March 10, 2021


Reelfoot Lake 35 11/04/2015 Oil Paint Rendered — Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tiptonville, Tennessee
Our pain is our joy.
This is the reverse of the Buddhist position:
All of life is suffering, woe, woe!
That is just one way of looking at it,
and the wrong way, at that!

Of Jesus it was said,
"For the joy that was set before him,
he endured the cross..."
And he called his followers
to take up their own cross
and bear it well.

Homer, the blind Greek poet,
who knew a thing or two
about suffering himself,
had Odysseus say,
"I will persevere and endure!
And when the heaving sea
has shaken my raft to pieces,
then I will swim!"

Our life consists of finding 
the things we would go to hell for,
and live to do them,
anyway, nevertheless, even so!
So that nothing,
not even the eternal fires of hell itself,
can stop us,
or slow us down,
in loving all that is to be loved
about our life,
and doing all that needs to be done,
just for the wonder of doing it
and of having done it!
And, heaven help those
who get in our way!

It is our joy to do
what is set before us--
to do what needs to be done,
the way it needs to be done,
when it needs to be done
in each moment as it arises
all our life long--
"without hope,
without witness,
without reward"
(Steven Moffat, Doctor Who).

Because this is who we are!
And that is what we are here for!
To say "YES!" to life just as it is,
and live it for all we are worth,
loving everything about it,
as our gift to the world.



Water Lilies Oil Paint Rendered — Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe, Louisiana
We live to discover 
that doing what “isn’t who we are” 
the right way—
the way it needs to be done—
will bring us forth in ways 
we never imagined. 

Joseph Campbell said,
“It took the Cyclops 
to bring out the hero in Ulysses.”

It is Yin/Yang come to life 
in our lives. 
This is what we are here for!
We live to harmonize/integrate/
a lasting bond between the polarities.

We bear the pain of being alive--
dealing with the contradictions
that bring us forth
in the time and place of our living--
again and again,
growing up against our will
(Which is the only way
of growing up there is,
all the way.

It is like what we have to give up 
to have a dog. 
Or a child.
Or a spouse.

It is the nature,
and the very heart,
of the Path.

"We are the chisel 
and we are the sculptor
and we are the stone"
(Alex Carrel,
or words to that effect).

And it is all up to us
to work out what it means
to be who we are
in the time and place
of our living.

Here's a hint:
Sometimes we do it like this,
and sometimes we do it like that.
When to do what
is our call to make
every time.

The trick is learning
to do what is called for,
when it is called for,
the way it is called for,
and doing it,
time after time,
over the full course of our life.

There are no shortcuts.
There is only bearing well
the pain of being human--
and learning as we go
what needs to be done
here and now.



West Prong of the Little Pigeon River Oil Paint Rendered 11/06/2006 — Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
Chimneys Picnic Area, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The secret to photography
is high standards and ruthless editing.

The secret to a life well-lived
is the same secret.

We call BS on ourselves 
every time 
it needs to be called.

We demand "the truth,
the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth"
from ourselves
at every point in our life.

We refuse to let ourselves
get by with anything.
We hold kidding ourselves
to be the worst imaginable offense.

We are constantly catching ourselves
in contradictions,
asking ourselves what we mean,
and who do we think we are fooling,
and how are we going to square this
with that,
and never, ever, taking no for an answer.

We are our own worst enemy
and our own best friend,
knowing that the two are one--
and trusting ourselves always, always,
to tell ourselves 
what we need to hear.

The mark of a good photographer
is not sales and followers,
but good work and steady improvement,
which is the same evidence
of a life well-lived.

The payoff is doing the work
as well as we can do it,
and not the rewards we derive 
for doing it.

We are here to be who we are
within the time and place
of our living
as well as it can possibly
be done--
whether anyone notices or not.

Day after day,
moment by moment,
all our life long.

No one can do better than that.



Sunflower on Black 01 Oil Paint Rendered
All we need is a sounding board.
We all need a sounding board.

We all need to hear
what we have to say.

We all need someone 
who can listen us
to what we have to say.

Not one of us has enough people
in our life
who can listen us 
to the heart of who we are,
to the core of what we have to say.

So, I create an audience in my head
and say what I have to say
to people who aren't there.

I pretend you are reading this,
and I make a sincere and devoted effort
to tell you what is essential
that I hear myself saying.

In this way,
you carry me deeper and deeper
into what I need to know/remember,
and surprise myself
with the things myself
has to say to me.

I am providing my psyche--
or whatever it is within that knows
more than I know
and is intent on me knowing it--
access to me
by "talking" to you.

Every day, I meet the Knower Within
by telling you what I need
to know/remember/hear,
whether you are listening or not.

It is a practice I recommend 
to all of you,
because none of us has who we need
in our life
to listen us to what we have to say.

Of course, it requires us 
to push ourselves to listen
to what we are saying,
and to not let ourselves off the hook
by refusing to go
where we are uncomfortable being.

We have to conscientiously
ask and go on asking,
seek and go on seeking,
knock and go on knocking,
and opening ourselves to
all of the questions
that beg to be asked
of everything we are saying. 

We have to be able to handle
the truth of our own truth,
trusting the Way to open before us
as we start walking,
intent on seeing where it leads,
and what needs to be said/heard next.



Mourning Dove 02/12/2017 02 Oil Paint Rendered — Scenes from my Hammock, Indian Land, South Carolina
Our foundation is not
what someone tells us our foundation is,
but what we know to be so
out of our own experience
of that which holds us up
and keeps us going.

Belief--even True Belief--is a sales job,
and our faith is ultimately
in the pitch that someone made to us,
and they have to repeat the pitch regularly
to keep us grounded in what they say
is grounding.

Sounds like every religion that ever was.

The old Taoists took a different tack.
"What do you say?", they said.
"What do you say is your ground?"
"What do you say is your source?"
"What do you say is your original nature?"
"What do you say is your face
before you were born?"

Nobody can tell us those things!
We know them to be so 
because they are so.
The way we know we are hungry
and when we have had enough to eat.

So when the evangelists knock on my door
and ask me, "Do you want to go to hell?"
I ask them, "What would you go to hell for?"
They balk at that,
and act like no one has ever asked them that.
"I don't want to go to hell!" they say.
"I want to go to heaven!"
"But what would you go to hell for?" I ask.
And the conversation takes a turn
they did not foresee when they knocked
on my door.

What we would go to hell for
is something only we know.
No one can tell us what we would go to hell for
They might have their idea
of what we ought to go to hell for,
but only we know what it would actually be--
and maybe we don't know
until we find ourselves 
in the position of making the choice.
Maybe the choice is forced on us
by our circumstances.

The ditch we choose to die in
is sometimes a real surprise.
But it reveals our foundation,
our ground,
our rock.
And nobody can knock us off it.
Because that is who we are.

We live to find our foundation,
our ground,
our rock,
and to live from there
in the time left for living.

And no one can tell us what it is.

What they can do 
is ask us
what we would go to hell for.
Or what our face was
before we were born.
Or who do we say we are
and what makes us think so.

In answering these questions,
we make up our own religion
as we go,
and discover the spirit
within us all
that is like the wind,
blowing where it will,
daring anyone to tell us
who we ought to be,
because it knows who we are.

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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