Wednesday, October 26, 2005


I would like to pick a place and go wait there for a photo to come along, and stay there as long as it took to take all the photos I wanted to take, and then move on to the next place, and do it again. And, have you bring me coffee and pastries while I waited. Well, not pastries. I’m no longer eating pastries. It’s part of my plan to lose 25 pounds by Christmas. I’ve already lost 18. Nothing white, nothing sweet. Wine and half-and-half don’t count. Seven pounds to go. Then, the plan will be to keep it off for next Christmas.

I’m also walking 3 or more miles a day. Every day. I feel so righteous. And, if you brought me a pastry, I would decline. Now, there have been people in my life who would take it personally, and pout, if they brought me a pastry and I declined, particularly if they baked the pastry themselves, from scratch. There have been people in my life who have been more interested in being appreciated for baking pastries from scratch than in being helpful. The right kind of help is hard to find.

What is necessary, needed? What is helpful? Those are the questions. We cannot just give people what we want them to have. What is necessary, needed, helpful? In order to answer the questions, we have to see and hear. In order to see and hear, we have to look and listen. Anew, in every moment. We have to pay attention.

That’s about the hardest work there is, paying attention. Being aware. Being mindful. Being in touch, tuned in. Noticing. Knowing. We have to stand apart from ourselves to see things as they are; to see what is, and what also is; to apprehend what is apparent, and what is concealed; to perceive reality on all levels at once. That’s the Master’s trick. Everything flows from seeing, knowing, apprehending, understanding. And, that’s the goal—to see, know, apprehend, understand. To “see, know, apprehend, understand” what? To see, know, apprehend, understand what is before us—what is with us and within us—in every moment.

If you are going to be anything, be aware; be open to your experience; be perceptive; be present and awake. Subtlety is everywhere. Nuance. Change. Things can look the same, can appear to be what they have always been, and be very different. Can you spot the differences? Don’t look and think you see. Look! See! Listen! Hear! And, do it again in the next moment. Sustain the practice for a life-time. You will transform the world.


Coincidental. Coincidence. Coincide. These are the words that describe the ground of our experience. Everything is a marvelous, or not so marvelous, coincidence. Nothing is planned, predestined, determined. There is no reason for anything. It’s all accidental, coincidental. We call coincidence “Providence.” But, it’s strictly coincidence. That’s all there is.

Nothing has to be what it is. Everything is unfolding, emerging, becoming what it is according to its own rhythms, and opportunities, and interests, and options, and bumping into everything else, and being impacted, influenced, by the confluence of chance and timing, for better or for worse, altering its course and setting up its encounter with the next thing.

Our lives are a string of coincidences, which our brains form into patterns and use for its, for our, own ends. “Providence” is what our brains do with coincidence. We see, we interpret, coincidence as providential. And give ourselves goose bumps.

Out of all the things that happen to us, we select those that suit our purpose and ascribe meaning to them. Our lives are meaningful when we live in light of particular goal, with a particular direction and intention in mind. The things that happen either carry us forward, or block our path, or influence us in another direction. We respond by redoubling our efforts and forcing our way, or by changing our minds and “going with the flow,” or by quitting in hopelessness and despair. But, whatever happens in our lives, whatever we do with our lives, is a function of our brain responding to our particular opportunities and options. Can we see what is before us and make the most of our circumstances?

So much comes down to being in the right place at the right time—and realizing it, and taking advantage of it. Ansel Adams could never have set out to be Ansel Adams. He could only intend to photograph the scenes he loved in ways that he liked. It took forces beyond Ansel Adams—the ecological movement that used his photos to further its cause—to propel him to photographic stardom. And, being able to use one’s contacts within the movement to get one’s photos used by the movement is as important a skill as taking quality photographs—and both skills may be necessary in taking full advantage of “time and chance.” But, we cannot dial up “time and chance,” and place an order.

On the other hand, every moment is the right time and the right place for something. Maybe it’s just a really good cup of coffee. Don’t miss the coffee looking for the golden ring. Be aware of what is in the moment with you. Rock the grandchild. Walk the dog. Wonder is coinciding with your present. You only have to be open to it to know that it is so. Receive it, and be glad!

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