Posted in Essay, General Interest, Priscilla Galasso

Wise or Otherwise

Editor’s note: This lovely piece was originally posted by Priscilla on her personal blog and is a part of her Advent series. Like a spiritual box of Advent chocolates, each day she unwrapped one of the free gifts life gives us.
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The free gift for today is something that can be acquired, but cannot be bought.  I don’t think that it can be given, either.  The gift is Wisdom.  According to Wikipedia, “Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding.”  In other words, “To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)  However, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”  (George Bernard Shaw)  And finally, “It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”  (Mohandas K. Gandhi)
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It would seem, then, that wisdom is something that can be acquired in living with awareness and engaging humbly with experiences.  It seems to me, though, that you can’t give someone the benefit of this process.  You might point out the process and talk about its benefit, you might set up the beginning of the process, but you can’t impart the journey or the result.  It has to be lived.  I’m a mother; trust me on this.  I wanted to give my children wisdom more than anything, probably for selfish reasons.  I wanted to be spared the pain.  I wanted to spare them the pain.  I asked God to give them wisdom…like on a magic platter descending from heaven…but spare them the pain.  Can’t be done.  Wisdom is born of pain and suffering and effort and failure.  You have to be awake through it all as well.  You can’t gain wisdom while you’re anesthetized.  I’ve made a great discovery, though.  This process is a great equalizer.  Keeping Gandhi’s wisdom in mind, my children and I are fellow travelers on this path.  We share our stories as friends, we perhaps contribute insights to this process, but we cannot assume the roles of provider and receiver.  I try to remember that as I talk to them.  It is too easy for me to slip into the “teacher” role and begin to spew language about what they “should” do and what is the “right” way to do something.  I often issue too many reminders and begin to sound like I’m micro-managing them.   They notice.  They mention it.  I have to challenge myself to be wiser and trust them to be wise.

I remember the day my father told me that something I said was wise.  It felt like a great victory for me.  I was 19 or 20.  I had been talking to my oldest sister about some article I had read in an evangelical Christian newsletter taking issue with science and carbon dating.  My father was eavesdropping from the breakfast room and jumped on the subject by voicing some objection to the fact that the money he was paying for my college education hadn’t stopped me from discoursing like an ignoramus.  I was scared of his strong emotion, ashamed of myself, and angry at his insult.  Embarrassed and hurt, I fled.  We didn’t speak for 3 days.  I realized that he wasn’t going to apologize to me or mention the event on his own, so I decided I needed to take the initiative to talk to him about my emotions, clear the air, and try to restore our relationship.  I’d never talked to my father about our relationship very much before.  He was always right, often angry, and anything that was amiss was my fault.  I also knew that he would not show his emotions, that it would be a “formal discussion” on his part, but that I would probably not be able to contain my tears, making me feel foolish and not his equal.  I decided to brave the consequences and approach him with Kleenex in hand.  I began to talk, and cry, and tell him how I felt.  Then he asked me if I wanted an apology.  “What do you want me to say?”  I told him that part was up to him.  My dictating an apology to him would be meaningless.  That’s when he said, “That is very wise.”   Suddenly, I felt I had grown up and been respected as an equal to my father in some way.   What I understood or didn’t understand about evolution and carbon dating and creation didn’t matter to me any more.  That I had been able to navigate emotions with my father and repair a broken relationship was far more significant.

Dad & me in 1992. Photo by my 8 year old daughter.

Wisdom isn’t easy to get, but it is available.  If you pursue it, you’ll probably get it eventually.  It’s completely avoidable, though, if you so choose.   I know which way I want to go, so I’ll keep paddling my canoe and checking the horizon.   For those of you heading the same way, STEADY ON!  I salute you.

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Posted in Peace & Justice

Orhan Pamuk: The Fear of Being Left Outside, What Literature Needs to Address

Orhan Pamuk (b. 1952), Istanbul Turkey, Novelist
Orhan Pamuk (b. 1952), Istanbul Turkey, Novelist ~ photo courtesy of Mr. Pamuk

“What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity’s basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities, and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kin … Whenever I am confronted by such sentiments, and by the irrational, overstated language in which they are usually expressed, I know they touch on a darkness inside me. We have often witnessed peoples, societies and nations outside the Western world–and I can identify with them easily–succumbing to fears that sometimes lead them to commit stupidities, all because of their fears of humiliation and their sensitivities. I also know that in the West–a world with which I can identify with the same ease–nations and peoples taking an excessive pride in their wealth, and in their having brought us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Modernism, have, from time to time, succumbed to a self-satisfaction that is almost as stupid.”

—Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Lecture (translation by Maureen Freely), 2006
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This seem the perfect piece to expand on Michael Watson’s post yesterday and his comment, “. . . we seem to be caught up in the Bardo, spinning endless fantasies derived from fear, greed, and anger” … and we would add “hubris.”  So just some thoughts for us as poets and writers, artists and musicians, therapists, clerics bloggers … and simply as humans beings.
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Is Orhan Pamuk’s statement fair? How do you feel about it?.
Posted in Essay, Guest Writer

EVERYTHING YOU THINK

After a life-changing adventure in South Africa, Amy Nora Doyle – writer and intuitive – begin an adventure: celebrating the ordinary life in an extraordinary way. She blogs at Soul Dipper, where she shares her experiences and channels her guides, the Soul Group Ra. I particularly liked this story, such an honest one. Here Amy finds herself spinning on and making judgements and assumptions about someone, only to learn that she is totally wrong. I think we all can see ourselves in this story as both the judge and the judged. Enjoy! J.D.
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DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK
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by
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Amy Nora Doyle
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A more evolved person would say:  “What’s the big deal?  It’s only a load of lumber.  He’ll probably bring it tomorrow.”

Except, it feels like a big deal.

I put my life on hold to accommodate his schedule.  “Thursday morning before 11:00″, he confirmed on the phone two days ago.  It is now after 6:30 p.m. and the appointed length of lumber has not been delivered as promised.

The spot for storage is cleared.  The prepared dumping site is barren.

Tomorrow is no good.  I have appointments and he has other commitments.  That’s why we agreed that he’d come today.

Good grief, here’s a mature man who is a member of a stalwart island family and he has not kept his word.  He is supposedly trustworthy.

Come to think of it, I have noticed subtle gestures from his wife when I saw them together.  She usually leaves a group setting when he joins the conversation.  He sort of takes over the conversation.

Once she said it was their anniversary.  “Congratulations.  How long have you two been married?” I asked.

“Oh, I’ve only been married to him for 15 years”, she said.  “I was married before.  My first husband died.  The children are from my first marriage.”

The absence of enthusiasm was as good as a confessional.

She continued, “He’s a good man, though.  Been a good father to my children.  But, you know…at times, I find myself wishing he’d talk about something other than his antique cars and farm machinery.  He’s always looking for more information or parts.  I know he wishes the kids would show a little more interest…”

A Gift From My Guides

Yes, I’ve noticed that little ‘something’ whenever we’ve talked.

Let’s face it.  He’s a great hulk of a man who talks too much.  He is not a man of his word.  He bores his wife to death and most people just want to avoid him.  He’s like all the rest of the people who never do what they say.  If anyone asks me about his service, I’m going to be honest.  People like him should not get away with this kind of nonsense.  Look at this!  It’s 7:30 p.m.  No truck, no phone call and no lumber.  And even worse, I did no writing today until now.  I couldn’t concentrate with one ear at the door.  He’s really screwed up my day.

The phone rings.  7:47 p.m.  Why does that time appear on clocks so frequently in my life?  What does it mean?

“Hi, I’ll swing by now and bring your lumber.  I promised I’d call first.”

“Thanks.  See you in a few minutes.”

The poor man.  He’s still working!  It’s going to be dark before he finishes unloading the lumber.  He’s had a hip replacement in his retirement and he’s still working so hard.  He must be starving.  I’ll offer him something to munch on.  I should have told him to not bother tonight.

Suddenly his white truck backs into my driveway.  He parks perfectly by the prepared spot.  He jumps out of the truck and cheerfully sets up the rigging for unloading the lumber all by himself.

“You’re working awfully late, aren’t you?”

“Well, I was doing a little fix-it job for the local Kids Klub and it took a little longer ’cause when I gave one of the young fellas a ride home, turned out his mother needed her washer fixed.  Then, when I got to the lumber yard, some guy had jimmied his loader so I gave him a hand, you know, just so he could get out of my way.  Then Old Rex Thornton drove in and wanted to know what he could do with his old ’49 Chevy.  He figures he’s ripe for the old folk’s home.  So after we had a little chat about it, I suggested we go and have a look at it.  It’s in great shape.  By gar, I think I’ll buy it.  Then he got to showin’ me some of the other stuff that he wants to get rid of.  I know lots of people who will be interested.  Turns out his wife was having trouble with an old clothes line that she still wants to use – you know how women like the bedding to smell fresh…”

Link HERE  and scroll down to read the guided commentary that follows this story on Amy’s site.