Onions and Elephants


People, like Ogres, are like onions. We have layers; sometimes we stink.

Near the end of June, I sat through arguably the most influential messages I've heard. Afterward, one of the panelists (if you listen you'll understand why this is humorous) asked me if I was always so attentive with active listening, nodding my head, eye contact--or was it the topic? I said in haste, "well, both," but I thought, "could you repeat that so I can record it for my therapist?" In all honesty, I don't express quite such intense engagement most of the time. Topic induced.

And what a topic, what a message! I kept leaning over to Joe, just whispering "mind-blown." (There is a terrific short video in the beginning as well, that Joe helped to make, when you click the link to listen, you also see the video link.) 

Summary: It's about practicing art, anything can be art, art is transformative in and through the living of our lives. 

The discussion, start to finish, lit up my every neuron and nerve ending. The fire has been there, for always. A softwood sapling does not burn dry, there’s been a lot of smoke. And guilt. The pursuit of false purpose has been a slow death. I've been wandering for permission to dry the wood, to commit waking hours to burning the fields. An anvil crashed down with permission; shattering the vault lock, matches pouring out.  

 fields of heather 

fields of heather 

Are there books or songs or poems or movies or shows or whatever-it-is that you return to over and over that adorns your spirit? Our Town. Hammer and a Nail. I Shall Not Live In Vain. What Dreams May Come. West Wing. A Man in the Crowd. Southern Cross. Sins of Kalamazoo. And of course this Hoosier can't leave out Parks and Rec. So so many others. Authors, works, ideas; a creation full of ornaments and dyes. I'm sure your list is long too. Our lists are made for different reasons. "My life is part of the Global Life."

To hear Counting Crows, summons to mind my teenage bedroom of 14, rockin' out on the six-disc-change cd player.  Jethro Tull's A Passion Play, conjures my younger self, not a day older than my son today, my hand delicately laying the needle down. My hours till now, of hearing and reading and watching and absorbing them over and over and over, extracting meaning, all depths of meaning inside patchwork seasons, have been sweet choruses in my life. Sometimes terrible ones. They have pulled me towards the sun.  

What stirs my soul, that which pumps passion as platelets, comes largely from the works I return to on repeat. They are as intimately connected to my thoughts and actions as my spouse, my therapist, my best of friends. That's saying something significant. "We never failed to fail, it was the easiest thing to do."

Reading Thornton Wilder in my school years was transcendent. The mundane details of life that do not matter as the only details in life that do matter, was the crescendo fortissimo and kaleidoscope summation of presence on that absent-of-set stage. For a time, I read this bible annually.

Emily talking to Stage Manager after reliving one day, her twelfth birthday, just beyond her seated grave.

"I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another.

I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back -- up the hill -- to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look.

Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners ...Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking ... and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths ... and sleeping and waking up. Oh earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you."

Then she asks Stage Manager a poignant, abrupt question. 

"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -- every, every minute?

The Stage Manager replies, "No." After a pause he adds, "The saints and poets, maybe--they do some."

Contained in the works which I return are the protons, electrons forming the atoms, molecules of my very cells. Those physical parts of me that allow my spirit to take part in the terrestrial activities of human plodding. We extract meaning for our lives from the sedimentary around our lives. We analyze material. "They run to drabs and grays-and some of them sing they shall be washed whiter than snow-and some: We should worry." Layers. 

It's just one of the reasons I have consistently struggled with social media as a whole. Yes, it's a wonderful tool in our lives, of tremendous connection, dialogue (sometimes not our finest), experience and possibility. An extension of us, the good and not so good. It can also be junk food. Sometimes a time suck. It's great to keep up with our connections yet ubiquitous bunny trails can entice. Before I know it, I've been mindlessly munching empty calories of funny cat videos. That's my struggle. Cat videos are fine. So is Emerson. In firm awareness, I could happily be a recluse. Spending every moment of my time traveling the only way I desire. Solitude, choosing a less cluttered, less noisy path, is how I am able to make sense of the realms within. In balancing this magnetic pull with raising a family, being present, being available - challenges exist. But it’s worth it, for it is not good for man to live alone. Worlds and words within require scriven birth. We are meant to share the excess. We are meant to create. We are meant to struggle through the challenges. 

For me, layers are discovered in repetition. That takes time. And effort. And oft lack of participation on social media. My unbounded inner world that springs poetic leaks relies on the frayed threads from the worn bindings of overuse. What else is repetition? Meditation. I meditate on these threads; they enhance my spiritual journey, living my art, living my calling. 

I pray for wakefulness. I do not wish to sleepwalk this life. Heather is a flower that can not only grow but thrive in tough conditions. More meaning, more layers. Creating art, practicing art, finding art, being filled with the essence of art. Lime-links are layers. Words-every one of them-layers. They enhance, allow expression of soul, of living a life.  

Will everyone like my art? My needlework on pages, woven as story, characters arcs, journeys into rooms of shadow, opening of curtains for light. No. That's okay. Whatever your art, whatever stirs your soul, however you choose to express yourself, that is what God, the master artist, created you for. Seek that passion. Do it unabashedly, come what may. 

I love this song, this soul-cry. Repeated chords from the intro to the bridge seem a meditative invitation to open our spirit's chakras, to absorb and emit our life's meaning, our purpose and calling --In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will dieWhere you invest your love, you invest your life.  

Awake My Soul - Mumford & Sons
Listen Here

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don't know
My weakness I feel I must finally show

Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I'll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free
Har har, har har, har har, har har

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don't know
My weakness I feel I must finally show
Har har, har har, har har, har har

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life

Now you're asking - what's the elephant? Well - "How do you eat an elephant?" If an onion illustrates layers of our lives and what gives us meaning, the elephant is our method of deriving the meaning during the course of our lives. No small task. Your process. My process. What enables us to practice, to get back up each day and toil. Our sustenance obtained through one bite, one action at a time. Such possibilities. Layers.