February 16, 2021


Along Roaring Fork Creek Oil Paint Rendered — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Roaring Fork Auto Tour, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
For me, the pathos of "the human condition"
comes down to the choices we have.

Doing the best that can be done with them
still leaves us bound by them
limited to them,
and to the choices made by those
whose choosing impacted us and our choices.

We all could have done better--
could still do better--
with better choices.
The choices we have 
are the only choices we have.

Choosing to do the best we can
with the choices we have to work with
is the best choice we can make
under the circumstances.


Sit quietly. 
Breathe slowly and deeply.
For what arises within.

This is called taking stock,
seeking the center,
and waiting for the mud to settle
and the water to clear.

This is the second-best choice we can make
under the circumstances.

It is the choice for mindful awareness
and self-transparency.

We can enhance this choice
by watching all of the Jon Kabat-Zinn
YouTube videos
on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
(The shortest ones first).

These videos will help us become
a student of the here and now.
There is much to learn 
by learning to be present
with what is present with us.

Being present in the present
is the way of learning to see the present,
to be aware of it,
to know what is happening,
to sense what needs to happen in response,
and to "get out of the way"
in allowing the impulse of our nature
to lead the way in responding
to what is being called for in the moment
with what we have to offer to the moment--
and that is the gate to the next moment,
where being present with that present
will lead to the next moment,
and so on
to all that will flow from
this present moment, 
right here,
right now,
one choice at a time.



Water Rock Knob Sunset Oil Paint Rendered — Blue Ridge Parkway, Maggie Valley, North Carolina
Good and evil are not absolutes.
They are relative,
and change with the shift 
in perspective which depends upon
what side we are on.

Which depends upon the stake we have
in the outcome.
Any outcome.

Which depends upon how we feel
about the outcome.
Any outcome.

Which depends on what we like
and don't like.

I can be either the angel of the lord,
or the embodiment of Satin himself,
according to how you think about
what I do.

We can transform the way we relate
to the world
by modifying the views
and opinions
we have regarding 
what happens in the world.

Joseph Campbell said,
"The formula for the attainment of peace
is to act as one must,
but without attachment--
to abandon absolutely all concern
for the fruits of action,
whether in this world or the next,
but to enter fully into the action required
as action for its own sake,
without thought of gain or loss,
praise or blame."

Campbell fully comprehended
how difficult it is to participate fully
in life without being invested in the outcome.
He was a world-class distance runner 
in college,
and could not attend athletic events
later in life
because, as he said, 
"It aroused in me more emotion
than I wanted to have to control."

The emotion flowed from having
something at stake in the outcome.

To live as though something matters
without it actually mattering
is a trick for yoga masters,
who might be accused of cheating
because they don't actually live 
in the service of much that matters.
It is easy to be peaceful
with nothing on the line!

Having nothing on the line is the key.
We live as though we have everything
always on the line.
We need to examine that,
and see what we really stand
to gain or to lose
with the things we become embroiled over.

How important really are they?

Peace is to be found in backing off.
In caring less about all things,
and only about the things 
that are truly important.

The degree of our attachment to things,
the quality of our caring about them,
are reflected in our judgment and opinions
about them--
and we are responsible for determining
to what extent our investment 
is justified by the value of our commitments.

How important are the things
we declare to be important?

What will we go to hell for?
What business do we have 
in going to hell for that?



Zabriskie Point at Sunrise 03 02/15/2006 Oil Paint Rendered — Death Valley National Park, California
Sin is being wrong about what's important.

Sin is being wrong about what needs to be done.

Redemption and atonement are about
seeing things as they are,
knowing what is important
and needs to be done,
and doing it
in each situation as it arises
all our life long.

Anything else is a distraction
and a diversion
designed to provide us with excuses
and justifications
for failing/refusing
to see what we look at,
know what needs to be done in response to it,
and doing it
in each situation as it arises,
all our life long.



The Pier at Sunset Oil Paint Rendered — Intracoastal Waterway, Sunset Beach, North Carolina
We have to come to terms with The Terms
of The Deal
our entire life long.

The Terms of The Deal
are always changing.

How things work today
may not be quite the way
they worked yesterday,
or will work tomorrow.

Adjustment, accommodation and acquiescence, Kid.
Adjustment, accommodation and acquiescence.

It helps to understand this 
as part of The Terms of the Deal,
with little in the way of opinion
and a lot in the way of compassion
and acceptance,
becoming like water 
in finding--not forcing--our way,
and making do as best we can
with what we have to work with
in doing what needs to be done
in each situation as it arises
our entire life long.



The Pier at Moonset — Intracoastal Waterway, Sunset Beach, North Carolina Oil Paint Rendered
Everybody should be in good hands.
Adults should have the right to live 
as they choose--
without interfering with other adults
living as they choose.

Children are stuck
with living as their parents choose
until they reach "the age of accountability."

All of this seems simple enough,
It doesn't work.

Adults refuse to be accountable
long after the age of accountability.

Adults refuse to allow other adults
the right to their own life.

Money and power get in the way.

If you have enough money and power,
no rules apply to you,
and you can get by with doing 
whatever you want.

People with money and power
exist to perpetuate their ideals
and vision of the good
at the expense of everyone else.

Equality and Justice
Truth and Freedom
become words without referents,
with everything favoring money and power
to the detriment of everything else.

When hasn't money and power had the last word?
Where have we been free 
from the controlling influence
of money and power?

As R. D. Laing might have said,
we are playing a game 
of not playing a game,
and nothing is what we say it is,
but we don't talk about it
because everyone knows that
money and power run the game,
and nobody can do anything about it
beyond pretending it isn't so,
and that is what we do.

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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