love & other virtues
Decisions are a difficult part of life, and life is a never-ending conveyor belt of choices. This can be invigorating or depleting, depending on our state of mind, our immediate environment, and what dreams and aspirations remain humming in our subterranean depths.
Instinct plays an important part in good decision-making, but our instinct can easily get muddled up by the incessant voice of our rationale, or eroded to near extinction by the wrong people. If we loose faith in our ability to trust our instinct our self-esteem suffers, and precious time is wasted tottering on a precipice of self-doubt and indecision, instead of moving with confidence down our life path.
When I was young decisions didn’t seem so ponderous. I assessed, I listened to my inner self, and leapt in faith. If I was tuned in, it paid off. If I was unduly influenced by another’s agenda or reason, I stuffed up. But subconsciously I had a fall back plan. There was time on my side, if I got it wrong, there was always tomorrow, and the day after that, in which to get back on track.
Now I am older and face an important decision. On the one side is the unknown, a roll of the dice, on the other, financial security, and the means to indulge my love of travel, but at a considerable price. I vacillate, I totter on the abyss, at times I question if simple world-weariness and laziness are clouding my judgement and masquerading as instinct.
Reason is going all out to win. He has marshaled a street parade complete with platoons of probability, plausibility and odds … responsibility, duty and fear … all marching round and round my head. Amid the clatter of their boots and chants I must remind myself that instinct is not the ‘pie in the sky’ reason would have me believe. It is not an ‘airy fairy’ ‘doesn’t know anything’ voice.
Instinct is not the direct opposite of reason’s pragmatic logic. For instinct collates facts alongside the subtle nuances of thought we store in our subconscious, and takes into account our desires, hopes and dreams. In the final analysis instinct has a better grasp of what’s ultimately right for us, trumping reason by acknowledging our human complexity.
Every day we face decisions. No decision is absolutely wrong or right. Each takes us further on the journey we choose. I am prompted to heed Katharine Hathaway’s warning that a life governed by fear results in a life that is, ‘safe, expedient and thin’. An inner voice asks, ‘why settle for less when there is the possibility of living a deeply fulfilling life at the highest altitude I can manage’?
I think Emerson had it right when he said ‘we should ‘trust [our] instinct to the end’ …
I’ve been away from home on family business and not had the time to get my camera out so I thought I would post a few photos from my library.
This rock is called the White Cross, its on one of the islands north of Vancouver not far from where I was staying last year. The white cross is a natural phenomena in the rock strata and though its not a good photo it’s relevant to Easter. Here in Australia we have a four day weekend (yeah.. except I am buried in books doing uni assignments so not much time for fun). I wish everyone a happy Easter time with loved ones and no matter what your views are about the Christian belief of Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection, let us remember that sacrificing ourselves for others .. whether it be forgoing a pleasure to help a friend clean their house, or giving up that walk to take a lonely person for coffee, is LOVE in action .. and Love is all that matters.
I’ve been thinking about perspective lately. How objects change shape as we move away from them, and different aspects like texture and colour are altered depending on where we stand or position ourselves. Or the way objects flatten when we look at them from above and how this cancels out the nuances of their contours. I’ve also been considering the difference when I look at an object from below rather than straight on, how something ordinary and small can dwarf me by its presence, even make me feel pinned down by its weight. Then there is the way we look at something from one side or the other, by changing the spatial distribution of a familiar object it can suddenly appear alien, or we can remain oblivious to the unseen part that is full of beauty or conversely in ruins.
These musings on perspective have sprung out of a recent visit with my mother with whom I had a somewhat uncomfortable and at times tumultuous relationship with in my teens, which has since mellowed into a quiet and comfortable companionship. During the visit I had a growing awareness of how my perspective had altered and how this had allowed our relationship to improve, that the benefits of time and experience had softened my expectations and allowed compassion and empathy to flow.
This experience is easily transferred into a plethora of relationships where either friends, lovers, work colleagues or children have taken on new shapes depending on my emotional, physical and intellectual distance.
I am reminded that it is good to stand back, to move forward, to walk to the other side of the valley, to view another’s actions and words from a different height, to flip the microscope over to a telescope or vice versa. To trust that with a few whirls of the dial, a few tweaks to the scene, a few paces to the left or right, up or down, that perspective alters and we may glimpse beauty we had forgotten existed, we may find a place in our hearts where forgiveness flows naturally, we may be warned of impending trouble and have time to beat a dignified retreat.
Whatever the stance of my current perspective I am heartened to remember my outlook is ultimately influenced by love and that love flows depending on the channels I have dug in my heart. I can deepen the stream and find new reserves of love in the substratum of my being, I can unplug an old dam that is no longer needed or plug up a new one to create a reservoir for a special need, I can let love trickle quietly like a brook down the side of a pebbly, moss covered mountain or I can let it surge like the ebb tide as it rushes into the sea.
If I let love govern my perspective I will allow myself to be shifted around so that I may understand and appreciate the complexities bound up within each life and situation.
If I catch myself going on about so and so, or such and such, I will endeavour to remember that tomorrow my perspective will have changed, if not tomorrow next week or next year, and what may appear to be white will become black, what was once blue will be green.
Faced with a new object, be it human, a situation or otherwise, before locking down our opinion and throwing away the key, let us remind ourselves that perspectives change, that yesterday’s angst may be reframed into tomorrow’s blessing. Let us smile at our own inconsistencies and consider the words of Allan Klein, ‘a little perspective, like humour, goes a long way’.
I love this gum, I found it while wandering in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park north of Sydney. It epitomises the perfect union, two complete lives emerging out of a shared base.
I’ve been thinking about the heart lately, not in a physical sense but as the site of the soul, the spirit, the emotions, of love … I’ve been thinking about how we have the capacity to open our hearts or close them and why we choose to do either and whether we should and if so when.
Like the rest of us I’ve had this non-visible but core of my being stretched, ripped, shattered and broken, but I’ve also had it glued back together with sticky tape and string, fused together with meditation and prayer, rebound by the love of others, the flight of a bird, the roar of the surf and the limpid eyes of a dog.
Rumi, the great thirteenth-century mystic, poet and originator of the whirling dervishes, insisted that only a complete personal dissolving into the larger energies of God could provide the satisfaction that the heart so desperately seeks. If I follow his lead I should open my heart, trusting I will be absorbed by this Goodness…
But ‘open’ has a partner called ‘risk’. It is easier for the heart to sit in a paddock, on a hill, on a beach, and take joy in the grass, the sky, and the wildness of aloneness in an empty landscape, than negotiate the trapeze act of opening on the one hand and guarding on the other.
Sometimes our heart drops its guard when we should really know better, there can be that split second recognition that the doors are wide open and suddenly the robot is yelling, ‘Danger, Danger, Will Robinson’ as we slam the door shut… in fact with some folk I can be a bit, ‘Get Smart leaving headquarters’ about it …
Whether we deadbolt the door or prop it open the whole point of this self rumination is that we are both observers and participators. We consciously know what we are doing, whether the home crowd is cheering from the stands, or booing and throwing empty beer cans on the field, a part of us decides. In that split second. We choose.
For some time now I have chosen the wildness of aloneness in an empty landscape … where, by the way, I feel perfectly happy and content … but there remains, in small moments of time, another choice … and maybe one day I will take it. I will grab ‘open’ and ‘risk’ by the hands and run into the flowering meadow, or bungy jump into the gorge of sweet nothingness, revelling in the ride and oblivious to my descent.
I may be full of contradictions and uncertainties, but I am also full of a quiet knowing and peace. I want my heart to soar like an eagle, to rise like the phoenix, to physically pump healthy blood through my body and keep me in good health.
I don’t want it to shrivel and die like a piece of discarded garlic at the bottom of the garden and I don’t want your heart to be living there either.
Let us agree. We will open our hearts, but we will do so wisely. We will contemplate the words of Lao Tzu, ‘The softest thing in the universe, Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe’
We will accept Rumi’s wisdom and we will venture forth … in love.
Acknowledgements: The Forbidden Rumi: The Suppressed Poems of Rumi on Love, Heresy, and Intoxication; Tales From the Tao: The Wisdom of the Taoist Masters
A couple of weeks ago my flatmate’s dog Trixie was unwell and we feared the worst. When she got back from the vets I was heading out to take my own dog to the beach and even though she was obviously not great she really wanted to come with us … . At first I was in two minds as to what was the best thing for her and this led me to write a post about love called is this love?
Two weeks have wrought a remarkable change. She’s taken her medicine, woofed down her raw food diet and slept a lot on my bed. At the leash free beach today the sun was warm, the waves were gentle and the dogs got all excited sensing the approach of spring. Trixie is a maltese and when she gets going she can literally run circles around my dog Ming who is a shitz-tu.
I knew she was going to be ok when she took off leading Ming into the waves then bouncing like a spring lamb out of the water where she raced Ming round and round. Not a bad comeback for an old girl with a bunch of stitches in her neck. Its amazing what love will do.