I had a poetry phase once, in which I wrote poems every day for a year. And then I quit because it seemed to me that I was a poem, and that everything I said or did was poetry, and I could no longer tell where the poem ended and I began. The more I listened to me, the more I found myself saying, “You’re talking poetically again! Cut it out!” But, I could only shrug and say back, “You cut it out—if you can!” Over time we gave into it and allowed ourselves to splash around uncensored in poetic shallows, occasionally getting in over our heads, sometimes swimming in the waves, or floating with the current, laughing.
She wouldn’t actually have to be Mama. Mama wasn’t Mama. Not the Mama I have in mind. Not the Mama who would take care of me the way I want to be taken care of. So, any reasonable facsimile would do. She could wear a wig, a badly fitting wig, and heavy make up, and have on a red dress cut down to here, and combat boots. Combat boots would be good. You wouldn’t want a Mama who wouldn’t go to war for you. And bangle bracelets, and a turquoise broach. And, she could lie. Who cares. “I’m your Mama.” I’d buy it. For a while. I get desperate sometimes. Don’t you?
Lemme ’splane this to you. We are fragmented, splintered, disjointed and ache to be whole, centered, stabilized, safe and secure. We seek a grounding connection with the core of being. Something to help us make sense of things and find the way forward through all that is in our way. The deck appears, more often than not, to be stacked against us. Or, if you would prefer a different metaphor, the deck is always pitching and rolling. No one can stand upright, and we’re always in danger of being lost at sea. There are times when it is difficult to imagine that anything, or anyone (including ourselves), is on our side, has our best interest at heart, and stands ready to help us toward that which is good. During these times, we have to be glad it isn’t worse yet, and do what is ours to do amid circumstances that come and go according to forces that don’t even know our name.
On Our Own
We are on our own in this place, and make it as well as we do on the strength of our associations and friendships and the luck of the draw. Genghis Kahn, or the US Cavalry, is always just over the hill, and Hitler is waiting in the wings, and we deal with them like we deal with the rest of it, by getting out of the way and making the best of it to the extent that we are able. We think we have a leg up until the phone rings with the lab report, then the structure that held our world together collapses and we are left with making the best of it, to the extent that we are able.
We are never more than one lab report away from the complete loss of life as we have known it, the demolition of our world and all it’s shiny structures. Then what? The task is always the same: Do the best we can with what we have to work with, and do it with as much grace and compassion and good humor as we can muster. We do that by what we tell ourselves, by what we say, about the present experience of our lives. The task is always the same: we are to interpret experience in ways that do not deny experience but, at the same time, enable life. If we get that down, we have it made, as much as we can have it made. That’s as grounded as it gets.
The bad news about being grounded is that the core itself is not grounded! The core is a heaving swirl of possibility, a rolling boil of potential. No wonder the deck is pitching and rolling! We are riding breaking waves of chaos, looking for solid ground! This doesn’t mean we are at the mercy of a mad, mad world. It means we have the responsibility of providing the stability and structure we seek for our lives. We are the organizing principle of existence. We shape our lives according to our reading of what needs to happen and what can happen within the context and circumstances of our living. We work out the details. We make the compromises. We produce the foundation, create the form, provide the meaning we long to have. We make life livable via the perspective we adopt riding the waves churned up by the vital, dynamic core of being.
We cannot look for steady—we provide steady! We are the source of steady! We are the basis of the constancy, the consistency we seek! We bring sanity to life in the world. We are the stabilizing influences in our lives. If we internalize the outer pandemonium, we become the bull—the wave—we are riding and go over into madness, disintegrating beyond reconstitution. The work of integration is the work of interpretation, translation—the work of hermeneutics (Hermes was the messenger of the gods. His work is our work. We bring the messages “of the gods,” of our life experience, to ourselves in a way that makes sense of the experience and enables life in the face of it. We interpret, translate, experience so as to make life possible in the midst of experience. The trick is to do that truthfully).
The Power of Meaning
We have the power of meaning, the power of making meaning, the power of perception, the power of looking meaningfully at our lives, the power of ascribing meaning to our lives, the power of finding meaning in our lives. We have to learn how to use our power to see, and hear, and understand in meaningful ways, in ways that enable us to live well in the time left for living.
The Power of Interpretation
Who says what the dream means? We do. Get it? Therein lies everything. We say what our experience of the dream means. We say what our experience of our life means. We say what life means. We hold the power of interpretation, of translation. We make sense of it all. And we know when we are right, and when we are wrong, when we are on the beam and when we are off.
Trusting the Internal Guide
What is this “beam-knowing”? This sense of rightness? What do we know and how do we know it? Enter the mystery. We are guided by our sense of the rightness of our movement, of our resonating with the direction we are taking, but where that comes from, we do not know. Trust it. Unknowing. That’s the task. And, if it leads you to a dead end, or into the abyss, trust it to lead you out of the abyss, beyond the dead end.
Our work is the work of finding meaning in experience, of making experience meaningful by way of interpretation. We spin experience to produce the steadiness we seek. We are the source of stability, the stabilizing influence, bringing life to life in our lives. And, of course, we can tell ourselves what we want to hear. Which is to avoid the work of interpretation and settle for denial and pretense. We have to interpret experience, not deny experience. That’s the challenge of integration, of integrating experience truthfully into our lives.
We Are What We Seek
We take this and make that. We are Alchemists, making gold out of lead, transforming common experience into the elixir of life. We are what we seek. We are the Philosopher’s Stone, the Universal Solvent, producing the aqua vitae, the water of life, from ordinary, hum-drum, events and from the crushing, devastating disruptions of life as we know it. We do that through the magic of interpretation and resonating with the rightness of the spin we give to experience.
The Rule of Life
The rule of life is follow the resonance. Go with what resonates with you. With what moves you. Follow the movement. Go with the flow. Not with the flow of life around you, but with the internal flow making contact with something, someone, in your environment. With the flow of energy connecting you with some aspect of the external world of normal, apparent, reality. And be open to the possibilities, aware of the choices that are yours to make.
Questions Worth Our While
We are after a sense of rightness about our lives. What has to be changed for us to feel right about the way we are living, about what we are thinking, feeling, believing, doing, wanting, having, being… ? Where is the incongruity most pronounced? Where do we feel most inauthentic, disingenuous? Where are we ignoring the voice of opposition within—the voice of what is opposed to our living the way we are living, to doing what we are doing, to the way we are being in the world? What price are we paying to deny how it is with us, to pretend that things are “just fine” with us, to embrace the false sense of rightness that characterizes our lives? Faking some things keeps us from making anything of ourselves, of our lives, of our one shot at being alive. What are we not seeing, not noticing, in order to feel good about our lives? What are we not willing to give up in order to feel right about our lives?
To Know Is to Be Afraid
People who wonder what they are to do with their lives know. We all know, on some level, and are afraid. We are afraid of what it might mean to us to know what we know, and we cannot conceive of paying the price of living the way we would have to live to feel right about our lives. So, we don’t let ourselves know what we know, and wail loudly saying, “Oh, if I only knew what to do with my life!”
It isn’t knowledge that we lack. It is courage. We lack the courage to live the way we have to live in order to feel right about our lives. We all know how we should be living, what we should be doing with our lives. We just can’t imagine doing that and paying the bills—the bills we want to pay—the bills for the things we don’t need to live the life we should be living, but want, and think we need. We try to hang onto the life we want to live, and that’s the problem. We would have to pay different bills to live the way we have to live in order to feel right about our lives, and that’s the problem.
Facing the problem is the first step toward living the way we have to live in order to feel right about our lives. The journey consists of putting truth on the table. We have to put the truth on the table. All the truth. The truth in all of its contradictory, mutually exclusive, convoluted, contrary, discrepant, discordant, dissonant, cacophonic, glory. Including, be sure you don’t forget this part, the truth of ourselves. The truth of who we are, and also are.
When we get it all on the table—every last bit of it—we have to step back from the table, walk around it, observe it, nod, and say, “Yes. That is so. And that is also so. And that is so as well. All of it is so. That, too. That, too.” And, let it be because it is. And, then we have to decide what we are going to do—what’s next, what’s the next step to take—based on our knowledge of the truth on the table. If you can do that, you have what it takes to be a True Human Being, but you won’t take much pleasure in that achievement, because you know the price of True Human Being-hood.
Living in Light of Truth
The work of the rest of our lives is learning to put the truth of ourselves, the truth of our lives, the truth of life, on the table and live in light of it. This is how it is. What are we going to do with it, about it? How shall we live in the knowledge of the truth that is on the table? To what extent are the lives we are living designed to help us avoid/deny the truth of our lives? To what extent are they designed to acknowledge and serve that truth? The challenge is to wake up and to bear the burden of being awake. To see and not look away. To breathe, knowing the truth. And to live (knowing the truth) in ways that bring life to life there, amid the truth of life as it is.