March 23, 2021

01

White-breasted Nuthatch 02 02 Oil Paint Rendered — Scenes From My Hammock, Indian Land, South Carolina
We are always "so close
and yet so far away."

It is the recurring theme 
of our life--
all of our lives,
worldwide--
over time.

All it takes is
a slight shift in perspective.
We are looking at it like this,
and we need to look at it like that.

It is only a matter
of flipping the switch.
Of turning the light around.

And so it is said,
"Fine is the balance,
and thin is the line
between having it made
and having nothing at all."

And you can't explain
the difference to anyone
who doesn't see it.

I tell people,
"You can't understand 
what I'm saying
until you know what I mean."

And I can't understand
why they don't know what I mean.

It is just "right there"
for everyone
all of the time.

But, if your orientation is toward
security,
safety,
hoarding,
being protected,
being seen,
known,
admired,
loved,
adored,
being right,
beyond scrutiny,
always on top,
with a massive layer of wealth
guaranteeing your place in society,
you will never understand,
standing alone,
being safe,
at home with the unknown
and unknowable.

Those orientations are
light years apart.
Yin and Yang.
Mutually exclusive
and incompatible
to the core.

And so it is said,
"You can't change your mind
about what is important
until you get to
the end of your rope--
and maybe not even then."

So, I'm talking to people
who can't hear what I'm saying,
or who already know
what I'm talking about.

I can only keep it up
because that is what is mine to do,
and I have no choice
but to do it.
If you know what I mean.

–0–

02

Mr. Moose 09/26/2010 Oil Paint Rendered — Stumpy Pond, Baxter State Park, Millinocket, Maine
We cannot get there directly.
"The path that can be discerned
is not a reliable path."

No one can explain it to us.
Spell it out for us. 
Talk us into knowing
what we need to know
to be who we are,
at one with ourselves
and all of life.

It's like a treasure
hidden in a field,
or a pearl of great price
lost among the costume jewelry
in a flea market in the Midwest.

We stumble upon it.
It falls into our lap
out of nowhere.
We are in hot pursuit
of something else,
turn a corner,
and there it is.

Everything depends on
being in the right place
at the right time.
Synchronicity is the heart
of the matter.
And you can't arrange that,
or plan for that,
or factor that into any equation
to make happen 
what is dying to happen
until its time,
and even then we can screw with
the entire setup
by not seeing what is right before us,
or not hearing what is being said.

The whole apparatus hinges upon
"aesthetic arrest."
I think the origin of the term
is/was James Joyce.
Robinson Jeffers called it
"divinely superfluous beauty."

It stops us in our tracks
like an anvil falling from the sky.
Our place is to walk around
waiting for an anvil to fall from the sky.
That is as close as we can come
to arraigning our own awakening.

In the meantime,
we could sit quietly,
watching,
listening,
waiting for the mud to settle
and the water to clear.

And put ourselves in the proximity of beauty
by making pilgrimages to the land
of art, music and nature
in a regular and recurring way.

If we are waiting to be hit by a train,
it helps to nap on railroad tracks.

–0–

03

October Morning 10/14/2008 Oil Paint Rendered — Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
In order to be successful,
religion has to prostitute itself
and become the very antithesis
of its own center/ground/foundation.

A successful religion 
is a contradiction in terms.

Religion in the truest/best sense
of the word
is personal,
private,
individual,
and incapable of being established
and sustained
on a mass or corporate level over time.

"The Tao that can be stated/told
is not the eternal Tao."
"The path that can be discerned
as a path
is not a reliable path."

"Two Hail Mary's and an Our Father"
will not do it.

There are no formulas,
or recipes,
or methods,
or steps to take
to the heart of True Religion.

Theology,
Doctrines,
dogma,
creeds,
beliefs,
rituals,
practices,
scriptures,
hymns
and prayers of confession,
petition,
intercession,
praise
and thanksgiving
merely stir up the dust
and fill the air with "sound and fury
signifying nothing" (Macbeth).

This is the crux of the matter:
It is one thing to be the church,
and it is another thing 
to be the church and pay the bills.

In order to pay the bills,
"the church"
(Or organized religion in all forms)
has to betray the virtues
at the heart of religion:
Sincerity,
Spontaneity, 
Balance,
Harmony,
Equanimity, 
Integrity,
Non-contrivance,
Self-transparency,
Self-awareness,
and Truthfulness,
to mention a few.

True Religion has nothing to gain
and nothing to lose.
Organized Religion has to
"make disciples" at any price
excusing its excesses and indiscretions
as necessary concessions
in doing "the work of the Lord."

Organized Religion says things
it cannot substantiate,
and promises things
it cannot deliver,
just to gain a following,
using heaven as a reward
and hell as a threat
for embracing or rejecting
its proclamation. 

True Religion "is like beggars
telling other beggars
where they have found food,"
and leaving it at that,
letting nature take its course,
with nothing but its experience
to offer as helpful suggestions
for dealing with the world.
 

–0–

04

Lake’s End Oil Paint Rendered — Lake Haigler, Anne Springs Close Greenway, Fort Mill, South Carolina
Getting older means we don't have 
as much time as we once had,
and while that has always been the case,
having fewer days left
means more at 76 and counting
than it meant at 23.
Or 55.

And that means I have to consciously
prioritize how I spend my time.
"How much does this mean to me?"
I ask of everything.
"How much do I love doing it?"
"What would be a better way 
of spending my time?"

Silence and stillness
are a part of every day.
Reading and writing.
Taking photos 
and processing images.
Working in the yard,
cooking
and eating meals,
taking a walk,
time with family,
errands,
a nap,
a shower
and going to bed
are the way most days go.

And I call that a good life.

You caught no TV, I'm sure.
And no Facebook.

Asking me to attend a meeting,
or even to meet you for lunch
or dinner
would get a polite
"I'd love to, but."

If you persist,
it becomes, "Maybe one day,"
"maybe some time,"
"maybe soon."
Said laughingly and meaning, "No."

And if that doesn't do it,
I end with,
"I wish I would, but I won't."

We are stewards of our own time.
And that means we have to know how
to spend it.
And how not to.

The earlier we take up the practice
of being good for ourselves,
the better it will be for us
over the long haul,
which gets shorter by the day.

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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