February 22-B, 2023

The Wasteland 04 Oil Paint Rendered — Digital Art
This is where we live,
and how we live there.

The background of this scene,
and several more like it,
is my interpretation of scenes
in the Namib Desert in Africa.

The foreground is my interpretation 
of The Gateless Gate,
and represents the flip in perspective
that enables us to see beyond 
what we look at
to the Also There that is a part
of every situation.


"The Gateless Gate"
and its companion volume,
"The Blue Cliff Record,"
are collections of Koans,
or Conundrums,
that were compiled by Zen Masters
and Taoist Sages
in the neighborhood of the 1st century CE
("What is the sound of one hand clapping?"
"Show me your face before you were born!"
"Does a dog have Buddha nature?")
whose purpose was to "turn the light around"
in the minds of those seeking enlightenment
in order to assist their "finding without seeing,"
or "understanding without thinking,"
because knowing what we need to know
is just there, right here, right now,
for those with eyes to see, 
ears to hear.
And how do we get those?
By realizing they are right here, right now,
and always have been,
and always will be!
Because it is a shift in perspective 
that is required,
like looking at an optical illusion.


My interpretation of The Gateless Gate
is a part of every moment of every day,
there to be walked through
and transported instantly
to a different dimension
just by shifting the way we look at
what we see in this here, this now.

We live in the Wasteland
by way of the Gateless Gate.

My sister, Susan, killed herself
by starving herself to death
with a living will in one hand,
which specified, "No forced feeding,"
and Hospice in the other hand,
maintaining a "death watch"
until she died,
because she resolutely refused to live
life on its terms.

Agreeing to live life on its terms is 
the universal covenant/contract
we all strike with life upon our birth.
We violate it to our eternal shame and chagrin.
Many of us don't care about that,
we have had enough and we are leaving.

Over my 40.5 years as an ordained minister
of the Word and Sacraments,
I officiated at the funeral of at least five people
who just weren't taking it anymore.

One was a dear child in her early twenties,
who could not bear the sight, or thought, 
of roadkill,
and a squirrel committed suicide under
her car's wheels 
as she drove to work.
She wasn't about to turn the light around.

My sister Susan had a PhD and two Masters,
and wasn't going to turn the light around, either.

We are all one slight perspective shift 
away from having it made,
or losing it all.

There is always something to not like
about every situation.
How much emphasis we give to that tells the tale
in every situation.

My father would not live with out cigarettes 
and died when he was 65 from emphysema,
hooked up to a respirator,
asking for a cigarette.
He wasn't about to turn the light around.

"Life on my terms, or not at all!"
Spitting on our compact with life.

Life is never on our terms!
Negotiation and compromise are required
in every moment,
in each situation as it arises!
We make our peace, again, with our life
all of the time,
doing what is asked of us--
required of us--
against our will
over the full course of our life,
and die when it is done,
weeping because it is done,
turning the light around
all 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.

One thought on “February 22-B, 2023

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