The video below is an artistic-musical journey of some of the events that defined and reshaped our shared reality over the past year. It spans natural disasters, disease disasters, and human made disasters that occurred beginning around Feb. 2020 to Feb. 2021.
I began by drawing the sad woman sitting by a fire contemplating something. I drew her early in 2020 before most of what happened transpired. Behind her is a dreamlike landscape, which was drawn some years earlier. However, I felt it belonged in this dream-like landscape. I then wanted images to appear between the flickering fire, but I didn’t know how to choose which ones to draw or feature among all the disasters and terrible things that occurred last year all around the world.
I decided to focus on the United States and found a regional map that I redrew artistically. I found other maps of where fires occurred, where the derecho hit Iowa and left a 750 mile path of destruction, where hurricanes came ashore, where Black Live Matter marches took place after the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis (my hometown), and where COVID-19 infections were rising. I artistically re-envisioned and redrew these maps as layers that could be used over the Regional Map or alone.
I blended live videos of 2020 events (e.g., driving through fire, driving through the derecho, hurricane mapping and video, Black Live Matter marches) as well as murals painted by artists worldwide honoring George Floyd and/or illuminating the collective struggle of COVID-19 into this video montage of 2020.
Towards the end, I include drawings I made many years earlier. There were lots so many glitches in getting this video posted, including having to throw out 6 songs at the very end and replace them since the musicians did not allow their music to be used with anything other than their original videos. I understand this, it is their creation. However, I am deeply grateful to the musicians who do allow their musicto be used with ad revenue going to them (as it should). I have cited all musicians and tried to give credit to all videos and images used that are not my own drawings or photography. I list these sources in the description section on YouTube.
It is with gratitude I offer Mother of Grief — Remembering 2020
Remembering who we have lost and how our lives have changed is important, especially as we prepare and begin making choices on how to move forward as individuals and as communities. Our choices matter. Without taking time to reflect and to grieve for what has been lost, we are bound to go in circles and repeat fixable mistakes in attitudes and ideas over and over. Taking time to remember and grieve is a sacred act. No matter if your life has been impacted in big or small ways, this past year has caused a pause–and Now is the time to reflect, remember, and cherish the precious gift of life–something that is so fragile and fleeting for all of us. This is how we grow and transform by remembering, reflecting, and cherishing what has been lost and using this remembrance (this accounting of one’s life to this moment in time) to make different choices moving forward.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book about the philosophy of the I Ching. It is a book one of my brothers got a long, long time ago. I don’t know how I ended up with it. For years it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust. Perhaps I would not have understood what the author was revealing had I picked it up earlier. However, after 5+ years of significant reversals, setbacks, and losses, it really resonates with me today.
Carl Jung said the East charted inner landscapes and developed a deep understanding of who and what we are as conscious living beings while the West turned its time and attention to charting and understanding the outer world. Neither focus is bad. Both are part of reality; however, the Western focus on the reality of the visible, outside world grew lopsided (very lopsided), creating an imbalance in the psyche that resulted in a lost of awareness of sacred inner landscapes forming one’s inner realities. This forgetting has put the wellbeing of individuals in peril, and possibly placed our collective survival as a species, a civilization in jeopardy as well. All hands are needed on deck to heal the chasm created by this extreme lopsidedness; I will tell you more about this in my book: Sapience.
Returning to what I was reading last night that felt like it belonged in this post. I was reading a chapter about the Student-Sage Relationship. The I Ching believes student and sage are one. And, we come to know our inner sage by developing inner discipline and quieting our mind. This is how our inner sage can be heard, understood, and followed for the good of self and the greater good.
What felt like belonged here is the following:
The Sage is polite, but firm in stating cosmic principles.
It is through such firmness that we perceive his total personality as gentle, kind, firm, and correct–one that believes in us in spite of our deviations.
He waits while we exhaust our enthusiasm for false ideas; he allow us to self-destruct if we stubbornly insist upon doing so, but would rather we did not, because, as he tells us, we have the potential for achieving something both great and permanent for the good of all, if we will do it.
While working with the Sage, we feel a nourishing, helpful presence.
If we become arrogant, however, this presences departs and we begin to feel lonely.
We are hardly aware of this presence until we lose it and miss it.
When we return to our path, the presence gradually returns.
It is as if an inner light comes and goes.
By his coming and his going, he teaches us about himself and about our relationship with him.
The book is called: The Philosophy of theI Ching. It was written by Carol K. Anthony who I came to discover recently died in August 2020. She founded her own publishing company and lived close to me. I could have met her had I been a little faster in my curiosity about the I Ching, but time and fate is what it is. Her biography is beautiful:
Carol began her study of the I Ching in 1971, during a mid-life crisis, when she was age 41. Her difficulties made her receptive when a friend, desiring to be of help, introduced her to the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I Ching. It taught her to meditate in a way that helped her to understand what the hexagrams were saying. She kept notes of these insights as they occurred. Within seven years she had a complete set of notes on each hexagram that helped friends understand the hexagrams they received. She quickly realized that her notes filled a unique need. Two meditation experiences led her to publish them under the title, A Guide to the I Ching, and to found Anthony Publishing Company. This book was followed by The Philosophy of the I Ching, in 1981, The Other Way, Experiences in Meditation Based on the I Ching, in 1990, and Love, An Inner Connection, Based on Principles Drawn from the I Ching, in 1993. These books interested other publishers and some of them were translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Croatian.
Kojo is retiring soon and will be missed. This was a wonderful look back on a year that turned world upside down.
It was Friday, February 28, 2020 on The Politics Hour when we first covered the coronavirus in any detail. We discussed it again briefly on The Politics Hour a week later. But at that those moments we had no idea how deadly the virus would become and how the year would unfold. We were talking about elbow bumping and hand washing.
Over the days that followed cases started to gradually increase in the D.C. region and throughout the country and the world. And on March 10 we devoted the entire show on the virus with doctors and public health officials and began covering the COVID-19 pandemic regularly.
This broadcast will take a look back at the year of COVID, with insights and reflection from Emergency Physician and Professor Dr. Leana Wen, Washington Post Columnist and Parenting Coach Meghan Leahy, and WAMU/DCist Staff Writer Elliot Williams.
Description:The year 2020 was one of painful loss. We said goodbye to respected leaders and lawmakers, to gifted athletes and entertainers, to people who have inspired us and enriched our lives even if we didn’t know them personally. In some cases, people were taken from us far too soon, victims of a pandemic that has caused death and suffering around the world. And some of those we lost were the victims of grave injustice, cruelly robbed of years of life they might have spent with family, friends and loved ones.
To lose these people is a reminder of the fragility of life, and a reminder to take care of one another to the best of our ability. But in the midst of feeling sorrow for people who are no longer with us, we should also take comfort in the gifts they gave us while they were here. Here, TIME pays tribute to those who left us in 2020, people who changed the world for the better and helped show us a path forward.
The year that COVID built: a look back on 2020
The World Economic Forum put together a wonderful snap shot of 2020 based on what we searched for on the Internet as well as other key moments of 2020.
“A house divided against itself, cannot stand.” — Abraham Lincoln
The Death of a Father is a devastating event regardless of if it occurs to a family or a civilization. Fathers represent half the sacred act of creation. In Buddhist philosophy, “Yang represents Heaven, the Father, and the Creative…while yin represents Earth, the Mother, and the Receptive. Yin and yang are dependent upon one another…” To read more about the symbolism of Yin & Yang, see this beautiful blog: Yin & Yang Symbol: Between Heaven and Earth.
TheCollective Death of the Father
Why am I comparing the Death of a Father as experienced by an individual or a civilization as a similar event? Because civilizations are nothing more than of millions of individuals who have agreed to come together as a collective to achieve a greater good. Part of what they do to accomplish this greater good is contribute some of their individual consciousness to the collective pool of consciousness needed to do this. Note when I refer to consciousness, I mean illuminated consciousness, the part we are awareness of that tells us who we are, where we are, what we can do, and allows us to do and accomplish things in the world.
Collectives of any size draw upon this greater pool of consciousness to do things a single individual could not do alone. In ancient times, this larger pool of knowing and ability helped people synchronize and organize themselves to bring about the greater goal. Back then, the great goal was surviving, but our ancestors recognized how a well synchronized group of people could afford to divide up critical survival tasks such as hunting (protein), gathering (critical vitamins, minerals, and other trace nutrients), building (shelter), and safety (fighting off beasts or other humans who want to steal your resources or creating/sustaining fire) to overcome the challenges that probably would kill an individual acting alone.
Imagine for a minute that you are an ancient human trying to live alone in a world due to circumstances beyond your control. To do this, you must hunt, gather, build your own shelter, and protect yourself from all sorts of danger and challenges. You must also know how to heal yourself if you get hurt or become ill. Necessity will allow you to use your great mind to overcome some of the obstacles to survival. But, pretty much all your time and energy will be dedicated to surviving, leaving little time to imagine, much less build, a new and better way of living in the world.
But thankfully you are a modern human who is living in a modern world, so surviving is much easier. But it is also vastly more complicated. That is because our modern luxuries comes with a price, which necessitates that you put more of your individual consciousness into the ever-evolving more complicated collectives. There are many ways individual’s contribute their individual consciousness to the collective. One obvious way is by internalizing and abiding by the rules of the systems sustaining the collective (e.g., go to work, make money, spend money to employ other people who must go to work). Collective concentrations of consciousness are supposed to sustain the good of all people living inside of them. However, just as an individual can choose to use their consciousness for evil, so too can a collective.
It does not take many individuals who have bended and been broken by the lure of the Corruption to pollute a collective’s pool of consciousness. All human beings need to navigate the lure and pull of corrupting impulses, desires, yearnings, longings, and fancies that live inside our psyche. In Western civilization, these Corrupting forces are immortalized as the 7 Deadly Sins: pride (modern day manifestations is narcissism), greed, lust, envy, gluttony (hoarding more than you need, thus taking away things other people need to survive), wrath (a corruption of anger that turns it into an obsession to get even and punish anyone who wrongs you, even if the wrong you perceive is fantasy).
The United States of America right now is watching such forces play out in the second Impeachment of Trump. Here a prideful, wrath-filled, vengeful man along with his complicit and powerful, imaginative cronies (e.g., Steve Bannon, the Mercers, Rupert Murdoch, Stephen Miller, etc.) corrupted an entire political party. They managed to warp reality and get millions to believe it is real. It is a process of radicalization that has been going on for a long time. Donald Trump’s win of the 2016 election was a huge payoff for this steady and persistent warping of reality. Once he took power, an intense period of stepped-up deep radicalization transpired. It is a period that has played upon deep-seated fears mainly residing white people who fear losing their long-standing position of privilege.
Trump uses fear like a subtle knife (a reference to His Dark Materials) to cut an opening into the hearts and minds of ordinary men and women. He cuts deep with it going back to the rage and division of the 1850s, even further to the primitive foreboding fear of ‘the other’ who could be a raiding party coming to kill you. The House Impeachment Managers have laid out a damning case for how the former President seeded, cultivated, and grew an alternative reality resulting in a raging mob that descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. It was a moment of pure madness that caused the deaths of 7 people, injured 140 police officers (e.g., losing 3 fingers, the tip of his index finger, crushed discs, brain injuries, eye gouged out, one officer run through with a metal fence post, another suffering a heart attack after being stunned with his own stun gun), and damaged the Capitol building itself.
I suggest we are struggling through as a collective the Death of the Father. In this case, it is the Death of the Founding Fathers. All civilizations must grow their collective pool of consciousness through time just as individuals must grow their sphere of consciousness. Eventually, every civilization will grow beyond the boundaries of what their founding fathers envisioned. It is utterly natural to grow beyond the boundaries defined by the founding fathers. What set of humans being can see beyond their time, much less 200, 500, or 1,000 years into the future. A father wants his child to grow, just as the founding fathers want their nation to grow physically and psychologically.
As a civilization grows, it must redefine itself and reorganize according to what new knowledge has been learned. To do this well requires new men and women of great imagination and vision. People who can help the collective see far upon the horizon of time and help it adapt and change to new challenges coming at it that could crush it if it doesn’t evolve. When a civilization fails to grow and adapt, it begins to split and fracture because the Corrupting forces live inside all men and all women and it will seize control of the rudder of a civilization that is drifting due to the death of its founding fathers—a natural death because the collective (the civilization) has flourished under their vision and grown beyond it.
What Cain and Able Teaches Us about the Death of the Father in a Collective
The Cain and Abel is a story about the Death of the Father (in this case, it is an immortal father what has retired to the immortal realms of heaven). When a father leaves, a void is left behind that must be filled by a new leader (a new father).
“After God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, they joined together and Eve gave birth to Cain, who became a worker of the soil. And then to Abel, who grew up to be a shepherd of the flocks.
In time, Cain made an offering to the Lord of fruit from the ground. And Abel brought the firstborn of his flock with its fullness and fat. The Lord respected Abel’s gift, but had no regard for Cain’s. And Cain was angry, and his face fell. And the Lord said, “Why are you so upset? If you do well you will be accepted, but if you don’t do right, sin is waiting for you by your door. And sin will want you. But you can conquer it.”
One day, when the brothers were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel and killed him.”
We are indeed hearing about the first murder committed by the first mortals of the world after God banished his children from Eden for disobeying him. But we also are witnessing the rise of the new father of Western Civilization. Charles Johnson explains further:
“When he kills Abel, to me it’s not really about Abel. It’s about striking back at God. And think, for just a moment, because I think this is very interesting for a novelist, about the phenomenological, if you will, experience of envy. You know, what is that- who do you envy, really? It’s someone who must be enough like you with just a little bit of difference, right? You don’t envy somebody who’s totally different. You- you’re related. You have a relationship. Maybe you’re in the same profession? Right? I’m not going to envy a doctor. I’m gonna envy Oscar Hijuelos (LAUGHTER), as a novelist or John Barth. And the question is, why? Why is their offering, which is their self, received so fully and mine not? So, the envy’s gonna be really tremendous. Because there’s this relationship, I really think, between self and other. It’s almost like a doubling. Almost like a twin.”
And yet, your- equality is not in the world. It’s something that we have to accept, you know, whether we like it or not. So that the only thing he can do is eliminate him. But by eliminating him, he gets rid of his better possibilities.”
It occurred to me after publishing this post there is a modern retelling of the succession aspect of the Cain and Able tale. It is an HBO mini series titled Succession, which is a brilliant retelling of the somewhat good son and the somewhat foolish and ruined son lining up to succeed their aging dad who has amassed an international corporate empire. This modern tale adds an important upgrade by throwing in the beautiful, accomplished, and somewhat dangerous daughter who is also standing in line to take over this modern empire that has the power to amass an army to sow ignorance, division, and confusion around the world–which of course benefits the empire. It is a brilliant telling of how these ancient archetypes have evolved in the human mind and an insightful telling of how power is wielded in the modern world.
Splitting the Father in Half & the Fight for Control
Circling back to what Charles Johnson said above about Cain and Able, this sounds strikingly similar to what is going on in the United States of America presently, doesn’t it? In this case, Trump was getting rid of his better possibility by demonizing it, denying it, and creating an alternative reality that he served to this followers to drink to the dregs. The drink was spiked with the Big Lie he had carefully concocted and designed to pick at and incite his followers deepest fears, darkest biases (among them a deep belief that white people deserve all the power), and worst impulses as human beings.
I believe worldwide we are fighting over our founding fathers. We have been splitting them in half. This splitting was done by the people the fathers once ruled with wisdom, truth, compassion, and justice. Once the fathers have been split, the people war between themselves for which father will rule—the Benevolent Father or the Malevolent Father? Both father images have powerful appeal to the people. However, the choice is an illusion because the one Father consist of both benevolent and malevolent potentials. A wise father knows this and knows how to balance these forces inside himself. A foolish, stupid father has no such awareness and lets his basal instincts (i.e., primeval, animalistic, self-serving, or ignoble motivations) rule him (like Trump has done and has managed to skillfully impart these same unconscious impulses to his base of followers).
The Human World Struggles to Grow Consciously As Collectives
The US is not alone in this struggle between the good and gentle brother (who stands in line to replace the father) and the dirty and angry brother (who also stands in line to replace the retiring father). Note the dirty, angry brother is only so because he works in the field, he grows the food from the soil. Perhaps God himself played on this brother’s feeling of inadequacy by having no regard for his gifts from the land that he, Cain, had brought as an offering. Perhaps that was a test. If it was, it was a cruel test showing God’s potential to be both good and bad at the same time.
There are many examples around world of cultures, nations struggling through this succession according to their own cultural and historical origins. Where a splitting of the father has occurred within the collective body of the people, an eruption of chaos is unfolding with deadly consequences. I heard Adam Curtis interviewed on the BBC yesterday. He has been tracing these struggles and how they have been playing out around world in a provocative new series entitled: I Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World.
Adam is right to embark on this journey and to bring this knowledge back to us through this novel series embedded with deep insights needed now for we are in an existential crisis for for which father will rule. Lincoln said as much 150+ years ago in his House Divided speech: “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.” (…) “It will become all one thing or all the other.” In other words, either Cain will prevail or Able will prevail, but one will kill the other. CNN is about to air a new series Divided We Stand about Lincoln and this time of crisis.
Individual Death of a Father
My own experience of losing my father was devasting. It flung me into an existential crisis that set me on a journey I scarcely understood. As I tried to survive this crisis, it felt like I was floating on an endless sea. Most of the time, I was utterly alone.
I was still on this endless sea when 2020 arrived, but I knew how to float and I actually felt more understood and less alone. But floating in uncertainty and limbo is exhausting and my last routines of relief had taken away with the arrival of COVID-19. So, I had to find new ways to hold onto hope. I began making documentaries of moments of beauty encountered during bike rides in 2020.
Moments of Insight & Healing in the Wake of Death
In Blue So Deep— Pulling Back My Power, I document a day when I understood how I have been losing essential inner energy by projecting parts of myself onto others. The previous year, I recognized the bad parts of myself I was projecting onto others and because of this, I was losing energy. I pulled them back. I began to heal. By making these videos I started recognizing how I was projecting good parts of myself onto other (e.g., the deep thinker, the doer, the seer, the dreamer, the successful one, the popular one). I realized I needed these parts back in order to survive on the sea that I still am adrift on more than 2 years later after losing my father.
I also saw this picture and a contest to caption it.
To my great surprise I won the contest!
Through this picture, I realized how my father had protected me from the brutal barbs of reality. I realized how he was my shield against the steady bards of what have become cruel systems and ways of being in the world. In the wake of his death, I was left completely exposed to the brutality of all the barbs being sent my way. I had not realized how dad protected me simply by being there to listen to my woes and understand me without judgement and offering only love and compassion. There are many reasons why we are cruel to each other, we envy what another has, we lust to have more than we deserve, but the most common reason is fear.
Why Fear Can Incite Us to be Cruel to Each Other
We fear each other because we have lost part of ourselves to “the other”. We do this by projecting some part of ourselves that is remains in the darkness of our unconsciousness. People do this all the time. It is a natural psychological process that helps us see, know, understand more of who we are in the moment of recognition: “Oh – that is me!”
In that moment of recognition, we grow as a conscious being because we are empowered to pull back the projection temporarily lost to the other. This natural psychology process becomes pathological when we fail to recognize our projections and pull them back, thereby failing to grow. We can only become whole by knowing more about who we are and what we are capable of doing—both good and bad.
A psyche trapped within chunky, inflexible, lopsided belief systems can become quite grumpy. It is also very vulnerable to demigods and other master manipulators who want to co-opt their consciousness and their bodies to do bad things in the world. Trapped psyches can quite easily blow up into a terrifying one-eyed psychic monster capable of getting the people co-opted into the beast to do savage, ferocious, barbaric acts of destruction. It is bad enough when this happens inside an individual. When a bunch of people have been synchronized to such a beast, it is a catastrophe.
I will tell more in upcoming blogs how I managed to recognize and pull back my projections as I floated on my Sea of Sorrow. I tell my story in case it offers hope to anyone else finding themselves on such a sea of misery and misfortune.
Bell: Who are we unifying with? We are not unifying with Black and Brown people who cannot get away with anything in this system. Black and Brown people get beaten and killed for doing Nothing. They get executed by the state for Nothing. Today we have 2 Senators who participated and helped to incite the insurrection, and all we are talking about is Unity. Democracy is not about Unity; it is about who has more votes! The White Privilege is mad about its slipping power and privilege. Bell tells about a real estate woman who went to the Insurrection like it was a Super Bowel Game and while attacking the Capitol promoted her real estate business, then back in Texas, asked Trump for a pardon. If it had been Black and Brown people descending on the Capitol, it would have been a massacre.
Kondabolu: Voting should be about values not team. I have a baby and I have to have hope because I have a baby who hasn’t even had ice cream yet… I’m not ready to go down with the ship.
My friend Fabian Navin shared this post the other day that is very appropriate to how an individual participates in the collective consciousness of his or her society and the toll it can take on the individual psyche… there is an invisible price of belonging to collectives:
“The spontaneous painting I began to do helped me not only to discover my personal story, but also to free myself from the intellectual constraints and concepts of my upbringing and my professional training, which I now recognized to be false, deceptive, and disastrous in its impact. The more I learned to follow my impulses in a playful way with colors and forms, the weaker became my allegiance to conventions of an aesthetic or any other nature. I did not want to paint beautiful pictures; it was not even my goal to paint good pictures. All I wanted was to help the truth to break through. In this way, when I finally confronted my own truth and was strengthened by it, I found the courage to see with ever-growing clarity how the conventional methods of psychoanalysis block the creativity of patients as well as analysts.” ~Alice Miller (in the Preface to the 1990 edition of “The Drama of the Gifted Child”)
See this previous post on moving through moments of adversity with wisdom.
See also it Feeds on Fear and Sadness for the psychological complex known as Death of the Father.
In this version of On Our Way by The Royal Concept at the end the chorus includes: “It’s 9/11… It’s 9/11…” and included in the original lyrics is the phrase “the sky is burning…”
We Have Lost Our Way To Our Hearts
I believe songs communicate essential inner symbols that can heal the soul. Some songs weave complex meanings that are numinous and stir recognition of inner and outer truths that have deep meaning to the entire species capable of this sort of cognitive recognition of meaning. To me, On Our Way is such a song that can be interpreted on multiple levels. One is it is a simple love song, but if you fall into the gravity of what love really is…then this song is much, much more because love is what holds everything we hold dear together. Love is how we weave our shared reality. Where the threads of love are shredded and torn asunder by hate, indifference, and “othering” (e.g., those radical liberals, alien migrant invaders), our shared reality begins to dissolve and disappear.
Now, We Are Shredding Our Shared Reality
Trump is a master of “othering”. He does it to get ahead, to stay on top, to grab power and keep power for himself and his loyal followers. In Googling examples of Trump’s “othering” efforts, I encountered an article considering what a Trump presidency might look like back in the summer of 2016, June to be precise when it was still not clear Trump would cinch the nomination. This paragraph is particularly striking…even haunting:
“In sum, Donald Trump’s basic personality traits suggest a presidency that could be highly combustible. One possible yield is an energetic, activist president who has a less than cordial relationship with the truth. He could be a daring and ruthlessly aggressive decision maker who desperately desires to create the strongest, tallest, shiniest, and most awesome result—and who never thinks twice about the collateral damage he will leave behind. Tough.Bellicose.Threatening. Explosive.”
This old article further states the following insights:
“Combined with a gift for humor, anger lies at the heart of Trump’s charisma.”
And: “Trump appeals to an ancient fear of contagion, which analogizes out-groups to parasites and poisons.”
And: “Narcissism in presidents is a double-edged sword. It is associated with historians’ ratings of “greatness”—but also with impeachment resolutions.“
Basically, most of the country knew what we were getting into when Trump was elected as evidenced by the 2017 Women’s March.
Here and Now: Trump and the Coronavirus
Now, here we stand almost at the other side of Trump’s Presidency and Bob Woodward’s book Rage has just come out with an explosive tape where all can hear Trump knew how dangerous the looming Coronavirus was way back at the beginning of February, but he gleefully tells Woodward that he likes to play it down. Indeed, he did more than play it down. He told us it was less dangerous than the flu while he brags to Woodward that it appears to be 5 times more deadlier that the flu. To this day, he mocks people who wear masks… a simple, effective way to protect oneself and others from inadvertently passing this deadly virus between us when social distance cannot be maintained. Even worst, he did nothing to prepare doctors, nurses, and frontline workers for the coming tidal wave of people who would become seriously sick from this virus or to protect our medical workers with the personal protective equipment they would need to treat very ill people safely. Since March, the daily death toll hoovers close to 1,000 deaths a day–many days, there have been more. The hot spots have spread out to every corner of the country with some regions gaining ground, only to lose it again.
Honoring victims of the coronavirus pandemic: Every night, the PBS Newshour honors and remembers people who have died since March 2020 from coronavirus in the United States. On this day when we are also honoring and remembering the people who died during 9/11 nineteen years ago, this was the Newshour’s honor roll for this day in 2020.
College Students With COVID-19 Host House Party: Cops — And then this happened today, of all days! At the current rate of spread, new estimates of Americans who will be dead by January 1, 2021 are 410,451 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. by Jan. 1! This is less than one year people. If this rate of death was to continue for as long as the AIDS epidemic lasted (which is 38 years now), we would lose 15,597,138 Americans. To contrast this with the AIDS epidemic, 700,000 Americans died between 1981 and 2020 with 32 million people dying worldwide over 38 years.
His denial is like fuel being poured on the fires burning out of control this very moment up and down the West Coast of California (not to forget the terrible fires that scorched Australia at the beginning of 2020). The BBC headlined: Trump on climate change report: ‘I don’t believe it’.
“There are 24 massive fires reported in California, 16 each in Washington and Oregon, 11 in Idaho, 9 in Montana, 7 in Arizona, 6 in Colorado, 5 in Utah, 4 in Alaska, 2 in Wyoming, and 1 each in Nevada and New Mexico.”
Death toll jumps to 15 as record wildfires continue raging in California, Oregon, and Washington, U.S. [Now it is 21 dead] — Posted by Julie Celestial on September 11, 2020 at 13:43 UTC — The Watchers
“About 14,000 firefighters are continuing to battle 25 wildfires in the western U.S. state of California that have burned more than 890,000 hectares.”
I have written extensively about Trump and how he is twisting the awakening of institutionalized racism in American, how he is smothering the uprising of Black Lives Matter taking place all over the country and world (e.g., Naked Athena — Splendor or Spectacle, Black and Brown Lives Matter, My Hometown Is Minneapolis), and how he encourages cruelty that is directed towards immigrants and anyone he perceives not to be on his side. I will not do so here other to say that Black and Brown Lives Do Matter! When we discriminate and conduct violence on black and brown people, it is as if we are cutting off parts of our shared humanity.
The human soul is a clear place. The human body is a clear place. It is the human mind that has become cloudy and lopsided, in fact, it have become very diseased. We need all of us to heal the sickness we have inflicted on each other and our planet. We need to use our minds to understand science again, to do the hard work to seek the truth in complicated events again, and to follow the facts again. These three things are powerful tools (mind tools) that have help us humans survive a very complicated reality, and a reality that we have made far more complicated with our meddling in natural balances nature worked out over billions of years. Now, here we stand (Homo sapiens), about to undo these balances in the catastrophic ways, in a mere few centuries. We must think again. We must value the difficult work of thinking again, and of innovative ideas and inborn creativity all humans possess and bring to solving our collective problems. To not do this now, is to continue our headlong rush into ignorance, which is going to end in death on scales we can scarcely imagine, even in this year of so much death in 2020.
Back to Lyrics and Their Numinous Symbolism
“We are young…” — Yes, we are a young species in comparison to just about every other species on our pale blue planets. Will we be the species to wipe out all the other ones?
“The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report 2020, published today, sounds the alarm for global biodiversity, showing an average 68% decline in animal population sizes tracked over 46 years (1970-2016).”
“I’ll believe when the sky is burning…” — Well, they are now burning up and down the Pacific Coast and across the west in the US… forests, towns, and meadows are burning, turning the sky orange and red. Prayers to all who are in the way of these deadly flames of 2020 and to those who have lost their homes and lives.
“I’ll believe when the storm is through…” — And, the COVID storm is still not through. We continue to lose about as many people every day as we lost on 9/11 nineteen years ago.
Prayers to all who have lost a loved one in the United States (over 196,520 Americans have died of coronavirus as of 9/11/20). And, prayers to all people around the world who have lost a loved one due to coronavirus or have lost their livelihoods or suffer from long hauler syndrome (916,337 have died worldwide as of 9/11/20). — COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC (This is a pandemic that has been handled so badly by Trump who has used it as a political weapon and continues to do so by sowing misinformation designed to stir up division, fear, and hate).
Prayers to the memory of all the precious lives lost in the 9/11 attacks carried out nineteen years ago, an attack also born out of hate … something that only grows in human hearts.
“We’re losing time, time, time…”
– Yes, every day we let hate, fear, jealously, greed, and all the thoughts, feelings, and states of being human contain inside of us that seeks destruction win through our deeds and actions in the world, we are losing precious time.
— When we become so divided inside ourselves that we lose sight of love, courage, trust, generosity–we are losing time.
— When these human qualities become “the other fellow out there who is out to get me” then we lose our ability to heal from traumatic pain and to maintain healthy relationships to ourselves and to others, we are losing time.
—- When this inner divide grows so wide and so deep that all the love and compassion inside of us disappears from our inner reality, then we are destine to lose our balance and fall into this hole in our mind.
—– When this happens, we all destine to fall into this inner chasm we created in our minds and when we do, we will all die because the truth is we are all connected—inside and outside—us and other are merely illusions of mind.
—— We are running out of time to understand this and to take meaningful action to heal.
Lyrics for On Our Way by The Royal Concept
I’ll believe when the walls stop turning
I’ll believe when the storm is through
I believe I hear them say
David won’t stop writing songs
I never wanna shake their hands and stay
I never wanna shake their hands and stay
Oh no let’s go
We are young, we are one
Let us shine for what it’s worth
To your place, place, place
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way somehow
Hold me close, close, close
We’re losing time, time, time
We’re losing time, time, time
We’re falling to the ground
I’ll believe when the sky is burning
I’ll believe when I see the view
I believe that I hear them say
David won’t stop dreaming now
And everybody clap your hands and shout
And everybody clap your hands and shout
Oh no, they shout
We are young, we are one
Let us shine for what it’s worth
To your place, place, place
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way somehow
Hold me close, close, close
We’re losing time, time, time
We’re losing time, time, time
We’re falling to the ground
We are young, we are one
Let us shine for what it’s worth
To your place, place, place
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way
Hold me close
We’re losing time
Hold me close
We’re falling to the ground
Taxi drive the sun is rising
Damn the sirens, keep on driving
Flashing light, oh what a night
I miss her bed, I lost my head
And it’s sunning, we’re still running
For her rooftop, our last stop
Barefoot, naked, don’t you let me go
To your place, place, place
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way somehow
Hold me close, close, close
We’re losing time, time, time
We’re losing time, time, time
We’re falling to the ground
We are young, we are one
Let us shine for what it’s worth
To your place, place, place
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way, way, way
We’re on our way
Hold me close, we’re losing time
Hold me close, we’re falling to the ground
Songwriters: Carl Wikstrom Ask / Magnus Nilsson / David Larsson / Filip Bekic / Povel Olsson
I make these videos to help me heal from the devastation I have been facing for the past 5 years that sent me into a deep depression, which became even worst 2 years ago sending me into a near fatal downward spiral… those who know me, know my story… those who don’t, it is enough to just enjoy the video(s) 📷 Stay safe everyone wherever you are in the world.
The Daily (produced by the NYT) explores a pattern of building and rebuilding that has increased the destructiveness of the fires ravaging the American West. We are to blame for this. Us. Humans. We have created these systems and now we have become stuck in them. If we don’t take drastic, compassionate action to correct these problems, it can and it will get worst. Reality is complex. And, we humans have made it even more complex with our thinking that can created systems stuck in dangerous patterns.
“Firefighters were struggling to try to contain and douse the blazes and officials in some places were giving residents just minutes to evacuate their homes. The fires trapped firefighters and civilians behind fire lines in Oregon and leveled an entire small town in eastern Washington.
The devastation could become overwhelming, said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
“This could be the greatest loss of human life and property due to wildfire in our state’s history,” Brown told reporters.”
“These firefighters, commanders, and support staff are one of the many incident management teams that assemble during wildfire season to battle blazes throughout the West. Late Monday night, as winds picked up across the region, a fire broke out around their incident command post in the small town of Gates, Oregon. As the fire quickly spread, the group, which totaled about 380, many of whom were staying in tents and campers outside the post, began a battle to save their own building.”
Shields and Brooks on virus aid impasse, Woodward’s Trump revelations: These guys are two of the most balanced, deep thinkers that I watch as often as I can. Tonight, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the congressional stalemate over pandemic relief legislation, revelations from Bob Woodward’s interviews with President Trump and the political impact they may have and whether Joe Biden’s campaign message is resonating with voters.
Oregon’s governor on her state’s wildfire crisis and ongoing racial protests: “This historic early fire season is devastating in its scope and toll. With fires merging and moving closer to Portland, that city now has the worst air quality of any in the world. Officials say they need twice as many firefighters as they have now. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the crisis as well as her response to months of public outrage over racism and police violence.” — PBS Newshour, 9/11/20
The unveiling of painter John Singer Sargent’s unsung muse: This is an uplifting story about how and why Black Lives Matter in every aspect of being. “When John Singer Sargent was commissioned to paint a series of gods and goddesses at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, he turned for inspiration to Thomas McKeller, a young black model. Little has been known about the pair’s relationship — until now. Special correspondent Jared Bowen shares Boston’s Apollo, an exhibition that was showing at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum before the pandemic.” — PBS Newshour, 9/11/20
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 just heard this air on Snap Judgement! Wow — Monaea Upton is wonderful and she is going to the high school I went to in North Minneapolis!
2020 has been a YEAR, and Monaea Upton has a lot to say about it. This week we bring you an episode from the podcast Vice News Reports. Vice sent 17-year-old Monaea Upton a recorder and she’s been keeping an audio diary of her senior year of high school in North Minneapolis — during online school, the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, and a spike in neighborhood gun violence. We take you inside her world.
This story does contain strong language, sensitive listeners please be advised.
BIG BIG love and special thanks to Monaea Upton, for letting us into her world! Thanks to her Mother, Rochelle Upton, as well.
This episode was produced by Vice News Reports, a new weekly podcast hosted by Arielle Duhaime Ross. Go on… check it out! This incredible podcast brings you to the news so you can hear it for yourself. VICE News reporters and producers take you along as they travel across the globe to where life is happening, right up to the frontline as a story is unfolding. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!
VICE News Reports is produced by Jesse Alejandro Cottrell, Jen Kinney, Janice Llamoca, and Julia Nutter.
Senior producers are Ashley Cleek and Adizah Eghan. Associate producers are Adreanna Rodriguez, Sam Egan, and Sophie Kazis. Sound Design and music composition by Steve Bone and Kyle Murdock.
The executive producer and VP of Vice Audio is Kate Osborn. Janet Lee is Senior Production Manager for VICE Audio. Production coordination by Steph Brown. Fact-Checking by Samir Ferdowsi.
Special thanks to Mauri Milander Friestleben, Charles Adams, Sam Wilbur, Courtland Pickens, Azhae’la Hanson, Samir Ferdowsi, and Alex Baumhardt.
Photograph by Foluso Famuyide Jr, illustrated by Teo Ducot
Season 11 – Episode 41
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.
“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!
Recently, my husband and I watched the movie: In the Heart of the Sea. It is based on a true story about a whaling ship the Essex that was rammed by a sperm whale in 1820. The whale sunk the Essex about 3,000 miles from the shores of South America. Several books have been written about this disaster then and since. The movie is based on a book of the same name written by Nathaniel Philbrick and published on May 8, 2000. It won the National Book Award for Nonfiction that same year. The movie does an admirable job dramatizing events that led up to the sinking of the Essex and the crew’s 90-day struggle to survive storms, hunger, and despair. The movie also depicts how Herman Melville came to write his magnum opus, Moby Dick, though there are some inaccuracies in this part of storyline as well as in the main plot (see the video below). I think it is interesting to note that Melville was born on August 1, 1819 (one year before the Essex sunk). He died September 28, 1891. Moby Dick was published in 1851, essentially the middle span of his life.
The movie begins with Melville tracking down the last living survivor of the Essex, Thomas Nickerson (this is not historically accurate).
From Wiki: “In 1850, author Herman Melville visits innkeeper Thomas Nickerson, the last survivor of the sinking of the whaleship Essex, offering money in return for his story. Nickerson initially refuses, but then finally agrees when his wife intervenes. The story turns to 1820: A whaling company in Nantucket has refitted the Essex to participate in the lucrative whale oil trade, and 14-year-old Nickerson signs on as a cabin boy.” Wikipedia: In the Heart of the Sea
According to the movie, the rainy night Melville arrives, Thomas is consumed by his inner demons because he has never spoken about his ordeal. It is eating him up from the inside and causing hardships for himself and his wife. After some back and forth about the money Melville is offering Thomas to tell his tale, Thomas finally relents. Melville is shown listening and taking notes while Thomas sinks into the memories that are haunting him. I will not retell any more of the movie, except to highlight a few scenes that stood out to me as relevant to me personally and to our time, which is presently 2020. This is exactly 200 years after the Essex was sunk by a whale, which is weird… but I’ll get to that later.
The first thing that struck me as pertinent to our time was the importance of whale oil to the life and commerce of the early 1800s. It was whale oil that lit the Western World from Europe to the Americas, and then following the fracture lines of colonization to light the entire world. The movie does an excellent job depicting how the whaling industry operated. It shows how the corporations of this time were eager to mine the fortunes to be had from whale oil. And, it would become painfully clear just how willing these corporations were of doing despicable things in order to safeguard their money, their hierarchical structure, and their systems of commerce focused on profit at all costs.
At the end of the movie, there is a scene that hints at the discovery of oil that comes from out of the ground. It is a nod to the fossil fuel industry that will soon replace the whaling industry in less than 40 years after the sinking of the Essex. It is also a nod to the transfer of blueprints from hard-hearted industry to another. However, before the whaling industry would decline, nearly every species of whale is hunted to the brink of extinction. I could barely watch the scenes in this movie when the men of the Essex successfully hunted and killed a beautiful bull whale, then stripped him of every ounce of fat he had, which they boiled down to make the treasured Nantucket whale oil. By 1820, whales in the Atlantic had grown scarce. Thus, the Essex had to sail around Cape Horn, a dangerous strait between South America and Antarctica, to reach the whales in the Pacific. But, even here the whales were being hunted aggressively, and so they were moving further and further away from the continents to get away from man. But, man followed them.
* * *
The next scene I feel is germane to our time was when the men were boarding the Essex in Nantucket Bay. On the docks, there is a group of pilgrim-like people who are praying for the men as they board the Essex. You can see this scene at 6 minutes and 30 seconds in the video below. The preacher is heard saying:
“Oh Father (…) ensure they return safely with a full ship, so that the white flames of Nantucket’s whale oil continue to light our homes and fuel the machines of industry that drive our great nation forward as our noble species evolves…”
Clip of the Preacher’s Prayer from In the Heart of the Whale at minute 6:30
This idea of our species being noble and evolving ever forward plays out again after the Essex has been sunk. The men have been adrift for many days and nights and days. They are surviving on a single piece of hard tact per man per day, and a very small one at that. They are also allowed a single swig of water each day. Since the ship did not sink as dramatically as the movie depicts, the men had time to strip the Essex of her sails and supplies, but only what they could fit into the smaller boats they took out to chase whales, now turned into their life rafts. However, these three boats were hardly big enough to hold enough supplies so the men might survive their 3,000-mile journey back to civilization, especially since they were caught in the doldrums of the equatorial region of the sea. Thus, it does not take long before the men are slowly starving to death. Just before anyone dies, they come upon an island. It is a deserted island, but it provides a short respite from their ordeal. Soon; however, they eat up everything edible on the island. So, they have no choice but to shove off in their little boats again to try to reach the mainland if they want to live.
This is where the next scene occurs that I feel is closely connected to our time. It is the night before they are to set sail to try to make it back to South America. The first mate Chase speaks with the Captain Pollard about their differences. He is making a peace offering because he knows there is no other way to survive but to set aside all differences and work together from a place of unity. Chase comes from a working-class background. He is a man who knows his trade, which is whaling, and he is very good at it. According to the movie, he was supposed to have received commanded of the Essex, but it was taken from him because of his social class. It was given to Pollard instead because he came from a rich family within the whaling industry. But, Pollard did not know his trade, not like Chase did. Needless to say, there were problems. Pollard accepts Chase’s peace offering, but continues to cling to the idea of the supremacy of man saying something like… “God put us here to circumvent navigate the world and rule over all creatures.” Chase replies, “Does it look like we are so supreme given where we are at right now and what has happened to us.” Neither men at this moment has any idea how much worst their situation is going to get, but I think Chase senses things are probably going to get worse before they get better. And, they do get worse–-they get a whole lot worse.
* * *
After the movie, I thought I might dream about a white whale ramming the Essex. But I did not dream about a whale. Instead, I thought about all the signs I missed one month earlier when my beloved dog Cider died in my arms.
That terrible night occurred two days before Christmas. Her heart was racing so fast and her breathing labored. Her body was suffocating because it could no longer keep up with the depletion of hemoglobin in her blood. This was because she was bleeding internally, but we did not know this. The signs were subtle, even the doctors to whom we took her dead body in hopes they could revive her said it would have been hard for them to diagnosis her in time to save her. The symptoms she had displayed, I completely misread and misunderstood. I will not recap this super sad story. You can read it in the previous blog post, but her sudden and tragic death set me back adrift upon my inner sea of sadness, grief, despair, and now guilt, growing waves of guilt. It is a sea that has steadily risen inside me after a decade of struggle that got a whole lot worst just after our family vacation in 2015.
This would be the last vacation our family could afford due to mounting unfortunate and deteriorating circumstances. Now with hindsight (and this movie), I can see that this moment was when our family shoved off from our desert island. We had no idea we had already been rammed by the whale, or maybe I should say the buffalo or bull–or perhaps the buffalos were trying to bring our attention to our imminent danger just ahead of us in time. This really happened to us that summer.
After this trip, every fragile idea and frame of reality we had ever harbored about what it takes to create and sustain a home and maintain safety and security would be shattered, one painful one after another for 5 years in ways that were unreturnable to what we had known before. When people find themselves in such circumstances, overwhelming guilt is inevitable for how else can one confront such devastating losses and continue moving forward? The only other feelings I can say that I was aware of underneath the guilt was terrible despair, overwhelming helplessness, and a rumbling anger… a dangerous anger because this type of anger can blow up into hate, especially when a person feels abandoned, forgotten, or even worst, discarded, dispensable, disposable.
So, you see, guilt is a pretty good armor during times like these because it masks these other more threatening and extreme emotions bubbling up from unfathomable depths and threatening to submerge one’s already shattered ego. At least by feeling guilty, a thin veneer gets created, making a papery barrier that insulates the conscious part of one’s self from those other parts where these powerful emotions churn–and where one can feel these emotions could transform into forces that could sink the listing Ship of Self.
When our frames of reality are first shattered, the feeling of being cast adrift on a vast and foreign sea is almost inescapable. And perhaps it is necessary for these old frames pretty much have to be shattered or abandoned, just like the Essex had to be abandoned after it was rammed by the whale. This is so because they have failed us in significant and fatal ways. After one abandons the mother ship that had been carefully constructed by one’s former smaller frames of reality, one is suddenly confronted with a vast and bigger reality–one that is a great deal bigger–like Pacific Ocean bigger. And, this reality can be brutal. When one finds oneself adrift on this great Sea of Misfortune and Sorrow and sailing in a boat that is too small to sustain you for long, or even worse, clinging to a piece of wreckage, pretty much the only thing you can do is hold on for dear life. One also lacks the most basic tools to navigate by, so it can be hard to get one’s orientation. It is a lot like the situation the men who abandoned the Essex found themselves in without their tools of navigation, or at least, very few of them, which they needed to find their way back to civilization.
If you can hold on during such extreme times, and there is no guarantee that you can because I am talking about catastrophic circumstances that happen to perfectly normal and good people. These are events that come out of nowhere, they cannot be predicted, and they occur through no fault or short coming of the individual (well at least not from our current frames of reality, the ones we are taught from birth and punished if we don’t follow the rules our modern systems purport… so there is a bigger thing going on). These are events that just happen, and they happen to everyone like weather. They are crippling events, even lethal, regardless of whether they originate from inside oneself or come from outside like the whale who rammed the Essex. Now, I understand it is hard to spot a person in such a state. After all, they have ventured outside of the normal frames of reality in which we have all been taught to operate and to stay inside. Thus, such a person may be as hard to spot as the men of the Essex who were 3,000 miles from where most of the other humans who could have helped them were congregated. However, if you do happen to spot someone enduring such trauma and crisis, it is essential to believe this person and be kind to them. Pay them extra attention, so they know they are not disposable like a piece of trash to be thrown away because they are broken at the moment. It is important to do this because these individuals have survived a disaster, and they now possess information about reality that those of us who have not endured such a trial of survival still need to know in order to grow.
It is difficult and draining to support a person in crisis. I will not lie about that. And, inevitably survivors begin to grapple with the whys: why me, why now, why my beloved, why is the world like this? This is hard too, and these are not easy questions to answer. In fact, often they cannot be answered, only endured. But, catastrophic situations might be essential for our collective survival because they force us to confront our most cherished ideas, beliefs, and frames of reality. They force us to grapple with the unanswerable and re-examine how we have come to our beloved beliefs and mental frames, but ones that have kept vast parts of ourselves submerged in our unconsciousness–good parts and bad parts. When we begin to see these parts as a whole, we start to understand how they are essential to be integrated into our growing field of consciousness. Both superior and inferior qualities are essential to help us make more balance choices and live more wisely. With parts of ourself still submerged, we tend to move through the world in a lopsided way. We get stuck just like the men from the Essex who got caught in the doldrums. We do not move forward any more. Rather, we go around in smaller and smaller circles. It is only when we confront and integrate these lost parts of ourself that we can begin to move forward again. And, if bad things continue to happen, we have grown a deeper reservoir of fresh water inside ourselves, this is wisdom, and we can draw on it to help survive and recover from our ordeals a little more quickly.
Eventually, as we continue to do inner work, we also confront the knowledge that what we did not know or understand contributed to the situation that caused us so much pain and suffering and to those we love. This can be difficult knowledge to bear. However, it is precisely this sort of knowledge that help us grow and transform ourselves and our situation. It is a choice of course to grow, and if we do choose to grow, then a lot of work is going to be needed to build a bigger boat. In fact, you are probably going to have to grow the wood, to turn into timber, to build your shiny new Ship of Self because now you are working beyond the frames of reality most people still must work within. This not easy. And, it can be very lonely. And, you need to build it yourself because only you have the blueprint for who you are and what you need to do. There will be many setbacks and challenges because no one has tried to be you before, and so you have to figure it out the hard way, which means lots of failures. So, I do not find fault with anyone who chooses to go back to a smaller frame of reality because, heck, it’s really scary out there. And, now the world has shown you just how harsh and dangerous it can be. And, it has also illuminated how utterly helpless you are. The biggest problem doing this is succumbing to a bunker mentality. So, moments like these tend to mold and shape us in the most significant ways…for the rest of our life… and these choices can ripple backwards and forwards along our thin strand of time… the one each of us spins and contributes to our shared reality.
But, if you choose to build this bigger Ship of Self, then just like Captain Pollard had to confront the idea of human beings a noble species put here by God to circumvent navigate the world and rule over all other creatures, you have to confront it too because it is an idea that forms some of the foundational aspects of Western Civilization. But, are we really so noble? Do we really possess the intelligence and wisdom needed to rule? I wonder if our species might have been better named Homo intelligentes rather than Homo sapiens. It seems to me we are still trying to get there…to wisdom.
I can say with absolutely certainty that I am not noble enough to rule the Earth, nor do I possess the intelligence, or more importantly the wisdom, essential to reign as a supreme being. But now I want to transition from this speculative stream of thought, to say 2015 was also the year this movie In the Heart of the Sea was released. I didn’t see it then. It turns out a lot of people didn’t see it then.
“In the Heart of the Sea was one of two flops released by Warner Bros in 2015, the other being Pan. It grossed $25 million in North America and $68.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $93.9 million, against a production budget of $100 million.” Wikipedia: In the Heart of the Sea
But, had I seen it in 2015, I would not have the thoughts I have now here in 2020; not that they are anything special, except possibly to me. During, these five years of mounting misfortune, wreckage, and deepening despair, I often saw myself floating on a piece of wreckage on an endless sea that I dubbed the Sea of Sorrow. It was an inner sea; I drew it many times, as the image below shows (see blog The Sea Within Us). It was also during this time that I came to understand how this sea had been created by my own unconscious choices, but I was not alone in these choices. I had been taught to make them by my culture, by the collective systems within which I must abide to survive. These are carefully crafted frames of reality created by mere mortals who were crafting corporations and all sorts of other systems to run our shiny new modern civilization. And, there are many systems that rule our civilized world: systems of commerce, systems of class, systems of favoritism, chauvinism, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, and many other isms and frames used to exclude certain people while elevating others.
And so, this is why I very much relate to the suffering and hardships of these men of the Essex. Though I must admit I also rooted for the bull whale protecting his pod after the men harpooned one of his females who had a calf. One might say I am divided individual, and Carl Jung would agree with this. Indeed, to be human is to be divided inside. It is another price for being consciousness. How we resolve this divide can determine everything.
After the bull whale successfully saved the mother and her calf, my sympathies returned to the men and their dire situation. Sure, they were surrounded by water, but it was water they could not drink. Sure, the sea was filled with abundant food, but it was food they could not reach. It was rather as if they floated on a vast desert, and actually that is what happens inside of us when we accept frames of reality that are ultimately too small for who we are and what we ultimately need to do in our life. The men of the Essex had most definitely ended up in the middle of the Pacific partly due to their own poor choices, but in a greater part, they ended up their due to the priorities and short-sightedness of the industry for which they worked. A system of commerce hungry for whale oil that made it impossible for the men to turn back home until they had filled their ship with this precious oil. A hunger that would soon be replicated in full within the nascent fossil fuel industry about to burst out of the ground–imagine that.
* * *
The next day after watching this movie and not sleeping very well due to my great guilt over Cider’s death, my husband and I went for a run with our older surviving dog Sasha. I pointed up into the sky and said: “Look — that cloud looks like a White Whale.”
This was not the cloud I saw, but I think we have all seen clouds that look like White Whales at some point in our life. Captivated by the movie, and now by the cloud, a thought popped into my head: “The world has been struck by the White Whale again.”
It is clouds, is it not, that are being screwed up by climate change? Either they are growing too big and dropping too much water causing torrential floods, which are only supposed to happen every 100 years or so, but now seem to occur every other year around the world. Or, it is clouds that blow up into mega-typhoons and hurricanes that are far more devastating and deadly with terrible winds and tidal surges. Or, it is clouds that just don’t form at all, evaporating before they can release their precious water further inland from the sea, leaving the land dry and parched and extremely susceptible to wildfires and devastating famines due to droughts that never end.
Today, we live in a modern world that is populated by nearly 8 billion people, most of whom no longer understand the wisdom of our ancestors or the people who still live closely connected to nature and understand the balances necessary to sustain life. We live in a world where we no longer hear the wisdom of animals and life all around us, really enveloping us and sustaining us. We have become a people who are blinded by ideas of success, glory, and riches to be had in our grand new industrialized world. It is a world we created, but one begotten by short-sighted schemes and greed. And, there is a price for this too.
Recent data shows 2019 was the second hottest year on record.
As our man-made world, powered now by fossil fuels rather than whale oil, pushes nature’s delicate balances ever more out of whack, balances that nature worked out over billions of years, our framing of reality is snapping–just like the timbers of the Essex splintered after the whale rammed the ship. It is 200 year since the Essex sunk, and in this incredibly short amount of time, Earth is breaking, all because of our extreme enamoration with oil and coal.
The price for our collective short-sighted industriousness is going to be paid by all of us. No one will be spared the consequences of the choices made for far too long. We have changed the world to our liking, but it’s not to the liking of life. Despite this, corporate interests guarding their profit margins stay the course, like Captain Pollard going straight into the hurricane. It is a course that supersedes the needs of life on Earth… a dying Earth… an Earth rammed by the white whale. But this time, there is a twist to the story because this time we are the whale. We are the ones ramming our ship that is carrying us through the vast and desolate emptiness of space, and believe me, if we have to abandon this ship, where we end up is going to be a lot harsher than the Pacific Ocean, probably unendurable. This whale that is living inside us feeds on the powerful emotions that are found in great abundance within our inner Seas…of Sorrow, …of Despair, …of Grief and Guilt and …of Helplessness and Hate. Believe me, or don’t believe me, but modern life is full of people who have fallen into such seas.
If we happen to catch a glimpse of how our personal blindness and short-sightedness has contributed to this current moment, it is often overwhelming, and so, it is quickly concealed or we blame someone else for our sad and sorry fate. But soon, there will be no one else to blame. Soon, our individual seas will spill over and merge with every other sea spilling over to create one gigantic wave of despair for this will be the only emotion left to feel, if we survive that long. Much of this will be because of what our small frames of reality have wrought. Most likely, it will be a prolonged and brutal odyssey, just like the men of the Essex endured… unless we wake up, unless we change our frame of reality, unless we put aside our differences, unite, and help each other do the inner work essential to survive what is coming next.
This is not easy or pretty work, but what lies ahead of us is not easy or pretty either. Even though the situation is dire, each and every one of us can take action this very moment. This action is to heal ourselves and to help others heal. It requires one magical, elusive ingredient, which is love. It begins by self-love and being gentle with yourself. Love is what can stop this wave of destruction. But, love is work.
This is what I have learned about healing love:
Is quiet, unless it needs to roar.
Is kind, but not stupid.
Puts others needs above ones own needs and desires, but sees through false appeals for assistance and insincerity, then it simply nods and chuckles.
Listens, hears, and understands what others say.
Waits…sometimes a long time…without judgment… if judgement is necessary, love has a good argument with the Self… and pays attention to all the information, good and bad, then weighs it fairly with the intention of discovering truth and implementing justice.
Rearranges time to do the right thing… rescue a stray dog, listen to a lonely person, help someone in need… these are the moments that really matter… when someone else’s needs truly supersede your own.
Is inclusive knowing all beings are utterly dependent on each other to survive and thrive on Earth. Protects the rights, dignity, and well-being of all living beings.
Penetrates through everything… it is the great mixer of the universe, but even as it passes through every visible thing in the universe, it does not change or destroy a thing or being in any way, not like hate does, which also penetrates everything, but when it does, it rips things to pieces… love unites, bonds, supports, comforts, and sustains.
There are many other qualities to love. I still need to learn more. But, I am ready to keep learning. I am ready to deconstruct and reconstruct my frames of reality daily, if needed. Are you ready to do intense inner work? Are you ready to build a bigger Ship of Self by growing your own inner strength, resilience, wisdom, and capacity to love deeply? All of this is absolutely essential to be ready for the Great Transformation or whatever is supposed to come next because it has begun. There is no time to waste. Earth has already started listing severely to the side from the ramming we have given her.
* * *
One final thought on the importance of doing inner work since I’m all worked up about it. Many people think that we are on the cusp of a Great the Transformation, a Shift, or Metamorphosis, or Great Awakening of Gaia…but if we have not done critical inner work to get ready for it, to grow big enough for it, whatever you think is coming next, will not necessarily be what you think it is supposed to be. Nature does not care one wick for the transformation of consciousness or even if we survive as a species (case in point, note what happened to the dinosaurs). If we leave it up to Her, we might just all be transformed into Banana Slugs (see the 2nd song in the video below: Muy Tranquil — it’s at about 8 minutes… ah Cider is in this video! It is a concept video for one of the characters in the story I am writing).
We are the ones who stepped across the Matrix of Minds into consciousness (I explain what this is in the story I am writing, which you can read when I finally get the 1st book out; otherwise, just make up your own explanation). Now, we must make a choice. One of the choices is to learn how to love ourselves fiercely. And, I am not talking about narcissistic love. I am talking about the kind of love that leaves us in great grief when our loved ones are taken from us through death. This is how we save Earth. It begins with you. It begins with healing yourself, and then helping others to do the same. It is time-consuming, messy work, and one slides backwards all the time, it’s very frustrating… but one does not give up and one does not wince when another to small frame of reality is shed. Of course, this is painful, but without pain we do not grow.
I have included my friend Alena’s paintings, lots of them, because she is showing us through her art how to get back to inner, deeper spaces inside ourselves through dreams and visions and imagination. It is only here where we can see inner storms rising and circumvent navigate them in order to survive them. It is here where we learn that we can live a lot more simply and happily than we have been told. It is here where we can learn how to see, feel, taste, and hear our way back to what is really important, and that is love. When we love fiercely, we fight for truth and justice. We fight for life and self-determination. We help each other grow our fields of consciousness, so that we can all make better choices. Alena brought my attention to Robert Moss who recently published a blog on soul loss and recovery. Much of what I have written above can also be understood as soul loss. This is a beautiful analogy to what happens to us when we face situations and circumstances that overwhelm and crush us. He says: “Understanding soul loss and how our Active Dreaming approach facilitates soul recovery and helps us become shamans of our own souls.”
So, activate your imagination…make time to dream…find ways to re-engage your inner world, and most of all love deeply. When you find yourself in grief, which is a natural consequence of deep love, do not fear it… embrace it. Let it help you shatter your previous frames of reality because they were probably too small for your soul, which needs a bigger body and mind to do what it came here to do, so grow! All the while, love yourself and help others in whatever way they need. We will not survive any other way unless we put aside our differences and unite as a force of healing love for life.
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.