Monday, July 6, 2015

Are you worried yet?

Cutler, Maine

“The enemy is fear.  We think it is hate, but it is fear.”  -  Ghandi

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”  -  Les Brown

     July 4th weekend just passed, and I was sitting in a lobby editing photos from some small town parades in Maine.  One thing I was struck by is how there were many people participating in and attending the parades, but I had not seen one police car or policeman in either of towns I had been in.  As I worked, one of those 24 hour “news” channels droned in the background.

     A news item caught my attention.  “Authorities were on high alert over this July 4th weekend, and although we didn’t have any major terrorist events, there was a scary incident in New York City” the announcer said.

     It seems a man had slipped past security and climbed atop the Brooklyn Bridge.  There he had committed an atrocious act – he took a “selfie.”  “Luckily for New Yorkers he wasn’t a terrorist” said the announcer, and introduced a policeman from New York.

     He agreed that they needed to tighten security because this “could have been a terrorist, and matters could have been much worse.”  The announcer wrapped up the bit by saying “Thank goodness it wasn’t more serious and hopefully there is swift justice for the man who “potentially could have jeopardized us all.”  A man takes a selfie and he is a threat to “national security.”  In the land of the free and the home of the “brave,” and in doing so he “could have jeopardized us all.”  Wow.

     There is a constant onslaught by those who would profit by having us live in fear.  It permeates the society.  It is hard enough for us to live in trust and faith with the fears that our own egos generate, let alone the constant assault from all quarters in our sound-bite society.

     Actions speak much louder than words, and I can tell you that in rural Maine people are not looking for a surrogate “father” to protect them from their fellow man.  There are hundreds of towns where resilient people believe in and depend upon their fellows.  We are well served to be keenly aware of the constant subconscious assault of fear we are exposed to and remember to not allow ourselves to be lured too far from reality.  

Today, may I be realistic.

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

So, what do you want me to be?

Jonesport, Maine

“Nationalism is an infantile disease.  It is the measles of mankind.”  -  Albert Einstein

“All of nationalism can be understood as collective narcissism.”  - Geoff Mulgan

     Yesterday was July 4th, and whenever there are national or religious holidays I take pause to think about the origins and the meaning behind the occasion.  I was born in the United States, and with the exception of a couple of short visits outside, I have been on this land my entire life. 

      In my youth I was full of fervor and believed what I said when we would recite the pledge of allegiance in school or at Boy Scouts.  But my enthusiasm has waned considerably over the years.

     I have watched war after war come and go, and in every case we find out – long after the fact – that we were lied to and manipulated by those that profit from war all along.  I have watched the heads of industry yank the jobs away from the people who built the business and give them away overseas so they can make a few extra dollars.  I have watched the media cover the secrets of those in power and the wretchedness of those they want to support while they exploit decent folks for headlines.  I have watched the political arena change to the point that a politician has to sell their soul to the elites long before they get anywhere close to power.  I have watched those that control the dollar wheedle and scam our currency to the point that it is only held up by thin air.  I have come to realize that those who are in power – those that shout the nationalist themes the loudest could care less about their fellow citizens.  The only thing that matters to them is their own power and wealth.

     Not long ago I was asked if I would “fight for my country.”  “Absolutely not” I replied.  But if there must be conflict, I would show up – as a paramedic, as a chaplain, as an ambassador – anywhere I could be of service to try to assuage the misery caused by the cowards who started the conflict for their own personal gain.

     But it goes way beyond this now.  I have come to realize that I am a spirit experiencing a human journey.  There are many other spirits in the same realm also experiencing journeys – this realm we call “Earth.”  And what I find is that as soon as I join one group or another and identify myself as such it is at the exclusion of others.

     Those that want me to “Be an American” want me by extension to be hostile to whomever it is popular to be hostile with that year.  Those that want me to be a “___________” – fill in the blank with whatever religious or political term you want – want me to profess beliefs that make me “exclusive” because now I affirm that they have the “right answers” and everyone else is “wrong.”  And as soon as I am "in," I am expected to demean and belittle others.  Sometimes it is overt and sometimes covert, but it is always there.

     I will give anyone who is trying to better themselves the shirt off my back and the shoes off my feet.  It is not a question of my love for my fellow man.  It is just that I no longer am a “joiner” – I am not going to identify my spirit, my own self-identity with other mortal’s transient and exclusive notions.  Because as soon as I say “I am a ______,” I am always secretly saying that “I am not a ____” with the hidden inference that whole groups of other spirits are inferior to me, and in many cases I am saying that they are unworthy of this human experience altogether.  This is beyond sick thinking – this is a disease of the mind.

     I am a child of God.  I am a spirit having a human experience.  I know very little, and as I grow and experience I am getting skeptical about the remaining few things that I think I know.  Beyond those couple of things, I am very hesitant to say I am anything.

Today, may I be pure of heart. 

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Friday, July 3, 2015

A tale of two me's.

Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine

“If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.”  - Napoleon Hill

“I came to learn that God never shows us something we aren't ready to understand. Instead, He lets us see what we need to see, when we need to see it. He'll wait until our eyes and hearts are open to Him, and then when we're ready, He will plant our feet on the path that's best for us...but it's up to us to do the walking.”  -Immaculee Ilibagiza

     I was recently asked the question:  “What is the difference between when you are living in God’s will or your own self will?”  I am not at a level of spirituality that I could give anything close to a complete answer, but I can make some observations.

    There are really two questions here – there is the difference as I feel it in the moment and the difference in the outcomes that I can only see in retrospect.  

     In the big picture, I can say that following the intuitive voice and the guidance of others who work to connect brings me things of lasting value.   I am never “late” nor am I ever “early,” I am where I am supposed to be all the time.  I am not only able to meet calamity with serenity, there is no more calamity.  For example, today I locked my keys in my car – and of course I had an appointment to be met in a short while.  My first thought as I shut the door and realized both they and my wallet were inside was “Ok, God, who am I supposed to meet in the process of trying to get back in the car?”  Soon enough, a fellow came along who had a piece of wire and we were in the car.  A conversation ensued, and a few things he is struggling with came up.  We agreed to meet Sunday, I left and the “appointment” I was now late for showed up just after I did. 

     If this were an isolated incident I would be grateful for my “luck.”  But it is not – these things happen numerous times each day when I am following God’s will.  Often when I ask for guidance it is the thing that I don’t want to do that God asks me to do.  Two days ago this was walking away from a place where I would be fed, had a bedroom to use and a shower available.  I could easily delay moving on to the next town for a day – besides it was raining.  I quieted myself and got the answer to move on.  I called a man who mentors me to get his input, and he said without hesitation “You have got to go.”  I did, and as a result I met a professor at a university that I would not have otherwise met, and we had a conversation on a spiritual level I have never had before.

     Meaningful coincidences about when I am in God’s will – one of the “trail markers” God gives me is the number 1111.   When I am in that “zone” I will see it constantly – even on broken clocks.  When I am running the show I quit seeing it.  There is much more – to those that have not been in that zone or witnessed these thing through one who is I would risk making you think I am manufacturing stories by going on.

     On the other side of the coin is self-will.  Besides all the meaningful coincidences being gone, there are other big signs I am in self-will.  The first is that I immediately start wanting more – more of everything.  It might be better camera gear, a better vehicle, more food, more money, more friendship, more more more.  And I start plotting about how I can get these things I “need.”  And when I do get them, guess what I want?  Still more. 

     I start catching myself projecting into the future.  I start having conversations with people who are not present.  By that I don’t mean schizophrenic conversation – I mean that I start practicing what I am going to say or re-playing old conversations in my head.  I find my thoughts on tomorrow, on next week, next year or beyond, and either start scheming grand schemes or decide that what I am doing isn’t worth it.  I start looking for the “hidden meaning” in what others say, sure that they are manipulating things to their benefit.  I get judgmental, and I start holding grudges.  Soon, if I am not thinking about the future I am rehashing the past and either beating myself up or nursing resentments.

     It really is this starkly black-and-white.  God’s will gives me peace and meaning.  Self-will gives me fear, guilt fantasies and anger.  God’s will gives me a deep appreciation of my fellows – I feel I can connect with them at the deepest level possible.  My will has me sick of people in general – myself included.

     Yes, on a regular basis I find myself heading back into self-will – I want to be the director of the show.  But today I do everything I can to catch it quickly, and when I realize I am I DO NOT beat myself up.  I once again accept that I am a human being living on a journey over which I have little control, I laugh at myself and I do whatever it takes to get back into positive action.

     Skeptical?  Get on your knees and ask how – quit asking “give me” and start asking “show me.”   Then quiet yourself, do the next right thing and the next thing right and watch what happens.  God always shows up.

Today, may I stay the course.

Be present for life today !!

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

My gun's bigger than your gun !!

(Fort King George, Darien Georgia)

“One with outward courage dares to die; one with inward courage dares to live.”  -  Lao Tzu

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life.  One who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”  -  Mark Twain

     Upon finding out that I live on the road, folks sometimes as:  “So, what are you packing?”  a question that assumes I carry a gun along with me.  

     The whole notion of carrying a gun while working to live in God’s will is rather profane to me.  On the one hand I say that I am trusting the guidance I get from God, but then I turn around and say:  “Well, God, I trust you a lot but just in case you fall asleep on the job I am going to trust this little mechanism that propels high speed projectiles.”  And what of my willingness to ask God where I should park and sleep, who I should talk to – why should I worry about asking God what I should do next when I have a Colt 45?  I can handle my business just fine – and I bet if I had a 357 Magnum I could handle it even better.  

     A recent occurrence in my hometown has made me reflect on this decision a bit.  It seems that a fellow walked into a church there, and after being welcomed and attending a prayer meeting, he pulled out a gun and killed nine folks.

     I have read articles since stating that many churches are now enlisting law enforcement types to carry concealed weapons while they pose as ushers.

     The question seems apparent – if those folks were seeking God’s will – seeking to connect with God in a place they consider their sanctuary and got killed, what is to stop the same from happening to me?  After all, the road is my sanctuary and I assume that killings in the public domain are a lot more common than folks being slaughtered in church.

     But once I allow fear to come into my heart and question my trust in God, where does it stop?  I left two years ago on this journey with a 100,000 mile van and less than $200.  I really should have lots of money and a new van.  Or motorhome.  That would be safer.  Or stay in hotels.  Asking questions in towns where no one knows me is pretty dangerous.  Perhaps I should only go where I am invited.  In fact, why embark at all?  I might as well just curl up in the safety of some domicile I deem appropriately “safe.”  In fact, I had better just pull the curtains shut and watch some Faux News program so that I don’t run into any psychopaths like the guy that shot those folks.  My gun will protect me and I can experience life through the boob tube.

    I don’t know what my path in this life is supposed to be – it unfolds daily.  How could I possibly be so vulgar as to assume that the folks in that church didn’t follow exactly the path they were supposed to? For me, the road is my chapel, it is my sanctuary, it is where God speaks to me and where I am willing to be vulnerable enough to listen.
     One thing seems certain – this life thing is a terminal condition; I am going to die.  Who am I to say I know what the best circumstances are for me to die under?  And even if I could know the cause, the day and the hour of my inevitable demise, why would I want to know that?  That would be an incredible burden to carry.

     No I won’t be getting a gun.  Besides, even if I did and thought I needed to use it, I would probably just get all nervous and shoot myself in the foot. 

Today, may I accept life on life’s terms.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Remember me?

“The best way out is always through.”  -  Robert Frost

“Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.”  - Chris McLeod

     Recently I spent a week in a small island town in the northern-most reaches of coastal Maine.  Because of torrential rains, I had the opportunity to sit in the library and read about the town for several days.  What unfolded was a story spanning several centuries of a people that got knocked to their knees with regularity, but always rose and found another way to sustain a viable community.  One might argue that by being on the ocean this town has resources that others do not, but there are other towns along this coast that had things going at one time or another and today are all but dead.

     Whole industries went under, terrible weather paralyzed the area, fires ravaged the entire community and still the community persisted.  I read the story of one of the town’s sons whose father died in 1859 - when he was nine years old.  At fifteen he struck out for the Midwest and landed a job as a farming implement salesman.  The farmers didn’t have any money, so he started trading tools for crops.  Two years into the venture, his warehouse burned and he found himself without insurance and owing $1,800.  He took another job for a while and within a couple of years he had paid back every penny and was able to open his own business again.

     He became proficient at getting the crops to market, and by age 40 he owned more grain than anyone in the world – businesses or individuals.  The man donated the library I was using back in the 1890’s.  In a binder of his history I read passing mentions about how all manner of folks had told him he couldn’t succeed, and yet he quietly persisted.  And that was what all those people ended up – a footnote in a binder that doesn’t even mention their names.

      As I sat in a small bar and grill writing an article about some of the people who are once again reinventing this town, I heard a few locals talking about how these men were messed up in their thinking, how they were on the wrong track, how they would never be able to make these new projects last – on and on it went.

     I got thinking about the various books I had read about the locals that had pulled this town through hard times over these last few centuries.  They have a few things in common with the people who are making things happen today.  These are people who show up when things need doing.  They are people who are not looking for personal gain or glory, they have the interest of their fellow citizens at heart.  When told that others are appreciative of the things they do, they want to minimize their role and talk about still others who contribute.

     This comes on the heels of having returned to Charleston to say goodbye to a lady who was dying of cancer and was a giant in that community.  She died last week, but was lucid and able to communicate when I was there.   Her primary concern while she was facing death?  That good would come out of her passing for others.  Regrettably I could not attend the memorial service this last weekend, but I am told it was a powerful event.

     I am saying all of this because as I travel I see more and more that there are strong links between humility, tenacity and legacy.  Those that accomplish things of lasting value seem to be primarily concerned about the welfare of their fellows.  And those that are remembered fondly are those that have given of themselves, those that have been good stewards of the things that came into their lives.

     So, as I sat in that tavern listening to the nay-sayers, I felt something I have never felt for them before.  Always before I have wanted to speak up, to argue, to prove a point, to get them to see things differently.  But this time I just looked on them with sympathy.  I realized that they are on a trajectory that takes them completely out of the tides of history – a generation or two from now and it will be as though they never lived. And, in reality, by staking their identity on the failure of others they really are not living at all.  And soon I had entirely forgotten them – I was once again pondering those that have contributed and those that are facing the community’s current troubles head-on.

   It is one more demonstration of why it is so important that we force ourselves to live in solutions rather than living in problems, and one more reason that we should know that if we want to love God we first need to love our fellows – even the ones whose negativity is leading them into oblivion.

Today, may I know love.

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