Monday, February 23, 2009

A Week Off~~Kinda!


Well, things have been rather intense in my world this past week, and I just didn't have the time or emotional space to do any writing. But instead of offering nothing, I figured I'd do a repeat of a previously published essay. Hey, if the TV networks can do re~runs, why can't I? 

Here's a short, simple one from just about a year ago, Mountain Road. It was a nice reminder for me as I hope it will be for you.


Loanne Marie

PS. Don't worry, I'm doing well. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Many Names For That Which Lies Beyond Names

I mostly agree with Juliet when she declares, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The essence of that magnificent flower lies not in the name we give it, but in its tantalizing scent and the rich hues that dance across its soft petals.

But were we to call that flower 'terror' or 'obligation', would not its aroma diminish and its color fade a bit?

Words have an objective meaning found in the dictionary. They often also have an idiosyncratic significance arising from our personal temperament and histories. God is such a word, sitting as it does atop all our varied experience of religion, life and our own selves.

For many of us, the word God falls from our lips with ease, and we hear in it all things grand, loving and just. It is not so for everyone.

For those who have been frightened, shamed, or worse in the name of God, the word evokes something much different. For those whose natures do not allow belief in a male God or faith in a personal God at all, the word can bring with it images at odds with their deepest sensibilities.

So the word God can sometimes just get in the way.

It can lead some folks to bypass an always available transcendent experience, while encouraging others to mistake the word itself for the reality which lies ever behind it.

The rich array of spiritual paths we humans tread is but a small reflection of the infinite variations of life on this beautiful blue planet of ours. Perhaps we adhere to the Judeo~Christian~Islamic tradition, or follow the path of Buddhism, Hinduism, or various earth~centered practices. Maybe we consider ourselves agnostic or atheist, or have found no label accurately captures our spiritual orientation.  

By choosing words that honor the commonality within these differences, though, communication and a sense of unity can be furthered.

The Cosmos. 
Life Force. 
Higher Power. 
All That Is. 
The Sacred.
Ground of Being. 
The Divine. 
The Infinite. 
Animating Force. 
The Unknowable. 
The Universe. 
That Which Lies Beyond. 

Not all these names will work for everyone, and some others may fit better. But if we do whatever translating is needed, perhaps we can stop fueling divisiveness about that which actually speaks of our ultimate connection.

Maybe if we get words out of the way, words that can never adequately grasp that which is beyond every conceptualization our limited human minds can devise, we can focus instead on what really matters.

To return to the flower metaphor, if we hold our differences lightly, perhaps we can cease debating which appellation is the best or which color the truest. Maybe we could look more deeply into the bush itself and honor that ineffable Essence that shines through its various blossoms, leaves, and even those pesky thorns.

Possibly all of us, no matter how we conceive of the bush or its flowers, can agree with the words of that most brilliant of atheists, Albert Einstein, when he wrote, “The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical…He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”

An experience of awe, wonder, and rapture. Isn't this what truly matters, regardless of the name?

May this week strengthen your ability to "wonder and stand rapt in awe"

Blessings always!

Loanne Marie

Monday, February 9, 2009

Creating A Fitting Structure For A Soulful Life

Eighteen months ago, I was given a room, a room of my own.

I didn't understand initially just why I wanted one. I sensed, though, as I sat down at my desk for the first time, that new things would surely emerge from this space.

During the months since, I have created a website, developed a consistent writing practice, published essays on~line and in a regional newspaper, hatched the beginnings of a book and, in the process, made numerous nourishing contacts with like-minded folks.

It feels as though the room itself has been responsible.

Certainly, I made specific choices, working additional hours and even becoming acquainted with my inner techno-geek in this modest website and blog design.

However, I had no clear picture of any of this when I acknowledged my need for a space of my own, or when my husband and I reorganized our small home so this could happen.

In the delightful movie, Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner's character, Ray Kinsella, honored the words of a haunting, disembodied voice exhorting, “If you build it, he will come.” In the process of plowing under his cornfield to create a baseball diamond, life was transformed for Ray, his family, and many others.

While this movie, of course, is sheer fantasy, its message couldn't be more solidly grounded in reality. The outer forms we create in our lives can, if we devise them well, act as channels through which Grace might flow.

The architect, Louis Sullivan, made famous the phrase, 'Form ever follows function' to describe how buildings should reflect the intended purpose of the people who inhabit them. Shouldn't the composition of our lives reach for this same standard?

The amount of time we give to various activities, the layout of our homes, and our choice of entertainment, are a few expressions of the framework on which our life experience rests.

Unfortunately, we often move from one outer demand to another and rarely allow ourselves the opportunity to question whether the shape our life has assumed is working for us. Add to this the fact that our needs change as we do, and it's easy to see the wisdom of periodically reassessing our life's design. 

And we oughtn't to be afraid to take out the hammer and saw should a bit of remodeling be in order.

Most of us are not given such clear direction as Ray or, thankfully, prodded to his outrageous acts. Our urgings are more subtle and alas, because of this, easier to ignore.

But if we choose to listen and fashion contours that better support our values and goals, our life will begin to change. The metamorphosis likely won't rise to Hollywood standards, but as we create a larger opening for Spirit to enter, our path will become more soulful, transforming us in subtle, yet profound, ways.

In my case, by saying yes to the promptings to create my own space, I opened to so much more. Enthusiasm and fresh ideas swept in as well, as though they had been waiting for just such an entryway.

When Virginia Woolf used the phrase 'a room of one's own', she was referring to the fact that, unless we sculpt an outer life consistent with our intent, our inner worlds will not bear robust fruit.

However, if we construct the external forms as we feel called to do--if we build it--such fruits, sweet and sustaining, will surely come.


Loanne Marie

Monday, February 2, 2009

Weaving Our Threads, For Good or Ill

I once believed that an individual had a legitimate right to suicide. No more.

Too often have I seen the effects of this choice. It is expressed in the complicated grief of friends and relatives, extending years after the event. It is seen in disconcerted community members, who may never have known the person, but somehow still absorb the sting of his or her choice. And descendants, unborn at the time of the death, often grapple with the legacy of suicide throughout their lives.

We are each endowed with a precious and animating energy. To harness that vitality and express it in this final, fatal act is to pay the ultimate homage to despair. And such a choice strengthens the predilection to suicide in our collective consciousness as well. Every time one of us chooses so, it increases the likelihood of that option for others.

Recently, Gaza was pummeled with bombs that burst into searing flakes of white phosphorus which burned deep into living tissue. Suicide is similar. The pain explodes, yet is flung far wider than chemical shards can ever travel.

And just as in Gaza, the fact that innocents are not the intended target does not lessen the agony as this corrosive element strikes and bores deep within.

Despair spreads. It may spread like wildfire or in a slow burn, but spread it does. Luckily for us, though, so does love.

We are intertwined, whether or not we feel it in a particular moment or wish it to be so. The choices we make ripple forth in ways we cannot always anticipate or understand. Each moment of every day, we are given opportunities to contribute to the collective stew. We can add distress and anger and mistrust, or we can offer hope and joy and love.

Our individual lives are strands in an incomprehensibly complex tapestry. This cloth, however, is not created by some unseen weaver, nor is it already formed and set for all time. It is a work in progress, and we are the weavers. 

Each of us was given our thread at birth and placed at a point within this evolving fabric.Where we take that filament, how we weave it into the whole, is ours to decide. The art of living well urges us to choose consciously and wisely what our contribution will be.

Whenever a thread is severed through violent means, the strength and beauty of the entire work is diminished. But when a fiber is woven with care, especially through a darkened segment, it provides balance and grace to the entire creation. 

And so this becomes the task of those wounded by suicide: to draw a brighter, life-enhancing thread forward out of the wreckage.

Tapestry, collective stew, the searing effect of white phosphorus bombs: all are images that speak to the truth of the interconnection that is life.

To respond to profound anguish by choosing suicide is to pay tribute to alienation and despair. By opting to seek out and allow solace instead, one can move forward through the bleak swatch with trust, honor, and love.

Either choice will have far-reaching effects.

In the words of Frederick Buechner, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”

May we each aspire to the good touch.

Blessings to each of you!

Loanne Marie