Seeing

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“It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, 

knocked breathless by a powerful glance.”

~ Annie Dillard

Good morning friends,

And so we enter late July. I know you are reading this email from all over the world. Back in March, when I began sending these emails, we were in a similar place regarding the state of the pandemic and our lifestyles as a result. Now, four months later, our circumstances have diversified. Although the world remains in a state of uncertainty, where we live, and the progress (or lack thereof) that has been made in our country and community regarding the spread of coronavirus now shapes our hopes for a return to “normalcy” differently. It’s no secret that things are not looking good here in the States.

Our theme this week is “seeing.” As you can imagine, we will explore many forms of seeing in the days to come. In our current times I believe the greatest use for seeing may be simply seeing one another – seeing that we all share this predicament, seeing that we are all feeling it differently, seeing ways to connect with each other. We may also use “seeing” to be more fully present moment by moment. Whether we are appreciating the beauty of nature so abundant in these summer months, or seeing the fluctuations of our own inner life in a new way, an enhanced capacity for seeing can optimize any moment regardless of our constraints.

We will also return to The Endurance this week primarily for company in what at times can feel like a struggle without end. To some extent, we can relate to Shackleton’s crew where the characters meet obstacle after obstacle in their tenacious attempt to reach home. At this point in the story the crew of The Endurance has been alone in the Antarctic for five and a half months. I hope that by following the story of the Endurance we will feel encouraged by seeing others persevere through another interminable and threatening circumstance, and that we will also see the capacity of human resilience and courage, and trust that the same resides in us.

We join the crew upon the open water in three row-boats, now searching once again for land.

The Endurance

“The boats in which the party set sail upon this forbidding sea were sturdy enough, but no open boat was really equal to the voyage they faced. The Dudley Docker and the Stancomb Wills were cutters – heavy, square-sterner boats of solid oak… They were 21 feet 9 inches long, with a 6-foot-2-inch beam, and they had three seats, or thwarts, plus a small decking in the bow and in the stern. They also mounted stubby masts to which a sail could be secured; but they were primarily pulling boats, designed for rowing, not sailing… In terms of weight, the boats were not overloaded. The Wills carried eight men, the Docker nine and the Caird eleven; in less stormy waters, with less bulky gear, each might have accommodated at least twice that number. As matters stood, the boats were uncomfortably crowded. The hoop tents and the rolled-up sleeping bags took up a disproportionate amount of room. There were also cases of stores and a considerable amount of personal gear – all of which left scarcely enough space for the men themselves.

Throughout the afternoon, as they held to a northwesterly course, the three boats made excellent progress. There were belts of ice that were fairly thick, but none so dense as to block their way. Shortly after five o’clock the light began to fail. Shackleton called to the other boats to stay close by until a suitable camping place was found. They rowed until about five-thirty when they came to a flat, heavy floe some 200 yards across, which Shackleton decided was sturdy enough to camp on. Nearly a half-dozen approaches were made in the surging swell before the boats were safely hauled onto the ice. It was six-fifteen by the time the landing was completed. Green set up his blubber stove while the remainder of the party pitched the tents…

It had been a tiring but exciting day. By Worsley’s estimate, they had made a good 7 miles to the northwest. Though the distance itself was not impressive, the fact that they had finally taken to the boats was the fulfillment of a dream. After five and a half months on the ice, they were underway at last, ‘doing some good for oneself,’ as Macklin put it. They dropped off to sleep immediately.

Toward eleven o’clock, Shackleton became strangely uneasy, so he dressed and went outside. He noticed that the swell had increased and their floe had swung around so that it was meeting the seas head on. He had stood watching for only a few moments, when there was a deep-throated thud and the floe split beneath his feet – and directly under No. 4 tent in which the eight fore-castle hands were sleeping.

Almost instantly the two pieces of the floe drew apart, the tent collapsed and there was a splash. The crewmen scrambled out from under the limp canvas.

‘Somebody’s missing,’ one man shouted. Shackleton rushed forward and began to tear the tent away. In the dark he could hear muffled, gasping noises coming from below. When he finally got the tent out of the way, he saw a shapeless form wriggling in the water – a man in his sleeping bag. Shackleton reached down for the bag with one tremendous heave, he pulled it out of the water. A moment later, the two halves of the broken floe came together with a violent shock.

The man in the sleeping bag turned out to be Ernie Holness, one of the firemen. He was soaked through but he was alive, and there was no time to worry about him then because the crack was opening once more, this time very rapidly, cutting off the occupants of Shackleton’s tent and the men who had been sleeping in the Caird from the rest of the party. A line was pitched across and the two groups of men, pulling toward one another, managed to bring the halves together once more. The Caird was hurriedly shoved across and then the men leaped to the larger floe. Shackleton waited until the others were safe, but by the time it was his turn, the pieces had drifted apart again. He took hold of the rope and tried to bring his chunk closer; but with only one man pulling it was useless. Within ninety seconds he had disappeared into the darkness.

For what seemed a very long interval, no one spoke; then from the darkness they heard Shackleton’s voice. ‘Launch a boat,’ he called. Wild had just given the order. The Wills was slid into the water, and a half-dozen volunteers scrambled on board. They put out their oars and rowed toward Shackleton’s voice. Finally they saw his outline in the darkness, and they pulled alongside his floe. He jumped into the Wills, and they returned to the campsite.

Sleep was now out of the question. Shackleton ordered the blubber stove lighted. Then he turned his attention to Holness who was shivering uncontrollably in his soaked clothes. But there weren’t any dry garments to give him because their only clothes were the ones they were wearing. To prevent Holness from freezing, Shackleton ordered that he be kept moving until his own clothes dried. For the rest of the night, the men took turns walking up and down with him. His companions could hear the crackling of his frozen garments, and the tinkle of the ice crystals that fell from him. Though he made no complaint about his clothes, Holness grumbled for hours over the fact that he had lost his tobacco in the water.”

The Writing: Annie Dillard (From Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

‘When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always ‘hid’ the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a bit of chalk, and starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny in both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: surprise ahead or money this way. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of  the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.

It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, un-wrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But – and this is the point – who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremendous ripple trill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.

I used to be able to see insects in the air. I’d look ahead and see, not the row of hemlocks across the road, but the air in front of it. My eyes would focus along that column of air, picking out flying insects. But I lost interest, I guess, for I dropped the habit…

Unfortunately, nature is very much a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t affair. A fish flashes, then dissolves in the salt water before my eyes like so much salt. Deer apparently ascend bodily into heaven; the brightest oriole fades into leaves. These experiences stun me into stillness and concentration; they say of nature that it conceals with a grand nonchalance, and they say of vision that it is a deliberate gift, the revelation of a dancer who for my eyes only flings away her seven veils. For nature does reveal as well as conceal: now-you-don’t-see-it, now-you-do…

I chanced on a wonderful book by Marius von Senden, called Space and Sight. When Western surgeons discovered how to perform safe cataract operations, they ranged across Europe and America operating on dozens of men and women of all ages who had been blinded by cataracts since birth. Von Senden collected accounts of such cases; the histories are fascinating… For the newly sighted, vision is pure sensation unencumbered by meaning: ‘The girl went through the experience that we all go through and forget the moment we are born. She saw, but it did not mean anything but a lot of different kinds of brightness’…

But there is another way of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied. The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut.

It was sunny one evening last summer at Tinker Creek; the sun was low in the sky, upstream. I was sitting on the sycamore log bridge with the sunset at my back, watching the shiners the size of minnows who are feeding over the muddy sand in skittery schools. Again and again, one fish, then another, turned for a split second across thew current and flash! The sun shot out from its silver side. I couldn’t watch for it. It was always just happening somewhere else, and it drew my vision just as it disappeared: flash, like a sudden dazzle of the thinnest blade, a sparking over a dun and olive ground at chance intervals from every direction. Then I noticed white specks, some sort of pale petals, small, floating from under my feet on the creek’s surface, very slow and steady. So blurred my eyes and gazed towards the brim of my hat and saw a new world. I saw the pale white circles roll up, roll up like the world turning, mute and perfect, and I saw the linear flashes gleaming silver, like stars being born at random down a rolling scroll of time. Something broke and something opened. I filled up like a new wineskin. I breathed an air like light; I saw a light like water. I was the lip of a fountain the creek filled forever; I was ether, the leaf in the zephyr; I was flesh-flake, feather, bone.

When I see this way I see truly. As Thoreau says, I return to my senses. I am the man who watches the baseball game in silence in an empty stadium. I see the game purely; I’m abstracted and dazed. When it’s all over and the white suited players lope off the green field to their shadowed dugouts, I leap to my feet; I cheer and cheer.

But I can’t go out and try to see this way. I’ll fail, I’ll go mad. All I can do is try to gag the commentator, to hush the noise of useless interior babble that keeps me from seeing just as surely as a newspaper dangled before my eyes. The effort is really a discipline requiring a lifetime of dedicated struggle; it marks the literature of saints and monks of every order East and West, under every rule and no rule, discalced and shod. The world’s spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. ‘Launch into the deep,’ says Jacques Ellul, and ‘you shall see.’

The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought. The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise… I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.”

 

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“I stopped in the middle of that building and I saw — the sky.”

~ Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (Thanks, JS)

 

The Poetry: Roger S. Keyes and Leonard Cohen

HAKUSAI SAYS

By Roger S. Keyes

Hokusai says look carefully.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says keep looking, stay curious.

He says there is no end to seeing.

He says look forward to getting old.

He says keep changing,

you just get more who you really are.

He says get stuck, accept it, repeat

yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says everyone of us is a child,

everyone of us is ancient,

everyone of us has a body.

He says everyone of us is frightened.

He says everyone of us has to find

a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive–

shells, buildings, people, fish,

mountains, trees, wood is alive.

Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,

or write books. It doesn’t matter

if you saw wood, or catch fish.

It doesn’t matter if you sit at home

and stare at the ants on your veranda

or the shadows of the trees

and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.

Joy is life living through you.

Satisfaction and strength

is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

***

 

LOVE ITSELF

By Leonard Cohen

The light came through the window now

straight from the sun above,

and so inside my little room

there plunged the rays of Love.

In streams of light I clearly saw

the dust you seldom see,

the dust the Nameless makes to speak

a Name for one like me.

And all mixed up with sunlight now

the flecks did float and dance

and I was tumbled up with them

in formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:

this Love went on and on

until it reached an open door –

Then Love itself was gone.

The self-same moment words were seen

from every window frame,

but there was nothing left between

the Nameless and the Name.

 

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“… I may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness, with which 

         one chemical atom meets another.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Because seeing also involves being seen:

The Science: Brene Brown: How Vulnerability Can Make Our Lives Better

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. In this interview, she talks about how she’s been able to embrace her own vulnerability, shares a story of an entrepreneur who dared greatly to achieve success, and explains how vulnerability really works in our society and more.

From your experience, what were the obstacles in embracing your own vulnerability? When did you realize that you needed to do it?

Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. I was raised in a “get ‘er done” and “suck it up” family and culture (very Texan, German-American). The tenacity and grit part of that upbringing has served me, but I wasn’t taught how to deal with uncertainty or how to manage emotional risk. I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few. Learning how to be vulnerable has been a street fight for me, but it’s been worth it.

There are so many examples of successful entrepreneurs. Can you give one example of someone who dared greatly and was a great success as a result?

Sure one of my favorite stories is about Myshkin Ingawale who, after learning about the unbelievable and unnecessary maternal child death rate in rural India, decided to do something about it. He wanted to develop technology that was effective and efficient at testing for anemia in pregnant women. He was a TED Fellow and when I heard him speak in 2012 he said, “I wanted to solve this problem so I invented something that would do it.” The audience burst into applause. Then he said, “But it didn’t work.” You could feel the let down in the room. Then he smiled and said, “So, I made it 32 more times and they all failed.”

But finally a smile slid across his face and he said, “The 33rd time worked and now deaths are down 50%.” In Daring Greatly I also tell the story of Gay Gaddis, the owner and founder of T3 (The Think Tank) in Austin, Texas. Gay cashed in a sixteen-thousand dollar IRA with the dream of starting and ad agency. Twenty-three years after opening with a handful of regional accounts, Gay has built T3 into the nation’s largest advertising agency wholly owned by a women. When I asked her about vulnerability she said, “When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.” In the end of our interview she told me that entrepreneurship is all about vulnerability. Every single day.

Do you think society supports people who are viewed as more vulnerable? Can we come off as weak if we show imperfections?

The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness. This is where shame comes into play. Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think. When we’re fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that’s constantly whispering “You’re not good enough” in our ear, it’s tough to show up. We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it.

When we’ve attached our self-worth to what we produce or earn, being real gets dicey.

The good news is that I think people are tired of the hustle – they’re tired of doing it and tired of watching it. We’re hungry for people who have the courage to say, “I need help” or “I own that mistake” or “I’m not willing to define success simply by my title or income any longer.”

People connect more with those who have weaknesses. Every superhero has a weaknesses (Superman has kryptonite, for example). What makes these people more relatable? If they were perfect, would we care as much about them?

Most of us don’t trust perfect and that’s a good instinct. In the research there’s a significant difference between perfectionism and healthy striving or striving for excellence. Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.

Perfectionism is also very different than self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval. Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect.” Healthy striving is self- focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle.

Last, perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside of the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds.

Last, perfectionism is not a way to avoid shame. Perfectionism is a form of shame. Where we struggle with perfectionism, we struggle with shame.

What are the first three steps to daring greatly?

I’m not a big fan of steps and tips because it’s never linear (and rarely as easy as steps imply). I think daring greatly is about showing up and being seen. It’s about owning our vulnerability and understanding it as the birthplace of courage and the other meaning-making experiences in our lives.

 

The phrase Daring Greatly is from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic.” The speech, sometimes referred to as “The Man in the Arena,” was delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910. This is the passage that made the speech famous:

     It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . . who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

The first time I read this quote, I thought, This is vulnerability. Everything I’ve learned from over a decade of research on vulnerability has taught me this exact lesson. Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.

I think the first thing we have to do is figure out what’s keeping us out of the arena. What’s the fear? Where and why do we want to be braver? Then we have to figure out how we’re currently protecting ourselves from vulnerability. What is our armor? Perfectionism? Intellectualizing? Cynicism? Numbing? Control? That’s where I started. It’s not an easy walk into that arena, but it’s where we come alive.

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“When someone is seeking,” said Siddartha, “It happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal. You, O worthy one, are perhaps indeed a seeker, for in striving towards your goal, you do not see many things that are under your nose.” 

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

 

The Spiritual: Steven Kotler (From The Rise of Superman)

“In 2003, about a year into his BASE training, Dean Potter and a few friends were given the opportunity to BASE jump into Mexico’s ‘Cellar of Swallows,’ a gargantuan open-air pit: 1200 feet deep, and actually misnamed. While some 50,000 birds do make their home in this cave, they are swifts, not swallows. Either way, the cellar is deep enough to house a skyscraper. Wide too. With a diameter running between 170 and 300 feet in length, the cavern provides plenty of room to steer a parachute.

The group spent two days BASE jumping into the cave. At the end of that time, when everyone else was totally exhausted, Potter decided he wanted one last jump. ‘I never should have done it,’ he says now. ‘I was exhausted from all that jumping and rigging and I’d felt sick for almost a day. I’d also had a bad feeling in my gut, it was stupid. I just ignored all the signs.’

He also ignored another. When he went to strap on his chute, he noticed the canopy was wet. It should have been the end of his plans. A wet chute is unevenly weighted. When deployed, parts will inflate, others will not. Potter, not thinking clearly, decided the water was evenly dispersed and wouldn’t be a problem. At it wasn’t a problem – at least not for the first five seconds of the jump. ‘When I leaped,’ he says, ‘it was right into the zone. Immediately my senses started peaking. I was moving at ninety miles per hour but could see in incredible detail – minute fissures in the rock, tiny patches of lichen, bat guano.’

At the six-second mark, roughly 500 feet from the ground, Potter deployed his chute. It opened asymmetrically. The wet sections collapsed, the dry ones inflated. Instantly, with the air currents unevenly distributed, Potter started spinning. From above, his friends started shouting: ‘Avoid the walls!’ Important safety tip. Except, with his guidelines twisted, there was no way to steer.

Then the miraculous intervened: the guidelines began to untwist. Potter seized the moment, yanking the toggles. He knew the better move was to reverse his direction – which would have sent him backward and out into open space – but for reasons he still cannot fathom he turned left instead. He was now heading directly toward the cave wall. Worse, the moment he turned, his chute collapsed, dragging itself completely over his head.

But Potter’s senses were peaking. In the fleeting instant before his vision vanished he caught a glimpse of orange. ‘We were filming the jumps,’ he recounts, ‘so we’d hung a rope about 400 feet off the deck for the camera man. It was glowing orange. And that was what I saw: a flash of glowing orange.’

He reacted immediately, grabbing for the rope, catching it too. But there was no way to tighten his grip. Potter was less than 300 feet from the ground and closing in on terminal velocity. His hands were already burning from friction. When he tried to clamp down on the rope his flesh flayed and then instantly cauterized. The pain was unbelievable.

Above him his friends were screaming: ‘Hang on.” It was his only option. He used all his strength, every last bit. And Potter did manage to stop himself for a moment – but couldn’t hold it. Again he started plummeting. Again he clamped down. Again, he managed to stop. Not a moment too soon. With the chute still covering his eyes, he had no way of knowing, but Potter had halted himself merely six feet above the ground.

Potter landed in a heap on the cave floor. His hands were destroyed, other parts as well… When Potter finally got that parachute off his head, he found himself sitting on the floor of the Cellar of Swallows. Above him, his friends were running around, trying to facilitate his rescue. He paid them little mind. Instead, his focus was entirely on the ground beside him, where a small swift with a broken wing lay dying.

Instinctively, Potter picked up the bird, cradling it in his shredded palms. The connection was immediate. As soon as their flesh touched, he felt a powerful psychic union, as if his consciousness had merged with the bird’s consciousness. In that instant, they were no longer two wounded creatures: they had become one stronger animal.

‘I know it’s hard to believe,’ says Potter, ‘but the experience was so powerful, the connection so true. I just sat there with that bird, holding it while it died. When it died I died with it. And I don’t mean that metaphorically, I mean I became that dying bird.’”

“When the Spirit of God finds a soul in which He can work, He uses that soul for any number of purposes: opens out before its eyes a hundred new directions, multiplying its works and its opportunities for the apostolate almost beyond belief and certainly beyond the ordinary strength of a human being.”

~ Thomas Merton

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“I paint like a blind man, not wasting time with details but rather

searching for the living pulse.”

~ Alessandra Sanna

Here are some wise words on seeing from civil rights leader, John Lewis, who passed this week (From this On Being podcast):

“I wanted to believe, and I did believe, that things would get better. But later I discovered, I guess, that what you’re moving toward is already done. It’s already happened… It’s the power to believe that you can see, that you can visualize, that sense of community, that sense of family, that sense of one house… And you live that you’re already there, that you’re already in that community, part of that sense of one family, one house. If you visualize it, if you can even have faith that it’s there, for you it is already there. And during the early days of the movement, I believed that the only true and real integration for that sense of the beloved community existed within the movement itself. Because in the final analysis, we did become a circle of trust, a band of brothers and sisters. So it didn’t matter whether we’re black or white. It didn’t matter whether you came from the North, to the South, or whether you’re a Northerner or a Southerner. We were one.

The Endurance

“At 5am, the first hint of a brightening sky marked the ending of the night. It was April 10th… During the night the wind had risen almost to gale force, and from somewhere in the northeast, great quantities of pack had drifted down on them. Now it extended unbroken to the horizon in every direction. Berg fragments and shattered floes in ten-thousand different shapes obliterated the surface of the water. And out of the northwest, rollers 30 feet high, stretching from horizon to horizon, swept through the pack in long, implacable lines a half mile apart. At their summits the floe-berg was lifted to what seemed like dizzying heights, then dropped into valleys from which the horizon was obscured. The air was filled with a dull, muddled roar – the low shriek of the wind, and the seas breaking hoarsely amongst the pack, along with the incessant booming grind of the ice.

Because of its size, their berg was drifting more slowly than the rest of the pack which bore down upon it and pounded it on every side, while the surge of the swell was undermining it by eating away at the waterline. Periodically, decayed chunks dropped away from one side or another, and others were torn loose by floe fragments hurled against the berg by the seas. At each impact, the berg shuddered sickeningly.

This was precisely the situation Shackleton had feared since the first appearance of the swell at Patience Camp. The berg was crumbling beneath them, and might split or upend at any moment. And yet to launch the boats would have been idiocy. They would have been split to bits in ninety seconds.

The whole scene had a kind of horrifying fascination. The men stood by, tense and altogether aware that in the next instant they might be flung into the sea to be crushed or drowned, or to flounder in the icy water until the spark of life was chilled from their bodies. And yet the grandeur of the spectacle before them was undeniable.

Watching it, many of them sought to put their feeling into words, but they could find no words that were adequate. The lines in Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur kept running through Macklin’s head: “… I never saw, nor shall I see, here or elsewhere, till I die, not though I live three lives of mortal men, so great a miracle.”

The Cinematic: Amanda Palmer TED Talk: The Art of Asking (but it’s also about seeing)

The Musical: Are We Not One by Young Oceans

Friends, I wish you a weekend of seeing clearly (whatever that means to you).

Sincerely,

Shannon

 

Forgiveness

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“Our enemies … seem always with us. The greater our hatred the more persistent the memory of them so that a truly terrible enemy becomes deathless. So that the man who has done you great injury or injustice makes himself a guest in your house forever. Perhaps only forgiveness can dislodge him.”

~Cormac McCarthy

 

Good morning friends,

We’re going to take a break from The Endurance this week because I have rather a lot of content on this week’s theme, forgiveness. This is a significant topic for me due to some difficult events in my past (as described in the essay below). But, I know I’m not alone in that. I hope this week’s content is of help with this most sensitive of subjects.

The Writing: My own and David Whyte

ON FORGIVENESS

By Shannon Thompson (2016)

“Remember we really don’t know anything. Keep your baby eyes (which are the eyes of genius) on what we don’t know. That is your playground, bare and graveled, safe and unbreakable.” 

~Lincoln Steffans

This is a personal piece about forgiveness. I’ve learned to understand forgiveness differently through people I love of late. Although this is an example from one relationship, surely forgiveness is a question we’ll all encounter in our lives. Perhaps it will quietly haunt your conscience, or bounce around recklessly – thrown in discussion like a game no one knows how to play – or maybe it will beg of you within the eyes of someone who matters. I want to share with you a new understanding of forgiveness that has helped me.

Five years ago, I was accused of doing something terrible by one of my closest relatives. I did not commit the act of which I was accused. I still remember the moment of the quake. Without warning the foundation of one of my oldest relationships fractured and ties and trust I’d viewed as unbreakable crumbled beneath my feet. The morning sun lit the grass as always, but my whole world had shifted into shadow.

For a time there was no way to cross the chasm that had formed between this person and me. At first we didn’t interact at all. Then, slowly, infrequent substance-less conversation began. Discussion of our disagreement was forbidden, so over time the space between us solidified, which is what happens when two people cling to his and her own walls. The dust of the quake itself settled with the exception of the odd gust of wind, but blustery days came less frequently as the climate grew calm. For five years there had been no shift of the earth to close the chasm, only steady, insidious, erosion.

Many friends took up residence on my side of the canyon. What I consider to be my family has expanded across landscapes and personalities. Human flowers of the earth came alive in every season, and for the first time I realized we comprise such a garden. Still, sometimes in the night, or on a long lonely drive, I’ll stand at the cliff and look out.

It’s very likely that my family member and I will never agree on the details of the event from five years ago. This is not a question of compromise. It’s not that kind of disagreement. One of us is right and one is wrong; fire or water; desert or sky. There is no ground in between. Personal offense has stood in my defense throughout these years. Wounded and defiant I’ve seen my vision of justice as the only road to peace. You must come to my side of the canyon. But, when the other makes the same demand where does that leave us? Yet, this summer at my request, he came to Flagstaff in body if not in amnesty to resolve the unresolvable.

During our first night together in Flag I decided to talk frankly about the purpose of our visit: “So, we’re going to the counselor tomorrow,” I began. “I don’t think we’re going to agree on the details.” I went on to explain that I felt unclear about the precise objective I was seeking from our conversations. I just wanted to re-establish a relationship with him that is meaningful.

“What about our current relationship lacks meaning?” He asked, clearly puzzled. A rush of necessity overwhelmed the hollow drag of fear that often prevents me from expressing hard truths. Fervently, I recounted some events of the past that had sapped my trust in him, and had left me unwilling to share the most personal aspects of myself. Wiping tears out of my eyes in the middle of a downtown restaurant I spoke of toxic silences, and secrets, and lies. By no means did I feel comfortable sharing my life with him anymore. I explained, and for the first time realized, that all of my most meaningful relationships include a willingness to express experiences, hopes, and beliefs of mine which are often slightly (and greatly) unconventional. I never share any of this with him. “Well, I don’t like that. I want you to trust me.” He said, clearly surprised. “Looks like we found an objective.”

My mentor in grad school told me “when someone really has something to say she can say it.” I mused that night how right she was. What she didn’t tell me was how healing the act of telling your story can be. My family member heard my raw account of my experience during the event in question, and how I had perceived his actions. Without knowing precisely what I needed to say, I said it. In these circumstances, telling my story was the best I could do. Athletes tell me all the time when I ask them about their goals, “I just want to know I became the best I could be,” “that I did the best I could do,” “that I did everything I could.” There’s something terrifying about the possibility of failing to find our best, and there are few experiences more satisfying than giving our all. You know The Phrase in the Bible about “the truth”? Well, I felt set free.

Over the days to follow, my relative and I spent many hours with my counselor. We talked through numerous aspects of our relationship but came no closer to an agreement regarding the details of the event that divided us. However, we did reach a point where we were able to move forward with far greater peace for a time. I might even say that I forgave him.

To forgive, what does that mean? I’ve heard it said that forgiveness is not a decision so much as an expansion. Another wise person in my life has explained forgiveness as choosing not to carry the issue or the anger anymore. My family member accused me of a horrible act that I did not do. How does one stretch to allow space for accusations so defiling and untrue? How does one set one’s need for justice aside? Isn’t such an effort a weakening? A concession? Perhaps even an admission of wrongdoing? Doesn’t he win if I grow open enough to include him in my life despite the pain he’s caused? What does it look like to do my best here?

To answer this question I found myself reflecting on my work with athletes. The key question that I ask all of them is, who do you want to be? So, I asked that question once again of myself. My answer regarding who I want to be in my work is someone who “sees” beyond expectations. By “see” I mean to sense what is really going on in someone, and to take the time to understand what they need. I suspect that our most debilitating human limitation is that we can only see the world from behind our own eyes. We operate from within one story, one perspective, one view out of the roughly seven billion views experienced on earth (and that’s only accounting for the human views). We’re profoundly blind. “You don’t know what’s going on,” my counselor reminded me kindly not long ago. You don’t know what’s going on. None of us really do, do we? None of us know what it’s like to be another, or can fully understand why any of us make the choices we make. I can’t begin to comprehend how this aspect of that event triggered this memory from that time sparking this love or that fear from the layers upon layers of a lifetime of influences that comprise the one and only experience that is yours. I don’t know.

     But there is one thing I do know: fear is to blame for my rupture with my relative, and we are all susceptible to its lies. Fear of loss, pain, isolation, embarrassment, and fear that touches past hurts, betrayals and abandonments almost always cause our most grievous, and yes, evil acts. And, not only are we blind to another’s reasons for acting the way that they do, we are often blind to our own reasons. Fear feels real and is largely responsible for the differences in how we see, and yet it is the most stealthy and invisible of lies. Fear keeps us from being who we want to be and from loving those we love. My counselor tells me that what fear says is 180 degrees from truth. I believe him. Fear can show up dramatically as it did with my relative, or it can show up subtly through explosive reactions to far smaller events.

That same spring I had more opportunities to witness the effects of fear and grow my forgiveness practice. During this time four groups of guests visited me in Flagstaff. I enjoyed warm moments with them all, but I was also surprised by some of the actions I witnessed. Choices divergent from my own were made because people I love saw circumstances differently than I saw them. But, what I recognized was that in each circumstance each felt threatened, and was trying to cope in a way they felt like they needed to based upon how they saw the moment. When I gained greater insight regarding how my loved one saw the circumstance, their actions made sense. I could even say that from their way of seeing these people were doing their best. I struggled to watch from within “I don’t know.” I chose (with difficulty) to believe that from their view of the world they were doing the best that they could. Perhaps, given what they could see, I would have made the same choices. After all, none of us, no matter how awake are completely immune to fear.

The peace that has come from doing my best and choosing to believe that others are doing the same has surprised me. Personally, speaking up about what’s real, hard, and true (from my view) is an essential part of doing my best and a practice I’ve avoided far too frequently. To kindly express what I’m seeing is a commitment I’m making to my life and my loves from here forward. This comes with a great deal of fear. But, I’m more afraid of squandering precious, finite hours away at the periphery of relationships, more terrified of deflecting and wasting the entirety of this moment by hiding from the wind of true words. I believe that if we could speak from a presumption that we are all doing our best we can handle each other, and the truth. In fact, increasingly, the truth is all I can handle.

I’ve come to believe that compassion for another’s fear, and the concept of doing one’s best is deeply woven within forgiveness. That is, to forgive is to choose to believe that a person was doing his best with what he could see during the event in question, and to give them the benefit of the doubt – that their vision was clouded by fear. How can we ask more of anyone other than to do his best in a given moment based on how he sees the world? For a well -intentioned person, to have behaved differently than he did when believing he’s doing his best would be impossible. To me, allowing someone this benefit of the doubt is forgiveness defined. Let me be clear, this version of forgiveness does not affirm his choices, or concede any wrongdoing of our own; it does not negate our wounds, and it does not forget his actions, but it does allow for a future.

And regarding those with whom we want a future:

Our closest relationships, through sheer frequency of interaction, provide more opportunities for conflict than any other. Therefore, when people allow you to get close to them – to witness their operations day in and day out – I believe there is a trust implied. This trust holds that if you glimpse an imperfection you will not judge them. It’s a faith that you see each other deeply enough to survive your common humanity: fear, anger, hurt, and even mistakes. My commitment to those of you who have brought so much more beauty into my life than grief, is that what you allow me to see of your weaknesses will never diminish your strengths in my eyes. Anything less from me would be a betrayal of your trust, a deficiency of my gratitude, my concession to fear. I ask the same from you.

I think that one of the greatest gifts we can give to each other is an open desire to understand. This is not curiosity as a prelude to a request to change, nor to gain info by which to judge; it is not a means to any end. Rather, I am speaking of ongoing, open curiosity, where each moment of inquiry is an end in itself. We humans are nothing but change. You today will not be precisely the same you tomorrow. This pure and fluid desire to understand each other must be integral to lasting love. It’s also an incredible gift to another that says, I want to know you as you are now, and as who you will be.

Be careful, you say. I know, be careful. I hear you. Here is the caveat that I hope will ease the growing concern In your voice: despite the fact few people set out to intentionally hurt one another, it’s clear that we do. Alongside the brave clear sighted-ness that enables the choice to forgive we are fragile beings. We can only take so much pain. When we’re injured by another this is information which we must use to decide what situations we will attend with them in the future. Someone blinded by fear and denying the fact is a dangerous companion. Forgiveness must walk with wisdom, and is accompanied by responsibility – a responsibility to oneself. Our lives are singular sparks in a vast night, a hummingbird’s heartbeat, comprised of limited, irreplaceable moments. We need to choose wisely how we spend these moments, and to whom these moments are given. To forgive someone does not mean you should give him any more of your moments.

This I understand,
that I don’t.
Perhaps I will in time.
I’ll give you this moment, that one, I won’t. 

Its safest kept as Mine. 

I’m considering, based upon how I see the world and the person that I want to be within it, to whom should I give my moments? I have this moment, now this one (they’re ticking by you know – look there goes another one!). The family member in this story is responsible for an enormous proportion of the beautiful moments of my life. He’s wonderful company. Should I sacrifice now, and every future moment with him because of his grievous error with one? Am I that afraid? Is it better to choose not to believe that he was and is doing the best he can based upon how he sees the world? Should I choose to succumb to my blindness and rage? Perhaps spend more time fighting for agreement? Or, could I consider that really I don’t know what’s going on? Could I instead choose to see his fear and understand? I can’t tell you the peace I’ve found by doing my best and in choosing to forgive in this way. I’ve learned that if I insist that love is only possible if another moves, and I rage and fight for agreement that will never come, its no longer him wasting my moments, but I. When we consider to whom we should give our moments we must also consider which versions of ourselves can be trusted with them.

Through the five years since our disagreement I’ve watched people. I’ve heard the stories of many lives. I’ve seen unnecessary canyons form between individuals which have been created by misinterpretations and presumptions. I’ve noticed the poison of a sinister silence (not speaking of what is clearly between us) wither good sense and souls. And, I’ve witnessed the world change for someone who changes her story – who expands it to allow room for all she can’t see. Timing is everything, as is the urgency of now.

I don’t know, I don’t know. What a scary and liberating choice. And I don’t know, and I don’t need to. I let go of his mistake and its hold on us. It’s flowing as we speak, down the walls of a canyon still firmly in place. But there’s a river at the bottom now, a confluence of expression washing the sediments of silence into our past. I consider carefully what parts of me I share with him. This is the best I can do.

During his Flagstaff visit, my family member watched me with love from within a world I’ve never visited. We stopped arguing. We visited the Grand Canyon under a rose sunset, Lockett Meadow, Karma, Criollo, and Pato Thai. We strolled Buffalo Park at dusk, but forgot to check out the stars because I was sharing all of my strangest stories.

Forgiveness: believing you did your best 

Humility: accepting we’re blind

Hope: curiosity about the rest

Trust: with my moments you’re kind. 

Wisdom: who to trust, or to miss. 

Love: the most necessary risk. 

I wrote this piece in 2016. The situation remains unchanged.

 

By David Whyte

FORGIVENESS

is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, the act of forgiveness not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to reimagine our relation to it.

It may be that the part of us that was struck and hurt can never forgive, and that forgiveness itself never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not meant to forget…

Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting…

Forgiveness is a skill, a way of preserving clarity, sanity and generosity in an individual life, a beautiful question and a way of shaping the mind to a future we want for ourselves; an admittance that if forgiveness comes through understanding, and if understanding is just a matter of time and application then we might as well begin forgiving right at the beginning of any drama, rather than put ourselves through the full cycle of festering, incapacitation, reluctant healing and eventual blessing.

…at the end of life, the wish to be forgiven is ultimately the chief desire of almost every human being. In refusing to wait; in extending forgiveness to others now, we begin the long journey of becoming the person who will be large enough, able enough and generous enough to receive, at our very end, that necessary absolution ourselves.

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The Poetic: Derek Walcott and Pablo Neruda

LOVE AFTER LOVE

By Derek Walcott

 

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

***

KEEPING QUIET

by Pablo Neruda

 

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.

 

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“Let us forgive with generosity those who cannot love us.”

— Pablo Neruda

 

The Science: Michael E. McCullough and Michelle Roya Rad

Forgiveness: Who Does It and How Do They Do It?

Michael E. McCullough

Abstract

Forgiveness is a suite of prosocial motivational changes that occurs after a person has incurred a transgression. People who are inclined to forgive their transgressors tend to be more agreeable, more emotionally stable, and, some research suggests, more spiritually or religiously inclined than people who do not tend to forgive their transgressors. Several psychological processes appear to foster or inhibit forgiveness. These processes include empathy for the transgressor, generous attributions and appraisals regarding the transgression and transgressor, and rumination about the transgression. Interpreting these findings in light of modern trait theory would help to create a more unified understanding of how personality might influence forgiveness.

Relating to others—whether strangers, friends, or family—inevitably exposes people to the risk of being offended or harmed by those other people. Throughout history and across cultures, people have developed many strategies for responding to such transgressions. Two classic responses are avoidance and revenge—seeking distance from the transgressor or opportunities to harm the transgressor in kind. These responses are normal and common, but can have negative consequences for individuals, relationships, and perhaps society as a whole.

Psychologists have been investigating interpersonal transgressions and their aftermath for years. How- ever, although many of the world’s religions have advocated the concept of forgiveness as a productive response to such transgressions (McCullough & Worthington, 1999), scientists have begun only recently to devote sustained attention to forgiveness. Nevertheless, researchers have made substantial progress in illuminating forgiveness during this short amount of time.

What is forgiveness?

Most psychologists concur with Enright, Gassin, and Wu (1992) that forgiveness is distinct from pardon (which is more apposite to the legal realm), condonation (which implies justifying the transgression), and excusing (which implies recognition that the transgressor had a good reason for committing the transgression). Most scholars also concur that forgiveness is distinct from reconciliation—a term implying restoration of a relationship. But what is forgiveness foundationally? The first definition for “forgive” in Webster’ s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary (1983) is “to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; to stop being angry with; to pardon” (p. 720). Although this definition conflates the concepts of forgiveness and pardon, it nearly suffices as an adequate psychological definition because it points to what is perhaps the essence of forgiveness: prosocial motivational change on the victim’s part. By using the term “prosocial,” I am suggesting that when people forgive, they become less motivated to harm their transgressor (or their relation- ship with the transgressor) and, simultaneously, become more motivated to act in ways that will benefit the transgressor (or their relationship with the transgressor).

My colleagues and I have assumed that most people are motivated (at least initially) to respond to transgressions with other forms of negative behavior—particularly, to avoid contact with the transgressor and to seek revenge. When people forgive, they counteract or modulate these motivations to avoid or seek revenge so that the probability of restoring benevolent and harmonious interpersonal relations with their transgressors is increased (McCullough, Bellah, Kil- patrick, & Johnson, 2001; McCullough et al., 1998; McCullough, Worthington, & Rachal, 1997). When people indicate that they have forgiven a transgressor, we believe they are indicating that their perceptions of the transgression and transgressor no longer stimulate motivations for avoidance and revenge. Instead, a forgiver experiences the return of benevolent, constructive motivations regarding the transgressor. In this conceptualization, forgiveness is not a motivation per se, but rather, a complex of prosocial changes in one’s motivations.

Locating forgiveness at the motivational level, rather than at the level of overt behaviors, accommodates the fact that many people who would claim to have forgiven someone who has harmed them might not behave in any particularly new and benevolent way toward their transgressors. Forgiveness might not cause an employee who forgives her boss for an insult to behave any less negatively toward the boss: Avoidance and revenge in the workplace can put one’s job at risk, so most people are probably careful to inhibit the expression of such negative motivations in the first place, regardless of how strong they might have been as a result of the transgression. The motivational definition does imply, however, that the employee would experience a reduced potential for avoidant and vengeful behavior (and an increased potential for benevolent behavior) toward the boss, which might or might not be ex- pressed overtly. A motivational definition also accommodates the fact that someone can make public gestures of forgiveness toward his or her transgressor even in the absence of such prosocial motivational changes.

How would one describe the sorts of people who tend to engage in the motivational transformations collectively called forgiveness? What psychological processes appear to help people forgive? Several research teams have been investigating these questions in detail. In this article, I describe what psychological science has revealed about who tends to forgive and the psychological processes that may foster or hinder forgiveness for specific transgressions.

The Forgiving Personality

Researchers have found that the disposition to forgive is correlated (positively or negatively) with a broad array of variables, including several personality traits, psychological symptoms, moral emotions, hope, and self-esteem (e.g., see Berry , Worthington, Parrott, O’Connor, & Wade, in press; Tangney, Fee, Reinsmith, Boone, & Lee, 1999). For simplicity, it is useful to reduce this potentially bewildering array of correlates to a smaller set of higher- order personality factors, such as those in the Five Factor (or Big Five) personality taxonomy (McCrae & Costa, 1999). Several recent research efforts suggest that the disposition to forgive may be related most strongly to two of these higher-order dimensions: agreeableness and emotional stability (Ashton, Paunonen, Helmes, & Jackson, 1998; Berry et al., in press; McCullough et al., 2001; Mc- Cullough & Hoyt, 1999). Some evidence also suggests that the disposition to forgive is related positively to religiousness and spirituality.

Agreeableness

Agreeableness is a personality dimension that incorporates traits such as altruism, empathy, care, and generosity. Highly agreeable people tend to thrive in the interpersonal realm and experience less conflict in relationships than less agreeable people do. Trait theorists and researchers have long been aware that agreeable people typically are rated highly on descriptors such as “forgiving” and low on descriptors such as “vengeful.” Research specifically on the disposition to forgive has also confirmed the agreeableness-forgiveness association (Ashton et al., 1998; McCullough & Hoyt, 1999). People who appear dispositionally inclined to forgive also possess many of the lower-order traits that agreeableness subsumes. For in- stance, compared with people who are not inclined to forgive, they tend to be less exploitative of and more empathic toward others (Tangney et al., 1999). They also report higher levels of moral responsibility and demonstrate a greater tendency to share resources with people who have been rude and inconsiderate to them (Ashton et al., 1998).

Emotional Stability

Emotional stability is a personality dimension that involves low vulnerability to experiences of negative emotion. Emotionally stable people also tend not to be moody or overly sensitive. Several studies demonstrate that people who are high in emotional stability score higher on measures of the disposition to forgive than do their less emotionally stable counterparts (Ashton et al., 1998; Berry et al., in press; Mc- Cullough & Hoyt, 1999).

Religiousness and Spirituality

A third personality trait that might be related to the disposition to forgive—and one that recent re- search suggests is empirically distinct from the Big Five personality factors—is religiousness or spirituality. A review of results from seven studies suggested that people who consider themselves to be highly religious or spiritual tend to value forgiveness more highly and see themselves as more forgiving than do people who consider themselves less religious or spiritual (McCullough & Worthington, 1999).

Despite the consistency of the existing evidence on this point, few studies have addressed whether religiousness and spirituality are associated with forgiving specific transgressors for specific, real-life transgressions. Indeed, studies ad- dressing this issue hint that religiousness-spirituality and forgiveness of individual transgressions may be essentially unrelated (e.g., McCullough & Worthington, 1999). Therefore, it is possible that religious and spiritual people are no more forgiving than are less religious and spiritual people in real life, but only believe themselves (or aspire) to be highly forgiving. The connection of religiousness and spirituality to forgiveness of actual transgressions remains to be investigated more fully (McCullough & Worthington, 1999).

What Do People Do When They Forgive?

Recent research has also helped to illuminate the psychological processes that people employ when they forgive. The processes that have been studied to date include empathy, attributions and appraisals, and rumination.

Empathy for the Transgressor

Empathy has been defined by some scholars as the vicarious experience of another person’s emotional state, and by others as a specific emotion characterized by compassion, tenderness, and sympathy . Empathy (defined as a specific emotional state) for a particular transgressor correlates strongly with the extent to which a victim forgives the transgressor for a particular transgression. In several correlational studies (McCullough et al., 1997, 1998; Worthington et al., 2000), people’s reports of the extent to which they had forgiven a specific transgressor were highly correlated with the extent to which they experienced empathy for the transgressor.

Empathy also helps explain why some social-psychological variables influence forgiveness. The well- known effect of transgressors’ apologies on victims’ likelihood of for- giving apparently is almost totally mediated by the effects of the apologies on victims’ empathy for the transgressors (McCullough et al., 1997, 1998). When transgressors apologize, they implicitly express some degree of fallibility and vulnerability , which might cause victims to feel empathic, thereby mo- tivating them to forgive the transgressors. Also, research on psychological interventions designed to help people forgive specific transgressors has revealed that empathy fosters forgiveness. Indeed, empathy for the transgressor is the only psychological variable that has, to date, been shown to facilitate forgiveness when induced experimentally (McCullough et al., 1997; Worthington et al., 2000), although experimental research on this issue is still in its infancy.

Generous Attributions and Appraisals

Another factor associated with the extent to which someone for- gives a specific transgressor is the extent to which the victim makes generous attributions and appraisals about the transgression and transgressor. Compared with people who have not forgiven their transgressors, people who have forgiven their transgressors appraise the transgressors as more likable (Bradfield & Aquino, 1999), and the transgressors’ explanations for the transgressions as more adequate and honest (Shapiro, 1991). In such situations, forgiveness is also related to the victim’s appraisal of the severity of the transgression (Shapiro, 1991). People who tend to forgive their spouses also tend to attribute less responsibility to their spouses for their negative behavior than do people who do not tend to forgive their spouses (Fincham, 2000). Thus, forgivers apparently are inclined to give their transgressors “the benefit of the doubt.” Whether the correlations between appraisals-attributions and forgiveness reflect the causal effects of attributional and appraisal processes, or simply reflect victims’ accurate perceptions of the actual qualities of transgressors and transgressions that cause them to be more or less forgivable, remains to be explored more fully in the future.

Rumination About the Transgression

A third factor associated with the extent to which someone forgives a specific transgressor is the extent to which the victim ruminates about the transgression. Rumination, or the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts, affects, and images about past events, appears to hinder forgiveness. The more people brood about a transgression, the higher are their levels of revenge and avoidance motivation (McCullough et al., 1998, 2001). In a recent longitudinal study, my colleagues and I also found that victims who continued to ruminate about a particular transgression made considerably less progress in forgiving the transgressor during an 8-week follow-up period (Mc- Cullough et al., 2001). This longitudinal evidence indicates that the degree to which people reduce their ruminations about a particular transgression over time is a good predictor of how much progress they will make in forgiving their transgressor.

***

The 5 Psychological Stages of Forgiveness

By Michelle Roya Rad

Forgiveness has been a misunderstood concept used mostly by religion to encourage humans not to hold a grudge and to let go. However, most humans have an innate need to comprehend and rationalize something to be able to truly follow it through. In other words, consciously or unconsciously, you may ask this question: Why should I forgive?

When most of us don’t understand the need to forgive, it becomes the type of forgiveness that makes us believe we are doing it for “the other” — usually in return for some reward. I have worked with many clients who have used this method thinking that they have been able to forgive but when we explore it further, it is obvious that most haven’t really forgiven but have only denied and/or repressed the emotions associated with it. This method is more like forgetting and not forgiving. What we forgive, we release; but what we forget through repression is still going to affect us. These people have learned to deny any feelings attached to the person who needs to be forgiven, in an attempt to make them believe that they have mastered this art. Not knowing that this, in the long run, will only create more of an unconscious resentment or angers either toward that perpetrator or toward a third party who, in most cases, happens to be the doormat.

Forgiveness is a process not an immediate goal. In order for you to be able to forgive you have to digest the fact that you need to do it for you and not someone else. Below are some of the stages to forgiveness that you may find useful:

1.Define who and what it is that you need to forgive: First, identify the person who has affected you negatively and with whom you still have an anxious attachment, physically or emotionally. Then, identify the specific behavior that damaged you. Be precise and clear about this. Write it down and reflect on it. Think of the person as a whole person with positive and negative behaviors and his own life experience. Don’t make the person the behavior, but remember that the behavior a part of that person. This will give you a better perspective when you are trying to understand the situation. It is rare if not impossible that a person is all evil. Looking at it this way will help you become more objective and may even help you to feel compassion toward the person who damaged you. This is not an excuse but an explanation. Excuses remove the element of responsibility but explanations create compassion.

2. Let the feeling be felt: Any feelings that are attached to the damaging behavior need to be brought to the surface. You need to find a safe place to do this, to let the feeling out and to process it, to release these toxins. If the person who hurt you is now more open and you feel safe communicating with him, sit down and talk to him about your feelings or write them to him. If this is not possible, then use an empty chair technique or some other type of an imaginary technique to let the feeling out. If you need to cry, do so. If you get angry, find a safe place to let the anger out. In some cases, you may need professional help for this stage. If that’s the case, invest in yourself.

3. Understand why forgiveness is good for “you”: Many of us have anxious and negative attachments to people who have hurt us. This is like a cord that attaches us to the perpetrator in a negative way and is based on anger, hate, resentment and sometimes mixed with irrational guilt or shame. This could create a love-hate type of a feeling and an internal conflict. All of these are heavy and negative toxins that need to be released. When you cut this cord between you and the perpetrator, you feel liberated, you feel light, and you feel like a new person. This internal transformation makes you more open to the positive that life has to offer. When you let the cord hold you back, it slows you down from moving forward. That is why you have to cut the cord through forgiveness.

4. Have clear boundaries with the perpetrator: You need to make sure you rebuild a place of safety for yourself. And that means having clear boundaries with your surrounding including the person who damaged you so he can’t repeat his behavior. You need to protect yourself and make sure you feel secure and that can be accomplished through clear boundaries.

5. Remember that it needs certain courage to be able to forgive: Most of us like to stay in our comfort zone, not wanting to face our deep emotions since they make us feel anxious, at first. Now knowing that it may be so in the beginning but at the end, it will be more liberating. It is like running away from chemotherapy because it does not feel good, but chemotherapy can get rid of the cancer.

At the end, you have to realize that forgiveness is an internal feeling and not a certain behavior. It cannot be an imitation, it has to be authentic. Also, be patient with the process since it differs with different people and situations as to how long it takes people to forgive. Do it when you’re ready and don’t push anyone into doing it, if they are not ready to do so. Again, have a little faith and give yourself some credit for trying to forgive.

 

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“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

~ Ghandi

 

The Spiritual: Philip Yancey (From The Jesus I Never Knew)

This is an excerpt from the book, The Jesus I Never Knew by Christian author, Philip Yancey. As I hope you’re able to sense from my emails so far, I enjoy the beauty in all religions. I have recently spent a great deal of time diving into a very liberal perspective on Christian teachings and have found them to be particularly beautiful on the subject of forgiveness, mercy and grace. Here is a sample:

“A.N. Wilson, a biographer of Tolstoy, remarks that Tolstoy suffered from a ‘fundamental theological inability to understand the Incarnation. His religion was ultimately a thing of Law rather than of Grace, a scheme for human betterment rather than a vision of God penetrating a fallen world.’ With crystalline clarity Tolstoy could see his own inadequacy in the light of God’s Ideal. But he could not take the further step of trusting God’s grace to overcome that inadequacy.

Shortly after reading Tolstoy I discovered his countryman Fyodor Dostoevsky. These two, the most famous and accomplished of all Russian writers, lived and worked during the same period of history. Oddly, they never met, and perhaps it was just as well – they were opposites in every way. Where Tolstoy wrote bright, sunny novels, Dostoevsky wrote dark and brooding ones. Where Tolstoy worked out ascetic schemes for self-improvement, Dostoevsky periodically squandered his health on alcohol and gambling. Dostoevsky got many things wrong, but he got one thing right: his novels communicate grace and forgiveness with a Tolstoyan force.

Early in his life, Dostoevsky underwent a virtual resurrection. He had been arrested for a group judged treasonous by Tsar Nicholas I, who, to impress upon the young parlor radicals the gravity of their errors, sentenced them to death and staged a mock execution… At the very last instant, as the order, ‘Ready, aim!’ Was heard and rifles were cocked and lifted upward, a horseman galloped up with a pre-arranged message from the tsar: he would mercifully commute their sentences to hard labor.

Dostoevsky never recovered from this experience. He had peered into the jaws of death, and from that moment life became for him precious beyond all calculation. ‘Now my life will change,’ he said; ‘I will be born again in a new form.’ As he boarded the convict train toward Siberia, a devout woman handed him a New Testament, the only book allowed in prison. Believing that God had given him a second chance to fulfill his calling, Dostoevsky pored over that New Testament during his confinement. After ten years he emerged from exile with unshakable Christian convictions, as expressed in one famous passage, ‘If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside the truth… then I would prefer to remain with Christ than with the truth.’

Prison offered Dostoevsky another opportunity as well. It forced him to live at close quarters with thieves, murderers, and drunken peasants. His shared life with these people later led to unmatched characterizations in his novels… Dostoevsky’s liberal view of the inherent goodness in humanity shattered in collision with the granitic evil he found in his cellmates. Yet over time he also glimpsed the image of God in even the lowest of prisoners. He came to believe that only through being loved is a human capable of love; ‘We love because he [God] first loved us,’ as the apostle John says…

Taken together, these two Russians became for me, at a crucial time in my Christian pilgrimage, spiritual directors. They helped me come to terms with a central paradox of Christian life. From Tolstoy I learned the need to look inside, to the kingdom of God that is within me. I saw how miserably I had failed the high ideals of the gospel. But from Dostoevsky I learned the full extent of grace. Not only the kingdom of God is within me; Christ himself dwells there. ‘Where sin increased, grace increased all the more,’ is how Paul expressed it in Romans.

There is only one way for any of us to resolve the tension between the high ideals of the gospel and the grim reality of ourselves: to accept that we will never measure up, but that we do not have to… Tolstoy got it halfway right: anything that makes me feel comfort with God’s moral standard, anything that makes me feel, ‘at last I have arrived,’ is a cruel deception. But Dostoevsky got the other half right: anything that makes me feel discomfort with God’s forgiving love is also a cruel deception.

Absolute ideals and absolute grace: after learning that dual message from Russian novelists, I returned to Jesus and found that it suffuses his teaching throughout the Gospels and especially in the Sermon on the Mount. In his response to the rich young ruler, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, in his comments about money, or any other moral issue, Jesus never lowered God’s Ideal. ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,’ he said. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Not Tolstoy, not Francis of Assisi, not Mother Teresa, not anyone has completely filled those commands.

Yet the same Jesus tenderly offered absolute grace. Jesus forgave an adulteress, a thief on the cross, a disciple who had denied ever knowing him. He tapped that traitorous disciple, Peter, to found his church and for the next advance turned to a man named Saul, who had made his mark persecuting Christians. Grace is absolute, inflexible, all-encompassing. It extends even to the people who nailed Jesus to the cross: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing’ were among the last words Jesus spoke on earth.

For years I had felt so unworthy before the absolute ideals of the Sermon on the Mount that I missed in it any notion of grace. Once I understood the dual message, however, I went back and found that the message of grace gusts through the entire speech. It begins with the Beautitudes – Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek; blessed are the desperate – and it moves toward the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Forgive us our debts…deliver us from the evil one.’ Jesus began this great sermon with gentle words for those in need and continued on with a prayer that has formed a model for all twelve-step groups. ‘One day at a time,’ say the alcoholics in AA; ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ say the Christians. Grace is for the desperate, the needy, the broken, those who cannot make it on our own. Grace is for all of us.”

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“Therefore, dark past,

I’m about to do it.

I’m about to forgive you

for everything.”

~Mary Oliver

 

Haruki Murakami: Abandoning a Cat: Memories of my Father (Full article here)

** Note – In this very long essay in The New Yorker, Murakami shares the story of his father’s life and his own relationship with him. One key point is that for twenty-years they grew apart and never became close. The following is the end of the essay.

“I have one more memory from childhood that involves a cat. I included this episode in one of my novels but would like to touch on it again here, as something that actually happened.

We had a little white kitten. I don’t recall how we came to have it, because back then we always had cats coming and going in our home. But I do recall how pretty this kitten’s fur was, how cute it was.

One evening, as I sat on the porch, this cat suddenly raced straight up into the tall, beautiful pine tree in our garden. Almost as if it wanted to show off to me how brave and agile it was. I couldn’t believe how nimbly it scampered up the trunk and disappeared into the upper branches. After a while, the kitten started to meow pitifully, as though it were begging for help. It had had no trouble climbing up so high, but it seemed terrified of climbing back down.

I stood at the base of the tree looking up, but couldn’t see the cat. I could only hear it’s faint cry. I went to get my father and told him what had happened, hoping that he could figure out a way to rescue the kitten. But there was nothing he could do; it was too high up for a ladder to be of any use. The kitten kept meowing for help, as the sun began to set. Darkness finally enveloped the pine tree.

I don’t know what happened to that little kitten. The next morning when I got up, I couldn’t hear it crying anymore. I stood at the base of the tree and called out the kitten’s name, but there was no reply. Just silence.

Perhaps the cat had made it down sometime during the night and gone off somewhere (but where?). Or maybe, unable to climb down, it had clung to the branches, exhausted, and grown weaker and weaker until it died. I sat there on the porch, gazing up at the tree, with these scenarios running through my mind. Thinking of that little white kitten clinging on for dear life with its tiny claws, then shrivelled up and dead.

The experience taught me a vivid lesson: going down is much harder than going up. To generalize from this, you might say that results overwhelm causes and neutralize them. In some cases, a cat is killed in the process; in other cases, a human being.

At any rate, there’s really only one thing that I wanted to get across here. A single, obvious fact:

I am the ordinary son of an ordinary man. Which is pretty self-evident, I know. But, as I started to unearth that fact, it became clear to me that everything that had happened in my father’s life and in my life was accidental. We live our lives this way: viewing things that came about through accident and happenstance as the sole possible reality.

To put it another way, imagine raindrops falling on a broad stretch of land. Each one of us is a nameless raindrop among countless drops. A discrete, individual drop, for sure, but one that’s entirely replaceable. Still, that solitary raindrop has its own emotions, its own history, its own duty to carry on that history. Even if it loses its individual integrity and is absorbed into a collective something. Or maybe precisely because it’s absorbed into a larger, collective entity.

Occasionally, my mind takes me back to that looming pine tree in the garden of our house in Shukugawa. To thoughts of that little kitten, still clinging to a branch, its body turning to bleached bones. And I think of death, and how very difficult it is to climb straight down to the ground, so far below you that it makes your head spin.”

The Cinematic: I have had a hard time finding a movie about forgiveness. But, this little film of Ribbon Falls in the Grand Canyon could represent it. Afterall, running water is often used as a metaphor for healing.

The Musical: A Face Like Mine by Peter Bradley Adams

I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

Sincerely,

Shannon

 

Anger

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A wild patience has taken me this far…

Anger and tenderness: my selves.

And now I can believe they breathe in me

as angels, not polarities.

Anger and tenderness: the spider’s genius

to spin and weave in the same action

from her own body, anywhere –

even from a broken web.”

~ Adrienne Rich

Good morning friends,

I hope this finds you well and having enjoyed your holiday weekend. I sense that this was a strange one for many, especially those living in the US. The notion of gathering to celebrate is infused with new fear and new judgement. Also, the question of what was being celebrated is justifiably under fire. As a Canadian in the US, I watched Canada Day (July 1) pass with some wistfulness for I don’t know when I’m going to be able to visit my home of origin again. I watched July 4th pass, a date that I know has been meaningful for many close to me here in my adopted home, and I witnessed their tension and confusion. Much still remains uncertain in many meaningful areas of our lives, leaving many of us feeling vulnerable and edgy, conditions ripe for anger, and so anger is a subject of the week. Anger, after all, is a natural human emotion when we feel exhausted, exposed, afraid, and uncertain. My hope is that our exploration of this feeling will help us all understand it better.

I have lots for you today. We’ll start with David Whyte’s compassionate look at anger. Next, philosopher, Martha Nussbaum will highlight anger’s relation to control. Finally, we will re-join the crew of The Endurance in their on-going precarious situation.

The Writing: Martha Nussbaum and David Whyte

David Whyte (From Consolations)

ANGER

is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for. What we usually call anger is only what is left of its essence when it reaches the lost surface of our mind or our body’s incapacity to hold it, or the limits of our understanding. What we name as anger is actually only the incoherent physical incapacity to sustain this deep form of care in our outer daily life; the unwillingness to be large enough and generous enough to hold what we love helplessly in our bodies or our mind with the clarity and breadth of our whole being.

What we have named as anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care that it can find no proper outer body or identity or voice, or way of life to hold it. What we call anger is often simply the unwillingness to live the full measure of our fears or of our not knowing, in the face of our love for a wife, in the depth of our caring for a son, in our wanting the best, in the face of simply being alive and loving those with whom we live.

Our anger breaks to the surface most often through our feeling there is something profoundly wrong with this powerlessness and vulnerability; anger too often finds its voice strangely, through our incoherence and through our inability to speak, but anger in its pure state is the measure of the way we are implicated in the world and made vulnerable through love in all its specifics: a daughter, a house, a family, an enterprise, a land or a colleague.

Anger turns to violence and violent speech when the mind refuses to countenance the vulnerability of the body in its love for all these outer things – we are often abused or have been abused by those who love us but have no vehicle to carry its understanding, who have no outer emblems of their inner care or even their own wanting to be wanted. Lacking any outer vehicle for the expression of this inner rawness they are simply overwhelmed by the elemental nature of love’s vulnerability. In their helplessness they turn their violence on the very people who are the outer representation of this inner lack of control.

But anger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here, it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it. What we call anger on the surface only serves to define its true underlying quality by being a complete and absolute mirror-opposite of its true internal essence.

Martha Nussbaum (Philosopher)

Anger is an unusually complex emotion, since it involves both pain and pleasure [because] the prospect of retribution is pleasant… Anger also involves a double reference—to a person or people and to an act… The focus of anger is an act imputed to the target, which is taken to be a wrongful damage.

Injuries may be the focus in grief as well. But whereas grief focuses on the loss or damage itself, and lacks a target (unless it is the lost person, as in “I am grieving for so-and-so”), anger starts with the act that inflicted the damage, seeing it as intentionally inflicted by the target — and then, as a result, one becomes angry, and one’s anger is aimed at the target. Anger, then, requires causal thinking, and some grasp of right and wrong.

[…]

Notoriously, however, people sometimes get angry when they are frustrated by inanimate objects, which presumably cannot act wrongfully… In 1988, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article on “vending machine rage”: fifteen injuries, three of them fatal, as a result of angry men kicking or rocking machines that had taken their money without dispensing the drink. (The fatal injuries were caused by machines falling over on the men and crushing them.)

Anger is not always, but very often, about status-injury. And status-injury has a narcissistic flavor: rather than focusing on the wrongfulness of the act as such, a focus that might lead to concern for wrongful acts of the same type more generally, the status-angry person focuses obsessively on herself and her standing vis-à-vis others.

[…]

We are prone to anger to the extent that we feel insecure or lacking control with respect to the aspect of our goals that has been assailed — and to the extent that we expect or desire control. Anger aims at restoring lost control and often achieves at least an illusion of it. To the extent that a culture encourages people to feel vulnerable to affront and down-ranking in a wide variety of situations, it encourages the roots of status-focused anger.

Trust … is different from mere reliance. One may rely on an alarm clock, and to that extent be disappointed if it fails to do its job, but one does not feel deeply vulnerable, or profoundly invaded by the failure. Similarly, one may rely on a dishonest colleague to continue lying and cheating, but this is reason, precisely, not to trust that person; instead, one will try to protect oneself from damage. Trust, by contrast, involves opening oneself to the possibility of betrayal, hence to a very deep form of harm. It means relaxing the self-protective strategies with which we usually go through life, attaching great importance to actions by the other over which one has little control. It means, then, living with a certain degree of helplessness.

Is trust a matter of belief or emotion? Both, in complexly related ways. Trusting someone, one believes that she will keep her commitments, and at the same time one appraises those commitments as very important for one’s own flourishing. But that latter appraisal is a key constituent part of a number of emotions, including hope, fear, and, if things go wrong, deep grief and loss. Trust is probably not identical to those emotions, but under normal circumstances of life it often proves sufficient for them. One also typically has other related emotions toward a person whom one trusts, such as love and concern. Although one typically does not decide to trust in a deliberate way, the willingness to be in someone else’s hands is a kind of choice, since one can certainly live without that type of dependency… Living with trust involves profound vulnerability and some helplessness, which may easily be deflected into anger.

The damage involved in the breakdown of an intimate relationship … is internal and goes to the heart of who one is… Beyond a certain point there is really no place to go, except into your own heart — and what you find there is likely to be pretty unpleasant. So there is something lonely and isolating about these harms; they involve a profound helplessness. Once again, this helplessness can easily be deflected into anger, which gives the illusion of agency and control.

We typically form intimate relationships with people we like. We choose our spouses, and even though parents do not choose their children or children their parents, there is typically, in cases that are not really awful, a symbiosis that produces liking on both sides, though adolescence certainly obscures this. Most other people in the world, by contrast, are not people with whom one would choose to live. It’s pretty easy to find them irritating, or off-putting, or even disgusting. How many people who sit next to one by chance on an airplane are people with whom one would be happy living in the same house for an extended period of time? But a spouse, a lover, a child — these people are welcomed, and there usually remains something nice about them that is not utterly removed by whatever it is they have done. The target of anger is the person, but its focus is the act, and the person is more than the act, however difficult it is to remember this. This nice something could become another knife to twist in the wound of betrayal (to the extent that a person is appealing, it’s harder to say good riddance), but on the other hand it could also be a basis for constructive thought about the future — in a restored relationship or some new connection yet to be invented.

Anger is such a large and corrosive problem that much of the literature focuses on how to manage it so that it does not destroy one’s entire life. And it is especially here that there’s a widespread feeling that, bad though anger is, people (and women especially) owe it to their self-respect to own, nourish, and publicly proclaim their anger.

Such breakdowns typically, and rightly, involve deep grief, and grief needs to be dealt with. Grief is amply warranted: intimate relationships are very important parts of a flourishing life. (Here the Stoics are wrong.) But grief, and the helplessness it typically brings with it, are usually not well addressed by allowing anger to take the center of the stage. All too often, anger becomes an alluring substitute for grieving, promising agency and control when one’s real situation does not offer control… The way to deal with grief is just what one might expect: mourning and, eventually, constructive forward-looking action to repair and pursue one’s life. Anger is often well-grounded, but it is too easy for it to hijack the necessary mourning process. So a Transition from anger to mourning — and, eventually, to thoughts of the future — is to be strongly preferred to anger nourished and cultivated.

Because the couple pursues jointly some of the most important life goals of each, these goals themselves become shared goals and are shaped by the partnership. The vulnerability involved in such a relationship therefore goes very deep… Even though it would still be possible, and, I believe, highly desirable, to preserve a core sense of oneself as a person who could continue no matter what, this is often difficult to achieve, and it is always difficult to strike a balance between this healthy self-preservation and a kind of self-withholding that is incompatible with deep love.

It’s clear that there will be more strains when people are inflexible and intolerant, seeing every divergence from what they want as a threat… Anger will also be more common when one or more of the parties feels a lot of insecurity, because so many things can seem threatening, including, indeed, the sheer independent existence of the other person. (Proust makes the point that for a deeply insecure person, the other person’s very independent will is a source of torment and, often, rage.) A good deal of marital anger is really about this desire for control — and since such projects are doomed, that sort of anger is likely to be especially hard to eradicate. Intimacy is scary, and it makes people helpless, since deep hurt can be inflicted by the independent choices of someone else; so, as with other forms of helplessness, people respond by seeking control through anger. People never dispel their own insecurity by controlling someone else or making that person suffer, but many people try — and try again. Furthermore, people are adept rationalizers, so insecure people seeking control are good at coming up with a rational account of what the other person has done wrong…

What’s the real problem? It is one of deep loss. Two selves have become so intertwined that the “abandoned” one has no idea of how to have fun, how to invite friends to dinner, how to make jokes, how to choose clothes even, if not for and toward the other one. So it’s like learning to walk all over again. Children have all of their adolescence to learn, gradually, how to live apart from their parents, and they expect to do so all along. A betrayed spouse often has no preparation for separateness, and no skill at leading a separate life.

[…]

It is easy, in that situation, to think that the best future is one involving some type of payback, since that future, unlike the future of self-creation, is easy to imagine. It’s still intertwined with the other person. It is like not breaking up. You can go on being part of a couple, and keeping that person at the center of your thoughts.

[Anger] diverts one’s thoughts from the real problem to something in the past that cannot be changed. It makes one think that progress will have been made if the betrayer suffers, when, in reality, this does nothing to solve the real problem. It eats up the personality and makes the person quite unpleasant to be with. It impedes useful introspection. It becomes its own project, displacing or forestalling other useful projects. And importantly, it almost always makes the relationship with the other person worse. There was something likable about the person, and even if marriage is no longer possible or desirable, some other form of connection might still be, and might contribute to happiness. Or it might not. But the whole question cannot be considered if angry thoughts and wishes fill up the mental landscape. Far from being required in order to shore up one’s own self-respect, anger actually impedes the assertion of self-respect in worthwhile actions and a meaningful life.

Being heard and acknowledged is a reasonable wish on the part of the wronged party, and asking for truth and understanding is not the same thing as asking for payback. Indeed, it often helps the Transition. However, often the extraction of acknowledgment shades over unpleasantly into payback and even humiliation, and this temptation should be avoided.

Intimate relationships are perilous because of the exposure and lack of control they involve. Being seriously wronged is a constant possibility, and anger, therefore, a constant and profoundly human temptation. If vulnerability is a necessary consequence of giving love its proper value, then grief is often right and valuable. It does not follow, however, that anger is so.

The Endurance

“Somehow in two days, their drift had veered to the west and carried them the incredible distance of 21 miles in forty-eight hours, in spite of headwinds. The whole party was stunned by the news. In the space of a minute, the entire pattern of their thinking had to be changed. The goal had been Clarence Island or Elephant Island – but no more. These were now out of the question. ‘This proves the existence of a strong current to the west,’ Hurley said, ‘and places Elephant Island beyond hope of landing.’

Abruptly, their attention was refocused on King George Island to the west. ‘We now hope for east or northeast winds to take us well west before we get too far north,’ wrote James. ‘It is most remarkable how the outlook can change from a very favorable to a most unfavorable one in a couple of days… Conversation now either entirely fails or is purely concerned with winds and drifts.’

There were many who doubted that even strong easterly winds would drive the pack far enough to the west before they drifted out to sea, where the ice would unquestionably be dissipated, leaving them at best adrift in the boats, exposed to the fury of the storms in the Drake Passage. ‘God forbid we should get that,’ wrote Greenstreet, ‘for I doubt if we would survive.’

That night as they lay in their sleeping bags they knew the pack was on the move by the ominous sounds of pressure all around. The next day was overcast so that they were unable to obtain a position. But during the night of April 6, the sky cleared, and it was still fairly bright at daybreak. Away in the distance, almost due north, an enormous berg was sighted. But as the sun rose higher, they saw that the upper limits of the berg were shrouded in clouds. No berg was that high – it was an island. But which island?…

By breakfast time the clouds had thickened, obscuring the land from sight. But at noon Worsley obtained a sight which removed all doubt that what they had sighted was Clarence Island, 52 miles away. Even more important, the position showed that the westerly set of their drift had been arrested, and that they had gone 8 miles very nearly due north in the past two days. An enormous wave of relief passed through the party…

Still, the damnable pack would not open. ‘Pray God we may find a landing here,’ wrote Macklin, ‘and so be off this drifting uncontrollable pack, taking us we know not where, and in spite of any efforts we may attempt to make… But we are in the hands of a Higher Power, and puny mortals that we are, can do nothing to help ourselves against these colossal forces of nature…’

Throughout the night, the hoarse croaking of the penguins, punctuated by the explosive sound of schools of whales blowing, created almost a din. When dawn finally came the weather was clear and bright, with a moderate westerly wind blowing. Once again the men could see Clarence Island, and to the left of it, very faintly, the chain of peaks on Elephant Island. Worsley counted ten of them. But the bearing of Clarence Island had altered considerably since the previous evening. It was now almost due north, indicating that they had gone to the east. Worsley’s sight at noon confirmed the fact. During the past twenty-four hours they had scarcely gone north at all – 2 miles at most. Instead they had covered 16 miles to the east.

It was almost unbelievable. The pack had done a complete about-face. Two days before they had been shocked to learn that they were drifting west; now they were confronted with the fact that they were traveling rapidly to the east – away from all land.”

 

Screen Shot 2020-07-07 at 6.36.05 AM~ Waterline Road, Flagstaff, Arizona

“Rage is simply one of the masks that heartbreak wears.”

~ Parker Palmer

 

The Poetic: My own and David Whyte

RAGE

By Shannon Thompson

So angry.
On fire.
This morning. I am.

Do you know how much love burns in this?

So much.

Do you know
how lost I am,
far gone and following?

So lost.

Yet, growing
louder, and evermore clear
a voice,
smiles invisibly from the heart of things,

calling me out:

“You’re not that afraid,”
she says.
“You’re not afraid.

Not really.

Go.
Go be in the world.

 

THE FIRE IN THE SONG

By David Whyte

 

The mouth opens

and fills the air

with its vibrant shape,

until the air

and the mouth

become one shape.

And the first word,

your own word,

spoken from that fire,

surprises, burns,

grieves you now

because

you made that pact

with a dark presence

in your life.

He said, ‘if you only

stop singing

I’ll make you safe.’

As the comforting

sound of a door

closed on the fear at last,

but his darkness crept

under your tongue

and became the dim

cave where

you sheltered

and you grew

in that small place

too frightened to remember

the songs of the world,

its impossible notes,

and the sweet joy

that flew out the door

of your wild mouth

as you spoke.

 

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“Far out on the desert to the north dust spouts rose wobbling and augered the earth and some said they’d heard of pilgrims borne aloft like dervishes in those mindless coils to be dropped broken and bleeding upon the desert again and there perhaps to watch the thing that had destroyed them lurch onward like some drunken din and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang. Out of that whirlwind no voice spoke and the pilgrim lying in his broken bones may cry out and in his anguish he may rage, but rage at what? And if the dried and blackened shell of him is found among the sands by travelers to come yet who can discover the engine of his ruin?”

~ Cormac McCarthy

 

The Science: The Perceived Impact of Anger on Performance (Ruiz & Hanin, 2011)

There is a growing interest in the study of athletes’ emotional experiences related to successful and unsuccessful performances. Although several emotions (i.e., anxiety, anger, satisfaction, pride) can be experienced while involved in any sporting activity, considerable attention has been devoted to study the effects of a single emotion, competitive anxiety, with research neglecting other emotions (Cerin, Szabo, & Williams, 2001; Gould & Tuffey, 1996; Hanin, 2000, 2007; Lazarus, 2000). This study is concerned with the relation between emotions and athletic performance focusing on anger as a stress-related emotion.

Traditionally, the performance-emotion relationship has been studied from nomothetic approaches, thus, focusing on inter-individual differences. As an alternative, the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) model was proposed (see Hanin, 2000, 2004, 2007 for a review) as an idiographic and sports-specific approach to the study of individually optimal and dysfunctional emotional experiences related to athletic performance. This theoretical framework, that combines idiographic (individual-oriented) and nomothetic (group-oriented) approaches, was initially developed to examine individually optimal intensity of competition anxiety in elite athletes. As applied to anxiety, the IZOF model holds that there are large inter-individual differences in optimal anxiety, i.e., each athlete has an individually optimal level and intensity zone of anxiety within which probability of successful performance is high. Moreover, these optimal and dysfunctional intensity levels can be low, moderate, or high and vary for the same and across different athletes. This empirical evidence comes from studies that used standardized scales such as the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger, Gorsush, & Lushene, 1970) with elite level athletes (Hanin, 1978, 1986, 1989).

There is no consensus about the differences in definition of affect, mood and emotion. Moreover, such distinction is not always clear at the level of measurement. Emotion and mood have been conceptually distinguished on the basis of the time course, intensity and specificity of the antecedent, however, Lane and Terry (2000) argued that it is not always possible to differentiate them based on such criteria. Another approach is to consider a category of emotional experiences reflecting the interaction between person and environment. The IZOF model conceptualizes three interrelated types of performance-related experiences: emotional states (state-like experience), relatively stable emotion patterns (trait-like experience), and meta-experiences or preferences and attitudes towards one’s experiences (Hanin, 2004, 2007, 2010).

Anger, often evoked by stress in competitions (Isberg, 2000), is among the most frequently experienced states in competitive sports (Hanin, 2000; Hanin & Syrjä, 1995; Robazza & Bortoli, 2007). For many years, there has been a conceptual confusion around the concepts of anger, hostility and aggression, until Spielberger et al. (1985) referred to them as the AHA! Syndrome. Anger, placed at the core of the AHA! Syndrome, was defined as an emotional state that consists of feelings that vary in intensity with associated activation or arousal of the autonomic nervous system. Hostility, which usually involves angry feelings, was defined as a complex set of attitudes, while aggression refers to the behaviors directed towards destroying objects or injuring other persons. Researchers have distinguished between anger as an emotional reaction (state), and the disposition (trait) to experience anger (Spielberger, Jacobs, Russell, & Crane, 1983; see also Spielberger & Reheiser, 2009, for a review). Another important distinction was made between the experience and expression of anger (Spielberger et al., 1985). Thus, we could distinguish among individuals who: (a) experience angry feelings, (b) do not experience angry feelings, (c) express their angry feelings in verbal or physical behavior, and (d) hold in or suppress their angry feelings.

In regards to anger measurement, the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI; Spielberger, 1988) was developed to measure the experience, expression and control of anger. The STAXI was revised and expanded to form the STAXI-2 (Spielberger, 1999), which consists of trait and expression scales from STAXI which were unchanged, an anger state scale that measures three components of state anger (feeling angry, feeling like expressing anger verbally, and feeling like expressing anger physically), and an entirely new scale to measure the control of suppressed anger.

It has been typically assumed that unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety or fear have detrimental consequences. For instance, studies in clinical psychology have shown evidence of the negative consequences of anger (and anxiety) on well-being and more specifically on cardiovascular or immune systems (Diamond, 1982; Spielberger & London, 1982; Suinn, 2001). Thus, these stress- related emotions have a significant impact on health and psychological well-being. However, studies in a different setting such as high achievement sport resulted in a breakthrough in contrast to traditional research and assumptions. Empirical evidence indicated that anxiety could be facilitating and debilitating for athletic performance (Hanin, 1978, 1986, 1989). In sport settings, anger has also been viewed as detrimental for performance. For example, the Mental Health Model (Morgan, 1985; Raglin, 2001) purports that performance of successful athletes is characterized by above average vigour scores, and below average scores of anger, tension, depression, fatigue and confusion. Such pattern of mood responses, termed “iceberg profile”, which reflects positive mental health, has been suggested to be predictive of performance among athletes of relatively homogenous ability. Also in line with this assumption are most mental preparation or intervention programs, which usually aim at the reduction or control of anger (Brunelle, Janelle, & Tennant, 1999) and other unpleasant emotions (Loehr, 1982; Orlick, 2000) to neutralize such debilitating symptoms. However, empirical evidence indicating that the relation between anger and performance is not always detrimental was also found.

The predictive validity of the iceberg profile has been examined in two meta-analyses (Beedie, Terry, & Lane, 2000). Beedie et al. found that the debilitating effects of anger were very small (overall ES of .27) that led them to suggest that anger may be associated with both negative and positive performance outcomes. For instance, POMS-based studies in karate (McGowan & Miller, 1989; McGowan, Miller, & Henschen, 1990; Terry & Slade, 1995) and judo (Arruza, Balagué, & Arrieta, 1998) have provided evidence of high levels of anger intensity related to successful performance. Further empirical evidence from studies on pleasant and unpleasant emotions indicates that anger can be associated with successful performances (Hanin & Syrjä, 1995, 1996; Robazza & Bortoli, 2007) and can be perceived as beneficial for performance (Ruiz & Hanin, 2004a,b). Another example may be tennis player and seven-time Grand Slam winner, John McEnroe, famous for his anger outbursts during the games which oftentimes resulted in his opponents’ distraction.

Within the IZOF model, anger is conceptualized as a component of performance-related states, which can be described by at least five dimensions: form, content, intensity, context, and time. Form, content and intensity dimensions refer to the structure of anger, whereas context and time dimensions characterize the dynamics of anger. As a performance-related state, anger can be manifested in eight interrelated form components: cognitive (focused, distracted), affective (angry, irritated), motivational (motivated, engaged), volitional (determined, daring), bodily (painless, rest- less), motor-behavioral (sharp, charged), operational (attacking strategy), and communicative (shouting, distant) which together provide a relatively complete description of performance-induced anger states (Hanin, 2010). The positivity/ negativity distinction is often used in the emotion literature, however, when used alone, it is not quite clear what these terms describe. Although they are oftentimes used to refer to emotion valence, they have also been applied to emotion impact. This distinction is especially confusing in the case of unpleasant emotions. To avoid such confusion one can use the positively-toned and negatively-toned distinction (Lazarus, 1991) or pleasant/ unpleasant to refer to emotion valence. In the IZOF model emotion content is conceptualized within the framework of four emotion categories derived from the valence or hedonic tone (pleasure/ displeasure) and performance functionality (optimal/ dysfunctional) distinctions. Thus, there are four categories of emotions: pleasant/ optimal (Pþ), pleasant/ dysfunctional (P), unpleasant/ optimal (Nþ), and unpleasant/ dysfunctional (N). Optimal emotions (pleasant and unpleasant) are usually related to success whereas dysfunctional emotions (pleasant and unpleasant) are related to failure (see Hanin, 2000, 2003, 2007). Thus, within the IZOF model, anger can be considered an unpleasant or negatively-toned either dysfunctional or optimal emotion.

While most studies on the emotion/ performance relationship have focused on pre-event emotions (e.g., pre-competitive anxiety), there is a call for studies that take into account the temporal dynamics in the emotion/ performance relationship (Cerin, Szabo, Hunt, & Williams, 2000; Hanin, 2000; Lazarus, 2000). The IZOF model regards such dynamics in the notion of bi-directionality (Hanin, 2000, 2003), which suggests that pre-event emotions can have an impact on performance, and on-going evaluations of performance affect mid-event and post-event emotions. Emotions affect athletic performance and either support (regulate) or disturb (de-regulate) the task-execution process. Optimal and dysfunctional effects of emotions upon performance represent their regulatory function. Most research in sport psychology focuses on how emotions affect performance outcome by contrasting best and worst performances. Less researched is the impact of emotion on performance process, however, anecdotal evidence suggests that, for instance, anger usually affects timing, rhythm, speed of movement, effort intensity, etc.

On the other hand, the dynamics of performance process are reflected in emotion content and intensity as markers (or signals) of person/ environment interaction, thus, representing the emotion signaling function. This signaling function of emotion indicates that an emotional state conveys information about this interaction. Emotion markers are the signs that something is about to happen (pre-event), is happening (mid-event), or has happened (post- event). The signaling function can include different aspects involving relational themes that trigger different emotions. The relational theme of anger, “a demeaning offense against me or mine” (Lazarus, 1991), gives us information about an athlete’s specific appraisal of the situation. On the other hand, all four categories of emotion content (Pþ. Nþ, P, N) and intensity (high, moderate, low) provide information about the balance (or imbalance) between available resources and task demands (Hanin, 2007).

In the IZOF model, the functional impact of emotions on performance is explained using the resources matching hypothesis (Hanin, 2000). Optimal (pleasant and unpleasant) emotions reflect the availability of resources and their effective recruitment and utilization by producing energizing (enhanced effort) and organizing (enhanced skill) effects, which result in high-quality performance and the achievement of individually successful performance outcomes. On the contrary, dysfunctional (unpleasant and pleasant) emotions usually reflect a lack of resources and their ineffective recruitment and utilization by producing de-energizing (decreased effort) and disorganizing (decreased skill) effects.

The purpose of this study was to extend earlier IZOF-based research on anxiety by examining anger and anger-related symptoms in elite Spanish karate athletes. Specifically, athletes’ anger experiences were examined prior to, during, and after their recalled best and worst performances. Based on evidence from studies that used POMS (Arruza et al., 1998; McGowan & Miller, 1989; McGowan et al., 1990; Terry & Slade, 1995) it was hypothesized that experiences of anger would be related to both successful and poor performances (Hypothesis 1). Based on IZOF- based research evidence (Hanin, 1986, 1989; Hanin & Syrjä, 1995, 1996; Robazza & Bortoli, 2003, 2007; Ruiz & Hanin, 2004a,b), high intra-individual and inter-individual variability in the intensity of situational anger was expected. Specifically, the intensity of anger was expected to be high, moderate, or low depending on the individual (Hypothesis 2). Although evidence exists on the facilitative effects of anger on performance, additional research on the perception of the impact of angry feelings (meta-experiences of anger) is needed. Thus, the second aim of this study was to explore athletes’ perceptions of the functional impact of anger as related to their best and worst performances. It was hypothesized that the perceived impact of anger would be related to the concepts of energy generation and utilization (Hanin, 2000, 2007) (Hypothesis 3). Finally, this study explored anger disposition, the expression or suppression, and control of anger as potential moderators of individual differences.

Discussion 

This exploratory study aimed to examine anger and anger- related symptoms prior to, during, and after recalled best and worst performances in elite Spanish karate athletes. It also examined athletes’ perceptions of the functional impact of anger upon their performances. As expected, the athletes reported having experienced anger in best and worst competitions (Hypothesis 1).

Large inter-individual differences in anger intensity were also observed prior to, during, and after best and worst performances (Hypothesis 2) with largest variability in worst competitions (see Fig. 1). Four types of anger response were identified. The most common type (11 athletes e 55% of all athletes) was characterized by low anger scores across best and worst competitions (see Fig. 2). Other types of anger response were mainly characterized by higher anger intensities in worst competitions especially in pre- and post- performance situations. High differences in anger intensity were also found at the intra-individual level (see Fig. 3). Intensity scores were high, moderate or low for different athletes across three performance situations. Results also indicated that intensity varied for the same athlete across best and worst performance situations. This intra- and inter-individual variability in anger intensity may be explained by changes or differences in the personal meaning of the situation, which reflects the relationship between the athletes’ individual characteristics (i.e., resources, coping skills) and the demands of the task (Hanin, 2007).

The results indicated that athlete-generated situations identified prior to, during, and after best and worst performances were perceived differently by different athletes. Performance-related situations identified prior to best competitions were perceived in terms of the availability of resources and coping skills (78% of the themes identified). However, situations identified prior to worst competitions were perceived in terms of a lack of resources or inability to cope with the situation (89.2% of the themes). Similarly, during performances, most of the themes identified reflected availability of resources in best competitions (62.2%) and a lack of resources or inability to cope in worst competitions (60.9%). These results provide support for the assumption that situations prior to (anticipation), during (task-execution) and after (evaluation) performance are different but functionally interrelated (Hanin 2000, 2003, 2007). These differences are triggered by situational appraisals of anticipated and occurred outcomes (i.e., gains or losses) (Lazarus, 2000).

As expected, some athletes (75% of the total) perceived anger as having facilitating effects on performance (Hypothesis 3). These findings are consistent with previous research on pleasant and unpleasant emotions (Hanin & Syrjä, 1995; Robazza, Pellizzari, Bertollo, & Hanin, 2008; Ruiz & Hanin, 2004b), and studies of selected discrete emotions (Martinent & Ferrand, 2009; Robazza, Bertollo, & Bortoli, 2006; Robazza & Bortoli, 2003, 2007). The results concur well with the notion of optimal and dysfunctional anger and extend the study of performance-related emotions, which has traditionally focused on the intensity of emotion (i.e., anxiety) in pre-competitive situations. The findings also provide empirical support for the resources matching hypothesis (Hanin, 2000), suggesting that the individual perception of performance situations is an important factor in explaining the idiosyncratic effects of emotions upon performance. Previous studies have also shown a relation between mood and effort mobilization, as measured by cardiovascular response (Gendolla & Krüsken, 2002). Thus, it seems that anger is used by some athletes as an “emergency resource” which plays an important role in the generation or mobilization of energy that can be used in extremely demanding situations to compensate for a temporary lack of resources. However, for other athletes anger can interfere with their focus and perception of control, leading to an ineffective utilization of their resources.

The findings on the perceived impact of anger may also be in line with the awareness/ acceptance/ action (triple A) framework in explaining meta-experiences and coping strategies (Hanin, 2000; Nieuwenhuys, Hanin, & Bakker, 2008; Nieuwenhuys, Vos, Pijpstra, & Bakker, 2011). According to this framework, coping is successful if athletes are aware of anger impact on their performance and if they have a positive attitude and a clear action strategy in a particular situation. It is important that all three elements are available to the athlete (awareness, acceptance, and action strategy), otherwise coping may fail.

These results also emphasize the notion that emotion/ performance relationships are bi-directional. Specifically, pre-competitive anger may affect forthcoming performance (regulatory function), whereas on-going performance affects the dynamics of mid-, and post-competitive anger (signal function). Thus, anger, similar to anxiety and other emotions (Hanin, 2007, 2010) has both regulatory and signal functions. For instance, anger in karate may result in more alertness, better focus, more attacking strategies, more powerful techniques, or may give information about the interpretation of the opponent’s behavior as demeaning. Future qualitative studies should examine the situational, intra-, and inter-personal processes under- lying such changes in anger intensity. It is important to emphasize that there could be “hidden effects” of not assessed emotions, if we only measure one discrete emotion (i.e., anger, anxiety). Thus, future research should identify the impact of patterns of anger and emotion clusters on performance and vice versa which would help us better understand and predict the emotion/ performance relationship.

This study used a self-report measure of anger in two recalled (most successful and most unsuccessful) competitions. On the one hand, recalled measures have been criticized due to their reliance on the athletes’ awareness of their emotions as for some athletes, especially those with insufficient experience, it can sometimes be difficult to access their emotions. However, research has provided evidence of the accuracy of athletes’ self-reports. For instance, there is evidence of a high stability of retrospective anxiety prior to an important competition (Hanin, 1989; Hanin & Syrjä, 1996; Turner & Raglin, 1996), as well as a high congruency between actual and recalled reported pleasant and unpleasant emotions (Tenenbaum, Lloyd, Pretty, & Hanin, 2002). Moreover, there is also evidence on the high stability for metaphoric descriptions of emotions and the perceived personal meaning of situations prior to, during, and after best and worst karate competitions (Ruiz & Hanin, 2004b). Thus, this evidence supports the use of recalled measures as a valid instrument to assess athletes’ emotional experiences. Moreover, it has been argued that recalled self-reports are most appropriate in top performance since they are not as intrusive as actual measures and they reflect athletes’ performance history and personal meaning (Hanin, 2000). On the other hand, a systematic use of self- reports can also enhance athletes’ awareness of their emotions. Further research should examine the accuracy of athletes’ reports by assessing the consistency of repeated recalls over time.

Although the focus of this paper was not the study of athletes’ attitudes or beliefs about their anger experiences or meta-experiences, these were reflected in some of their statements (e.g., “feeling not angry enough to fight”). Typically, the expression of anger is often culturally unaccepted that may result in the development of a negative meta-experience. Thus, from a practitioner’s point of view, it is important to take into account not only the athletes’ performance history but also their attitudes (meta-experiences) towards their own pleasant or unpleasant emotions. Although at the moment, there is no instrument to measure meta- experiences, the use of retrospective reports seems a valid form to obtain such information. Another potentially useful option could be a systematic use of narratives (Hanin, 2003, Lazarus, 1999).

In early works, Rosenzweig (1941) argued that there are two specific types of reaction to frustration. A need persistence (positive/ constructive) reaction serves to fulfill the frustrated need in spite of momentary obstructions while an ego defense (negative/destruc- tive) reaction serves to protect the integration of the personality when an ego-threat is perceived. More recently, two components of anger expression (i.e., inhibition/suppression of angry feelings and expression of anger directed toward other persons or objects) were distinguished (Spielberger et al., 1985). However, since reliability scores were very low for the Anger Expression scales (a 1⁄4 .25 for the Anger In and a 1⁄4 .64 for the Anger Out scale), they were excluded from our analyses. Studies examining the expression/suppression of anger in the sport context are very scarce. As an exception, Ruiz and Hanin (2004a) investigated the anger target/domain in 43 high-level karate athletes. They found that kumite competitors (fighting against a real opponent) reported directing their anger towards others (i.e., opponent, referee) or to themselves. However, kata competitors (fighting with an imaginary opponent) usually directed their anger towards themselves. Future studies examining the impact of the implicit or explicit norms in different cultures or subcultures (i.e., sports) on the experience, expression and control of anger in samples of athletes are also warranted.

In summary, this study used a standardized scale with researcher-generated items for the measurement of anger and anger-related symptoms. Results indicated that anger intensity related to best and worst competitions was individual. These findings are in line with previous IZOF-based research on anxiety and extend the framework of the IZOF model to the study of performance-related anger. Some karate athletes perceived their anger as facilitating or debilitating for their performance. Results on the perceived functional impact provided support for the notion of resources matching hypothesis used within the IZOF model.

From the applied perspective, the present findings suggest that, in the context of sport, especially in high achievement settings, unpleasant states such as anger may have beneficial consequences for an individual’s performance. Thus, we should be cautioned against interventions aimed at reducing anger in all athletes, as this may facilitate performance for some individuals but impair performance of others. Practitioners and sport psychologists working with athletes should be sensitive to individual differences in the experience and meta-experiences of anger, helping athletes to identify, monitor and self-regulate their performance-related anger states.

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~ Painted Desert, Flagstaff, Arizona

 “Sometimes I’ve survived anger only one minute at a time, by saying to myself again and again that the best kind of revenge is some kind of life beyond this, some kind of goodness. And I can lay no claim to goodness until I can prove that mean people have not made me mean.”

~ Barbara Kingsolver

The Spiritual: Soen-sa and Parker Palmer

Soen-sa is a Zen priest who wrote the book, “Only Not Know: Selected Teaching Letters of Zen Master Soen-sa.” Below is an excerpt from this Brain Pickings Article:

“In early November of 1976, Soen-sa received a distraught letter from one of his students, a woman named Diana, who had found herself consumed with anger at her son — “screaming mad … to the point that I even tried to slap him,” she wrote. The outburst was precipitated by a buildup of justified frustrations — the boy’s unchallenging academic environment, the troublemaker friends he had fallen with, his adamant resistance to moving to a more intellectually challenging school — and although her fury had come from a loving place of wanting to improve her son’s life, it plunged Diana into intense self-punishment and inconsolable sobbing. In addition to the distressing dissonance between the ugly surface turbulence of her temporary state and the deep love she felt for her son, she was particularly disoriented by how such anger could befall her just after she had attended three silent meditation retreats in the five weeks leading up to the incident.

She was turning to Soen-sa for advice and solace for her self-flagellation. Six days later, he responded with a nuanced and insightful letter of consolation, offering a taxonomy of the four types of anger and illuminating anger’s constructive face.

He writes:

After sitting yong maeng jong jin [silent meditation], your mind was clear. A clear mind is like a clear mirror, so when anger appeared, you reflected with angry action. You love your son, so you were angry. Is this correct? Don’t check your mind — when you are angry, be angry. When you are happy, be happy. When sad, be sad. Afterwards, checking is no good.

     Your previous anger and the anger you talked about in your letter are different. Before yong maeng jong jin, it was attached anger; after yong maeng jong jin, your anger was only reflected anger. If you do more hard training, the reflected anger will change to perceived anger. After more practicing, perceived anger will disappear. Then you will have only loving anger — inside you will not be angry, only angry on the outside. So attached anger, reflected anger, perceived anger, loving anger — all are changing, changing, changing. Anger is anger; anger is the truth. Don’t worry, don’t check yourself — it has already passed. How you keep just-now mind is very important.

In a sense, Soen-sa paints anger as dissatisfaction in the extreme, which makes it a powerful mobilizing agent for positive change — or for what the great composer John Cage, a student of Zen himself, called constructive anarchy. Soen-sa examines the rhythms of the four different kinds of anger as they course through us in succession, guided by Zen practice:

Attached anger sometimes lasts for three hours, sometimes three days, and does not quickly return to love-mind. When you were crying, you had reflected anger; it did not last long. Soon you returned to your mind that loves your son, and you knew what to do to help him… After more hard training, your reflected anger will change to perceived anger. You will feel anger but not show it; you will be able to control your mind. Finally, you will have only loving anger, ager only on the outside to hep other people — “You must do this!” — but no anger on the inside. This is true love-mind.

He ends with a note of assurance that the decision toward which the shock of Diana’s anger steered her — to move her son to a better school — was the right one and reflects a larger principle of personal growth:

     Buddha said, “If one mind is pure, your world will be pure. Your world means your family, your friends, your country — all of them. So changing your son’s school is a very good idea. Sometimes, when the situation is bad, everything is bad; when the situation changes, then it is possible to change everything.

Parker Palmer

“Return to the most human, nothing less
Will nourish the torn spirit, the bewildered heart,
The angry mind: and from the ultimate duress,
Pierced with the breath of anguish, speak for love.

— May Sarton, “Santos: New Mexico” (excerpt)

I’m a Quaker. I stand in a religious tradition that asks me to live by such values as community, equality, simplicity, and non-violence. As a result, I frequently find myself in deep oatmeal — especially when it comes to politics, where I seem to have an anger management problem. Not long ago, a friend with whom I’d been having a heated political argument gave me a black t-shirt that says “One Mean Quaker.”

Does anger have a role to play in the life of someone who aspires to non-violence? For better or for worse, it’s a reality in mine. Exhibit A is the anger I feel toward our new president who, among others things, lies with astonishing abandon. The man has an amazing ability to deny having said things that were captured on videotape and, when the tape is played back, to call it “fake news.” As one journalist has said, lying has become “the defining feature” of his presidency.

To add injury to insult, his is not the garden-variety dissembling we often expect from politicians. He tells weaponized lies that can harm and even kill people. Those at risk include immigrant parents and children who now must worry about keeping their families intact; Muslims, Jews, people of color, and LGBTQ folks who find themselves in the crosshairs once again; people whose one-time jobs in coal mines and factories will not be resurrected; and, ultimately, democracy itself, which dies when we cannot trust our leaders or each other.

So, yes, I’m one angry Quaker when it comes to this president and his staff who keep insisting that the emperor has new clothes, then blame and ban journalists for not telling the world how good he looks in them.

Occasionally, I’m taken to task by people who regard anger as a spiritual flaw to be eliminated. But I beg to differ:

  • When something is morally wrong, it does more harm than good to put a spiritually positive spin on it. Whitewashing in the name of God doesn’t improve the world — it discredits religion as yet another source of delusion. If I weren’t angry about the lies so brazenly told by the President and his surrogates, I’d fear that I was as feckless and reckless as they are.
  • I’m all for forgiveness as an antidote for anger. I agree with those who say that forgiveness is key to carrying on, and I love Anne Lamott’s quip that, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” But forgiveness, I’ve discovered, is not always mine to give — especially in relation to someone who has a long history of malicious acts and remains unrepentant. Sometimes I have to pass the forgiveness baton to higher powers, as Iris Dement does in her tragicomic C&W song:

“God may forgive you, but I won’t. Jesus may love you, but I don’t.”

  • I know that anger has the potential to harm the person who’s angry, and others in his or her orbit. But three deep dives into depression have taught me that anger buried under piosity poses more threats to my well being — and that of those around me — than anger expressed non-violently. Repressed anger is dangerous. Anger harnessed as an energy we can ride toward new life for all concerned is redemptive.

Before I’m condemned by the “spiritually correct” — whom I regard as more dangerous than their “politically correct” counterparts — please note that my anger is aimed at the president, not at those who voted for him. That’s a big change for me, brought about by inner work I’ve been doing since Election Day when I was angry at all of those voters and the horses they rode in on.

Setting aside those for whom I have no compassion — e.g., hardcore anti-Semites, white supremacists, and wealthy tax-evaders who don’t know the meaning of “enough” — I’ve come to understand that many who voted for this president did so for reasons connected to the challenges they face.

The words of the poet May Sarton helped me get started on this journey of empathy for my fellow citizens. The first verse of her poem, “Santos: New Mexico,” appears at the head of this column. Here’s the last verse, where she describes an alchemy that can transform anger from a death-dealing force into a power for new life:

Return to the most human, nothing less
Will teach the angry spirit, the bewildered heart,
The torn mind, to accept the whole of its duress,
And pierced with anguish, at last act for love.

What does it mean to “return to the most human” as we work to morph our anger into acts of love? For me, it means returning to my own story in order to reconnect with the stories of those who differ from me politically.

I’m a straight, white, upper-middle-class male who has benefited from all the perks this society automatically bestows on people like me. At age 78, I have few of the financial concerns that animated a lot of votes in the last election. The education I’ve been able to afford — along with the time and inclination I have to read a variety of news sources — has made me less likely to fall for fake news, “alternative facts,” and false reasoning. And for decades, my work has blessed me with a diverse band of colleagues and friends whom I love and respect, so the fear of “the other” that drove some votes is not a driver for me.

If I’m unable understand that my life story gives me good reason and a few tools to understand people whose lives and politics diverge from mine, then I’m as heartless and witless as I believe our leaders to be.

What does it mean, in the words of May Sarton, to “at last act for love”? The answer depends on one’s gifts and callings. For me, it means at least this: I want to redouble my efforts to help us renew our capacity for civic community and civil discourse. I want to ride the energy of anger toward work that brings citizens together in life-giving live encounters — knowing that if the reality of “We the People” continues to fade into mist and myth, we’ll lose our democracy.

One vehicle for this ride is StoryCorps, where I play a minor role as a thought partner for founder Dave Isay. Dave and his colleague Mike Garofalo are developing a new outreach to inspire Americans to talk and listen across our political divides. For a moving example of what they have in mind, check out this vulnerable and brave conversation between a conservative father and liberal daughter who’ve been at loggerheads — but who came together to seek a way forward and found grounds for hope.

StoryCorps is looking for folks to help them test this approach. Interested? Call 301-744-TALK, leave your name, where you are calling from, your contact information, and a few words about who you want to talk with and why.

I’m also an occasional thought partner with my friend Joan Blades, who co-founded Living Room Conversations (and also  MoveOn.org). Over the past five years, Joan and her colleagues have found simple, practical, and effective ways to help people with radically different political convictions find common ground. I highly recommend their work, including their programs with faith communities.

In addition, I’m continuing the work I launched in 2011 when I published Healing the Heart of Democracy. That work that has been greatly enhanced by my colleagues at a non-profit I founded, the Center for Courage & Renewal, who provide online resources to help folks find ways to reclaim the reality and power of “We the People.”

Finally, to keep myself honest, I want to continue to “live the question” I asked at the top of this column: “Does anger have a role to play in the life of someone who aspires to non-violence?”

As I do, I’ll take solace from Psalm 58, where an angry but certified holy man petitions God to “smash the teeth” of those who spread poisonous lies. The psalmist does not recommend direct action of this sort, and neither do I — radical oral surgery should be left to the Almighty.

But if the psalmist’s petition were to be granted today, I can imagine at least two positive outcomes. The lying would cease for a while since it would be too painful to talk (which seems only fair since it’s become so painful to listen). And we might get a healthcare plan with better dental coverage.

Spirituality and anger (and humor) are not necessarily at odds. Or so it seems to “One Mean Quaker” as I continue to stumble through life — well aware that, before too long, I’m likely to find myself in deep oatmeal again.”

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“The supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger 

becomes a transforming force.” 

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

The Endurance

“There was also a dangerously heavy swell running from the northwest, rolling through the pack like low, moving hills of water which lifted their floe almost 3 feet at times. Orde-Lees actually became seasick. The easterly movement of the pack could be seen against the slower moving bergs. The ice now had been reduced to such small pieces that it flowed around any obstacle in its path like syrup.

That evening about 6:45, McNeish was writing his diary. ‘There has been a large swell since yesterday,’ he recorded. ‘But it is doing us no harm now [since] our floe is broken up so small. It rises and falls with…’ He never finished the sentence. There was a heavy thump, and the floe split under the James Caird. Worsley was on watch, and he shouted for help. All hands dashed from their tents and seized the James Caird just as the crack began to widen. The other two boats, which were on the separated portion of the floe, were hurried across. When it was over, the floe was a triangle of ice whose sides measured roughly 100 by 120 by 90 yards.

Not long after midnight, the wind shifted from the west to the southeast and dropped considerably. Almost at once great pools of open water appeared as the floes drew apart. But it didn’t last. By daybreak the ice had closed again, though the sky to the north grew black as ink. The swell increased and the men had to brace themselves slightly as they made their way about.

Again at breakfast time, the ice mysteriously moved apart again. Small floes became isolated patches of white floating on the dark, cold surface of the water. But even as the entire party anxiously watched, the pack closed once more. The swell rose higher on all sides and their floe began to take a serious pounding. Toward midmorning, for the third time, lanes and pools of open water unaccountably spread through the pack and widened. At ten-thirty, Shackleton’s booming brogue rang out: ‘strike the tents and clear the boats!’

The men jumped to their tasks. In minutes the tents were struck, and the sleeping bags gathered and stowed in the bows of the boats. Then one at a time the boats were pushed on their sledges to the edge of the floe.

Crack!

Again the floe had split in two, this time exactly through the spot where Shackleton’s tent had stood some minutes before. The two halves drew rapidly apart, separating the Stancomb Wills and a large amount of provisions from the rest of the party. Almost everyone leaped over the widening breach and shoved the cutter and the stores across.

Then they waited… torn between the overpowering desire to launch the boats regardless of the risk, and the certain knowledge that once they did so, there could be no turning back. Small as it was, theirs was the only decent floe in sight. If they abandoned it, and the pack closed up before they reached another campsite, there would be no escape.

Throughout the activity, Green had gone methodically about his duties. Now he was ready with some oily seal soup and a serving of hot powdered milk. Each man took his portion and ate it standing up, intently watching the pack all the while. It was twelve-thirty, and the pools of water were very slightly larger. The men looked at Shackleton.

For the moment the pack was open – but how long would it remain open? And yet, how long could they stay where they were? The immense floe that had once been Patience Camp wa snow an irregular rectangle of ice hardly 50 yards across. How long would it be before it was broken and ground to bits beneath their feet? At twelve-forty, Shackleton gave the order in a quiet voice. ‘Launch the boats.’

The floe came alive with activity. Green ran to his stove and put out the fire. Other men took pieces of canvas and tied up small piles of meat and blubber. The rest of the party hurried to the boats. The Dudley Docker was removed from its sledge and eased into the water. Then with all hands passing stores, she was loaded with cases of rations, a bag of meat, the blubber stove, and No. 5’s rattly old hoop tent. An empty sledge was lowered into the water and tied onto her stern. Next the Stancomb Wills was rapidly launched and loaded, and finally the James Caird.

It was one-thirty in the afternoon when the crews scrambled on board each boat; they put out every available oar and pulled with all their strength for the open water. Even as they drew away from Patience Camp, the ice began to close.”

The Cinematic: What I Learned From A Lynching Survivor

In this talk, Jackson shares what he has learned about dealing with anger in a positive way from his mentor, Dr. James Cameron, the only known lynching survivor and founder of America’s Black Holocaust Museum. Reggie Jackson, is a graduate of Concordia University and Head Griot (docent) of America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) and 2015 winner of the Eliminating Racism Award from southeast Wisconsin’s YWCA and 2016 Courageous Love Award from the First Unitarian Society. In August 2016 he accepted a position as Community Relations Writer for the Milwaukee Independent.

The Musical: Amen by Amber Run

I wish you all a peaceful weekend.

Sincerely,

Shannon

 

Trust

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But those who do not trust the way will not earn others’ trust.”

~ Tao Te Ching

Good morning friends,

Our theme for this week is trust. Surely, we all share the wish to trust that there will be another side to covid-19 where we will emerge  healthy, strong, and connected to one another. Each of us also has our own hopes and challenges that we wish to trust will turn out well. My hope is that this email will help strengthen your trust in whatever and whoever you choose to place it.

The Writing: Alfred Pirsig (From The Endurance)

“To make matters worse, the problem of food – especially blubber for cooking – was again approaching the critical point. It was three weeks since they had killed a seal, and the meager store of blubber was almost gone. Their stock of provisions from the ship was also nearly exhausted. On March 16, the last of their flour was used up. It was made into dog pemmican bannocks [at this point some of the dogs had been killed in order to be eaten], and several men nipped and nibbled at their 1-ounce portions for more than an hour…

As the days went by their rations had to be steadily decreased. The tea and coffee now were finished, and because of the shortage of blubber for fuel to melt ice into water, they were allowed only one ration of ‘very diluted’ powdered milk a day. It was served at breakfast, along with five ounces of seal steak. Lunch was cold, a quarter can of frozen broth and one canned biscuit. Supper consisted of a serving of seal or penguin hoosh.

Most of the men felt the shortage of food almost as a physical pain. The compulsive craving of their bodies for more fuel to burn to ward off the cold caused a gnawing, ceaseless hunger. And the weather was becoming increasingly bitter, with night time temperatures frequently dropping as low as 10 below. Thus, when their need for calories was greatest, they were forced to get along on less than ever. Many men found that a few hours after eating they had to crawl into their sleeping bags to keep from shivering until the next meal put some warmth back into them…

By March 22, the food situation was so critical that Shackleton told Maklin that his dogs would have to be shot the next day so that the party might eat the food set aside for the dogs…The biting cold brought by a southerly gale continued into the night, and they all suffered bitterly. Their bodies seemed to lack even enough heat to warm their sleeping bags. Less than a week’s supply of blubber remained, so on March 26 the 5-ounce ration of seal steaks at breakfast was cut out. In its place the men were usually given a half-pound cake of cold dog pemmican and a half ration of powdered milk; on very cold days, a few lumps of sugar were added. Lunch was one biscuit and three lumps of sugar, and supper, the only so-called hot meal of the day, consisted of seal or penguin hoosh, ‘cooked a minimum possible time.’ No water was issued at any time. If a man wanted a drink, he packed snow into a small can, usually a tobacco tin, and held it against his body to melt, or slept with it in his sleeping bag. But a full tobacco tin of snow yielded only a tablespoon or two of water.

Word reached Shackleton on the twenty-sixth that several men had taken bits of blubber and penguin meat from the general store and were trying to eat it – frozen and raw. Shackleton immediately ordered that their remaining supply of stores be placed directly outside his tent. In addition, Macklin was told to pick out anything fit for human consumption from the stock of waste meat used to feed the dogs. Macklin sorted it out, setting aside everything ‘except that which was too stinking to contemplate eating.’ It was a repulsive collection of odd bits of flesh, Macklin noted, ‘and, unfortunately, if we do not get more seals we will have to eat it raw.’ It appeared too that the remaining dogs would have to be eaten soon.

Macklin turned on Clark for some feeble reason, and the two men were almost immediately shouting at one another. The tension spread to Orde-Lees and Worsley and triggered a blasphemous exchange between them. In the midst of it, Greenstreet upset his powdered milk. He whirled on Clark, cursing him for causing the accident because Clark had called his attention for a moment. Clark tried to protest, but Greenstreet shouted him down.

Then Greenstreet paused to get his breath, and in that instant his anger was spent and he suddenly fell silent. Everyone else in the tent became quiet too, and looked at Greenstreet, shaggy-haired, bearded, and filthy with blubber soot, holding his empty mug in his hand and looking helplessly down into the snow that had thirstily soaked up his precious milk. The loss was so tragic that he seemed almost at the point of weeping.

Without speaking, Clark reached out and poured some of his milk into Greenstreet’s mug. Then Worsley, then Macklin, and Rickenson and Kerr, Orde-Lees, and finally Blackboro. They finished in silence.

Just after breakfast, two seals were sighted and hunting parties were urgently organized. The first group secured the closer of the two, and the others were within a short distance of their quarry when Shackleton, feeling the ice was too dangerous, summoned them back to camp.

On the way back Orde-Lees collapsed from hunger. As usual, he had eaten only half his breakfast ration – an eighth of a pound of cold dog pemmican and a lump and a half of sugar – intending to save the rest for later. After several minutes’ rest, however, he was able to regain his feet and make his way back to camp.

Later in the day, the misty weather turned into pure rain, with the temperature rising to 33 degrees. Most of the men crawled into their sleeping bags and stayed there while the rain continued – that night and all the next day. Macklin described it: ‘A stream of water collected and, running under my bag, soaked it completely through, the bottom being absolutely sodden, and mitts, socks and other gear got thoroughly soaked too… Even as I sit and write this the water is drip-drip-dripping from the tent roof and every available receptacle – empty tins, etc., – are in use to prevent our bags getting wetter. We are only partially successful, for the drips are coming in through four times as many places as we have receptacles for… I pray God to send us dry weather soon, for this is misery. I have never seen such depression of spirits as there in the tent today.’

Later in the afternoon, the rain changed to snow, and by five o’clock it had ceased altogether. James was night watchman that evening from nine to ten, and as he was walking around the floe, he thought he detected a movement in the ice. Looking closely, he saw a ‘very distinct swell’ slowly lifting the floe. He reported his discovery to Shackleton who gave orders that the watchmen should be especially alert.

At five-twenty the next morning the floe split.

Little Alf Cheetham was on watch, and he dashed among the tents.

‘Crack!’ He shouted. ‘Crack! Lash up and stow!’

Within seconds all hands had tumbled out of their tents. They say two cracks, one running the length of the floe and another extending at right angles to the first. In addition, the whole pack was rising to a very marked swell.

They ran to the James Caird and wrenched the frozen runners of her sledge free from the ice, then manhandled her to the center of the floe. By then the crack down the center had widened out to 20 feet in some places, and could be seen slowly working back and forth under the influence of the swell. Their store of meat was on the other side. Several men jumped across where the crack was not so wide and pitched the meat over the seam of open water.

By 6:45, everything was safely across and work was halted for breakfast. The men were standing around waiting for their ration when the floe cracked again, this time directly under the James Caird, 100 feet from the tents. No order was needed. The men dashed to the boat and quickly brought her up closer to the tent area. Finally, they were able to eat breakfast – the usual lump of dog pemmican, six pieces of sugar, and a half mug of milk.

Breakfast was hardly finished when through the mists, a strange shape appeared, moving deliberately across a nearby section of their old floe. Wild ran to get his rifle from his tent, then he dropped to one knee and shot. The animal bucked, and slowly sank down onto the ice. Several men hurried to where it lay – a sea leopard nearly 11 feet long.

With one bullet, it seemed, Wild had changed the whole complexion of their lives. There at their feet lay nearly 1,000 pounds of meat – and at least two weeks supply of blubber.”

 

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“When a pair of hooves stepped into view, he told himself to keep walking, hoping ‘that the rhythm that had taken me to the edge of this moment would carry me in.”

~ Karsten Heuer

 

The Poetry: My own and Mary Oliver

 

PLANT SEEDS IN THE DARK

By Shannon Thompson

 

Plant your seeds in the dark wise child.

Beneath the whisper of wise stars,

they are growing.

Surrender to the light

like the sliver moon,

to the soil of night so soft.

Plant your seeds in the dark wise child.

Trust the earth to love them.

Let His whispers call forth

their breaking, and beckon

new shoots of life.

Plant your dreams in the dark wise child,

so they may root in the promise that made them.

All longings within

are the need of the night.

And each breath of wind is the

promise of light.

 

 

MYSTERIES, YES

By Mary Oliver

 

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous

to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the

mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever

in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds

will never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.

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Some Science: My performance perspective on trust

The Truth About Trust

“[There is] no gasp at a miracle that is truly miraculous because the magic lies in the fact that you knew it was there for you all along.”

~ Toni Morrison

 

Again, he crouches on the start line. His heart and eyes are wide like a bruised child welcoming a violent parent home. Somehow, a volatile relationship with the track has not killed his willingness to return. Memories flare and doubt curls in his throat. The unknown is alight within him. But, he bravely accepts the innocence of this new moment and offers his trust back to the race.

In the world of high performance trust is essential. Trust is the pillar around which all hopeful striving turns, and the foundation that consistent excellence is built upon. Specifically where trust is placed is a personal choice. Some trust their own capabilities earned through experience and training. Others trust a wise leader who has proven to be trustworthy before. Many place their trust in a Higher Power considered to be religious or spiritual. Regardless of its placement, trust is the weight, the anchor, the rudder that holds the course, and the focusing force that keeps the North Star of the mission, the dream itself, in sight.

Psychological science says that trust leads to excellence. The emotion of confidence (a synonym for trust and characterized by a feeling of “certainty”) is frequently measured in studies of performance. Those who feel confident have been shown to perform better than those experiencing doubt. This is probably no surprise to you. Think about it. If you are confident that a positive outcome is certain how do you feel about facing that challenge? When you’re feeling confident in what manner do you work toward your goal? Fearlessly. You work fearlessly because if a positive outcome is assured there is no negative outcome to fear.

Fear poisons performance because it steals attention from the task. When we’re fearful we’re constantly scanning the environment (internally and externally) for potential threats. As a result our attention, a limited resource, is scattered about, often landing on targets that are irrelevant to our performance. Fear, therefore, is the cause of massive attentional waste, which could otherwise be used to strengthen our work. Trust aids performance because it is resilient to fear and enables all of our energy, skills, reflexes, curiosity, and creativity to be focused on the craft. In short, trusting that a positive outcome is certain enables full focus, which drives actions, which then lead to its realization.

Trust versus Belief

There is a difference between trust and belief. Admonitions to “believe” abound. If you haven’t heard the phrase, “if you can believe it you can achieve it,” I’m envious. Translated to its Latin root, “belief” means trust. But, in my opinion trust and belief are not the same thing. Trust is assurance, while belief is hope. Trust says “is” while Belief says “can.” To have trust versus belief is a vastly different emotional experience. Trust is a deep, still lake. Belief is a river racing fear, which often wins, but the pace is fast and the margin of victory a fine one. Trust never even needs to run.

At this point I can hear some objections: but you can’t ever be certain about a positive result. No outcome is guaranteed. How is total trust possible or even desirable considering the unpredictable reality of life? Also, what precisely are we trusting anyway?

In this essay we are talking about using trust to produce excellent performance. Although the outcome of one performance can be influential (it is often related to status, sometimes to employment, and is frequently viewed as justification for a lengthy toil) it is rarely a matter of life or death. The truth is that you are going to be ok no matter how you perform, and your honesty about this fact enables a peace that can liberate the best within you. True trust is enabled by being honest about what’s really important (probably your close relationships, your health, and your ability to continue to strive in a craft that you love.) and recognizing that in most cases these things are not at the mercy of the outcome of one performance.

Let’s continue being honest for a bit: we – especially within western culture – are privileged to have opportunities to strive at all, whether the competitive arena is athletic, artistic, academic, or economic. Also, the opportunity to draw something rich and worthwhile from a performance isguaranteed if we choose to value all that’s available to appreciate within the moment at hand. Each challenge offers opportunities for learning, stories, and growth, whether the outcome is successful in the way that we envisioned it to be or not.

Many resist this perspective. They claim that it is too passive. They fear that this attitude will breed complacency and that they’ll lose their competitive edge. But tell me, how can any viewpoint that exaggerates the importance of one’s goals in relation to life-as-a-whole result in achievements that truly matter beyond one’s personal ambitions? Only by working from a heart that is balanced and grateful can performances of real worth arise. It is not an intense fear of failure or warped ideas about the significance of one performance that drives excellence. The achievements that inspire others are the result of focus, love of the craft, curiosity, and the willingness to learn, which arise from a dedicated, peaceful mind in tune with greater humanity.

From a balanced perspective you are more likely to act free of fear, because you recognize that nothing of critical importance is in jeopardy. So, to answer the question of what am I trusting? I am asking you to trust that you cannot truly fail in life-as-a-whole by striving with sport. When you allow this to be true, and you realize that there is nothing to lose you are set free. And, when we compete with nothing to lose we rarely do.

The Role of Spirituality in Trust and Performance

The topic of trust runs through spiritual texts like light rides rivers: in harmony, ever present and inseparable. For example, Mark 11:24 claims, “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” The ancient Chinese I Ching reads “Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal. Such certainty alone gives that light which leads to success.”

Although religion and spirituality are a sensitive topic I would do a great disservice to many if I did not highlight their role in trust. For some trust in a higher power is both genuine and helpful. I am one of those people. For those for whom trust in a spiritual framework feels True I strongly encourage you to draw upon it. If spiritual beliefs do not align with your worldview I will never push them upon you.

Joyful, fearless performances are possible when we place our trust in our Truth. You’ll know yours by identifying what really matters and from the peace that this recognition brings you. Peace is the ideal platform from which to create excellence. How do you find yours? If this were your last day what would you do and who would you call? Make these people and actions the center of your life and notice regularly that they are. The rest are only performances, which I hope are now free and fearless ones.

“Fanatics do not have faith – they have belief. With faith you let go. You trust. 

Whereas with belief you cling.” 

Yann Martel, Life of Pi

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~ SP Crater, Flagstaff, Arizona

“He replied, ‘because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain,‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

~ Matthew 17:20

The Spiritual: Mohandas K. Ghandi (From The Story of My Experiments with Truth)

“I did not then know the essence of religion or God, and how he works in us. Only vaguely I understood that God had saved me on that occasion. On all occasions of trial He has saved me. I know that the phrase ‘God saved me’ has a deeper meaning for me today, and still I feel that I have not yet grasped it’s entire meaning. Only richer experience can help me to a fuller understanding. But in all my trials – of a spiritual nature, as a lawyer, in conducting institutions, and in politics – I can say that God saved me. When every hope is gone, ‘when helpers fail and comforts flee,’ I find that help arrives somehow, from I know not where. Supplication, worship, prayer are not superstition; they are acts more real than the acts of eating, drinking, sitting or walking. It is no exaggeration to say that they alone are real, all else is unreal.

Such worship or prayer is no flight of eloquence; it is no lip-homage. It springs from the heart. If, therefore, we achieve that purity of the heart when it is ‘emptied of all but love,’ if we keep all the chords in proper tune, they ‘trembling pass in music out of sight.’ Prayer needs no speech. It is in itself independent of any sensuous effort. I have not the slightest doubt that prayer is an unfailing means of cleansing the heart… but it must be combined with the utmost humility.”

When your words bring you closer to the prisoner in his cell, to the patient who is dying in the bed alone, to the starving child, then it’s a prayer.”

~ Elie Weisel

 

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The problem is that chaos is always only ever sitting just across the table, frequently glancing up from its newspaper, from its coffee cup filled with discolored and imploding stars. Because chaos too waits. Waits for you to notice it, for you to notice that it’s the most dazzling thing you’ve ever seen, for all your atoms to collectively shriek in belated recognition and stare, mouth open, at how exquisitely embedded it is in everything. Because we are not designed to be more orderly than anything else; seams have a tendency to come apart with time – you and the universe are the same in this way, which makes for a delicately overwhelming struggle.

     So, then, if you can’t ever end things neatly, can’t ever put them back quite the way you found them, surely the alternative is to remain stubbornly carbonated with possibility, to never rest from your rotation. To keep assembling stories between us, stories about how everything was everything, about how much we loved.”

~ Ella Frances Saunders

The Endurance:

** In this section we find the crew of the Endurance still drifting on an ice floe, trapped within more floes of ice, waiting to reach a point of open water into which they can launch their boats and paddle to land. Currently, they are completely at the mercy of the winds and currents. The crew is hoping that their floe is gradually moving toward somewhat nearby islands. However, there is also the possibility that their floe is headed toward open sea – away from land – a far more dangerous and precarious direction.

      “Throughout the morning the swell had continued and even increased slightly, so at lunch Shackleton would take charge of one watch, and Wild the other. Thus half the party would be on duty at all times, fully dressed, with their gear lashed and ready to move at a moment’s notice. Two of the men on watch would be required to walk the floe continuously, looking for cracks or any other threatened emergency. The others would be permitted to stand by in their tents.

During the day, there were more and more signs of an imminent opening. Cape pigeons and terns could be seen overhead, and Worsely sighted a magnificent giant petrel, snow white except for two bands of black across its wings – a definite sign of open water. Clark spied a jellyfish in the crack between two floes and stated flatly that such creatures were found only in the vicinity of ice-free seas. These, plus a black water sky to the northwest, the presence of a swell, and a high temperature of 34 degrees, led Worsely to remark: ‘it certainly looks promising.’ But then he added: ‘Hope tells a flattering tale’…

In spite of all the encouraging signs, the pack showed little change throughout the day and into the next morning. In the afternoon a very dark water sky appeared from the southwest, stretching all the way around the northeast, but in view of the southerly wind, a sudden opening seemed unlikely, so Shackleton deemed it safe to cancel the sea watches. But one-man patrols were continued, day and night.

That evening, just at eight o’clock as Macklin was relieving Orde-Lees on watch outside, the floe unexpectedly rose to a swell and cracked, hardly 2 feet from Wild’s tent. Macklin and Orde-Lees both spread the alarm. But everybody had turned in, confident that there would be no breakup, and the emergency caught them almost totally unprepared. There was a great scramble to get dressed in the pitch black tents, with everyone trying to find the right clothes and attempting to get into boots that had frozen in the 20-degree cold. Even after the men were out of their tents, there was confusion about exactly what was the trouble and where the danger was. They groped their way around in the dark, bumping into one another and stumbling into unseen holes in the ice. But order was finally restored. The boats were moved closer to the tents, and the stock of meat, which again had been cut off by a crack, was pitched across in the darkness. Shackleton ordered sea watches resumed, and that the off-duty men turn in ‘all-standing’- fully dressed, including mittens and helmets.

It was hard to sleep. Throughout the night the floe lifted very noticeably to the heavy swell, perhaps a foot or more, and the repeated shocks as it bumped against other floes were disconcerting. They all knew that the floe was now so small that should it crack again, something – or somebody – would almost inevitably fall through and probably be crushed…

Their floe, which had once measured a mile in diameter, was now less than 200 yards across. Most of the time it was surrounded by open water, and it was constantly menaced by swells and collisions with other floes. Clarence Island lay 68 miles due north of them, and though they appeared to be making toward it, they were concerned with the gradual westerly set of their drift which threatened to increase. If it did, they would be swept out to sea through Loper Channel, the 80-mile-wide gulf between Elephant Island and King George Island.

‘It would be hard,’ wrote McNeish, ‘after drifting into those straights and then be blown out to sea.’ And James noted: ‘A great air of expectancy everywhere. We are on the verge of something, there is no doubt. If all goes well we may be on land very soon. Our chief need is an opening in the ice. Our chief danger being carried beyond these islands in close pack. Our mark, Clarence and Elephant Islands…’

It was impossible to obtain a sight the following day, which was damp and misty with an unpleasantly heavy swell running. However, on April 5, Worsley obtained a position – and it showed that they were headed straight for the open sea.”

The Cinematic: The Colorado River at Lees Ferry, Arizona

Two years ago I spent a night on the beach at Lees Ferry watching the stars pass. This was an ideal place for lengthy contemplation. The steep, red, walls formed by the slow, steady erosion of the deep blue river attest to patience and trust. I hope you can feel this a little in my short film.

The Musical:  Shadows by Canyon City

I wish you a safe and celebratory weekend with trust that there more good times to come – even for those of us who fear that we are headed into the open sea.

Sincerely,

Shannon

 

Wind

Screen Shot 2020-06-21 at 1.45.22 PM.png~ Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

 

“Love says, ‘you are right, but don’t claim these changes. Remember I am wind. 

You are an ember I ignite.” 

~ Rumi

 

Good morning friends,

The wind is a theme I’ve been saving for awhile. We’ve had a windy spring here in Flag so every week I think to myself, “this week we will cover the wind!” And then something else has blown me off course 😉 I love the wind. My affinity for it began on my trip to Patagonia in 2008. The winds there are relentless and intense. I recall fears of being blown off of a hillside, and gratitude for the heavy pack that I carried which I felt weighed me securely to the single track trail. I recall the song of the wind on my tent at night when I was out trekking, and I remember the wind blowing a field of daisies so fiercely that they rolled like a frothing sea. At the time I was going through something difficult and the wind was a constant presence. Many cultures see the wind as “spirit,” and in fact the word for both wind and spirit is the same in several languages. This is how I viewed the wind in Patagonia – as ever present caring company, and I still do.

Here’s a quote worth sharing that I recorded in my journal from that trip:

     “The most common and readily accessible experiences of otherness and togetherness, of being involved with something very big and very strange, is that of being blown by the wind… You are touched by something invisible, something that bends trees and makes strange sounds. It throws the ocean into confusion, whips up fantastic froths of cloud and carries off a desert in its arms. And yet it communicates directly and intimately with you. You can feel it’s effects deep inside.”

~ Lyall Watson

Later, I would discover that Lyall Watson wrote a book entirely focused on wind called Heaven’s Breath. Here is his poetic intro:

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Further thoughts on wind September 2, 2018

What if it is true that we’re a part of everything. What if the wind is spirit, and the trees are family, and the earth is speaking through your words? Have you ever noticed that the wind in the aspens sounds just like the sea? In a way it is an effort to believe that, but the effort is in the choice to relax, and to let go. It is not an effort of imagination, of creation, or of construction of belief. It is the brave choice to trust what’s at the center of your heart in the midst of the fear and below your ceaseless thinking.

The Writing: The Endurance

“About 3pm, the wind gently eased around to the southwest, and a chill came into the air. Throughout the night the temperature crept downward, and all the next day the southwest breeze held steady. That night Shackleton wrote, almost timorously, ‘This may be the turn in our fortune.’ By now the wind was not taken lightly. ‘It is spoken of with reverence,’ Hurley observed, ‘and wood must be touched when commenting thereon.’

Somebody, it appeared, had touched the proper piece of wood. The wind came on the next day, a whole gale out of the southwest, with driving snow filling the air and tents quaking with its violence. They huddled in their sleeping bags, dismally uncomfortable but radiantly happy. ‘Fifty miles an hour,’ McNeish recorded blissfully, ‘but it is welcome and much more as long as the tents stand.’ It howled on… Shackleton, the man of unbridled optimism, confined himself to guarded phrases lest he somehow hex this glorious wind. ‘We ought to be making North some now,’ he said with utmost restraint.

As the gale continued, a very few of them began to tire of the wet from the wind-driven snow filtering into the tents. ‘We are never satisfied,’ Hurley wrote, ‘as we are looking forward to a fine day. Our gear in the tents is becoming very wet and the opportunity of drying same will be hailed.’ But most of them cheerfully endured the dreadful conditions, happy in the knowledge that they must be making good progress to the north. ‘One hardly likes to guess what our distance may be,’ Shackleton wrote, more boldly, ‘but tonight is the fourth of this blow and there are no signs of it abating so we ought to have made some good distance to the North.”

The next day the gale roared on, with a few gusts to 70 miles an hour. But twice during the morning the sun broke through the clouds. Worsley was ready with his sextant, and James stood by with his theodite to catch the angle of the sun. They took their sights, worked on the calculations, and announced the result.

‘Wonderful, amazing splendid,’ Shackleton wrote. ’73 miles North drift. The most cheerful good fortune for a year for us… Everyone greeted the news with cheers. The wind still continues. We may get another 10 miles out of it. Thank God. Drifting still all wet in the tents but no matter. Had bannock to celebrate North of the circle.’ The Antarctic Circle now lay nearly a full degree of latitude behind them.

The gale eased down the following day, and the sun shone brightly. All hands emerged from their tents, glad to be alive… Later in the day Worsley got another sight which put their position 11 miles north in twenty-four hours. It brought the total run since the beginning of the gale to 84 miles in six days. Furthermore, the drift to the east, away from land, amounted to a paltry 15 miles.

By evening the gale had blown itself out and the wind shifted to the north. But nobody minded. A northerly wind was just what they needed to open up the pack so that they could take to the boats. The wind continued to the next day without loosening the pack perceptibly. They waited.”

 

“You have fallen in love with me. To the wind I will scatter you.”

~ Rumi

 

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~ El Calafate, Argentina, Patagonia

On wind: “Orchestral and divine, resounding among the trees like 

a language full of wars and songs.” 

~ Pablo Neruda

The Poetry: My Own

This poem was written for NAU XC following their first National Championship in 2016. The poem tells the story of the race and the aftermath. It is framed around Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.

STOPPING BY INDIANA ON A WINDY MORNING

What team is this?

I think I know.

They live upon a mountain though.

I’ve heard there is a magic there,

A spirit found beneath the snow.

 

The other teams must think it queer

To laugh so much – the race so near!

Flannel clad and playful games,

The coldest Saturday of the year.

 

They give their focused heads a shake,

These Lumberjacks are some mistake,

The only other sounds the sweep

Of navy blue and golden spike.

Brothers breathe with others deep.

All have promises to keep,

And miles to go before they sleep.

And miles to go before they sleep.

 

What race is this?

I think I know

A long sharp whistle lets them go,

This is the day, the work of years

When who they have become could show.

 

He looks around, his brothers near,

Family, trust, inhibits fear,

Love follows them within the crowd,

Coaches, teammates, others dear.

 

The pack is running smooth and tight,

One has never felt so light,

And then another – sudden fall,

His brothers disappeared from sight.

Despair at first from somewhere deep,

But he has promises to keep,

And miles to go, no time to weep.

And miles to go, no time to weep.

 

What team is this?

I think I know

They’re spread out quite a bit now though,

The wind whips tears off younger cheeks,

Chaos reigns, no way to know.

 

One by one, the end is near,

All they had was given here,

Lost and open, doubt and drawn,

The coldest Saturday of the year.

 

Breathing slows from lungs that ache,

Eyes are low, some heads shake,

The only other sounds the grief,
A passing dream that’s now at stake.

The wind is chilling, sadly deep,
But they have promises to keep,

And much can change before they sleep.

And much can change before they sleep.

 

What team is this?

I think I know,

They live upon a mountain though,

I’ve heard there is a magic there,

A spirit found beneath the snow.

But no, the magic’s in their love,

And thin air miles run high above,

The only other sounds the joy,

Of the sort they’ve known not of.

 

The moment marks all of them deep,

And that’s a promise each will keep,

There’s miles to go before they sleep,

Many miles before they sleep.

 

“The body’s harp gets handed to the soul to play…
Who tuned this instrument where wind is one string, and your eyes another, 
In which a gazelle turns to stalk the hunting lioness” 

~ Rumi

 

Screen Shot 2020-06-21 at 1.47.09 PM.png~ Patagonia

 

“We should want to be subsumed, whirled, to know ourselves 

as dust in the fingers of the wind.” 

~ Mary Oliver

 

The Science: What is the Wind? From National Geographic

Wind is the movement of air caused by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun. It does not have much substance—you cannot see it or hold it—but you can feel its force. It can dry your clothes in summer and chill you to the bone in winter. It is strong enough to carry sailing ships across the ocean and rip huge trees from the ground. It is the great equalizer of the atmosphere, transporting heat, moisture, pollutants, and dust great distances around the globe. Landforms, processes, and impacts of wind are called Aeolian landforms, processes, and impacts.

Differences in atmospheric pressure generate winds. At the Equator, the sun warms the water and land more than it does the rest of the globe. Warm equatorial air rises higher into the atmosphere and migrates toward the poles. This is a low-pressure system. At the same time, cooler, denser air moves over Earth’s surface toward the Equator to replace the heated air. This is a high-pressure system. Winds generally blow from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas.

The boundary between these two areas is called a front. The complex relationships between fronts cause different types of wind and weather patterns.

Prevailing winds are winds that blow from a single direction over a specific area of the Earth. Areas where prevailing winds meet are called convergence zones. Generally, prevailing winds blow east-west rather than north-south. This happens because Earth’s rotation generates what is known as the Coriolis effect. The Coriolis effect makes wind systems twist counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Coriolis effect causes some winds to travel along the edges of the high-pressure and low-pressure systems. These are called geostrophic winds. In 1857, Dutch meteorologist Christoph Buys Ballot formulated a law about geostrophic winds: When you stand with your back to the wind in the Northern Hemisphere, low pressure is always to your left. (In the Southern Hemisphere, low-pressure systems will be on your right.)

Wind Zones

The Earth contains five major wind zones: polar easterlies, westerlies, horse latitudes, trade winds, and the doldrums.

Polar Easterlies

Polar easterlies are dry, cold prevailing winds that blow from the east. They emanate from the polar highs, areas of high pressure around the North and South Poles. Polar easterlies flow to low-pressure areas in sub-polar regions.

Westerlies

Westerlies are prevailing winds that blow from the west at midlatitudes. They are fed by polar easterlies and winds from the high-pressure horse latitudes, which sandwich them on either side. Westerlies are strongest in the winter, when pressure over the pole is low, and weakest in summer, when the polar high creates stronger polar easterlies.

The strongest westerlies blow through the “Roaring Forties,” a wind zone between 40 and 50 degrees latitude in the Southern Hemisphere. Throughout the Roaring Forties, there are few landmasses to slow winds. The tip of South America and Australia, as well as the islands of New Zealand, are the only large landmasses to penetrate the Roaring Forties. The westerlies of the Roaring Forties were very important to sailors during the Age of Exploration, when explorers and traders from Europe and western Asia used the strong winds to reach the spice markets of Southeast Asia and Australia.

Westerlies have an enormous impact on ocean currents, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. Driven by westerlies, the powerful Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) rushes around the continent (from west to east) at about 4 kilometers per hour (2.5 miles per hour). In fact, another name for the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is the West Wind Drift. The ACC is the largest ocean current in the world, and is responsible for transporting enormous volumes of cold, nutrient-rich water to the ocean, creating healthy marine ecosystems and food webs.

Horse Latitudes

The horse latitudes are a narrow zone of warm, dry climates between westerlies and the trade winds. Horse latitudes are about 30 and 35 degrees north and south. Many deserts, from the rainless Atacama of South America to the arid Kalahari of Africa, are part of the horse latitudes.

The prevailing winds at the horse latitudes vary, but are usually light. Even strong winds are often short in duration.

Trade Winds

Trade winds are the powerful prevailing winds that blow from the east across the tropics. Trade winds are generally very predictable. They have been instrumental in the history of exploration, communication, and trade. Ships relied on trade winds to establish quick, reliable routes across the vast Atlantic and, later, Pacific Oceans. Even today, shipping depends on trade winds and the ocean currents they drive.

In 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Hyerdahl and a small crew used trade winds to travel from the coast of Peru to the coral reefs of French Polynesia, more than 6,920 kilometers (4,300 miles), in a sail-powered raft. The expedition, named after the raft (Kon-Tiki) aimed to prove that ancient mariners could have used predictable trade winds to explore wide stretches of the Pacific.

Trade winds that form over land (called continental trade winds) are warmer and drier than those that form over the ocean (maritime trade winds). The relationship between continental and maritime trade winds can be violent.

Most tropical storms, including hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons, develop as trade winds. Differences in air pressure over the ocean cause these storms to develop. As the dense, moist winds of the storm encounter the drier winds of the coast, the storm can increase in intensity.

Strong trade winds are associated with a lack of precipitation, while weak trade winds carry rainfall far inland. The most famous rain pattern in the world, the Southeast Asian monsoon, is a seasonal, moisture-laden trade wind.

Besides ships and rainfall, trade winds can also carry particles of dust and sand for thousands of kilometers. Particles from Saharan sand and dust storms can blow across islands in the Caribbean Sea and the U.S. state of Florida, more than 8,047 kilometers (5,000 miles) away.

Dust storms in the tropics can be devastating for the local community. Valuable topsoil is blown away and visibility can drop to almost zero. Across the ocean, dust makes the sky hazy. These dust storms are often associated with dry, low-pressure areas and a lack of tropical storms.

Doldrums

The place where trade winds of the two hemispheres meet is called the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). The area around the ITCZ is called the doldrums. Prevailing winds in the doldrums are very weak, and the weather is unusually calm.

The ITCZ straddles the Equator. In fact, the low-pressure doldrums are created as the sun heats the equatorial region and causes air masses to rise and travel north and south. (This warm, low-pressure equatorial wind descends again around the horse latitudes. Some equatorial air masses return to the doldrums as trade winds, while others circulate in the other direction as westerlies.)

Although monsoons impact tropical as well as equatorial regions, the wind itself is created as the ITCZ moves slightly away from the Equator each season. This change in the doldrums disturbs the usual air pressure, creating the moisture-laden Southeast Asian monsoon.

The Strategy: Wind In The Trees – 8 hrs of white noise

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~ Patagonia

 

Thus strong wind does not last all morning.

Sudden rain does not last all day.

Even Heaven and Earth cannot make it last

~Tao Te Ching, Chapter 23

 

The Spiritual: John O’Donahue (From Beauty)

     Movement is a sign of life. It is intriguing that the presence which has the most grace and swiftness cannot be seen, namely the wind. In the Hebrew tradition the word for wind, reach, was also the word used for ‘God.’ The wind has power and huge presence. It symbolizes pure freedom. In the New Testament in a conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus likens the way of the Holy Spirit to the rhythm and energy of the wind; it is presence as spontaneity:

‘The wind blows wherever it pleases; you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’

~ John 3: 8-9

     To dwell in new spirit is to enter a complete spontaneity of direction; this is a voyage of trust imbued with passion – any destination is possible. In phrases like this we glimpse the wild heart of Jesus.

At times the wind has a haunting, poignant music. When it rises in the night and shores against the walls of the house, it sounds out a great loneliness. Perhaps the wind achieves poignancy because it has no name. It is nothing and from nowhere. Yet its cry is almost a voice and sounds as if the sorrow of stone and clay, of the dead or those seeking birth, has somehow become a force of emptiness. Their longing has transformed their nothingness into a cry. This atmosphere of wind has unreached realms of longing. It is a keening that no mind could ease. At other times the wind is utterly buoyant, rousing and refreshing. When you walk into the mood of wind, it cleanses your mind and invigorates your body. It feels as if the wind would love you to dance – let you surf its undulations and steal you away from the weight of your body, casting you hither and thither like the shimmer of dust. Such wind is wild with dream. One of the loveliest images of earthly movement is how a bird plays among the high geographies of a wind-force, soaring, sliding and balancing on its invisible hills and waves. Before ever the human mind became fascinated with the rhythm, structure and meaning of movement, the birds knew how to enjoy and play within the temporary landscapes of the wind.”

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“Go outside in the orchard. These visitors came a long way past all the houses of the zodiac, 

learning something new at each stop. And they are here for such a short time, sitting at

those tables on the prow of the wind.” 

~ Rumi

 

The Endurance

“They waited…

Still the opening would come – it was bound to. A heavy mist rolled in… and to McNeish it was a ‘proper sea fog,’ indicating the presence of the ice-free ocean nearby. Shackleton, too, thought it must be sea fog. But the opening still did not come, and the Boss felt his patience growing thin. On the twenty-sixth, after a day of unrelieved monotony, he took his diary and wrote across the space provided for that day:

Waiting

Waiting

Waiting.

But by the time a week had passed, most of the men were abandoning their hopes. They could see almost no change in the pack. If anything it was tighter than before, packed together by the force of the winds, perhaps driven against some unknown land to the north or northwest. The sense of immediacy gradually diminished, and the atmosphere in camp settled once more into reluctant resignation.”

The Cinematic: Taoist Winds

The Musical: Yusuf/ Cat Stevens: The Wind

Honestly, what other song could I have chosen?

Friends, I wish you a friend in the wind.

Sincerely,

Shannon



 

Resilience

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“Need to put footstep of courage into stirrup of patience”

~ Ernest Shackleton

     This week our theme will be resilience, a quality we are all surely growing these days. To begin with we will join the crew of the Endurance who are enduring harsh circumstances to the extreme.

The Writing: Alfred Lansig (from Endurance)

“The final loss of the Endurance was a shock in that it severed what had seemed their last tie with civilization. It was a finality. The ship had been a symbol, a tangible, physical symbol that linked them and the outside world. She had brought them nearly half-way around the globe, or, as Worsley put it, ‘…carried us so far and so well and then put forth the bravest fight that ever a ship had fought before yielding to the remorseless pack.’ Now she was gone.

But the reaction was largely a sentimental one, as after the passing of an old friend who had been on the verge of death for a long time. They had been expecting her to go for weeks. When she had been abandoned twenty-five days before, it had seemed she would sink in any moment. Indeed, it was remarkable that she had stayed on the surface so long.

The next morning, Worsley obtained an encouraging sight indicating that in spite of four days of northerly winds, they had not been blown back. The pack appeared to be under the influence of a favorable current from the south. Hussey, however, had detected a disturbing change in the behavior of the ice. It no longer showed much tendency to open up under the influence of winds from the north. Furthermore, these winds – which in the past had been comparatively warm after blowing across the open seas – were now almost as cold as the winds from the Pole. There could only be one conclusion: quantities of ice – not open water – extended for a great distance to the north…

Shackleton adopted Worsley’s suggestion that they call the floe on which they were established ‘Ocean Camp.’ He then issued the individual boat assignments. He himself would be in charge of the James Caird, with Frank Wild as his mate. Worsely would captain the Dudley Docker, with Greenstreet second-in-command, and ‘Buddha’ Hudson was put in charge of the Stancomb Wills, with Tom Crean as mate.

And so November was drawing to a close. They had been on the ice just a month. And for all the trials and discomforts, these weeks of primitive living had been particularly enriching. The men had been forced to develop a degree of self-reliance greater than they had ever imagined possible… In some ways they had come to know themselves better. In this lonely world of ice and emptiness, they had achieved at least a limited kind of contentment. They had been tested and found not wanting…

The fact that the entire party had been kept occupied contributed much to their feeling of well-being. But toward the close of November, they simply began to run out of things to do. The boats were completed and ready to go. A test launching had been held, and they had been found entirely satisfactory. The stores for the trip had been repacked and consolidated. Charts of the area had been studied, and probable winds and currents had been plotted. They had completed their part of the bargain. Now all that remained was for the ice to open.

But it didn’t open. One day wore on to the next, and the pack remained substantially the same. Nor was their drift particularly satisfactory. During this period the winds had been southerly but never very strong, so the pack continued to move north at the same sluggish pace, about 2 miles a day… Since abandoning the Endurance, they had covered 80 miles in a straight line almost due north. But their drift had described a slight arc, which was now curving definitely to the east, away from land. Not enough to cause real worry, but enough to stir concern… Shackleton was concerned. Of all their enemies – the cold, the ice, the sea – he feared none more than demoralization. On December 19, he wrote in his diary: ‘Am thinking of starting off for the west.’     The need for action was settled in his mind the next day, and he announced the plan that afternoon. He said that on the following morning, he would go with Wild, Hurley, and Crean’s teams to survey the country to the west…

The inspection party set out at 9am, and the four men were back at three o’clock, having gone a distance of some 6 miles. Shackleton called all hands together at five o’clock and informed them that ‘we could make progress to the west.’ He said they would leave about thirty-six hours later, very early on the morning of December 23, and they would travel mostly at night when the temperatures would be lower and the ice surface firmer…

They resumed the journey at 8pm. But toward eleven o’clock, after they had made nearly a mile and a half, their way was blocked by a number of large cracks and bits of broken ice. The party pitched their tents at midnight and turned in. Most of the men were soaked through – from the water in which they lay, and from their own sweat. And none of them had a change of clothes except for socks and mittens, so they were forced to crawl into their sleeping bags wearing their soggy garments.

Shackleton went out with a three-man party early the following morning but could find no safe route for the boats. A long, dismal day was spent waiting to see what the ice might do. Just after supper they saw the ice begin to close, but it was not until 3am the next morning that they were able to get on the trail again… Even at 3am, the coldest time of the day, the surface of the ice was treacherous. A crust had frozen over the rotting, saturated floes, and on top of this there was a layer of snow. The surface had a deceptively sturdy appearance, and at each step, it would seem capable of supporting a man. But just as he shifted his entire weight to that foot, he would burst through the crust with a jarring shock into the numbing water underneath. It was usually knee-deep, sometimes more.

Most of the men wore heavy Burberry-Durox boots – ankle high leather boots with gaberdine uppers reaching to the knee – designed for marching on hard ice. But as the party struggled over the slushy floes, those boots continually filled with water. In the soaked state, each weighed about 7 pounds. It was an exhausting exertion at every step to lift one foot and then another out of two foot holes of snowy slush… At eight o’clock, after five hours on the trail, Shackleton signaled for a halt. They had covered a miserable half mile…

The men stepped until eight that night, and they were on the trail an hour later. Though the condition of the ice seemed to get progressively worse, by five-twenty the next morning, after only a 1 hr stop for food at 1am, they had covered a gratifying 2.5 miles. But Shackleton was uneasy about the condition of the ice, and after camp had been pitched he went with Hurley’s team to see what lay ahead. The two men reached a fragment of the berg and climbed it. The view from the top justified Shackleton’s fears. He could see two miles ahead and the ice was truly impassable… The two men returned to camp about seven o’clock and Shackleton reluctantly announced that they could not go any further…

The retreat began at seven that night. They made their way back about a quarter mile to a fairly solid floe, ad pitched camp… What disturbed them most was that they were trapped where they were… Many of them, it seemed, finally grasped for the first time just how desperate things really were. More correctly, they became aware of their own inadequacy, of how utterly powerless they were. Until the march from Ocean Camp they had nurtured in the backs of their minds the attitude Shackleton strove so unceasingly to imbue them with, a basic faith in themselves – that they could, if need be, pit their strength and their determination against any obstacle – and somehow overcome it. But then came the march, a journey which was to carry them nearly 200 miles. Yet after only five days and 9 small miles in a straight line to the northwest, they has stopped completely, and even forced to retreat. A gale could easily have carried them that far in twenty-four hours. So now they sat in Mark Time Camp, disillusioned and humbly aware how truly pygmy they were to overcome the forces they faced, regardless of how much strength and determination they put forth. The realization was not so much humiliating as frightening…

Matters did not improve during the next several days. The weather continued to deteriorate, which seemed hardly possible. Daytime temperatures climbed as high at 37 degrees, with long periods of wet snow falling, mixed with rain.”

Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 9.07.42 PM~ Varanasi, India

The Poetry: Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

ULYSSES

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

It little profits that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a savage race,

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d

Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those

That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when

Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,

Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;

And drunk delight of battle with my peers,

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades

For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life

Were all too little, and of one to me

Little remains: but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things; and vile it were

For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

And this gray spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—

Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil

This labour, by slow prudence to make mild

A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees

Subdue them to the useful and the good.

Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere

Of common duties, decent not to fail

In offices of tenderness, and pay

Meet adoration to my household gods,

When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,

Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—

That ever with a frolic welcome took

The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed

Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

 

Screen Shot 2020-06-17 at 12.15.22 PM~ California Redwoods

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”

~ Robert Jordan

 

The Science: The American Psychological Association

Building Your Resilience

We all face trauma, adversity and other stresses. Here’s a roadmap for adapting to life-changing situations, and emerging even stronger than before.

Imagine you’re going to take a raft trip down a river. Along with slow water and shallows, your map shows that you will encounter unavoidable rapids and turns. How would you make sure you can safely cross the rough waters and handle any unexpected problems that come from the challenge?

Perhaps you would enlist the support of more experienced rafters as you plan your route or rely on the companionship of trusted friends along the way. Maybe you would pack an extra life jacket or consider using a stronger raft. With the right tools and supports in place, one thing is sure: You will not only make it through the challenges of your river adventure. You will also emerge a more confident and courageous rafter.

What is resilience?

Life may not come with a map, but everyone will experience twists and turns, from everyday challenges to traumatic events with more lasting impact, like the death of a loved one, a life-altering accident or a serious illness. Each change affects people differently, bringing a unique flood of thoughts, strong emotions and uncertainty. Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful situations — in part thanks to resilience.

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.

While these adverse events, much like rough river waters, are certainly painful and difficult, they don’t have to determine the outcome of your life. There are many aspects of your life you can control, modify and grow with. That’s the role of resilience. Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way.

What resilience isn’t

Being resilient doesn’t mean that a person won’t experience difficulty or distress. People who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives commonly experience emotional pain and stress. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

While certain factors might make some individuals more resilient than others, resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. On the contrary, resilience involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that anyone can learn and develop. The ability to learn resilience is one reason research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. One example is the response of many Americans to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives after tragedy.

Like building a muscle, increasing your resilience takes time and intentionality. Focusing on four core components — connection, wellness, healthy thinking and meaning — can empower you to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences. To increase your capacity for resilience to weather — and grow from — the difficulties, use these strategies.

Build your connections

Prioritize relationships. Connecting with empathetic and understanding people can remind you that you’re not alone in the midst of difficulties. Focus on finding trustworthy and compassionate individuals who validate your feelings, which will support the skill of resilience.

The pain of traumatic events can lead some people to isolate themselves, but it’s important to accept help and support from those who care about you. Whether you go on a weekly date night with your spouse or plan a lunch out with a friend, try to prioritize genuinely connecting with people who care about you.

Join a group. Along with one-on-one relationships, some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based communities, or other local organizations provides social support and can help you reclaim hope. Research groups in your area that could offer you support and a sense of purpose or joy when you need it.

Foster wellness

Take care of your body. Self-care may be a popular buzzword, but it’s also a legitimate practice for mental health and building resilience. That’s because stress is just as much physical as it is emotional. Promoting positive lifestyle factors like proper nutrition, ample sleep, hydration and regular exercise can strengthen your body to adapt to stress and reduce the toll of emotions like anxiety or depression.

Practice mindfulness. Mindful journaling, yoga, and other spiritual practices like prayer or meditation can also help people build connections and restore hope, which can prime them to deal with situations that require resilience. When you journal, meditate, or pray, ruminate on positive aspects of your life and recall the things you’re grateful for, even during personal trials.

Avoid negative outlets. It may be tempting to mask your pain with alcohol, drugs or other substances, but that’s like putting a bandage on a deep wound. Focus instead on giving your body resources to manage stress, rather than seeking to eliminate the feeling of stress altogether.

Find purpose

Help others. Whether you volunteer with a local homeless shelter or simply support a friend in their own time of need, you can garner a sense of purpose, foster self-worth, connect with other people and tangibly help others, all of which can empower you to grow in resilience.

Be proactive. It’s helpful to acknowledge and accept your emotions during hard times, but it’s also important to help you foster self-discovery by asking yourself, “What can I do about a problem in my life?” If the problems seem too big to tackle, break them down into manageable pieces.

For example, if you got laid off at work, you may not be able to convince your boss it was a mistake to let you go. But you can spend an hour each day developing your top strengths or working on your resume. Taking initiative will remind you that you can muster motivation and purpose even during stressful periods of your life, increasing the likelihood that you’ll rise up during painful times again.

Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals and do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward the things you want to accomplish. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?” For example, if you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one and you want to move forward, you could join a grief support group in your area.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often find that they have grown in some respect as a result of a struggle. For example, after a tragedy or hardship, people have reported better relationships and a greater sense of strength, even while feeling vulnerable. That can increase their sense of self-worth and heighten their appreciation for life.

Embrace healthy thoughts

Keep things in perspective. How you think can play a significant part in how you feel — and how resilient you are when faced with obstacles. Try to identify areas of irrational thinking, such as a tendency to catastrophize difficulties or assume the world is out to get you, and adopt a more balanced and realistic thinking pattern. For instance, if you feel overwhelmed by a challenge, remind yourself that what happened to you isn’t an indicator of how your future will go, and that you’re not helpless. You may not be able to change a highly stressful event, but you can change how you interpret and respond to it.

Accept change. Accept that change is a part of life. Certain goals or ideals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations in your life. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. It’s hard to be positive when life isn’t going your way. An optimistic outlook empowers you to expect that good things will happen to you. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. Along the way, note any subtle ways in which you start to feel better as you deal with difficult situations.

Learn from your past. By looking back at who or what was helpful in previous times of distress, you may discover how you can respond effectively to new difficult situations. Remind yourself of where you’ve been able to find strength and ask yourself what you’ve learned from those experiences.

Seeking help

Getting help when you need it is crucial in building your resilience. For many people, using their own resources and the kinds of strategies listed above may be enough for building their resilience. But at times, an individual might get stuck or have difficulty making progress on the road to resilience.

A licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist can assist people in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function as well as you would like or perform basic activities of daily living as a result of a traumatic or other stressful life experience. Keep in mind that different people tend to be comfortable with different styles of interaction. To get the most out of your therapeutic relationship, you should feel at ease with a mental health professional or in a support group.

The important thing is to remember you’re not alone on the journey. While you may not be able to control all of your circumstances, you can grow by focusing on the aspects of life’s challenges you can manage with the support of loved ones and trusted professionals.

 

Screen Shot 2020-06-18 at 7.04.18 PM~ Darjeeling, India

 
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
~ Paulo Coehlo
The Spiritual: Paulo Coehlo (From The Alechmist)
     “He decided to wait until the sun had sunk a bit lower in the sky before following the flock back through the fields. Three days from now he would be with the merchant’s daughter. He started to read the book he had brought… As he read on, an old man sat down at his side and tried to strike up a conversation… He said that he was tired and thirsty, and asked if he might have a sip of the boy’s wine. The boy offered his bottle, hoping that the old man would leave him alone.
     But the old man wanted to talk, and he asked the boy what book he was reading. The boy was tempted to be rude, and move to another bench, but his father had taught him to be respectful of the elderly. So he held out the book to the man – for two reasons: first, that he himself wasn’t sure how to pronounce the title; and second, that if the old man didn’t know how to read, he would probably feel ashamed and decide on his own account to change benches.
     ‘Hmm…’ said the old man, looking at all sides of the book, as if it were some strange object. ‘This is an important book, but it’s really irritating.’ The boy was shocked. The old man knew how to read, and had already read the book. And if the book was irritating, as the old man said, the boy still had time to change it for another.
     ‘It’s a book that says the same thing almost all the other books in the world say,’ continued the old man. ‘It describes people’s inability to choose their own Personal Legends. And it ends up saying that everyone believes the world’s greatest lie.’
     ‘What’s the world’s greatest lie?’ The boy asked, completely surprised.
     ‘It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives , we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.’
‘That’s never happened to me,’ the boy said. ‘They wanted me to become a priest, but I decided to become a shepherd.’
     ‘Much better,’ said the old man. ‘Because you really like to travel.’
     ‘He knew what I was thinking,’ the boy said to himself. The old man, meanwhile, was leafing through the book, without seeming to want to return it at all. The boy noticed that the man’s clothing was strange… ‘Where are you from? The boy asked.
     ‘From many places”…
     People say strange things, the boy thought. Sometimes it’s better to be with the sheep, who don’t say anything. And better still to be alone with one’s books. They tell their incredible stories at the time when you want to hear them. But when you’re talking to people, they say some things that are so strange that you don’t know how to continue the conversation…
     ‘My name is Mechizedek,’ said the old man. ‘How many sheep do you have?’
     ‘Enough’ said the boy…
     ‘Give me one tenth of your sheep and I’ll tell you how to find the hidden treasure.’
     The boy remembered his dream, and suddenly everything was clear to him… But before the boy could say anything, the old man leaned over, picked up a stick, ad began to write in the sand of the plaza. Something bright reflected from his chest with such intensity that the boy was momentarily blinded. With a movement that was too quick for someone his age, the man covered whatever it was with a cape. When his vision returned to normal, the boy was able to read what the old man had written in the sand.
     There, in the sand of the plaza that that small city, the boy read the names of his father and his mother and the name of the seminary he had attended. He read the name of the merchant’s daughter, which he hadn’t even known, and he read things he had never told anyone.
     ‘I’m the king of Salem,’ the old man had said.
     ‘Why would a king be talking with a shepherd?’ The boy asked, awed and embarrassed.
     ‘For several reasons. But let’s say that the most important is that you have succeeded in discovering your Personal Legend.’ The boy didn’t know what a person’s Personal Legend was.
     ‘It’s what you always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.’
     None of what the old man was saying made much sense to the boy. But he wanted to know what the ‘mysterious force was…
     ‘It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth… To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation… ‘And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it…’
     The old man leafed through the book, and fell to reading a page he came to. The boy waited, and then interrupted the old man just as he himself had been interrupted. ‘Why are you telling me all this?’
     ‘Because you are trying to realize your Personal Legend. And you are at the point where you’re about to give it all up”
***
     Sometime ago I listened to this beautiful podcast, which is Krista Tippett interviewing Paulo Coehlo. Within it, Coehlo explains that it took 15 years for The Alchemist to appear on the best seller list:
“So it took three years to sell the first, well, 10,000 copies. And then one day, I was in Portugal, and I saw Bill Clinton with the book. And I said, “My God, the President of the United States of America has my book in his hand.” And then, I said, “Now the book is going to happen.” No. Nothing happened. And then I saw Madonna in Vanity Fair saying, “Oh, you should read The Alchemist.” And I said, “Ah! Now it’s my moment in America.” Zero, nothing. And then, of course, the support of many people. But I could not understand why so many people were talking about The Alchemist, and nothing was happening, until the day, out of the blue, I saw the book for the first week in The New York Times bestselling list. But it took 15 years to arrive there.”
~ Paulo Coelho
So, the book that tells the story of resilience is a story of resilience itself 🙂
Screen Shot 2020-06-19 at 5.42.53 PM

~ Utah, Hwy 15N

“‘What’s the bravest thing you ever did?’

‘Get up this morning’, He said.”

~ Cormac McCarthy

Good evening, friends

I hope this email finds you well. First, I want to let you know that I’m going to stop doing our Friday zoom calls. I’ve really enjoyed all the ones we’ve had. Thank you to everyone who took part. My weeks have grown steadily busier, Fridays especially, which is why I’m choosing to end them. However, I would be happy to catch up with anyone who would like to at other times. Feel free to reach out.

I’m going to wrap up our week on resilience with another excerpt from The Endurance. At this point, the crew of The Endurance has been living on the ice for four months (one month longer than we have been social distancing!) They are waiting for a break in the floes so they can launch their boats into the open seas and sail toward land on Paulet Island…

We’ll conclude today with a clip from The Pursuit of Happyness, and a song from Peter Bradley Adams.

The Endurance

“And so they drifted into March. On the fifth, Greenstreet wrote: ‘Day passes day with very little or nothing to relieve the monotony. We take constitutionals round and round the floe but no one can go further as we are to all intents and purposes on an island. There is absolutely nothing fresh to read and nothing to talk about, all topics being absolutely exhausted… The pack looks very much like it did four or five months ago and with the low temperature we have been getting at night, i.e., zero and below, the open patches of water get covered with young ice which is neither fit to go over nor would allow the passage of the boats. My opinion is that that chances of getting to Paulet Island now are about 1 in 10…

Indeed, the chances of reaching Paulet Island did appear more remote each day. It now lay exactly 91 miles away. But it was off to the WNW, and their drift had steadied onto a course almost true north. Unless there was a radical change in the northerly movement of the pack, it seemed that they would simply pass Paulet Island by. And there was nothing they could do about it, except to wait helplessly…

Then, on March 9, they felt the swell – the undeniable, unmistakable rise and fall of the ocean. There was no wishful thinking this time. It was there for all to see, and feel, and hear. They first noticed it first thing in the morning as a strange, rhythmic creaking in the pack. The men gathered their tents and looked, and they could see it. The loose chunks of ice around the floe drew apart and closed again, 4 to 6 inches at a time. The large floes rose almost imperceptibly – not more than an inch – then ever so slowly, fell again.

The men stood in excited little groups, pointing out to one another what was perfectly obvious to everyone – a gentle, lazy movement across the entire surface of the pack. Some pessimist suggested that it could be a tidal seiche or rise, caused by a local atmospheric condition. But Worsley took his chronometer out to the edge of the floe and timed the interval between swells – eighteen seconds, much too short to be a tidal seiche. There was no doubt – it was the swell from the open sea.

But how far away was it? That was the question. ‘How far,’ James pondered, ‘can the swell make itself felt through the dense pack. Our experience suggests not far, but of course we never examined the ice with the minuteness approaching that which we employ now…’ Long speculative discussions were held all day as Worsley crouched by the edge of the floe and continued to time the infinitely slow rise and fall of the ice. By evening everyone was satisfied that the open sea lay, at most, 30 miles away. Shackleton alone seemed to sense in the swell a new and far more grave threat than almost any they had faced. He wrote that night: ‘Trust will not increase until leads form.’

He knew there could be no escape if the swells were to increase while the pack remained closed. The action of the sea would then crack and break the floes, ultimately grinding the ice to bits on which they could not camp, and through which they could not sail…

The men crawled out of their tents the next morning expecting to see that the swell had increased. Instead there wasn’t the slightest suggestion of movement in the pack, and the ice was as close as ever. A disappointment amounting to grief swept through most of the party. The real sign of the open sea, the tantalizing promise of escape for which they had waited so long, had been dangled in front of them briefly – then snatched away.”

The Cinematic: The Pursuit of Happyness ending clip

In the early 1980s in San Francisco, Chris Gardner had big dreams, but could barely earn enough to keep a roof over his young family. None of his moneymaking schemes work out and their only steady income is from his wife working double-shifts as a hotel maid. When she reaches her limit and tells Chris she is leaving, he insists their young son, Chris Jr., must stay with him.

Chris is convinced an unpaid internship at a prestigious stock brokerage firm will lead to a career; but, now as a single father, he finds it harder and harder to stay afloat. Evicted from their motel room home, father and son wind up on the street, sleeping in public restrooms at subway train stations when they cannot find a bed at homeless shelters. Through it all, Chris is determined to give his son something he himself never had as a child: a father’s love.

Eventually Chris does make his dream come true. The internship leads to a job and later to start up his own brokerage company with offices in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Today he is a multi-millionaire and a highly regarded motivational speaker.

This feels like a complicated story to share now, when racial equality is so appropriately front and center. I’m concerned that it perpetuates a harmful societal belief – that if a person only works hard, anyone can become an insurance broker in a wealthy firm. As most are aware, major discriminatory problems within numerous powerful systems cause this assertion to be untrue. However, this does not negate the fact that there are inspirational people and stories, and sharing them can help us all to be more resilient. This is surely one.

The Musical: My Arms Were Always Around You by Peter Bradley Adams

I also want to mention that today is known as “Juneteenth” in the US. Also known as Freedom Day. On this date in 1865 federal orders declared all slaves free. That was surely a victory, and a testament to the resilience of the African American people – resilience which unfortunately is still necessary.

Sincerely,

Shannon

 

Humility

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 5.15.38 PM

 

Good morning friends,

Each week the theme for our emails is chosen on gut-feeling. I have many partially drafted pieces on my desktop, and each Sunday I scan them to see what topic feels right. This week humility stands out. Originally, weeks ago, when humility came to me as a potential theme, I expected to include sources advocating for the development of basic humbleness within ourselves. I expected to advocate for the power of humility, and the resilience of those who embody it. Although I may still address humility in this way, today I’m going to approach the subject differently.

All of you are surely all aware of the uprising across the US on behalf of the rights of black people. Events of late, personal conversations of late, and recollections of personal conversations from my past, have highlighted for me all that I have not seen and can’t fully understand about what it’s like to be a black person living in North America. So, today I’m going to share the writing of an African American author who has attempted to help all of us understand.

Ralph Ellison completed his book, Invisible Man, in 1952. It was given to me by a knowledgable man when I expressed the desire to understand the issue of race in the US. The excerpt that I’m going to share with you today comes from the prologue to this book. Ellison’s writing is poetic and raw, and attempts to convey a feeling in my opinion, as opposed to (at times) and in addition to (at times) literal fact. I hope that I am reading it now with the humility appropriate to my blindness and my privilege. And, I am taking you with me.

Also in the vein of humility, I want to share with you my memory of an African American athlete at NAU who took the time to share with me what it is like for him to be African American in the US. He came week after week and with each conversation explained a little more. One afternoon I remember expressing to him my gratitude for his trust, and my on-going desire to “see” and understand. He replied, “I don’t need you to understand, I just need you to hear me.” My hope is that’s how we can all read this today – with the willingness to simply hear, and possibly feel a little bit, and the humility to realize that we will never fully understand.

The Writing: Ralph Ellison (From Invisible Man)

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe, nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasm. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me.

Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of a biochemical accident to my epidermis. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a particular disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality. I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either. It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves. Then too, you’re constantly being bumped against by those of poor vision. Or again, you often doubt if you really exist. You wonder whether you aren’t simply a phantom in other people’s minds. Say, a figure in a nightmare which the sleeper tries with all his strength to destroy. It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back.        And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, and you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it’s seldom successful.

One night I accidentally bumped into a man, and perhaps because of the near darkness he saw me and called me an insulting name. I sprang at him, seized his coat lapels and demanded that he apologize. He was a tall blond man, and as my face came close to his he looked insolently out of his blue eyes and cursed me, his breath hot in my face as he struggled. I pulled his chin down sharp upon the crown of my head, butting him as I had seen the West Indians do, and I felt his flesh tear and the blood gush out, and I yelled, “Apologize! Apologize!” But he continued to curse and struggle, and I butted him again and again… when it occurred to me that the man had not seen me, actually; that he, as far as he knew was in the midst of a walking nightmare!… I stared at him hard as the lights of a car stabbed through the darkness. He lay there, moaning on the asphalt; a man almost killed by a phantom…

Most of the time (although I do not choose as I once did to deny the violence of my days by ignoring it) I am not so overtly violent. I remember that I am invisible and walk softly so as not to awaken the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous  as sleepwalkers. I learned in time though that it is possible to carry on a fight against them without their realizing it. For instance, I have been carrying on a fight with Monopolated Light & Power for some time now. I use their service and pay them nothing at all, and they don’t know it. Oh, they suspect that power is being drained off, but they don’t know where. All they know is that according to the master meter back there in their power station a hell of a lot of free current is disappearing somewhere into the jungle of Harlem. The joke, of course, is that I don’t live in Harlem but in a border area. Several years ago (before I discovered the advantages of being invisible) I went through the routine process of buying service and paying their outrageous rates. But no more. I gave up all that, along with my apartment, and my old way of life: That way based upon the fallacious assumption that I, like other men, was visible. Now, aware of my invisibility, I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century, which I discovered when I was trying to escape in the night from Ras the Destroyer. But that’s getting too far ahead of the story, almost to the end, although the end is in the beginning and lies far ahead.

The point now is that I found a home – or a hole in the ground, as you will. Now don’t jump to the conclusion that because I call my home a ‘hole’ it is damp and cold like a grave; there are cold holes and warm holes. Mine is a warm hole. And remember, a bear retires to his hole for the winter and lives until spring; then he comes strolling out like the Easter chick breaking from its shell. I say all this to assure you that is is incorrect to assume that, because I’m invisible and live in a hole, I am dead. I am neither dead nor in a state of suspended animation. Call me Jack-the-Bear, for I am in a state of hibernation.

My hole is warm and full of light. Yes, full of light. I doubt if there  is a brighter spot in all New York than this hole of mine, and I do not exclude Broadway. Or the Empire State Building on a photographer’s dream night. But that is taking advantage of you. Those two spots are among the darkest of our whole civilization – pardon me, our whole culture (an important distinction, I’ve heard) – which might sound like a hoax, or a contradiction, but that (by contradiction, I mean) is how the world moves: Not like an arrow, but a boomerang. (Beware of those who speak of the spiral of history; they are preparing a boomerang. Keep a steel helmet handy.) I know; I have been boomeranged across my head so much that I now can see the darkness of lightness. And I love light. Perhaps you’ll think it strange that an invisible man should need light, desire light, love light. But maybe it is exactly because I am invisible. Light confirms my reality, gives birth to my form. A beautiful girl told me of a recurring nightmare in which she lay in the center of a large dark room and felt her face expand until it filled the whole room, becoming a formless mass while her eyes ran in bilious jelly up in the chimney. And so it is with me. Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well; and to be unaware of one’s form is to live a death. I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not come alive until I discovered my invisibility.

That is why I fight my battle with Monopolated Light & Power. The deeper reason, I mean: It allows me to feel my vital aliveness. I also fight them for taking so much of my money before I learned to protect myself. In my hole in the basement there are exactly 1, 369 lights. I’ve wired the entire ceiling, every inch of it. And not with fluorescent bulbs, but with the older, more-expensive-to-operate kind, the filament type. An act of sabotage, you know. I’ve already begun to wire the wall. A junk man I know, a man of vision, has supplied me with wire and sockets. Nothing, storm or flood, must get in the way of our need for light and ever more and brighter light. The truth is the light and the light is the truth. When I finish all four walls, then I’ll start on the floor. Just how that will go, I don’t know. Yet when you have lived invisible as long as I have you develop a certain ingenuity…

Now I have one radio-phonograph; I plan to have five. There is a certain acoustical deadness in my hole, and when I have music I want to feel its vibration, not only with my ear but with my whole body. I’d like to hear five recordings of Louis Armstrong playing and singing ‘What Did I Do to Be so Black and Blue’ – all at the same time. Sometimes now I listen to Louis while I have my favorite dessert of vanilla ice cream and sloe gin. I pour the red liquid over the white mound, watching it glisten and the vapor rising at Louis bends that military instrument into a beam of lyrical sound. Perhaps I like Louis Armstrong because he’s made poetry out of being invisible. And my own grasp of invisibility aids me to understand his music…

Please, a definition: A hibernation is a covert preparation for a more overt action… Meanwhile I enjoy my life with the compliments of Monopolated Light and Power. Since you never recognize me even when in closest contact with me, and since, no doubt, you’ll hardly believe that I exist, it won’t matter if you know that I tapped a power line leading into the building and ran it into my hole in the ground. Before that I lived in the darkness into which I was chased, but now I see. I’ve illuminated the blackness of my invisibility – and vice versa. And so I play the invisible music of my isolation. The last statement doesn’t seem just right, does it? But is is; you hear this music simply because music is heard and seldom seen, except by musicians. Could the compulsion to put invisibility down in black and white be thus an urge to make music of invisibility?

I can hear you say, ‘What a horrible, irresponsible bastard!’ And you’re right. I leap to agree with you… Irresponsibility is part of my invisibility; any way you face it, it is a denial. But to whom can I be responsible, and why should I be, when you refuse to see me?”

The Endurance

“Shackleton, who had been busily studying possible escape routes, announced on November 13 the he had formed a plan. Their drift thus far appeared to be carrying them directly toward Snow Hill Island, about 275 miles to the northwest. It lay off the coast of the Palmer Peninsula and was probably connected to the peninsula by ice. If the pack opened enough to let them launch the boats in time, they might land there. They would then be in a position to travel overland about 150 miles to the west coast of the Palmer Peninsula, eventually arriving at Wilhemina Bay, a frequent summertime stopping place for whalers, their rescue would seem assured.

Shackleton planned to have a small party of four men make the overland journey across the 5,000-foot glaciers of the Palmer Peninsula, while the rest of the party waited at Snow Hill for rescue.

There was no assurance that the plan could be put into effect; but even the remotest possibility had to be considered and exploited to the fullest. Hurley went to work filing down screws and fixing them as cleats into four pairs of boots for the men who might have to climb the glaciers. Shackleton himself pored over every available chart of the region, figuring out the best route.

That night, as if to underscore the precariousness of their situation, a noise like distant, muffled thunder rumbled through the pack. A new wave of pressure had begun, and 3,500 yards away they could see the ice once again attacking the ship. About 9pm they heard the sound of a splintering crack, and looking over they saw her foremast come crashing down, carrying the blue ensign with it…

Early on the morning of November 21, a salvage party went back to the ship. They noticed that the floes which had driven into the sides of the ship were moving slightly. They returned to camp and were unharnessing and feeding the dogs, when Shackleton came out to watch. He was standing close to Hurley’s sledge. It was 4:50pm. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the ship move. He turned quickly and saw her stack disappear behind a hummock.

‘She’s going boys!’ He shouted, and dashed up the lookout tower. A moment later all hands were out of the tents and scrambling to gain a vantage point. They watched in silence. Away from the pack, the stern of the Endurance rose 20 feet into the air and hung there for a moment with her motionless propeller and her smashed rudder held aloft. Then slowly, silently, she disappeared beneath the ice, leaving only a small gap of black, open water to mark where she had been. Within sixty seconds, even that was gone as the ice closed up again. It had all happened in ten minutes.

Shackleton that night noted simply in his diary that the Endurance was gone, and added: ‘I cannot write about it.’

And so they were alone. Now, in every direction, there was nothing to be seen but the endless ice. Their position was 68 degrees 38 1/2 ‘ South, 52 degrees 28’ West – a place where no man had ever been before, nor could they conceive that any man would ever want to be again.”

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 5.18.01 PM~ Rio Futalufu, Chile

THE COMPLAINT OF EL RIO GRANDE

By Richard Blanco

 

I was meant for all things to meet:

to make the clouds pause in the mirror

of my waters, to be home to fallen rain

that finds its way to me, to turn eons

of loveless rock into lovesick pebbles

and carry them as humble gifts back

to the sea which brings life back to me.

I felt the sun flare, praised each star

flocked about the moon long before

you did. I’ve breathed air you’ll never

breathe, listened to songbirds before

you could speak their names, before

you dug your oars into me, before you

created the Gods that created you.

Then countries – your invention – maps

jigsawing the world into colored shapes

caged in bold lines to say: you’re here,

not there, you’re this, not that, to say:

yellow isn’t red, red isn’t black, black is

not white, to say: mine, not ours, to say

war, and believe life’s worth is relative.

You named me big river, drew me – blue,

thick to divide, to say: spic and Yankee,

to say: wetback and gringo. You split me

in two – half of me us, the rest them. But

I wasn’t meant to drown children, hear

mothers’ cries, never meant to be your

geography: a line, a border, a murderer.

I was meant for all things to meet:

the mirrored clouds and sun’s tingle,

birdsongs and the quiet moon, the wind

and its dust, the rush of mountain rain –

and us. Blood that runs in you is water

flowing in me, both life, the truth we

know we know: be one in one another.

 

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~ Flagstaff sunset
 
The Science: Humility as a Likely Career Development Asset
     In general, research on humility suggests that it is likely an asset within career development in many respects because qualities associated with being hum- ble typically (theoretically and/or empirically) contribute to positive career development outcomes. Most research related to this question has investi- gated employee and leadership outcomes relevant to organizational success, typically from a management perspective. For example, humble employees receive higher supervisor ratings and perform better in caregiving positions ( Johnson, Rowatt, & Petrini, 2011). Humility is also negatively correlated with workplace delinquency and with counterproductive behaviors at work (Marcus, Lee, & Ashton, 2007) and appears to buffer against the negative consequences of organizational politics (Wiltshire, Bourdage, & Lee, 2014).
     Humility is frequently examined within research on leadership (Morris, Brotheridge, & Urbanski, 2005; Owens, Johnson, & Mitchell, 2013). It is espe- cially relevant to servant leadership (Greenleaf, 1997), which is defined in much the same way as relational humility but with an added dimension focused on motivating others. Evidence suggests that the humility component of serv- ant leadership positively predicts the work engagement of followers, especially for high-level leaders (Sousa & van Dierendonck, 2015). Collins (2001), in his empirical but highly selective review, reported that organizations led by hum- ble CEOs are consistently among the highest performing, for long periods of time and through challenging transitions. Other outcomes of leader humil- ity include enhanced organizational efficiency and collaboration (Frostenson, 2015); higher sense of empowerment and gratitude among employees (Kruse, Chancellor, Ruberton, & Lyubomirsky, 2014); greater interpersonal closeness and supportive relationships in the workplace (Morris et al., 2005); and social- ized power that encourages worker autonomy, self-sufficiency, and participa- tion in the organization (Morris et al., 2005). Humility nurtures an other-focus among leaders (Owens et al., 2013) that fosters delegation of tasks by matching employees to current demands on the basis of their strengths—an effective and endearing practice (e.g., Dahlsgaard, Peterson, & Seligman, 2005; Exline & Geyer, 2004; Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Humility also tempers the negative impact of leader narcissism (Owens, Walker, & Waldman, 2015) and contrib- utes to an atmosphere of stability and trust.
     Although the research summarized earlier sheds important light on employee outcomes and the impact of humility on performance within some types of work—leadership in particular—the lack of humility research undertaken spe- cifically within a career choice and development frame requires appealing to theoretical linkages. Such points of connection are easy to identify. First, the accurate self-perception that is characteristic of relational humility, particu- larly in terms of one’s skills, knowledge, strengths, and weaknesses, has many benefits in the career choice and work adjustment process. For example, the person–environment fit theories described earlier postulate that accurate self-assessment is a key prerequisite to informed career decision making. Sim- ilarly, developmental theories focus on the importance of actualizing an occu- pational self-concept, a process that unfolds much more smoothly for people who have an accurate picture of their self-concept. Indeed, career counseling interventions stemming from these paradigms typically incorporate individual assessment, a strategy designed expressly to foster an increased understanding of one’s unique personal attributes.
     Second, individuals high in relational humility also strive to maintain and enhance the accuracy of their self-perception through interactions with and feedback from others. They are typically transparent about their strengths and weaknesses, seek to learn from others, and take steps to modify actions based on feedback (Owens et al., 2013). These qualities are characteristic of self-awareness, a key career development meta-competency (Hall & Chandler, 2005) that is linked to the highly adaptive “protean career” orientation. Pro- tean careers are marked by values-driven decision making that links people to work that expresses their gifts and facilitates personal growth (Hall, 2004). This self-awareness that accompanies relational humility improves interper- sonal work relationships, job-related decision making, and job performance; increases trust and relational satisfaction among coworkers; and decreases the likelihood of complacency, arrogance, and other counterproductive workplace behaviors (Owens et al., 2013).
     Third, along with openness to feedback, those high in humility are typically open minded and eager to learn and use what they learn to cope effectively with challenges. Such behavior reflects adaptability, the other key meta-com- petency that fosters a protean career orientation. Also a key construct within Super’s life-span, life-space theory (Savickas, 1997) and career construction theory (Savickas, 2013), adaptability has been shown to positively predict problem-solving confidence, career exploration behavior, proactivity, and occupational self-efficacy and to negatively predict negative affect and career decision-making difficulties (e.g., Hirschi & Valero, 2015; Rottinghaus, Day, & Borgen, 2005), among other beneficial career development criteria. Adaptabil- ity fosters a desire and willingness to learn new skills, a highly valued asset in a rapidly changing economy with increasingly specialized job demands.
     Fourth, striving for achievement without ego, as is the case with those high in humility, may promote superior academic outcomes and enhanced inter- nalization of learned material (Chancellor & Lyubomirsky, 2013). The stress and fear of failure that typically interfere with intrinsic approaches to learn- ing are less evident among humble people. In this way, humility may offer an educational advantage, one that may manifest earlier in life. Evidence suggests that those high in humility approach learning with a mastery rather than a performance orientation, better understanding the material they encounter, achieving greater academic success, and ultimately entering the workforce with a deeper knowledge base and greater openness to on-the-job learning (Dinger et al., 2015). A mastery orientation also helps foster some of the factors that inform self-efficacy and outcome expectations within social cognitive career theory, most notably performance accomplishments, vicarious learning, and attention to self-generated outcomes (Lent, 2005).
     Finally, the other-oriented focus within humility is shared by the construct of calling. People who experience a calling typically feel drawn to pursue work that aligns with a broader sense of purpose in life and that is driven by other-oriented motives and goals (Dik & Duffy, 2009). The accumulating research on calling has largely focused on the construct’s correlates and consequences, revealing that workers with a calling experience greater job satisfaction (e.g., Bunder- son & Thompson, 2009; Duffy et al., 2012), are more committed to their careers and organizations (Duffy, Dik, & Steger, 2011), and miss significantly fewer days of work (Wrzesniewski, Mccauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997) than those who view their work in other ways. Those with a calling may also exhibit the aforemen- tioned meta-competencies (e.g., self-awareness and adaptability; Hall & Chan- dler, 2005). College students with a sense of calling are more firmly decided and comfortable in their career choices, view their careers as carrying more impor- tance, have stronger vocational self-clarity, improved work outcome expecta- tions, and increased career decision self-efficacy (Duffy & Sedlacek, 2007; Dik, Sargent, & Steger, 2008). Yet evidence also suggests that career development and well-being benefits are most pronounced for those who do not only perceive a calling, but also feel that they are currently living it out (e.g., Duffy et al., 2012).
     Research on calling has been slower to identify antecedents (Duffy & Dik, 2013). Humility may function as one, to the extent that those high in humility may be inclined to pursue career paths that align with their self- perceptions and other-focus. Of course, it also is plausible that living a call- ing promotes or reinforces humility. Perhaps most likely of all, genetic and/ or early environment factors may predispose some people toward prosocial attitudes that influence both humility and a sense of calling. (The genetic basis is not yet well understood for either construct, e.g., Dik & Duffy, 2012; Zettler & Hilbig, 2015.) Living out a calling may also be, for some, a spiritual expression of surrender and obedience to God or the transcendent, which is included in some definitions of humility (Emmons & Kneezel, 2005; Pow- ers, Nam, Rowatt, & Hill, 2007). Furthermore, humble people demonstrate a greater willingness to cooperate and contribute to the public good (Zet- tler, Hilbig, & Heydasch, 2013), characteristics typical of people living a call- ing. Humble people may also stay in careers to which they are called longer because of increased job performance levels (Johnson, Rowatt, & Petrini, 2011; Owens et al., 2013) and fewer counterproductive work behaviors, even under the stress of job insecurity (Chirumbolo, 2015). The conceptual link- ages between humility and calling are clear; research is needed to substanti- ate and extend them.
     To summarize, an accumulating body of research indirectly supports the very clear conceptual connections between humility and career development theory. Most of this points to humility as a construct highly facilitative of positive career development outcomes, although research clearly is needed that investigates these conceptual linkages more directly. Furthermore, there may be boundary conditions in which humility may actually serve as a detriment rather than an asset to one’s career development.
Humility as a Possible Career Development Liability 
     Despite the positive ways humility may influence career development, in some circumstances humility may be introducing problems as well. For example, Wiltshire et al. (2014) found that job candidates with high humility scores are less likely to engage in impression management behavior during an interview, which may negatively affect their likeability and potential for getting hired. Also, Western cultures, perhaps especially in the United States, are often under- stood to value, reward, and promote those who engage in self-promotion and who demonstrate bravado (Worthington, 2008), characteristics that seem to run counter to humility. In fact, Exline and Geyer (2004) found that humil- ity was rated unfavorably as a quality of leaders, albeit by a small undergradu- ate sample. If people view humility as a weakness, perhaps linking it with low self-esteem or submissiveness, then being viewed as humble could potentially detract from advancement opportunities and career growth.
     Finally, some may argue that humility could stall career growth if it pre- cludes one from taking credit for accomplishments or self-promoting suffi- ciently. However, relational humility calls for accurate self-assessment and promotion of others’ needs without denying one’s own needs and values. Thus, although high levels of relational humility may seem to run counter to such traits as narcissism and arrogance, relational humility does not contra- dict self-esteem, ambition, or leadership. In summary, the relative length of this section compared to the prior section testifies that humility appears more likely to serve as a help than a hindrance within most career development contexts.
Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 5.06.19 PM
~ Kachenjunga viewed from Darjeeling

I have a short story to share with you about the first spiritual source on humility in this email, Norgay’s Touching My Father’s Soul. Jamling Norgay is the son of Tenzig Norway, the Sherpa who was the first to summit Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Jamling made his first true attempt in 1996, and this book is his account of that journey. 1996 was also a year of unprecedented death and disaster on Everest. The stories of the events of that climbing season are chronicled in many books (Into Thin Air for example). A great deal could be learned about humility within many of these stories. However, Norgay goes further than most by sharing with us the Tibetan Buddhist practice of consulting high Lama’s in preparation for such a journey, as well as offerings to the spirit of the mountain herself.

But that’s not my story. In Dec 2017 I visited Darjeeling, India which is the home town of the Norgay family. I purchased my copy of Touching My Father’s Soul in Darjeeling, and read it avidly while I was there. While I was flying out of the city, I was reading the book on the plane. I had reached climax of the story, where numerous climbers were stranded on various parts of the mountain and struggling to survive. The descriptions were gripping, as you can imagine, and distracted me from the view outside my window.

I’m not sure what prompted me to turn and look, but when I did, there was Everest. Alongside the other peaks in this massive Himalayan range she rose above the clouds, at a level not much lower than our plane. The scene was stunning, and absolutely enhanced by the book I was reading. Breathless, I grabbed for my camera and shot frame after frame of that mountain of so many dreams. However, the camera just would not focus through the layers of glass on the airplane window. Perhaps there’s a lesson in humbleness in this as well.

Our second spiritual excerpt is from Philip Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew. Regardless of your beliefs regarding who Jesus was, the book is a fascinating look at Jesus’ conduct and the times in which he lived. The excerpt I have included highlights the rarity of a humble God within most belief systems. The book as a whole has enriched my thinking on subjects even broader than religion – humility especially.

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 5.05.37 PM~ My attempt at photograhing Everest from the plane

The Spiritual: Jamling Tenzig Norgay and Philip Yancey

Jamling Tenzing Norgay (From Touching My Father’s Soul)

“Rinpoche bunched his mala rosary into his cupped hands and blew on it sharply. He withdrew the string of beads slowly and inspected it, turning his head slightly and squinting, as if trying to peer inside each individual bead. He looked up at me.

‘Conditions do not look favourable. There is something malevolent about the mountain this coming season.’

I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach – a feeling that surprised me considering that I was nothing of a devout Buddhist.

Rinpoche sat on a wide, flat cushion, and he adjusted his robe and began to walk back and forth as if he, too, had been surprised by the divination. He clapped his hand loudly to call the attendant monk. His clap broke the silence the way a guru’s clap in a Buddhist teaching is meant to trigger awakening to the nature of emptiness, sparking a flash of recognition that all life is impermanent, containing no inherent existence. I experienced a narrow, momentary space of calmness, a millisecond of emptiness, then felt my stomach again.

A monk padded in quietly and served us tea, gently lifting the filigree, silver cover from Rinpoche’s jade teacup, which sat on a silver stand. The monk then offered me some fried breads from a woven bamboo tray. I declined, then accepted after the third offer. Such trays are always kept heaping full, and I had to concentrate to avoid knocking off the other pieces. My hand was shaking.

In early January 1996 I had travelled here to Siliguri, West Bengal, for an audience with Chatral Rimpoche, a respected but reclusive lama of the Nyingma, or ‘ancient lineage,’ of Tibetan Buddhism…I told Rinpoche that I was there to request a divination, then cautiously asked him about the coming season on the mountain.

I wondered how accurate such divinations really are, statistically speaking. The ability of some lamas to see into the future is remarkable, my parents always said, and their words can be frightening for some. Indeed, fear of prior knowledge of events is one reason why many Sherpas are careful about requesting divinations – and one reason why lamas often shroud their counsel in generalities and aphorisms. the truth, especially when presented in advance, can be too much for people to accept graciously…

Raised in a religious family, I was aware of the danger of asking questions of lamas. ‘When you request a divination, you must always be prepared to abide by the answer,’ my father Tenzig Norgay Sherpa, had cautioned me. Fine, as long as it was a positive answer or even neutral. But this divination was unequivocally bad.

I was already firmly – inextricably – committed to climbing Mount Everest. Should I tell my teammates on the Everest IMAX Filming Expedition about Rimpoche’s ominous forecast?

How could I? I was the Climbing Leader. Were I to drop out, and only three months before the start of the climb, it would cast a long shadow over the expedition and, I felt, over my father’s name and family legacy. My wife, Soyang, was the reason I was here. She is a young and educated Tibetan woman, yet traditional and reserved. She was against my plan to climb Everest unless a lama pronounced it safe…

Not only would I be defying my wife if I chose to climb, but in disregarding the lama’s words I’d be going against my family and religious heritage. I knew what my mother would have thought had she been alive. The last time she defied the cautious directive of a divination she died…

The following morning, Soyang and our daughter and I departed Darjeeling for Nepal. Riding in a succession of cars and rickshaws and a small commercial plane, we arrived in Kathmandu that evening.

It was comfortable visiting with Soyang’s parents, but I was anxious to see Geshe Rimpoche, the family lama. Soyang wanted to join me, no doubt to hear and interpret the words of the divination herself. We took a taxi to the Great Stupa of Boudananath. This ancient reliquary, on the northeast side of Kathmandu, is the spiritual nerve center of Nepal’s Tibetan and Sherpa community… We did a circumambulation of the stupa and then peeled off to a small monastery located just off the busy pilgrims’ circuit. Standing in the courtyard garden, walled in on three sides by two-story monks’ quarters, we prepared our offerings of fruit, money, and kata scarves. A monk greeted us and guided us to Geshe Rimpoche’s quarters. I was surprised that his room was little more than a simple monk’s cubicle on the bottom floor, uncharacteristic of lamas’ quarters, which were usually situated above the others or in a separate building.

The monk drew back the door curtain, and Soyang and I entered. Rimpoche was old, wrinkled, and thin, and his head was nearly bald, but his chin sprouted long, white hair. I felt a chill. What a simple person, I thought. I could see that he had his bed, his attendant, his texts, and nothing else. I envied him his simplicity, for in it he had clearly found peace, which seemed to radiate from him in glorious waves but rather in a childlike naturalness. I immediately felt burdened and confused by contrast, and ashamed for these feelings…

Rimpoche sat cross-legged on his daybed, and I found myself looking mostly at the simple stitching on his maroon and brocade robes, as if, were our eyes to meet, he would see too far into me. We talked about family and marriage and my deceased parents. Then I told him about the Everest expedition.

Rimpoche may have sensed by anticipation, or Soyang’s nervousness, and I broached my reason for being there by expressing concern about conditions for the coming season and the mountain. Then I asked him for the divination.

‘Why do you want to do this thing anyway?’ He asked loudly, with a tone of urgency above the level of our prior conversation. The question of why is difficult enough when asked by a stranger, but now my wife’s lama was grilling me. Rimpoche may have been aware of the deaths on the mountain – the more than 150 who have died attempting to climb it, or about one for every five who have reached the summit. Many Sherpas have been killed there, including my own cousin Lobsang Tsering. Because of our precious human rebirth, Buddhists consider it irresponsible to voluntarily place oneself in harm’s way unless the act is motivated by need or compassion. For the Sherpa’s who grew up in Everest’s shadow, carrying loads up the mountain is a job, a justifiable necessity. For most foreigners, it is a form of recreation.

Ethnically I am a Sherpa, but I would also be a full climbing member of the IMAX expedition. What, honestly, was my motivation to climb? For my teammates the expedition was something between a job and a personal challenge, and these forces were drawing me, too. But I was driven primarily by a need for understanding. I felt that only by following my father up the mountain, by standing where he stood, by climbing where he had climbed, could I truly learn about him. I wanted to know what it was that drove him and what it was he had learned. Only then would I be able to assemble all the missing parts of a father’s life that a young man envisions and longs for but never formally inherits.

‘I guess I have to,’ I said, groping. ‘There’s something about my father, and I feel a family connection to the mountain. I think it was written on my forehead at birth… And also, ‘ I added, reaching for something to further bolster my purpose, ‘I’ve been asked by a team of foreigners to help carry a big movie camera to the top.’

The last reason drew a brief puzzled look from Rinpoche. He was unsure of the motives of most people these days, the great mass of humanity distracted by the trappings and fabricated urgency of modern life. I then added what I really meant to say, which was that perhaps by involvement with the film the world would learn more about Sherpas, Sherpa beliefs, and Buddhism.

Rimpoche nodded. ‘This is good,’ he said. He knew my family history, and my quest seemed to satisfy him. Ultimately, the Buddhist teachings say, misfortune happens less often to those whose motives are pure.

The Rimpoche shifted further back in his seat and half-closed his eyes. Mouthing a mantra, he slowly pulled a small, well-worn leather pouch from the folds of his robe. The pouch was oiled with grease from his hands, which in turn were oiled by the butter from votive lamps and the butterfat rime on his wooden teacup. He withdrew three Tibetan dice from the pouch, and placed them between his cupped palms. He seemed to go into deep concentration. Vigorously, he blew on the dice inside his hands, then one by one he rolled them onto the prayer table. He picked up the dice and repeated he process twice more while looking at me, or rather through me, it seemed. He raised his head and was about to speak, then paused. I held my breath, hoping his pause was merely for effect.

‘There are obstacles… The mountain will see some difficulties this year.’ He looked at me quizzically, as if I, better than he, might be able to interpret what that meant. Momentarily stunned, I waited for him to say more. ‘The season looks bad… but not entirely unfavorable.’ I waited quietly for more. Anything more.

‘What can I do about the obstacles?’ I asked.

‘Offerings and rituals. And prayers. You should have some obstacle-removal rituals done, and make offerings at the stupa of Boudhanath, especially. To prepare yourself sufficiently will require some perseverance from you, I think. And patience.’

I sat for a moment, thinking hard, then leaned forward. He poured some blessed water from a bhumpa ceremonial urn into my outstretched palm as I cupped my other hand respectfully beneath it. I lifted my palm to my mouth, sipped half of it, then rubbed the remainder in my hair.

Rimpoche smiled politely as we stood to leave. His sympathetic look conveyed that he had found more in his rosary than he had told me about but decided it would be best not to say more. As we were leaving, he added an afterthought. ‘I can also see that many people will hear about you and the events of this coming season – as much as they heard about your father, Tenzig, after his climb.’

Palms together in front of us, Soyang and I backed our way out through the curtained doorway.”

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~ Everest viewed from Darjeeling

David Yancey (From The Jesus I Never Knew)

Before Jesus, almost no pagan author had used ‘humble’ as a compliment. Yet the events of Christmas point inescapably to what seems like an oxymoron: a humble God. The God who came to earth came not in a raging whirlwind nor in a devouring fire. Unimaginably, the Maker of all things shrank down, down, down, so small as to become an ovum, a single fertilized egg barely visible to the naked eye, an egg that would divide and redivide until a fetus took shape, enlarging cell by cell inside a nervous teenager. ‘Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,’ marveled the poet John Donne. He ‘made himself nothing… he humbled himself,’ said the apostle Paul more prosaically.

I remember sitting one Christmas season in a beautiful auditorium in London listening to Handel’s Messiah, with a full chorus singing about the day when ‘the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.’ I had spent the morning in museums viewing remnants of England’s glory – the crown jewels, a solid gold ruler’s mace, the Lord Mayor’s gilded carriage – and it occurred to me that just such images of wealth and power must have filled the minds of Isaiah’s contemporaries who first heard that promise. When the Jews read Isaiah’s contemporaries who first heard that promise. When the Jews read Isaiah’s words, no doubt they thought back with sharp nostalgia to the glory days of Solomon, when ‘the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones.’

The Messiah who showed up, however, wore a different kind of glory, the glory of humility. ‘God is great,’ the cry of the Moslems, is a truth which needed no supernatural being to teach men,’ writes Father Neville Figgis. ‘That God is little, that is the truth that Jesus taught man.’ The God who roared, who could order armies and empires about like pawns on a chessboard, this God emerged Palestine as a baby who could not speak or eat solid food or control his bladder, who depended on a teenager for shelter, food, and love.

In London, looking toward the auditorium’s royal box where the queen and her family sat, I caught glimpses of the more typical way rulers stride through. The world: with bodyguards and trumpet fanfare, and a flourish of bright clothes and flashing jewelry…

In meek contrast, God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn king but a feed trough. Indeed, the event that divided history, and even our calendars, into two parts may have had more animal than human witnesses. A mule could have stepped on him. ‘How silently, how silently, the wondrous is given.’

For just an instant the sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw that spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, ‘nobodies’ who failed to leave their names. Shepherds had such a randy reputation that they were often lumped together with the ‘godless,’ restricting them to the outer courtyards of the temple. Fittingly, it was they whom God selected to help celebrate the birth of one who would be known as the friend of sinners.

In Auden’s poem the wise men proclaim, ‘O here and now our endless journey stops.’ The shepherds say, ‘O here and now our endless journey starts.’ The search for the worldly wisdom has ended; true life has just begun.”

 

Screen Shot 2020-06-14 at 5.04.59 PM~ Darjeeling

The Cinematic:

Two years ago, while at home in BC for Christmas, my Mom and I attended a showing of the film, Indian Horse. This movie has stuck with me in part because of it’s incredibly beautiful cinematography, but mostly because of its moving and disturbing account of the mistreatment suffered by the First Nationals people in Canada. The story follows Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway boy, who is torn from his family and committed to a residential school. Although the character is fictional, the abuse inflicted upon him is an accurate reflection of the atrocities committed upon Canada’s Native people.

As a Canadian living in the US, I am paying attention to the current racial issues here. I am also trying to educate myself on the relevant history and current inequalities. I am also reflecting on my Canadian roots, and the racism that occurred and is occurring in my place of origin. Across the continent the problem is pervasive and daunting. I feel humbled by all that I have not seen, have not done to help, and still do not understand. This film, Indian Horse helps that understanding a little. I strongly recommend it. It is truly beautiful and impactful.

Trailer: Indian Horse

The Musical: Pink Confetti by Towrs (Local Flagstaff band)

I wish you a week of humbleness, and the peace that it brings.

Sincerely,

Shannon

Leadership

 

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~ Mike Smith and Becca DeLoache, Buffalo Park, Flagstaff, AZ, 2017

“Accept what is as it is and help it to be its best.”

           ~ Shunryu Suzuki

The Writing: David Chadwick (From Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teachings of Shunryu Suzuki)

     “The morning zazen began with a greeting. People would come into the zendo and sit on their zafus facing the wall – men on the right side and women on the left, beneath the arched windows. Suzuki would walk to the alter, offer incense, and bow down on his bowing cloth. Then he would walk around the room bent in a bow, holding his teacher’s staff. As he passed behind people they would put their hands together in gassho. If a person was new and didn’t know about it, he’d lean over and whisper ‘Greeting.’ It was the traditional morning greeting done in training temples in Japan.

     The morning schedule concluded with a standing bow to Suzuki as each person left the zendo following the service. It was a little ritual that gave a moment of private contact with every person who came, every day. He would stand inside the door to his office, and as people filed out they would stop and bow with him. It was never perfunctory. He gave his full attention to each bow, to each person. Some felt that Suzuki was looking straight through them. The bow at the door was a farewell, a greeting, a meeting. It was an intimate affair, new each day.

     ‘Suzuki-sensei always is encouraging us and thanking us,’ said Jean Ross. ‘When I stand across from him and bow, I am reminded he is totally on the level, without a speck of pretension.’…

     Philip Watson was an artist. He was also a tough guy and a teddy bear with a thick neck and massive thighs, who had been feared as a right tackle for the offense of the Stanford University football team…

     Early one Sunday morning while walking in Chinatown, Philip met an old drunk with a crazy eye. He took him to an AA meeting and then decided on a whim to go to a lecture at the Zen temple. Philip hadn’t been to Sokoji before, but he’d heard about it from students at the Art Institute. He and his newfound buddy missed the lecture for the zazen students, arriving in time for Suzuki’s talk to the congregation. Unfamiliar non-Japanese were usually asked to leave before this talk, but no one said a word to Philip the gladiator and the smelly bum.

     The tiny man on the platform looked to Philip like a Samurai. He was golden. He started talking in Japanese and smiling. As Philip stared at him, he entered a time-free zone. Afterward, he turned to his companion and said, ‘I don’t know why but I sure like this guy. I’m not going to say anything to him though. He’s too important to talk to.’ Suddenly Suzuki was in front of them saying hello. The old guy said, ‘Oh, I think your lecture was wonderful. I liked everything about it.’

     The next day Philip phoned Sokoji. Suzuki answered, and Philip’s words got all tangled up. Finally Suzuki said, ‘Please come.’ Philip went over prepared to ask a lot of questions, but as soon as he saw Suzuki he was tongue-tied again. Suzuki said, ‘Zazen?’ ‘Yes’ Philip managed to say. ‘Oh, please come,’ replied Suzuki.

     For the next two months Philip sat at the temple, but Suzuki didn’t talk to him, give him any instruction, hit him with the stick, or adjust his posture. At the door after the morning service, bowing to each student who walked out, Suzuki would only look to the side when Philip stood before him.

     One morning Betty said to Philip, ‘Ah, you’re still here.’ It was common for people to try zazen for a while and then quit. But each person who stayed added something, figured out something about how to be there, what the possibilities were for working with Suzuki or working on themselves within Suzuki’s sphere. Philip wasn’t sure if he’d ever be capable of doing zazen correctly. Still, he was drawn there, and the idea of not going back didn’t occur to him.

     Philip went to his first Wednesday evening lecture thinking that finally he’d find out what it was about. But it was so complicated. Or was it so simple? He couldn’t get a grip on it. Suzuki’s accent was hard to understand, and there was all the new terminology to deal with. His metaphors were puzzling. Philip would get the gist of a story but then had no idea what it applied to. Suzuki was smiling all the time, very confident. ‘Do you understand?’ He would ask. And Philip was unable to say no, he was so amazed by the beauty and confusion and perfection of the story.

     Philip went back again and again, trying to understand. He was sure he couldn’t fool this man. Like an opposing left guard on the field, Suzuki demanded absolute honesty. Suzuki wasn’t treating him like somebody who had failed a test – more like somebody who wasn’t in the room. What did this behavior mean? Go away? No, the door was open to anyone. Maybe this was initiation.

     He couldn’t figure out this beautiful wordless samurai, so he gave up. But he didn’t leave. He began to watch, rather than analyze, everything Suzuki did. He thought, maybe I can understand hi stories by the way he picks up his stick. He watched how Suzuki walked, with no part rushing ahead of the others or lagging behind, how he sat down with his whole body, how he picked up a tea cup with both hands and held it like a baby bird. He watched and imitated. Then one day Philip bowed at the office door after zazen and Suzuki didn’t turn away, but looked squarely at him. Philip had found a way to work with his new teacher.”

“If something is learned just by your thinking mind, it tends to be very superficial. When a mother bird teaches a baby bird how to fly, the mother tries like a baby. She can fly very well, but she imitates the baby. The mother bird becomes like a baby bird and does something that is possible for a baby bird to do, so the baby bird will study how to fly. That is also practice.”

~ Shunryu Suzuki

Ram Dass and Paul Gorman

     This excerpt is from a reading I was given on addictions while studying at the San Diego University of Integrative Studies. The quote refers to a monk who is known for curing people from their addictions in ten days. He has a seventy percent success rate.  The author of this article has traveled to spend time with the man in order to understand the reasons behind his success.

     “As I hung out with him longer I began to realize that his mind was so centered and one-pointed that his being was stronger than their addiction. Somehow he conveyed to those addicts a sense of their non-addiction that was stronger than their addiction. And I saw that his commitment was so total, that he wasn’t just using some skill. He had died into his work. He was the cure.

     This was the example that I had been looking for. Just being with him I could feel the extraordinary quality of his mind. Meeting him reassured me that the ancient stories were probably true. I returned to meditation with renewed vigor. 

     Many of us are not really ready to become renunciates in order to develop the concentration and quality of awareness necessary to help others at such an extraordinary level. But if we are prepared to investigate our minds even a little bit, we start a process that can improve our effectiveness in life, and therefore in helping as well. If we are willing to examine the agitation of our own minds and look just beyond it, we quite readily find entry into rooms that hold surprising possibilities: a greater inner calm, sharper concentration, deeper intuitive understanding, and an enhanced ability to hear one another’s heart. Such an inquiry turns out to be critical work for helping others.”

The Endurance

     “They had been on the ice exactly one week. In seven short days they had gone from the well-ordered, even pleasant existence on board the Endurance to one of primitive discomfort, of unending wet and inescapable cold. A little more than a week before they had slept in their warm bunks and eaten their meals in the cozy atmosphere around the mess table. Now they were crammed together in overcrowded tents, lying in reindeer or woolen sleeping bags on bare ice, or at best on odd pieces of hard lumber. At mealtimes, they sat in the snow, and each man ate out of an aluminum mug they called a pannican, into which everything was dumped at the same time. For utensils, each had a spoon, a knife – and his fingers.

     They were castaways in one of the most savage regions of the world, drifting they knew not where, without a hope of rescue, subsisting only so long as Providence sent them food to eat. And yet they had adjusted with surprisingly little trouble to their new life, and most of them were quite sincerely happy. The adaptability of the human creature is such that they actually had to remind themselves on occasion of their desperate circumstances. On November 4, Macklin wrote in his diary: ‘It has been a lovely day, and it is hard to think we are in a frightfully precarious situation.’

     It was an observation typical of the entire party. There was not a hero among them, at least not in the fictional sense. Still not a single diary reflected anything beyond the matter-of-fact routine of each day’s business.

There was only one major change in their general outlook – their attitude toward food. Worsley had this to say: ‘It is scandalous – all we seem to live for and think of now is food. I have never in my life taken half such a keen interest in food as I do now – and we are all alike… We are ready to eat anything, especially cooked blubber which none of us could tackle before. Probably living totally in the open and having to rely on food instead of fire for body heat makes us think so much of food.’

     They were up at six the following morning, November 5, and nearly everyone returned to the ship. Several men attempted some personal salvage operations… Salvage work had to be suspended on the afternoon of November 6, when a southerly blizzard came up and drove the men into their tents. It was their first blizzard on the ice. The tents shook and rattled with the force of the gale, when the men huddled inside, cold and cramped. The only cheering thought was that the gale was driving them north – toward civilization, so infinitely far away.

     Shackleton took the opportunity to meet with Wild, Worsley, and Hurley to evaluate their food situation. They now had some 41/2 tons of stores, not counting the concentrated sledging ration which was to have been used by the six-man transcontinental party, and which Shackleton intended to save for emergencies. They reckoned their food supplies would last three months at full rations. And since they were sure to get increasing numbers of seals and penguins, they decided it was safe to go on full rations for the next two months.

     This would carry them into January, the midpoint of the Antarctic summer. By that time, Shackleton was sure, they would know what fate lay before them. Then the ultimate decision would have to be made while there was still time to act before the onslaught of winter.

     Everything depended on the drift of the pack. The ice might continue to go generally northwest, carrying them toward the Palmer Peninsula, possibly as far as the South Orkney Islands, some 500-odd miles to the north. Or the drift might be arrested for some reason, and they would remain more or less in the same spot. Finally, the pack might veer northeast or even east, carrying them away from land.

     Whatever happened, January would mark the point of no return. If the drift was toward land, they should have enough open water by then to launch the boats and make for the most promising spot. It seemed reasonable, in theory at least. If the pack were to stop moving, that fact would be apparent by January. Then, rather than spend the winter camped on the ice, the party would abandon their boats except for a small punt the carpenter had built, and make a dash for the nearest land, using the punt to ferry across any open water they ran into. It would be a risky business, but better than wintering on the ice.

     The third prospect was grim indeed. If the pack drifted north – east or east and if they were unable to launch the boats – they would have to spend the winter adrift on the floes, somehow surviving the polar night with its paralyzing cold and violent storms. If this were to happen, they would know by January. And there would still be time to lay in meat to see them through. But nobody even cared to think much about such a possibility.”

***

  “What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is a caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape.”

~ Leonard Cohen

 

Screen Shot 2020-06-01 at 7.12.34 PM~ Hindu brahmin in Varanasi, India

The Poetry: Richard Blanco

DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDANCE

By Richard Blanco

Such has been the patient sufferance…

We’re a mother’s bread, instant potatoes, milk at a checkout line. We’re her three children pleading for bubble gum and their father. We’re the three minutes she steals to page through a tabloid, needing to believe even stars’ lives are as joyful and as bruised.

Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury…

We’re her second job serving an executive absorbed in his Wall Street Journal at a sidewalk café shadowed by skyscrapers. We’re the shadows of the fortune he won and the family he lost. We’re his loss and the lost. We’re a father in a coal town who can’t mine a life anymore because too much and too little has happened, for too long.

A history of repeated injuries and usurpations…

We’re the grit of his main street’s blacked-out windows and graffitied truths. We’re a street in another town lined with royal palms, at home with a Peace Corps couple who collect African art. We’re their dinner-party talk of wines, wielded picket signs, and burned draft cards. We’re what they know: it’s time to do more than read the New York Times, buy fair-trade coffee and organic corn.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress…

We’re the farmer who grew the corn, who plows into his couch as worn as his back by the end of the day. We’re his TV set blaring news having everything and nothing to do with the field dust in his eyes or his son nested in the ache of his arms. We’re his son. We’re a black teenager who drove too fast or too slow, talked too much or too little, moved too quickly, but not quick enough. We’re the blast of the bullet leaving the gun. We’re the guilt and the grief of the cop who wished he hadn’t shot.

We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor…

We’re the dead, we’re the living amid the flicker of vigil candlelight. We’re in a dim cell with an inmate reading Dostoevsky. We’re his crime, his sentence, his amends, we’re the mending of ourselves and others. We’re a Buddhist serving soup at a shelter alongside a stockbroker. We’re each other’s shelter and hope: a widow’s fifty cents in a collection plate and a golfer’s ten-thousand-dollar pledge for the cure.

We hold these truths to be self-evident…

We’re the cure for hatred caused by despair. We’re the good morning of a bus driver who remembers our name, the tattooed man who gives up his seat on the subway. We’re every door held open with a smile when we look into each other’s eyes the way we behold the moon. We’re the moon. We’re the promise of one people, one breath declaring to one another: I see you. I need you. I am you.

 

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“It has been shown for instance, that when there are two harps tuned to the same frequency in a room, one a large harp and the other smaller, if a chord is struck in the bigger harp it fills and infuses the little harp with the grandeur and beauty of its resonance and brings it into tuneful harmony. Then the little harp sounds out its own tune in its own voice.”

~ John O’Donahue

 

The Science: Teachers’ Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform

by Alix Spiegel (NPR)

“In my Morning Edition story today, I look at expectations — specifically, how teacher expectations can affect the performance of the children they teach.

The first psychologist to systematically study this was a Harvard professor named Robert Rosenthal, who in 1964 did a wonderful experiment at an elementary school south of San Francisco.

The idea was to figure out what would happen if teachers were told that certain kids in their class were destined to succeed, so Rosenthal took a normal IQ test and dressed it up as a different test.

“It was a standardized IQ test, Flanagan’s Test of General Ability,” he says. “But the cover we put on it, we had printed on every test booklet, said ‘Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition.’ “

Rosenthal told the teachers that this very special test from Harvard had the very special ability to predict which kids were about to be very special — that is, which kids were about to experience a dramatic growth in their IQ.

After the kids took the test, he then chose from every class several children totally at random. There was nothing at all to distinguish these kids from the other kids, but he told their teachers that the test predicted the kids were on the verge of an intense intellectual bloom.

As he followed the children over the next two years, Rosenthal discovered that the teachers’ expectations of these kids really did affect the students. “If teachers had been led to expect greater gains in IQ, then increasingly, those kids gained more IQ,” he says.

But just how do expectations influence IQ? As Rosenthal did more research, he found that expectations affect teachers’ moment-to-moment interactions with the children they teach in a thousand almost invisible ways. Teachers give the students that they expect to succeed more time to answer questions, more specific feedback, and more approval: They consistently touch, nod and smile at those kids more.

7 Ways Teachers Can Change Their Expectations

Researcher Robert Pianta offered these suggestions for teachers who want to change their behavior toward problem students:

  • Watch how each student interacts. How do they prefer to engage? What do they seem to like to do? Observe so you can understand all they are capable of.
  • Listen. Try to understand what motivates them, what their goals are and how they view you, their classmates and the activities you assign them.
  • Engage. Talk with students about their individual interests. Don’t offer advice or opinions – just listen.
  • Experiment: Change how you react to challenging behaviors. Rather than responding quickly in the moment, take a breath. Realize that their behavior might just be a way of reaching out to you.
  • Meet: Each week, spend time with students outside of your role as “teacher.” Let the students choose a game or other nonacademic activity they’d like to do with you. Your job is to NOT teach but watch, listen and narrate what you see, focusing on students’ interests and what they do well. This type of activity is really important for students with whom you often feel in conflict or who you avoid.
  • Reach out: Know what your students like to do outside of school. Make it a project for them to tell you about it using some medium in which they feel comfortable: music, video, writing, etc. Find both individual and group time for them to share this with you. Watch and listen to how skilled, motivated and interested they can be. Now think about school through their eyes.
  • Reflect: Think back on your own best and worst teachers, bosses or supervisors. List five words for each that describe how you felt in your interactions with them. How did the best and the worst make you feel? What specifically did they do or say that made you feel that way? Now think about how your students would describe you. Jot down how they might describe you and why. How do your expectations or beliefs shape how they look at you? Are there parallels in your beliefs and their responses to you?

“It’s not magic, it’s not mental telepathy,” Rosenthal says. “It’s very likely these thousands of different ways of treating people in small ways every day.”

So since expectations can change the performance of kids, how do we get teachers to have the right expectations? Is it possible to change bad expectations? That was the question that brought me to the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, where I met Robert Pianta.

Pianta, dean of the Curry School, has studied teachers for years, and one of the first things he told me when we sat down together was that it is truly hard for teachers to control their expectations.

“It’s really tough for anybody to police their own beliefs,” he said. “But think about being in a classroom with 25 kids. The demands on their thinking are so great.”

Still, people have tried. The traditional way, Pianta says, has been to sit teachers down and try to change their expectations through talking to them.

“For the most part, we’ve tried to convince them that the beliefs they have are wrong,” he says. “And we’ve done most of that convincing using information.”

But Pianta has a different idea of how to go about changing teachers’ expectations. He says it’s not effective to try to change their thoughts; the key is to train teachers in an entirely new set of behaviors. For years, Pianta and his colleagues at the Curry School have been collecting videotapes of teachers teaching. By analyzing these videos in minute ways, they’ve developed a good idea of which teaching behaviors are most effective. They can also see, Pianta tells me, how teacher expectations affect both their behaviors and classroom dynamics. Pianta gives one very specific example: the belief that boys are disruptive and need to be managed.

“Say I’m a teacher and I ask a question in class, and a boy jumps up, sort of vociferously … ‘I know the answer! I know the answer! I know the answer!’ ” Pianta says. “If I believe boys are disruptive and my job is control the classroom, then I’m going to respond with, ‘Johnny! You’re out of line here! We need you to sit down right now.’ “

This, Pianta says, will likely make the boy frustrated and emotionally disengaged. He will then be likely to escalate his behavior, which will simply confirm the teacher’s beliefs about him, and the teacher and kid are stuck in an unproductive loop. But if the teacher doesn’t carry those beliefs into the classroom, then the teacher is unlikely to see that behavior as threatening. Instead it’s: ” ‘Johnny, tell me more about what you think is going on … But also, I want you to sit down quietly now as you tell that to me,’ ” Pianta says.

“Those two responses,” he says, “are dictated almost entirely by two different interpretations of the same behavior that are driven by two different sets of beliefs.” To see if teachers’ beliefs would be changed by giving them a new set of teaching behaviors, Pianta and his colleagues recently did a study.

They took a group of teachers, assessed their beliefs about children, then gave a portion of them a standard pedagogy course, which included information about appropriate beliefs and expectations. Another portion got intense behavioral training, which taught them a whole new set of skills based on those appropriate beliefs and expectations. For this training, the teachers videotaped their classes over a period of months and worked with personal coaches who watched those videos, then gave them recommendations about different behaviors to try. After that intensive training, Pianta and his colleagues analyzed the beliefs of the teachers again. What he found was that the beliefs of the trained teachers had shifted way more than the beliefs of teachers given a standard informational course.

This is why Pianta thinks that to change beliefs, the best thing to do is change behaviors.

“It’s far more powerful to work from the outside in than the inside out if you want to change expectations,” he says. In other words, if you want to change a mind, simply talking to it might not be enough.”

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~ Canadian Rocky Mountains, near Banff, Alberta

“In the beginning was everything. And then that thought exploded.”

~ Tzvi Freeman

The Spiritual: Tzvi Freeman (From “Wisdom To Heal The Earth”)

“In the beginning there shone an infinite light. But within an infinite light there can be no finite world. So the light receded, remaining infinite, but creating a vacuum. Absolute darkness.

And then, from the infinite light beyond and into the darkness within burst a fine, measured beam of light. A ray of conscious thought. An idea. A ray that held everything – all of space and time, all wisdom and all understanding of this wisdom all greatness and might, beauty and glory, wonder and creativity – every voice that would ever be heard, every daydream that would fleet through a distracted mind, every furious wave of a stormy sea, every galaxy that would erupt into being, every charge of every electron, the frantic ant running across the pavement beneath your feet, the basket some kid scored in a park somewhere just now – everything that ever would be and could be – all cocooned within a single, deliberate and conscious thought.

An intense thought. So intense, that each concept it held left no room for anything other than itself. Which is why that thought is called the World of Tohu – meaning: a world of confusion. A world comparable to the emotions of a child – where there is love there is no room for distain; where there is anger, there is no room for understanding; where there is self there is no room for other…In the language of Kabbalah: Wisdom left no space for understanding, and Understanding had no room for Wisdom. Kindness left no space for Judgment, and Judgement had no room for Kindness. Each concept was a world of its own, a totality that neither needed nor could bear anything outside of itself. All were ideals. Nowhere was there harmony.

And so that thought exploded.

The explosion gave birth to many worlds… Each world repaired itself, creating its own harmony. Until it came to our world. In our world, the most vital fragments of Tohu are found, those that the higher worlds were not capable of harmonizing. That was left up to us. Our souls were placed within bodies in this world to perform the ultimate repair.

You’ve heard of a primal explosion before – the Big Bang. But here we are talking about more than matter and energy. The universe contains conscious beings, such as ourselves. From where does that consciousness emerge, if not from the very fabric of the universe itself? So think of a primal, singular, deliberate and conscious thought, too intense to contain itself. What happens when such an idea, rather than gradually developing and expanding, chaotically explodes?

Imagine taking a book and casting the words and letters into the air. Imagine an orchestra where none of the musicians cancer one another, and the conductor is nowhere to be found.

Imagine a movie set without a director, each actor speaking lines without a clue of their meaning. That is our world. A book in search of its meaning, an orchestra in search of its score, actors in search of their playwright and director.

The fragments of that scattered origin are called sparks. They are the divine meaning of each thing – their place and particular voice in the great symphony. Each spark is trapped within a shell. They are the noise and dissonance that shrouds those sparks when they are thrown violently from their place. Our job is to see past the shell and discover the spark within. And then to reconnect that spark to its place in that grand original vision.

We call that purification. And the result is called geulah – liberation. The liberation of humankind is intimately tied to the liberation of those sparks of meaning. Your personal liberation is tied to the particular sparks assigned to your soul. Once a critical mass of sparks has been reconnected, the entire world is liberated. It becomes a different world. An improved world. Because only through the shattering and reconnecting do the parts find their harmony.”

Tara Brach (From True Refuge)

“Soon after his enlightenment, the Buddha set out to share his teachings with others. People were struck by his extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. One man asked him who he was. ‘Are you a celestial being or a god?’ ‘No,’ responded the Buddha. ‘Are you a saint or a sage?’ Again the Buddha responded, ‘No.’ Are you some kind of magician or wizard?’ ‘No.,’ said the Buddha. ‘Well then, what are you’? The Buddha replied, ‘I am awake.’

I often share this story because it is a reminder that what might seem like an extraordinary occurrence – spiritual awakening – is a built in human capacity. Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha’s birth name) was a human being, not a deity. When Buddhists take refuge in the historical Buddha, whose name literally means ‘one who is awake,’ they are drawing on the inspiration of a fellow human who was able to realize his inner freedom. Like us, Siddhartha experienced bodily pain and disease, and, like us, he encountered inner distress and conflict. For those who follow the Buddha, reflecting on his courageous investigation of reality and his awakening to a timeless and compassionate presence brings confidence that this same potential lies within each of us. In a similar way we might reflect on Jesus or on teachers and healers from other traditions. Any spiritually awakened human helps us trust that we too can awaken.

You may have already touched upon this outer refuge with a caring and wise teacher or mentor. My eighty-six year old aunt, a specialist in childhood blood diseases, traces her love of nature and her determination to be a doctor to a science class in junior high school… An African American friend who leads corporate diversity trainings found refuge and inspiration in his minister, a leader in the civil rights movement and an exemplar of generosity, humor, and wisdom. I found refuge in my first meditation teacher, Stephen: his great love for meditating, and his own unfolding clarity clarity and kindness, helped awaken my devotion to the spiritual path. We respond to our mentors because they speak to qualities of heart and mind, qualities of awareness, that are already in us. Their gift is that they remind us of what is possible and call it forth. Much in the same way, we are drawn to spiritual figures that help connect us with our inner goodness.”

All beings have Buddha nature and all life is precious. We are nurturing Buddha’s children and we should do so with Buddha’s compassionate mind. We shouldn’t see some as sharp and others as dull. By treating all children without discrimination, we enable then to see all human beings as equal. We should perceive things with our fundamental eye, not only with the consciousness that makes the distinctions of daily life. That is the eye of wisdom – to appreciate things and people ‘as they are’ and live our lives fully in the universe that is ‘as it is.’

~ Shunryu Suzuki

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“Hallelujah, the truth is marching.”

~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Good afternoon friends,

**One other note – For the past three years I have developed a weekly meditation curriculum for athletes (runners in particular) within my work with NAU XC and Track and Field. Since mid-March I have developed this curriculum a great deal further through my on-going work with NAZ Elite. I am considering offering these meditations weekly via zoom for anyone who would be interested in attending. The cost would be by donation ($5/ session suggested but not required). This curriculum will be running focused, although applicable to many areas of life. I will adjust the content based on what is happening in the running world (i.e. whether or not there are races/ a collegiate cross-country season). Each session will be approximately 20 mins in length, and I will stay on zoom for a full hour for questions from anyone. Right now I’m just trying to get a sense of how much interest there is in this offering. If you’re interested let me know. Also, feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested. I could see beginning next week.

And finally, our movie and music for the week:

The Cinematic: A beautiful tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. by those who knew him.

The Musical: “One” – U2 with Mary J Blige

May we listen and learn.

Sincerely,

Shannon

 

 

Perseverance

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~ The Endurance trapped in the Antarctic ice

“You can get used to anything – haven’t I already said that?

Isn’t that what all survivors say?” 

― Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Good morning friends,

I believe we are somewhere around week ten with respect to how long we have been living a significantly altered life. Although we are all affected by the same virus, the ways we are affected differ dramatically. The notion of perseverance, however, is surely applicable to the majority of us. After all, everyone is persevering in the direction of an unknown future. Perseverance will be the theme of this week.

Also, considering that with every week to come more perseverance will be needed, I’m going to make perseverance a sub-theme of every week. On Monday’s and Friday’s I will include an excerpt from the book Endurance, written by Alfred Lansing. Endurance is the tale of Shackleton’s ill-fated attempt to cross the Antarctic continent in 1915, and is often referred to as the greatest survival story of all time. This book was first recommended to me by a brilliant young person two years ago. He planted a seed in my heart to read it, and I find it interesting that it dropped in my lap, and I felt compelled to read it, now. As I have been reading I have found that following Shackleton’s story while living a story of endurance of our own, has been powerfully comforting. I hope you find the same over the weeks to come.

We join the crew of the ship, Endurance, on October 27, 2015 after they have already been trapped in the ice for 9 months. Upon initially becoming trapped, the decision had been made to wait until the spring thaw, when hopefully the ice would melt and the ship would be freed. However, no one counted on the immense pressure that the ship would experience as massive ice floes compressed one another in the wake of the antarctic storms and gales. Eventually, the ship was unable to withstand this pressure. Huge cracks developed in the hull of the Endurance, allowing water to flood in at a rate too rapid for the crew to manage. Eventually, the order was given to abandon ship. This is where we join the story:

The Writing: Alfred Lansing (From Endurance)

“The order to abandon ship was given at 5pm. For most of the men, however, no order was needed because by then everybody knew that the ship was done and that it was time to try to give up trying to save her. There was no show of fear or even apprehension. They had fought unceasingly for three days and they had lost… She was still being crushed. Not all at once, but slowly, a little at a time. The pressure of ten million tons of ice was driving in against her sides…

They worked with a deliberate urgency, hardly speaking to one another. There was no display of alarm, however. In fact, apart from the movement of the ice and the sounds from the ship, the scene was one of relative calm. The temperature was 8 1/2 degrees below zero, and a light southerly wind was blowing. Overhead, the twilight sky was clear…

The general feeling of relief at being off the ship was not shared by one man – at least not in the larger sense. He was a thickset individual with a wide face and a broad nose, and he spoke with a trace of an Irish brogue… His name was Sir Ernest Shackleton, and the twenty-seven men he had watched so ingloriously leaving their stricken ship were the members of his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition… The position was deep in the icy wasteland of the Antarctic’s treacherous Weddell Sea, just about midway between the South Pole and the nearest known outpost of humanity, some 1,200 miles away.

Few men have borne the responsibility Shackleton did at that moment. Though he certainly was aware that their situation was desperate, he could not possibly have imagined then the physical and emotional demands that ultimately would be placed upon them, the rigors they would have to endure, the sufferings to which they would be subjected.

They were for all intents and purposes alone in the frozen Antarctic seas. It had been very nearly a year since they had last been in contact with civilization. Nobody in the outside world knew they were in trouble, much less where they were. They had no radio transmitter with which to notify any would-be rescuers, and it is doubtful that any rescuers could have reached them even if they had been able to broadcast an SOS. It was 1915, and there were no no helicopters, no Weasels, no Sno-Cats, no suitable planes.

Thus their plight was naked and terrifying in its simplicity. If they were to get out – they had to get themselves out…

The nearest known place where they might at least find food and shelter was tiny Paulet Island, less than a mile and a half in diameter, which lay 346 miles northwest across the heaving pack ice. There, in 1903, twelve years before, the crew of a Swedish ship had spent the winter after their vessel, the Antarctic, had been crushed by the Weddell Sea ice. The ship which finally rescued that party deposited its stock of stores on Paulet Island for the use of any later castaways. Ironically, it was Shackleton himself who had been commissioned at the time to purchase those stores – and now, a dozen years later, it was he who needed them…

The plan, as they all knew, was to march toward Paulet Island, 346 miles to the northwest, where the stores left in 1903 should still be. The distance was farther than from New York to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and they would be dragging two of their three boats with them, since it was assumed that they would eventually run into open water.

McNeish and McLeod began mounting the whaler and one of the cutters onto the sledges. The boats and their sledges would weigh more than a ton apiece, and nobody had any delusions that it would be easy to drag them over the chaotic surface of the ice, with its pressure ridges occasionally two stories high.

Nevertheless, there was a remarkable absence of discouragement. All the men were in a state of dazed fatigue, and nobody paused to reflect on the terrible consequences of losing their ship. Nor were they upset by the fact that they were now camped on a piece of ice perhaps 6 feet thick… There was even a trace of exhilaration in their attitude. At least, they had a clear cut task ahead of them. The nine months of indecision, of speculation of what might happen, of aimlessly drifting over the pack were over. Now they simply had to get themselves out, however appallingly difficult that might be.

That’s why I want to speak to you now. To say: no person, trying to take responsibility for her or his own identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors… I make up this strange packet for you, threaded with love. I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, but there is now. We will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history (the patterns of our ancestors, of our past), if we are not to give ourselves away.”

~ Adrienne Rich

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The Poetry: Robert Frost and Maya Angelou

STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING

By Robert Frost

 

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

***

CONTINUE

By Maya Angelou (Thanks, Amy)

My wish for you

Is that you continue

Continue

To be who and how you are

To astonish a mean world

With your acts of kindness

Continue

To allow humor to lighten the burden

of your tender heart

Continue

In a society dark with cruelty

To let the people hear the grandeur

Of God in the peals of your laughter

Continue

To let your eloquence

Elevate the people to heights

They had only imagined

Continue

To remind the people that

Each is as good as the other

And that no one is beneath

Nor above you

Continue

To remember your own young years

And look with favor upon the lost

And the least and the lonely

Continue

To put the mantel of your protection

Around the bodies of

The young and defenseless

Continue

To take the hand of the despised

And diseased and walk proudly with them

In the high street

Some might see you and

Be encouraged to do likewise

Continue

To plant a public kiss of concern

On the cheek of the sick

And the aged and infirm

And count that as a

Natural action to be expected

Continue

To let gratitude be the pillow

Upon which you kneel to

Say your nightly prayer

And let faith be the bridge

You build to overcome evil

And welcome good

Continue

To ignore no vision

Which comes to enlarge your range

And increase your spirit

Continue

To dare to love deeply

And risk everything

For the good thing

Continue

To float

Happily in the sea of infinite substance

Which set aside riches for you

Before you had a name

Continue

And by doing so

You and your work

Will be able to continue

Eternally.

 

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~ Grand Canyon, East Rim

The Science: William James (From The Energies of Men)

**William James, often called the father of psychology in North America, is considered to be one of the most brilliant minds to have lived. Although this excerpt, from his essay, “The Energies of Men” is not an account of modern psychological research, it does reflect observations of an expert deeply immersed in the field. Considering that exercise science still does not know precisely why we get tired, I think that these points by James are of greater value to us today than any study.

“Everyone knows what it is to start a piece of work, either intellectual or muscular, feeling stale… And everybody knows what it is to “warm up” to his job. The process of warming up gets particularly striking in the phenomenon known as “second wind.” On usual occasions we make a practice of stopping an occupation as soon as we meet the first effective layer (so to call it) of fatigue. We have then walked, played, or worked “enough,” so we desist. That amount of fatigue is an efficacious obstruction on this side of which our usual life is cast. But if an unusual necessity forces us to press onward a surprising thing occurs. The fatigue gets worse up to a certain critical point, when gradually or suddenly it passes away, and we are fresher than before. We have evidently tapped a level of new energy, masked until then by the fatigue-obstacle usually obeyed… In exceptional cases we may find, beyond the very extremity of fatigue-distress, amounts of ease and power that we never dreamed ourselves to own — sources of strength habitually not taxed at all, because habitually we never push through the obstruction, never pass those early critical points.

It is evident that our organism has stored-up reserves of energy that are ordinarily not called upon, but that may be called upon: deeper and deeper strata of combustible or explosible material, discontinuously arranged, but ready for use by anyone who probes so deep, and repairing themselves by rest as well as do the superficial strata. Most of us continue living unnecessarily near our surface…

Of course there are limits: the trees don’t grow into the sky. But the plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource which only very exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use.

The organism adapts itself, and as the rate of waste augments, augments correspondingly the rate of repair. I say the rate and not the time of repair. The busiest man needs no more hours of rest than the idler… Anyone may be in vital equilibrium at very different rates of energizing [but] a man who energizes below his normal maximum fails by just so much to profit by his chance at life.

In measuring the human energies of which I speak, qualities as well as quantities have to be taken into account. Everyone feels that his total power rises when he passes to a higher qualitative level of life.

Writing is higher than walking, thinking is higher than writing, deciding higher than thinking, deciding “no” higher than deciding “yes”—at least the man who passes from one of these activities to another will usually say that each later one involves a greater element of inner work than the earlier ones, even though the total heat given out or the foot-pounds expended by the organism, may be less… We need a particular spur or effort to start us upon inner work; it tires us to sustain it; and when long sustained, we know how easily we lapse.

Inner work, though it so often reinforces outer work, quite as often means its arrest. To relax, to say to ourselves … “Peace! be still!” is sometimes a great achievement of inner work…

Every one is familiar with the phenomenon of feeling more or less alive on different days. Every one knows on any given day that there are energies slumbering in him which the incitements of that day do not call forth, but which he might display if these were greater. Most of us feel as if a sort of cloud weighed upon us, keeping us below our highest notch of clearness in discernment, sureness in reasoning, or firmness in deciding. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.

As a rule men habitually use only a small part of the powers which they actually possess and which they might use under appropriate conditions…

The human individual thus lives usually far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum. In elementary faculty, in coordination, in power of inhibition and control, in every conceivable way, his life is contracted like the field of vision of an hysteric subject — but with less excuse, for the poor hysteric is diseased, while in the rest of us it is only an inveterate habit — the habit of inferiority to our full self — that is bad…

We are each and all of us to some extent victims of habit-neurosis. We have to admit the wider potential range and the habitually narrow actual use. We live subject to arrest by degrees of fatigue which we have come only from habit to obey. Most of us may learn to push the barrier farther off, and to live in perfect comfort on much higher levels of power.”

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The Spiritual: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Yann Martel (From The Life of Pi)

Just over four years ago, I was sitting at Hypo2 Sport (when it used to be beside Summit Gym, Flagstaff people). It was late, and I was working, and also worrying about something that meant a lot to me. Out of the blue, my friend, Danny sent me this transcript of a speech given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at Brigham Young University in 1999. I’m not sure what moved him to do it, or maybe I am 😉 But, it came at the right time. Today, I am pleased to broaden our spiritual sources for these emails to the LDS church with this powerful message. I hope, regardless of the specifics of your faith, that you will feel as encouraged by reading it as I was that evening.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”

Beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed 

about it and trusted in it, it is right now.

There is a lesson in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision which virtually every Latter-day Saint has had occasion to experience, or one day soon will. It is the plain and very sobering truth that before great moments, certainly before great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness. Life has some of those moments for us, and occasionally they come just as we are approaching an important decision or a significant step in our lives.

In that marvelous account which we read too seldom, Joseph said he had scarcely begun his prayer when he felt a power of astonishing influence come over him. “Thick darkness,” as he described it, gathered around him and seemed bent on his utter destruction. But he exerted all his powers to call upon God to deliver him out of the power of this enemy, and as he did so a pillar of light brighter than the noonday sun descended gradually until it rested upon him. At the very moment of the light’s appearance, he found himself delivered from the destructive power which had held him bound.

Most of us do not need any more reminders than we have already had that there is one who personifies “opposition in all things,” that “an angel of God” fell “from heaven” and in so doing became “miserable forever.” What a chilling destiny! Because this is Lucifer’s fate, “he sought also the misery of all mankind,” Lehi teaches us.2

The Fight Goes On

An entire article could be devoted to this subject of the adversary’s strong, preliminary, anticipatory opposition to many of the good things God has in store for us. But I want to move past that observation to another truth we may not recognize so readily. This is a lesson in the parlance of the athletic contest that reminds us “it isn’t over until it’s over.” It is the reminder that the fight goes on. Unfortunately we must not think Satan is defeated with that first strong breakthrough which so dramatically brought the light and moved us forward.

To make my point a little more vividly, may I go to another passage of scripture, indeed, to another vision. You will recall that the book of Moses begins with him being taken up to “an exceedingly high mountain” where, the scripture says, “he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses.” What then followed was what happens to prophets who are taken to high mountains. The Lord said to Moses: “Look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands. … Moses looked, and … beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God. And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not.”3

This experience is remarkable by every standard. It is one of the great revelations given in human history. It stands with the greatest accounts we have of any prophet’s experience with Divinity.

But Moses’ message to you today is, Don’t let your guard down. Don’t assume that a great revelation, some marvelous, illuminating moment, the opening of an inspired path, is the end of it. Remember, it isn’t over until it’s over.

What happens to Moses next, after his revelatory moment, would be ludicrous if it were not so dangerous and so true to form. Lucifer—in an effort to continue his opposition, in his unfailing effort to get his licks in later if not sooner—appears and shouts in equal portions of anger and petulance after God has revealed Himself to the prophet: “Moses, … worship me.” But Moses is not having it. He has just seen the real thing, and by comparison this sort of performance is pretty dismal.

“Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? … Where is thy glory, that I should worship thee? For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me. … But I can look upon thee in the natural man. …Where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God… Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not.”

The record then depicts a reaction that is both pathetic and frightening:

“And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me. And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell.

Nevertheless, calling upon God [the very phrase used by Joseph Smith], he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook… And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence,”4 always to come again, we can be sure, but always to be defeated by the God of glory—always.

Do Not Draw Back

I wish to encourage every one of us regarding the opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose. In his letter to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul was trying to encourage new members who had just joined the Church, who undoubtedly had had spiritual experiences and received the pure light of testimony, only to discover that their troubles had not ended but that some of them had just begun.

Paul pleaded with those new members in much the same way President Gordon B. Hinckley is pleading with new members today. The reminder is that we cannot sign on for a battle of such eternal significance and everlasting consequence without knowing it will be a fight—a good fight and a winning fight, but a fight nevertheless. Paul says to those who thought a new testimony, a personal conversion, a spiritual baptismal experience would put them beyond trouble—to these he says, “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” Then this tremendous counsel, which is at the heart of my counsel to you:

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. …

In Latter-day Saint talk that is to say, Sure it is tough—before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you have joined. That is the way it has always been, Paul says, but don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had.

I suppose every returned missionary and probably every convert reading these words knows exactly what I am talking about. Appointments for discussions canceled, the Book of Mormon in a plastic bag hanging from a front doorknob, baptismal dates not met. And so it goes through the teaching period, through the commitments and the baptism, through the first weeks and months in the Church, and more or less forever—at least, the adversary would pursue it forever if he thought he could see any weakening of your resolve, any chink in your armor.

This opposition turns up almost anyplace something good has happened. It can happen when you are trying to get an education. It can hit you after your first month in your new mission field. It certainly happens in matters of love and marriage. It can occur in situations related to your family, Church callings, or career.

With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.

The Spirit of Revelation

To help us make our way through these experiences, these important junctures in our lives, let me draw from another scriptural reference to Moses. It was given in the early days of this dispensation when revelation was needed, when a true course was being set and had to be continued.

Most Latter-day Saints know the formula for revelation given in section 9 of the Doctrine and Covenants—the verses about studying it out in your mind and the Lord promising to confirm or deny. What most of us don’t read in conjunction with this is the section which precedes it: section 8. In that revelation the Lord has said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” I love the combination there of both mind and heart. God will teach us in a reasonable way and in a revelatory way—mind and heart combined—by the Holy Ghost. “Now, behold,” He continues, “this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.6

Why would the Lord use the example of crossing the Red Sea as the classic example of “the spirit of revelation”? Why didn’t He use the First Vision? Or the example from the book of Moses we just used? Or the brother of Jared’s vision? Well, He could have used any of these, but He didn’t. Here He had another purpose in mind.

Usually we think of revelation as a downpour of information. But this is too narrow a concept of revelation. May I suggest how section 8 broadens our understanding, particularly in light of these “fights of affliction” we have been discussing.

Questions Often Precede Revelation

First of all, revelation almost always comes in response to a question, usually an urgent question—not always, but usually. In that sense it does provide information, but it is urgently needed information, special information. Moses’ challenge was how to get himself and the children of Israel out of this horrible predicament they were in. There were chariots behind them, sand dunes on every side, and a lot of water immediately ahead. He needed information to know what to do, but it wasn’t a casual thing he was asking. In this case it was literally a matter of life and death.

You will need information too, but in matters of great consequence it is not likely to come unless you want it urgently, faithfully, humbly. Moroni calls it seeking “with real intent.”7 If you can seek that way and stay in that mode, not much that the adversary can counter with will dissuade you from a righteous path. You can hang on, whatever the assault and affliction, because you have paid the price for real conviction.

Like Moses in that vision, there may come after the fact some competing doubts and confusion, but it will pale when you measure it against the real thing. Remember the real thing. Remember how urgently you have needed help in earlier times and you got it. The Red Sea will open to the honest seeker of revelation. The adversary has power to hedge up the way, to marshal Pharaoh’s forces and dog our escape right to the water’s edge, but he can’t produce the real thing. He cannot conquer if we will it otherwise. If we exert all our powers, the light will again come, the darkness will again retreat, the safety will be sure. That is lesson number one about crossing the Red Sea by the spirit of revelation.

Do Not Fear

Lesson number two is closely related. It is that in the process of revelation and making important decisions, fear plays a destructive, sometimes paralyzing role. To Oliver Cowdery, who missed the opportunity of a lifetime because he didn’t seize it in the lifetime of the opportunity, the Lord said, “You did not continue as you commenced.” Does that sound familiar to those who have been illuminated and then knuckled under to second thoughts and returning doubts? “It is not expedient that you should translate now,” the Lord said in language that must have been very hard for Oliver to hear. “Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now.”8

Everyone runs the risk of fear. For a moment in Moses’ confrontation with the adversary, “Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell.”9 That’s when you see it—when you are afraid.

That is exactly the problem that beset the children of Israel at the edge of the Red Sea, and it has everything to do with holding fast to your earlier illumination. The record says, “And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid.” Some (just like those Paul described earlier) said words to this effect: “Let’s go back. This isn’t worth it. We must have been wrong. That probably wasn’t the right spirit telling us to leave Egypt.” What they actually said to Moses was: “Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? … It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.”10 And I have to say, “What about that which has already happened? What about the miracles that got you here? What about the frogs and the lice? What about the rod and the serpent, the river and the blood? What about the hail, the locusts, the fire, the firstborn sons?”

How soon we forget. It would not have been better to stay and serve the Egyptians, and it is not better to remain outside the Church, nor to put off marriage, nor to reject a mission call or other Church service, and so on and so on forever. Of course our faith will be tested as we fight through these self-doubts and second thoughts. Some days we will be miraculously led out of Egypt—seemingly free, seemingly on our way—only to come to yet another confrontation, like all that water lying before us. At those times we must resist the temptation to panic and give up. At those times fear will be the strongest of the adversary’s weapons against us.

“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. … The Lord shall fight for you.” In confirmation the great Jehovah said to Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.”11

That is the second lesson of the spirit of revelation. After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel His love and hear the word of the Lord, go forward. Don’t fear, don’t vacillate, don’t quibble, don’t whine. You may, like Alma going to Ammonihah12, have to find a route that leads an unusual way, but that is exactly what the Lord is doing here for the children of Israel. Nobody had ever crossed the Red Sea this way, but so what? There’s always a first time. With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet.

God Will Help Us

The third lesson from the Lord’s spirit of revelation in the miracle of crossing the Red Sea is that along with the illuminating revelation that points us toward a righteous purpose or duty, God will also provide the means and power to achieve that purpose. Trust in that eternal truth. If God has told you something is right, if something is indeed true for you, He will provide the way for you to accomplish it. That is true of joining the Church or raising a family, of going on a mission, or any one of a hundred other worthy tasks in life. Remember what the Savior said to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. What was the problem in 1820? Why was Joseph not to join another church? It was at least in part because “they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”14 God’s grace is sufficient! The Lord would tell Joseph again and again that just as in days of old the children of Israel would “be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. … Therefore, let not your hearts faint. … Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.”15

What goodly land? Well, your goodly land. Your promised land. Your new Jerusalem. Your own little acre flowing with milk and honey. Your future. Your dreams. Your destiny. I believe that in our own individual ways, God takes us to the grove or the mountain or the temple and there shows us the wonder of what His plan is for us. We may not see it as fully as Moses or Nephi or the brother of Jared did, but we see as much as we need to see in order to know the Lord’s will for us and to know that He loves us beyond mortal comprehension. I also believe that the adversary and his pinched, calculating little minions try to oppose such experiences and then try to darken them after they happen. But that is not the way of the gospel. That is not the way of a Latter-day Saint who claims as the fundamental fact of the Restoration the spirit of revelation. Fighting through darkness and despair and pleading for the light is what opened this dispensation. It is what keeps it going, and it is what will keep you going. With Paul, I say to all of you: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”16

I acknowledge the reality of opposition and adversity, but I bear witness of the God of glory, of the redeeming Son of God, of light and hope and a bright future. I promise you that God lives and loves you, each one of you, and that He has set bounds and limits to the opposing powers of darkness. I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the victor over death and hell and the fallen one who schemes there.

“Fear ye not.” And when the second and third and fourth blows come, “fear ye not. … The Lord shall fight for you.”17 “Cast not away therefore your confidence.”

Yann Martel, Life of Pi

“Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love- but sometimes it was so hard to love. Sometimes my heart was sinking so fast with anger, desolation and weariness, I was afraid it would sink to the very bottom of the Pacific and I would not be able to lift it back up. At such moments I tried to elevate myself. I would touch the turban I had made with the remnants of my shirt and I would say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S HAT!” I would pat my pants and say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S ATTIRE!” I would point to Richard Parker and say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S CAT!” I would point to the lifeboat and say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S ARK!” I would spread my hands wide and say aloud, “THESE ARE GOD’S WIDE ACRES!” I would point at the sky and say aloud, “THIS IS GOD’S EAR!” And in this way I would remind myself of creation and of my place in it.

But God’s hat was always unravelling. God’s pants were falling apart. God’s cat was a constant danger. God’s ark was a jail. God’s wide acres were slowly killing me. God’s ear didn’t seem to be listening.

Despair was a heavy blackness that let no light in or out. It was a hell beyond expression. I thank God it always passed. A school of fish appeared around the net or a knot cried out to be reknotted. Or I thought of my family, of how they were spared this terrible agony. The blackness would stir and eventually go away, and God would remain, a shining point of light in my heart. I would go on loving.”

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Today, wrapping up our theme of the week, perseverance, we will return to crew of the ship, The Endurance, who have recently abandoned their ship and are setting up camp on the ice next to where she has been frozen:

“‘May the Lord help you to do your duty & guide you through all the dangers by land and sea. May you see the Works of the Lord & all His Wonders in the deep.’

These words were written on the flyleaf of a Bible given to the expedition by Queen Mother Alexandra of England. Shackleton carried the Bible in his hand as he left the Endurance and walked slowly across the ice toward the campsite.

The others hardly noticed his arrival. They were busy crawling in and out of tents, trying, numbly, to create some degree of comfort with what energy remained in them. Some arranged pieces of lumber to keep themselves off the snow-covered ice. Others spread pieces of canvas on ground-covers. But there was not enough flooring for everybody and several men had to lie directly on the bare snow. It made little difference. Sleep was all that mattered. And they slept – most of them embracing their nearest teammates to keep from freezing.

Shackleton did not even try to sleep. He paced continually around the floe. The pressure was still intense, and several times the campsite sustained a violent shock. The dark outline of the Endurance200 yards away rose against the clear night sky. About 1am, as Shackleton walked back and forth there was a jolt; then a thin ribbonlike crack snaked across the floe among the tents. Almost immediately it began to widen. Shackleton hurried from tent to tent, waking the exhausted sleepers. It required an hour’s tricky work in the dark to transfer the camp to the larger half of the floe.

Thereafter all was quiet in the camp, though just before dawn there was a loud report from the Endurance. Her bowsprit and jib boom had broken and dropped into the ice. For the rest of the night, Shackleton could hear the ghostly rhythm of the chain from the martingale boom being slowly dragged back and forth by the movement of the ship.

When morning came, the weather was dull and overcast, but the temperature had climbed to 6 above zero. The men turned out stiff and cold from sleeping on the ice…

The plan, as they all knew, was to march toward Paulet Island, 346 miles to the northwest, where the stores left in 1902 should still be. The distance was further than from New York City to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and they would be dragging two of their three boats with them, since it was assumed that they would eventually run into open water.

McNeish and McLeod began mounting the whaler and one of the cutters onto sledges. The boats with their sledges would weigh more than a ton apiece, and nobody had any delusions that it would be easy to drag them over the chaotic surface of the ice, with its pressure ridges occasionally two stories high.

Nevertheless, there was a remarkable absence of discouragement. All the men were in a state of dazed fatigue, and nobody paused to reflect on the terrible consequences of losing their ship. Nor were they upset by the fact that they were now camped on a piece of ice perhaps 6 feet thick. It was a haven compared with the nightmare of labor and uncertainty of the last few days on the Endurance. It was quite enough to be alive – and they were merely doing what they had to do to stay that way.

There was even a trace of mild exhilaration in their attitude. At least, they had a clear-cut task ahead of them. The nine months of indecision, of speculation about what might happen, of aimless drifting with the pack were over. Now they simply had to get themselves out, however appallingly difficult that might be.”

The Cinematic: My short film featuring two friends who understand better than most how to persevere. This is set to the song, “Worn Out Shoes” by Flagstaff band, Towrs.

The Musical: ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’ By Andy Grammar

I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

Sincerely,

Shannon

 

Cracks

 

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~ Grand Canyon, North Rim

“Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

~ Leonard Cohen

Good morning friends,

Thanks to all of you who have followed these emails for the past seven weeks. Beginning today, I’m going to make a change to how I compile them. Up until now I’ve included seven artistic sources on the same theme each day. From today forward, I’m going to pick a theme for the week and then share one artistic source per day. Mondays I will share literature, Tuesdays poetry, Wednesdays science and strategies, Thursdays spirituality, and Fridays a movie, music, and info for our zoom conversation. On Saturdays I will post the whole week’s content on my website.

If you would like to request changes to how you receive these emails please feel free to reach out to me. If I hear nothing from you I’ll keep you on the daily list. If you’ve had your fill of daily emails and would like to be removed from the list altogether that’s no problem. Just let me know.

This week we’re going to explore the concept of cracks – and in particular, how they let light in. Today’s writing will have a Japanese focus. Enjoy 🙂

The Writing: Maria Popova summarizingIn Praise of Shadows: Ancient Japanese Aesthetics and Why Every Technology Is a Technology of Though (Full Brain Pickings article here)

At least since Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, we’ve seen shadows as a metaphor for the illusory and wicked aspects of life, for that which we must eradicate in order to illuminate the truth and inherent goodness of existence. And yet we forget that the darkness they cast evidences the light — palpable proof without which we might not appreciate or even notice the radiance itself.

The 1933 gem In Praise of Shadows (public library) by Japanese literary titan Junichiro Tanizaki (July 24, 1886–July 30, 1965) belongs to that special order of slim, enormously powerful books that enchant the lay reader with an esoteric subject, leaving a lifelong imprint on the imagination.

Tanizaki, translated here by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker, examines the singular standards of Japanese aesthetics and their stark contrast — even starker today, almost a century later — with the value systems of the industrialized West. He writes:

  “We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates… Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.”

At the heart of this philosophy is a fundamental cultural polarity. Unlike the Western conception of beauty — a stylized fantasy constructed by airbrushing reality into a narrow and illusory ideal of perfection — the zenith of Japanese aesthetics is deeply rooted in the glorious imperfection of the present moment and its relationship to the realities of the past:

     “The quality that we call beauty … must always grow from the realities of life, and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows toward beauty’s ends.”

One of the most enchanting celebrations of shadows is manifested in the Japanese relationship with materials. Tanizaki writes:

“Japanese paper gives us a certain feeling of warmth, of calm and repose… Western paper turns away the light, while our paper seems to take it in, to envelop it gently, like the soft surface of a first snowfall. It gives off no sound when it is crumpled or folded, it is quiet and pliant to the touch as the leaf of a tree.”

Although Tanizaki is writing at a time when a new wave of polymers was sweeping the industrialized West, he paints a subtler and more important contrast than that between the Western cult of synthetics and the Japanese preference for organic materials. This elegant osmosis of art and shadow, he argues, is to be found not only in what materials are used, but in how they are being used:

“Wood finished in glistening black lacquer is the very best; but even unfinished wood, as it darkens and the grain grows more subtle with the years, acquires an inexplicable power to calm and sooth.”

This temporal continuity of beauty, a counterpoint to the West’s neophilia, is central to Japanese aesthetics. Rather than fetishizing the new and shiny, the Japanese sensibility embraces the living legacy embedded in objects that have been used and loved for generations, seeing the process of aging as something that amplifies rather than muting the material’s inherent splendor. Luster becomes not an attractive quality but a symbol of shallowness, a vacant lack of history:

“We find it hard to be really at home with things that shine and glitter. The Westerner uses silver and steel and nickel tableware, and polishes it to a fine brilliance, but we object to the practice… We begin to enjoy it only when the luster has worn off, when it has begun to take on a dark, smoky patina. Almost every householder has had to scold an insensitive maid who has polished away the tarnish so patiently waited for… We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity.”

Tanizaki speaks affectionately of “the glow of grime,” which “comes of being touched over and over” — a record of the tactile love an object has acquired through being caressed by human hands again and again. But nowhere does Tanizaki’s ode to shadows flow more melodically than in his writing about Japanese lacquerware:

“Darkness is an indispensable element of the beauty of lacquerware… [Traditional lacquerware] was finished in black, brown, or red, colors built up of countless layers of darkness, the inevitable product of the darkness in which life was lived.”

But lacquerware, Tanizaki notes, isn’t merely a visual delight — its magic is multi-sensory, amplified by a sense of mystery:

“I know few greater pleasures than holding a lacquer soul bowl in my hands, feeling upon my palms the weight of the liquid and its mild warmth. The sensation is something like that of holding a plump newborn baby… With lacquerware there is a beauty in that moment between removing the lid and lifting the bowl to the mouth when one gazes at the still, silent liquid in the dark depths of the bowl, its color hardly different from that of the bowl itself. What lies within the darkness one cannot distinguish, but the palm senses the gentle movements of the liquid, vapor rises from within forming droplets on the rim, and the fragrance carried upon the vapor brings a delicate anticipation. What a world of difference there is between this moment and the moment when soup is served Western style, in a pal, shallow bowl. A moment of mystery, it might almost be called, a moment of trance.”

This mysterious mesmerism of well-placed darkness is especially vital in the culinary experience:

“It has been said of Japanese food that it is a cuisine to be looked at rather than eaten. I would go further and say that it is to be meditated upon, a kind of silent music evoked by the combination of lacquerware and the light of a candle flickering in the dark…

     With Japanese food, a brightly lighted room and shining tableware cut the appetite in half.

     Our cooking depends upon shadows and is inseparable from darkness.”

Indeed, he argues that excessive illumination is the most atrocious assault on beauty in the West. A mere half-century after Edison’s electric light shocked American cities with its ghastly glare, Tanizaki contemplates this particularly lamentable manifestation of our pathological Western tendency to turn something beneficial into something excessive. Decades before computer screens and Times Square billboards and the global light pollution epidemic, he writes:

“So benumbed are we nowadays by electric lights that we have become utterly insensitive to the evils of excessive illumination…

     In most recent Western-style buildings, the ceilings are so low that one feels as if balls of fire were blazing directly above one’s head… One of these balls of fire alone would suffice to light the place, yet three or four blaze down from the ceiling, and there are smaller versions on the walls and pillars, serving no function but to eradicate every trace of shadow. And so the room is devoid of shadows…

     Light is used not for reading and writing or sewing but for dispelling the shadows in the farthest corners, and this runs agains the basic idea of the Japanese room.”

His inquiry into the origin of these cultural differences, paradoxically enough, calls to mind both Buddhism’s basic teaching of acceptance and the memorable words of one of the West’s greatest thinkers — Albert Camus’s observation that people often “refuse to be happy outside the conditions they seem to have attached to their happiness.” Tanizaki writes:

“We Orientals seek our satisfactions in whatever surroundings we happen to find ourselves, to content ourselves with things as they are, and so darkness causes us no discontent, we resign ourselves to it as inevitable. If light is scarce then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty. But the progressive Westerner is determined always to better his lot. From candle to oil lamp, oil lamp to gaslight, gaslight to electric light — his quest for a brighter light never ceases, he spares no pains to eradicate even the minutest shadow.”

But Tanizaki’s eulogy to this setting world of shadows transcends the realm of material aesthetics and touches on the conceptual sensibility of modern life in a way doubly relevant today, nearly a century later, as we struggle to maintain a sense of mystery in the age of knowledge. He remarks in the closing pages:

“I have written all this because I have thought that there might still be somewhere, possibly in literature or the arts, where something could be saved. I would call back at least for literature this world of shadows we are losing. In the mansion called literature I would have the eaves deep and the walls dark, I would push back into the shadows the things that come forward too clearly, I would strip away the useless decoration… Perhaps we may be allowed at least one mansion where we can turn off the electric lights and see what it is like without them.”

Like its subject, In Praise of Shadows derives its splendor from smallness and subtlety, distilling centuries of wisdom and bridging thousands of miles of cultural divide in an essay-length miracle of a book. Complement it with the breathtaking Little Tree, a pop-up book celebrating the Japanese reverence for darkness and impermanence — one of the most intelligent and imaginative children’s books that help kids process loss and mourning — then revisit this rare look at Japan in hand-colored images from the 1920s.

Teresita Fernandez on Kintsugi (Full speech here)

“In Japan there is a kind of reverence for the art of mending. In the context of the tea ceremony there is no such thing as failure or success in the way we are accustomed to using those words. A broken bowl would be valued precisely because of the exquisite nature of how it was repaired, a distinctly Japanese tradition of kintsugi, meaning to “to patch with gold”. Often, we try to repair broken things in such a way as to conceal the repair and make it “good as new.” But the tea masters understood that by repairing the broken bowl with the distinct beauty of radiant gold, they could create an alternative to “good as new” and instead employ a “better than new” aesthetic. They understood that a conspicuous, artful repair actually adds value. Because after mending, the bowl’s unique fault lines were transformed into little rivers of gold that post-repair were even more special because the bowl could then resemble nothing but itself.

Here lies that radical physical transformation from useless to priceless, from failure to success. All of the fumbling and awkward moments you will go through, all of the failed attempts, all of the near misses, all of the spontaneous curiosity will eventually start to steer you in exactly the right direction.”

Fernández extends gentle assurance that art, like science, is driven by “thoroughly conscious ignorance”:

“In those moments when you feel discouraged or lost in the studio, or when you experience rejection, rest completely assured that what you don’t know about something is also a form of knowledge, though much harder to understand. In many ways, making art is like blindly trying to see the shape of what you don’t yet know. Whenever you catch a little a glimpse of that blind spot, of your ignorance, of your vulnerability, of that unknown, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to stare at it. Instead, try to relish in its profound mystery. Art is about taking the risk of engaging in something somewhat ridiculous and irrational simply because you need to get a closer look at it, you simply need to break it open to see what’s inside.”

“I am an explorer, then, and I am also a stalker, or the instrument of the hunt itself. Certain Indians used to carve long grooves along the wooden shafts of their arrows. They called the grooves ‘lightning marks,’ because they resembled the curved fissure lightning slices down the trunks of trees. The function of lighting marks is this: if the arrow fails to kill the game, blood from a deep wound will channel along the lighting mark, streak down the arrow shaft, and spatter to the ground, laying a trail dripped on broad-leaves, on stones, that the barefoot and trembling archer can follow into whatever deep or rare wilderness it leads. I am the arrow shaft, carved along my length by unexpected lights and gashes from the very sky, and this book is the straying trail of blood.”

~ Annie Dillard

 

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~ Colorado River from Navajo Bridge

      Sometimes we like to know an author’s interpretation of their poem, and sometimes we like to enter it blind and free to find our own meaning. For those who would like to know the meaning of this one I’ve included it in this after the poem itself.

FAULT LINE

By Shannon Thompson (2017)

 

Have you ever watched yourself

change,

like a storm

cresting the mountain?

Have you

noticed the dark cloud coming, and

wished for the wind

to alter its course,

sparing the sun?

Have you ever

believed the story

your emotions wrote,

only to learn

that night,

we were all as lonely as you?

Have you ever watched the

ground when your genius is praised,

crediting another, luck, or secretly

a voice deeper?

“It’s not me,” you’ve said.

It’s not me.

Have you avoided eyes,

ashamed of what you believe your darkness

alone

has done?

Nothing, my friend, is ever yours alone.

Were you a child hurt

when you were too young

to know language to

shield you?

Did you watch

without the

words to tame

the grown-up gale that

scarred your fresh, new

openness?

Were you left again

and again, and

too early

for understanding

to stand up for

your baby mind?

To explain, and

make sure you didn’t

grow up believing

any of that was because

of you?

Have you learned to hide deep inside –

The only way to survive then –

Where within this

fault, between a man and Earth,

you were made.

Beautifully made

Have you ever looked into

another, revealing the hope

that you know is Truth?

Because your pain has drawn

you deep enough to hear it?

Have you known when to call his name,

the second before he stopped

believing?

Because you remember when you

needed someone to call your name?

Have you ever told a story of the earth

from so deep within you

that others stood

speechless?

I know you have. I’ve watched you.

Because in your hiding, held,

the center spoke to you,

and still does.

Have you ever kept secrets that ravaged you?

Or lied and stolen another’s kindness

over and over?

I have too.

All we are – mess and masterpiece,

just like all that lives and grows,

expands and contracts,

explodes and nourishes;

random havoc and

unspeakable grace.

You are of the earth,

as chaotic

and as sublime.

Have you ever made a brave choice

toward your own peace?

You have, you’ve told me.

I’m afraid,

and maybe you are too, that

this is the only way through the night.

Have you ever looked into the blue

of the boy you were?

The way you draw your chair

around to others?

Has he begged you to

speak with him

about what is real?

Have you ever truly realized,

my friend,

always,

you’re just a man?

I believe in real conversations like

damn you, God.

I’ve said it many times.

For your set up,

and your silence,

and your secrets.

For failing fathers,

and a lost little brother,

and confused loves

without answers.

And I concede to moments of true

awareness;

angry tears useless in my eyes,

rage exhausted,

turning round before the beauty

of things;

the unimagined

unearned moments;

the speaking wild

that never leaves.

I need you to know that

I heard a promise within the fault

of my making.

That’s all,

and everything.

There’s more goodness than we can know,

in you,

and I,

and every dying leaf

that blows past this window.

And whatever God is

will continue

flowing like tears,

singing something staggering

and indiscernible

within the blood of our veins.

***

I wrote this poem for one of my friends a few years ago. Basically it describes a person who was caught within adult difficulty as a child, and was impacted greatly by that difficulty (probably like many of you reading this). The poem attempts to highlight that many of this person’s strengths – his gifts to others now, as an adult – are the result of the difficulty he experienced in his youth (again, probably like many of you reading this). I wrote this during a time when the immense challenge of being a person, and the incredible odds stacked against some people, were clearly apparent to me, perhaps more so than ever before. This is where the short rant at God comes from.

Screen Shot 2020-05-23 at 5.27.07 PM~ The Grand Canyon

The Science: Scott Barry Kaufman (From Wired To Create) – On Posttraumatic Growth

The trials to triumph narrative is far from idealism or watered down self-help inspiration. The idea of growth after adversity has been touted by not only ancient and modern wisdom traditions but also recent psychology research. In the past twenty years, psychologists have been studying this phenomenon, known in the scientific community as posttraumatic growth. The term was coined in the 1990’s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun to describe instances of individuals who experienced profound transformation as they coped with various types of trauma and challenging life circumstances. It’s now been observed in more than three hundred specific studies, and research has found that up to 70 percent of trauma survivors report some psychological growth…

Growth after trauma can take a number of different forms, including a greater appreciation for life, the identification of new possibilities for one’s life, more satisfying interpersonal relationships, a richer spiritual life and a connection to something greater than oneself, and a sense of personal strength… Psychologists have found that experiences of trauma also commonly result in increased empathy and altruism, and a motivation to act in the interest of the good of others…

Tedeschi and Calhoun explain that posttraumatic growth, in whatever form it takes, can be ‘an experience of improvement that is for some persons deeply profound…The two University of North Carolina researchers created the most accepted model on posttraumartic growth to date, which holds that people naturally develop and rely on a set of beliefs and assumptions that they’ve formed about the world, and in order for growth to occur after trauma, the traumatic event must deeply challenge those beliefs. By Tedeschi and Calhoun’s account, the way that trauma shatters our worldview, beliefs, and identities is like an earthquake – even our most foundational structures of thought and belief crumble into pieces from the magnitude of the impact. We are shaken, almost literally from our ordinary perception, and left to rebuild ourselves and our worlds. The more we are shaken, the more we must let go of our former selves and assumptions, and begin again from the ground up.

‘A psychologically seismic event can severely shake, threaten, or reduce to rubble many of the schematic structures that have guided understanding, decision making, and meaningfulness.’ They write. ‘One’s safety is challenged; one’s identity and future are challenged.’

The physical rebuilding of a city that takes place after an earthquake can be likened to the cognitive processing and restructuring that an individual experiences in the wake of trauma. Once the most foundational structures of the self have been shaken, we are in a position to pursue new – and perhaps creative – opportunities.

The ‘rebuilding’ process looks something like this: After a traumatic event, such as a serious illness or loss of a loved one, individuals intensely process the event – they’re constantly thinking about what happened, and usually with strong emotional reactions. It’s important to note that sadness, grief, anger, and anxiety of course, are common responses to trauma, and growth generally occurs alongside these challenging emotions – not in place of them. The process of growth can be seen as a way to adapt to extremely adverse circumstances and to gain an understanding of both the trauma and its negative psychological impact.

Rumination – stewing over negative thoughts and emotions – naturally occurs after a traumatic event, and counterintuitive though it may seem, this kind of repetitive thinking is a crucial step toward thriving in the wake of a challenge. When we mull over a negative experience, we’re working hard to make sense of it and to find a place for it in our lives that still allows us to have a sense of meaning and purpose. After the experience of adversity, the mind is actively dismantling old belief systems that no longer hold up and creating new structures of meaning and identity.  Perhaps most fundamentally, trauma challenges our belief in a benevolent and predictable universe. The illusion of control is shattered and must be released, as it no longer accords with the individual’s experience of the world, which now appears capricious, unpredictable, and seemingly beyond human control.

While rumination often begins as automatic, intrusive, and repetitive negative thinking, in time, the individual’s way of thinking about the traumatic event and its impacts become more organized, controlled, and deliberate. It starts to act as a process of meaning making. The search for meaning is the essential element of posttraumatic growth, and particularly of creative growth.

Rebuilding can be an incredibly challenging process. As we’ve seen, the work of growth requires detaching from and releasing deep-seated goals, identities, and assumptions, while also building up new goals, schemas, and meanings. It can be grueling, excruciating, and exhausting. But it can open the door to a new life. The trauma survivor begins to see herself as a thriver and revises her self-definition to accommodate her new strength and wisdom. She may reconstruct herself in a way that feels more authentic and true to her inner self and to her own unique path in life.”

Scott Barry Kaufman (From Ungifted) – On Dyslexia

“In recent years, the ‘neurodiversity’ movement has been gaining a lot of traction… The term gained wide wide exposure in a 1998 article in the Atlantic written by Harvey Blume called ‘Neurodiversity.’ In the article, Blume remarked, ‘Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of writing will prove best at any given moment? Cybernetics and computer culture, for example, may favor a somewhat autistic cast of mind.’

Consider dyslexia – one of the most commonly diagnosed specific learning disabilities. As Brock Eide and Fernette Eide note in their recent book The Dyslexic Advantage, ‘Overlooking the talents that mature individuals with dyslexia characteristically display is like trying to understand caterpillars while ignoring the fact that they grow up to be butterflies.’

Without a doubt: for the 15 percent of the human population who have dyslexia, learning can be difficult, particularly when intensive and rapid reading is required. They require interventions and strategies, and thankfully many strategies out there have proven effective. But people with dyslexia are far from disabled as human beings. In fact, in some contexts they may even appear to be – dare I say – gifted.

Reading requires a complex integration of visual and auditory sensory processing. The reader must recognize letters and their combinations, convert them to speech sounds, and then extract meaning. Every step of the process is important, from the precognitive to the higher-level stages. Research shows that people with dyslexia are less aware of sounds in words (phonological awareness) and have difficulties connecting visual and verbal information (rapid naming). But these learning difficulties may have some advantages in the visual domain.

[Researchers] argue that dyslexic individuals may excel at visual-spatial tasks that rely on the right hemisphere, because the right hemisphere tends to process information holistically… This suggests one upside of poor reading skills: rapid and accurate ‘holistic inspection.’ It appears that dyslexics have a wider visual perceptual mode than typical readers. This was of seeing the world could make reading difficult for dyslexics because of their inability to perceive individual words without interference from the surrounding text. Nevertheless, this can serve as an advantage in situations that require identifying information in the periphery… If you tend to have a narrower focus of attention, like many typical readers, you will be better at noticing small, isolated features near the center of gaze. In contrast, if you focus on the periphery like some dyslexics, you will be more likely to notice the holistic patterns. Schneps and colleagues suggest that college students with dyslexia should be encouraged to enter careers in which sensitivity to low spatial frequency scenes is particularly valued, such as radiology, astronomy, cellular microscopy, and other scientific fields. Indeed, Nobel laureates with dyslexia include Carol W. Greider and Baruk Benacerraf…

People with dyslexia may compensate in many ways, sometimes developing enhanced communication skills, the ability to delegate responsibilities, or even the ability to read nonverbal facial expressions. These can be particularly important skills for entrepreneurship. Julie Logan investigated the coping strategies and business skills of a sample of 139 entrepreneurs and corporate managers in the United States. She found a much higher incidence of dyslexia among the entrepreneurs compared with the corporate managers and the general population.

While 15 percent of the general population has dyslexia, 35 percent of the entrepreneurs in her sample reported dyslexic characteristics. In contrast, less than 1 percent of the corporate managers reported dyslexic characteristics. Tellingly, people with dyslexia grew their own companies more quickly, and showed greater oral communication skills compared to those without dyslexia. Logan concluded that ‘dyslexic entrepreneurs may be more comfortable in a start-up or a serial entrepreneurial role so they are able to do things their own way. Virgin Atlantic mogul Richard Branson has dyslexia, so does the CEO of Cisco Systems, John Chambers, who allegedly can’t even read his own email.

The truth is that people with dyslexia thrive in many fields. Famous dyslexic artists include Pablo Picasso, Leonardo Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Chuck Close, and Andy Warhol… Sculptor John Mishler once wrote, ‘Being dyslexic has given me an enhanced imagination… in my head I see visual images that are often turned into sculptures without any drawings on paper. It took me a long time to realize that being dyslexic was a gift.’..

Also, the written word need not always bar the dyslexic from achieving greatness. Many famous writers have not only compensated for dyslexia, but used their reading difficulty as a driving force… “We may be short-changing students who have reading difficulties. These students have strengths for visual learning that we could be building on.’ Perhaps instead of labeling dyslexics as learning disabled, we should call them visually gifted.”

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“Among the Navajo, the land is thought to exhibit sacred order…each individual undertakes to order his interior landscape according to the exterior landscape. To succeed in this means to achieve a balanced state of mental health…Among the various sung ceremonies of this people-Enemyway, Coyoteway, Uglyway- there is one called Beautyway. It is, in part, a spiritual invocation of the order of the exterior universe, that irreducible, holy complexity that manifests itself as all things changing through time (a Navajo definition of beauty).” 

― Barry López, Crossing Open Ground

The Spiritual: SPIRIT LINE: A NAVAJO WEAVING PATH TO CREATIVE RENEWAL

By Artist-Writer Donniece Smith

     “A recent visit to the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico set me on a search to learn more about a Native American weaving custom called a spirit line.

The exhibit Nizhoni Shima’: Master Weavers of the Toadlena/Two Grey Hills Region filled the museum gallery with beautiful rugs and tapestries woven by Navajo women of the Two Grey Hills region of New Mexico between 1910 and the present.

     Each tapestry was of the highest quality woven by a master weaver of the highest skill, yet all contained an obvious out-of-character thread.  In the upper right corner, a strand of the central background color wove through the contrasting border and extended to the outer selvedge. If you were to only see one rug, you could easily assume the contrasting thread was a mistake in the weaving.  This obvious thread is deliberately woven into the rug per tradition and is called a spirit line or weaver’s path.

     The practice signifies the release of the weaver’s spirit from the weaving so that the artist’s creativity can escape the woven web to be renewed and freed to begin another weaving.

     A Navajo woman told this story documented in the oral history project by Paul Begay, Voices for the Colorado Plateau, Southern Utah University:

     So, my grandson,” my grandmother says. “When you look at a spider web somewhere, in your home or someplace, look closely, and if you don’t see a spider there, you’ll see a line, the direction that the spider departed.  That’s why when you make a rug, in one corner of the weave, there should be a line that comes out to the end of the rug, we call it the spirit line….

When you leave this line, that means that you will leave your mind open to think of new designs.  If you don’t leave the line in there, you close the rug, then you’ve enclosed your mind, and you will have a hard time thinking of new designs.  New techniques, new designs will be gone.  And so this is the reason why the line should be there.”  So it is the Spider Woman, this is the spiritual woman that we learned how to weave from.

     Native American weavers of the past probably felt the same conflict as artists do today when the time comes to sell one’s creative work. Three or more years of a family’s life and energy were required to complete a woven rug.  In addition to weaving, the creative and commercial commitment included tending the sheep to provide the wool, along with spinning the wool into yarn.

     The spirit line custom is a significant reminder that upon completion “closure” is not the same thing as “enclosure.” When we consciously create a path outward to the world, we escape the entrapment of a closed mind and a closed heart.

     Consider incorporating your own symbolic spirit line as a bridge of movement between commerce and creativity, daily tasks and dreams, hopes and heartaches.By caring for our spirit, we create movement towards the future with greater flow of creativity, innovation, and freedom.”

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The Cinematic: Leonard Cohen singing “Anthem” live in London (the source of the line, “forget your perfect offering, there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”)

The Musical: Wounds by Toby Johnson

I wish you a weekend of shining through cracks.

Sincerely,

Shannon