December 11, 2021


American Buddha 02 03/16/2015 Oil Paint Rendered — Crystal Springs Cemetery, Crystal Springs, Mississippi
I dance on the edge
of what people can take.
I've done it all my life.
It's what I do best.
It means 
I dance on the edge
of what I can take.

Jesus did the same thing.
And the Buddha.
It's called "walking on water."
Means the same thing 
as "skating on thin ice."
It means "flirting with death itself,"
or "living between the devil
and the deep blue sea."

They said it about Jesus so much
that people who didn't know Jesus
thought he literally walked on actual water.
It means, "How can that man keep 
getting away with what he gets away with?"

You could say that Jesus lived a charmed life
right up to the cross.
It caught up with him,
as it does with us all.
That's the edge we dance on.
It is crumbling as I type,
it is coming apart--
coming for--all of us who dance there.

We know it, and can't help it.
It is what we do.

The edge I'm talking about
is the edge between spiritual truth
and physical reality.

Physical reality is Life Eats Life!
The Big Fish Eat The Little Fish
And The Little Fish Swim Through The
Nets That Haul The Big Fish To The Cannery.

"When 'the lion lies down with the lamb,'
only one of them gets up."

Physical reality has a side to it,
call it the Dark Side of Life,
that cannot be reconciled
with the spiritual truth of compassion and peace,
of mercy and good will.

And even on the spiritual side,
justice eats mercy alive. 

People turn to alcohol to square up with
the incongruities of their life,
of wanting what they cannot have,
of imagining a world they can't live in,
of the way things are
being utterly incompatible 
with the way things ought to be.

Everywhere the story is the same one.
No one is who they say they are.
No one is who they ought to be.

Democracy is at total odds with capitalism.
Capitalism uses democracy as a front
to destroy the world.
Capitalism is the end of life on the planet.

And alcohol is the cheapest/easiest way
to live within the contradictions
at work in our life
that are everywhere.
The contradictions permeate everything.

Tevya is my ideal of The Original Man,
who we all ought to be, whether men or women,
we all ought to be original selves,
as Tevya was.

Tevya pulled it off bearing the contradictions
of his life on the strength of his life's traditions,
but when his traditions were taken away,
he was left, as we all are, "like a fiddler on the roof."
And when, at the end of the play/movie,
Tevya and Golda get off the boat in New York,
then what?
How does Tevya walk on water in New York.
Odds are he becomes and alcoholic
and drinks himself to death.

Without the right kind of community,
that is what we are left with,
more often than not.

Alcohol helps us bear the pain
of life under water.
Of life without "traditions,"
that help us deny the truth
of how things are.

And when alcoholics wake up and realize
they are killing themselves,
they turn to AA,
putting AA between them and the bottle.
They dry out and quit drinking,
but the realities that sent them into the bottle
are still in place.

After sobriety, what???
How do we bear the pain of the contradictions
of our life apart from denial and addiction?

We dance on the edge of what we can take.
Of what we can get by with.
The edge between who we are,
seeing/bearing the truth as we do,
and the world of unbearable, horrendous, beastly,
corrupt, brutality
where life eats life
and might makes right
and nothing is as it ought to be.

How do we do that?

With our eyes wide open!
And our heart screaming "NO!"

We have to work with our heart.

We have to be able to say "YES!" to "NO!"
and be the place where they live together.

We have to say "YES!" to life just as it is.
To ourselves just as we are.
It is the way of life outside of the bottle.
I hope Tevya discovered that,
found it out for himself.

"YES!" to life just as it is,
to ourselves just as we are,
is the ultimate compromise,
and the end of the torment of incongruity
between spiritual truth and physical reality.

"YES!" to life as it is, to ourselves as we are,
is the real cross we must bear
in continuing to dance on the edge of what we can take,
and taking that forever,
because it is the best we can do,
and it is what we do best,
and it is what most needs to be done,
in order to live outside of the bottle,
facing life straight up,
and doing what is called for
to the extent that is possible under the circumstances
in each situation as it arises
all our life long--
for the joy of doing it,
and the satisfaction of having done it,
and is the best we can do,
anyway, nevertheless, even so.



Field Road 01/09/2009 Oil Paint Rendered — Guilford County, North Carolina
Bearing the constant,
wonderful agony,
of the pain of dancing on the edge
between "YES!" and "NO!"
is the heart of life fully lived
as original human beings.

No denial!
No escape!
No addictions!

Sex, drugs and alcohol,
and Money! Money! Money!
have no appeal
for those who know what's what,
look the Cyclops in its ugly, red, eye,
and say, "Show me what you got!"
day by day.

We begin to look forward to it
after a while.
Looking forward to what we do with today,
each day.
Looking forward to what needs to be done today.
To what needs us to do it, today.

We live day by day, 
situation by situation,
moment by moment,
in a "Here we are, now what?"
kind of way.

It is the way of the Tao
at work in our life,
the way of keeping up
with "the spirit who is like the wind
that blows where it will."

We step into the world no one can live in,
and dance on the edge
between spiritual truth
and physical reality,
merging Mythos with Logos,
integrating who we are with where we are,
making it work,
paying the price,
just like Jesus did,
just like the Buddha under the Bo Tree.

Saying, "YES!" to life just as it is,
anyway, nevertheless, even so.
For the joy of doing it,
and the satisfaction of having done it,
one more day.

There are no strategies,
no recipes,
for having it made.

There is only getting up again,
and doing what needs to be done,
here and now, again,
through all of the situations and circumstances
our days create and throw at us,
in a "Is that the best you got?"
kind of way.

This is what we are here to do,
and doing it is what keeps us going.
One day at a time.
All the way along The Way.



Baxter Creek Bridge 02 11/07/2007 Oil Paint Rendered — Big Creek Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Waterville, North Carolina
We do not find it "out there."
What we seek is not to be found
in the theologies, doctrines, dogmas, theories,
places, lectures, sermons, sites, locations, etc.
of external, physical, apparent reality.

It is to be found,
as Joseph Campbell said,
"far to the back in the darkest corner
of the cave you most don't want to enter."

If I had my way,
we would spend our time,
the truth hidden away
in all of the metaphors
of all of the religions
throughout time.

I think we would discover 
that all of them are saying the same things
over and over.

All of our metaphors have to be reinterpreted
in light of our present-day experience of life.

What is "the cave you most don't want to enter"?
What does it mean to "pick up your cross daily
and follow me"?

(I say, to "follow" Jesus is to BE Jesus--
to be Jesus the way only we can be Jesus,
by doing what needs to be done in each situation
as it arises
in the moment of our living,
spontaneously, from the heart, without thinking about it,
just as Jesus did in responding to the events
of his day.)

What we seek is found in doing the work
of working with the metaphors we have created
as a species to say what needs to be said
to enable us to do what needs to be done,
here and now, moment to moment, situation by situation,
all our life long.

The work is done in emptiness, stillness and silence.
The light comes on by its own volition.
There is nothing we can do to make it happen NOW!
We sit/stand/walk in emptiness, stillness and silence,
waiting for the magic to happen,
and the light to go on.
Looking, listening, watching, waiting,
making connections,
putting two and two together,
seeing how this relates to that
and what that means for us here and now...

We bring forth from within what we need
to serve as a grounding foundation 
for the work that is ours to do
within the moment to moment reality of our life.

It helps to have the right kind of community
of two or three people
who ask the right questions,
and say the right things,
to keep us going
in the work of dancing on the edge
between spiritual truth
and physical reality,
bearing the pain,
integrating the opposites,
harmonizing yen and yang,
in accord with The Way,
all the way.



Bayou DeSiard 11 11/02/2015 Oil Paint Rendered — Monroe, Louisiana
“YES!” That is the way it is, 
and "YES!" THIS is what I’m doing about it! 
Is the way of life. 
Saying, "YES!" to life
is doing what must be done in response to life.

This can be like death,
it is a dying to how things should be,
in doing what needs to be done
about how things are.

This is death that leads to life,
to our doing what is required of us by life,
which infuses us with life
in living like life needs us to live.

Death and resurrection, Kid. Death and resurrection.

What we can do about the way things are 
comes down, too much of the time, 
to calling it out. 

To naming it for what it is. 
To saying what is so. 
And what needs to be so instead. 
Anyway, nevertheless, even so. 

We say “YES!” to “NO!” 
and bear consciously the pain of how things are.

Saying "YES!" to life as it is,
is a form of acceptance that does not 
put things aside and move on. 

It is an acceptance that accepts the burden 
of the pain that will never go away. 
It is bearing the pain of life all our life long—
without allowing it to interfere with our ability 
to do what needs to be done, anyway, nevertheless, even so.

Racism is one of the 10,000 things 
that nobody has any business saying “YES!” to. 
We all have to be able to say “YES!” to “NO!” 
about racism, etc. 
Saying “YES!” to “NO!” 
means accepting the work 
of calling out racism, 
denouncing racism, 
opposing racism in all forms forever!

Saying “YES!” to “NO!” about racism, etc., 
is saying “YES! to the work that is ours to do 
in making racism think twice about 
being racist, 
and making ourselves a bad place 
for racism, etc.. to be. 
It is saying “YES!” 
to the work that is ours to do
in making racists pay for being racist.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: