August 13, 2021

01

Great Egret Chick 05/13/2014 Oil Paint Rendered — Alligator Farm Rookery, St. Augustine, Florida
The work, the task,
the hero's journey,
in every age for everyone
is the same
across time and space.

It comes down to this:
Being true to ourselves--
exhibiting, expressing, serving
our original nature,
with the gifts/daemon/virtues/
specialties/knacks/preferences/
genius/etc.
that come with us from the womb--
within the circumstances
of the times and place of our living.

If you think that is easy,
climb into the ring with it,
and see if you can last 
three minutes
of the opening round.

The good news is that
it doesn't ever get
more difficult than
taking you in one hand,
and your circumstances 
in the other hand,
and getting the two hands together
over the course of your life.

It may help to think about 
how this might work for someone else
instead of yourself,
because it might be easier to see
someone else's gifts and original nature
than your own.

Let's take Tevya, for example,
from The Fiddler on the Roof.
How does Tevya work out
being true to himself
within the circumstances
of the concrete and steel 
of New York City?

It would be easier 
if he could keep walking
to the Catskills or the Adirondacks,
and by a small farm
with a cow and some chickens.

But, confine him to NYC,
and his task might become 
insurmountable.
Particularly if you reduce his income
to what he might earn selling newspapers
on some street corner.

He would need someone to talk to then,
someone to listen to him,
and help him sort things out,
identify the nature of his problem
with crystal clarity,
and think through how to be who he is
even there.

Let's say that someone is you.
How would you help Tevya
find himself
and be who he is
in New York City?

You are Tevya's muse
and his oracle.
Take it from here...

–0–

02

Hebron Falls 03 08/07/2009 Oil Paint Rendered — Boone Fork, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
A rock has no trouble 
being its natural self.
Nor, does a lion,
or an eagle,
or a humpback whale.
They have no choice in the matter,
for one thing.

And, for another, 
they have no one telling them
not to do it the way they are doing it,
but to do it some other way instead.

They don't even have someone asking them,
"Who do you want to be when you grow up?"

They have it made.

Not so much you and I.

It is our place to realize,
bring forth
and serve our distinctiveness,
our style,
our "thing"
within the times and circumstances of our living.

In that work, it helps to be attuned to
our natural drifts and propensities,
our inclinations and our bents.

I have never liked to get my hands dirty.
My mother laughed telling everyone
throughout her life
that I made mud pies with two sticks.

My fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Unglesby,
told my mom one parent's day,
"Jimmy spends a lot of time 
looking out the window."
I still do.

There are things that are
characteristically "us"
that identify and define us
from the beginning.

It is ours to find them,
honor them,
and work them into our life,
perhaps building our life around them,
centered on them,
grounded in them,
proud to be who and how we are!

–0–

03

Kings Mountain Cabin 12/14/2014 B&W Oil Paint Rendered — Kings Mountain State Park, Clover, South Carolina
Doing what needs to be done here and now,
moment to moment,
keeps us focused on what's happening
and what can be done about it,
assisting it,
resisting it,
responding to it--
and helping us to remain immune
to being emotionally hijacked by it.

"This is how things are,
and this is what can be done about it,
and that's that,"
is a wonderful reminder of our limitations
and vulnerabilities.

Being as vulnerable as we are--
without being overwhelmed and undone
by the facts limiting our living--
is the fulcrum
that pivots the "is"
into the "will be."

Sounds crazy, but.
That's because it IS crazy.
Crazy sane.

This is how it works:
Starting with how things are
(Hopeless, pointless, futile and absurd)
lifts us to the vantage point of release
and freedom
through the simple response of,
"So what? Who cares? What difference does that make?"
Which connects us to the under-girding realization
that we are here to do what can be done,
and if nothing can be done,
that pivots us to doing what can be done
about nothing being able to be done.

Now, we have a different problem,
and one that we can do something about.
We can shift our attitude from being helplessly
unable to do anything about our situation,
into being very potent and capable
of adopting an attitude,
perspective,
frame of mind
that renders us immune to being immobolized
and despondent
by refusing to let it "get us down,"
and determining to go right on being who we are,
offering what is ours to serve and share,
"Anyway, Nevertheless, Even so!"

Even in situations in which nothing can be done,
something needs to be done that can be done.

In a prisoner of war camp,
with no hope of escape or rescue,
the prisoners can still be of help to one another,
can still dress as sharply as they can,
can still stand defiantly at attention,
can still carry out their duties and responsibilities
to themselves and each other,
etc.
"Anyway, Nevertheless, Even so!"

Our demeanor and our attitude is always our call.
And it still matters how we live
when nothing seems to matter at all.
If we are going to take anything on faith,
take it on faith
that it matters how we live,
and live as though it matters how we live,
trusting that to make all the difference,
all the way to our very last breath.

And it will!

And if it doesn't, so what?
It made all the difference in our life,
all the way to the end.

–0–

04

Lake Martin Sunset 13 07/07/2013 Oil Paint Rendered — Beaux Bridge, Louisiana
If we can have a way
without having to have our way,
we will pave the way
for the way
and transform the world.

Having to have our way
is the way
that prevents the way
from being realized
in the time and place
of our living,
and leads to the wasteland
of our discontent
and the loss of vitality
and radiance
worldwide.

Placing ourselves 
in the service
of that which needs to be done
regardless of its implications
for us personally,
frees us to be what the situation
calls for
and enables is to rise
to any occasion
without being hampered
by thought of advantage or gain,
and allows us to respond
with sincerity and spontaneity
to the moment at hand,
opening the way
for things to be exactly 
what they should be,
as blessing and grace
upon all concerned.

All because we said, "Yes," 
to what was happening
and assisted its happening,
with nothing in mind
and no idea of what we were doing--
as a child might say
exactly the right thing
in exactly the right way
in turning the moment
into a brush with mystery
and wonder,
causing our souls 
to leap, and twinkle, and dance.

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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