July 15, 2021


Heavy Seas 18 09/29/2012 Oil Paint Rendered — Acadia National Park, Otter Point, Bar Harbor, Maine
Suffering and sex,
money and power
are the four most over-rated
things in culture and civilization.

All are good/necessary
in their time and place.
Not one warrants the emphasis 
it receives.

Living in the service 
of any of them
disrupts balance and harmony
and introduces chaos and discord
in the lives of their servant-victims.

Vows of poverty and chastity
go too far in the opposite direction,
and the optimal way 
is the middle path among them all.

Robert Ruark had his grandfather
(Perhaps Ned Atkins) say
(In The Old Man and the Boy),
"A fish is only a fish,
and if you make too much of it,
you lose the whole point of it."

The same perspective applies 
to suffering and sex,
money and power.

Making too much of anything 
is one of the things we do best.
And finding the tipping point
between just enough and too much
is a lost art worldwide.

Making our way 
back to the center
is the unrecognized necessity
of every life.

We do that in the silent
consideration of our own extremes
in light of the Good beyond all goods,
which is the recognition
of what needs to happen
in any situation,
and the wherewithal to serve it
above all else--
doing what needs to be done,
when it needs to be done,
where it needs to be done,
how it needs to be done
because it needs to be done,
moment by moment,
situation by situation,
all our life long.

What needs to happen here and now
is always cast aside
in our press to avoid suffering
by enjoying sex, money and power.

That, we say, is what always 
needs to happen.

Believing that prevents us 
from seeing what we look at
and suffering the pain of knowing
what's what,
and what needs to be done about it
with the gifts/daemon/virtues/specialties
that are ours to serve and share,
moment to moment,
situation by situation,
all our life long.



Hebron Falls 09/03/2010 Oil Paint Rendered — Boone Fork, Glue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Knowing what needs to be done
and doing it
in each situation as it arises
is the most important thing.

Is the only thing.

Everything else falls out around this.

Until this happens,
everything that happens
is irrelevant,
beside the point.

The point is knowing what needs to be done
and doing it.
No matter what.
In each situation as it arises.

The second-most important thing
is knowing where to draw the line
and drawing it.
In each situation as it arises.

The two things,
the first and second,
are two aspects of the same thing.

Knowing what needs to be done
is knowing where to draw the line.
Knowing where to draw the line
is knowing what needs to be done.

The two things require the union of opposites:
Yes and No.
On the one hand this,
and on the other hand, that.

In any situation,
there are contraries
that have to be held together,
joined together,
in the body of those
who bear the pain of polar opposites
in finding the middle way
which results in doing what must be done.

The doing is one thing.
What are we to do?
The question is answered
out of the tension created
by the pull of forces
of chaos and madness
tearing us apart
and presenting us with
The Unchooseable Choice.

When we are damned if we do
and damned if we don't,
our only option is to be damned
and be done with it.
It isn't that easy.

We have to walk two paths 
at the same time
in (practically) each situation
as it arises.

There is what to do
and what to leave undone.
Life comes alive and is lived
at that point.

This is the axis mundi, 
"the still point of the turning world"
(T.S. Eliot).
The World Pole uniting the Cosmic Contradictions
of Yin and Yang,
Love and Hate,
Good and Evil,
Right and Wrong, 

The place of choice and decision
that determines all that follows
in each situation as it arises.

Our choice, of course,
is to avoid the agony of choosing
and to lose ourselves in the comforting fog
of 10,000 addictions.
Where we neither know nor care
what we are doing,
and live without living
from one high to the next,
oblivious to the reality
of that which needs to be done
(and needs us to do it)
because it hurts too much,
and "All we ever wanted was smooth and easy"
(Ogi Overman).

We walk two paths at the same time
by keeping one eye on the other path
and one eye on this path,
and not losing sight of either path,
bearing the pain
and choosing the choices
required by seeing/knowing/doing
what needs to be done,
here and now,
step by step,
all along the way.

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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