I woke from a dream this morning feeling the hostility of people whom I thought were my friends.  It made me wonder about myself and about friendship.  My late husband, Jim, was a very popular person.  About 300 people came to his memorial service.  Collecting friends was as easy as collecting dust for him.  Everyone liked him.  He was easy-going, out-going, always going.  He had friends from the P.B.A. (bowling buddies), friends from church, friends from music groups he was in, friends to golf with, friends he worked with, friends from Junior High School he still played cards with on occasion, friends he met through me, even, who probably liked him better.  He was gifted in the social dance and spun like a well-balanced top.  I admire that, and I’m not like that.  Does that mean there’s something wrong with me?

Before I got too heavily into my little pity party, Steve woke up and asked me what I was thinking.  Then he asked, “So, what is a friend?”

With my friends the sun and the prairie

I have never really had more than one good friend at a time.  Neither has Steve.  We’re both introverted, which is one way to label us.  What does that mean?  We go inward, downward.  We get introspective and deep.  We challenge ourselves, and we challenge others. Often, this makes other people uncomfortable.  Steve has no problem being uncomfortable; he’s just that confident and always has been.  When I feel uncomfortable or that I’ve made someone else uncomfortable, I get very judgmental of myself.  I hide from the discomfort.  That can make me seem aloof, I suppose.  When I am with my one friend whom I trust, I can risk being uncomfortable and be honest.  This is what I want most in a friendship.  I have a lot of questions that I want to ask, but I’m afraid to ask most of them.  It takes me a long time to feel that I’m in a safe enough space to be my questioning, challenging, unsure self.  Providing that space is a wonderful gift.  Really interacting with me in that space is a rare and holy experience, and one that I think I have sought out throughout my life.  I have been in prayer groups, Bible study groups, leadership groups, workshop groups, meditation groups, and interactive groups of all kinds ever since my teenaged years looking for that.  I thought I was just looking for acceptance, but now I think I was looking for much more.  I don’t crave being social.  I crave the mystery and vulnerability of authenticity.  I want to feel free to go into dangerous inner territory, and I’d like a companion to help me feel safe.

Years ago, my spiritual director asked me if I thought Jim was my “soul mate”.  I replied, “Sometimes.”  We’d get to places of depth, and then he’d pull up.  I accepted that.  Then I’d go to another prayer group or walk alone in the prairie or write some poetry.  It worked.  We were very good companions, but different.  There is no “right” way to be a friend.  We aren’t guaranteed a soul-mate.  Although, if you look at Yahoo news items, they will give you a list of how many friends you’re “supposed” to have and what kind and then give you 6 tips on how to make more friends.  I imagine that is fear-based, and that’s what I want to avoid.  “I’m afraid that no one likes me” “I’m afraid there’s something wrong with me” “I’m afraid I’ll die alone and unloved”.   I am who I am.  I will be who I will be.  We all die on our own.  I will go down to the depths with myself, if no one else, and that will be fine.  God is within me, at the depths, around me, everywhere.  That space that allows me to be how I am is God.  There is nothing to be afraid of.

After breakfast, Steve played his favorite song.  It always makes him (and now me) cry.  The last verse goes like this:

His head was bent in sorrow/ green scales fell like rain/ Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.

Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave/ So Puff that magic dragon sadly slipped into his cave.


Life changes.  Sometimes we slip into a cave and become our own best friend.  We can still explore the depths there and thrill to that dangerous territory.

Crimes Against Nature

Have you read about the exotic animal farm incident in Ohio?  If not, here’s the recap.  Apparently, there was a man keeping exotic animals (big cats, monkeys, wolves, etc.) in a small town in Ohio.  He’d had a history of run-ins with the authorities over permits and conditions.  So a few days ago, he opens the cages and then kills himself.  The authorities then decide that the 50-some animals need to be rounded up and shot.  Only a handful were re-located to a zoo.

This just strikes me as a tragedy all around.  First of all, Ohio is no place for a Bengal tiger.  A zoological conservatory would be perhaps a defensible home for a tiger should it require being in Ohio, but a small farm?  Second, if you can’t take care of a Bengal tiger at your home in Ohio, leave it alone.  Let it stay where it was, for crying out loud.  Third, if you get the tiger to your home in Ohio and later discover that you are not doing an adequate job of caring for it, find someone who can help, like that zoological conservatory.  Don’t just let it out to wander the small town streets creating bad press for animals and protective agencies alike!!  What a mess.  It seems like such a string of poor decisions, lack of responsibility, and lack of respect.  If that man had not taken his life, I’m sure he would have been slapped with a few violations and fines.  (okay, a truckload of violations and fines)  But then again, when we fine people for crimes against nature, does that act as a deterrent to others?   Do people really learn to respect animals or habitats because of punitive measures?

The Nature Center where I volunteer has a posted fine of $250.50 (not sure why that particular amount) for bringing pets into the area.  There are other Milwaukee public parks specifically for dog-walking, but Wehr is a preserve, meaning a place where wildlife and habitat are protected.  A place where animals and plants can be free from the stress of dog traffic.  A place where nature lovers can be free from the stress of dog traffic.  In other words, NO DOGS ALLOWED.  One of the volunteers was leading a group of school kids down a path and encountered a couple with a dog.  “Excuse me.  I’m sorry, but dogs are not allowed in the nature preserve,” she said.  “Oh, it’s okay.  We do this all the time,” was their response.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

We try to teach the kids to respect the nature center.  “Why don’t we want dogs here?  What do you think?” we ask.  “Because they’ll eat the wild animals?”  Well, probably not.  But they will probably scare some, make them nervous and upset.  We want them to feel safe here.  “Why don’t we want people picking flowers and plants here?  We have 50,000 visitors a year.  Even if they only took one plant, what might happen?”  There would be less for the animals to eat, fewer for the insects, and even for the other people to enjoy.

How do you teach respect?  How do you teach empathy?  How do you communicate something about making considered choices about what you buy, what you throw away, and what you do with that big recycling container that sits by your garage unused?  I do not feel comfortable in confrontations, and as a rule, I avoid them.  I have played “police” with my kids, and it was my least favorite part of parenting.  I wish I had been better at teaching respect and consideration without using “rules” and “punishment” because frankly, that seemed to invite more disrespect.  What if I just showed them the consequence of some disrespect that happened and just let them look good and hard until they felt something on their own, and then talked gently with them about what they saw, what they felt, what they thought, and what they wanted for their own actions and decisions?

Take a good look at the pictures of the animals that were shot in Ohio this week.  Look deeply.  Feel deeply.  Think deeply.  Invite someone else to look as well and talk about it.

Mexico in Milwaukee

It’s 49 degrees outside, and raining.  Through the cracks in the window casements of this old duplex comes a rushing wind.  It got dark before dinner.  After a simple supper of red potatoes, acorn squash and chicken breast, Steve and I curl up on the couch to read aloud from D.H. Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent.  We take turns with each chapter.  Our Spanish accents are not too bad, subtle for the most part.  In a matter of minutes, we are transported across time and climate.

“It was sunset, with a big level cloud like fur overhead, only the sides of the horizon fairly clear.  The sun was not visible.  It had gone down in a thick, rose-red fume behind the wavy ridge of the mountains.  Now the hills stood up bluish, all the air was a salmon-red flush, the fawn water had pinkish ripples.  Boys and men, bathing a little way along the shore, were the colour of deep flame.

Kate and Carlota had climbed up to the azotea, the flat roof, from the stone stairway at the end of the terrace.  They could see the world: the hacienda with its courtyard like a fortress, the road between deep trees, the black mud huts near the broken highroad, and little naked fires already twinkling outside the doors.  All the air was pinkish, melting to a lavender blue, and the willows on the shore, in the pink light, were apple-green and glowing.  The hills behind rose abruptly, like mounds, dry and pinky.  Away in the distance, down the lake, the two white obelisk towers of Sayula glinted among the trees and villas peeped out.  Boats were creeping into the shadow, from the outer brightness of the lake.”

At the end of the chapter, we talk about the book.  What is happening between the characters?  I remember feeling that way once…  What did you think about the parallels drawn between these characters and Salome and John the Baptist?  I like how he describes invisibility and hidden places in the characters and then echoes that in his description of the flora and fauna.  Socially and culturally, this comment is very interesting.  Do you think Lawrence was racist?….

Two hours go by.  We feel close, connected, stimulated emotionally and intellectually.  And warm, relaxed.  This is good.  I’m so glad we don’t own a TV.

Another corner where I curl up with a book

Autumn Sentiments

The autumn years of life.  The harvest of a lifetime.  Gathering together the products of work and character.  There’s something nostalgic and lonesome about autumn, sweet and melancholic.  Glossy photos of food and family and warm colors seem so appetizing.  I am planning to host Thanksgiving dinner for Steve’s family, and I keep daydreaming about how the table will look.  I want my home to be filled with warmth and love, good smells, earthy colors, sparkles of glass, silver, and candlelight.  Of course, this will be on a modest scale.  Martha Stewart does not live anywhere near here.  I have song lyrics stuck in my head from Barry Manilow’s “Paradise Cafe 2:00am” CD… “Oh, how I hate to see October go.”  How will I get my Thanksgiving vegetables now that the farmer’s market is closed?  The acorn squash and broccoli we had last night were delicious, dressed only in butter, salt & pepper.  The earth is so good to us and autumn is the applause before a winter curtain.  How do you feel when you’re giving a standing ovation, damp-faced and shining, heart bursting, swallowing hard, delaying your exodus into the next moment?  I feel that way about autumn.  I remember driving home from dropping one of my children off at preschool one cloudy November day and bursting into tears.  I tried to figure out what that was about and ended up writing this poem:


In autumn, the trees start to sing once again

of the bittersweet mystery of change.

Is it beauty or pain now attached to my soul?

Is it grief…or relief…or nostalgia?

In the scarlet and gold,

the blood-red of life’s hold…on my heart

and the warmth of its love

mingles memories and years

into afternoon tears

falling softly…as leaves…to the ground.

Cats and the Philosophy of Health Care

At our Socrates Cafe meeting on Saturday, we discussed the ethics of rationing health care.  How are decisions made about administering medical care?  Should health care be awarded to the wealthiest, the most fit, the least at-risk or the most at-risk?  Is health care a commodity that can be administered according to social and economic guidelines?  Is health care distinct from “illness care”?  And so on.  Our group is rather small and not especially representative of any particular demographic.  I don’t think we’re “solving” anything, we’re just enjoying discussion and engagement and some brain activity.  I’m exploring the results of allowing other people to comment on the products of my own bizarre thinking.  Which is kind of what blogging is about as well.

As I put in my own perspective on this issue, I realize that I speak from experiences that have centered mostly around my husband’s illness and death and from observances of non-human beings.  Jim used to chalk up a lot of his medical interventions as “better living through technology”.  He was the recipient of some very technical and somewhat heroic (although now pretty standard) procedures.  It was a complicated arena of insurance issues, multiple specializing doctors, drug interactions and availability, and the donor list system.  There were layers of decision-making involved and a fabric of responsibility that was pretty nebulous.  When his pulmonologist found out that he’d died, he asked me, “What are you doing about it?”  I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.  “I’m grieving!” I answered.  “I mean legally,” he explained.

Who is responsible for my health?

As for the observance of non-humans and their health, I look to the pets I have known.  Specifically cats.  I learned a lot from Pinkle, who somehow got injured up in the attic one day.  She simply stopped using her back legs until they had healed.  She slept.  She ate.  She tried out putting weight on them gradually, and eventually got back to doing all the things she had been doing.  She didn’t complain.  She didn’t seem miserable.  She didn’t worry or push herself or engage in any neurotic behavior that we could detect.  She took responsibility for herself, for the most part, and we provided food and shelter and quiet.  Phantom is another cat I have observed.  She is 16 years old now, and not living with me any more.  She had some urinary tract issues in the past when I did care for her.  I gave her antibiotics in pill and liquid form (which was an ordeal she did not welcome) and changed her food.  She had a bladder stone removed surgically as well.  That was maybe 10 years ago.  Her litter mate died of cancer a couple of years ago.  Cats don’t complain about pain much, and they don’t complain about death.  My kids tell me that Tabitha was purring as she died of the injection that ended her suffering.  Cats (and many other animals) have a tendency to seek out a quiet place to die.  They don’t make a big fuss.  We’re the ones who fuss.

Phantom del'Opera

Pinkle Purr (see poem by A.A. Milne)

What if we focused on healthy living and didn’t sweat so much about “illness care”?  What if we made it our social/economic/political responsibility to work hard to provide clean water, clean air, healthy food, shelter, education about health, and quiet (less stress) for as many of us as we can, and let illness play out as it would naturally?  What if we as a community took responsibility for supporting health but abstained from taking responsibility for preventing death?  It’s not like we’d be successful in that effort ultimately anyway, right?  We’d do our best to give you the basic needs, and the rest is up to you and nature.  That’s how human life went before technology kicked in, and plenty of people lived to reproduce (or we wouldn’t be here today).   Is there anything wrong with that model?

That’s my two cents for the health care debate.

Mad Farmers

I picked up a book of Wendell Berry’s poetry from off Steve’s shelf.  The book is called The Country of Marriage, and this poem is contained therein.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer. 

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed. 

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest. 

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years. 

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men. 

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth? 

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts. 

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. 

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

 Has much changed since 1971? Are there mad farmers occupying Wall Street? 

The Shadow Side of Abundance

I’ve connected a few strands in the cobweb of my mind.  Follow me, if you will.

I’ve been thinking about my shadow side, my dark side, and I’ve located an area that I think could be it.  It lurks in my ego, in the part of me that craves attention for myself at the possible expense of others.  This is where I am tempted to be manipulative and fake.  The origins of this desire are nebulous, but I can identify manifestations in my childhood.  I was daughter #4 in my family, the youngest child for 11 years, the only blonde, with a ski-jump nose and a pouty lower lip.  I was cute (pardon my use of this hated word, Steve!), especially to strangers.  My family used to tease me for being “touched by waiters” because every time we went out to eat, the waiter would pat me on the head or something.  I loved being cute.  I loved the attention because my deep-seated fear was that I was redundant.   With three older sisters, there was always someone near at hand who was smarter, more accomplished, and better than me at everything.  I struggled to find a niche where I could have my own spotlight.  I actually found that in music, so I majored in Voice Performance in college.  My mother was very musical, but a rather shy performer.  I pushed myself to overcome my natural fear of being judged so that I could stand out every once in a while.  This thread leads to….

Salieri in “Amadeus”.  His dark ego leads him to all kinds of hateful thoughts about Mozart and about the God who favors him.  This fear of redundancy gripped him.  He saw the world as a competitive arena.  “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us” is a theme in a lot of movies, actually.  Walking to the farmer’s market today, I noticed redundancy all over.  Nature is full of it.  How many leaves gather in the gutter?  How many stands of squash and potatoes gather for market?  How many people, how many birds, how many mice or ants or whatever do we really need?  What is the point of abundance and why is redundancy a bad thing?  Follow “Amadeus” to….

Cynthia Nixon, who played Mozart’s maid and Salieri’s “spy”.  This is the only performance of hers that I’ve actually seen.  I did find an article on her when I read and researched the Pulizer Prize winning play, “Wit”.  I discovered that she is in a lesbian relationship now, and she was quoted as saying that she never thought of herself as a lesbian.  What she did say was that “here was this undeniable person”.  That phrase stuck with me.  I wonder at all the things we find redundant and ask if we are denying them.  Of all the leaves that I encountered on this windy day, did I deny most of them and only notice a few?  I actually picked up only one to look at it more closely.

We don’t know what to do with abundance.  We can’t possibly take it all in, so we deny much of it and acknowledge only a portion.  The rest we call “redundant” because we have no use for it.  But Nature is abundant for some reason.  Could it be that it’s not just for us?  Oh, that’s hard for our egos to imagine.  Think of the use of pesticides.  Why in the world would there be so many little critters who eat vegetation?  We don’t need them. It must be a mistake.  Let’s kill them off.  What’s the result?  Dead soil – no humus, no living matter mixed with the rock, no space for air and water and roots.

Do we need all these beetles? Hey, maybe it's not about what 'we' need.

We live in an abundant world, and we are part of that abundance.  How do we refrain from denial and keep our minds open to more than we can comprehend?  The balance between abundance and scarcity in Nature keeps populations in flux and unpredictable.  Therefore, I suppose redundancy has its place in an uncertain future.  This is an ancient wisdom.  When we eliminate redundancy because it doesn’t make sense to our economic mindset, we are dangerously engaged in hubris.  Why are we allowing our seed banks to be monopolized and diminished, for instance?   Why are we allowing the rate of extinction to skyrocket?  Why are we allowing our denial to be imprinted on the planet?  We act in ignorance because we have no choice, that is to say that we will never understand the world completely.  But we need not act impetuously out of false assumptions driven by our egos.

Hanging Out Locally

For many, the study of nature begins in your own backyard.  Here in my second floor bedroom, I look out on some beautiful maple trees.  One of them would be inside my bedroom if I removed the screen.  My squirrel friend, Itchy Twitchy (or one of his kin), has been hanging out eating maple seeds off the ends of branches, fattening up for the winter.  He’s an amazing little acrobat, able to hang on with his toes leaving his hands free to grab up the dangling seeds.



I’m glad to see he’s selecting healthy, natural squirrel fare instead of diving into the trash can!

I am participating in the Wehr Nature Center’s Halloween event this weekend.  They present a nature walk lit by jack o’ lanterns that features various costumed characters who teach about wildlife and traditions of Halloween.  There are some lovely teenaged girls volunteering who represent decomposers like Millipede and Roly-poly.  They do a rap song.  I am playing two different characters.  I am V.C. Frog for two nights and the Witch for our sold out Saturday night.  I suppose you’re wondering what V. C. stands for.  (That’s actually one of my lines.)  It stands for Very Crabby.  VC has litter and algae and petroleum products clinging to him.  He is looking for a clean pond.  One of the visitors listening to my schtick piped up to say that he is a Boy Scout, and he regularly scoops litter out of his local pond.  I thanked him on behalf of frogs everywhere.

Doing my part last night entailed standing on a wood chip path in the rain in a fleece frog suit with mosquito netting covering my face.  The full moon eventually shone through the dissipating clouds.  The Canada geese on the pond were making as much noise as the volunteer owl who ‘hooted’ loudly at intervals.  I was croaking softly as the walkers approached me.  I do a pretty good croak.  It was strangely surreal, though.  Natural and fake at the same time.   Is this harmonizing with the planet?

Happy Frog at Vernon State Wildlife Area

I read in our local paper that there is a 420-million year old tropical reef here in Wauwatosa.  This piece of land has been hidden behind an industrial site for decades.  Before that, it was part of a quarry.  A recent purchase of the land by the Historic Preservation Committee will allow limited access to the public.  Fossils from this site that were collected by a local pioneer physician are housed at Harvard.  I look forward to exploring the area and trying to imagine this place under equatorial waters.

What’s in your backyard?

Think Big

How often do you think big….sooooo big!?

How do you keep the bigger picture in mind in a culture so enamored of minutiae?  What reminds you to “look up from your life”?  What words do you use to communicate the unknowable edges of the universe?  How do you maintain a posture of humility in an egocentric nation?  How often do you forsake the light of a screen to seek the light of the stars?

After traveling for 4 weeks to the west coast and back, my favorite memory became the night sky over Bandolier National Monument in New Mexico.  The heavens came down to the horizon without tall trees to push them back.  The stars spoke to me of vast possibilities, of fates and predictions thrown to the night winds.  I had the feeling that anything could happen.  I was far away from home, far away from my past.  I looked up and felt that it was time for me to dream new things.  I felt that my younger ambitions had already played their hand — I had been married to my teenage sweetheart until we were parted by death, I had raised 4 children to the age of majority, I had dabbled in the entertainment of various interests — and that greater things still revolved untouched before me.  I cried tears of relief and felt rested in the engulfing spaciousness.

My former spiritual director used to talk about “the MORE” of life.   The MORE is the mystery, the vastness, the infinity of which we can be aware without ever grasping.  The trick is to be aware of that while living out a particular life of responsibility.  Loving the whole universe can be done by practicing love for a specific part.  Here are some ways that has been illustrated: Mother Theresa used to say, “We can do no great things only small things with great love.”  My husband and I used to lead workshops for engaged and married couples for our church.  I told the couples that “my marriage informs my image of God and my image of God informs my marriage”.  Wendell Berry writes (in The Body and the Earth) “To live in marriage is a responsible way to live in sexuality, as to live in a household is a responsible way to live in the world.  One cannot enact or fulfill one’s love for womankind or mankind, or even for all the women or men to whom one is attracted.  If one is to have the power and delight of one’s sexuality, then the generality of instinct must be resolved in a responsible relationship to ta particular person.  Similarly, one cannot live in the world: that is, one cannot become, in the easy, generalizing sense with which the phrase is commonly used, a ‘world citizen.’  There can be no such thing as a ‘global village.’  No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.  Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity.  We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality.”  So, think universally, act locally.

Living between mountains and grains of sand

What is thinking universally?  How do you keep the MORE of life in mind?  And how do you act on this mindset?

Wendell Berry, again, from Home Economics:

“To call the unknown by its right name, ‘mystery’, is to suggest that we had better respect the possibility of a larger, unseen pattern that can be damaged or destroyed and, with it, the smaller patterns.  This respecting of mystery obviously has something or other to do with religion, and we moderns have defended ourselves against it by turning it over to religion specialists, who take advantage of our indifference by claiming to know a lot about it.  What impresses me about it, however, is the insistent practicality implicit in it.  If we are up against mystery, then we dare act only on the most modest assumptions.  The modern scientific program has held that we must act on the basis of knowledge, which, because its effects are so manifestly large, we have assumed to be ample.  But if we are up against mystery, then knowledge is relatively small, and the ancient program is the right one.  Act on the basis of ignorance.  Acting on the basis of ignorance, paradoxically, requires one to know things, remember things — for instance, that failure is possible, that error is possible, that second changes are desirable (so don’t risk everything on the first chance), and so on.”

Remembering that we act on the basis of ignorance (because we really have no choice) should keep us humble.  Allowing that every seemingly random thing, like the way the rain falls from the sky, might be a pattern that we are just too myopic to recognize should keep us looking to the bigger picture.  Practicing love without the will to power (as Jung defines it) in particular relationships should keep us honest.  That is the way I want to point my canoe.

“I”, Myself, and Ego

Who am I, anyway?

My mother suggested that I may be becoming a “Buddapalian”, blending Buddhism and Episcopalian traditions.  The point of divergence between the two is a critical juncture, then.  The Christian tradition supposes a Creator God who is superior in every way to the created human and source of everything in the universe.  Humans are morally inferior and have been instructed that obedience and subservience is the correct posture to take in relationship with God.  We need to be saved and cannot do that for ourselves.  God gets credit and blame for everything in this world view, really.  Humans fall and fail but aren’t ultimately responsible for that, as God set the whole thing up in the first place as author and initiator of the salvation story.  Throughout my life, this story dominated my thinking.

Then someone asked the question, “Why does there have to be a Source of life?  What if that’s just a human construct?”  We humans are used to doing and making things and finding cause and effect.  We see ourselves as agents, and so we assume agency is the way the world began.  Maybe it isn’t.  Buddhism talks about conditions “arising” so that something is manifest, and then conditions change and the thing is not manifest.  There is no agent.  Humans aren’t a Creator’s creature, we are a life form that arose out of certain conditions.  We can be aware of conditions and grateful for them.  Steve once looked around on a sunny day, spread his arms wide and said, “Who do I thank?”  It seemed a very natural question, and being the human I am, I wanted to give him an answer.  I couldn’t prove that answer was true, however.  He also asked me about being separated from God and needing salvation.  “What if you’re not?”  I had to begin to look to experience to answer that.  I don’t feel separated from Life.  I don’t see Life being separated from anything, even Death.  They seem more like two sides of the same coin.  I see this more and more as I study the natural world.

A humble smile

So what is a sentient being’s responsibility and position in life?  That’s what I am working out.  I don’t know that I need to feel superior or inferior to any other being that lives.  I am not the Source of most of the wonderful things in life, so I don’t thank myself for them, but I do want to take responsibility for my decisions, my actions, my thoughts and my attitudes.  Both Christianity and Buddhism have a lot to teach about responsibility and ego.  Their teaching comes from very different basic suppositions about the world, but both come to a place of humility.  I am a life form with a pretty complex brain that enables me to be aware of quite a bit…including the fact that this brain dominates my world view but not the world.  So I take it with a grain of salt and try to be open and do my best to respect everything.