July 31, 2021

01

Lows Lake at Bog River Lower Dam Oil Paint Rendered 09/29/2014 — Adirondack Park, Tupper Lake, New York
We can't live fifteen minutes
without taking sides.
Generally, that would mean
taking our side against all others.

This is the baby screaming to be fed.
It's always something.
Wanting this,
not wanting that.
My Way Now!

There must be cultures
where this is not the case,
perhaps where the baby's needs
are anticipated,
and not allowed to run the show.

Waiting until the time is right.
Knowing how to read the times.
Knowing what now is for--
what it is time for now.

That is the most important knowing.

Not, "What do you want?"
But, "Can you tell what time it is?"
And, "Can you submit to the times
that are upon you?"
"Can you sacrifice yourself to serve
the needs of the times?"

If we could live attuned to the times,
attending the times,
living as loyal devotees to the times
that are always at hand...

It would be a different world.

We can transform the world
just by living to be what the times
need us to be,
doing what the times need us to do,
living in accord with the times
that are at hand.
Here and now.

–0–

02,

Lake Crandal 01 11/19/2019 Oil Paint Rendered — Anne Springs Close Greenway, Fort Mill, South Carolina
We are built to impose our way upon the world.
At least it seems that way.
The people who impose their way upon the world
are in charge.
At least it seems that way.

Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased
stand out in a crowd.
They are built to impose their way upon the crowd.
Any crowd.
Every crowd.

They are your preachers,
and your politicians,
and your activists,
and your community organizers.

Bullies all.
Pushing people around.
As though they actually know what's best.

If they are so smart,
why is their family in such a mess?

The old saying,
"It is easier to be a saint
than to live with one,"
applies doubly to Those Who Know Best
And Must Be Pleased.

Nobody can live with one of those.

They don't seem to notice,
or care.
It is hard to know what they care about,
beyond having their way.
Nothing, probably.

And the rest of us have to deal with them,
which means giving them wide berth.
But that means leaving them to run the show.
Look around.
Things are in such a mess
because Those Who Know Best
have been running the show.
Every show.
Forever.

Which leaves us where exactly?

With knowing what's what 
and what's to be done about it.

We have to draw a line.
And pay the price of drawing the line.
The very thing we are most hesitant to do,
and Those Who Know Best count on it.
On our being hesitant to draw lines.

We have to draw lines.

To draw lines, we have to live
out of our adamantine core.
Out of our rock-solid center.
Out of our crystal clarity
about what must be done,
and where,
and when,
and how.

And do it.

We have to say "NO!"
Where it needs to be said.
When it needs to be said.
How it needs to be said.
Because it needs to be said.

But it takes so much out of us to do that.

Nevertheless, it must be done,
and it is ours to do it.

And you know what I'm talking about.

Do it.
As often as it needs to be done.

Your center knows.
Live from there.
No matter what.
Forever.

–0–

03

Sunset at Morton’s Overlook o2 08/26/2002 Oil Paint Rendered — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
There is being clear and right
about what needs to be done
in each situation as it arises,
and doing it,
no matter what.

And, that is all there is to it.

This is where mixed-motives
come into play.

On the one hand this.
On the other hand that.
And on another hand that over there.
And don't forget that other thing over there...

We lose focus,
leave the path,
depart from the way,
stray far off the beam,
and wander forever
in a wasteland of conflicts of interest
and mutually exclusive desires.

And here we are.

The way back to Eden
winds through the heart of Gethsemane
and across the face of Golgotha.

This is the narrow way,
the slippery slope,
the dangerous path,
like a razor's edge.

And those who manage it are few.

I can tell you what it takes,
but I cannot tell you how to get/have what it takes.

Heart, for example.
I can tell you it takes heart
(And soul, and mind, and strength),
but I can't tell you how to find heart
(Etc.).
How to get it,
develop it,
have it,
trust yourself to it,
devote yourself to its service,
with liege loyalty and filial devotion,
moment-by-moment,
day-by-day,
in each situation as it arises,
forever.

But that's what it takes.

And maturity.
Maturity that is self-awareness,
and self-discipline,
and self-correction...

We live ourselves to all these things
over the full course of our life,
or not,
depending on all the variables 
that have to fall into place
at the right time
in the right way
to enable the right response
to the events, context, and circumstances
that make up our life.

What are our chances?

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

Which leaves us with knowing what's what,
and seeing what needs to be done about it
right here,
right now,
and doing it.

In each situation as it arises.

And letting that be the strategy
that guides us along the slippery slope,
the dangerous path
through our personal equivalents
of Gethsemane and Golgotha,
to resurrection and new life
at "the still point of the turning world,"
the Axis Mundi,
in the center of the Garden of Eden,
where it all begins. 

–0–

04

Lake Haigler 03 11/24/2019 Oil Paint Rendered — Anne Springs Close Greenway, Fort Mill, South Carolina
Actual reality is moving,
changing,
shifting,
transforming,
transitioning
all of the time.

We can't pin reality down,
or pen it up.

That's true whether we are talking about
the position of electrons,
or protons,
or quarks,
or how likely we are to change our mind
(about anything).

Approximate reality is the best we can do.
This is how we are now,
we don't know how we will be then,
whenever we declare "then" to be.

We make declarations of conviction and certainty
that seem as though they will be valid forever.

And are divorced in six months.
Or three.

We might take the brevity of our deep commitments
into account,
and preface them all with,
"At the present time," or,
"For the foreseeable future..."

We are all becoming other than we have been.
We are wrong to think not,
and need to be more open to it
and deliberate about it.

We are on the way to seeing,
thinking,
realizing,
believing,
being
different in a number of possible ways.

It is going to happen with,
or against,
our will.
Why not assist it?
Encourage it?
Participate joyfully in it?

We are wonders drinking coffee
and eating bagels!
Why not wake up to the wonder
of being a wonder?
A wonder being alive
to the wonder of being alive?
And wonder what's next,
and look forward to seeing
what the rest of the day holds? 

–0–

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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