June 03, 2021


Cypress Stand 11/06/2005 Oil Paint Rendered — Private Preserve, Down East, North Carolina
It is a psychological saw
that we need to stand out
and fit in,
and between those polarities
lie all of our problems.

Fitting in is being like those
we aspire to be like
(Or are afraid to not be like).

Standing out is expressing
our natural self
in the way we go about our life.

W.B. Yeats called fitting in
our "Primary Mask,"
the one handed to us by parents
and culture.

And standing out,
he called our "Antithetical Mask,"
the one contrary to the way
society thinks we ought to be.

And so begins the dance
with these two pardners,
by walking two paths at the same time.

How much can we get by with?
How unlike who we are expected to be
can we be?
We answer a question
in the way we live our life.
And, like all such questions,
we answer it best by being conscious of it,
and keeping one eye
on each path
as we choose our choices
in light of what's in it for us.

It takes reflection
to come to new realizations.
But, to think,
particularly about our thinking,
is to stand out--
something fitting in does not allow.

Already we are not being
who we are supposed to be
just by wondering if we are
and considering being "other,"
by being "I."

Where do we stop and our overseers,
exemplars, start?
Who is living the life
we walk around in?
How different can we be
and still "belong"?

How different do we need to be
in order to be who we are?

Where does the line lie
between who we are expected to be
and who we must be no matter what?

A religion worthy of the title
would help us ask and answer the question.
That would be a religion of the soul
in the deepest/truest sense.
A bringing up,
bringing out,
bringing forth who we are born to be,
and not the automaton
we become through 
the imposition of social oughts.

Ah, but.
Where is what we need
when we need it?
We have to work out our own salvation,
with fear and trembling
and a sickness unto death.

Or not.
With not being a dying
worse than death.

How we negotiate the turns
between fitting in
and standing out
tells the tale.



Home in the Woods 05/11/2012 Oil Paint Rendered — Grandfather District of Pisgah National Forest at Linville Falls, North Carolina
It is all a lost cause. 
The arctic and antarctic are disappearing.
What lasts over time?
What chance does anything have?

Instead of saying, "What the hell?
Why try?"
and giving up our causes,
we should give ourselves to them
with renewed vigor,
and let nothing stop us,
or even slow us down,
like moths circling a flame,
loving every second
of a dying spiral.

We should give ourselves to our loves
because they are not going to last,
and we only have one short lifetime
to express our loyalty and devotion
to causes worthy of us.

It matters how we live--
to us, if not to eternity--
and we owe it to ourselves
to live as fully as possible
as long as possible,
giving ourselves to those things
that bring out the best we have to offer,
spending ourselves completely
in the experience and expression 
of life in all its radiance and glory.

Why hold anything back?
What is to be gained by refusing
the invitation
to be alive in the service
of what matters most to us?

What matters to you?
How is that evident in your life?
Why wait to show it
that you love it?

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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