift and greatest Love.

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Homeward Bound

And so today I'm homeward bound.

I have been looking forward to - indeed, anticipating this trip for some months. This will be the first return to Old Home since July of this year - almost 6 months. I'm eager to see family, see friends, see the Ranch.

It's odd having your geographical heart in two places at the same time. On the one hand, there is much to like about New Home. On the other hand, Old Home continues to call to me, virtually every day. In seasons one thinks "This is what Old Home looks like now"; in shopping "I wonder if X has that - they usually did"; in people "I miss Y; I wonder what they're doing now."

There are good reasons to be here in New Home now, not the least of which is that I have a job (never underestimate the power of a paycheck). At the same time, family and friends and the very land itself are not things that can (or should) be easily forgotten.

Will the two ever merge? Will New Home and Old Home simply become home? Unknown. Perhaps someday the home of my choosing and the home of my heart will become one. Until then I will dream, write, and travel to merge the two as much as is possible.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Truth

"Truth is a thing immortal and perpetual, and it gives us a beauty that fades not away in time." - Frederick the Great (1712 - 1786)

Why are we not more often people of the Truth?

Always mirey waters to delve in, of course. As Pilate asked of Christ, "What is truth?"

Fine. Let's agree that for (at least) this post we are not going to deal with the discussion of any Great Truths, but just the simple matter of truth - truth between people, truth between friends, truth even to ourselves.

Truth is the simplest yet the hardest thing to engage in. On the one hand, truth is remarkably simple - far simpler than falsehoods. I don't have to create an alternate reality of events, I don't have to remember what I've said to whom, I don't have to really even gild it. May I want to phrase it in such a way that it is understood and/or has the impact that I want? Certainly - we are never allowed to wield truth as flamethrower to the detriment of others, creating a burning apocalypse of relationships as we stand in the center shouting "Behold, I have spoken the truth!"

At the same time, it's the hardest thing. It can be hard for three reasons:

1) To tell the truth I may have to reveal something about myself; what's worse, I may have to reveal something damaging about myself. To tell someone of a truth in which you become vulnerable - either by action or by word - to misunderstanding, attack and ridicule is no easier than standing for the cut you know is coming.

2) To tell the truth I risk losing my relationship with another. While we are not given permission to wantonly destroy the lives of others with truth, nevertheless things happen. Misunderstandings occur. Patterns which we have created over time make it difficult to communicate as we like - which can lead to miscommunication. Sometimes keeping a truth from someone seems to be the only way to preserve the relationship.

3) To tell the truth is to be different. In an age of slick advertising campaigns, of mass marketing and soundbites, of 160 character Tweets and Facebook updates of 20 words, truth is often lost simply because it takes to long to write and requires individuals to ponder and think - not only to receive truth as it is being presented, but to tell it as well. I can easily create a glib answer to the question you're asking; to tell truth may mean I have to think, to ponder, to present it in a way you can hear - and all of this can take place in more than the words we seem to allocate to ourselves to communicate in.

The irony in all of this is we say we want the truth. We demand that our institutions, both governmental and commercial, be completely truthful - yet we seldom if ever apply the same standards to our own lives and behavior. It is too often easier to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude about how others engage in truth than how we fail in it.

The answer? It's a bit embarrassingly simple: start with yourself. Be a person of truth. As Ghandi said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world"; as Benjamin Franklin said, "What you seem to be, be really."

Practice truth. Practice telling the truth - not only with others, but with yourself (we are far less truthful with ourselves than we think!). Hold yourself to the higher standard, the standard of being a true person.

It will be hard. Although the truth can be simple, Ron Askenas has noted "Simple never means easy." Some will be offended. Some will think you're crazy. You'll think you're crazy.

Persevere. Be that truth that Frederick discusses above. I can assure, there is nothing more beautiful, more brilliant, than truth over time. Lies and obfuscations lose their luster, the reasons why we engaged in such behavior will fade over time and be forgotten, the reasons behind those lies will continue to rattle in their graves like the dead trying to rise. The truth will continue to shine like a beacon, lighting the path of not just yourself but of all those around you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wanting Love

We all want love. I am surprised sometimes at how powerful this urge can be. It's not specifically sex I am speaking of, although that may figure into it. We all want love, to be thought of as precious and valuable by someone - and to have that demonstrated to us in tangible ways, ways that say "I love you" to us that we can understand.

I was struck this morning as I made my normal rabbit rounds how even in that wanting of love, it can be desired - and expressed - different ways.

Bella, the rabbit we've had the longest, is very insistent. The last in line to be fed, she gnaws at the bars of her cage, occasionally running in little circles in eagerness. Once the cage is open, she immediately thrusts herself to the opening, demanding to be pet or attempting to dominate your arm, then kiss it, then be pet again. She will sit for short periods of time in my lap for petting, but always jumps back to her cage and turns about, ready to be pet one more time. She can be terribly insistent before finally being reminded that her treats are in the cage with her.

Midnight, the rescue rabbit, is much more distrustful. Only recently, after over a year, has she become willing to come to the door of the cage and suffer to be pet while she waits for food. She used to not come at all; now, she hops over to the edge, carefully watching as you place the food into her cage, allowing herself some strokes in the process - sometimes, seemingly embarassed by the attention, she seeks to clean her dewlap in front as if to say "I'm embarassed by this - let me clean myself up." But no matter how willing she is to be pet, she is also quite willing to make her unhappy rabbit noises to let you know when she is done.

Snowball, our most recent addition, just loves to be loved. Once out of his cage, he happily jumps into your lap and almost demands to be loved. Sometimes it involves long strokes of the back, sometimes rubbing just under the ears, sometimes rabbit kisses and soft strokes to the head. But he is always happy to have them, just as he is always sad to go back to the cage.

This morning when I got him out of cage he immediately settled in. I thought he would be hungry but no, he wanted love. So, supporting his upper paws and body under my right arm, I stroked the top of his head with my chin and his body with my left. The look on his face - his eyes closed, his breathing normal - left me with the urge to just call in sick and spend the morning with him instead.

The reality is that in this way, we all are no different than our rabbits. We all want love, although sometimes we want other than what we receive and react other than how others feel we should. Your interpretation of a loving act may to me mean nothing; my pouring out of my heart through my action may be interpreted as nothing more than a "nice gesture". True, parting of loving is learning how to receive love from others in the way that they mean it; at the same time, part of loving is learning how to express it in ways that other not only sees it but senses it and knows it for what it means.

There is nothing more grand than a loving act that is given and received in the spirit and intent of the giving, an act that clearly communicates "I love YOU". Likewise, there is nothing more desolate and unsatisfying on both ends than an act which is meant to say "I love YOU" but ends up saying "I love you" - that the act becomes more about how the giver interprets the recipient's need of love rather than understanding how they need the love communicated to them.

When you say "I love you", what does the recipient truly experience?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winters of our Discontent

There always come that moment in facing our dreams - new ones or old ones revived - where the elements of reality as we know it come rising up to fight us. The first blush of energy, of renewal, of beginning to bloom are cut down by the "sensibilities and realities" of our life, like the wind off Lake Michigan in October which cuts right through every layer of clothing and chills you to the bone.

This is the most dangerous and vulnerable time for our dreams. Herein lies the gates where so many dreams, having taken their first few steps, come to die.

I say dangerous and vulnerable because these new or revived dreams do not fit the current matrix of our lives. Dreams, goals and objectives are often matrix disrupters; by the very fact that they are not in our current plan, they create disruptions in our thinking and our lives.

And our lives do not like disruption. More often than not, we are creatures of habit: we have routines, we have what we have eventually settled for - and disruptions of our lives are difficult to countenance. So helpfully, our lives attempted to tamp them town, reacting like white blood cells to an infection: surround, attack, destroy.

It takes time to build the internal structures to manage a new dream or goal, to set in motion physically, intellectually and spiritually the undergirdings to make such a thing possible. It is this space that probably kills more dreams and goals than all other times of trial together. It is not that others will destroy them; we will happily destroy them ourselves.

And so this becomes the first goal of any dream, the first act in the winter of our discontent, that place where we find that we are not living where we should be yet have not reached out in the next direction: to defend these nascent dreams from the chill winds of ourselves as diligently as we defend them from the negative feedback, scorn and indifference of others.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Interdependence and Action

Sometimes there are days where you have just had it - where you get to your place of business or your place of home, look at the chaos and piles and say "That's enough!" You roll up your sleeves and start actively working - following up on items, sending e-mails, holding others accountable, putting things away instead of having them pile up.

And then you are suddenly overwhelmed - for all the thing you got done, there are another 10 that did not get done. Many of the things you could get done are now held up on the desks of others, who have their own set of priorities (and you are not on them). The piles themselves have apparently reproduced into new piles of other things, some of which you can deal with but much which you cannot.

Suddenly, you realize, it seems you've not made any progress on anything.

This is one of the failures of the interdependence ethic which is so prevalent throughout our society (at least). It relies on everybody having the same level of commitment and putting in the same level of effort. And often it's dependent on power: "our" goals as a team or group are most often those of the highest level of authority on that team. So often our "interdependent" efforts are largely made up of independent people trying meet their own goals, objectives and lives.

There is, however, at least area where this is not true: working on your own initiatives.

Your goals, your dreams, your aspirations may require the input of others but they are not dependent on them (if they are, you'd better rethink them). For these things that are important to you, you have the power to move them forward. You know what needs to be done - and if you can't work on item one, you will know items two through four which can be worked on. The speed at which advance on these is dependent on the effort that you put into it, not held up waiting for the comments or reviews or actions of others.

In Iaido, we may all learn the same waza; however my skill in that waza directly reflects the effort I put in, not what others put in. Simply put, the effort will indicate and equal the output - and there is always one more waza to do, one more cut to make. The question is: How quickly do I desire to get better?

Frustrated? Feeling impotent about your life? Find the things that are important to you, that motivate you, that thrill your soul. Take action on those. If you continue to make progress in these, perhaps you will find that in the end you will become less dependent those things which require the actions of others to make progress.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Writing

" And what, do you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.
So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.
Second, writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that.
Not to write, for many of us, is to die...But what would happen is that the world would catch up with you and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." - Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius within You

Writing has become an addiction for me. No, cancel that - not an addiction: a mechanism of survival much like eating or breathing. It has become that thing that I do in the morning - like breakfast, if I miss it my day is just not the same.

One of the interesting things that has come about as from writing here for six years (and seriously for three) is how this has changed me. Originally this was an experiment in writing that was going to drive me to authorship and fame; instead, what I have found is that it has become a journey to drive me to more deeply know myself.

I can't tell you if this writing has impacted me for the better at all - I've almost zero ability at self awareness and I'll leave that for wiser heads than I. What I can tell you is that the way I feel from performing this exercise is nothing but good. Seldom if ever have I walked away from an entry feeling that I have failed in writing at all, or that somehow my best effort was not given in that post.

To the point that when I am in a place that I cannot write, I start looking for ways to make it happen ("I'm going to Old Home; maybe I can type up on the computer and post at Starbucks. Maybe I can find a carrier pigeon to Otis and he can post it for me"). My day is no longer right if I do not write (Look - clever play on words!).

It's also been useful in the sense that it has divorced me from an incessant craving to be noticed. Originally perhaps, I was writing for someone else - that someone else who would see and be profoundly changed and notice me - and then, of course, get me a fabulous book contract. Game, set, match.

Of course I still write with an audience in mind - whom, I'm never sure. Some I know - some you've met if you've been around here long enough. Others I probably do not know and never will, this side of Heaven. Once in a while I find out an impact that I've had but mostly not - which again, is just like life: we seldom know the full impact that our actions have on the lives of others. But an author must have someone to write to; otherwise his writings simply become an incessant internal monologue.

So in the end, I find myself practically in agreement with Bradbury: I am drunk on writing. Is it to prevent reality from destroying me? Perhaps, in the sense that without writing I might truly lack any sense that I am able to do one activity which is fully myself and not related to any sort of dreaded "job-related skill". Perhaps also in the sense that as I am writing and pouring out my thoughts on digital paper, I find myself dealing (terribly indirectly at times) with those issues that "reality" would use to destroy me.

Originally I wrote because I wanted to be something: an author, a writer, someone who definitively changes lives. Now I write because I am something: author, a writer, perhaps someones who occasionally makes a difference in a life.

From my deepest heart, thank you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Traction

There are moments in life when feel like you're gaining traction.

It's odd, because they don't always come in the places and at the times that you think that they would. Sometimes we can spend great amounts of time and effort laboring to improve in one or more areas - only to discover that some other area is suddenly taking action. Perhaps this means that in working on the other things, we were working on the things that were really important.

Another odd thing is that when you do start to get traction in something, you are surprised half to death. You get used to the slow death, the Doldrums of life, doing a low-gear grind making little ground - and suddenly the sun rises, the winds blow, the tires hit a solid patch of ground and before you know it your much farther than you expected - or maybe intended.


Interestingly enough, in my case this is usually followed by shock. I have become so used to not making progress that actual progress is something of a surprise for me. True to form, I'm never really ready for the next step, having to scramble to suddenly get the next piece of information, the next step, directions to the next leg of the journey.

And in this perhaps lies the difference between those that accomplish and those that don't: those that accomplish expect the traction to be gained and so are ready with the next move, while those that don't accomplish much have become so used to not accomplishing that there is a sense that there is no need to make a new step in the plan, because it is never happening.

So perhaps in this is the challenge of planning goals and objectives and life courses: not only to have the plan, but to be prepared when things actually go correctly.

Because out of the mud and in high gear, it's amazing how much progress you can make in a short time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moment of the Artist

I had a moment of the artist last night.

My current life has so little to do with art on a daily basis that to describe to someone that 15-20 years ago that music, that drama, that imagination itself was such an integral part of my life would be to have them look at me and think I was crazy, or perhaps confused, or possibly even an alien replacement for the real Toirdhealbheach Beucail.

How did this happen? Like everything, slowly of course. One begins to choose one's life based on sensibilities and common sense - before you know it, music and drama and writing and imagination are getting forced out not so much by the job itself but by the career around it: the commute, the travel, the thoughts from work that dominate one's mind ("Can I validate that process? Should I do so?").

We also allow circumstances to dictate how and when we use our talents - if it's a gift or skill, others will put it into slot A based on their perceived needs: " That's where it goes. We really don't use your talents in any of other slots. Trust me - it's really for the best of everyone."

We also allow ourselves to kill our own art. We see those make their living as artists or musicians, we see those coming behind us who are far more skilled than we could ever hope to be - and suddenly we feel those gifts and talents are no longer as useful ("After all, X is really quite the better musician than I"). We forget that the root word of amateur is the Latin word amator, literally a lover. We would never hurt or injure those we love because they are less than excellent or skilled or perfect - yet we happily lay waste to our own talents and skills for the very same reason, forgetting that sometimes to love a thing is enough of a reason to do it.

And so, slowly, week by week and year by year, we stop to do those things we did purely for the pleasure of doing them because they do not relate to our "CAREER" (in big, very important letters), do not reach the level of expertise that would win the adulation of others, or simply are seen as "selfish" (because in the end, art in any form is about mastery of a form or even self, and is very much an individual pursuit, although it may be conducted in a group) because they take time away from other things or people.

But there come those moments - at the first notes of a song, the pluck of a string, the roar of an audience - when you remember: you remember the joy of doing, of performing or creating, of how doing these things made you more not less, of how other things were perhaps not as good but you were happy because of what you did and how it integrated into your life.

You remember what you were capable of and how being an artist made you more alive.

A very wise man once said that so long as we keeping trying, we have never really ceased the activity or failed in it. It is only when we stop trying that we die - as people, or as artists.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chambers

We all have places within our lives - chambers, if you will, which we alone know what is in them fully. Others may know part of what lies within, but have either forgotten or have long since moved on. Sometimes these are things which only we ourselves know. In some cases these simply become wedged shut with disuse, in other cases they become locked either by ourselves or others. Yet those chambers exist there, parts of our lives which never really go away.

We know about some of them. Some we consciously steer ourselves and others away from, whether from an active knowledge of what lies within or a vague sense of dread that occurs each time we approach the door. If one is not careful, one's life can become a series of dim hallways with rows of doors that are never to be opened again, a rut of gloom leading into the night.

And then one day, whether we will it or not, the doors begin to spring open.

It can be a heady experience. In some cases dreams long gone spring to our minds, songs that we had thought we had forgotten long pour from our lips, emotions that had only been subsisting suddenly take on a life of their own.

But a heady experience is not always a good one. In some cases these things are less exciting, less noble: old injuries long forgotten, emotional wounds that never really healed, in some cases things that were put in chambers because they truly never should have seen the light of day.

They pour out like a roaring torrent, seeking to overwhelm one's self in their rush to see the daylight they have not seen in years, to hear the sounds of human voices, to feel the air of life, the air of possibilities on their skin. They push and shove, they clamor for attention, they turn one's life upside down as each one fights for their moment in the sun, at a minimum to be recognized, at a maximum to be re-engaged.

I wonder if this is why so many people, at some point in their lives, simply stop trying to access their inner lives. To let out that which is within is a frightening process: like a torrent released, once released one cannot really guide it as to where to go. It may go into the stream bed; it may rush over the stream bed and lay waste to everything around it.

But not to do something simply because we cannot predict the outcome is no reason not to do it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fantasies and Dreams

"“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” - T.E. Lawrence

For years I believe I was a dreamer. I'd have ideas (Oh I had ideas), I had plans, I had things that I thought would be cool to do. I had things that were not real but could be real, if only I bring them to pass.

But over time, dreams became fantasies. They're real not the same: dreams are something which can come to pass (albeit with work and hard effort), while fantasies are simply flights of fancy that can never come true. And they're not just the purely sexual kind that our culture so often defines them as: I am as likely to be a starship captain as am I to date a top tier model.

How did I get here? Dreams turn into fantasies when there is no longer any chance for dreams to come true. Whether by circumstance, whether by purpose, whether by the actions of others, too often we simply give up on them as being achievable. And so we turn to fantasies: they're not ever achievable, but at least that means that they have no chance of being mocked or never coming true or being crushed by others.

But fantasies cannot sustain a person. Sure, they're exciting and give one a place to stuff the frustrations of our day to day existence; however, at some point we discover that they are limited in scope. They simply turn into movies in our mind, playing over and over again as time passes us by.

To discover a dream after years of fantasy is hard; to actually acknowledge that it is something that is still capable of being accomplished after years is more difficult still. And the supreme step, to put it before another at the risk of having it mocked and be labeled "unachievable" the second time around, too often feels like watching the dream die all over again.

But in the end there is no choice. We are only ever given the choice of going forward or going back, never remaining in stasis. And at the end of our lives (and who knows when that will truly be) our family and friends will be enriched in remembering us as someone with dreams even if we failed at them instead of someone with fantasies that never did anything but live in our own self-defined internal realms.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blocks

Where do our interactive relational blocks come from?

In relationships, there is a continuum of openness, from the initial introduction levels ("Hi, I'm Toirdhealbheach Beucail and I'm not from around here") to the friendship levels ("How are you doing?") to the deeper friendship levels ("No, I'm serious - How are you doing") to the deepest, most intimate levels at all ("Let me tell you something I've told no-one else"). Perhaps this is a conscious progression - but more often than not it is a subconscious thing, a subtle dance worthy of the cosmic dance of the planets, a delicate constant give and take in our minds about the nature of relationship and what level of sharing we have in each one.

In Iaido, we practice a variety of blocks. The most common is called a nigashi (pronounced "nigash"). This is a high block can be used to protect the head, the arm the side. You would, of course, use a block under two circumstances: you are being attacked or following an attack to prevent the last dying cut (Samurai were always trained no matter what to deliver one last cut).

Note that this assumes that the cut is coming.

I don't wonder that this is same in relationships. True, in all relationships there are times that we can get emotional or spiritually injured. This is just the outcome of us being human and imperfect, that even our best attempts at interactions fall woefully short - we are both attackers and victims.

At the same time, if we are constantly exposed to pain in one or more areas from our coworkers, our boss, our friends or our family, more often than not we begin to develop that block, that barrier against the cut we know is coming.

This, perhaps, explains why in some cases things are not as close as they used to be with some even though nothing outwardly has changed. These barriers come to built perhaps consciously, but just as much unconsciously as our spirit and mind learns to get the sword over our head against the cut we know is coming. Soon, there is no need for the subtle indications such a cut is coming - in certain situations, up comes the nigashi without thinking, a form of mental muscle memory.

It takes the supreme act of will - in Iaido and in life - to stand for the cut you know is coming. In Iaido, there is always trust involved when stand for an exercise by a fellow student or your sensei that the practice cut (using bokudo or wooden swords, of course!) will not land on you. Likewise, it takes a supreme act of will to stand and accept that which you know will bring pain without throwing up the block to protect yourself.

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Home Winter Dawn

As I cross the Lake
Steaming water becomes the
pink curtain of dawn.

Skyscrapers tower
over the earthbound live oaks
as night runs its course.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Emotional Surfing

It is amazing (no, it really is amazing) sometimes how the rawness of my emotions comes surging to the top.

I often tend to live at the edge of emotions - ask anyone who has spent a long time with me. Over the course of a day I can sway from happy to silly to angry to depressed - in a very real sense, sort of an emotional surfer on the waves of emotion, always looking for that one perfect wave.

Can I act like a thermostat instead of a thermometer? Can I regulate the environment around me? Sure. I almost never am so submerged in my own emotion that I cannot sense the situation around me and act as needed to either lighten things up or tone them down.

But the counterpoint of emotion surfing is much like real surfing: it only really works if you are on the edge of the wave. To go into or under the wave is to lose your board - the proverbial "Wipe Out". And so most of my day to emotions are simply that: surface level, first pass reactions.

The risk of any sort of thought or writing or interaction with certain individuals who make us think is that these can cause me to go beyond the surface level of my emotions, down into the parts that don't always make it to the surface - or haven't for years.

It's surprising to me what I am finding. Things I thought were dead and gone years ago come surging to the fore with as much emotional power and pain as they ever have. The roots of theme (The ever popular "Root Cause Analysis") apparently went much deeper than I had anticipated.

In a word, more often than not it's painful. It's not surfing; it's the long swim.

But the sun is up, the water is warm, the sand is white and sparkling, and the sky is that cerulean blue it only actually gets in pictures. So you get your board, turn around, and head back into the ocean where the waves begin.

Just because the waves are big doesn't mean you shouldn't surf them.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Next Steps

Sometimes it is very hard to see the next step.

I like strategy. Every morning I read a chapter of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Every evening I read a portion of Miyamoto Musashi's A Book of Five Rings. What I like about strategy is the concept and ability to plan ahead, to know what the next step is, to execute something and see it completed - or as Dr. Stephen Covey would say, "Begin with the end in mind."

Life, however, so often seems very distant from any sense of strategy.

On the one hand where I am now is probably the output of more not knowing the next step than I care to admit. It's not been all bad, mind you - it's just a fact of life. There are moments where you simply come up for air and say "Hey, how did I get here? Oh yes, I did this and that and this" and move on.

On the other hand, the use of adversity and bad decisions is that (in theory) it teaches us to make better decisions. Better decisions should, in theory, result in a better results. But to make better decisions, you (probably) don't only need bad decisions: you also need the place to which you are trying to get, the next step.

And there, things seem to collapse.

They collapse on two fronts: on the first, because there is a real sense that there is no next step, or at least one that I have any idea of. Every time I look out, I see a series of gray mountains and gray walls, neither reflecting the sun nor giving me an indication of the path out.

On the other hand, they seem to collapse because there are so many potential next steps that could be taken, but each has ramifications of its own. If I do A, then B is not done or D suddenly springs up. And if I set those next steps on what I think the end is, what happens when I find the step by step has led me from that path?

It occurs to me that within each of us, buried somewhere, there is a secret vision of what we would like our lives to really be, that final "end" of which Covey speaks. Sometimes it is so silly, sometimes it is so out there, sometimes it is so personal that we hardly ever seek it out for fear that it is too unreasonable, too silly, or too painful to show. We come to settle for lesser things because lesser things pain us less and thought of failing that vision is simply too devastating for most to bear.

But (and this is conceptual only) what if we, for one day, lived our life based on that inner vision instead of the vision we settle for? My suspicion (and it is only a suspicion) is that the next steps would become clearer - perhaps not the next steps that immediately make our life better, but the next steps that make for longer range satisfaction - because we are suddenly acting from our passion rather than our acceptance.

So perhaps my failure to see the next steps is not a failure of planning or strategy at all. Perhaps it is the deeper issue of looking to see where that secret vision lies and starting there.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Living Just Under My Skin

I am having the odd sensation of living just under my skin.

Living under your skin, you may ask. A self-evident truth. We all have skin. We all live under it, mostly because keeps our internal organs inside and we would look disgusting if we did not.

But that, of course, is not really what I am speaking of.

There are days, weeks, even months where I live in a small core of myself, hidden away, and there is a space, a detachment, between myself and the outside world. I'm not truly sure what purpose the space supports: my best case scenario would say that it is a needed buffer from reality, my worst case would say that it is a defense against reality. Perhaps they're really the same. All I can say is that most of the time, I am buried somewhere beneath the joviality and song and silence.

But there have been times - like now - where that space, for whatever reason, is removed.

It's almost painful, like having your skin exposed to the biting wind that comes off of Lake Michigan and pierces straight through your clothes. It brings one into the jarring harshness of the real world. The pains and joys I hide within myself suddenly become open and easily exposed - "Wearing my heart upon my sleeve for the jackdaws to peck at", as Iago would say.
Raw emotions are no longer buried and safely controlled; they race through my system like the Highland Charge, a horde of howling warriors charging hither and yon with the intent to take all or die.

To most this may sound inane - "This is the way I always live" is often the common theme when I try to describe this - and to attempt to express the level of discomfort this sometimes involves usually makes my words fail.

But is it a bad thing?

To live just inside your skin is to allow the possibility to grow and change, the difference between having endoskeleton and being able to grow and an exoskeleton, being able to only grow by shedding the whole thing and only ever reaching a particular size. It also makes you more sensitive - sometimes painfully so - of the world and emotions around you. There is no more buffer between you and others; there is only you and them.

But perhaps the most unanticipated thing (at least for me) is the amount of dreams and longings that come screeching the surface, as if the Charge of the Highland Emotions has stirred them all as well and has dragged them along. Those dreams and longings never really went away; they just embedded themselves deep within because apparently that buffer is there to protect them as well.

There's a risk of living just under your skin, of course: the skin is a fragile mechanism, easily torn and bruised, and bears the scars of the wounds we carry (literal and figurative) in life. It is hardly the emotional protective that an inner space is. If I am emotionally cut living within a buffer, there is little damage. If I am cut living just under my skin, I bleed.

So in the end which is worse: to dwell in the safety of a silent buffer or to dwell within the easy reach of life - and the pain and possibilities that lie therein?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Confused

I woke up this morning and Confusion was waiting for me at the coffee maker.

"Good morning" he cheerfully greeted me as I stumbled up from doing my sit-ups.

"Unnh" was my pre-morning response as I carefully moved him to one side to get the morning coffee started.

He patiently waited for me as I got the coffee going, got my breakfast out, and then slumped back onto the couch for my Monday morning reading. Apparently, he wasn't going away.

I tried to read for a couple of minutes but his insane smile (and the fact he insisted on reading over my shoulder) finally drove to drop what I was doing.

"Fine" I said. "What is it?"

"Oh nothing, nothing" he responded, smiling all the while. "I just realized after the week you had and the week you're going to have, it was probably time for me to drop by.

I took a sip of the hot coffee in the cold and just looked at him sitting there, smiling. "You've been eavesdropping again."

"I? Eavesdropping?" he said in mock exaggeration, hands placed upon chest. "I just listen. We all do. It's not like we don't share the same mind, you know."

I sighed again. My coffee was less warm. "Alright, fine. I'm confused. I don't know what to do. Every time I look at my goals or objectives or even my wishes, all I find is nothing and ash. Every time I try to plan it gets turned on it's head. Every thing I think I want to do gets questioned. Time is passing but I'm being pulled along by the flood instead of riding it. Happy?" I ended with a "harumph" and got another sip of coffee. Great, it was getting colder as well.

The grin disappeared off Confusion's face as if my words had the power to wipe it off. He just sat there looking at me for a minute or so, the two of us staring at each other in the cold, dark house with the dwindling warmth of the coffee in my hands.

"What do you want?" he finally asked.

I looked at him in disbelief. "What do I want?" I said in the low frustrated voice of a man trying not to wake anyone else up in the morning. "What do I want? That's the problem - I don't know what I want. I want everything. I want things I can get to. I want things that I have no idea how I can get to them - only that I want them. I want to go here, I want to go there - but if I go there, does it get me where I want?"

I stared into my coffee cup for what seemed like longer than the few seconds that it was. "I want someone to tell me what I want, because I really have no idea. Every time I make a choice, it seems wrong. Every time I choose a goal, it seems unachievable. Every time I try to choose what I think will make me happy it never does. I feel mired in my own inability and failures." I continued to stare at the coffee cup, which only had residual warmth at this point.

Confusion gave a long sigh. He waited until my eyes met his. He smiled that understanding smile he occasionally seems capable of, then carefully took the cup out of my hands. He walked over to the coffee machine, which I could just see at the edge of the darkened kitchen. I heard the sounds of glass clicking and liquid pouring. He came back over with steam rolling over the edge of the now-filled cup and held it out to me. I grabbed the heavy, steaming mug and looked back at him.

He didn't sit down this time, just stood there smiling at me. "Sometimes if our cups are empty, it's okay to ask others to help us fill them. In the end, you make the choices you live with, but there is no reason you have to make them on your own. Ask yourself this: If, in the absence of any physical reality or reasons something could be done, you wanted something, what would it be? Figure that out, and your path will become clear. Not easy, but clear."

And with that he faded back into the pre-morning hum of the kitchen darkness, leaving me alone with a coffee mug full of ponderings.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Being Known

Being known - being totally known - is as hypnotic a drug as any that exists. It pushes us on beyond fear, beyond tired, beyond our circumstances, beyond ourselves.

Once our defenses are down, once we are convinced that someone is not just trying to get something out of us or wants us to feel known for their own benefit, it's as if a ripple of flame suddenly rips up a river of gasoline with a sheet of fire. When we find those people to whom we can truly open our hearts (and in the journey of life, it turns out there are very few of those) there comes a moment when we can hardly contain our desire to be found out, to be completely understood.

If I think about it, God is no different. He often says in the Bible that He wants us to know Him - at least, as much as we can apprehend of Him. I wonder if it is not only His desire to share Himself with us (and how frustrating it must be to Him when we show such little interest in Him) but the fact that He knows how wonderful it is to be known. He knows me - do I revel in that, or has it merely become another fact I file away?

In a subthought, I wonder if that is where love goes to die? When suddenly there is no interest, there is only interactions that are business exchanges of the mind without the deeper exchanges of the heart. We pay in the coin of efficiency and quid pro quo and leave the meaningful deposits in the vaults of our core to slowly gather dust, never to be redeemed.

Honesty

We live in a society that does not value honesty.

We say do. We have phrases like "speaking truth to power" and that any individual has the right to present whatever they will. Perhaps they are being honest, but this is not honesty.

Why? Because to be truly honest (and I wonder if we can only ever be honest on a one-to-one basis, one person at a time) means not only to be able to give truth, but to accept it as well.

Truth is freeing - not in the self validating "it's off my chest" way but in the clarity in brings to self and to relationships. If I can be honest - totally honest - and feel that my honesty does not immediately engender rejection or laughter, if I can be heard in the way that I meant to be heard (even if it takes me 20 minutes to say it)- if I can do all that and you will do the same to me, everything changes. I have nothing, nothing to hide from you - not because we agree on everything, but because I can be my unadulterated self.

It builds a different kind of relationship - not one based on perceptions or manipulations or my trying to make you see my point of view or wondering what you think, but rather based individuals truly being who they are and relating that way.

Honesty, when done in this way, maybe no less painful or hard - but the clarity and relief it brings are beyond compare.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Patterns

How much of the conflict within and without ourselves is caused by patterns which we create?

Especially in our relationships, how much of our day to day interaction becomes a product of patterns of interaction that we have set in place, to the point that changing the patterns seems impossible?

In meeting people, especially new friends, double especially those who we want or value, we often seem to do anything we can to establish a connection. Like a Texas Thunderstorm, we keep striking with lightning, trying to find the one hit that will spark that connection that will light up the relationship.

But trying to do these lightning strikes, I think we miss the critical point of being who we are. We are so desirous of making the connection that we tend to not be ourselves - then, when later we are hit by the realities of life and that role no longer fits (because it was not ever really us), the patterns that were put into place by us seem to prevent us from breaking out into a new paradigm of interaction. All of the history, all of the failures to keep the pattern get brought to mind every time something out of the ordinary happens - suddenly it is no longer trying something new but rather creating issues which disrupt life to the point of unworkability.

This is probably where a core comes into place. If we live from our core, if we live who we are rather than trying to make connections based on something we are not, we will (inevitably, it seems) come to the place where who we presented ourselves to be and who we actually are exist as two entirely different people. But if we approach people from the position of "This is who I am" and let those patterns develop from there, life changes. The patterns established become those of our nature - the sort of natural flow of events and actions, like performing sword waza slowly: no action forced, each motion smoothly flowing into the next one. In a word, elegance.

There is a point at which this could go on and on - there are applications here in job interviews, in relationships, in marriages, in friendships, in every interaction with individuals that we have. In every relationship, what are we trying to do? What patterns are we setting at the start?

But for myself I am left with a burning question: if my patterns are not based on my core but on creating relationships, can patterns be realistically changed? Can you change the past to live from your core?

If so, how?

If not, what then?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Will and Change

"If one will do a thing, it can be done." - Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure

Been thinking a great deal about will and accomplishing things late, especially in light of Silverline's imminent departure and the typical "end of the year" review.

I had an epiphany yesterday around next year as it stands as I was talking to Fear Beag and Fear Mor about opportunities. What I blurted out was "Be clear in your thoughts: next year is not going to be significantly different from this year in terms of resourcing or money. Even if we were to achieve phenomenal results, there would be no immediate impact on our lives. What you see is what you get."

As I dwelt on the thought for the rest of the day, what I realized I was really saying is "Next year will be the same as this year."

And all anticipation died.

This is a hard thing, that end of one year one realizes that barring anything else this time next year will be the same experienced, doing the same things, facing the same issues.

And this is where goals seem to become so critical. It is only with goals that we have something to look forward to, a direction to forge ahead on. Without goals - without plans - we begin to spend the end of every year in the horrible realization that circumstances in and of themselves will not change - unless we change.

Therein lies will - the will to change, the will to move forward, the will to become something better or greater than we are now. Circumstances can lead us to this, but they can surely not force us to change. In the end only we can choose to do that.

We can continue to be crushed and hemmed in by our circumstances and choices, slowly collapsing the perimeter of our lives while maintaining that nothing is wrong and there is no need to change, like the the ancient Ephesians slowly watching their harbor fill in - or we can embrace the fact that change can and must happen, but that we must choose to make it happen, that we have selected goals and objectives that are worthy of our efforts, that stretch us beyond "same time next year" to achieve something more that what we currently think we are capable of.

God has given me talents. The question is, am I willing to change to use them? Will the pain of changing override the pain of realizing that without change, next year will be no different?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Reinvention

There is an attraction about reinventing one's life.

I've only known one or two people that have actually done it (or maybe done it successfully. Perhaps I don't know about the others that tried?). It's a magical process of watching someone go from what they were to what they have become in a way that is magnificently reminiscent of watching a tree blossoming or a flower bloom, that sense of knowing seeing the end product which looks nothing like the beginning product.

It is especially hypnotic in the context of where I mostly seem to live, which so often seems to be the cul de sac of poor choices and inadvertent decisions. It's a location that maybe more of us get to than we intend: we take our eyes of our lives for a little while and start doing what seems easy or pleasing instead of what's necessary and suddenly we find ourselves in a place we never intended.

But when we are around someone who is in the process of remaking their life it is similar to being out on a Spring day: the very atmosphere of the season helps to lift our own moods, to draw us out into the possibilities and potentialities instead of remaining mired in the Winter of our lives. It drives our mind to concepts and thoughts - some good, some maybe not so good - but all of which at least seem to give us a new lease on our existence, perhaps the strength to go a little further.

And to dream - to wonder what a little reinvention in our own lives would look like.