Weekly Photo Challenge: Over the Top

Lately, the world seems to have fallen to new depths of misery. I’m sure ten examples have just popped into your mind. Into this awareness, I want to insert illustrations of the fact that at the same time, the world is more awesome than we can imagine.  You’re having an experience that is very pleasant; you’re smiling; you’re happy.  Suddenly, something happens that kicks it into another level.  For example, my brother’s wedding reception. It takes place at the Winchester Mystery House, which is already very interesting and fun. Then, the Hora Loca begins to play and a new element is introduced….

 

Hora Loco dancer

We were not expecting that! Or that my 80-year old mother would join her on the dance floor.  Here’s another…

I was working 5 different part-time jobs when I was offered a job as the Administrative Assistant at a conservation foundation. That meant that I would work in a farmhouse with just one other employee (the Executive Director) and help protect the natural environment. I took my camera to the top of one of the hills on our lands. It was the first day of June last year. The weather was perfect. The vistas were lush. And I was getting paid. Then, this swallowtail came by to welcome me. 

Vivid

The goodness of the real world transcends suffering, I have found. But you have to be open to receiving it as such. A simple, new breath can be the cherry on top of everything. Breathing in, I am alive. Breathing out, I am grateful. 

Cherry On Top

Faith Means Making Choices

This article appears in the July issue of The Be Zine. To see the whole blogazine, click HERE.

Faith.

“Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Merriam-Webster

weight

We all act on faith. Each of us, every day. We make decisions based on ideas and concepts for which we have no proof. We take action based on insufficient evidence about the cause and the effect. This is unavoidable. When are we ever going to have all the information about anything? The more we learn, the more we realize how little we know. The more we experience and the more we learn of others’ experiences, the more we realize that possible experiences and conclusions are infinite. None of us is ever in possession of “all the facts”. We are all guessing.

Similarly, we all have delusions. We all look through various lenses, have particular blind spots, and wear custom-made blinders for one reason or another. Sometimes these serve as coping mechanisms to protect us from overwhelming stimuli. Sometimes these simply magnify our ignorance.

Let’s try on an example.

I have to make a decision about how to commute to work in the morning. I have been told that taking the freeway is the fastest route. After all, the speed limit on that road is 55 mph. However, it’s always under construction in the summer. But is speed the best value to consider? Maybe I should not burn fossil fuels and ride my bicycle instead. I will then arrive at work sweaty and tired. There is a bus, but buses are full of germs. But my friend takes the bus, and I could ride with him and chat…And so on.

street scene

The point is, there are a number of ways to get to work and a number of reasons to justify each one. Those reasons may be weighted by experience, by social influence, by practice, by value and by preference. We each make our choices, our decisions, based on incomplete data and bias, but the point is WE MAKE CHOICES. And that is our great freedom, a right of autonomy.

We have the opportunity to make new choices at any time, although they will also be based on incomplete data and bias even when they are made in an attempt to incorporate new information. The dynamic of deciding and re-deciding is perhaps the greatest activity of life for our species. It’s what our big brains are for. But it is a process that does not have a product. We will never get it all figured out. Dogma is unsupportable in the long run, even if it seems beneficial in the short term. We will never, ever arrive at what is absolutely “right”. Perhaps a better pursuit is simply what is “better”.

Where faith turns into action or behavior, we make moral judgments. Based on your beliefs in the moment, you chose what to do. Was that action beneficial? Did it cause harm? If you decide the action was harmful or that acting in that way did not help you to be the person you want to be, you can choose a different action…AND you can choose to change the beliefs that justified your action. A flexible framework allows a lot more options.

Back to our commute example. What if…

Believing that getting to work quickly was the most professional, responsible thing to do, I set off on the freeway. Soon afterward, I ran into road construction. Flag operators stopped my car. The minutes ticked by. I got frustrated, angry, eventually enraged, and I expressed this state of mind by shouting a curse at the flag man and punching the accelerator as I was allowed to move forward. In the process, I rear-ended a car in front of me. Now I have caused insult to the construction worker on the scene, injury to the car and possibly the person ahead of me, and acted like a person I do not wish to become. I can decide to be more careful not to act in anger in the future, and I can decide that getting to work quickly is not an important value so that I’m less likely to feel frustrated when I can’t fulfill that value. I can examine my beliefs and thoughts as well as my actions and make changes in both in order to practice non-harmful behavior more effectively.

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This is a simple example. My real life is much more complex. At one point, it involved decisions I made about raising teens to adulthood while my husband was dying of a chronic illness. I realized that acting on my faith sometimes caused me to harm them and to become someone I didn’t want to be. So, not only did I stop the behaviors, I stopped believing the underlying principles that motivated them. I kept wondering if I was “losing my faith”, a phrase that sounded so negative and irresponsible. What I was actually doing was evolving my faith and my self. That, I think, is a very positive and responsible practice. I intend to practice striving for “better” and doing less harm. That’s my new choice, my new faith. 

victory

Text and photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2016. All rights reserved.

Weekly Photo Challenge: In the Details

I’m with Jen. I love Nature in intimate detail. So much beauty! You have to slow down to find treasures under a leaf…

monarch

…or on top of a flower.

 ladybug

When you take your time to look at details, you can change perspective and admire Nature from different angles.

ladybug from below

Awareness leads to appreciation. The world is fascinatingly intricate and beautiful.

lichen

Soon appreciation becomes an attitude. You see everything for its intrinsic beauty. weightless 5Eventually, this attitude of wonder and respect gets converted to action.

May we all act peacefully and do no harm. Vivid

Details

Weekly Photo Challenge: Opposites

There’s a jazzy Jim Henson Sesame Street song about this…

That’s the first thing that popped into my head. ‘Near’ and ‘far’ are opposite concepts.  Concrete things are rarely exact opposites.  More often, their differences are about contrast and juxtaposition.  Here are some examples:

sculpture and poet 

MKE flower industry

growth piercing

Amazement

green stream

This complex world is full of interesting differences. My hope is that these contrasts become areas for exploration and awe, not areas for fear and hatred.  You know what I mean? 

Peace, friends.:)

Opposites

Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners, Buddies and Pals

When did you learn cooperation? When did you learn give-and-take? Who taught you? Your mother or father? How did it make you feel?

 

Did you have siblings?  Besides sharing parents, did you share a room? A closet? A bathroom? Did you share your emotions?

Have you ever had a partnership with just one very special person? How long did it last? How did you manage that?

Partnering isn’t easy…but it isn’t hard, either.  It takes concerted effort, for which humans are actually well-equipped because we have quite an advanced way of communicating. It gets more complicated with more partners involved, of course.  I think the rewards are increased in the process. Wouldn’t it be great if we could enjoy the partnership of all living things?  After all, we share one planet. 

contemplating colors
Partners

Small World

“There is just one moon…

mystery

…and one golden sun…

skyscape

…and a smile means friendship to everyone…

…though the oceans are wide…

edge 3

…and the mountains divide…

2002

it’s a small world after all.”

My thought is that since it’s a small world, we ought to stop competing over it and start respecting it and each other.  Stop playing Tug of War; join hands, stick together, and play nicely. Children figure this out. Why can’t adults?