December 30, 2020


Grotto Falls 04/13/2004 Oil Pant Rendering — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The Tao te Ching observes,

Water doesn't force its way,
water finds its way.

The same source favors
having no agenda beyond
knowing what is called for
and doing it the way it needs to be done,
at the time it needs to be done,
and then, 
letting nature take its course
into the next moment,
when we do the same thing,
our entire life long.

Ambition and personal advancement,
are to be dismissed 
in favor of responding
sincerely and spontaneously
to the need of the moment at hand.

Do your work
and step back,
without manipulating the results,
exploiting your opportunities
or pulling strings to arrange an outcome
you find to be pleasing.

Be a breath of fresh air 
straight from heaven,
like dew on the grass,
refreshing all who pass by,
a gift of grace
unexpected and uplifting!
Without cost or obligation--
pure joy with nothing due.



Dugger’s Creek Falls 07/06/2014 Oil Paint Rendering — Blue Ridge Parkway at Linville Falls, North Carolina
Every living thing is for something
and against something else.

"For" implies "against,"
just like "yes" implies "no,"
and vice-versa.

It is important/essential
that we know what we are for
and what we are against.

Where does "for" and "against"
come from?

Trace it back to its source!
Note what comes up all along the way.
"Why am I for what I'm for
and against what I'm against?"
"What do I know 
that I don't know I know?"
"What is the source of my motivation?"
"What is the origin of my action?"
"What guides my boat
on its path through the sea?"
"What guides my steps
on their path through life?"
"Why do I do what it do,
and not do what I don't do?"
"What is directing me
along the way?"

These are essential questions
that we all need to explore
in a regular, recurring, way.

Our for and against are central
to who we are and what we are about.
They form the crux of our identity.
They are who we are.
We cannot make our way through the world
without knowing what we are for
and what we are against.



Big Creek 04/15/2006 Oil Paint Rendering — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Big Creek District, Waterville, North Carolina
We are surrounded by,
and awash in,
What keeps us going?

We have to remember--
and be reminded of--
what keeps us going,
because living will take the life
right out of us.
And we have to have a life-line
with that "well-spring of living water,"
or it's the desert
and the wasteland forever.

What is your well-spring of living water?
What is your source of life,
and light,
and peace?

Where do you go to restore your soul?
To regain your balance?
To renew your harmony?
To find what you need to face
what faces you,

We have to find our own solace,
and without that,
we have no chance in this world,
with its clashing rocks
and its heaving waves,
and its wine-dark seas.

What is your source of solace?
Do not tell me "Vodka and weed"!
Or "Money and sex"!
Or "Any form of escape, diversion,
distraction, denial"!

I'm talking about your Ground and Foundation here!
Your Core and your Center!
Your Source of Confidence and Power!


What keeps me going are regular,
and I mean daily,
retreats into silence and solitude
where I "return to the Source,"
and "remember to seek out
my Original Nature,"
and re-establish my connection
with "who I am and what I am about,"
and breathe deeply the AUM
flowing through life and being,
and live from there
in re-engaging my life-in-the-world
until my next retreat
into silence and solitude--
which cannot come too soon!

I live within the rhythm created by
silence and solitude
and "the truth of how things are,"
and the reality of where I live
and "the truth of how things also are."

This is the Yin/Yang
of my personal experience and existence.

And I consciously, mindfully,
embrace that foundational truth,
and take up my work with the Sisyphean Task
of doing what is mine to do
the way only I can do it,
where I am, here and now,
anyway, nevertheless, even so--
for no reason other than here I am
and this is what is mine to do.

"What I do is me,
for that I came"
(Gerard Manley Hopkins).

And I do it
because it is who I am
and what I do--
"Without hope,
without witness,
without reward"
(Steven Moffat/Dr. Who).



Scott Creek Panorama 01/29/2015 — Edisto Island, South Carolina
It is said that the Buddha
died from eating improperly cooked pork.

How enlightened was that?

And, it is said that Lao-tse/tzu,
the Old Boy himself,
said, "To hell with it!"
and, demoralized and disgusted
with the moral and political state of things,
went off "to the west" to sulk and die--
after writing in the Tao te Ching
about the importance 
of having no ambition,
and "doing your work and stepping aside,"
and being like water,
not forcing your way but finding it...

And it is said that Jesus said
"Love your enemies,"
and then enraged his enemies so much
they killed him...

And the Dali Lama talks, talks, talks
about compassion,
and his bodyguards carry automatic weapons...

All of which is to say,
gurus aren't what they
are purported to be.

Take all of your gurus "with a grain of salt,"
and put more importance
on what they do
than on what they say--
and ask them what their contradictions are,
and how they square themselves with them.

I've never met a guru worth talking to.
They are always asking, "What question do you have?"
without ever telling you what question they have,
beyond what question you have.

People without questions are not worth your time.

If you don't have more questions than answers,
you are much too comfortable
and at ease
to be of any help to yourself
or to anyone else,
and should spend more time
seeing what you look at
and less time talking about 
what you have seen.

Ask everyone you meet 
what their questions are.
Let that be your guide
as to where you go from there.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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