January 07, 2022


Moose Flats 09/07/2006 Oil Paint Rendered — Banff National Park, Alberta
The tasks of life cannot be ignored.
They must be served
with our life--
our way with life--
all our life long.

The five most important relationships
are with ourselves,
with our work,
(which is not the work we are paid to do,
but the work we are born to do,
the work we are equipped to do),
with one another
and with our life
(Which is the life
that is our life to live),
and with dying.

What I am telling you 
with these little soliloquies 
is not something someone told me,
though it is a compilation
of what a lot of people have said,
with my own spin on most of it,
particularly on the implications of it,
and what we are to do about it,
but it is all available to each one of us,
bubbling up constantly beneath the surface
of us all--
as that "wellspring of living water" 
that is the source of all we say and do.

None of you could be here now reading this
if it were not corresponding,
with something already there in you,
which stirs to life in hearing
what I have to say,
and carries us into the company of all
who are saying what we need to hear.

We know the truth when we hear it.
Which means, of course, that
we know bullshit when we hear that,
and a lot of people read what I write
and say, "That's bullshit," and quit reading.

I say that those people are out of touch
with themselves
and haven't had an original thought
in years,
and everything they think
they get from someone else,
someone who is their guru in the worst
sense of the word.

Joseph Campbell, who is one of my gurus
in the best sense of the word,
talks about the Official Gurus in India
being, so to speak, "a clear pane of glass"
through which their disciples can see
back through long generations of gurus
to the very first guru
who was such a source of truth
that he didn't need a guru,
and all they say is what has always been said
in a dharma-is-the-way-things-are-and-ought-to-be
kind of way.

Which is not to say that there is not
a way things are and ought to be,
but to say those things cannot be told/said,
only realized/recognized,
in the way of Martin Palmer's translation
of the Tao Te Ching's "The Tao that can be said
is not the eternal Tao" line:
"A path that can be discerned as a path
is not a reliable path."

We have to feel our way along reliable paths.
No guru can tell us where to step.
But there is a path,
the way things are and ought to be,
and we each have to find it for ourselves,
and become like beggars 
telling one another where they have found food
(But not like Gurus telling their disciples
what food to eat and how to prepare it).

But I ramble.
And rambling is essential.
One thing leads to another.
Just as "one book opens another,"
as the old alchemists liked to say.
And rambling takes us where we are going,
guiding our boat on its path through the sea
(And as Campbell said, "We have to know 
what our boat is and paddle/row/sail it!")

Our boat is our work.
Campbell's work/boat/yoga was "underlining passages,"
mine is that as well,
and saying (to anyone who will listen) 
what the passages mean,
how they all come together 
what they are saying, 
and what they are calling us all to do,
which is to know what our boat is
that will get us there
and paddle/row/sail it with conscious intention
and awareness.
With me, that means rambling.

Without losing sight of where we have been.

One of the tasks of life
is not losing sight of where we have been.

The tasks of life are general and particular,
corporate and individual,
universal and personal.
Dedication to the tasks of life
is immediate and eternal.

The immediate task of life 
is what needs to be done here and now.
What needs to be done next.
What needs us to do it.
Whether we want to or not.

Being happy and doing what we want 
are the first things
that have to go.
The Hero's Journey cannot be lived around
what we want and what will make us happy.
We have to know (And be right about)
what needs to be done and do it,
in each situation as it arises.

And we also have to know and be right about
the tasks that have to be completed
in each stage of life,
tasks that are common to us all,
and are placed on us by life itself,
and by the culture in which we live.
Which have to do with adapting ourselves
to the requirements of living
(Life eats life, for instance),
and what we have to do to make a living,
and how we come to terms with losing
our abilities and having to die.

We live our life around the tasks of life.
And there are certain rituals
that are naturally evoked by those tasks,
so our life becomes a collection of rituals,
and we live according to a particular pattern,
which is uniquely our own
and is generally found among all people everywhere
throughout time.

So be attentive to your tasks of life,
and dedicate yourself to them,
and take care of them regularly.
They can be counted on to get you there.

Happy trails!
Fair winds and following seas!
Mind how you go!
May we travel together
as companions on the Journey always,
whether we ever "lay eyes on one another"
or not--
just because we know what the other knows!
Amen! May it be so! 



Big Rock Preserve 03 11/17/2021 Oil Paint Rendered — Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation, Charlotte, North Carolina
All theology is bad theology.
All theology-based religion is bad religion.
Religion that is true religion
is grounded/founded on the truth
of awe and wonder,
and the realization of more than words can say,
confounded/enthralled by the mystical nature
of the heart of life and being.

Good religion cannot be passed along
any more than an affinity for art and music
can be passed along,
and so the saying, 
"God has no grandchildren").

We wake up on our own.
We stumble into wonder on our own.
We look forever unseeing,
and then, like that, we see,
and the world is indescribably alive
with numinous, ineffable, truth/reality,
and our heart beats in sync
with the heart of the universe,
and we are "one with everything."

The best I can do in telling someone
how to find what I am talking about
is to say "See what you look at,
and be right about what needs to be done
here and now,
and do it to the extent that it can be done,
with the gifts/daemon/genius/etc.
that are your natural/original self,
when it needs to be done,
the way it needs to be done,
in each situation as it arises
all your life long,
and allow that kind of doing
lead you to the kind of being
that does the right thing,
in the right place,
at the right time,
in the right way,
in sync with the flow of time and place
always and forever.

And letting that be that."

Being happy, 
and doing what we want,
and having our way
does not fit into this scheme of things
at all.

We hear that and say, "Uh-oh."

That is the story of humankind.
And, here we are.



Scrapping Fall 10 11/17/2021 Oil Paint Rendered — Carolina Thread Trail, 12-mile Creek Access, Waxhaw, North Carolina
There is nothing to it.
There is only the boat 
that is ours to paddle/row/sail
on its path through the endless sea,
and the realization 
that "the farther shore"
is right here, right now,
with the paddling/rowing/sailing,
and there is nothing to it
"but to do it,"
as Maya Angelou would say.

Tell Jesus that he was wasting his time,
that the world is going to be worse
in 2,000 years than it is in his life,
and that nothing he says or doe
is going to make any difference
in the way people think and live over time,
and he would say,
"Oh, well," and get back to work
saying and doing what was his to say and do--
no matter what!

That is all there is to it.

Paddling/rowing/sailing our boat
is a waste of time.
And it makes all the difference.
Doing our work--
doing what is ours to do--
doing what only we can do
the way we can do it--
is essential,
not only to us,
but also to the basic framework of life.
It matters how we live, 
that we live,
doing our thing,
being who we are.

Nothing is more necessary than that.
And, there is nothing to it.

Just "get in there and do your thing!"
Is what Joseph Campbell said
is the summation of the Bhagavad Gita,
the oldest religious treatise of all time,
and let that be that,
in an "Oh well, nothing is going to stop me" kind of way.

This is the easiest thing there is,
and the hardest, most difficult,
most absurd thing there is.

There is nothing to it,
and nothing can make us do it.

It is up to us all the way.

Are you coming, or not?


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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