Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: nature

Much Needed Advice from the Past

I had an extra hour to read yesterday afternoon after my long walk at Mission Creek Preserve. It was a beautiful day for it; warm, with clouds spilling over the mountains in the west, giving us some shade as we went along. Some yellow flowers are starting to poke through, green vines beginning creep up through the brush and soft blades of grass in every sunny spot.

There’s something about a long walk that gets people talking about things they otherwise wouldn’t find the time for. It creates a mental space for the deeper conversations. I know I’ve written about that before…ahh, here’s one, “Our Time is Not Infinite – Go For a Walk.”

advice from the past

Three hours of walking in the sun made me ready for a cup of tea and an hour snuggled quietly on the couch while my husband finished installing the laminate flooring in the entry way. He didn’t need my help.

“It was apropos of my saying that there is a danger of its own kind in extreme poverty. A young man might know too much want. She answered me: ’True! That is so! But there is a danger that overrides it;’ and after a time went on: ‘It is better not to know wants than not to know want!’” The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker

This took me a while to understand, but it’s true. Extremes are the issue here. Extreme poverty causes humans to go to any length to get their basic needs met. They become selfish, hard, and cruel, hurting others and ultimately themselves. It’s almost impossible to escape it. And to not know want at all creates similar traits. The ultra-rich become spoiled, thinking everyone around them is theirs to do with as they will. They cannot see outside their own circumstances.

Each of us is much poorer or richer than someone else in the world. It’s something we could all remember.

For a moment I was thrown by “better not to know wants that not to know want.” But it dawned on me after another reading. It’s ok to be denied some things you want. It builds character and helps you understand that not everything is yours for the taking, better than not knowing want at all.

That doesn’t mean we deny those around us what we could give to make them happy for the sake of teaching a lesson. It means we should not worry ourselves too much when we can’t give them something they want. I’m thinking of raising children specifically, which is what they were speaking of in the book.

“My last word to you is, Be bold and honest, and fear not. Most things – even kingship – somewhere may now and again be won by the sword. A brave heart and a strong arm may go far. But whatever is so won cannot be held by merely the sword. Justice alone can hold in the long run. Where men trust they will follow, and the rank and file of people want to follow, not to lead. If it be your fortune to lead, be bold. Be wary, if you will exercise any other facilities that may aid or guard. Shrink from nothing. Avoid nothing that is honorable in itself. Take responsibility when such present itself. What other shrink from, accept. That is to be great in what world, little or big, you move. Fear nothing, no matter what kind danger may be or whence it came. The only real way to meet danger is to despise it – except with your brains. Meet it in the gate, not the hall.” The Lady of the Shroud by Bram Stoker

That’s a long list of brilliant advice for anyone coming of age and moving out into the world. Strength needs be balanced with justice.

And “Where men trust they will follow, and the rank and file of people want to follow, not to lead.” I think we have forgotten this in our own time of independence and equal rights. Humans are social animals. We want to be part of the family and the community, in peace and safety. It’s far easier for one to live in a group than alone. But without trust, we simply cannot follow, shouldn’t follow.

Speaking for myself, the past ten years, I’ve become less and less trustful, first of my government leadership on all levels, and then of the people themselves, my neighbors. It seems we have fallen to extremes and have become selfish and cruel to each other, spurred to violence at any turn of phrase, easily offended by others whether intentional or incidental.

The advice of every line is a tall order for those going into the world today. But think what it would mean if you followed it. One human taking responsibility for that which is before them, strong and kind, meeting danger without fear or shrinking, whether they be a big or small person in society, can change the world immediately around them. That life inspires those around them to do the same, and those around them to do the same in turn, creating a ripple of integrity that can do wonders unimaginable.

It reminds me of my own mother’s question (and probably yours), “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” I’ll meet the day and those I meet in it with strength and gentleness. I’ll stand my ground with love. I’ll not shrink for what I am responsible for doing, despite the fear and anger around me. My “friends” may be jumping off a cliff, but I’ll do my best to do something smarter, and maybe give others someone to follow.

If you’re interested in reading more of my thoughts inspired by this book, hop back to my first post, Stoker’s The Lady of the Shroud.

Is Nature Wild and Free?

My meditation app from Down Dog, which I highly recommend for yoga and HIIT as well, mentioned imagining returning to nature, “wild, free, and joyous” and I got lost in thought for a bit.

Why do we make up this story about nature? As if, all we would need to do to be happy and peaceful is to return to a primitive existence, relying on what nature provides.

nature wild and free
She’s probably not wondering if she should have dug her burrow further from the road.

Am I alone in seeing that animals don’t seem all that happy and peaceful? I mean, sure, they are ignorant of ill intent. At least, I believe they are. They kill to protect their young, feed themselves, and secure a mate and territory, but they don’t murder. They spend their days finding food, procreating, and sleeping. Sounds nice. But is it happy and peaceful? In a way, yes, because they don’t make up stories about how it should be or could be. They accept the world they find themselves in. They don’t attempt to change their world, or that of others. They just live. That’s a lesson we could surely take note of, partially.

The reality of nature is that it is dangerous, filled with the struggle to survive long enough to create the next generation.

When we accept this reality, that life (civilized or wild) is struggle and eventually death, that’s when we become free. When we can stop trying to make things into what we think they should be, and relax into enjoying what is, we can be happy no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. That’s when we can see the joy in every moment, the miracle of existence. Then we are free.

Animals don’t have the “should” and “could” monster of imagination. They make choices, mostly out of instinct, and then live with the results of those choices. They don’t sit and lament, “If only…”

We, with our glorious brains, can do so much more. We can make choices by determining what is best at the moment, based on what others have done before us AND our own creative thoughts. And even better, we can sit and let the results be ruined by imagining what else we could have done and be envious of what other people’s choices have brought them.

When I think of being closer to nature, being wild and free, I think of aligning myself closer to reality, not living like an animal. I imagine myself using my creative energy to make the best choices for myself, not others. I imagine clearing my mind of envy and jealousy and enjoying what I have. I imagine knowing that this life will end eventually and living each day as if it were my last.

Eyesight

20190629_200432.jpg

I didn’t know I was having vision problems until the DMV pointed it out to me. A pair of glasses fixed it.

Driving at night was becoming a problem for me. I wasn’t sure if it was the desert darkness on the highway late at night, worn out from long rehearsals, or just the fact that I was getting older, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to see at night. The glare of the headlights coming in my direction made it impossible for me to focus. My sons would keep an eye out on the road for people walking along the highway at night. Why people would choose to do that, I will never understand. For self-preservation alone, why do they not carry a flashlight or have something reflective on?

I continued to make the drive, carefully, only because I didn’t need to read the signs to know where to go between the theater and home, but I was starting to limit my excursions to daytime activities. Driving in unfamiliar places in the dark was becoming impossible. This must be part of getting older, I thought, although I would never have admitted it out loud.

As my 40th birthday approached, I found a driver’s license renewal from the DMV in my mailbox. Opening it, I figured I was going to have to pay the fee and be done with it. I’ve never gotten a ticket or been in an accident. To my dismay, I found I’d have to go in for a vision test. No problem, I thought, at least I don’t have to take the test again. Don’t make fun of me, but I barely passed the written and behind-the-wheel test when I was 16! I live in mortal fear of the day I have to study and take it again.

I made an appointment at the DMV and headed into the city the following month. I covered one eye and read the letters on the board ahead of me, as instructed. No problem. When I covered the other eye, the world went blurry. I could only read the first and second line! The DMV employee had me read it off the computer. “Sometimes the computer screen is easier.” She told me. I still couldn’t read it.

It was the strangest feeling. I’ve never had vision problems. My mother always wore glasses and I used to tease her when I was a teenager. Coming home in the middle of the night, knowing she couldn’t see the clock without her glasses, I’d tell her it was only 10:30 when she would groggily ask from her bed when we had woken her. My brother and I thought we were so clever.

I stood there at the DMV trying to focus on the letters to no avail. The DMV worker was so nice about it. She passed me but suggested that I get glasses right away. I made an appointment the next day. My vision was that bad. When I got my new glasses a few weeks later, I was absolutely amazed at how much better I could see. At night, the lights no longer fuzzed out and blinded me and during the day, I could see read the signs so much sooner.

Strange to think I hadn’t noticed my vision getting worse, that I believed I was seeing the world as I had always seen it. How could I have not noticed such a dramatic change?

That’s how we see life. The world around us is only our personal reality, shaped by time and experience that only we can have. No one else sees it just the way you do. It builds up slowly, day after day, experience after experience. And at any moment, something can come along to change that perception, someone can alter your perspective with a word. One experience can show you that you are missing something, and another can offer you new insight. Your whole world changes.

I could have stood there and argued with the DMV worker. There must be something wrong with your machine! Maybe there was something in my eye, I was tired, or it was allergies. I could have stood there holding tightly to my own perception of reality and never gotten any help. I could have continued to squint into the night and cause an accident or gone through life not knowing that there were trees on the top of that hill.

Hold lightly to your perceived reality, it makes it so much easier to change. There is so much we miss by holding on to the past and what we believe to be true, never changing.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: