I pay attention when things come in threes, and so it is now with outrage. I have also been writing about Cloud Atlas recently, which uses Fyodor Dostoevsky’s often-quoted maxim derived from his book The Idiot as its super structure: ‘Beauty will save the world.’
So, let’s get after how such a feeble, fleeting, and fragile thing like beauty intersects with outrage to save the world.
Number 1: “I’m Mad As Hell”
Chris Cuomo opened his show last night with this clip from Sidney Lumet, 1976 movie: Network.
I found a fellow blogger who writes eloquently about this clip and Beale’s speech. And, I love Neil Hughes byline — Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own! Bravo! We need more unique thought in this world! I leave it to Neil Hughes beautiful written recap of the circumstances causing Howard Beale to rebel live on TV. But, I will carry over this powerful speech, which still resonates vividly still today.
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’
Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. (shouting) You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’
I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!…You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’
Are you going to your window? I think this clip is an absolutely magnificent moment distilled by the writers and filmmakers of this movie from the 70s showing the beauty of being human. In our super modern world, we need such moments to keep us human.
Number 2: “Give Back the Goat!”
My new favorite series is Outlander–I don’t know how have I missed this story for so long? And so after getting my fill of the news, I switched to story, and last night I watched episode 5 of season 1. You guessed it… it’s about outrage.
Claire is the main character, and she is the outlander in this world. I will not spoil why she is if you are like me and have not read this story or watched this series. Do not read what comes next if you plan to read or watch Outlander because it will spoil all the surprises.
If you are continuing to read, Claire has proven herself as a capable healer and is taken on a road trip to help Dougal (who is the brother to the clan’s king) to collect the rents from their tenants of the land Mackenzie. While on the road she is faced with the horror of the conflict between the English and the clans (and the injustices of collecting rent from people who have practically nothing to give). While she grapples with these horrors occurring between landowner and peasants together with the growing conflict between the Scottish-highlanders and the British, she becomes keenly aware of the future bloodshed that her Scottish friends will soon face: The Jacobite rising of 1745, also known as the Forty-five Rebellion or simply the ’45. (Eye, 45, seems an ominous number throughout the course of human history).
This clip is a little cheesy, but it does a good job explaining why Claire feels outraged, which is absolutely beautiful in its purity, intensity, and passion.
My friend Jurgen, who is a brilliant blogger, sent me his blog several days ago, but I did not read it until today. He writes beautiful pieces on his site called Mach was!? (Do something!?). This one is titled: ‘A gentle reminder’. He begins this piece by saying:
“Having spent nearly three months in complete seclusion from the outside world, alongside a next-to-perfect disappearance of electronic communication channels for most of that period, I had a lot of time to think about, and feel into, the so-called Corona crisis. It was a time of intense joy over the increased quality of life, owed to civilization’s coming to an almost complete halt, and it was also a time of intense agony over what my growing understanding of the crisis brought to light, both in terms of outer truths and of the resurfacing of psychological traumas.”
He goes on to say: “It’s time to re-discover our common humanity and the huge pile of pressing issues we need to look at right now.“
Indeed it is. Jurgen writes extensively and from a point of consolidated consciousness that I find compelling about culture and civilization and we are indeed at a moment of reckoning now. He says: “My credo though – whether explicitly or implicitly stated – remains the same throughout: this culture will eat the world alive and turn it into poisonous trash.” This is the very same truth expressed beautifully in Cloud Atlas when the character Adam Ewing writes in what he believes to be his final letter to his beloved wife and family summarizing everything he’s seen over the last couple of months and says:
“One fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself.” (11.15.7)
And indeed this world is realized in the one where Somni-451 has been condemned to live, except she ascends consciously and learns the truth as to where her sisters (her fellow servers cloned by the corporation to cater to the banal needs of consumers who are also the prey of the corporation) are taken in Xultation. Sonmi-451 is a beautiful arch in this complex and dazzling story compelling us to examine what makes us human!
Truth and Trauma — Reality is a Gift
Truths and traumas are the common thread running throughout the three examples I have shared above. We are one human tribe and when one part of us goes a little bit rotten, or completely rotten, feeling itself entitled to rob ‘the other’ from their humanity and right to exist in space and time, it is mostly certainly WRONG and deserves our OUTRAGE!
It is entirely human to feel shock and horror triggering outrage when we encounter the grotesque wrapping of our shared human nature.
It takes courage to act on outrage, but most of us have been put to sleep or are too afraid to act on it any more, and this is another twisting of our birthright as human beings who have been granted the precious gift of consciousness. But, we are wasting this gift and turning Earth into a barren desert where life cannot survive.
What are these modern horrors that I speak of: consider the crisis in Yemen. This is entirely a manmade crisis of a more powerful group of humans destroying another less powerful group. I do not buy the narrative that these women, children, and beautiful people of Yemen deserve their fate or created these circumstances because they are vibrating on the wrong wavelength. NO! Their despair and suffering is on our hands. It is the failure of those of us who are not suffering like that to take action to mitigate and remove their source of pain. This lack of action to help ‘the other’ is what will be marked in time.
Or consider racism, the brutal enslavement of an entire race of people just because of darker skin. It is one group of people systematically and cruelly removing the humanity of another group. It is an unjust system that sanctions and allows individuals like George Floyd to be killed right before our eyes with impunity by officers of the law who are suppose to safeguard everyone’s human rights. But instead, because of the infection of racism, they have taken the lives of so many beautiful people of color who have been murdered by them under the cover of this barbaric system underpinning Western civilization, which all of us living now have been baked into.
Or consider the brutalities we allow as modern human beings to be conducted upon other living beings with whom we share this planet such as the recent revoking of a law banning hunters from blinding hibernating mother bears and their babies so the hunters can kill them easier. If these things do not strike disgust, shock, or horror inside your heart, there is a deep sleeping going on and a silent support and holding up of brutal ways of being in this world.
When one becomes conscious of injustice, brutality, and the grotesque wrapping of human nature, it deserves, in fact, demands our outrage. Without it, we are destined to wobble off the cliff of extinction as a species on this planet. This is what happens when we ignore reality by stifling our inner truths and failing to take right action to correct course.
Look around today. What do you see? Then, look inside yourself. Take your time like my friend talks about doing and really notice what is rising inside of you. What do you really feel in you now? Is now a time to be silent, to watch, and to do nothing?
I cannot answer your conscience. This belongs uniquely to you. But silence for me is not an option, nor is hiding under a Rock of Ignorance. To be clear, this rock is entirely mine. I was born under it and have carried it with me through time ever since. All of us are born into ignorance and must work steadily throughout our lives to shift through and dissolves the barriers to reality that living in groups has necessarily required of us. And yes, I still listen to the news. But, I choose my sources carefully. I agree with Jurgen…many sources of news have been co-opted by people desiring power…lots and lots of power. It gets twisted and warped into grotesque propaganda, but it appears so good to consume, which is what is intended so that it gets into your mind and sets up its workshop of ignorance manufacturing. And, news today, let’s face it, is mainly entertainment, especially social media where so many of us get our news these days, which is a little scary. So, you must choose your news wisely. I choose to listen to scientists and news sources I have grown to respect over time (e.g., PBS NewsHour). I also consume large amounts of other sources of information such as the writings of Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche, Alan Watts, and many others.
Then, I digest what I consume over long walks and bike rides in nature, by journaling, or through artistic endeavors such as drawing or making mini artistic movies of my rides. It is very important to digest what is consumed through our culture, our media, and our lives. We often forget that digesting information is just as important as digesting food. This is how we grow our individual field of consciousness and diminish the burden of our Rock of Ignorance.
Most importantly, I act on what I have consumed and digested. Consumption without action is imbalance. It risks growing so huge and lopsided inside your mind that you will surely collapse under the weight of your own ignorance. Action must be taken daily to distill, transform, and sublimate what you have ingested into your mind. Only you can do this. I believe it is possible to reach a state of consciousness where knowledge of everything, including current events, is simply known inside yourself. My journey through time leaves me far from this state, and so I must pay attention to my surrounding, digest what I consume, and then I write. This is my act of transformation. Mostly I write the story I have been working on since 2012. This is a story about the collective transformation of human consciousness after the world falls over the climate cliff. I will also act wherever I can to stand up against racism and to participate in the politics of my country, which is failing right now, badly.
Lastly, as I write this blog (which is a process of digestion of the ideas I have consumed), I realize all along I have been doing what Neil Hughes suggests: Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own!
What is uniquely your own?
Find it, claim it — it is your precious contribution to Indra’s Net. Humanity needs every jewel of consciousness we can distill and sublimate now.
There is such a thing as False Outrage. This is a twisting of basic human nature for someone else’s purposes. It feels like it is your own personal outrage, but it has been carefully crafted by a swindler, a pretender, a cheat, a Confidence Man. In a time of rapid change and growing crisis, these men emerge like roaches from the woodwork of civilization where they are normally regulated to live. But during times of upheaval, people crave to consume confidence, simple stories of their lives and their fate, and they flock to such men giving them their time and attention and unquestioning loyalty. This simple thing makes such men grow big and strong, making them look like magic men, saviors, but they are not. They are twisted and wrapped. They are dangerous. And we, the Good of Earth, are extremely vulnerable to such men and the mobs they create during times of crisis. These men create and seed False Outrage. It is very contagious. This is why each and every individual must fed their mind with good, nutritious mind food that is fully digested and then put into action. This is the only way to grow your individual field of consciousness.
I add this due to two things consumed since posting this blog yesterday.
Number 2: Seeing Black Jack Randall’s real personality — Twisted Outrage
This is Outlander again. Yes, I consume lots of stories into my mind. I suppose it is like eating dessert when I am too tired to work but not tired enough to sleep (which is a super digesting time for the mind… watch your dreams… pay attention, especially now). This episode immediately following the one before where true human outrage is so beautifully expressed by Claire, now shows the viewer a twisted soul. A man who deceives and preys upon others for fun. These sorts of people live in every century. They are master manipulators and extremely dangerous individuals for they are not stupid. In fact they know how to sharpen their mind, but they choose destruction, disaster, monstrous actions in the world. This is their masterpiece, as Black Jack Randall gruesomely reveals to Claire in this episode. I will say no more for my story delves deeply into such souls. This recap does a good job explaining what happens.
I heard this last year, and it belongs here because I believe we are all being manipulated by False Outrage. Listen to this excellent episode of Hidden Brain to learn more.
VEDANTAM: Saturday, January 19, 2019 – Julie Zimmerman checked Twitter and saw something that made her upset. It was a video filmed hundreds of miles from her home in Ohio at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
JULIE IRWIN ZIMMERMAN: There was this older Native American man, and these kids surrounded him and were yelling things at him and laughing at him. And they were blocking his path. He apparently was trying to, you know, walk over to the Lincoln Memorial or something like that, and they wouldn’t let him through.
VEDANTAM: The kids surrounding this man looked like 15-year-old boys. They were nearly all white. A few were making gestures that looked like tomahawk chops. Some wore hats that read Make America Great Again.
ZIMMERMAN: These kids were making fun of this guy because he was Native American because he had a drum and was chanting something unfamiliar to them. It was pretty cringeworthy.
VEDANTAM: We’re going to look at Julie’s encounter with the story in some detail because it’s revealing about how outrage works today. Like many others watching that day, Julie fixated on one boy in the video. He was standing directly in front of the Native American man staring at him. He had what looked like a smirk on his face as the older man sang.
ZIMMERMAN: His image evoked all the horrifying things Americans have done to Native Americans throughout the centuries.
VEDANTAM: As the day went on, more details emerged. The boys were students at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati, where Julie lives.
ZIMMERMAN: I started seeing tweets that the kids were chanting build the wall, build that wall.
The modern world has brought us many wonders. We understand reality so much better than just 200 years ago when folklore, myths, magical thinking ruled most societies. Not that there is anything wrong with myth, folklore, or magical thinking, it is only when it becomes a cage for the mind that trouble sets in, which has happened again in our modern age with the brand-new behavior (but very old instinct) of doomscrolling. Watch out. You are being imprisoned in your own mind. Don’t believe me? Consider several experts studying this phenomenon. Clinical psychologist Dr. Amelia Aldao warns that doomscrolling traps us in a “vicious cycle of negativity” that fuels our anxiety. She says, “Our minds are wired to look out for threats. The more time we spend scrolling, the more we find those dangers, the more we get sucked into them, the more anxious we get.” Not only this, all this doom is triggering massive releases of neurotransmitters that are attaching to receptors in your brain. The more you do an activity that triggers the same response, the more your brain gets wired to want more and more…it is like an addiction. Your brain actually grows (rewires itself) to be dependent on bad news and doom. Instead of harnessing your natural outrage to do good in the world, you turn it in on yourself and consume your own brain, reducing your mind’s ability for creative thought, rational thought, and the expression of kindness, compassion, and healthy emotions. You must take back your mind first, otherwise you will likely never leave your room of doom.
A postscript on Doomscrolling:
My friend, Rag Mars (pseudonym), provided a thought provoking comment to an update I posted about this blog to my friends on Facebook.
“As a German Biochemist Ph.D., in my view, it is the fast accelerating complexity and pressure [that we live in today as modern humans]. We have no way to understand the most simple things anymore. In the Supermarket, I saw a Mouse Pad [that was] imprinted with the periodic table of all chemical Elements. [Imagine that how taken for granted this knowledge is to humans today.] [Meanwhile,] the Alchemists [were rigorously trying to figure out all we know today.] [They] were convinced, Mercury is the Element that can be transmuted into Aurum [the Latin word for gold]. In Quantum Chemistry, we know [today], Hg, Mercury has 80 protons, and Aurum, Au, has 79 protons. We also know, when a proton captures an electron, it can be transmuted, converted into a neutron. When in the nucleus of Hg (Mercury), [if] one electron from outside hits a proton [inside], it will [be] converted into a neutron, hence becoming Au 79–Gold.
“The Alchemists had no way to know anything about Quantum Chemistry. So how did they use Hg to perform the transmutation to Au 79?[It remains] a mystery. Today, we have no Mysteries anymore, we know [everything, or so we think]. And we also know, economically, it makes no sense [to do this–convert Mercury into Gold this way]. But, [in this knowing] we have lost the mystery. A mysterious insight in the strange cosmos. Not knowing–and still gaining insight. This riddle puzzles me. In our hyper complexity, we could know a lot. [But,] we do not–[our lives are flowing much too] fast [and we consume way too much knowledge.] [Because of this,] we have lost All of the Ancient Mysteries and Insights [our ancestors had]. So in this view, we are much more impoverished. We may even ask, was there [ever a time of] so much mystery? [We have forgotten to leave space in our mind] as the little known [is] too [small] to fill a great and bright mind, and so an Alchemist had to search for a deeper, complex hidden world. [He did so rigorously and did not settle for simple answers, and he stumbled upon amazing things.] [What did] he find access to [within his mind]? Was there Magic [there?]–[an inner realm where he was driven to] because of [his more} simple reality? Mind boggling to me.”
“Once again you write about what I write about right now–mysterious things such as the parallels between quantum mechanicians and ancient knowledge of the Alchemists (and even further back!). I did not know about this strange link between Mercury and Gold. It is fascinating and it illuminates a little more of my own inner darkness — not that this darkness it bad, it is simply unseen.
Seeing is knowing and with knowledge we are able as human being to make different choices than what has proceeded us before. Knowledge is illumination–it is inner light (at least one form of it). Again, I veer to the story I am currently consuming Outlander to help add insight to these ideas. In this scene, Claire hears a baby crying in the forest. Her friend Geillis Duncan tells her this:
“Claire, that’s a fairy hill. That baby is no human child. That’s a changeling. When the fairies steal a human child away, they leave one of their own in its place. You know it’s a changeling because it doesn’t thrive and grow. If you leave a changeling out over night in such a place, the wee folk will come, take it back, and return the child they’ve stolen.“
Claire; however, knows different and runs up the hill to help the child, but she is too late, the child has died from exposure. She is devastated, but Jamie finds her on the hill and comforts her by saying, perhaps the belief that their child will live forever stay and happy with the fairies is a comfort to this family who placed the infant here.”
Believe as a comfort, even if it has nothing to do with reality, why do humans do this?
A couple days later, I watched a documentary about Trump and his conspiracies theories by Fareed Zakaria. After going through and showing us all the fanatical modern day conspiracies ranging from Q to Alex Jones and other fantastical conspiracies manufactured and believed by millions and millions of people in the U.S. (and around the world) is akin to believing in witchcraft and fairies and monsters from times long ago. Fareed explains this is because reality is complicated and people strongly desire to feel safe and in control of their world and their fate. Thus, if magical thinking explains why something devastating happens in a way that gives them a sense of lost control, they grab onto it, regardless of how little it has to do with reality. You can hear Fareed’s show in the link below.
Remember, you are beautiful just the way you are right now. Your inner beauty will save yourself and the ones you love, and even the world when you remember just how magnificent you are. Each and every one of us has tremendous capacity to do good in the world. This is power that is equal and opposite to the ones choosing to do bad in our beautiful world of so much complexity and life. In fact, I bet there are far more ‘Good People of Earth‘ than there are ‘Bad People of Earth‘. You spin your thread to freedom every moment of every day by the choices you make. Make them consciously.
The Logic of Rage— Neuroscientist Doug Fields was on a trip to Europe when a pickpocket stole his wallet. Doug, normally mild-mannered, became enraged — and his fury turned him into a stranger to himself. Today on Hidden Brain, we explore the secret logic of irrational anger.
This is a part of a comment sent to a local public radio station for a segment about protesting in America, which is washing over the United States after George Floyd was brutally murder under the knee of a cop.
My hometown is Minneapolis. I am white and of Norwegian heritage. My father was a Lutheran minister. We moved to Minneapolis from South Dakota just before I entered middle school. I hated the city and longed for the vast and empty prairies that my family had left, but in the course of my time living in North Minneapolis, I grew to love this city, the people, and culture deeply.
I attended North High School, which at the time was considered one of the most dangerous high schools in Minneapolis. There were riots at this school regularly back then. White people were a minority. At times, it was very hard such as the day I was punched in the head by a black man riding past me on his bike while I was walking to my school bus after school. This shook me deeply. But I participated fully in my school. I ran track and cross country and went to state in cross country skiing. I grew into my school and made many, many friends of many different skin colors than me.
After seeing George Floyd brutally killed, all my early years flooded back into me. I could feel the land and the people—and it was crying out with the pain of injustice and racial tensions that so many of my childhood friends had to live within. Friends who had showed me how to endure pain and injustice with courage and grace.
I Never Protested Until
I have never considered myself a person who protests, but when the Woman’s March took place, I was compelled to go down. To my great surprise, not only did I go down, but I interviewed more than 30 people attending the march. I was terrified to go up to people and ask to record them and their reasons for coming, but I did it. Everyone I asked was happy to express why they were there. As I grew more comfortable going up to people and doing this, I realized I was falling back on my implicit bias and only going up to older white women. So, I challenged myself to find individuals outside of my invisible, internal bias. This is when I met Sioux Z Dezbah who protested at the Standing Rock protests, which had occurred before the Women’s March. Police had turned violent, and she had been hit in the eye with a rubber bullet or tear gas canister that caused her to almost lose her eye.
She was spectacular. I have attached this interview. I went on to interview as many different individuals than myself as I could.
I Am Afraid of the Police
Now, I realize I am afraid of what the police will do. Last night at Lafayette Park spectacularly demonstrates why I harbor this fear (i.e., Trump’s photo op at the church). And, the images of so many violent confrontations with peaceful protesters around the country is greatly disturbing. I understand that there are agitating, anarchist agents at work. But there are more peaceful people who are in pain. I am in pain. My country is in pain. There must be a better way.
The Mayor of DC said in a press conference after Trump’s photo op and what resulted afterwards (as well as before) that she was overwhelmed and could not take the time to discriminant between peaceful protestors and nefarious agents. I don’t buy that. If we don’t take the time now to understand what is going on, when will we understand this pain and hear it and honor it? Yes, the nefarious agents need to be detained, but hurting peaceful protestors, detaining peaceful protestors… I am distributed by this.
This is not the right direction now. Just as the coronavirus has made all of us stop and take more time to do ordinary things like going to the grocery store and change our behavior to protect each other. Now is a time to do the same around issues of white privilege and structural racism that have been baked into our systems, which are unsustainable. We need to take the time to find the people who are clinging to their fear of losing power and looting and hurting police from the peaceful protestors. We should not be hurting and arresting peaceful people who are joining together to embrace a new, braver, better America.
Also, women have long suffered from the stringent, misogynistic, brutal rules made by fearful white men. I experienced this in Denver when I was hit by a car while biking. The white, male police officer who came to the scene followed me to the hospital and harassed me for not wearing a helmet instead of looking for the driver to never even stopped and there were many witnesses he could have talked to get details about the car and driver. But instead he followed me to the emergency room and then threaten to write me a ticket and make me appear in court for not wearing a helmet. For goodness sake, it’s on me if I landed on my head when I fell. Rather I landed on my tailbone, breaking it, which was very painful and frightening enough. This was a mild case of police abuse, but the fear is real, and it spans across every interaction that bad Cops have with ordinary people who they are supposed to protect. I understand the mistrust. I have it too.
The Showdown in Lafayette Square — Are We Losing Our Democracy?
As more is coming out about what happened on Monday, there is good reason to fear the police, especially a militarized police being directed by a leader who interested only in amalgamating his power. For anyone interested in drilling down on the truth, here are two podcast produced by The Daily, one aired on June 4, 2020 and the other on June 5, 2020.
The Showdown in Lafayette Square: What happened outside the White House, and what it reveals about the debate inside over using the military to quell protests. Click the link to listen to this 31 minute podcast.
Why They’re Protesting: “Hate killed Mr. Floyd,” one said. “This kind of conduct has been allowed for far too long against people of color. And enough is enough.” This podcast is a series of interviews with individuals and what motivated them to take to the streets and protest now. It is a series of stunning interviews.
Another interview that aired on June 4 on FreshAir with Anne Applebaum is a must hear. She is an expert in authoritative governments and how people rationalize their complicity or collaboration in allowing a dictator to rise and grab power, then ruthlessly rule. She warns the United States is closer to this moment than we think it is.
Reality is complicated… and now it is more important than ever before to hold competing realities simultaneously in our mind to understand what is happening now. It is complicated and there are no simply narratives to explain it. It takes all of us to do the work to understand it, thus the title to Applebaum’s article in The Atlantic.
In the FreshAir interview, Applebaum tells how Trump’s intentional effort (along with many, many others) to simplify what is happening across the country due to the brutal death of George Floyd by a cop is an assault on democracy and a dangerous power grab — to which the Republican Senate is complicit like the Russian Duma or Hungarian governing bodies. She says that his and others attempt to blame the radical left and liberals as well as Antifa as the only reasons for the riots and looting is an intentional effort to divide Americans and grab more power.
Our own media doesn’t help by seeking the better shot on live TV of a trash can or police car on fire rather than a bunch of peaceful protestors doing the electric slide. Even our social networks tend to focus on these micro parts of a much bigger reality, thus amplifying or distorting them.
Applebaum says very poignantly that what we are witnessing is a Nation committing suicide (this is in the FreshAir interview when it is available), and history will judge harshly those who have been complicit in the destruction of democracy.
Another important interview occurring today was on The Kojo Nnamdi Show with an interview with Greg Carr Chair, Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Howard University; @AfricanaCarr. A brief overview of this critical piece of information includes:
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sparked a movement.
All across the country, people are stepping out and rallying against police brutality and institutionalized racism. The District has seen a surge in protests, as thousands of residents have gathered for the last week.
As riots and looting remain a part of these protests, many see a comparison to the riots after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The comparisons between the fight for civil rights in the 1960s and today are easy to make, but how much do they have in common? What does this mean for the movement today and what happens next?”
A Better Way Forward
I think what the Sheriff in Flint, Michigan did before Trump’s disgraceful photo op is one model to follow. He put down his weapons and asked the people he knew and was there to protect what they needed him to do. They said walk with them, and he did! We need bridge builders now… not frighten white men who are blowing up our fragile community connections (I include our President and the disruptors taking advantage of and/or trying to hijack this extremely important moment).
I have been hearing the chant in my head that the white men in Charlottesville’s repeated over and over during that horrible gathering, which killed Heather Heyer. They chanted, “You Will Not Replace Us.” What terrible fear and smallness this chant embodies. I hear a new chant: “We are all connected.”
When we come to understand that ‘Your pain is my pain. Your weakest moment is mine too. Your suffering and loss of justice and human dignity is my loss of justice and human dignity. When we help each other to achieve justice, fairness, equality for everyone (no matter the color of one’s skin), we heal each other. And, as we heal, we can help Earth heal and recover from the damage we (the human race) has inflicted upon our planet.’
Climate Change Is Part of This Wave of Despair Too
Climate change is a part of this too because the same isolationist, authoritative, supremacist thinking is what is destroying our beautiful planet and accelerating Climate Change. The front end of the effects of Climate Change are already hurting and killing the people who have done the least to damage our world. The vast majority of people being impacted are black and brown and poor individuals who need to migrate due to deteriorating climate that is causing droughts, locus plagues, disease, lack of water, and wars. Then, when hurting humans try to escape these conditions in Europe and the US, they face another massive injustice with wave after wave of the anti-immigration policies thrown up against them, trapping them in dangerous places and situations.
Bridges to Hope, to Justice for All, and to a More Beautiful and Sustainable World
When we build bridges to justice and to hope and to sustainability, we build a more beautiful and sustainable world for all living beings on Earth.
Right now, in the USA, it feels like we are losing our democracy. We are no longer the land of the free and the brave. Rather, we are falling into a self-made chasm created by fear, injustice, intolerance, and oppression fueled by greed and a hunger to hold onto power. This hopeful moment of grief and outrage is being hijacked by small groups of people who are being selfish, or even worse, seeking to divide us. And, divided we fall…divided our beautiful world falls.
Just before Trump’s disgraceful use of St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op of his power and authority, I had taken pictures of the moon rising over the Potomac. The juxtaposition of this beautiful and peaceful moment followed shortly thereafter by Trump’s use of force to clear Lafayette Park (the people’s park) just so he could walk across it for his photo op shocked me.
Your pain is my pain
I made this video and post as a creative act of defiance to capture this strange juxtaposition and terrible moment:
Moonrise Over the Potomac…Just Before Trump’s Photo Op
This is a moment symbolizing the Re-Feudalization of America. We are at the edge of turning the United State of America into an Authoritative, Dictatorial, Undemocratic Nation & Trump had a bible in his hand… give me a break. His deplorable photo op and call to use the military if governors could not stop the protests themselves occurred on June 1, 2020, if you can believe that. And now, he is building a fence around the people’s park.
It is important to remember that nature goes on so beautifully and perfectly without us… it’s our decision (isn’t it) if we decide to stick around here on beautiful Earth… or if she shakes us off, which she can do so easily…(more likely we will do that for her)
We are all connected–aren’t we. Your pain is my pain. Your weakest moment is mine too. When we help each other to achieve justice, fairness, equality for everyone (no matter the color of one’s skin), we heal each other, and as we heal, we help Earth keep being so beautiful (and she heals us too…). This little movie is a creative act of defiance against the forces that are crushing us. We need to join together like never before… all around the world.
As I posted the video and words above, my friend in Norway posted this:
“All is good. America is mad. USA and Brazil governed by demented psychopaths. Pandemic. Collective insanity in the world. Climate crisis. Extinction of species. People staring at small machines most of the time, seeing bullshit, vulgarity and trivialities. Disconnected. Arguments with ghosts and shadows. Truthers the liars, pro-lifers the killers, antiracists the racists, “we are waking up!” from the most asleep, cops the criminals, those with vision lacking power, those with power lacking vision, those speaking most, least to say. Pollution. Plastic, water, air, soil, language, mind, conduct. Hypnotic memetic parasites feeding on human attention, funded by internet profiteers, distracting from everything valuable. Numbness. Science fiction entertainment: evil, murder, death and doom on the menu. Lovers divided. Brother against brother, sister against sister, father against mother, parent against child, neighbour against neighbour, human against human, based on misunderstanding. Disease. Seldom ease. Worried, restless, wanting, rushing, thinking, thoughts of empty babble: state of modern mind. Round and round and round. Dreams replaced, laid to waste, by crap, with haste. Until this life shall meet its end. Finger pushes send. Message into void placing bet. Hope for something yet to get. And yet. All is good.“
His comments resonated so closely with the juxtaposition I was trying to capture in my video and words. So, I shared my video and some of my post.
He responded saying: “Wow this video really hit home with me!😀 I know just this feeling, from some of those enormously wonderful summer days when the whole world explodes in wild beauty and song. This really hits the essence of what I wrote about last night as I was supposed to go to sleep, when then this sentence «All is good» suddenly came to me like a wise whisper. I realized that this simple everyday expression which points to an eternal truth, is also a container that can hold all the painful and mad absurdities of our time safely. Like that great big sky we catch a glimpse of in the video is always in the background, looking over and holding us, safely and patiently and gloriously.”
I said: “Yes, this is such a raw and painful moment in the US. You could not have known what was happening here, nor did I know what Trump was going to do as I filmed this beauty in DC just before one of the most disgraceful moments of our modern age in the US. I felt the juxtaposition of our collective human now with nature’s beauty was so powerful. This is what we will lose if we lose ourselves.”
Thank You Because You Are the Change We Need Now
If you cannot protest, take the time NOW to understand reality from many different angles and perspectives. We all have time right NOW to understand our reality better because of COVID, so take it to become informed, to become an expert. This is the strong medicine we are all going to need for what needs to be done next — when the protests calm down and COVID subsides (or doesn’t and we go into lockdown again) — when we emerge from this NOW, we have a devastated economic landscape, fractured communities, broken justice system (as well as just about every other system)… in short, we are in trouble.
Stay informed! I rely on you and you rely on me to understand Now.
Thank you for reading! Your time and attention is precious because where each of us puts our time and attention reality grows. I choose to put mine as much as I can on peace, love, and understanding. I choose justice for all living beings.
“Painting to me is a truth, and maybe…a memory..” — Andrew Wyeth.
What a beautiful documentary on Prime on his life and painting. I have been self-isolating for some time due to several changes in my life and am examining the deeper purpose of ARTISTS in this time of complete uncertainty. What is our role as helpers when many are suffering? I do not have the answers but I know because we cohabitate on a living breathing planet we are all effected. I can’t imagine anyone could not be effected in some way. If the Earth suffers we suffer. Many things that are happening now my grandmother predicted, she has been gone 24 years and told me stories long before that. Anna Mae. Wise Woman.
The Lost Bird Tribes
I always loved moody weather. Fog. Rain. Snow. Gray days. Sun present then not. Today I woke to misty fog with raindrops and if you close your mind you can pretend none of what we face now has happened. Of course it’s an illusion. I still want to paint beauty now and my Spirit Birds. I think we are starving for it. I love to surround myself with flowers, vibrant colors, art, textiles, textures. Jungian analyst Ellen Sweeney my dear friend said to me: “Does this feed your soul, or your despair?” I am looking at that question each day as I remain isolated due to respiratory issues.
How can you feed your soul today? How can you practice lovingkindness to yourself and others? How can you love this Earth more? This living breathing home that sustains us? Tell me what is helping you as you stay home, reflect, and be present to this narrative. Sending love. Thank you for following my art. I hope it brings a breath of beauty to your day.
I woke up in the night full of fear, the only thing that shakes it off for me is painting, art, Romeo. I will continue to paint beauty even in the depths of deep uncertainty. My heart went to CA. Blair and I loved our bohemian community in Trinidad. I was lucky to do additional studies at The Center for Sacred Studies in the Guerneville/Bay area. The energy there is infectious, alive and free. I think of my dear friends there I love. This is based on a dream I had years ago where I was in Tehran. I was in an opulent store full of gold and women were in full burkas. I was the only Westerner there having no idea why I was. The women went outside in the street in unison, their burkas fell off and they became a flock of ravens in the clear teal skies…off they flew. Free. I never forgot that amazing dream and finally painted it. ONCE UPON A TIME IN TEHRAN…holding all of you in my thoughts….🌿
Frida Kahlo suffered so immensely in her life. She survived a horrific car/bus accident, had so many surgeries, was lame and became one of the most incredible artist of our times. She had many miscarriages and despite the depth of her pain she painted continually. She endured alot with Diego Riveria which caused her heartache. She remains one of my favorite artists because she was so completely raw, authentic, bearing her soul in spite of her suffering. She could be not be caged. Her art was her partner too. I relate so deeply to that.
We can not nor would I want to compare peoples suffering. It is all relative and when you are in the midst of it this is your personal narrative. I know many are suffering with worry, family, anxiety of the unknown. I will still repeat my mantra: WE NEED ARTISTS MORE THAN EVER AT THIS TIME. Whatever form that takes. Many of you are artists that follow my page and I thank you for what you bring to others. Who knows maybe in this time of creativity/adversity a great art exhibit, a novel will be finished, new music and lyrics will find new homes. Let’s hold that thought and exhibit what we did in these times to bring HOPE to others. Art is home. There is no place like home. Sending love to you from my studio. 💖
My first Pandemic piece about the Virus. I wrote several pages on this. In this dream I saw horses that were skeletal like I could see their features but they were bones and air. They were balancing one another holding all the energies dark thoughts, suffering, hope and rebirth. To the right is a figure already reached by the virus going through a life review. Re-remembering all memories. All good, bad and mundane needing to make a decision if his soul will stay or not.
The left is a nun like figure dressed in a habit and covered veil. In the beginning I saw a large black and prussian blue moth in front of her. She has a mask covering her mouth. She too is having difficulty breathing. The apparation then becomes this moth being. Expanding. Breathing. Cleaning our lungs and the Earth working on us thoroughly whether we feel Her or not.
We are rebirthing a New World, we are One. This brings to our us to our raw truth, our essence. Feeling between the worlds something so much larger than us is happening….So much larger than us…Soul Beings this is a Ceremony that needs all of us. Lovingkindness. Thinking of all of you. 💖💖
I worked on this 2 straight days while reflecting on this virus. Here is a poem I wrote 19 years ago that I feel connects with this piece. 2001. Image and poem copyright. 2020.
Mother of the Night of my interior silence and shame of top heavy scarlet peonies shedding into your rich terrain So tender to touch. Mother of the Night Whom hears our muffled cries yet knowing. You stand beside me as the cool winds descend torrents of rain, fresh green upon my thirsty soul. Mother of the Night of dreams entering my consciousness, You are here. This I know In my sojurn of hellos and goodbyes of the completely unexplainable. You know me inside and out. Mother of the Night, I release my heart Amongst the astral skies Remembering last Spring’s weeping This May at Peace. Mother of the Night, It is getting easier to breathe. Mother of the Night it is getting easier to breathe.
*One year from now I hope we feel this next Spring. Love. Love. Love.
Lost Horse Tribes
I wrote this on Dec. 6, 2001.
“Once I thought I would die of a broken heart. Now I live because I am broken.” The Horse Spirits of my dreams comfort me in my dreams. Awakening me at 3:33 a.m. to get out of bed telling me to continue to write and make my art catalogue. NOW IS THE TIME as my father always said. It is my gift to others in these times. Artists creating in this New Age difficult as it is, we were made for these times. Here we are ready to change the narrative, adapt, build hope, bring light, love, perception & compassion through empathetic lens…May be shared. @2020.
Lost Bird Tribes
Excerpt from my night monk hour poem:
” Please don’t tell me you are not afraid. Please tell me the truth. Not what you think I want to hear. Not a heartless platitude. Emptiness. If you really and honestly are doing great I want to know your Divine secrets Because the night hours call me Taking me down endless roads and universities With no names. I never know where I am. And tonight I feel so lost.” 3-28@2020. Fear of the Unknown. #NeoVirusArt. THE LOST BIRD TRIBES AND LOST LANGUAGES.
Rainy night Pattering on my window to WAKE UP Marc Chaghall visited in my dreamspace He said, ” Be fantastically playful!” The composition of my twilight hours painted itself Two Asian Strawberry Finches A Blue Horse leaping into an ethereal Walk About Interconnected One Tribe. They said to me their names were The Awakening. @2020.
Inspired by the great artist Marc Chaghall. 1887-1985. Russian, French, Belarusian Jewish origin. He painted ” dreams of our humanity.” Colorist. Surrealism. Cubism. Expressionism. Modern Art. Symbolism. Fauvism. I am deeply inspired by his art. I would define my art as a Visionary Colorist Birthing The New Earth Movement. Loving Awareness, Donna Alena
Lost Horse Tribes & Possibilities
If I lose HOPE I will have lost everything. What is something that brings you a sense of peace and hope today despite adversity? Loving kindness, Donna Alena. @2020.
Oh Empty Spaces The Silent Night Hours We are Living Texts of this time. Breathing into this Holy Moment Listening to my inherited narrative Knowing this is the catalyst of Infinite Possibilities.
The Luminance Hour
From my journal I wrote this:
The Luminance Hour has arrived I think we deep down knew this moment was possible. A sudden urgent STOP Catching our breath Hearing the words the Period of Impermanence The moment of Reconcilation. We have no choice other than to Awaken.
Crossing the Atlantic with the Mermaids
To my Aunt Ann whom has been gone 23 years. When she was crossing the Atlantic, age 15 she said “the mermaids followed the ship to Ellis Island.” This was a devout Catholic woman whom believed in mermaids! Yes she saw them, yes they guided her ship. She was to live in West Mifflin, PA the rest of her life near her parents meeting my incredible Uncle Andy. I see these mermaids as beacons in the journey guiding us to new places, new homes. Something we all need!
Raven & Lost Horse at Night
Evening is when I love to paint. The lighting is uncertain, the colors a question.These are the Night Companions we cannot see that help us. Maybe we do see them, I imagine them & paint them like a novel. Someone asked me yesterday how disciplined should an artist be. I say draw, paint, and sketch everyday and when you do this for years you will witness the metamorphis of your techniques and art. I know these times are so difficult. Keep doing your art, don’t stop. We need your stories and dialogue!!
The Story Begins
Good morning friends. My prologue to my book passed my editor’s approval. Chapters forming. Good vibes while I am home healing and painting please.
I have been dreaming on it for awhile and have begun writing. Hint the story begins in Mongolia where the horses originated before crossing the Bering Strait. They were Medicine Helpers, companions, and nomadic travelers. May be shared. More awaits the story. 💖💖
She is a Mirage. She follows the Nomadic air. No-one owns her. The tundras are full of arctic moss, bearberry, and labrador tea cradling her feet where no map has existed. Like fog that appears and dissipates she is led purely by instinct in the North Lands.
Super Moon couldn’t sleep so I worked on the fauna and plant life that will be in the book. Another chapter ready for my editor. Will not share what I wrote but oh it is good, I feel it in my Slovak bones. This inquiry started when a 5 year old client asked me if flowers could talk. I said “of course!” He said “I knew it because I heard the dandelions today….”
Another Blue Horse on the journey from THE BERING STRAIT. Imagination is such a gift. I think I have been writing and plotting stories since kindergarten. God bless my mom and dad. Dad used to tell me to publish my book! “I don’t always understand what you are doing but I am proud of you.” Eventually, he even bragged I was an art therapist! When I was 18 in college he begged me to not major in art. “You will never find a job.” Imagine his horror that I would be an art therapist. Well it took Post Masters work to be certified so I think he was relieved I would get a job. 30 plus years later out of college I am still creating art and doing art therapy with trauma and grief. It’s been a ride. Thank you dad and mom. All the family!
Almost finished. In the beginning blue horses roamed the lands of Mongolia and Siberia with unabandoned freedom. They were on an Ancient Walk About following the interior maps they inherited for centuries. Migration was something that was the divine makeup of their beingness. There were so many territories to roam. They could be not be stopped, owned, hoarded for this too was unattainable.
Water and Bones
She is composed from the Waters crossed long ago to a home unseen. Leaving everything behind not sure one would ever return. Her granddaughter became a vivacious swimmer and everytime she closed her eyes she saw her grandmother Bubbie and Aunt Aunt knowing they were in her bones, always present, a melody that haunted her softly in the blue light…
The Story Continues
Meet INGRID: SIBERERIAN HORSE RIDER. She comes from the lands of snow. The myth goes no one knows for sure how she ended up in Mongolia but she was seen with the Blue Horses. She was so fair and ethereal that the Original People called her Ingrid. She was the color of the expansive plateaus, caribou moss and the endless turquoise skies. This painting was started by Andrea Dawson-Johnston at my house as a sketch and I asked her if I could paint my interpretation she said yes and so she became a character in my book. So TY Andrea! Perfect day for her debut as faint tender snow is falling. Storytelling heals…
Vandana means Worship. She is a strong character, named after one of my dear friends from Graduate School. She is committed, brave, decisive based on instincts, allie to all birds, and a culture keeper, one who holds the Stories. First sketch of her so she might evolve and change. She is a dreamer of big adventures and nothing gets in her way to try!
Dreaming Sacred Places & People
The original painting I will post below later. I painted it in 2018 and yesterday I went back in and updated it.
Two times I was to go to Kathmundu and the Tibetan Plateau but both times I had siginificant life changes and could not go. Interestingly, the places I don’t go to I dream about. Do you dream of places you want to visit? I totally believe we can go their in Dream Time. I count on it!
Yesterday, I dreamt I was there surrounded by Shamans, Inuit, Mongolian, Tibetan, and from India. They were so beautiful in their regalia from their homelands. I am leaving out a lot of details but when it was time to go I pleaded and cried for them to take me HOME with them. At first they were in disbelief that I wanted to do this then they knew I was very sincere. I asked them what my job would be. They said ” they would place me in front of one of the monk’s houses, people would come to me and my job was to only Listen.”
I know as an art therapist that has worked with trauma, and bereavement for years this is what I do. But this listening was different. It is Sacred Listening. Being present in everyway possible. No judgement. I felt this was very relevant with grief and the New Virus Age. I have had daily conversations with dear friends where they are there for me. I deeply listen to them back. Maybe in this time we begin to learn the true responsibility the sense of hearing and how we use it.
I still hope to get to Kathmundu one day and place some of Blair’s ashes near the Himalayas. Meanwhile, I can dream…yes I can always dream….Love…..
It’s all a dream but it is getting closer to reality. PAST PRESENT FUTURE.
In the dream I wear a Ukrainian cornflower blue crown. I am holding roses that will be planted on Great Zetal’s land. Added rain and rose water. Memories of all the Grandmother’s. Bittersweet. Based on a suggestion by Reda Rackley. Site of BONEWOMAN. Thank you Reda.
Based on a dream. I see the back of myself in what appears to be the future. I am wrapped in an ochre blanket. After so many questions, dreams, travels, I finally see the deepest desire I have revealed. I am sitting in Zetal’s village. Looking at the low line hills. The air is clear. The hour is sunset when I was born. It feels like a mirage, like rain softly falling. It feels so deeply familiar.
My niece will be giving birth during this pandemic. This is for the new mothers. The Ancestors that stand with them. The trees. The seen and unseen. This is also the rebirth of ourselves. The New Consciousness that the virus is teaching us. The birth of a New World. The knowledge that some cycles of life must fade, they no longer serve humanity. Birthing a new way of living. I hope you have made new decisions of living. 🥀💖
For all our Mothers here and on the other side.
SERIES FOR BLAIR. Third Anniversary nearing. Many many layers. I am bewitched by the Patinas of Eastern Europe. I was trying to recreate them to look like ones I saw in Poland. They form these lovely palettes of color naturally. Reference for fields of poppies in Slovakia.
“Heaven And Hell Are Not What Jesus Preached,” Religion Scholar, Bart Ehrman, said during an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air about the end of March of 2020. Bart Ehrman talked about how the ideas of eternal rewards and punishments are not found in the Old Testament or in the teachings of Jesus. He was discussing his new book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife when at about 36 minutes in he mentioned the End Times. Ehrman said that so many people were talking about how we we all living though the End Times now (i.e., the time of Coronavirus). However, Ehrman points out people have always thought the hard times they were enduring were the End Times. In reality, it was usually due to man’s stupidity.
This is not exactly what Ehrman said. He phrased it much more elegantly than I have paraphrased it, but what he said reminded me of two recent encounters with this idea of man’s stupidity. The first time occurred 2 days before Christmas when my beloved dog died suddenly and unexpectedly in my arms. She had been bleeding internally, but I had missed all the signs. As I stood over her dead body, stroking her soft chocolate hair, I said over and over, “We were so stupid, so stupid, so stupid…”, meaning myself for I knew I had missed all the signs that might have saved her life.
I encountered it again in February, as the gravity of the Coronavirus was sinking in around the world. At this time, terrible reports were coming out of Italy, which had quickly become the epicenter of the novel Coronavirus that was making its way around the world. I was listening to an interview on the BBC with an Italian Emergency Room doctor who said, “Man was stupid in dealing with this disease. We let whole families come in with their loved one who got infected themselves and then spread it far and wide.”
Again, this is not an exact quote, but what the doctor was expressing echoed my own sentiments about my stupidity in the death of my beloved dog. And now Bart Ehrman was expressing this idea with Terry Gross. I haven’t learned much in life, but I have learned to pay attention when things happen in threes.
In the Wake of Death, I Found Comfort in Alan Watts
In the wake of my dog’s death, I had found comfort listening to Alan Watts who often danced around the idea of man’s stupidity in his lectures. In this particular string of 3s, I remembered a particularly memorable tangent he had taken in one lecture. Watts was famous for veering off on tangents in his lectures, but he always linked them back to his main points. Before veering off on this tangent, Watts had discussed the limits of man’s thinking.
Watts artfully drew his audience’s attention to the thing behind the eyes looking out onto the world–asking his audience: “What is the thing that lies behind the eyes?”
Then, Watts answered his own question by saying: “It is the thing we cannot think or perceive or name. It is the nothingness from which all form has risen.”
Watts and His Riddles
Watts’ lectures were full of riddles he attempted to explain through stories, thus the reason for his tangents. In this lecture, Watts veers into this tangential story in this way:
“…the farthest we can go in thinking about nothing [is a question…to try and get to the root of the matter]. Let me put this in another way. The world is formed, [and] now you cannot look for the origin of form in form because what you would get then would be maybe a universe where you couldn’t make out any form at all. [This is] because of us [because of our thinking] so much of it would be like writing a letter on top of a newspaper, and then putting a picture over that, and then doing something else until there wasn’t a single square millimeter of paper left of blank paper! Nobody could read anything. One can read, one can see form, one can see the world because [there is] emptiness:Emptiness [is] the mother of form.”
Watts goes on to talk about how people are really just rascals at their core, playing games and tricking each other. He told the audience he was doing that to them Now. He had hoaxed them all into coming to hear him that night. It was a trap, but he was going to make it an entertaining trap, so they wouldn’t feel so badly about it. He continues talking about how all of life is participating in this game: “The water is going around all day going tttt tttt. The fish and ducks are doing the same going dddd dddd.” Then he gets to the outrage people natural feel upon hearing this, “Well, what do mean we are all just fiddling around…and this is only a game?!”
This is where he gets to his really interesting tangent for he has anticipated the audience’s question: “What do mean life is a game?” And, he answers it for them: “Well, what did you want? Didn’t you want a game? Did you want it to be serious in the end?”
The Van Eyck Tangent
Watts continues saying:
“What I mean think about the question. What kind of a thing would you like God to be what would you like to do for eternity? Really, here is young Van Eyck who paints the eschatological picture of the Last Judgement. What a strange man he must have been where we have heaven above and hell below…and in heaven, here’s God the Father Godthe Son God the Holy Ghost all there together and Virgin Mary and the apostles and they’re all sitting in committee, and they have an aisle you know just like in church. And there they are facing each other. and they’re all sitting there very solidly. I don’t know what it’s about…but below [them] right at the end of the aisle you [can] see where all these apostles are sitting is [the archangel Michael.]”
“Isn’t Michael a rather gorgeous figure in beautiful armor with wings and underneath him is a bat winged skull and beneath those bat wings are all [mannar of] horror let loose. Michael is about to squash that skull. See [there] with his sword. But below whoow! There are nude bodies some of them pretty comely. They’re all squirming in there, and they’re being eaten by worms, and they are eating the worms, and there’s a kind of a mush. It’s like the sort of situation you find when you turn up a big rock and there’s all that going on underneath.”
“Now, there’s no question whatever the van Eyck the painter had more fun painting that part of the picture [than the top part!] So [it was] the same way with [many of the great painters of those times] they painted every kind of weird surrealistic deviltry going on and they really loved it but they couldn’t admit it…”
Watts goes on, of course, but that’s another story. To me, the crux of what Watts was conveying in this lecture was our inherent ability as human beings to be stupid simply because we are not paying attention to all of who we are as living beings. When something bad happens, we may not consciously think of feel that we have chosen thisthing or that thing to happen in our lives, but if one settles… to really sinks down into the fullness of who one really is… there is something else entirely going on within us. All that stuff going underneath that rock we just have not gotten around to turning up inside our psyche.
I first scribbled this post in a Facebook group where not very many members found it particularly interesting. However, a couple members commented, and one member in particular commented and extended some of Watts thinking, which I will share a little bit below, referring this member as GG and to myself as Bébé.
GG: “If I remember rightly, Alan Watts made the point about what you would do for an eternity, connecting it to the idea that the universe is “playing hide and seek with its self”.
I have contemplated a lot on infinity and eternity during the last few years, since this seems to be the basic deal, that whatever it is we are a part of it could never have begun but must have been going on forever. Since there is movement inwards and outwards ( this seems somehow even like the basic architecture of timespace: a movement inwards and a movement outwards which at every point is always meeting, and thus giving rise to complex and strange kinds of forms ) this also points towards a truly infinite world also in extension, as well as in depth. All our experience also points towards this: we never see an end to life, everywhere there is movement and transformation and events happening, we see neither the smallest nor largest units, there always seems to be more. Physics becomes increasingly exotic, as does mathematics, as does psychology, the more we learn. And so on and so forth, this pattern can be seen everywhere, and it all points towards this infinite eternal multidimensional manifold where for some reason there is even mind and consciousness and experience.
This being the ground of my being, I have wondered, if I could have my greatest wish fulfilled, what would it be?
And the best I have come up with so far, is I would really enjoy to be able to shape shift between all possible and imaginable lifeforms, in such an infinitely large as well as deep space, forever. To live forever, and also live as all possible lifeforms, and thus see and know and experience reality from all possible angles.
The suggestion from Watts that the universe is playing hide and seek with itself might be that this is actually what is happening, and this is the reason why beings are born without strong memories of where they come from, go through an enormous drama of birth and living and death, experience an inner yearning and nostalgia for something timeless and unchanging, until eventually again becoming united with the ultimate source.
The Multiuniverse is among the cosmologically popular explanations for what was before the big bang, this also assumed to be infinite and eternal, along with this exists other models of something more sequential, but even here the main theme is that it never begun and never can end and always have been and will be ongoing.
With this in mind: Is the Multiverse yet another name for God?
It seems clear that both God and the Multiverse share the basic characteristics: forever having existed, full of life in all directions, endless potentiality for new form to arise within it, processes of evolution and learning, and of course intelligent conscious life with self-awareness on a variety of scales and levels. If we assume there are even more intelligent lifeforms than ourselves somewhere in this infinity, or simply assume that evolution of intelligence is a possibility, then this already implies that this possibility has been fulfilled forever ago.
Therefore, both God and Multiverse is a myth of something that contains SUPERINTELLIGENCE and contains as much of it as anyone could like, it having always been a part of the package: the highest possible intelligence forever ago realized and an inherent part of our existence.
Watts indicates that such a superintelligence may be quite playful, feeling in its roots completely secure in its never ending foundations, there might be good reasons to play some games in the meanwhile for nothing other than the pure fun of it, even play some extreme drama, and even pretending to not remember ones origin, searching to come back to it, and since knowing that we have all the time in the world to find the thread back, eventually succeeding. Once again.
That would explain a lot!” 🙂
Bébé : “You are absolutely right! That is exactly what Watts says–the universe is playing a game of hide and seek.
It is a mind warping idea, especially for us living in Western Civilization that does a pretty good job crushing most minds to accept the collective norms of this civilization. Jürgen Hornschuh writes about this a lot, but I believe he is taking a break from this platform as he lives in India and this country is in a massive shut down now.
Where you ask yourself… I have wondered, if I could have my greatest wish fulfilled, what would it be?
How you answer is exactly what Watts says… you would be you doing you right Here & Now. I will attach a song that incorporates this in their music.
Then, you ask: With this in mind: is the Multiverse yet another name for God?
I think you may be right! Have you heard Watts’ lectures about this idea of a super intelligent universe? I can try to find it for you. I was listening to it just before we went into shut down here in VA, so now for whatever reason, I am just not listening to Watts… just trying to feel into what I have heard over the last 2 months of listening. In several of his lectures, he talks about the Earth peopling just like an apple tree apples… and this would not occur in a stupid universe as we have been taught to believe that the universe is a mindless machine… he says that is as crazy an idea of a man with a white beard sitting up on high ruling over heavens and earth… Watts did piss off a lot of people with his ideas… he was a myth burster… but really he was teaching people to release their minds for the boxes of thought we have trapped ourselves inside.
Thank you so much for responding!” ❤️
GG: “We are something the universe is doing” is another idea which when hearing it sounds perfectly reasonable, yet involves such a change from the habitual point of view, a change towards feeling more as a part of the great whole. For me this feeling of being part of the great whole brings a lot of peace, while also makes it all seem so much richer and more interesting. We who live today sure have an enormous gift in the sense of how we can listen to the voice of some of these great masters all the way to our living rooms. Just listening to wise people like Alan Watts, contemplating it and using it as a mirror to reflect back on ones own life, this is a kind of food for the soul.” 🙂
Bébé : “I have been reflecting on your previous comment of if we are eternal energies that your wish might be to be and experience as many forms of being as possible, and I think that would be my wish too. Even the scary ones… I supposed… though that seems insane really! This short song, which is not the lecture that I still need to find, hints at this.
And, yes, Watts goes back to this idea again and again about we are what the universe is doing. It is a beautiful idea. I think I am incubating it right now for the new material I am adding to my story… this the universe is doing man, just as man is doing the universe at the point of Here & Now… I find this so deeply comforting some how.”
GG: “Some of this may move into the realms of speculation but it has been on my mind a lot for several years.
Lets say we accept that the universe is ultimately eternal and life has existed forever. That something like big bang would be yet another moment of change, yet part of something larger pre-existing it, also part of something larger pre-existing it…forever. So some kind of action, movement, transformation happening forever.
Lets also say we believe there is such a thing as evolution. That under some circumstances, life progresses in stages and ascends levels, which means a process of increasing awareness, intelligence, ability, understanding. Learning. We can all relate to this during our own life, some things do evolve, learning and maturation does happen.
Lets also assume there are higher levels of intelligence, awareness, consciousness than humans have known so far. Much points towards this. It seems very unlikely that we are at the top of the evolutionary ladder. More likely that there are enormously much higher levels.
All this seems to me as highly probably true. That the universe could begin out of nothing, for no reason at all, seems like the most impossible of all possible impossibilities! That evolution happens is supported by all our experience. That there are higher undiscovered levels seems overwhelmingly likely.
If this is true, must it then not by necessity be true that Superintelligent life which has evolved to the highest possible levels, has also existed forever? And evolved and developed forever? And created new versions of itself forever?
Then the universe as a whole would indeed be superintelligent. And these higher levels, and dare I say these far more advanced Beings, might be an inherent part of timespace itself. So that all the talk about spirits and angels and gods and entities, are all true, only that the whole truth is exponentially wilder still?
This would explain a lot. I can not see any weaknesses in this reasoning. If we do live within eternal action, there is consciousness, there is evolution, then the highest possible results of this evolution must be expected to always have been a part of this action, at every place where life and consciousness and evolution is taking place.
All this points towards humans having enormously great possibilities if we can somehow get in contact with these higher powers and get help from them.”
Bébé : “I think everything you say is most definitely, highly likely… I agree with all you have said… we each can help evolve and reach higher levels of consciousness by developing ourself. Alan Watts found Buddhism and Hinduism to provide the most helpful daily practices and narratives to possibly do this. But, Watts would always say that it is an individual journey and everything he said should be taken as a story and a form of entertainment. He always nudged his audiences to do their own thinking and make their own conclusions, which is what you do so well Glenn!
Here is one of his lectures where he talks about the super intelligence matrix from which we have arisen: This is the one where Watts talks about a Super Intelligent Universe: The Tao Of Philosophy – Alan Watts.”
During A Time of Crisis (Personal or Collective), Look for a Lost Bird Tribe
Whenever a person experiences a crisis or difficult period due to the death of a loved one, job loss, changes in family structure/cohesion, or anything that places an acute strain on the individual, the effects can ripple for years, decades, even the rest of their life. If a person has enough money, resources, and social status, they often get the help they need to weather the storm. However, a person lacking any or all of these supports, a time of crisis can quickly turn into a crushing time and potential collapse. In my experience during such a time, less robust friendships quickly dry up and disappear. If this happens, very often a person is left to tread the waters of distress alone in a growing sea of fear, sorrow, pain, grief, and abandonment. Digging deeper inside oneself is quite often the only pathway forward. This is when a lost bird tribe might show up. They are messengers and protectors of inner languages that have been lost due to overly busy and complicated modern lives. They remind us of what is really the most important to things to being alive.
One Lost Bird Tribe: Our Lost Inner Worlds
Right now, in the time of COV-19, hard times are being experienced by people around the world almost simultaneously. And these trying times are touching every echelon of society, even the very rich. It is a global crisis that is unprecedented in our modern age and one that is not only threatening human lives but economic systems that the Western World depends upon to thrive.
Just before COV-19 hit, there were big and little crises and civil unrest on the rise all over the world. One could feel this growing global turbulence and turmoil, but one could also still ignore it, concluding it was something happening in Hong Kong (the protests), not here, or something happening in Brazil, not where I live. Co-occurring with this was the rise of authoritarian governments in some of the most democratic countries in the world. People fleeing deadly wars (such as in Syria and Yehem), violence (such as so many countries of Central America), and starvation (such as so much African countries, Venezuela, or any place where conflict and lopsided economic systems ruled by the rich) were welcomed with closed boarders, walls, deportation, and blockades at sea. And, young people around the world who were making their voices heard about the dangers and coming crises of climate change were mocked, and even worse, ignored.
Rather than being brought together by our shared needs as human beings, rampant individualism seem rather to prevail–a type of focus that tends to tear at the fabric of our social structures rather than repair it. Before COV-19, the world seem to react to big and little crises more like a contagious disease to be contained. Barricades and a do not get involved attitude seemed more socially acceptable than providing help and care. And, watching crises unfold far away was strangely comforting as individuals went about their lives as business as usual.
What I am going to tell here occurred before the rapid rise of COV-19, but it is about dealing with crisis and it shows how Lost Bird Tribes can show up during such times to remind us of our lost inner languages–the ones that make us thrive and feel joy and help us heal. These powers come from inside. They are sorely tested during a time of crisis, but that is why the Lost Birds show up to help us find our inner reservoirs of strength, resilience, and wholeness. It is from a point of wholeness that all human beings are empowered to weather the most severe crisis or time.
Following are some of the Lost Birds I have found during my time of personal crisis as well as the ones my friend and colleague Donna Alena Hrabcakova has found.
The Lost Bird Tribe: How To Be Nice
After suffering another devastating personal loss when our beloved dog died suddenly and unexpectedly two days before Christmas. I barely had enough energy to go on any more. A decade of escalating crises had whittled me down to the point of personal collapse. The death of my father a year and a half before combined with the cruel act of my employer firing me while I was by my father’s bedside for 10 days before he died had left me at a point of psychology collapse. It is a place of collapse from which I almost did not pull out from. Many other things contributed to this as well such as most of my social support drying up, including friends, family, even pastors and bishops who looked the other way. But, my dogs did not look the other way. Especially my little brown dog that we called Cider. She stayed by my side night and day. She needed me, and I needed her. I know dogs died unexpectedly all the time. But, what made her death especially hard was that she had been there for me when everyone else was not.
I have written about and made a video (Tribute to Cider), so I will simply say after Cider died, I collapsed again, and it got really bad again. The only thing that pulled me through the aftermath of my father’s death was storytelling and art. And so, that was what I attempted to do again.
When a person creates a thing, it is natural to want to share that thing. One of the things I created was a one minute video. I used a template to create a short trailer using all the bells and whistles that iMovie provides. I selected a longer video I had made a while back about doing inner work to make a promo of. And so after making this, I shared it in several groups I belonged and in which I had shared very similar work previously. These groups had always welcomed similar work I had shared there before, or so it seemed. This time, one group refused to approve the video and another one deleted it. When I asked why the admin of the group that deleted the video, I was told:
“I did not see the link anymore between your personal experience and expression and the relation to us as a species in this time and place.”
Really? That’s just plain mean.
The Lost Bird Tribe: It is OK to Get to Your Last Straw & Draw It!
That’s when I found my Lost Bird Tribe: The Last StrawTribe. I terminated that friend on Facebook and left that group. Then, I purged many “friends” and left many “groups” because I finally realized a couple of things.
One of these things is that many of my “friends” were in a race to get to 5,000. That’s the limit of friends Facebook allows a person to have, but have you ever wondered how one person can really have 5,000 friends? Do you think the algorithms can even share your posts in such “friend’s” News Streams, even your most popular posts? But, I realized having them as my friend dilutes who sees my posts. And, these were individuals who even if they saw my post, they were not showing up for me. And because the algorithm feed it to them and they did not react, my post was shared less and less, meaning friends who might have seen it did not see it because the algorithms judged it unimportant. And so, these friends were really rather a burden to me. I was simply a bead on their necklace of getting to 5,000 friends, nothing more.
At the same time, I came to realize through a series of incidental conversations that I had “friends” not necessarily in a race to 5,000 but they had seen post about my dog dying in my arms as we rushed her to the vet, but they chose to stay invisible. They did not let me know they knew this, nor did they offer a word of comfort or support. They were just watching, which is a very odd feeling when you realize others are watching your pain. I know…it’s on me for sharing it. I take full responsibility for this. But, until this moment I supposed my friends were doing as I tried to do if I saw they were going through a hard or painful time. At the very least, I would let them know I saw their post. And most of the time, I try to leave a word of comfort or support. I understand that I miss many posts because I rely on the algorithms to show me stuff in my News Feed. I have thought many times that I should try to visit my friend’s timelines to make sure I don’t miss something important, but I always run out of time, just like everyone else does. And so, I rely on the algorithms, just like everyone else does. It is really a terrible way to be connected.
But now, I was realizing something I had not considered before: I had friends who were seeing my sad news but not letting me know they saw it nor offering a word of comfort or support. Rather, they were watching like voyeurs. If you look up the meaning to this word, it means a person who enjoys seeing the pain or distress of others. I began to feel like a Voodoo doll–a thing others can watch, perhaps even derive satisfaction or pleasure that the needles of pain and suffering were being visited upon me and not them. Have you ever watched a Reality TV show and said afterwards: “Thank God that’s not my life.” I began to wonder: Do we harbor as human beings somewhere deep in our collective psyche that our own personal pain and suffering might be averted by letting others suffer it for us? If so, this would be an ancient and unpalatable thing for a modern, civilized human being to admit, and therefore, it would have been forgotten by most. Indeed, it would have be buried deeply in our unconsciousness, but that doesn’t mean it went away…not at all, it’s still there lurking in our collective unconsciousness ready to pounce on someone else’s pain as if doing this could avert one’s own pain.
All this happened before COV-19 began its relentless march around the world, putting one country after another and another on lockdown. Before it became clear this was a global crisis that no one would be spared. If you are a human being, you are susceptible to becoming infected by this novel coronavirus because no one has immunity to it, and a vaccine may be many months away. It is an evolving situation, but so far this novel coronavirus appears to be 10 to 20 times more deadly than seasonal flu. Indeed, older people are more likely to go on to develop serve symptoms, but there are cases of younger people getting very sick too. And another novel feature of this virus is that some individuals may show little or no symptoms at all, but act like super spreaders.
This was, it is, a crisis that everyone is experiencing virtually at the same time. And, it is one that has removed almost every form of distraction we might have depended upon not to feel so bad about something we was or are experiencing. Sporting games have been shut down, bars and restaurants are being shut down, gyms and public spaces of every kind are being shut down. People must isolate, and if they got out into a public space, they must try to keep 6 feet distance. It is something we are not use to in modern, highly advanced, civilized societies, even though many, many people in the world have and are suffering much more everyday, but somehow we have managed to keep our distance from their pain.
The Lost Bird Tribe: Grow A Supportive & Caring Community Yourself
After this winnowing down of my online social contacts, I did something I didn’t expect to do. I created my own group. Yes, this was a crazy thing to do. I called this group: If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust? It’s a phrase Alan Watts said in one of his lectures. I started listening to a lot of Alan Watts after Cider died. I found his lectures strangely comforting. This particular phrase made a lot of sense to me as I was coming to terms with my fate and the world as it really is, and not how I wanted it to be. In a way, Watts was leading me back to one of my Lost Bird Tribes. He was helping me trust my inner knowledge and wisdom. He was helping me learn how to trust myself to take the actions I needed to take to heal me.
After creating this group, I invited a few friends who had stood by me. I really wasn’t sure what sort of group I wanted it to be, but I wanted a group that could honor differences between members with dignity and respect. I wanted a group that could foster deep conversations on issues that matter without being cruel to each other when we hit points of divergence on such issues as human beings are naturally going to hit because we are individuals. I had been in enough groups where I had seen the equivalent of onlineshouting (e.g., my idea or opinion is better than yours). It is a type of behavior that seems to have infected so many online groups and communities. I also wanted a group that could help individual members do things they felt deeply called to do but it can be incredibly difficult to do such a thing for doing so often requires a person to step back from the trappings and expectations of modern society and to live on shoestrings until something becomes self-sustaining, if it ever become self-sustaining.
The idea of creating a Swimming Pool for the Mind began to emerge. A place where friends can gather and share stories and ideas just like friends might do when they sit around a campfire. A place where we can grow a true sense of community like our ancestors surely shared when they came together to survive on the vast savannas and glaciers of long ago when humans did not rule the world. A place where we might discover moments of synchronicity that inspire or connect dots of thought or ideas. A place where we might go like a swimming pool to strengthen our body, but this was a pool for the mind to strengthen compassion, kindness, curiosity, and understanding. A place where we gathered to listen to each other and to grow in our individual beingness as human being living through extraordinary times that requires all of us to dive deeper inside ourselves and find inner lost languages and abilities needed right now to survive our times by making choices that regard the wellbeing and safety of others just as highly as the safety and wellbeing of one’s self.
The Lost Bird Tribe: We Are the Medicine of Now
Now is the time for our storytellers and artists and philosopher bloggers to shine a light forward; a way towards a kinder, a greener, a more compassionate future that has room for all living beings of Earth–the rich ones and the poor ones, the human ones and the non-human ones. We all go together and it is going to take every single individual making the choices that are as inclusive and compassionate as they can be to make it through our current crisis of COV-19 (e.g., maintain social distance and help to flatten the curve so that our medical systems don’t collapse and we do have enough respirators to help those individual who get severely ill from COV-19). It is going to take every single human being (rich and poor) to make personal sacrifices and choices to ensure and protect the greater good. We need each other doing this now to flatten the curve and avert the most devastating possibility this virus looks capable of inflicting everywhere where human lives.
And when our daily lives return to “normal” again, perhaps we can integrate some of the lessons we have learned about crisis and how we need each other most of all during these times. And, we can set aside our differences to flatten another curve of a catastrophic nature, the climate change curve, which also threatens human civilization as we know it.
Our individual choices hold the transformation power to hold COV-19 at bay and to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. This power resides inside of us. We are the medicine for Now. When we are going through a time of crisis, whether it is personal, regional, or global, the Lost Birds come to us through our nighttime dreams and daydreams, in visions and doodles, in flashes of insights and moments of intuition. They are the wings of wisdom that lift us above our circumstances to we can see a better way forward. They are the feathers of creativity, imagination, and artistry that reveal the buried treasures hidden in our souls.
They come in every shape and color. They can fly to the highest echelons of our minds or dive to the deepest, darkest parts inside our psyche. They help reconnect us back to the parts we have lost inside ourselves and show us how we to converse together again as one vibrant, alive Tribe of Earth.
What Lost Tribes and Languages wait to be discovered inside of you right now? Now is a gift of the most unique and unusual kind…it is the gift of time. We have all been knocked out of our usual routines and distractions. Perhaps with this time, you might catch a glimpse of one of your Lost Bird Tribes who can reconnect you with some of your lost inner languages. Now, you have the gift of time to venture an inner journey and become a legend. This is breaking the rules of modern life because if we truly find what matters to us inside, all the consumption and distraction and deadlines just might not matter so much.
Take now to recover a little bit more of who you are…who you have always been, it’s just been forgotten and buried by our modern, civilized life. Allow some of your Lost Bird Tribes to reveal themselves and show you beautiful things inside of yourself that can rejuvenate, inspire, and renew you, Now.
The Lost Bird Tribe: Be the Spark of Mutual Support & Understanding
One of the first conversations to emerge from this group was started by Founding Member Donna Alena Hrabcakova when she posted a couple of short stories and paintings that she called:
The Lost Bird Tribes and Lost Languages
“TOP LEFT, AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, painted last night. I am deeply effected by the diminishing songs of the birds and I see less birds here in the Midwest these days. What would life be like without their sings and presence? So I dream of the Shamanic Birds whom lull me to sleep. Mourning. What will be their last proclaimation and who will be listening? Translating for the birds. My last name Hrabcakova in Slovak means BIRD.”
— Donna Alena Hrabcakova
Night Shaman Bird: One Whom Flies With Elk
“THE LOST BIRD TRIBES AND LOST LANGUAGES Night Shaman Bird: One Whom Flies With Elk. More birds to be posted with writings. Sketchbook. Good morning my fellow artists!”
— Donna Alena Hrabcakova
The Lost Bird Tribe: Be the Nourishing Rain that Grows A Conversation
Donna Alena’s two posts inspired another Founding Member, Ulrike Schütz, to share this:
The Legend of the Rainbow Crow
“The story of the Rainbow Crow is a Lenape legend, symbolizing the value of selflessness and service. After a long period of cold weather, the animals of the community become worried. They decide to send a messenger to the Great Sky Spirit to ask for relief. The Rainbow Crow, the most beautifully feathered bird, offers to make the arduous journey. He travels safely, and is rewarded by the Great Spirit with the gift of fire. He carries the gift in his beak back to his people, but upon his return, he does not appear to be the same bird that he once was. The fire has scorched his plumage black, with only hints of his previous color, and his voice has been made rough and hoarse by the smoke. In this way, his sacrifice is commemorated.
Another name for Rainbow Crow is Many Colored Crow. This is in reference to the iridescent feathers created from the fire that scorched his plumage black, with only hints of his previous color that reflect when sun light strikes them.” — Wiki
— Thank you Marianne Connor for sharing the magic of the Rainbow Crow.
Ulrike Schütz shared this picture as well, and she told how she had taken it just after hearing the story of the Rainbow Crow. The sky was retelling this legend and the crows were flying in the formation of a bird/crow. If you look for it, the way the clouds are shaped and how this flock of crows are spread out, they look like a crow in the sky. Ulrike said over the past few years she has developed a kind of communication with the sky that she calls Skylistening. Not only does the sky listen, but it can answer, just as the land, earth, and all the elemental forces.
This is a beautiful example of a synergistic conversation and how we as individuals can learn to tap back into our inner reservoir of wisdom waiting to help us, especially when we are confronting a challenge or enduring a time of crisis. Birds have always been messengers in myths and legends from around the world. And that makes sense because they are boundary crosser. In the normal everyday world, they cross the boundaries between land and sky. In the inner unusual world of the psyche, they can cross between boundaries of despair and hope, fear and confidence, love and hate.
This is what we need Now: To catch glimpses of our Lost Bird Tribes who will help us reconnect to our Lost Inner Languages and Parts of ourselves needed now more than ever to weather the storms we face, whether they come from inside or outside or regardless of it is it a personal crisis or a global one.
Here are a few more Lost Bird Tribes from Donna Alena’s beautiful series.
Lost Bird Tribe: Raven of the Night
“I woke up and painted this Raven of the Night.”
“It’s message: Art heals. Art is the Medicine of our times.”
Narratives. Bards. Poets. Painters. Storytellers. I think its message is to fly into the night and listen for the birds who are always singing, even during the Darkest Nights of the Soul.”
— Donna Alena Hrabcakova
Raven of the Night
Lost Bird Tribe: Lone Bird — The Language of Aloneness and Authenticity.
“Funny we don’t ask people who are alone, tell me about that…the world wants to share stores of partners, families, children etc…but I want to know about you in your alone moments? Who are you? What do you do? What do think about? Meditate on? Listen to? Read? Spend time doing? What is your passion in the alone moments that get you out of bed? That determine you had a satisfying day? That determine your sorrow? Sadness? Dreams? Happiness? Bliss? What do you dream of??? Tell me more about YOU.
Let’s get to the SOUL of you because isn’t that what we are really hungry, no starving for authentic connection?
Now that I am alone, not by choice but by fate rolling the dice, I think alot about who are we when we are alone? And why are many terrified of that. I struggle, yes, but I am finding peace more day by day. “
— LONE BIRD. Watercolor pencils. Sketchbook.
“I think this could be a beautiful collaborative blog if enough of us wanted to explore these very important questions. What are your thoughts?”
— Donna Alena Hrabcakova
Lost Bird Tribe: He/She Whom Crossed the Bering Strait.
“I saw this one with wider features. He/she was covered in paint and feathers and crossed the lands that opened Pangea when we were all one continent. No borders. Ethnicities of every sort. Thousands of languages exploring the unclaimed landscapes trusting home existed somewhere. This was done in the night and I love how the colors turned out.”
— Donna Alena Hrabcakova
Acrylics. *Nighttime is a beautiful hour to paint.
CROSSING THE BERING STRAIT: MIGRATION OF THE UNNOWN.
Acrylics. *Nighttime is a beautiful hour to paint.
Lost Bird Tribe: Riven
“I just painted my fav painting thus far. I am taking a painting class MOTHER EARTH my teacher is the amazing Michal Shimoni. My art has truly shifted by practicing her techniques along with personal shifts in my life. Title: RIVEN: INITIATION. Riven is a Hebrew and British name meaning to split or tear apart. I had a dream 2 weeks ago I was in a painting class. I saw a book in the room I wanted to read but was told I could not read it by the Professor. I took the book and plastered it into the painting. The title was JE NE SAIS PAS. Which in French means “I don’t know.” My Slovakian Bubbie always said this. In Slovak it is YE NES NUM. I think art is a great mystery into the Darkness, the Void, the Unexplainable Places, I call them the Ancestors. There the Divine Spark is lit. I never know what I will bring back. Art and books can never be censorsed as it so much bigger than us!”
“Riven represents an adolescent girl becoming a woman. She is composed by the forest, a deep enigma carrying this forbidden book with her Shamanic bird companion. I saw her in a jingle dress and feathers. I lived on an Indian Reservation for years. She was apprenticing for this Sacred Calling. These women are the Medicine Dancers. I am so honored I walked on Ojibwa lands for 7 years. What a gift. Something has shifted in my art with this painting. I don’t fully understand it but we will see where it goes. I am honored and humbled to share RIVEN. Are you going on a personal initiation also?”
— In loving kindness, Donna Alena
Lost Bird Tribe: SPIRITS IN THE TREES: HOOVER DAM
“I was inspired by Hoover Dam this morning. Horses, Elk, Shamanic Birds, Tree Goddesses cohabitating in these magical landscapes of trees… Watercolor Pencils. Inspiration from Michal Shimoni my teacher abroad and our MOTHER EARTH PAINTING CLASS. Today was a hard day so I am happy with this. 💘”
— Donna Alena Hrabcakova
Spirits in the Trees: Hoover Dam
Lost Bird Tribes: WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS.
“Well this seems like 1,000’s of layers. I see her as Persephone rising from the Earth being reunited with her Mother Demeter. It appears she is half bird a shapeshifter of some sort. I am thinking as we isolate more I will try and focus on my art even deeper. The ARTIST voices are needed now more than ever to transmute this energy we are faced with. The day is so quiet with snow falling it almost seems like the pandemic crisis of this virus is at bay but we all know better. I used quite a bit of molding paste mixed with spices, coffee, rose oil, dirt and more. I have stated earlier that my last name in Slovak means bird. Seems very fitting since I have painted them so much. I want to hear your songs, stories, see your art, poetry, writings and musings. Let us embrace the alone time to really evaluate what is TRULY important. 💙”
— Donna Alena Hrabcakova
When Women Women Birds
More Lost Bird Tribes and Languages Individuals Who Are Following Their Creativity and Passion
Here are a few more individuals who I know are doing wonderful things by sinking deeply into what they feel called to do right here and right now. Really, this is all we ever have is Here & Now. It is at this point where we can transform ourselves and the world. Each of us holds a critical pieces to a better future and to a more sustainable and compassionate world. How are you going to use your gift of Now?
My friend Reinhard Hopperger is launching a new website called GreenerAndWiser. This is a site that gathers together in one place information on current events, climate issues, Native American wisdom, spirituality, society, technology, economy, and more–basically everything that makes Now so very challenging to navigate, especially as a global collective whose footprint covers every nook and cranny of our world and whose individual choices that add up to a massive collective choice could determine the fate of our world. He also has launched a Facebook group with the same name.
My friend Ben Roberts is growing a global community to explore the art of being fully human in a time of crisis. Individuals gather from around the world a couple of times through a series of Zoom calls that explore relevant topics impacting participants. There is also a Facebook group where people gather to share ideas as well as many other innovative social platforms being woven together to create a new type of social platform to harness the good each individual seeks to share and amplify it through this growing collective. It takes the form of a global gathering and gift economy for collectively navigating the complexity of our times in order to support action, build community, foster healing, and unleash generosity. To find out more, visit Now What?! A new series of Zoom calls are about to begin on March 23, 2020, so go check it out.
My friend Alex Lavigne-Gagnon is an artists, musical, and philosopher blogger. Through his work, he shows us beautiful ways to reconnect to inner landscapes of musical expression or color or words. Each of us can find these inner-scapes through the act of creating. Here are just a few of Alex’s beautiful creations.
My friend Hannelie Sensemaker Worldpainter Venucia is helping people reconnect to joy through the Joy Generation. Check out her website and YouTube channel:
My friend Jürgen Hornschuh writes thought provoking blogs and will soon publish a book entitled “Mach was!?” (Do something!?). He writes about the predicament of our culture, otherwise known as global industrial civilization. His book will draw upon the works of Daniel Quinn, John Michael Greer, Derrick Jensen, Thomas Henry Pope, Keith Farnish, George Gorman, and Charles Eisenstein, to name a few of the many sources of insight and inspiration for “Mach was!?”, which is a look at civilization from various angles in order to find out how we can face its omnicidal trip individually and collectively.
My friend Floris Koot also blogs The Gentle Revolution: Towards a revolution we all want to dance in, for a flourishing planet.
My friend George Chiger is a professional eater. Yes, you read this right. He trains as a competitive eater. This is a competitive sport that takes training. George is ranked 12th in the world. He is trying currently to reach enough views on his YouTube channel The Smorgasborg to monetize it. This will help him make this a self-sustaining profession. He dreams to leverage his success as a professional eater to help children and youth in the United States who do not have enough to eat to get enough to eat. If you are looking for interesting things to view on YouTube right now, check out George!
My brother is working to create innovative graphics for websites and social media that catch attention and are unusual and unique. He has created a self-evolving algorithm that evolves your original designs. All the moving featured images, website graphics, and even the moving spacers in this blog have been created using his WordPress plugin. He needs people to try things out and help him evolve it even more. If your interested, check out his website and for early adopters of the WordPress plugin, he may provide it free for a limited number.
These are just some of the people who I know sinking down into doing something they feel deeply called to do. Many have made sacrifices to do so. So find your Lost Bird Tribes, tell your story, create your art or music or movie. This is what leads us to the reservoirs of wisdom where our lost inner languages flow eternally, this is where we get our strength to survive practically anything. It is how we grow as individuals, how we find the courage to be compassionate, how we change the world.
Be the Most Creative You that YOU Can Be, Now, and Change Reality
It’s been 2 months since Cider died in my arms. I can still feel the moment when her heart stopped beating. She stiffen suddenly, then slowly let go of everything. I was utterly helpless to keep her from leaving. Her heart was unable to keep up with the blood being lost due to internal bleeding. We did not know she was bleeding inside.
Cider died 2 days before Christmas. It was a terrible shock. As a cockapoo, her breed can live to be 20 years old. We thought we had more time with her. We were wrong. When she died, she was 11 years and 1 month.
What made her death even harder to bear was she had been helping me navigate one of the most difficult years of my life. My father suffered a heart attack in 2018. He was revived and flown to the Mayo Clinic, but his heart had stopped for 15 minutes. It was a miracle he was revived. I tell this story elsewhere, so I will not do so again here other than to say he died 10 days later. I was by his side. On top of this, my workplace fired me for being with dad when he died. These two events released a string of other tragedies (big and small) that swept over me like a tidal wave. It took me a year and a half to resurface.
Seven months before Cider died, I began drawing pictures with a little brown dog in them. After Cider died, I realized I was drawing her. She had been a spirit guide walking with me every day through my grief and despair; just like dad had done for so many people in their time of pain and anguish. I realized during this year I had placed a piece of my soul with Cider because I could not carry all of myself anymore.
Cider gladly helped me carried myself through my time of sorrow and desolation. She never thought me petty or that I was wasting my time or that I should just get over it. Cider simply went with me wherever I went. And, she loved me no matter what I was feeling. Cider loved everyone she met. Dogs seem innately able to do this–to comfort us well beyond their size and status as a creature consider far less important than a human (see NOVA’s Dog Tales). But, dogs seem capable of providing unconditional love far beyond what “normal” humans demonstrate day to day. Cider was nothing less than an angel with fur and a short tale she waged constantly. She helped me repair my shattered world after dad died. Without her, I’m not sure I would have recovered.
As fate would have it, just as I was beginning to feel myself returning to something resembling myself before dad died, Cider died. I say I was returning to something resembling myself because no one is ever completely the same after a great tragedy befalls them such as the death of a loved one. Death, disaster, or sudden tragedy (or all at once) are not meant to keep us intact. We either survive and somehow grow despite all the pain or we collapse. Without each other (or without dogs), recovering from psychological collapse is very improbable. (See a blog about the 11 years Cider helped our family survive at Tribute to Cider: A Super Sad Story and see a blog about conscious grow sprouted from disaster In the Heart of the Sea of Grief and Guilt.)
This post is really about the video I made for Cider. This video shows the progression of the drawings I was creating as I struggled to return back to the world of the living after dad died. I created a video tribute for dad too. Little did I know I was making one for Cider. This video is best described as a musical diary of these images. I’ve come to see them as an imaginative rendering of a perilous inner journey with Cider by my side. Words simply fail to describe what is going inside when a person is forced to make such a journey due to circumstances. When such things befall us, they always push a person much deeper than they ever intended to go had they not been shoved.
Since Cider’s Death — Puppy Buddha
Since Cider’s death, we adopted a new puppy. She turns 3 months old this week: two days after Cider’s 2 month death anniversary. Cider and puppy shared life on this planet for one month. Also, puppy was born the same week Cider was born 11 years earlier.
We found puppy the week after Cider died. My daughter saw her and her siblings in a video posted by a rescue organization (Reach Out Rescue Resources). After watching the video of these adorable puppies, a rainbow appeared in the direction of Cider’s most favorite walk. My daughter and I felt it was Cider telling us she will always remember and love us. And, she was telling us the best way to honor her was to keep growing love by adopting one of these puppies who needed a loving home. So we did, and we love her.
She is not a replacement for Cider, but she is helping us grow love every day. And in the end, love is all that really matters.
These are short videos of our new puppy that I call Puppy Buddha.
Photos of Cider in the Her Last Year
Beloved Cece: I will love you forever…
As I got ready to post this blog, I glanced at our mailbox and was surprised to find a letter because it was Sunday. Then, I remembered my neighbor told me he dropped a misdelivered letter into our box. I saw him on a walk earlier that day with Sasha and puppy. He greeted our puppy for the first time and told me had done this. The letter was from mom. She was wishing us a happy spring and included some of dad’s writings. She said he was trying to write his life story. These are the pages she sent filled with his beautiful, beautiful handwriting. I will never see his beautiful handwriting again or have the joy of receiving these written treasures from him.
Love is the most precious gift we give to each other. It is the love that we share that helps us weave strong lives and tell wonderful stories. Every individual story is woven with every other story being told by all living beings about what happens to them as they travel through time on this little blue planet spinning in space. The stories that are woven with love are the strongest stories. And, these stories contribute to a vibrant and life-sustaining shared reality. This is how we polish our precious jewel of the universe, Earth, making her shine brightly. When we share love… we share what really matters in life… it’s not money, it’s not power, it’s not fame… it’s love!
We lost Cider our beloved dog in the wee hours of the morning of December 23, 2019. Except for what we thought was a pulled muscle on her right hind leg that sent her into shaking spasms and rapid panting the Thursday evening before this horrible Monday, Cider was her effervescence and vivacious self. She greeted my daughter with enthusiastic kisses and cuddles when she returned Saturday evening from a short trip to New York City to see the wonderous Christmas decorations and festivities this time of year.
Cider and I had gone for a run, and she waited patiently as I stopped to get some dinner from a local Lebanese food store, greeting every person who entered or left with equal adoration and excitement, but always with an eye out for me who took a little longer due to spying some last minute Christmas gifts. She was limping again when we left the store. I attributed to the pulled muscle and cooling down. I was limping too from a heel problem, so we meandered slowly the 2 blocks home. We should have taken notice when our daughter pointed out red marks streaking up her belly. Instead, we attributed it to the ice we had applied Thursday night when she was limping so bad and shaking thinking we over iced. I gave her more anti-inflammatory medicine just as we had treated her two months back when she over did it and seemed extremely sore and tender for a little too long. I had taken her to the vet then and she got a checkup. She had a second check up on December 15 when we took Sasha in for her senior exam. Sasha was two years older than Cider and we took her in on the 17 to have her teeth cleaned. She came home with 7 teeth pulled and stitches all over her body from warts they removed while she was under, including two on her eyes. She looked like a hot mess.
Around about 3:30 a.m., I woke up to Cider sitting by my head looking miserable and panting. I had not slept well at all, and Cider has done this to me before in the middle of the night. A trip to the vet to have her anal glans expressed always seemed to fix these bouts. But this night, something felt different. I sat up and took her in my arms. She was panting rapidly, and I could feel her heart racing. I turned on the light and felt icy cold all over—like all the heat in my body had just been sucked out. I knew then in my bones she was going to die. But I didn’t want to know that yet in my mind or brain. I woke up my husband. He saw her breathing fast and felt her heart. He looked up all night vets. None were in Arlington. The closest was Vienna—45 minutes or so had passed by now as we weighted our options—make a run for ones of these all-night Animal Hospitals or wait until 7 for our vet to open. My husband sent the closer animal hospital an e-mail, but it was not clear if they got it. Then, he called. They said to bring her in. Now, more than an hour had passed. And, now whatever was holding me back and seeing if we could wait for our vet to open crumbled and I said: “Let’s go.” We started getting dressed. I laid down by Cider. We were nose to nose as my husband scrambled to get his wallet and things. She could barely lift her head, but she followed him with her eyes as he moved about us. I went to get my jacket. When I returned, she was breathing even faster as if she had just run 10 miles all out. I scooped her up into my arms and told my husband to hurry. I woke up our daughter and told her we were taking Cider to the vet. She asked what was wrong. I told her I did not know. Now, my stomach was dropping as I made sure not to trip on the steps going out to the car. I couldn’t understand what was taking my husband so long as I cried, “Hurry we’ve got to go now.”
We drove. Cider continued breathing fast, but she was breathing, and we were driving. There was no traffic on 66. It was dark, and we could go fast. We got off at Nutley. Then, we had to stop for lights. I felt scared. Cider’s breathing seemed different, but I could not tell for sure due to the sounds of the driving. We had to stop for red lights. Have you ever had to stop at a red light when you knew someone you loved dearly was dying? I have. They took forever.
We got to 123. Where do we go now? Neither of us had bothered to MapQuest the hospital. We had no idea which way to turn. But just on the other side of the road to the left was an Animal Hospital. So, what would you do?
We drove into the parking lot, but hospital was dark, it looked closed. We hoped desperately to glimpse a light on, and so my husband got out hoping to glimpse a light on somewhere. Cider’s breathing definitely had changed. My husband was looking for any sign of a human at the Animal Hospital—or anyone really. But, it wasn’t opened. Cider was looking at him, and I was pleading with him to get help now. Then, Cider stiffened in my arms. Her paw hit the half-way rolled down windshield. I cried desperately telling my husband we were losing her. He got back in the car. But, we were lost. I could feel Cider was not breathing any more. I knew her heart had stopped. I told my husband to drive. We had no idea which way to go. We went to a gas station to ask directions. But, it was closed. We circled back to a 7/11. My husband ran inside to ask some men where the all-night Animal Hospital was. It was the other way. We had to make a U-turn because it was a divided highway. The next light was red. I could feel Cider peeing on me. I cried telling her not to leave us. I wondered if I could figure out how to do dog CPR or if I should breath into her mouth. But, I just squeezed harder saying her name over and over. Finally, we found the all-night vet. I knew she was dead, but my husband took her from me and rushed to the front door. Her head flopped lifelessly as he ran. I felt cold again, deeply cold.
Inside, there was no one at the front desk. We pleaded and shouted for help. Someone came from a side office. Then a doctor appeared. They asked if we wanted to do dog CPR. Of course. But I knew she wasn’t coming back. They tried for 15 minutes breathing for her and doing compressions. They doctor came out once to tell us her white blood cell count was super low. She suspected internal bleeding. Then, she came out again and told us her red blood cell count was 15, it should be over 70. She asked us if we wanted them to continue CPR. She affirmed Cider had not begun breathing on her own since they started nor did her heartbeat restart. We said no.
So, there you go. That was our day before Christmas. It utterly devastated us.
I have not been able to bear posting or being on Facebook or anywhere in public ever since. I cringe at the thought of all the obligatory wishes of sadness and condolences… even though that is the right thing to do. I’ve done it too. I’ve used the crying face, or I’ve typed something that maybe sounded sympathetic or encouraging. But I just haven’t been able to bear the thought of posting my sad story and then measuring it against all my other posts—sad or otherwise—because that’s what you do in this online world of clicks and likes and “engagements”. What the hell is engagements?! That’s what Facebook calls it though, we type comments to each other—that’s ag engagement. And, oh how Facebooks algorithms love engagements. The more you type back and forth to each other (even if it’s just two people bantering back and forth), the more Facebook shows this post to “other” people who might be interested. And, if more people join in on making comments, then more people get shown the post, and so on and so forth. I have told very few people within my circle of friends what has happened. The people I have told since this happened; I can count on one hand. Mostly, it’s because I was asked how I am doing—the young man at the front desk of my gym, my dentist, the dental hygienist. I told Alena and my brothers and mother. Alena had offered me the amazing gift of a Winter Solstice reading. She was practicing the ways of her ancestors and relatives after traveling back to Slovenia recently. How could I say no. Little did she or I know she was giving messages I would need to survive the next week. And so naturally, I reached out to her for support in the hours and days after. I know I have many good, wonderful friends. So, please know I mean no disrespect in not reaching out to so many dear friends I know would not hesitate to help me. I simply have not been able to reach out, the waves of pain have been too great to bear. It’s simply easier not to speak or say anything. It’s been the only way to hold myself together.
But I have been thinking why should losing a pet cause such sadness, such overwhelming pain, such immobility? Everyone knows pets don’t live as long as humans. And I know, lord do I know that I should think of all the good memories. Heck, she was 11 years and 1 month. That is old for a dog who had a wonderful life!
And, I will remember all these wonderful times. And, I will cherish each one like the most precious gold. Cider absolutely made my and my family’s life richer, fuller, and brighter in every way. She added sparkle, light, and joy—weaving it effortlessly in her quirky habits, howls, and ways. She was the music in the house. She followed me everywhere. She was my best friend, confident, fluffy consoler. She infused our house and each member of our little family with love, undivided attention, and so much fun. She never ran out of her ability to give and she made sure every member of the family and every guest who ever walked through the door got a good dose of joy. She could get a bit obsessed with her balls. We have quite a collection of tennis balls now after a little over 11 years of her finding a new ball practically every walk and bringing it home—brand new really yellow balls, very dirty balls, chopped up balls, deflated balls, balls rotting under 3 feet of leaves… it didn’t matter to Cider. She would find it and bring it home. And every time you left the house, you knew that you had a welcoming committee of one excited Cider dog who would wait in the window until we returned from any errand or trip.
But, right now, I want to mark the heavy occasions because I think she meant something much more than a little fury fluff ball. She helped me navigate a challenging time in my life… and she helped each member of my family navigate these years because they have not been easy.
2009: Starting off in 2009, she was not even one year old. I woke in the middle of the night (almost the same time she woke me just last week). I had severe stomach pains. I could not stop throwing up. My husband looked up symptoms. And we did the same thing that we did for Cider, wondering if we should get up and go to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning? Did I simply have food poisoning or the flu? I don’t know what made us decide to go back then… maybe because I couldn’t stop throwing up. We threw on clothes and took our daughter with us at 3 or 4 in the morning. She was only 9 years old. They gave me an anti-nausea shot. I was worried because I had heard recently of someone losing their arm from one. I stopped throwing up. Lots of people started coming into see me. No one knew what was wrong, so they ordered an MRI, which meant drinking a huge (and I mean huge) pitcher of contrast. I couldn’t drink it all. I felt like I would explode. I got wheeled into the MRI. My husband and daughter had gone home… it had already been an hour, probably 2… still they couldn’t figure it out. I got wheeled back to my spot at the ER. I don’t know how long it was… but not too much longer after the MRI, the surgeon who had come into see me was back. He was shifting from foot to foot as he said: “We’re taking you into surgery now. You have a twisted intestine. They will put a tube down your throat to get the water out. You might still be awake, so I don’t want you to panic.” I was like… can I call my husband, what about my wedding ring. He said: “Oh, I’ll take your rings. I’ll put them here. Don’t let me forget them. Yes, call your husband. They’re going to be here for you in minutes. Get her a phone.”
The surgery I think was 4 hours long. I think my stomach was close to the point of bursting that’s why my surgeon had to move fast… and fast he did. He was magnificent. I know I owe him my life for had the intestine or stomach burst, I would have died. I had been born with a genetic defect. The right side of my large intestines had never been attached to my abdominal wall as it should have. They reattached it during that surgery after they untwisted it and made sure parts of my intestine had not died from lack of blood. I was really lucky. They didn’t have to take any of it out. I never knew before being put under that I might have woken up to no lower intestine. Had it died. They would have had to remove it. I am so thankful this was not the case. But, after the surgery, I had to stay in the hospital until my intestine woke up again. It took somewhere between 7 and 10 days. During this time, I could not eat or drink a thing and I had to get out of bed everyday beginning the day after surgery and start walking. Have you ever tried to sit up in bed and put your legs over the side to stand after all the muscle in your stomach have been cut, parted, and stitched back together again? I have. It is hell. I didn’t think I would make it, but I had one really good nurse who was kind but firm. I had my husband and my daughter who came every day. And, I had a few good friends came too. I had a lot of time to think, especially since “the interns” arrived in my room every morning between 5 and 6 a.m. I was quite an unusual case. They were studying me. But they were nice, so I didn’t mind. During this time, I came to understand there were two things I must do before death comes for me again. #1 – Raise my daughter to adulthood and make sure she is strong and independent and loved. #2 – Write the book I have always wanted to write my whole life, but just never got around to doing it… giving myself so many good reasons like: “I can’t write dialogue.” “I don’t know what to write.” But I made a commitment then that I would write it… whatever the hell it was.
When I returned home 10 days later, little Cider was so happy to see me. She squealed and cried… yes, she cried, as if I had returned to her from the dead. She licked my face for more than half an hour, thereafter she rarely left me side… really ever since. So, that was our first disaster she helped all of us navigate because my daughter really needed her those 10 days that I was gone, and so did my husband. We all needed her. Our other dog Sasha was lovely too, of course, but Cider did not hold back, and you could hold her forever and she would rarely try to wiggle away like Sasha does.
There were many ups and down between 2009 and our next big crisis in 2015, but those don’t really matter to this story. We all have ups and downs. I supposed our fate was gathering in those years, we just didn’t know it yet. And, I kept my two promises to raise my daughter and to write a story though it took until 2012 to finally figure and find my story!
I just remembered something else that happened that year. My daughter had turned 9 that year. All that year at school she had been experiencing bullying that had been escalating. One incident, the girl hit my daughter’s head with the door of her locker when they were changing out books. I talked with teachers, the principal, even the parents of the girls bullying her. Everyone said they were watching, but no one saw the bullying. It got worst. My daughter did not want to go to school anymore. We got Cider halfway through this horrible year. My daughter found her. She brought joy to us the very moments we brought her home, but the bullying continued and grew worst. It cumulated with the parents of the girls bullying her just before I arrived to pick her up after school. She ran out of the school in tears, and those parents had the gall to march into the principal’s office and complain about my daughter. I found this out because I called the principal as soon as we got home, but the front desk would not put me through because she was in a meeting with two parents. I asked if the two were this and that person. The front attendant confirmed that it was. I was so mad. I called my husband told him what was going on and told him to talk to our daughter until I returned. I left her talking to her father and our 2 dogs, Cider was still a little puppy. I went back to the school and barged into the “meeting”. The two mothers had went to work on her, and when she turned to me and suggested that my daughter was manipulating me and everyone around for attention. I let her have it and the other mothers too. I did not lose my temper, but I called them on every lie and falsehood they had concocted to make their daughters appear blameless. I knew my girl. I knew the pain she was bearing and could not escape. I knew her character, even at that tender age. I knew these mothers were exhibiting a special kind of cruelty and the principal was weak and falling for it. I wrote a long letter to the school superintendent after that, citing tons of research about bullying. She received a visit from the superintendent after that. I never saw those mothers again. I picked my daughter up from the back of the school with our two dogs (Cider the puppy still) and I resolved to take her out of the school system that was utterly failing her, and home school her. Luckily she got called to transfer to a magnet school, which was good for I was to be in no condition the coming school year to take on being a home schooler mom. I noticed something else too remembering this… the drama of this period and me standing up to bullies matches almost exactly the drama of 2018 when I stood up to bullies at my place of work, including what would come later in the first weekend of August when I almost died, and then when my beloved father did die.
2015: My husband was forced to retire from his job at the museum. It had been a brutal campaign waged against by people he had worked beside for 23 years. Pretty much it was all simply for money. They wanted the money supporting his small department for their pet projects. We all suffered through it for years after it. He was finally forced out sometime in November.
2016: I was suddenly and unexpectedly laid off from my job as a writer. I had been with the company for six years, but I guess I was a little too outspoken for my station and when the company hit an financial iceberg and workers had to be thrown overboard to save the corporate ship for the captain and his crew, I was chosen along with 6 others to be cast off the ship. It was pretty brutal too. I was told over the phone in not a very kind way 12 days before Christmas. I would be paid all my vacation, which would take me to New Years – and I could get a wonderful $2,000 (probably less after taxes) severance if I just signed this little agreement. I didn’t sign it. It was so convoluted and over the top. I basically was being prohibited from talking about my own life and story for less than $2,000 – who needed that.
I was completely free to attend the Women’s March. That was marvelous. I interviewed more 36 people—men and women who had come from all over the country to make their voices heard about the 2016 election… the one we are still suffering through now in 2019. I turned these interviews into a documentary. I was compelled to do this because of the story I had begun to write. In my story, there is a good man with a vision to save the good people of Earth from catastrophic climate change events that has utterly reshaped the geo-economic-political landscape of the world. Nation states have fallen. In their place, Corporate states now rule the world. The good man is a CEO of the biggest Multinational Company in the world, but he has vision for how to save humanity and the creatures that still cling to life on a devastated planet. It is nothing less than the transformation of human consciousness on a scale that has never before been achieved, but he has found a way. But just before he gets to the point of conducting the human trials…he is murdered, and the world is turned back over the climate cliff from which they have just climbed back from after going over the first time. The evil one is bent on erasing everything the good CEO was trying to do… and so you see, I had to go to the Women’s March. I needed to hear the stories of all the wonderful and good people of this country and what they were feeling, feared, and hoped.
2017: Tough year. My husband was taking care of his mother and her boyfriend. They had both had close calls with death. This made it necessary for him to spend what was to turn out to be more than 2 years in California helping there. He wasn’t able to look for work. I found a job after more than 6 months looking, but it was a very low paying job and it was going to turn toxic.
2018: My daughter graduated from high school… my pride and joy. I made a movie for my father, mother, and mother-in-law and her significant other to watch since none of them could come to her graduation. During this time, I was working like a mad-woman at this little place where I had found a job writing grants and proposals to help them do their charity work for immigrants and at-risk children and youth. It was I had been doing before being thrown off the corporate ship, before the 2009 great recession when all my consulting jobs as a grant writer dried up as it did for many of my consultants’ friends. We were all struggling then. I was working like a mad-woman because the woman who had hired me had left. The company hired a narcissistic pretender, completely incompetent, to replace her because she had told them I would not be interested in taking her position. She was trying to protect me, but she never told me why. Anyhow, her replacement was fired after two months and so all the work now fell to me and the little company wanted to apply for two huge government grants with only a month lead time. I got very little help. I worked more than 89 hours that I was not paid for. The agreement with the other woman was I would take that time as comp time later… but the CEO was being cagey. I was getting the feeling I would not be paid for this time. Then, my father suffered a cataphoric heart attack, but the first responders brought him back and he had been flown to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Of course, I flew out to be with him. I’ve written extensively of this elsewhere. I will burden you here with how traumatic this time was other than to let you know I was fired by this little organization while I was at my father’s bedside and I was with him when he died. In fact, I had to make the call to move him to comfort care… basically, I had to make the call to stop providing life-saving care and let him die. Oddly, the day and hour my father died is within 12 hours of the day I almost died in 2009.
Since his death, I have suffered tremendously… I guess one could say I had a catastrophic psychological collapse. I have not been able to work since I was fired. I was just starting to feel like I might be able to look again when Cider died. Cider my beloved little doggie who has been by my side through thick and thin. I realize this last year I gave her part of my soul to help carry since I could not any longer, and she gladly took and help to bear my trauma and collapse. And, she helped me cling to hope and to write every day. This was a thread of hope my writing, and Cider was right there at my feet many days gently supporting me…my little furry soul carrier, Cider. And, so this is why I’ve said I cannot bear to post my lost on Facebook for you see, she was so much more than just a dog. She was my bridge back to reality.
2019: Last Christmas was so sad without dad; I began to spiral down into a deep depression. Psychologically I could no longer cope with all the bad things that kept coming one right after another. Neither myself or my husband were anywhere near the station in life that one entering their middle and senior years should be at. Both of us had been cast off the ships of security people need to work on in order to live in our modern, complicated, civilized society… but you see, there is a brutality underneath it, and money is the weapon of choice used to torture and brutalize each other. And then I knew I don’t have it nearly as bad and poor people in Central America or Africa and other places in the world who are beginning to feel the growing effects of Climate Change, which is destroying their ability to grow their own food and so they have to move to migrate. And, what do they get for that? Fear, populism, brutality for trying to survive. It has swept around the world. It has infected pretty much every rich, developed, somewhat stable country who put up walls to keep them out as if they were bringing the plague of bad luck with them… when in fact it is us in the developed world who have inflicted the plague upon the entire world. These poor folks are just feeling it first. They get to die first, then it will come for the rest of us. So, I was aware of this and aware of how much stronger and more resilient they are compared to me, and this made me feel worst. This made me feel weak and useless like a piece of trash that deserves to be thrown away. And, I started to think about myself like that more and more. My husband had to go back to take care of his mom, my daughter was away at college. I was alone with my thoughts as I approached my dad’s birthday. The first birthday I would have to endure without him. I pleaded for my husband to return. But he was not able to. I descended deeper and deeper into my hole of depression. But Cider was with me. Cider needed me. Cider followed me everywhere and kept me company and filled the house with the music of her little feet running and her barking and her howling whenever a firetruck passed near. Cider gave me an island of furry reality with undying love to hang on to as I slipped deeper and deeper down. At first, I could visualize myself walking down a deep gorge, but then I got lost… somehow, I went underwater. I got really bad… suicidal… nightmarish… bad. But I could hug Cider. She would always come to me no matter how bad I got. She didn’t care… she just loved me in her way.
Ever since dad died, I stopped writing my story. I dabbled in blogging and made art, but I could not touch my story. I could not bear to work on it. My dear friend in Colorado got wind of how bad I was doing and jumped in to help me edit the first 200 pages so I could package that much as a self-published book. So, she started, and this gently redirected my attention back to the story that I had committed myself to write back in 2009—the year I almost died. Progress was slow, but about the time I really started to descend, I realized I needed to bring my writing style up to speed with where I was in 2018 rather than where I was in 2012, when I started the story. I was afraid to tell my friend who had started editing, but fortunately she had not sunk too much time into it yet and was so gracious, telling me of course I should do what I needed. And, so as I went down psychologically, I returned to my story, and perhaps it was like an inner invisible thread that I could hang onto no matter how deep I descended… and I went deep, editing and revising fiercely with Cider at my feet. I did not resurface until my husband returned late in July, very near the first anniversary of dad’s death. This was a very difficult time, but I had been working on a video tribute to dad as well as writing daily. All this gave me inner strength… and determination. I marked both anniversaries of dad… his initial heart attack, and then his death, when I was with him. I was thinking why I didn’t feel the cold when dad died, but I realize the vision I had earlier that day of what I needed to do wrapped him and me in a blanket of love. I was pulling him across the glacier near his ancestral home in Norway wrapped inside a bearskin sledge. The sledge was my story. I read it to him that day. It was the only day I had read it to him. I told him he could get off at any point or wait until the end of the story. I told him that his mother and other loved ones who had passed would be waiting for him. I think that’s why I didn’t feel the coldness of death because I was helping dad cross over to the other side wrapped in a blanket of love. Dad was so proud of this story. He told me before his heart attack that my whole life had been preparing me to write this story. So, there was no fear that day, and I did not know he would die, but when he did… I just hugged him… just like I hugged Cider when she died.
Around dad’s first year anniversary, I had a dream of a woman of rainbow light surfacing far out at sea, turning around, and heading for shore pulling something with her. I am making a video tribute for Cider… you will see her in this video, but I know most of you will not have time to watch it all… it’s long like everything I do. I won’t apologize for that. Life is long and we are supposed to spend this time to go deep and crystalized things rising from inside. It’s painful to do this work, and so most of us skip it… dabbling in the shallow waters of shallow thinking, of hallow dreams, of endless fears… but we’ve been trapped there by our harsh and heartless economic systems, so it’s not our fault we feel so much pain, so much fear all the time. This was the new stuff that started rising around dad’s first year death anniversary. I was trying to edit that section down, but then a voice inside me said: “This needs to be said now.” Then, the back to back shootings occurred and one of my only friends left at my gym where I edit all my material came up to me and said: “You’re writing about it, right?” I was confused, and he said: “What just happened… the shootings… this sickness…. You need to write at least 2 chapters about it.” I said yes that is exactly what I am working on. And, so ever since August, I have been chasing after this new material in the darkness of my mind… chasing it down… taming it with words, then combing the snarls out. I stopped worrying about cutting it even though when I sent to my friend and she aptly pointed out that this new section will make the initial readers put the story down and never pick it up again, while the readers who like this part of the story will not like the rest. I discussed this with my husband and daughter and a friend. My husband brought up Moby Dick. Herman Melville did this. Right in the middle of the action, my husband says he launched into chapter after chapter about whales… detailed, scientific descriptions of them… whale after whale. And, so I continued to write… settled on this will be a book within a book. Again, Cider at my feet most times while I was working on the computer. And, all along… I was getting stronger… I was feeling more myself. I was even beginning to think I might be able to work again. Then, Cider died dramatically and unexpectantly. And, I have stopped writing again. And, I feel myself sinking again.
So, there you go. My super sad story, and it’s not even as bad as so many others have it right now… and so I am a weak and useless louse on top of it all. But I can’t bear to sit at the computer where I was editing a section with Cider at my feet. Cider who was going to dying in just a few short hours, and I was completely oblivious. I had started to reconstruct my persona and a reality… and I got it utterly wrong. I was just so stupid. I didn’t notice. I didn’t see. I didn’t pay attention, even though I had felt certain things were wrong. Maybe that’s what we are doing now en masse to planet Earth. We’re feeling things, but we are telling ourselves stories to make ourselves feel better… stories like we have more time… when we don’t have it at all.
I am spitting into the wind with this post because I know it goes against the grain of the platform and the algorithms—it’s too long, it’s too raw, it’s too honest, it’s not fake. But that is all I have. The best thing you can say to me right now, much better than a crying face or condolences for a lost pet, is to write these three words: “Write the story” or “Finish the story.” I have lost my most faithful, most furry, most loving cheerleader. Those are the most powerful words you can send now. And, I know most of you will not even read this story when/if I finish it, and that is fine too…. I have come to understand this story is most likely not for you. Maybe it’s just for me… maybe it’s just my thread back to reality. I don’t know. But that is all I have. I am empty now. If you have made it this far, my dear friend, thank you for listening and bearing with me to the bitter end of my sad tale of my sad life. I give you my love… that is all we have… that is the only thing we might take with us when we die and all of us will one day die… that is the most certain thing of life… death. I will be posting a tribute to Cider. I don’t want to bother anyone with my crazy art and super long video, but if you would like to know when I post it… most likely I will do so before midnight tomorrow, let me know and I will ping you. And, do not worry… I will be OK. Oh, and please give me time… I cannot bear to be here on Facebook now. It is too shallow for my grief, so please be patient with me if I do not see important message you may post or send me. Slowly I will crawl back. I’ll try to respond, and I will try to share your posts once again as I had started to do on my Sapience the Moment is Now page. But, not now… probably not for time. I don’t know how long.
And, so as 2019 ends: “Goodbye my beloved father for the second Christmas and second New Year, and Goodbye my beloved dog Cider.”
I was with him when he died. I was reading him the story I have been working on for the past 7 years. The previous night, I made a very difficult decision. He had been making phenomenal recovery from what should have been a fatal event 10 days earlier. But on the 9th day, he was sitting up in his hospital bed. He had a bible under one hand, and a pen and paper in the other. He immediately greeted me warmly when I walked in with a huge smile on his face, and I greeted him equally warmly. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he had a lot of thank you letters to write but didn’t know where to begin. The nurse came in after a little while and fed him his medicine crushed up in pudding so he could swallow it. That was the problem. The day before, he had been more in a state of delirium than lucid consciousness. That day he worked his feed tube out of his stomach 4 times due to coughing or by using the back of his tongue. His entire critical care team was flummoxed by how quickly he was working it out, requiring it to be reinserted (not a pleasant experience… in fact, quite traumatic). The night nurse that night decided to leave it out. Dad rested peacefully. And, then I found him so happy to see me and wanting to write thank you cards. Everyone was so excited. Nurses who had cared for him earlier popped in to make sure I saw him. There was so much hope he would pull through this devastating event–where his heart had been stopped for more than 15 minutes as first responders worked so hard giving him CPR to get a shockable pulse.
So, here was the problem. To get him back to full health, he needed the feed tubing reinserted to get all the medicines he needed, and the doctors were not certain yet if his swallowing reflect had been damaged. How could we know after reinserting the feeding tube this final time that it would send him into a delirium he would never return from. That’s what happened. If I could do this over, I would have followed my gut and not allowed it. He would have died… I know this… but he would have died possibly more peacefully.
After almost 48 hours of non-stop movement of mind and body, my father was lost in space and time and utterly exhausted. The medicines were not calming him any more. Just before I was about to leave at midnight on the 10th night of him being in the ICU, his night nurse said, “If he was on Comfort Care, I could give him more medicine to help him calm down and rest.” The doctors had talked to us earlier that day about our options. I knew Comfort Care meant he was dying. And, so before I left, I gave instructions to move him to Comfort Care.
The next morning, he was sleeping. He nurse told me he had cleaned him and was doing everything to make him comfortable. He looked peaceful. He never woke, but I talked to him. I had a vision that morning about what I needed to do for him. So, after the nurse left, I told dad what I was going to do. Earlier that summer I promised to send him the latest part of my story. I hadn’t sent it yet. It is set in the time of the Vikings. My father was pure Norwegian. The girl in my story was on a glacier between Odda and Rosendal, Norway. My father’s family is from Odda. This girl in the story had just been in a terrible accident that left her companion unconscious and with broken ribs. My father’s ribs were broken from the CPR.
I told dad I was going to read him the story. It was going to be a sleigh made of sound to help him get across to the other side. In my story, my girl had just made a sleigh out of a bear hide to pull her injured companion across the glacier. So, my voice and this story they were going to serve as a sort of sleigh to help him cross. I told dad that his mother, his brother, brother-in-law, and all the people he knew and loved who had already passed were waiting for him. I told him he could leave any time during the story or wait until the end. Then, I started reading. The hospital Chaplin came after a while, and I told him all about dad. He said a prayer incorporating all the things I had told him. And, he recited Psalm 23.
I continued reading the story.
I read to him until 2:40 p.m. I held his hand as I read. I had just finished reading the part of the story where the priest meets a woman who mysteriously washes up on the shores of Dublin, Ireland. He helps her recover, find work, and get a home. They fall in love. They have to keep it hidden. They have a baby, but she dies during childbirth and the priest cannot admit he is the father, so he gives his daughter to the nuns who live in a nearby nunnery to be raised. I had read to him about this girl’s early childhood and a very scary nun she encounters. I was about to read him the part about Resurrection Sunday when I heard his breathing change–dramatically. I saw his pulse rate dropping–dramatically. I knew what was happening and rushed to him, my heart pounding. I told him mom and my brothers were 15 minutes away, he needed to wait. His breathing quicken and pulse went up, but only briefly. Then, it plummeted again. I knew the nurses could give him a drug through his IV to bring his pulse back up, but I also knew I had moved him to Comfort Care last night. Instead of running to get the nurse, I threw myself over him and hugged him fiercely. His nurse and doctor came in. They held my hand and hugged me. No one said anything. After some time I looked up and asked the doctor if he had gone. With the kindest face and deepest empathy, he nodded. Neither he nor the nurse left. They stayed with me and never once did I feel like they had anything more important to do–though I knew they were responsible for many people in very serious conditions. My mother and brothers arrived 10 minutes later. They had indeed been 15 minutes away, though when I told dad I had no way of knowing this. My brother thinks at the time of dad’s passing they were at the last rest stop, and mom was picking daisies. I had just been reading to dad about daises.
So, one year later, this is my telling of the journey I have been on since his death. It is told through music and art. The starting image I drew on the plane on July 27, 2018 as I flew out to be with my father one day after this heart attack. As I drew, I listened to Asura’s Life2 album. I listened to one song in particular over and over as the image took shape. This song was Celestial Tendencies. Each song from Asura’s album held special meaning and energy for me during this time. The music was a way to hold onto some divine and sublime at a time of great crisis and ultimate tragedy. The visual journey is an expansion of my original drawing in my notebook. Please forgive my indulgence as I spent a lot of time drawing the different layers. Ultimately, I decided to use each of the songs that helped me to be strong for dad and my family during this terrible time. I realize it is a video that probably only I will ever watch in its entirety.
The visual story of this journey can not be viewed. I have tried, but I believe algorithms used by most of the major social media platforms flagged this image possibly as a man on a cross and this has been tied to White Supremacy. I understand this concern. It is validate given our time. I would just say that this is how the vision of my father appeared to me as I flew out to be with him, and that during my 10 days with him, he indeed held his arms out this way many times for he was suffering. I think outstretched arms like this are also a symbol for the suffering of the world, and my father felt this deeply, our collective human suffering. It powered him and transformed him as a force of compassion in the world. As this image progresses, it transforms from an image of human suffering into one of transcendence. I am sorry I cannot share this work at this time, but that is our current reality and I accept the collective wisdom of our time.
You may be able to view the video if you can get to my Art Page on Facebook; here it is pinned to the top of the page.
As COVID-19 has steadily made its way around the world and really hit the United States of America particularly hard, I have thought a lot about those 10 days in the hospital sitting by my father’s side, hoping for the best but knowing he was skating between two realities–one was life, the other death. No one wanted to talk about the death reality, but it was there. It was always there. I could see it in the doctors eyes. I could feel it in the nurses voices. I drew it as I flew out to be with my beloved father.
He fought for life, absolutely he did. But, he was up against incredible odds, unbelievable odds that cannot be conveyed to a living person in good health because until you are at this threshold, you do not know. But, healthcare professionals learn to recognize the signs of approaching death, especially when people are fighting to just breathe, which is what dad was doing at the end because his lungs were filling up with the fluid. The doctors were watching for it because they knew Pulmonary edema or pneumonia is often a result after CPR because to do it right to save a person’s life, the first responders has to push hard often breaking ribs and pushing debris into the lungs, which causes the pneumonia.
This episode that I just heard on This American Life captures so vividly what I saw dad suffer through. I tuned in just as the nurses were describing what has to be done to save a person’s like can feel like torture. And my dad absolutely felt this way that day when he woke up, and he was writing thank yous, and we had a precious, fleeting moment of normalcy, until the feed tube had to be reinserted. This haunts me so much because he was wide awake and to him it felt like torture and he was counting on me to stop it…and I failed because I wanted to save him.
And now so many beautiful people are suffering through the very same thing. To find out more about this episode, click here.
I would like to end with two stories about my father that were given at his memorial service. One is by one of my brothers and the other by me. My father was one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate human beings anyone could ever hope to encounter. His deep and unconditional love for everyone was felt by all who got to know him, even when they messed up, he held them in patience and love. What a lesson for the times we live in now.
This is my brother’s eulogy:
Monrad Kicks the Hell’s Angels Out of Yellowstone
As we go through life, our impressions and feelings toward our parents change. I’m going to share with you some impressions from my childhood, Around the age of eight or nine when we lived in South Dakota. At this age boys want a tough dad with street creds and unfortunately, I was convinced my father was a wimp. The previous sunday he had preached Yet another sermon on love. By my count the 4th sermon on love that summer .
But it didn’t matter because we were about to commence on a treasured family tradition ; the summer vacation. We’d take a popup camper and head out West for one or two weeks . On this trip, I believe we went to either Grand Teton or YellowStone, let’s just say it was Yellowstone.
We had the camping routine down pat. We’d set up camp, spend a few days hiking or fishing then move on to the next location. In these popular parks you needed to get to the next campsite early, well before 5 pm, or the campsites could fill up. On this particular day we had had a long drive and almost all the sites were taken but we finally found one and a nice secluded spot at that. After we had set up camp and were settling in, some loud motorcycles pulled up to a clearing just across the road from our camper. They wore leather jackets and skull caps. We kids immediately knew who they were because they had been covered in last week’s TV news. This was none other than the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. About this time Monrad notices what is going on and Yell’s across to the gang “that is not a campsite, you can’t camp there.” The reply came back to “Mind your own business” or something similar. Monrad responded even louder and more angry “That is not a campsite you can’t camp there “. We kids were terrified, we were sure our dad was going to get beat up … or worse. But to our surprise after a few more exchanges, maybe a few insulting gestures exchanged as well, the bikers revved up their engines and moved on.
That was the day I was proud of my father, he just kicked the Hell’s Angels out of Yellowstone.
This is my eulogy:
Born: April 16, 1935; Died: August 4, 2018; Age: 83
My father… Monrad Mandsager… He is why you are here today… Monty! And, do you know what he would have said?
He would have said, “Goodness sakes… you’ve come all this way… for me! You shouldn’t have… thank you… thank you so much… thank you for coming!”
SHOWING UP & PAYING ATTENTION = LOVE
His whole life dad never felt worthy. In his mind, he was a poor, simple farm boy from Iowa who could never quite do all the things exactly the way his dad wanted them done, and he grew up without his mother’s kind and loving warmth and support. These early beginnings always left him questioning his worth. But my dad would always show up and give any task (big or small) his best! For him, what was most important was making time, paying attention, and creating a space to understand the needs of others because dad knew this is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other… for it is the most basic way we show our love to each other. Dad’s capacity to create and hold a sacred space for others was one of his superpowers! He would listen with empathy, kindness, and unwavering attention to someone’s life story, latest frustration, or good news. And, he would remember what you told him and ask you about it the next time he saw you.
SUPERPOWERS OF ATTENTION + LISTENING + UNDERSTANDING
Dad’s ability to pay attention and listen combined with his humbleness allowed him to be there for people at their greatest time of need. I remember one tragedy where dad demonstrated his tremendous capacity to empathize and be there for a grieving family after their 16-year-old son was killed in a hunting accident. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember my parents explaining to me how this family had lost several children before this tragedy and this was their last son. I remember going with mom and dad many times to visit the family after dad broke the terrible news to them. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of helplessness and sadness. But, I also remember knowing being there with my parents was important. I was no older than first grade, but I remember this experience vividly, and I’ll come back to this later for as I was reading through dad’s writings to figure out what I would say today, I found his reflections on this same tragedy for it had profoundly impacted him too. Grief it turns out is not bounded to one day or one week or one year… it is a deeply personal journey and dad understood this. He understood a time of grief is not a time to give people “pat answers” about why death or a tragedy occurred… neither is it a time to tell the person how and when to recover from it. He knew he didn’t know, but what he did know was he needed to be there for however long it took and at whatever capacity the family or individual needed, even if it meant just sitting in silence with them. I’m going to share with you several of dad’s amazing traits (I call them his superpowers), and now that he’s gone, I realize they were precious gifts given freely and in love to me and I suspect he gave them to many of you!
One of his wonderful superpowers was his adventuresome, wandering spirit. Little more than 6 weeks after being ordained at Luther Seminary and marrying mom, they took off to Brazil where dad was to serve as a missionary in Sao Paulo and the surrounding area. Mom and dad had to learn Portuguese and spent almost a year studying and learning it before dad began his mission work. He was one of the first missionaries to give all of his sermons in Portuguese, and of course, this is where I and my brother Craig were born. We learned Portuguese too and spoke it to everyone outside of our immediate family. I am told when we returned to the states, and I met my grandparents for the first time, I sat on their knees chattering happily away in Portuguese as they smiled and enjoyed meeting their granddaughter and grandson for the first time. I was pretty young in Brazil, but I have snap shot memories of life with my parents such as galloping on my father’s shoulders through the jungle with monkeys shrieking at us from high in the trees (that was magnificent)! Watching a steel drum band at a gathering and marveling at the beautiful music coming from the steel cans the musicians had turned into their drums dad had explained all this to me for he loved the steel drums! I also remember traveling with dad in our jeep over muddy, rutted, red roads and being surrounded by hundreds of sheep on their way home, leaving dad and I to revel in the wonder of the moment.
From Brazil, we flew back to the Midwest, this is where my brother Phillip was born. From there, dad helped his brother-in-law Bob start a new church in Southern CA – so, we moved to Sunnymead where my brother Peter was born – and, then our family was complete! I won’t go into all the places we moved or family vacations we took, but dad loved to travel, and he wanted us to experience and see the vast, beautiful, wondrous places of this land, and we saw many thanks to him!
THE DREAMER & LEARNER
My father was also a dreamer and lifelong learner! He loved geology, astronomy, anthropology, paleontology, and even astrophysics; he transferred his love of learning to me and my brothers! Dad would tell you that his love of learning and interests in science was sometimes disturbing to his faith, and he often navigated between the waters of faith and doubt. But, this made dad stronger, not weaker for he was able to transform his doubt into a deeper, vaster faith in God.
In his own words, he says, “Since I am often between faith and doubt, my stockpile of “pat answers” has diminished considerable. Life is discovery, growth, affirmation of faith in God in the midst of doubt. Life is affirmation of the creation of oneself, of others, of the goodness and love of God. Christ is our best light of this, pointing us to a loving Father God through the goodness and light His life has given for us in loving service through suffering even onto death.”
And, so here again you glimpse dad’s superpowers of kindness, compassion, and deep empathy for people and all living beings, and this guided him through his journey between the waters of faith and doubt; and it greatly informed his ministry for he saw himself as a humble servant who would stop to help anyone in need—and this is a gift he gave freely and frequently!
TRANSFORMATION OF FAITH
As I was reading dad’s writings, I found one piece he titled an Account of My Life to Age 43 where he describes honestly and elegantly his life journey, especially about the transformation of his faith. Here he accounts the same story I remembered about the 16-year-old boy. (I’ve changed the names for it seems even after all these years, the family is entitled to their privacy) Dad writes: “…the summer of ’72, we moved to Redway to serve Grace Lutheran Church. At that time, the KindFamily was a family of four: Joe, the father, a Roman Catholic and lumberjack; Corothy, the mother, a member of Grace; David (16) had been confirmed that Spring; and Lucy (13). Previous to our acquaintance, they had been a family of 7—two boys had been born with progressive muscular dystrophy and died in their young teens and a baby girl died of lung cancer at age 3. … About two months after our arrival Corothy talked about going to stay with her husband for a week in the woods – something she had never done before. She was apprehensive about leaving the kids. They ended up taking Lucy, while David was to stay with the next-door neighbors who were trusted friends. They left Sunday. Late Tuesday afternoon, council member, Karl came running up our steps, out of breath, a strained expression on this face. “Pastor, Pastor, something awful has happened, they found David dead beside his motorcycle and rifle along a trail. He’s been shot! This is awful. I can’t believe it… David’sthe only boy they had left! They were so proud of him. He was such a good kid. What are we going to do?”
Dad writes he was equally shocked as he attempted to reassure Karl that with God’s help they’d find a way to help the Kinds. Karl asked if dad would be there when the family arrived home to tell them what happened. Dad said yes, and he’d like Karl to be there too since he was a supporting friend of the family.” This event solidified for dad at a moment of great tragedy and grief, it is not a time to theologize or to tell a person not to protest to God as they grapple with the question why… why… why… Dad describes how he simply sat in the ditch with the father as he wept, and when he asked questions dad answered them simply with the information he knew. Then, they wept together, talked a little more, and wept again. Dad was there for days and weeks later walking with the family one small step at a time. He came to understand, as he tried to answer the agonizing question why, that we live in a world where accidents and disease happen, death is a mystery, and we don’t know all the answers. He came to believe it is not God who appoints the hour and manner of death, but more evil and death have come into our world through the backdoor (as it were). However, God is on the side of goodness and life; nevertheless, since evil, accidents, disease, and death have come among us, God Himself in Jesus, went through suffering, sorrow, and death… because he loves us and wants to show us he understands, cares, and shares our burdens and carries them with us during our greatest times of grief, pain, sorrow, and need. And, so the gift of faith was given to me—a gift dad demonstrated vividly throughout his life!
The Gift of Courage
The last gift I’ll mention today is courage. It was a heart attack that took him down the evening of July 25, and it was the heroic efforts of first responders and hospital staff in Albert Lea and the Mayo Clinic that brought him back along with our good neighbors who brought Mom to both hospitals that night to be with Dad. One nurse who had also been an EMT told me about 4% of patients flown in after such an event survive, so dad was a miracle—even if it was just one week. Each day on the ICU was a battle, but dad made amazing progress regaining consciousness and recognition surpassing the tempered hopes that the excellent doctors and nurses held for him and worked tirelessly to achieve. The best the team could work out is dad probably went without oxygen to his brain for 15 to 20 minutes—most agree after 9; severe brain damage can begin. Despite tremendous gains coming back consciously, his body continued to reel from catastrophic system failures. The doctors figured out one problem was a blockage in an artery in the heart, which they fixed this with a stint, but the other required a pace maker. This was a challenge because dad had several broken ribs since CPR is really only effective when ribs are broken. But, pneumonia set in creating a vicious cycle of needing to cough, which caused pain that sent him into cycles of delirium. It was a delicate balance the medical team at St. Mary’s walked, moment by moment to figure out what dad needed.
Two days before his death—I call it his Lazarus day. I arrived in the morning. He was sitting upright in bed with wonderful color to his face and a sparkle in his eyes. He was holding a pen, paper, and bible and exclaimed happily as I walked in: “Debbie!” I returned: “Dad!” I sat down beside him and asked him what he was doing. He told me he had a lot of thank yous to write but was having a hard time getting started.
The day before had been pretty rough for he had worked his feed tube out 3 times, earning him the title of the Hundi of Feeding Tubes. He still did not have it reinserted, and so his nurse fed him pudding with his pills crushed in it. It was slow, and dad was having a hard time swallowing. But, this day, everyone was so hopeful he could recover at least to this point; however, to do so, he would need the feed tube reinserted. This sent him into a delirium he would not come out of, and this is where the courage comes in… I had to have the courage to see the totality of his reality – I needed to reconcile the hope of his recovery with the despair of cascading system failures in his body. After 36 hours of continuous delirium, I made the tough decision to move him to comfort care, allowing the nurses and doctors to give him stronger medications to keep him comfortable and out of pain. The Mayo team was magnificent in providing me and our family with all the options ranging from further invasive interventions to comfort care, and it was his night nurse, Luis, who said something about being able to give dad stronger medicines that night, which finally made me understand the reality of dad’s situation. We had never made it out of the Sea of Delirium, and dad was suffering and needed me to make a courageous choice. So, I did.
When I returned the next morning, he was sleeping—the delirium was over. His day nurse told me he had cleaned him, and they were making him comfortable. He looked at peace. I could hear the gurgle of the pneumonia in his lungs, but he was not struggling for air. I sat down next to him and began to read part of the book I have written for I had promised to send him the manuscript but had not yet sent it. The Chaplin came in after a couple of hours. I told him all about dad and the past week. He recited the 23rdPsalm, and then he said a prayer incorporating everything I had told him. I resumed reading. His nurse came back to turn him. I continued reading holding his hand, comforted by his warmth. Less than 45 minutes later, his breathing suddenly changed. I looked at his monitor and saw his heart rate dropping just as it had been doing over the past week (this is why he needed a pace maker). I felt panic and pleaded with dad to wait for mom to arrive (for I felt she was 15 minutes away). Dad breathed, and his heart rate went up, but for less than a minute; then it plunged again. I wanted to run and get the nurse to give him a drug to increase his heart rate, but I didn’t… I knew he was going and I needed to let him go… this took tremendous courage… how could I let my father go? I couldn’t, so I threw myself on him, hugged him and cried. His nurse came in and put his arm around my shoulders as I held onto dad, and his doctor came in and held my hand. After a while, I looked up and asked, “Is he gone?” His doctor simply and compassionately confirmed dad had gone. My brothers and mom arrived 10 minutes later. His nurse and doctor stayed with us for a long time. I did not feel for one minute they had anything more important to do than to be a witness to dad’s passing and our grief—a tremendous gift.
The Gift of Love
So, thank you all for being here to remember dad and to celebrate his life and the many gifts he gave to so many of us.
I know dad never felt he deserved this sort of attention, but dad, if you are listening, you deserve it, every last bit of it for your gifts have healed so many people in our broken world, which desperately needs the compassion you shared and your capacity to listen and be with others during their greatest hour of need and to do so in kindness and with empathy, all of which came so natural to you.