Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My spiritual path: The death of self

My spiritual path: The death of self: "www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/291.html"

The hope for peace

How can I sit here and hope for world peace when it is nearly impossible to get along with my family, neighbors, or the people at my church? I do fervently long for world peace. I think that I work toward it in my life and actions. Or do I?

I like to think of myself as an unusually kind person. Hah! What a laugh! And not just because of my mean entry about Sandy (who is in fact dying; she is zoning out to that other land as we speak). That entry, my friends, is the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

I caught myself falling into the trap of being rude to other people, just this week. My boss, Gerry W., reminded me today that it is never acceptable to be rude to others. He is so patient with clients who don't listen, who don't bring essential paperwork for completing their tax returns, who all but accuse him of losing their paperwork, when they still have it and it is just misplaced somewhere. I told him he sure is patient, and he said mildly, "There isn't any reason not to be."

Virtually everyone is rude sometimes. Some people are rude most of the time; others, hardly ever. It's one of those thoughtless sins. But think now: What possible reason would justify rudeness? Now, if someone needs a little righteous anger to correct them, done from a place of love and for the purpose of discipline, that's different. My kids are on the receiving end of that regularly. But it's good to remember that only rarely is anger justified. There are so few people who can handle giving a well-measured dose of righteous anger. I don't think that I have the discernment to do it, most of the time. (Of course, I direct my anger at others all the time, anyway!)

Being rude is a lazy, knee-jerk reaction. It often feels good to put someone else down; it's a feeling of having power over another human being, of being one-up on them. It's easy to slip into rudeness, almost without being aware, when feeling emotionally or physically worn down, or just frazzled. Having been picked on way too much as a child, I think that I would never be that way to another person. But even for me, it's hard to be aware of rudeness until it is too late -- it's such a human tendency.

Anyhow, before I diverge into an unrelated topic (which I just did & had to erase), I have to wrap this one up by saying that rudeness is closely linked with violence. If we are rude to someone, we are dehumanizing them. Rudeness is a form of verbal violence. When neighbors murder neighbors, such as in Rwanda and many other places in the world (the Russian polemics are another example), that level of hatred is made possible by dehumanizing thoughts and actions. Rudeness is on the the family tree of "violence" and should be forever banished as unacceptable practice. It doesn't matter that it seems so much more palatable than cutting off someone's head.

OK then, Julie, start banishing it from your life!


Note to any readers: If you are brave enough to try to muddle through these posts, be patient and remember that I am out here practicing and honing a skill. I'm also playing and experimenting because I feel free to do so. I'm aware that these posts don't necessarily hang together or "work" or are too long, etc., etc. I am working at improving this area of my life and this skill that I love above all others. It's funny -- I have read comments on the blogs of friends that say things like "this wasn't very well written" or "you might want to change such-and-so" and I think, the nerve! Hey, most of blogland is free out here. I'm not getting paid a dime, here, so anybody reading cannot have any expectations. Ya get what ya pay for! And if you feel tempted to criticize, buzz off already! There. That wasn't rude, not at all. Just a bit of fun.

Random pic of the day: hey, dude. It's not cool to be rude. (This is me & Andrew on the cruise and he is the cool dude.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

As she lay dying

Warning to animal lovers, namely sis -- contains content that you will find disturbing. You should pass on this entry. Don't even sneak a peak! I see you looking. Stop and exit out, now. NOW.

Our ancient dog, Sandy, is not doing well. She has had congestive heart failure for years, and it's amazing that she is alive today at the venerable age of 16, or so. I have to say it is a testament to the quality of care we give her. Keep that in mind as you read on. She wandered up to our yard, full grown but young, when I was pregnant with Austin; so her age is approximate.

We do love her, but ... she is one of those annoying pets, that doesn't have an excess of endearing qualities. I know it's not her fault, but she's not adorable like our other little dog. We always thought she was "a brick short of a full load," a loaf short of a baker's dozen, you get the idea ... She always found trouble readily when she was younger. She suffered a spider bite, twice; got bitten by a snake, also two different times; and ran through the barbed-wire fence and suffered a tear that required stitches. (That only happened once.) Her favorite pastime in her youth was finding dead animal parts (usually roadkilled deer) and dragging them into our yard, where she would chew on them or, if they were smelly enough, roll in them.

Her muzzle droops on one side from the snakebite, her coat has two ugly hairless scars from the spiders, and now she's bone-thin because of her increasing tendency to avoid food of any kind. She does not want to eat her pills in any kind of treat these days, so we have to push them down her throat, and she always thinks we are torturing her. She stopped eating solid food, so we bought wet. She started eating less, so we fed her twice a day. She got pickier about the wet food, so we splurged on Pedigree. She decided not to eat that, so we started spiking it with scrambled eggs, bits of meat, etc. to get her to eat. Now, that's not working either.

She was an outdoor dog for many years, but for the past several, we've been bringing her in the house to avoid the extremes of cold and heat, and heat, and heat. Luckily, we have been home most afternoons, so she has not had to suffer through the worst of these 100-plus degree days. She is glacially slow except when trying to dart into the house, almost getting her head caught in the door when we don't see her.

Sandy, the dear, stinks, too! I mean, smells rough. Right after a bath, or not, is pretty much the same. Andrew's room has her distinct odor because he's the only one of us who allows her to sleep in his bedroom. She also sheds hair like she is trying to win a prize for it.

Sandy has gone senile and is mostly deaf. When we are trying to "herd" her in or out, to food or elsewhere, she invariably goes someplace we don't want her. Her favorite spot is the middle of the hallway, any hallway will do, so long as there is lots of traffic. When we are eating dinner, she hovers nearby, staring at me and panting heavily in my direction. I always shoo her away, but she's right back in her spot again next meal. Silly me, I thought dogs could sense emotions!

As if to prove my point about how annoying she is, Sandy just found a way around an anti-carpet barricade (two laid-down chairs) that I thought was impenetrable for a dog that has trouble getting to her feet. Without going into too much detail, let me say that she woke me up at 3 am one recent night with a doggie emergency that trailed all the way down the carpeted hallway, plus was in the front carpeted room. Somehow the linoleum surfaces on the hallway in between were spotless, though. After that, I decided that she could stay on the cool linoleum.

The last annoying pet I had was a cat. Now, how can a cat be annoying, unless you're allergic? But this cat, Mishka, was cloying, which is truly an unforgivable sin in a cat. It would insinuate itself on your lap and then (I shiver in disgust at the memory) it would start licking you, on the arm or leg or through clothing. Over and over, in the same spot. Nothing could dissuade it from the licking. I went away to college, and my parents gave Mishka to an animal shelter.

Now I find myself having this wishful thinking that I hope you won't find too cruel. It would be such a blessing if Sandy did what our three-legged cat Smokey did, and wandered off somewhere to die. Somewhere far, far away. At least to some remote spot in the neighbor's yard. Animals are supposed to sense when they are dying and go off somewhere by themselves for the end. But knowing Sandy, she won't do it. Knowing her, she'll probably stagger in the house one last time -- she is completely fixated on being inside, all the time, no matter if it's a pleasant summer morning or night and everyone else is out -- then give it up.

And then there's the whole issue of burial. It will take a rather sizable hole, even for such a skinny girl. I really hate corpses. They are so ghastly, and they give me nightmares. I just don't know how I will deal with this. Maybe it will happen when I'm at work and the kids are home, and I can get them to take care of the gory details. They're old enough.

I will miss you, Sandy, but please show a little consideration when you kick the bucket!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The death of self

I have been working on killing off an aspect of myself, my tendency to become very angry and impatient. This is a trait I got from my dad -- or perhaps both my parents. It made it so difficult to be a good parent, and I have really struggled with getting angry with my children and taking it out in an unfair way. I don't know how permanent a mark has been made on them by this trait, or whether it is also genetic and they are doomed to have it too. I have noticed A1 (my first son) really struggle to control his anger at times.

Really, explosive anger makes it hard to have high quality, close relationships of any kind.

There was a recent Lent when I gave up getting angry at my hubby, Dwaine. Every so often in life, we are asked to leave behind an aspect of the self that is getting in the way of spiritual progress. This was the personality trait I identified as the biggest problem, and I think that being in prayer about my life helped figure it out. Still, killing it -- murdering, more like -- takes a long time. I don't know that I have been completely successful yet.

There is always a cost to giving up an aspect of the self. In this case, I feel less alive. A bit of deadness is inside where once there was vibrant color. But I think that is still a good thing, just a change, a mellowing that time causes. It's a little like saying, "I felt so much more alive when I was on drugs!" There was that passion, drama, the up-and-down effect that made the highs feel so great. In my case, it's leaving behind the youthful passion and mood swings to find something, hopefully, richer and deeper. (And more boring.) You see I have mixed feelings about it all. Maybe thinking of it as killing is not the best metaphor; it should be a pruning, to allow growth in a different direction. There, that sounds like a good thing.

I do think God calls us to die to some important aspects of ourselves, some things we are deeply attached to but for unhealthy reasons. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis in "The Great Divorce" describing people wanting to come into heaven with their own personal neuroses, addictions, etc., intact.

For in God, we are a new creation; the old has passed away. "You make all things new." (This is probably in the Bible somewhere, but I am thinking of the Steven Curtis Chapman song.) When I was a child, I thought like a child; but now I am a (hu)man, I have put the childish ways behind me. This said by Paul the great.

It is like "The Journey of the Magi" by who-is-that? Pause for Internet search. Sorry, I had "Gift" rather than journey; that is the lovely O Henry story. I mean the poem by T.S. Eliot. How I would love to just paste the whole thing right here, and it would vastly improve the literary quality of this little corner! I have to be satisfied with just this excerpt:
this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death
Eliot speaks of the birth of Christ. Now, back to why does everything have to be so durn painful and sorrowful and filled with suffering??

Anyhow, there is still so much r
eading to do. I have had a copy of Dante's Inferno all summer that is untouched. I see the sources that Lewis had read, such as Milton. The great artists lift us up a wee bit closer to God.

I will see if I can attach a link to the T.S. Eliot poem. No promises!

I looked and could not find a pic of my "mad" face, or looking like a wet hen, as hubby likes to call it. What a surprise! So I posted this pic here of A1 and me looking not entirely cheerful. A picture certainly livens up a blog post.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Skeptical mind

I think we are all meant to be skeptical of anything anyone tries to tell us. Of anything said or written or expressed. Even of things written in holy texts. (Especially?)

I get the feeling we are all imprinted with a unique purpose, a place in the universe, and it is different for everyone. There is an inner compass to follow. So the conclusion I draw from this, logically, is that no one else on earth will ever mirror me and my beliefs completely. I keep searching, trying to find the perfect philosophy, spiritual practice, religion that is completely me -- that I can completely embrace, with no reservations. It doesn't seem to be there.

Don't ever be afraid to use your mind and rigorously challenge every belief system, every fact. You cannot get rid of God with your disbelief or dispel God's presence, or abiding interest in you, through skepticism. He/She will pursue you as passionately as the most persistent lover, your entire life. You merely need to turn to God and find God already there, waiting.

However, I do still learn a great deal from talking to others and reading. I try to keep the information out there and not internalize it immediately. Or else I say, this I agree with, this I don't. This is dangerous, too, because it threatens to confine the mind from being rigorous and rethinking every assumption.

I am listening to Zencast (having just discovered the world of podcasts!) about the philosophical practice of Buddhism. I haven't gotten to the religious aspect so far. The big question I have about Buddhism is what about social justice? It doesn't seem to be there at all. We have to be aware of what is happening in the world, and how we can become a positive force in the world. Not just study our navels (or is it navals? I'm not talking about the military or oranges here), becoming more enlightened in our daily lives. Which probably means there is a big piece I don't understand yet. But I don't believe human suffering is fictitious, or better ignored, when it stems from wrongs that humans commit and can therefore do something about.

Life interferes, as usual. Darn. Maybe in reality, writing is interfering with whatever I'm supposed to be doing. But it sure seems more interesting than cooking dinner.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two minds

It's really hard to sit here and concentrate when my family (read: hubby) are home chattering in my ear or someone else's.

Here is what I wanted to write about last evening: two minds are often in discussion or at war inside me. Yes, dear, that's called bipolar! Or is it split personality?

But seriously: One mind I will call my self, or, to add distance, the ego. The other is a much broader mind from "out there" somewhere: the objective observer (OO), the voice of reason. I would also suggest God, though that doesn't mean that He is always there hanging with me or that I am hearing the Divine Voice. Maybe yes, maybe no. I'm not going to declare that voice to be God Himself (Herself), exactly. But that voice is internalized. It's not something I need to hear from someone else, though sometimes that's the only way it can penetrate my dense skull.

I know philosophers use the concept of an ideal, objective observer as a proof for God's existence. How else to explain the OO's presence in the vast majority of human minds from every culture and place on earth? The innate knowledge of right and wrong that seems wired into people? (I would argue that an ethical system of some sort is wired into every living thing created by God.)

When anything happens in life, there are many possible ways to look at it. Everyone sees things through their own eyes and processes events through their kaleidoscope of experiences, feelings, personality: the ego. Some books have captured that uniqueness of human experience so vividly. "The Sound and the Fury" comes to mind.

I think at least a dual, if not multiple, reality is quite easy to visualize. There is an individual's sense of reality, versus the collective, God's perspective. I don't know that anyone has complete access to God's perspective, but we certainly can reach outside ourselves and grab old OO that I mentioned above.

Now I know that Christianity stands firmly on the tripod of Father, Son, Holy Ghost, but I think that three-way stuff gives a lot of people fits. Like how Austin, my first-born son, was explaining to his dad last night that God was never a human being -- that was Jesus, God's SON. Well now, that clears everything up. And that breath of God, the Holy Ghost? Who or what is that, exactly, and why was it just flitting around while Jesus was here, not really available to mere mortals yet? That really muddles it up.

Father Rohr speaks of a "third way," but I think many symbols reflect a dualistic thought: yin-yang, black-white. He says that dual thinking is too limiting to encompass God. But what I am talking about is not always oppositional or mutually exclusive, though it can be.

Dualism also indicates paradox. There is an object, and its shadow. Both must exist together, can't have one without the other. One gives meaning to the other. So humans are always a mixed bag, and we won't be able to chunk that wicked, sinful shadow self that we have to drag around. This could explain the presence of evil, sorrow, etc., in the world. Can't know the good stuff without experiencing the opposites. The Garden of Eden is impossible, because someone living inside would not be capable of knowing that it was all good, and would have no meaningful life or choices available. It would all be a whitewashed world of no contrasts. Which does beg the question, what about heaven then?

The OO is very helpful when it's there reining in the raging ego, or just to provide a reality check. This is where the two minds war with each other.

For example, I have been called a sensitive person, which is a good and a bad thing. (Duality, again.) It's not too hard to trample on my feelings. (Ask hubby.) I received a bit of a reprimand during a recent mission trip, just the slightest thing -- that journey is a whole separate post for a bit more distant time -- and the ego starting chewing away on that, and the feeling that I, Julie, was not accomplishing much. Put me to work, please, don't make me stand idle! It just kills me.

OO (or God), though, immediately intervened, pointing out that this was a group of people working for a common purpose, and accomplishing it, and never about me and my feelings! Thank the Lord for that! But my feelings, once turned downstream, could not recover immediately, and my self was right in the middle of that raging torrent. I was literally on the verge of tears, barely able to hold a conversation, for a while. Self-pity, thy name is vanity! (The opening of Ecclesiastes is echoing in my thoughts.)

Somehow, the thought came into me that I just had to be patient with myself and wait a bit. I could not humanly force an immediate change of attitude, but I could just step away and wait. Think of something else; take a mental break from the broken thought that is leading me astray. I think this waiting is often a prayer time. This happens to me all the time, stinking thinking that leads to trouble, so thank God again that I am usually of two minds about everything! Sure enough, I pulled out of it after doing a bit of hard work. Nothing like work to cure the blues.

So that long-winded aside was an example of the two minds at war. But sometimes, the ego wants to go bathe in the cosmos for a bit. Then it jumps in with OO/God, maybe while producing or enjoying art (music, drawing, writing, you name it), worshipping together, outdoors enjoying the beauty of creation, or enjoying a moment of harmony with family or friends. This is an electrifying experience, and can be frightening if a person loses sight of the self. Many great artists have gotten there with the use of mind-altering drugs of all sorts, from peyote to alcohol. I think it's impossible to create anything important without being in that connected-to-the-cosmos channel, plugged in and firing on all circuits. That's why procreation is on the list of transcendental experiences (it seems to be right up there at No. 1) that can join the ego to everything else.

This was quite the long post, and I don't think I made it back up for air enough! But this is what I feel compelled to write about, God knows why. (Really, God does.) Glad someone knows! I have no clue why these rambles come out the way they do, but I usually find them interesting enough.

Friday, July 10, 2009

More on what's real

I'll come back to what to call this, because I'm not sure what will come out in this entry.

What's more real: the feeling that I am connected to everything and everyone, or the feeling that I am absolutely alone in the universe? Really, these aren't so much feelings as descriptions of alternate realities. I couldn't possibly be both, could I?

I can tell you which feels more real. I was surrounded by people most of the day, but I came to feel so achingly isolated by the time I left work. Maybe it was just a long, rough day. At work, we heard the EMS tone out to pick up Luke Pollok and take him to the hospital -- is this what we get for praying so hard for him all week, Lord? I'm really upset about that. My husband was grouchy on the phone to me, even though he gets to leave on vacation first. I felt tugged in lots of directions today ... finishing up and cleaning up VBS, packing for a trip, working, and being asked to work more often over the summer.

Or maybe it's thinking about how I don't identify myself as part of a group, any group. My puzzle piece does not fit anywhere in this puzzle of humanity. I know lots of people, but have few close friends. My extended family is my Dad and sister, and my immediate family isn't enough. Thank God for the writing and exercise, and other rituals that keep me sane.

I have been that type of person my whole life. I think the proper name is "loner," but I am not sure if I chose it or it chose me, or if there was any choice involved at all. I am very aware that my thoughts, perspective, beliefs, are all as individual as my fingerprints. Yet somehow, they are also universal, or I could not hope to touch someone else's life with my writing.

This lonely mood could simply be a reflection of the lag time between my family's leaving and my leaving for a quick vacation, and the reality that I will have to spend a short time alone. Or it could be a reflection that my children are growing up, and one day soon, they will be leaving me to find their own way. That kind of change is too hard to contemplate all at once.

To protect myself, I have a habit of pre-grieving for events that have not yet happened -- an unhealthy habit, I suspect. My urge to pre-grieve does not soften the blow (if it comes), nor does it accurately predict which disaster will strike, when, and of what magnitude. I may be happy by the time my kids leave! Or worse -- what if they never leave at all?

If I can't think of anything to grieve about, I just make something up. Especially at night, when I'm trying to relax and go to sleep. This is what I think of as the devil having fun inside my head (only because I let him!). Don't know if it's genetic or what; I know several family members who are quite high-strung and prone to anxiety attacks.

I played at Vacation Bible School this week, and it was so much fun. We all toyed with reality and fantasy, and the lines became blurred for more than just the children. I took children of all ages to the underground church (cave) in Rome, and they had lots of questions. Is this a real cave? Are those Roman soldiers real? What will happen if they catch me?

I have some questions, too. What really happened to Paul and Peter, two of God's most faithful Christian servants? After Robert, who played Paul, told me that one of them was crucified upside-down, I did a little research online. Though recorded history of what happened is sparse, it seems that tradition is unanimous in proclaiming that Paul was beheaded after his second arrest in Rome, while Peter was crucified upside-down. But really, we just don't know. As Robert pointed out, these are not good details to share with the kids. But how should I feel about it? God certainly does not protect his beloved servants. It seems that following Christ sometimes becomes a bit too literal.

I thought this year's VBS was especially transformative. I had a wonderful week, and a large part of that was just watching all the other really great volunteers, both adult and youth, shine their lights for all to see. I was really moved by it.

I keep realizing that the issues young children are trying to work out just aren't that different from what we wrestle with over the course of a lifetime. God, what's real? Are you real? Then why are these bad things happening? Where is my reward for following you? What do you mean, I shouldn't expect one?

If you're real, where are you when I feel all alone?

So now I see a theme gelling here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

I can dream about it!

Funny thing, I just state my intention to remember my dreams, and I start. Of course, they quickly become piecemeal and jumbled in the light of day.

Here's what I best remember about dreaming last night. Michael Phelps was in a variety song-and-dance show with some older dude who was short, paunchy, and not much to look at, but had a good voice and knew how to run the show. I was an unseen observer in this dream. So the older man was up front, singing, while Michael was in back with a lineup of dancers. Then Michael Phelps had put up an American flag on a flagpole and was explaining how he did it. This older man, in a voice dripping with sarcasm, was criticizing how it had been done, but actually Michael had done everything right.

So here is a brief summary of the symbols in this dream, and what they mean to me. I love Michael Phelps. He feels like another son to me (not that I'm a celebrity stalker or even know much about him!) -- simply because I think he and A1 look alike. He represents youthful defiance to authority, and I am squarely on his side. Of course, the flag is heavy with symbolism I don't need to explain. The older, paunchy man is the smug voice of authority, so convinced that it is correct even when it's dead wrong.

Then later, I was standing with Michael Phelps in front of a mirror that is on the bedroom dresser, running my hands over his rock-hard abs and back, as though to massage him, and all I can say about that is: ooh-la-la! What an incredibly sensual moment. Wow, maybe I need to become a massage therapist.

The amazing thing about dreams is how they immerse you in the middle of a vivid experience, and nothing else exists. You are telescoped into a single event, and there is no past, no future anymore. No distractions: images, noises, to-do lists, people, or thoughts tugging at your sleeve. In a way, the experience of dreaming feels more real than being awake. A nightmare has the potential to terrorize so thoroughly because you are trapped in that awful moment, as U2 sings: "You got stuck in a moment, and you can't get out of it." That's also why the dream landscape is so unbalancing to the waking mind. It's a strange, unexplored place.

Being connected to your dream life means that all of life becomes more vivid, even more real. Things that are important to you become readily apparent if you pay attention to the map of your dreams. The deity loves to visit in dreams. "I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly." I think a creative person must pay attention to what happens when they are dreaming.

Here's the downside of having a wonderful dream. I woke up. What a bummer! That is the deepest pit, just waking up from dreaming and taking the heavy mantle of daily life back again. My darkest moments have been in that half-awake state, just after a dream that was either too wonderful or too awful to bear.

My thoughts went along the lines of, well, I'm too old for anything like that experience to ever be a reality in my life! But strangely enough, life did imitate art quite recently. A few days ago, A2, my younger son, wanted me to feel his 6-pack abs. He was proud of them. He has been swimming for swim team, and he's always been just a wiry little kid, all meat and no fluff. So his abs were quite impressive. I then showed off my midriff, and the kid had the nerve to laugh at me and say, "Are you kidding, Mom?"

So the clock radio went off this morning, and guess what song was playing? "One is the loneliest number." Yeah, ha ha, very funny, God. Dwaine and A2 went zooming off yesterday on a loaded-down motorcycle to camp at Palmetto State Park, wherever that is. A1 will be snoozing for a while, I'm sure. And I need to go jogging before the day gets any hotter. Today is hubby's and my 22nd wedding anniversary, so we will be heading to downtown SA to stay a night at the Marriott Rivercenter later today.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Write for life

I feel the need to write more often, to give that atrophied part of myself more of a workout. My physical body is doing quite well and gets worked all the time. I need to have that same level of diligence for my writing self. And why don't I? I'm sure there is an interesting answer buried in my psyche.

Somehow physical exercise is simpler for me than the mental, spiritual effort that writing demands. Working out is hard work, but it has less potential to really bite me and cause long-term pain and suffering. Maybe because I don't have high expectations for my physical fitness. Yes, I do push myself during a workout, and I really think I have become more fit than the great majority of 40-something Americans!

But I realize that I will never be the fastest, the strongest, the best in the physical arena. I have been thoroughly unathletic my entire life, so I know that's not the area where my gifts lie, ha! To quote my chiropractor: "You're quite knock-kneed, aren't you?" That was actually a revelation to me -- so that's why I could never get my legs in the same alignment as those impossibly thin yoga and Pilates women. I have trouble touching my ankles together -- my thighs get in the way! Nevertheless, I really enjoy good health, good nutrition (with a daily sweet or two thrown in), and physical fitness.

How writing is such a steeper mountain for me than weightlifting or jogging is a bit hard to explain, other than the reality has never lived up to the dreams.

I kept a diary starting when I was 8, because Mom thought it was a good idea. (This was the reason for most of the things I did as a child.) I remember having these vivid and recurring thoughts of becoming a famous writer, and so I would write about that as I got older. It's a strange, narcissistic feeling to write about the writer you think you are, or could become. And here I go again with it. Ah well, bear with me for one entry, anyhow.

I used to think narcissism of any kind was completely wicked and wrong. The word has such a negative connotation. But then someone explained it to me better, in one of my readings (Perhaps Father Rohr again). Narcissus was a beautiful young man, at the very peak of physical perfection, when he discovered an image in the water's reflection of such surpassing beauty that he was captivated by it. Eventually, the myth goes, he turned into a flower, forever bending over the bank to gaze at its reflection.

Narcissus did not identify the image of beauty as himself. It's as though he remained forever blind to his true self, as I think real-life narcissists must be. I think this self-discovery phase, where he got stuck, is typical of growing up. We catch a glimpse of our most beautiful selves but don't always recognize and internalize that love as self-love. But we must learn to love ourselves before we can effectively love anything or anyone else in the world. Everyone has to be a Narcissus before they can grow into an effective human being. "Love your neighbor as yourself" does not work if you don't love yourself.

My muscles are sore today from a full-body workout yesterday, then a 25-minute jog this morning at the track while watching concrete being poured for a new building at La Vernia High. I like having achy muscles, because it's a tangible reminder that I pushed myself physically.

How to get achy spiritual muscles? Hmm. I want to start journalling my dreams again. I did this once, and became good at remembering at least parts of a dream every night. Normally, I don't remember my dreams, which means that my unconscious is locked away. I think writing draws so heavily on the unconscious mind that it helps to awaken it and draw it out a bit. I think of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, dreaming (in no doubt a drug-induced state) his magnificent poem, "Kubla Khan." What a tragedy that he was interrupted while writing it, and then forgot the rest!

For a future post: is human contact essential for good writing?

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