March 25, 2021

01

Fall Branches 01 Oil Paint Rendered — Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
We need help with the tasks of life,
and we need to be helping one another
with the tasks of life.

And we have no idea what the tasks of life are.

The primary task of life
is knowing who we are
and what we are about.

It is easier to go at it in reverse--
Knowing who we are not
and what we are not about.

We have to be clear about these things.

The Caste System in India
is an attempt to simplify the task.
Dharma is duty carefully spelled out
according to the class or rank
into which one is born.

That is the wrong way to do it.
Dharma cannot be imposed from without,
according to who our parents were
and what Caste they belong to,
as though who we are, and not,
can be handed to us with our birth certificate.

Our identity is not thrust upon us,
it is innate within us.
We grow into who we are over time--
if the conditions and circumstances of our life
permit it.

In India, people are bound to be
who and what someone else declares them to be.
Talk about death to the soul!
The Caste System kills people 
before they are conceived!

Who we are and what we are about
are organic--
we become who we are,
unfolding from within
according to the blend 
of potential and possibility
developing within the limits
of time and place.

Each of us is a mystery to be beheld
becoming over the full course of our life.
Nothing is preordained,
iron clad,
decreed from above,
declared by the stars
(Or those who "read the stars").

Who we are and what we are about
is time and place dependent.
Who would Michael Jordan 
and LeBron James have been in 1776?
Or you, or I?

"Time and chance happen to us all."
And the primary task of life
is to take what comes with us from the womb
in on hand,
and the context and circumstances of our life
in the other hand,
and get the two hands together,
in ways that bring forth our best
in the here and now of our living.

Who tells us that ever 
over the full course of our life?
All we are handed is
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
The dumbest question in the encyclopedia of questions.
"What does wanting know?"
is one of the best, 
and is never asked.

We are up against it from the start,
born into a milieu in which no one knows
what needs to be done
to become who we are born to be.

Who are we?
What are we about?
Who are we not?
What are we not about?

Sit with the questions.
See where they lead.
Even now.
Even yet.
Even so.   

–0–

02

Trout Lilies 01 03/14/2021 Oil Paint Rendered — Andrew Jackson State Park, Lancaster County, South Carolina
The toughest thing is coming to terms
with our choices.

We do not have good-enough choices.

We do not get to choose our choices.

We don't get to tag out
until better choices come along.

Our choices are our choices and that's that.

Squaring up to that is the hardest thing.

We keep trying to give ourselves better choices.

Denial is denying that these are our choices
and that's that.

We want better choices!

Our choices are our choices and that's that.

When we can square ourselves up with this fact,
we can begin the work
of doing what can be done
with what we have to work with.

That comes down to
what needs to happen here and now,
and what can we do about that
with the resources,
internal and external,
at hand?

What can we do 
with the choices
that are ours to choose from?

Moment by moment,
situation by situation?

We can despair
and be depressed 
and despondent because these are our choices,
or we can pick ourselves up
and get to work,
in a "Here we are, now what?"
kind of way.

–0–

03

Black-and-white Warbler 01 Oil Paint Rendered — Scenes From My Hammock, Indian Land, South Carolina
What do we do for the simple sake
of doing it alone?

With me, it is not wash the dishes,
take out the garbage,
mow the grass,
or dust the furniture
and mop the floor.

I do those things because 
they need to be done.

I do other things because
I am expected to
and other people depend on me
to do them.

And I do other things because
I am paid to do them,
and the cost of living 
requires me to make enough money
to live on.

With whatever time I have left over
in a week,
I get to do what I enjoy doing
for the pleasure/joy of doing them alone.

Naps head the list.
Relishing the wonder
of stillness,
silence
and solitude.
Cooking. 
Eating things I like.
Drinking coffee.
Reading.
Writing.
Photography and working with photographs.
Zooming with the daughters and granddaughters,
family and friends.
Working in the yard with my wife.
Walking through nurseries, buying plants.
Walking through the natural world.
Taking a shower.
Getting out of bed each morning.

How about you?

–0–

04

Frasier Magnolia 01 Oil Paint Rendered — Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
The mark of a well-lived life
is the degree to which it is
grounded in--
and centered upon--
its original nature,
with balance and harmony,
sincere and non-contriving.

These terms mean absolutely nothing
to contemporary western culture.
And that is a telling indictment 
of contemporary western culture.

"What is the face that was yours
before your grandparents were born?"

If you are like most people alive today,
the question is absurd and meaningless.

If I ask you who you are,
you are likely to talk about 
what you like and dislike.

If I ask you how thinking about what you like
keeps you from thinking about who you are,
what would you say?

These are essential questions.
Our identity is crucial 
to the kind of life we live,
in terms of the degree the life we live
reveals or conceals our identity.

A life well-lived integrates,
incarnates,
serves,
reveals,
expresses
and makes known who we are.

We live to be one with ourselves.

How are you coming with that?

Here's a little twist on this theme
that may rock your little world.

We are comfortable saying, or with hearing,
that Jesus came as the incarnation of God.
He said, "The Father and I are one."

And I'm saying we are here to incarnate ourselves.
As we do that, we, also, incarnate 
that which has always been called "God."

That which is God and we are one,
and we cannot live aligned with ourselves
without also being aligned with God.
And that is what we are here to do.

How did you say you were coming?

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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