August 02, 2021


Wood Duck 02 05/14/2014 Oil Paint Rendered — Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Your conflicts are killing you.

The typical way we deal with conflicts
is killing us.

We typically deny them,
run from them,
escape them,
ignore them,
pretend they don't exist,
and create conflicts
trying to get away from
our conflicts.

Conflicts multiply that way.
Pot and alcohol
are making things worse
by helping us feel better.

Feeling better is not getting better.

How long has it been since you
were conflict free?

Dead is conflict free.
Life, not so much.

Managing our conflicts
means reducing our conflicts
to a manageable level.

Means saying "No!"
Means drawing lines.
Oh, but "No!" and drawing lines
create such internal conflicts for us!

We have to deliberately create conflict
to reduce conflict.
We cannot run/hide/escape from conflict
and reduce conflict.
This is the first law of conflict reduction.

The first step in reducing conflict
is to take the first law of conflict reduction
to heart.
Grasp what it means,
and get to work.

Getting to work means sitting still,
being quiet.
Inviting all of your conflicts 
into your awareness.
You might want to make a list.
An actual list.

What are the sources of conflict
in your life?
Keep the list going over time.
Invite conflicts to present themselves
to you throughout your day,
Through your dreams at night
(They have been doing this for years,
but now you are going to start paying attention
to your dreams
and mining them for the conflicts
they reveal).

Catalog your conflicts.
Notice how one creates a multitude of others.
Notice how denying/hiding/escaping create
conflicts by the score.

Search for your easiest conflicts to resolve.
Start with them.
Use them as practice.

Your goal is to reduce the number of conflicts
in your life.
That means not adding any new ones,
and resolving current ones.

It won't take long to realize that
this means changing your behavior.
More specifically, it means
transforming your relationship 
with yourself,
your life,
other people,
particularly family members.

You might need a therapist
or a truly good friend
to help you with this
(Most "friends" are only interested in
using their relationship with you
to escape/avoid their own conflicts,
and are definitely not interested
in facing up to any of them, 
which means they cannot help you
face up to yours).

It takes courage, "true grit," 
and determination to see this through.
But it is the necessary first step
in reclaiming your life and living it
over what remains for the time left
for that kind of thing.

Your basic strategy is the 
"What needs to be done?" approach.
Here's the conflict,
what needs to be done?

Sit with the conflict and the question
in mind.

Do. Not. Try. To think your way to a solution!

Just with the conflict and the question,
and wait "for the mud to settle
and the water to clear."

You may have to get up and go on with your life,
but keep the conflict and the question with you
at all times.

Walk two paths at once.
Tend your business in "the world,"
and your business with the conflict and the question,
at the same time.

You are looking for realization to occur
of its own accord.
For something to stir to life,
arise, emerge, appear, as if by magic.

For a door to open where there was no door,
a path to appear where there was no path.

It may ask hard things of you.
Hard things are your new favorite thing.
Do what needs to be done.




Waterrock Knob Sunset 10-29-2014 Oil Paint Rendered — Blue Ridge Parkway, Maggie Valley, North Carolina
Carl Jung said,  “There is no balance, no system of self-regulation, without opposition. The psyche is just such a self-regulating system” 

I view the Psyche as an aspect of Mind.
And may constitute the whole of Mind,
so that Mind and Psyche are One.

It may also be that the old Chinese concept Tao
is one with Mind and with Psyche,
so that all three terms "mean" the same "thing."

I say "may" here because I cannot find a place
to draw lines between Tao and Mind and Psyche,
and all three terms seem to me
to be designations for our experience
with something other than ourselves--
something other than our ego-self.

And this "otherness" needs to be explored,
because I think it connects us with 
"all that has gone before."
And suggests a connection,
perhaps through DNA channels,
with instincts/intuition/knowing
that have a life of their own,
and is there for us all to partner with
in living our life aligned with,
in accord with,
The Way of the Whole.

Perhaps, there are no lines separating 
any of this,
and the Buddhists are right 
about all being One,
with us awash in a great
swirl of oneness,
where Psyche/Mind/Tao are experiencing
physical existence through us,
and are calling us to consciously/intentionally
place ourselves in accord with it/them
for the true good of the whole.

The Psyche/Mind/Tao are self-regulating systems
for producing in/through us
balance and harmony,
spirit, energy, vitality--
and it is our work to submit 
to the work of wholeness
in living lives of 
balance and harmony,
spirit, energy, vitality,
in and around,
above and beyond,
what we do day-to-day,

Trusting ourselves to what we do not know,
for the lack of anything better to do--
and we have to wonder
what could possibly be better than this,
or more on the order of a Great Adventure
of a Lifetime?

We have to learn the Way of Alignment,
and find our way to the Beam of Life,
and stay on it (in it) forever no matter what!



Union Pacific Lift Trestle 10 01/26/2017 Oil Paint Rendered — Red River, Alexandria, Louisiana
My next-oldest sister, Diane, died yesterday. 
Went to take a shower,
died in the bathroom,
probably from an aneurysm,
but that is to be determined.

There were five siblings,
three sisters 
and two brothers.
Now there are four living siblings.

I think that if we took a vote among us,
Diane would be a unanimous choice
for the hands-down hero among us.
Her heroism comes from doing the most
against the greatest odds
any of us had to work with and against.

Diane was my own personal wonder
at what can be done with practically
nothing in the way of external resources.
She called it all up from within.

We all started out with a father
who made it difficult.
Soft and gentle,
kind and caring,
are not terms we would use
in talking about him.

Emotionally (and occasionally physically) abusive
would be the relevant phrase.
None of us had an ideal beginning,
and we all did what we could with it.

Diane produced a life that was admirable 
by any standard,
with little help to speak of.

Only Helen Keller did more with less in my mind.

So I lift this day to her memory--
as I will with all days following this one--
with respect and honor for her
and the life she lived,
and deep regret and sorrow
regarding the un-lived life she might have had
with a father worthy of her.

August 01, 2021


Jasper Wetlands 04 09/27/2009 Oil Paint Rendered — Jasper National Park, Alberta
In any situation,
there is what needs to be done
and what needs not to be done.
All we have to do is 
be right about which is which,
and do what needs to be done,
without a thought
for what is in it for us.

Our place is to be what the situation
needs us to be
with no interest
in how we might manipulate/exploit 
the situation 
for our good/gain/profit/advantage.

Sincerity and spontaneity--
not contrivance and deceit--
make all the difference
in making where we are
a good place to be
in each situation as it arises,
all our life long.



Lake Haigler 01 08/22/2014 Oil Paint Rendered — Anne Springs Close Greenway, Fort Mill, South Carolina
It does not matter what we think,
what we believe,
what we want,
what mood we are in,
how we feel,
whether it is a good time for us or not.

All that matters is 
that we do what needs to be done,
where it needs to be done
when it needs to be done
the way it needs to be done
because it needs to be done,
without caring about
what is in it for us,
or what we stand to gain or lose,
by doing it.

Get that down and we have it made,
and the world has it made as well.



Reelfoot Lake 17 11/04/2015 Oil Paint Rendered — Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tiptonville, Tennessee
Optimal is a range,
not a point.

It is a subjective range,
not an objective measurement.

It exists as an approximate,
and temporary,
location between less than optimal
and more than optimal--
for people who don't have much to do
beyond wondering about 
their present state of satisfaction
with their life,
or their degree of functioning/success
at what they are doing.

Reality is a similar range of subjectivity.
"Actual" and "apparent" and "illusion"
are words used in accessing reality
by those wondering how real something is.

How real something is
is how real we say it is.
A broken arm is more real than a broken heart,
though unless we experience both
at the same time,
we may be hard pressed
to determine which hurts the most.

Reality is more, or less, real
depending on how it is experienced
at any point in time.

Our experience of our experience
requires us to be present with our experience,
alert to our experience 
and aware of ourselves being aware
of our experience.

How often do we do that?
How long can we manage to maintain
that kind of focus and concentration?
For what purpose?
Who cares?

We drift through our life.
We hardly ever actually live it,
aware of what we are doing.

I sometimes look at my watch
without actually seeing what time it is.
Or eat lunch without tasting it,
unless it is really good or really bad.

Where are we when we are not here, now?
Why do we drift away?
Why do we live without knowing what we are doing?

How many years are we actually alive
in the life we are living?

How real are we really?
How real is "real life"?

July 31, 2021


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.



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.

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.



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
How to get it,
develop it,
have it,
trust yourself to it,
devote yourself to its service,
with liege loyalty and filial devotion,
in each situation as it arises,

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. 



Lake Haigler 03 11/24/2019 Oil Paint Rendered — Anne Springs Close Greenway, Fort Mill, South Carolina
Actual reality is moving,
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,
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? 


July 30, 2021


Ocracoke Lighthouse 01 10/27/2011 Oil Paint Rendered — Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Get fully vaccinated
and wear a mask!

It's like wearing a seat belt.

It's like wearing a shirt and shoes
when you go shopping.

It's like not smoking in restaurants
and shops, etc.
that prohibit smoking.

It's like driving on the right 
side of the road.

It's like stopping on red
and going on green.

It's like taking turns at 
four-way stop signs.

It's like yielding the right-of-way
at traffic circles.

It's like not breaking in line.

It's like honoring the right to be served first
of the people who were there before you.

It's like zipping up when you leave the restroom.

It's like doing what needs to be done,
when it needs to be done,
where it needs to be done, 
how it needs to be done,
for as long as it needs to be done,
because it needs to be done.

It's like saving lives.

Whether you think so or not.
Whether you feel like it or not.
Whether you want to or not.
Whether it's convenient or not.
Whether you are in the mood to do it or not.
Whether your friends laugh at you are not.

What kind of friend would that be?



November 4 Panorama 11/04/2019 — Blueridge Parkway, Boone, North Carolina
"Tao" is an old Chinese word meaning "way" or "path."
"Te" means "virtue."
"Ching" means "classic" (As in "classical music"
a "classic book."

"Tao te Ching" is "The Classic Way of Virtue,"
or, "The Classic Virtue of The Way."

"Virtue" is to be understood
as the essence of who you/we are.
The "specialties/gifts/daemon/virtues"
that make us "us,"
that reflect/exhibit/express
"the face that was ours
before our grandparents (both sets) were born."

As in, "The virtues of this mare
include her gentle gait
and her love for children."

What do your virtues include?

The Tao is about the way you bring them forth,
your best in how you live your life.

Doing what needs to be done,
where it needs to be done,
when it needs to be done,
how it needs to be done,
because it needs to be done,
in each situation as it arises,
all your life long.

Tao te Ching.



Oktibbha County 07 11/20/2015 Oil Paint Rendered — Starkville, Mississippi
Lao Tzu's "Tao te Ching,"
which is also called, "The Lao Tzu,"
includes a statement which has been
traditionally interpreted to read,
"The Tao that can be told/said
is not the eternal Tao."

Martin Palmer interprets it as saying:
"The path that can be discerned as a path,
is not a reliable path."

Which is to say,
if we are following someone else's idea
of who and how we ought to be,
we are not on our path.

If anybody else is telling us what to do
and how to be,
we are not on our path.

And so, the old Chinese Zen masters
(Zen is what happened when Taoism met Buddhism)
could say, "If you meet the Buddha on the road,
kill him."

The same would apply to Lao Tzu and Jesus,
and all of their disciples.

We step into a situation,
and what we do there is to flow
from who we are
when we are being true
to the deepest essence of our soul/heart/self.

We alone know what that is--
and we don't know it by thinking about it,
but by watching what we do
straight from the heart/soul/self
in response to what meets us in the situation.

Our automatic/natural/spontaneous response
to what happens in any situation
reveals us to us
as much as it does to those in the situation with us.

We know who we are by seeing what we do
and hearing what we say
in unguarded moments
when we are responding "off the cuff,"
"on the fly," "in the moment,"
to what is happening here and now.

Reflecting on that over time
can shape who we are on one hand,
and change the way we think 
about who we are on another hand.
And on another hand,
it can shift us toward being
one who lives out of their own sense
of what needs to be done,
trusting themselves to be what is needed,
without worrying about 
what the Buddha, or Jesus, or Lao Tzu,
or their disciples,
might think of what and how we do what we do.

The reliable path comes out of 
the center of our own self.
When we seek to follow that path,
we are on the right path,
regardless of how wrong it might appear to be.

Jesus was killed for not being
who he was "supposed to be."
Jesus, the Buddha and Lao Tzu
were all misunderstood.

Being true to ourselves
is not the path to fortune and glory.
It is the path to being who we are
in each situation as it arises.

That turned out to be more valuable
than Jesus, the Buddha and Lao Tzu
had any right to think, or hope, believe
or imagine it would be.

May it be so for you and me as well!



The Ghost Trees of Boneyard Beach 05 01/28/2015 Oil Paint Rendered — Botany Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Edisto Island, South Carolina
No expectation.
No judgment.
No opinion.
Just awareness.
Just compassion.
Just seeing.
Just knowing.
Just doing what needs to be done.
Where it needs to be done.
When it needs to be done.
The way it needs to be done.
Because it needs to be done.
In each situation as it arises.
All our life long.



The Oaks of Mepkin Abbey 11/15/2013 — Monks Corner, South Carolina
Lieu Tzu is one of the Four Pillars of Classic Taoism,
along with Lao Tzu, Chung Tzu and Wen Tzu,
and said:

"In our short time here,
we should listen to our own voices,
follow our own hearts.
Why not be free
and live your own life?
Why follow other people's rules
and live to please others?
Why not let your life
be guided by your own heart?"

This is from about 300 BCE.
Over 2,000 years later,
it still needs to be grasped
and applied.

July 29, 2021


Little Pigeon River Cascades 10/29/2014 Oil Paint Rendered — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Greenbriar District, Cosby, Tennessee
When the lion lies down with the lamb
only one of them gets up.
That's nature for you.
Nature doesn't play favorites,
or take sides.

"The big fish eat the little fish,
and the little fish swim through
the netting that hauls the big fish
to the cannery."

That's the way nature works.
No compassion.
No morality.
No ethics.
You take your chances
and don't complain
when your luck runs out,
because nothing is promised,
and things average out along
the "normal distribution curve"
over time.

Our place is to not take it seriously,
and to offer kindness,
and good company to all who come our way,
because no one has it easy for long,
and we all can use more help
than we get.

So do what you can to make
everyone you meet welcome
with an encouraging word
and a "Mind how you go,"
as the Brits might say.

We all have the same work to do--
what needs to be done
in the time and place of our living.
And it's good to take courage
in the presence of one another,
and face what's to be faced
as best we can

Taking on the world each day
in the spirit of having each other's back,
makes a tough place a better place
for all concerned.
Just offer what you need,
and everyone will be grateful.



Blue Ridge Parkway 06/14/2012 Oil Paint Rendered — Near West Jefferson, North Carolina
A philosophy of health
is a philosophy of life.
If you aren't clear and becoming clearer
about that which guides you
along the way,
you aren't being guided along the way.
You have left the path,
lost the way,
and are wandering without direction,
meaning or purpose
through the wasteland of discontent,
and it shows.

It shows in 10,000 ways.
You could list them all.
You live them daily.

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

Do you have the heart for it,
is the question.
It is a religious question.
A spiritual question.
It demands that you know who you are
and what is guiding your boat
along its path through the sea.

It requires you to transform your relationship
with yourself,
your life,
and other people,
in being who you are
within the context and circumstances of your life.

In knowing what is important
and living in light of it.

In doing what needs to be done
where it needs to be done,
when it needs to be done,
the way it needs to be done,
because it needs to be done,
in each situation as it arises
all your life long--
without contrivance,
trying to get ahead,
exploiting the moment
for your good,
your benefit,
your advantage,
your gain--
not letting "the left hand know
what the right hand is doing,"
living spontaneously,
with integrity and compassion,
grace and kindness,
using your gifts/shtick/daemon/specialties/virtues,
that came with you from the womb,
and the face that was yours before
your grandparents (on both sides) were born,

I have found it to be helpful
to be alcohol-free.

To observe a 12-hour fast per day,
consuming no calories
from the last calorie at night
to the first calorie the next morning,
every day.

To make a regular place for silence
throughout each day.

To attend each night's dreams.

To keep an eye on your balance and harmony,
and your spirit, energy and vitality
as a way of remaining in accord with 
the center of your life and being,
the core of what is important,
the truth of who you are
within the context and circumstances of your life,
and a companion with the mystery at the heart of it all.

Being alive in the time and place
of our living
is a full time project.
Distractions abound.
Diversions are everywhere.
"The path that can be discerned as a path,
is not a reliable path" (Lao Tzu).

Thus, the importance of being alert 
to what is happening,
to what is called for,
to what needs to be done here and now,
and doing it,
where it needs to be done,
when it needs to be done, etc.
your whole life long.



Mirror Lake 10/20/2014 Oil Paint Rendered — Highlands, North Carolina
It is always the right time for something.
What is this time right for,
here and now?

Answer that question correctly,
and you have it made,
as much as you can have it made,
in a world where what needs to be done
is lost in a stampede
of wants and desires,
preferences and disinclinations.



Moonset 10-17-2016 Oil Paint Rendered — Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Elvis Presley said,
to his spiritual advisor
(What a job that must have been),
speaking about the women who loved him,
"Do you realize that
I will never know if they love me
or Elvis Presley?"

That's the heart of the matter.
It gets straight to the point.
It highlights the fundamental
loss of integrity
that is the burden of those
who reject/refuse the work
of being who they are
in deference to the roles
assigned to them
by their place in life.

"Am I me,
or am I who they think I am?"

"Am I me,
or who I think I'm supposed to be?"

And Elvis' spiritual advisor missed
his chance to say,
"Write a song that says,
'It's easy to love me
if you don't know who I am!'"

July 28, 2021


Lake Louise Canoeists 09/30/2009 Oil Paint Rendered — Banff National Park, Alberta
It takes such silence--
such being quiet
and noticing what is in the quiet 
with us.

What is right now.
Right here. 

It takes such narrowing down.
Leaving the drama at the door.
The constantly looping tape
of what happened when to whom,
and whose fault it is,
and noise, noise, noise...

Remove the noise from our life
and there is nothing there.

We feed on noise.
Noise keeps us from knowing
how it is with us--
and there is anguish there,
and agony,
and fear...

So bring on the drama!
Bring on the noise!

We don't have what it takes
to do what it takes
to just be here, now.

Nobody is just here, now.
Everybody is somewhere else,
on their way to somewhere else.
Thinking about something else.

We have to be here, now.
Thinking about--attending--
what is with us here, now.
Knowing what needs to happen here, now.
And doing what we can 
with the gifts/shtick/specialties/abilities/etc.
that are ours to serve and to share,
to do what needs to be done,
when it needs to be done,
how it needs to be done,
because it needs to be done,
here and now.

That is the tape we need to loop
repeatedly forever.
"What needs to be done here, now?"

We do not need to escape the present.
We need to be present in the present,
doing what needs to be done, here, now.

Simple as that.



Cades Cove Panorama 10 02/28/2014 Oil Paint Rendered — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend, Tennessee
My idea of/for The Great Society
isn't all that great as societies go.

There would be no disparity,
for one thing.
No polarity.
The upper echelon
would interact regularly
with the lower castes,
and everybody would be living
out of the center of who they are,
around the eternally valid watchwords:
"Know Thyself!"
"To Thine Own Self Be True!"
"Do Unto Others 
As You Would Have Them
Do Unto You!"

Everyone would be looking
to see what they look at--
seeing what needs to be seen,
hearing what needs to be heard,
knowing what needs to be known,
doing what needs to be done--
in each situation as it arises.

No one would be out for themselves
at the expense of everyone else.

The guiding lights would be
"Liberty And Justice For All."
"Balance And Harmony."
"Spirit, Energy, Vitality."
"Sincerity, Spontaneity, Virtue."

And to maintain their awareness
of their responsibility
for creating and serving the atmosphere
required for life to be properly lived
in the society,
each person would be mindfully aware of
their swallowing and breathing,
in that swallowing and breathing
are things all sentient beings have in common.

Difficulty in swallowing and/or breathing
would be the cue to move
back toward the center,
aligning themselves with the way
of the society,
and being true to themselves
in relationship with all others,
working out the conflicts/contradictions
with grace and compassion,
awareness and dedication.

No one would be too poor,
and no one would be too wealthy,
and all would live together
in light of,
and service to,
the true good of the whole.

Needless to say,
this would wreck the hell
out of our current system
of life together,
and transform how things are done
throughout the world.

But, the swallowing/breathing trick alone
would do away with the need for armament



Black Bayou 02 11/02/2015 Oil Paint Rendered — Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe, Louisiana
What kept Sisyphus going?
The same thing that kept Jesus
and the Buddha going.
The same thing that keeps me and you going.
What else could it be?

We all get the same thing
out of doing what we are doing.
The pay-off is the same.

A friend asked me why I did what I did
(I was a minister in the PCUSA for 40.5 years).
I said, "I get paid for it."
She said, "They couldn't pay me enough to do it."
I said, "They couldn't pay me enough to do what you do"
(She was a therapist).
We had a good laugh,
and got back to work.

It isn't the pay!
It isn't the results!
It isn't the glory!
It is the pure joy of doing what we do,
and the satisfaction of having done it!

If there is neither joy nor satisfaction
in what you are doing,
you need to shift your perspective
about what you are doing,
or start doing something else.

I recommend the perspective shift.
A perspective shift is possible
when what you are doing uses 
the gifts/specialties/shtick/abilities/daemon/virtues
you were born with
and you can believe that what you are doing
and the way you are doing it
(You may have to change the way you are doing it)
needs to be done. 

Sisyphus had to do what he did,
so he did it as though it were his idea!
He did it as though he loved it
with all his heart.
He did it as though he were acting the part
in a movie about him,
and he was playing his role
as though an Academy Award 
were on the line.

He played his part so well
even he couldn't tell his feelings for it
were genuine/authentic or just very well pretended.

Was his joy fake?
Was his satisfaction false?
What difference would it make to know for sure?
The impact upon Sisyphus was the same
as it would have been if it were real,
so it may as well have been real.

That's how Jesus did what he did.
It's how the Buddha did what he did.
It's how I'm doing what I'm doing.
How about you?

July 27, 2021


The Falls at Dicey Pond 10/09/2009 Oil Paint Rendered — Baxter State Park, Millinocket, Maine
Something happens
and we decide what it means
and respond in some way
that we think is appropriate.

The fulcrum lies 
with our interpretation and response.
We control, 
or strongly influence,
how things play out
by what we do next.

We lever the future into being
with our response
to what just happened.

We must become aware of our interpretations
and the actions they generate,
and how that spills over
into the rest of our life.

The actions we are unaware of
create the circumstances
we call fate.

The things that keep happening
to us
are the things we set in motion
by the way we interpret
and respond to
what happens to us.

We shoot ourselves in the foot,
not knowing we are pulling the trigger.



Jasper Elk 05 09/25/2009 Oil Paint Rendered — Jasper National Park, Alberta
Where does the right way
of responding to our circumstances
come from?

How do we know it when we see it?

How do we know what is right
and what is wrong?

Where does knowing originate?

What is the source
of the way that is right for us,
and the way that is wrong for us?

Mystery is the ground of life and being.

It moves us toward this
and away from that.

It is the way of life
for all living things.

"Yes!" and "No!"
are all we have to work with,
and they come to us 
from we know not where.

To live without awe and wonder
is to be operationally dead.



Lake McDonald 09/21/2006 Oil Paint Rendered — Glacier National Park, East Glacier, Montana
Some things resonate with us,
some things repel us--
what is the mechanism at work
with either?

We know less than a millionth of one percent
of all there is to know.
But, we act like we know everything that matters.

Science is a necessary corrective
on our hubris and ignorant arrogance.

Science knows it doesn't know,
and is always looking to see better
what it thinks it sees,
and to see something
of what it doesn't see at all.

You can't say that about religion.
All religion everywhere
knows all it needs to know
about everything worth knowing.

Ask any adherent of any religion
what their deepest questions are,
and you will get something cute and shallow.

Questions are nowhere close to the heart
of religion.
Conviction taken on faith
reins supreme.
"Taken on faith" means
"Taking someone else's word for
whatever they take on faith."
And "knowing" all they want to know.

Mystery lies at the heart of life and being.
All of the questions beg even more questions,
and all of them together
constitute a universe of their own
infinitely larger than the physical universe
which gives rise to the questions.

We don't know.

We live to know more than we did
when we started.

Based on our experience 
with acting on the basis of what
we think we know
and what the outcome was,
allowing our outcomes to guide us
into the questions
that deepen/expand our experience,
and lead to greater knowing. 

Like a good scientist would do.

July 26, 2021


Backyard Sunset Panorama 01/01/2015 Oil Paint Rendered — Indian Land, South Carolina
This is as close to a clear view of the horizon as I have ever lived. I must like it that way.
Wide-open spaces have their place, but I seem to belong to the trees and forests.
If you wonder what I believe,
and what I believe you ought to believe,
it's simple:
I believe,
and believe we all ought to believe,
that it matters how we live.

That's almost it as far as believing goes.
It has a corollary:
I believe we all ought to find 
what is ours to do and do it.

That's all there is to it.

What are you good for?
What is your specialty?
Your shtick? 
The things you love to do?

How often do you do them?
For how long?

Everything about us and our life
comes down to, 
revolves around,
finding our life and living it
within the context and circumstances
of our living.

If you think that's easy,
climb down on its back
and tell them to open the chute.
See if you can go the full eight seconds.
See if you still remember who you are
after one second.

I'm betting not.

It's the old Taoist/Zen
(And Zen is what happened to Buddhism
when it met Taoism)
"What is the face that was yours
before your grandparents were born?"

That's long before things started messing with you.

Who have you always been before the beginning?

You are the only one of you there is,
ever has been,
ever will be.
You really ought to be making the most of it.
Showing your stuff. 
Finding and being who you are.
You've wasted enough time as it is.

Of course, it actually isn't a waste at all.
It got you where you are,
here, now.
All that has gone on before
is like priming the pump.
Preparing you for the Big Stage.
Or better,
preparing you to being prepared 
for the Big Stage.

This is where you come in.
Your place from now on is to live
mindfully aware of you--
of what is you and what is not you.
Only you know that.
And it's time for you to know what you know,
and to live in light of it,
between the you you are
and the you your situation in life
is requiring you to be.

You have to work it out.
How much for you
and how much for your sitz im leben.
That's the question that will
"Fill your heart brim-full,
and break it, too" (William Alexander Percy).

That is the question that will introduce
you to what I call
the Eden/Gethsemane axis,
with the Garden of Eden being the face
that was ours before we (or our grandparents were) born,
and Gethsemane being the way back to it.

We pay a price to be who we are.
And we pay a price to not be who we are.
Which price are we going to pay
is the question.

And our answer to the question
starts with our finding our life 
and it is answered by how we live it.

My idea about the place of the church
in our life
is that it ought to throw away all 
of its theology and doctrine,
catechisms and hymn books
(Books of doctrine set to music),
and start helping people find their life
and live it.

Until it does, we are on our own.
We create our own "churches"--
I call them "Communities of Innocence."
Innocent in the sense that they have 
nothing to gain from us,
with no agenda to serve
and exist only to assist us in the work
of being who we are,
where we are,
when we are,
how we are,
why we are,
what we are,
for the full eight seconds of the ride.

And at the end,
it will seem to be a lot shorter than that.



Grandfather Mountain 08 10/17/2016 Oil Paint Rendered — Grandfather Mountain State Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville, North Carolina
Carl Jung said, "There is in each of us
another whom we do not know."

The Other Within is a psychic reality
for all of us.

Projected outward as "other than us,"
this Other Within 
has always been called "God"--
which goes back 5,000 years or so,
and may find confirmation in Julian Jaynes'
book, "The Origin of Consciousness
in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind."

The Other Within is constantly responding
to our environment
with urges, feelings, compulsions, "red flags,"
moods, symptoms, dreams, instinctive actions,
intuitive notions, etc.

And our ideal relationship with this side
of ourselves
is a collaborative "meeting of the minds,"
where we consult the Other,
and develop our ability to read the Other,
in a joint partnership 
that guides our boat on its path
through the sea.

The fundamental, essential, Way we are to follow
is that of seeing what's what
and what needs to be done about it
in each situation as it arises
with the gifts/daemon/specialties/shtick/etc.
that come with us from the womb,
doing what needs to be done,
when it needs to be done,
where it needs to be done,
the way it needs to be done,
because it needs to be done,
with nothing to be gained from it
beyond the joy of doing it
and the satisfaction of having done it.

We meet all of the ebbs and flows of life
from the orientation of 
taking what comes and doing
what can be done with it,
trusting that we have what it takes
to find what we need
to do what needs to be done
in conjunction with the Other Within
all our life long.

Absent from this scenario 
is any concern for our profit,
our gain,
our benefit,
our advantage,
our wealth,
our privilege,
our good at the expense 
of the good of the whole.

What is called for here and now?
In light of the true good of the whole?
What does "Thy will, not mine, be done,"
mean to you?

Who is the "Thy"?
It is the good of the whole.
The good of the "more than I."

The "I" "comes not to be served,
but to serve, and to give his/her life"
in the service of the good of the whole.

"The whole" being the family,
the tribe,
the nation,
the world.

In this is the "plan" for the whole of life.

July 25, 2021


Hayden Valley 06/28/2011 Oil Paint Rendered — Yellowstone National Park, Canyon Village, Wyoming
My mule and my cow
go with me wherever I go.

I thought it would be cute
to call my mule "Bessy,"
and my cow, "Jake,"
but they would have none of it.

"I will be Bessy,"
said the cow.
"And make mine Jake,"
said the mule.

And that's how I got Bessy and Jake.

Bessy and Jake are metaphors
of who I am really.
They remind me of that,
and keep me grounded
in the reality of my original nature.

As long as I do not stray too far
from "the farm,"
I can find my way
through whatever comes my way.

Everything I do effects
my balance and harmony,
and my energy, spirit and vitality.
Bessy and Jake monitor those things
and keep me in touch with them.

Being reminded of my background,
remembering the farm,
I am centered in who I am
and live to maintain my contact with that
through the ebbs and flows
of time and chance,
in a "Okay, now what?" kind of way.

When we are in accord 
with our original nature
and displaying "the face that was ours
before our grandparents were born,"
and aligned with the Tao of time and place, 
we flow in harmony with our circumstances, 
in tune with energy, spirit and vitality.

When we try to find our way
through the wasteland
of wondering where 
our advantage lies,
what's best for us
short term and long term,
and how to avoid the losses
and secure the gains,
through all the oughts and musts,
past the bribery and extortion,
distractions and diversions
of life away from the farm,
our original nature
and our grounding orientation
are the first things to go.

It helps to have your mule and your cow
as traveling companions
to keep you
in touch with the Source
and in sight of the farm.



Lake Francis 01 Panorama 11/19/2019 Oil Paint Rendered — Anne Springs Close Greenway, Fort Mill, South Carolina
We stand between our circumstances
and our original nature
and work to integrate,
to balance,
to harmonize,
to steady and stabilize
the mixture of Yin and Yang
in each situation 
as it arises.

That is our work,
our task,
through all eternity.

This is what we are here for.

We make the peace
and serve the unity
of the whole.

Our task is to get the ratios right.

How well we do it tells the tale.

It helps to do it consciously,
with awareness and patience,
looking for what needs to happen
and doing what needs to be done about that,
when it needs to be done,
how it needs to be done,
because it needs to be done,
with nothing but the joy of doing it
and the satisfaction of having done it
to motivate us 
in our Sisyphean task
of integrating,
and harmonizing
Yin and Yang
And ever, amen,
may it be so! 



Grandfather Mountain 02 10/17/2016 Oil Paint Rendered — Grandfather Mountain State Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville, North Carolina
Too often, acceptable outcomes
are beyond our control.
This leaves us with accepting the fact
that acceptable outcomes
are beyond our control,
and letting the situation be what it is,
seeking out what needs to be done
about that--
about the fact that we are stuck
with an unacceptable situation 
we can do nothing about.

Now what?

When nothing can happen 
until something else does,
we wait it out.

We are waiting for something to shift
in our circumstances,
or in our attitude about our circumstances.

Nobody move!
Wait for something to shift!
For something to occur to us.
For some light to shine.
For something unimaginable to happen.
For revelation.
For realization.
For motivation...

We have to be where we are
before we can be somewhere else instead.
There are times 
when anywhere else
would be better than this.
When those times are upon us,
anywhere else will do,
at least for the duration.

Here we go!


July 24, 2021


Jesse Brown’s Place 06/20/2018 Oil Paint Rendered — Blue Ridge Parkway Jesse Brown’s Place, Blue Ridge Parkway, E.B. Jeffress Park, Purlear, North Carolina
Would that we all might
rise each morning,
and taking what we have to offer
put it to work
in doing what needs to be done,
from one situation to the next
throughout the day,
and carry the joy of doing it
and the satisfaction of having done it
to rest with us at night,
'til time too rise and work again
with dawn.

That might be fine for the birds of the air,
the fish of seas and rivers,
the animals of forests and meadow lands,
but human beings seem to need more variety--
diversions and distractions,
addictions and escapes--
to take their minds off their plight,
and give them something to look forward to
more than another day with its needs
to tend.

We need to be entertained,
taken away from here and now
to a better place to be.

No one can be where they are for long.
We live looking for the action,
any kind of action.

We are always looking for something else,
something different,
something more.

We are driven by our wants and desires.
Not this, not this, not this...
Where is it? Where is it? Where is it?...

The Garden of Eden is US.
We are Adam.
We are Eve.
Rejecting paradise for 
what we think will surely be better.

Yet, that which we seek,
according to Joseph Campbell,
"lies far back in the darkest corner
of the cave we most don't want to enter."

It takes dying to all of our hopes and dreams
to enter that cave 
and make it all the way to that dark corner.

And so it is said, the way back
to the Garden of Eden
winds through the Garden of Gethsemane
and across the face of Golgotha.

The Eden/Gethsemane Axis awaits us all.
The stillness and the silence
contain what we seek.
The boredom of doing/being what is needed
is the path waiting to be trod
in each situation as it arises.

Will we? Can we? Must we?

Only time will tell.



Lake Crandal 02 11/03/2017 Panorama Oil Paint Rendered — Anne Springs Close Greenway, Fort Mill, South Carolina
Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers 
recorded "The Power of Myth," in 1988.
The topics covered remain as pertinent, 
and as true, now as they were then.

Myth and metaphor--and where does that line lie--
remain true throughout time.

This is a link to the last episode in the series,
and is worth watching again and again
throughout the time left for living.

Some things cannot be heard often enough.
This is one of those things.

Ep. 6: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth — ‘Masks of Eternity’



Grandfather Mountain 13 10/17/2016 Oil Paint Rendered — Grandfather Mountain State Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville, North Carolina
We live in the service of something
bigger than we are,
perhaps the love of our children,
of our partner,
of our family,
or of money/power/status...

Some value or quality of life and/or being.

What guides your boat on its path through the sea?
What directs your living?
What deserves/owns your deepest loyalty and devotion?

Joseph Campbell talks about the importance
of constructing/drawing/painting a mandala,
or sacred circle,
representing the sacred radiance that cannot be told/said
at the center of the circle,
which is also who we are in our essence,
our essential self,
as the core of who we are.

He said,
"Draw a circle and then think of the different impulse systems in your life, the different value systems in your life, and try then to compose them and find what the center is. It’s kind of a discipline for pulling all those scattered aspects of your life together, finding a center and ordering yourself to it."

What is the grounding truth of who you are?

Sit with the question
and see what stirs to life within.


July 23, 2021


Charlotte Skyline 19 09/19/2017 Oil Paint Rendered — Romare Bearden Park, Charlotte, North Carolina
Disturbance takes countless forms.
The churning chaos of the clashing rocks,
and the heaving waves of the wine dark sea
are the providential prerogatives
of the gods of disturbance, disorder
and instability. 

Theirs is the province of the 10,000 things,
which they wield with relish
and complete abandon
to the dismay and appall of all sentient beings
throughout their time upon the earth.

We cry, "Peace! Peace," but there is no peace,
and seek refuge and succor
in all places high and low,
only to discover that 
"there is no balm in Gilead,"
or in any of the other mirages 
of refuge and retreat worldwide.

The Buddha under the Bo Tree
and Jesus in the wilderness 
turned within
and found the place of quiet rest
to be in the refusal to be moved
by the forces arrayed against them
in a "This, too, this, too. So what? So what?"
kind of way.

Allowing what cannot be done
to point the way to what can be done
about what needs to be done--
in a "Here we are, now what?" kind of way--
leads to the realization
that we can always sit still and be quiet,
and wait to see what stirs to life
in the silence
to suggest a path,
a direction,
and a response of resilience and determination
first articulated by Ulysses in The Odyssey:
"I will persist and endure!
And when the heaving waves
have shaken my raft to pieces,
Then, I will swim!"



Goodale 05 11/22/2019 Oil Paint Rendered — Adams Mill Pond, Goodale State Park, Camden, South Carolina
In light of what do we live?

Our guide through the darkness
and chaos of our life
is our sense of the good--
of what needs to happen
in the time and place of our living
in response to the times--
such as they are--
that are upon us,
surrounding us,
tossing us about
like dust in the wind.

The times define and limit us all,
and it is our place to respond 
to the times that are upon us
by defining ourselves
while staying in touch with the best
that has been and will ever be.

What is that Best that runs through
all times and places?
Paul, writing to the Philippians,
"Whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is excellent,
and worthy of praise,
strive for these things!"

What are those things?
What have people always said they are?
What do you say they are?
Let those things be your guide,
as you live to emulate,
and express them
in the time and place of your living--
through all of the times
you will be asked to live in and through
during the time you are alive.

Be yourself in the service
of your original nature
and the Good that has always been 
recognized as good
through all the times and places
that people have lived upon the earth,
amid the clashing rocks
and the heaving waves
of the wine dark sea.



Long Shoals 02 10/24/2014 Oil Paint Rendered — Little Eastatoee Creek, Pickens, SC, October 24, 2014
When we dispense with theology and doctrine,
we are left with our original nature,
our gifts/shtick/specialties/daemon/preferences/interests/etc.
that came with us from the womb,
and with each situation as it arises,
which we read with compassionate awareness,
mining it for what's what,
and what needs to be done about it,
and how we can serve that
by sharing our gifts/etc--
for the joy and gladness of doing it,
and the satisfaction of having done it,
situation by situation,
all our life long.

In so doing,
we would be living
like a dog wags its tail
(Alan Stacel).