“I See You But Do You See Me?” – Artist Marc Clamage, Bearing Witness

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Marc Clamage - Maxine

“I see you but do you see me?” Maxine by Marc Clamage

Since my last post, I discovered another artist who refuses to turn away. He bears witness one face at a time by painting panhandlers he sees in Boston Harvard Square near his workplace.

“I used to hurry by them,” writes artist Marc Clamage, “but then I began to stop. Each face tells a story, I realized, and I would try to capture as many as I could through a series of oil paintings.”

Rosie and David with pet guinea pig, by Marc Clamage

Rosie and David with pet guinea pig, by Marc Clamage

He’d noticed there were more than usual that year, and that they seemed “younger, and more troubled.” Sometimes even whole families begging on the streets.

Many of the people he encountered were simply passing through, on their way to a new job or to visit family. Some panhandled to supplement a low-wage job, or help pay the rent.

Others were homeless. Panhandling was their only source of income. A few of these were mentally disturbed, or drug addicts. Some were sick and dying.

 Marc writes: “I do not ask the panhandlers to ‘pose’ for me, but to carry on with their business. I pay each person $10, though I wish I could afford more, because they earn that small fee in the hour or two it takes me to paint them.

"Newly Engaged, Need Motel to Celebrate" -  Justin and Lauren (The Lovebirds) by Marc Clamage

“Newly Engaged, Need Motel to Celebrate” Justin and Lauren (The Lovebirds) by Marc Clamage

Over that time, we often get to talking, which has been a privilege and an education.

I’ve seen or heard many human dramas: the tragic love story of Gary and Whitney; squabbles over the best places to work; the mysterious figure everyone calls “The Rabbi,” stuffing $20 bills into cups and disappearing before anyone can see his face.

“I’ve witnessed a few instances of cruelty, but many more of thoughtfulness and generosity. And when I head home, I’m always struck by one thought: There but for the grace of God go the rest of us. Perhaps that’s why we find panhandlers so hard to look at.”

I was deeply touched by Marc’s paintings and by the stories of the people who posed for him. You can view more of his paintings and read the stories on his website “I Paint What I See“, or at his blog.

Marc Clamage - Gary

Gary, Desert Storm Vet, by Marc Clamage

I also like what he says about how he paints:

“I paint what I see, only what I see, only with it right in front of me, only while I’m looking right at it. I do not work from photographs, or imagination, or memory, or even from sketches. I paint exclusively from life. The essence of representation is that every choice, every brushstroke must be made in direct response to the experience of visual reality.”

To really “see” someone, the way an artist does, objectively, without judgement, and yet responding to what is seen, the pain, or loneliness, or confusion, or anger; to see and be seen like that, must be freeing, for both the painter, the one painted. And for the viewer as well.

To simply behold what we see–the good and bad and beautiful and ugly–without judgement, but with compassion and humility, is the essence of “bearing witness.” And it must have a healing effect.

Bernie Glassman in “Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace” wrote:

“In my view, we can’t heal ourselves or other people unless we bear witness. In the Zen Peacemaker Order we stress bearing witness to the wholeness of life, to every aspect of the situation that arises. So bearing witness to someone’s kidnapping, assaulting, and killing a child means being every element of the situation: being the young girl, with her fear, terror, hunger, and pain; being the girl’s mother, with her endless nights of grief and guilt; being the mother of the man who killed, torn between love for her son and the horror of his actions; being the families of both the killed and the killer, each with its respective pain, rage, horror, and shame; being the dark, silent cell where the girl was imprisoned; being the police officers who finally, under enormous pressure, caught the man; and being the jail cell holding the convicted man. It means being each and every element of this situation.”

Marc Clamage - Whitney

Whitney, cancer victim, by Marc Clamage

To bear witness in that way must be the hardest, the most healing, and the most humbling thing we could ever do. And the most needed.

Elsewhere, Glassman writes: “When we bear witness, when we become the situation — homelessness, poverty, illness, violence, death — the right action arises by itself. We don’t have to worry about what to do. We don’t have to figure out solutions ahead of time. . . . Once we listen with our entire body and mind, loving action arises.”

More of Marc’s paintings follow. See if you see what inspired him to paint these people. Sometimes we see something that cannot be “passed over” lightly, but must be “passed on” to others in whatever way we have of preserving them:  in paint or print, or images on a blog site. So I pass these on to you.

Marc Clamage - Colleen

Colleen, by Marc Clamage. Died of exposure and a drug overdose.

Marc Clamage - Gideon

Gideon, by Marc Clamage

Marc Clamage - Anthony

“Too ugly to prostitute, too kind to pimp.” Anthony by Marc Clamage

Marc Clamage - maria

Maria by Marc Clamage

Marc Clamage - Laurel

Laurel by Marc Clamage. Her sign says she’s a mother of 4 and victim of domestic violence. On the flip side it says “I’m not a whore, asshole.”

Marc Clamage - Carrie

Carrie by Marc Clamage. Now clean and sober and off the streets.

[This post originally appeared on another blog in a slightly different form]

Bearing Witness – Refusing to Turn Away

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A Beggar

Italian painter Gaspare Traversi (1732-1769) Mendiant accroupi or A Beggar – Courtesy of the Narbonne art museum.

I found this painting of a beggar at the blog site of an artist that I admire. She found it on a rainy day in Narbonne, France where she’s traveling, and wrote:

It is the emotion and compositional strength of this image as well as pure skill in foreshortening that had me coming back to this painting several times. Every centimeter of this canvas is in full use and allows you no room to shrink from the image. The beggar has seen us. We must respond in some way and whatever that way is he and the world will know. It is our human condition we are facing in this painting. (Terrill Welch – Creative Potager)

It struck me how often we are tempted to turn away from images, people, situations, that seem too horrible, too hopeless, that make us feel too helpless to even think about it, let alone do something ourselves to help. Like extreme poverty, hunger, homelessness, addiction, rape, human trafficking, mass murder, mental illness . . . the list goes on.

It’s human nature to do so, to turn away from the ugly faces that our human condition sometimes shows us. To pretend it’s not there, or doesn’t affect us, or isn’t us, or won’t be us, or someone we care about, some day.

But it’s important to resist that urge to turn away, even if we have no way to address it. It has to do with what I’ve come to think of as “bearing witness.” It has to do with, not only, bearing witness to an atrocity that should not be forgotten nor repeated, as the holocaust survivors have done, as we’ve come to regard the towers falling on 9/11.

It also has to do with simply being there for another human being in pain, “bearing” that pain with them, in that we acknowledge it and in whatever small way we can show them they are not alone. That we stand with them, if only in spirit, if only in refusing to turn away, to pretend it doesn’t exist, or that they don’t matter.

I’ve found myself returning to this motif in my writing again and again: the need to look, to not turn away; the importance of bearing witness to another’s pain and suffering.

And there are so many other writers and artists and activists who are doing the same thing. Who are refusing to turn away, and instead bearing witness to the pain they see and experience when encountering the dark side of the human condition. As this artist was doing when he painted “The Beggar” so long ago.

Sometimes it’s all we can do to help another. Bear witness. Sometimes it’s all that’s needed.

I feel blessed by the Traversi’s painting. His refusing to turn away, but looking deeply at it, revealing the humanity he saw in the face of suffering, reveals his own deep humanity, and challenges us to do the same.

[This post originally appeared on another site in a slighty longer version]

Selling My Babies. Where’s the Joy?

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Wikipedia Commons Mother_and_Child_-_Mary_CassattIt’s never the full-blown joy I expect when a short story is accepted for publication.

Even when the acceptance letter exceeds my wildest hope, like this last one:

“I’m stunned into dumbstruck awe by your piece, which I finished mere minutes ago. That’s how much time it took me to accept this, in the fervent hope that it has not been taken by another journal.”

“Stunned!” “Dumbstruck!” “Awe!”

I should be feasting on those words for weeks. I should be doing cartwheels down the hall. I should be. But I’m not.

I’m so used to opening my emails and finding a “thanks, no thanks” response to my submissions that acceptance and praise come with a jolt. Disbelief, even: Is this a joke?

Then a flood of conflicting emotions descend. Gratitude comes first, with relief tripping at her heels.

“Finally!” I think, gazing sternly at this wayward child of mine: “Took your sweet time getting that proposal, didn’t you girl? I thought you might be a spinster forever. I was ready to banish you to the dark corner of a bottom drawer. Boy, did you luck out!”

Eventually a giddy glee and an I-told-you-so sense of vindication take hold as I rush to tell my husband. Genuine happiness beams when I call my daughter, text my son. Bashful pride sneaks in when I post the event on Facebook or Twitter.

But I do all this in a hurry, because I know it won’t last. If I don’t grab it on the fly, I’ll lose it altogether. For the elation is rapidly deteriorating into an edgy uneasiness. A prick of panic. And gut-wrenching remorse when I realize: She’s gone! Out of my control. What have I done?

This is how the submission process works for me:

Rejection, rejection, rejection (repeat, ad nauseam)
Then whammy! Acceptance! Giddy glee! (Yay me!)
Followed by panic. Deflation. Despair.

So what’s wrong with me? Where’s the joy?

Well, I’ve given it some thought and think I’ve figured it out. It’s such a cliché, I almost hate to tell you, but here it is: She’s my baby. She’s leaving the nest.

Ready or not, she’s out there. Like it or not, I’m responsible for her.

The problem is: She’s never been well-behaved. I tried, but I couldn’t tame her completely. She was a “darling” that wouldn’t be killed. Now she’s on the loose. And O My God! What will people think when they get a good gander at her!

Did I push her out the door too soon? Should I have given her another rewrite? Or, did I sell her too cheap? Did she deserve more than what she got?

Should I have waited for a more prestigious, more adoring, more (fill in the blank) suitor?

How will she fare in his hands? Will he show her off? Twirl her around? Tell her she’s pretty?

Will anyone other than he actually read her? Or will he hide her away in some dusty warehouse, or send her to some virtual outpost where she’ll fade away in utter obscurity and ignominy?

Would she have been better off left in the drawer?

It’s about this time that I pull up her up on my computer screen and give her another read.

Yikes! This is awful! She’s a complete mess! What can I do? Withdraw her? Demand a divorce? Use a pseudonym?

Can I spruce her up in a hurry? Fresh lipstick, maybe? A new dress? At least straighten her hem, for God’s sake! She’s not ready for this. And neither am I, it appears.

The really sad thing is: She’s just a short story!

What will I do when my pride and joy, my novel, goes? Is this why I labor so long? Revise so endlessly? To keep her at home where she’s safe and warm and well-loved? Why strive to make her perfect only to lose her in the end?

It’s not like I can’t take rejection. I’ve become numb to rejection: “Oh, you again. What else is new?”

I read through a standard reject and taste a mild bitterness, a dash of sadness, sometimes a whiff of distain—what’s wrong with these idiots!

If there’s a bit of encouragement in the rejection letter, the taste is bittersweet.

If the encouragement is profuse or specific, I’m delighted. I call my daughter: “They really liked my story! The one they rejected. Isn’t that wonderful?”

So why am I not overblown with joy by high praise and acceptance?

Isn’t this what it’s all about? Publication? Praise? Recognition by my peers? The juried consensus that this story deserves to be read? Otherwise, why write?

But all I feel after the initial sugar high wears off is: Loss. Remorse. Resignation.

Félix_Emile-Jean_Vallotton_-_Woman_Writing_in_an_Interior_-_Google_Art_ProjectSo back to work I go.

Butt in seat, open a new vein, let the words flow out.

I immerse myself in the writing. Let it wash over me. Carry me away.

And that’s when I find it. What I’ve been seeking all along.

Full-blown joy!

It’s right where I left it: In the writing.

 

 

 

Dreaming of Death—Oops, Bears

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Black bear US Fish and Wildlife public domainI’m going to die. Soon.

That’s what I thought, waking one morning, remembering three distinct dreams, each in which I was suddenly “taken.”

In the first, I was whisked away by a whirlwind that dropped out of the sky. In the next two, bears got me.

The dreams were so vivid and similar, I was sure they meant something significant. Knowing the best interpreter of any dream is the dreamer, I asked myself:

“What do YOU think it means?”

“It means I’m going to die!” was my answer.

This realization was so disturbing, tears sprung to my eyes. It’s too soon, surely! I have a lot of living yet to do. I’m not ready.

It wasn’t my first dream of death, or bears. Only a week ago I had a similar vivid dream of being chased by a bear in our garden. Fortunately, in that dream I managed to escape. It was my husband who got gobbled.

This dream fed my certainty that bears must symbolize death in dreams. I rushed to my computer. A quick google search confirmed my fate.

Bears do symbolize death!

Among other things, I learned as I searched further. Like rebirth and renewal.

Ever the optimist, I latched onto that explanation. Perhaps I wasn’t dreaming of my real death. Perhaps it was only symbolic. The death of my “little self,” and the rebirth of a brand new shiny me. What a relief!

This new interpretation seemed even more likely when I recalled that in the last two bear dreams I was walking with a “little sister” who was dragged away, kicking and screaming, before I was taken. But when the bear came back to grab me, surprisingly, its paw was soft as it led me away.

I realized then in my dream that I had been “chosen.” The bear was taking me on a journey and I was no longer afraid. In fact, the bear was so amiable that when I worried about leaving unprepared, he let me go home to grab a coat.

I was certain this must be the correct interpretation of my dreams since bears also act as spirit guides and signify fresh beginnings.

Still, the “death” scare lingered.

So I decided to share the dreams with my husband. Just in case. That way, if I did suddenly expire, he’d have a good story to share:

“Well, you know, she dreamed about her death only days ago!”

I didn’t tell him about the dream where he got gobbled. No need to alarm him.

Besides, that would make a good story for me. You know. “Just in case.”

[NOTE TO READERS - If this blog goes dark, you too have a good story!]

“Wake Up Amazed” by Kaze Gadway

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Flowers001

Sometimes I come across a blog post that I just have to share. The excerpt below is from Kazegadway – Finding the Wonder Daily.

As I cruised the streets where homeless sleep, I encounter a single young woman wrapped up in a blanket trying to keep warm. I stopped to give her a warm sleeping bag. She spoke very clearly. “I was so cold last night that I didn’t think I would wake up. Then I wake up and someone is offering me a sleeping bag. That is so amazing.”

I grin and leave as she wraps up and goes back to sleep. I worry that she is going to be harmed by sleeping in the open with no friends nearby. Then a homeless man in a jacket and backpack calls out to me. “I’m watching to see no one steals her blanket. Thanks for stopping by.”

I am blessed twice over. Once by a young woman who awakes amazed at the world. And again by a homeless man who watches over her.

The author is in her “7th decade.” A woman who, after spending a lifetime working to address the root causes of poverty around the world, now spends her days tending the homeless, and writing about her encounters. The excerpt above is from a post called “Wake Up Amazed” and you can read the rest of that post at that link.

But every post is a gem, filled with compassion, wisdom, and humility. She writes in “Attention“:

I find myself paying attention to where the homeless sleep or just hang out during the day. I notice who has a blanket or a backpack and if they are alone or with someone. I look at their faces and see alertness or maybe pain. Since I have moved to Albuquerque, they are never just in the background.

Perhaps that is why they talk to me. Something they see in me tells them that I notice them as people.

Here’s another brief snippet from Prayer and Action

One middle aged man talks frankly about looking for a job. “I’m not going to get a job. Every day it seems less possible. The longer I stay away from work, the more I look like a thug, unshaven and dirty.”

I give him all the contacts that I have. I don’t want to end the conversation by saying “good luck” or something else lame. So I hesitate.

“You aren’t going to pray for me, are you?” he says with a laugh.

“I don’t think so,” I say. “But I don’t know how to acknowledge you are a part of eternity without praying. I want you to know that you are special.”

I stop, feeling very stupid.

Stunned, he says “That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” He walks away.

Silently with wet eyes I pray “God have mercy.

Her stories touch me deeply. “There but for the grace of God, go I” we sometimes say when encountering people less fortunate than us. There goes my son, your daughter, our Nana, that guy I went to Prom with, the girl who broke my heart in college. The professor who seemed half-crazy in the kindest, wisest way. The next-door neighbor who took in stray cats and fed me cookies when I was a kid. They are part of us.

Reading her simple posts brings to mind what the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich wrote so long ago:

God is to us everything that is good and comfortable for us: He is our clothing that for love wrappeth us, claspeth us, and all encloseth us for tender love, that He may never leave us; being to us all-thing that is good, as to mine understanding.

Between God and the human there is no between.

I hope you will take a look at her blog.  You may “wake up amazed” by how profound simple kindness can be. Kazegadway – Finding the Wonder Daily.

In Limbo, While Live Lambs Burn

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IMG_2506I won’t be writing here for awhile. Probably. Maybe. I don’t know.

I’ve started several blog posts but can’t finish them. All my energy is drawn elsewhere. As if I’m in Limbo, waiting for some axe to fall.

Here’s a pretty poem to tide you over until I return. Something I wrote years ago. Hid away.

See if you can guess what it’s about.

All the Little Lambs

I swear

Sometimes I feel like
I lay in a loft,

Peeking
Through a warped
floorboard,

Watching havoc
burn hay.

And I feel
Distant, somehow,
Remote, dismayed.

While live lambs
Burn
Below
Betrayed.

Easter and Earth Day – “O Sweet Irrational Worship”

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Bobwhite Quail-Colinus_virginianus_USFWSA timely blending to celebrate Easter and Earth Day by poet, monk, and mystic, Thomas Merton.

O Sweet Irrational Worship

Wind and a bobwhite
And the afternoon sun.

By ceasing to question the sun
I have become light,

Bird and wind.

My leaves sing.

I am earth, earth

All these lighted things
Grow from my heart.

A tall, spare pine
Stands like the initial of my first
Name when I had one.

When I had a spirit,
When I was on fire
When this valley was
Made out of fresh air
You spoke my name
In naming Your silence:
O sweet, irrational worship!

I am earth, earth

My heart’s love
Bursts with hay and flowers.
I am a lake of blue air
In which my own appointed place
Field and valley
Stand reflected.

I am earth, earth

Out of my grass heart
Rises the bobwhite.

Out of my nameless weeds
His foolish worship.

by Thomas Merton

Many thanks to Nancy Adam and her lovely blog Saints and Trees for bringing this poem to my attention. Read her commentary about the poem HERE.

My Roman Oaks

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IMG_4687Recently we had visitors who had just returned from Italy. We talked of how easily you can stumble upon ancient Roman ruins lying beside the road or tumbled along the edge of a parking lot. Paving stones from some ancient road where the legendary 13th Legion once marched; the foundations of a fallen aqueduct; broken urns and shards of pottery. None of it cordoned off to protect. None of it of much value.

It’s a common sight for the native populations, but an unexpected pleasure and exciting discovery for visiting tourists. In some ways these ruins impact us more deeply than the ruins we find with tourist guides or behind museum walls.

As we were talking, I pointed to the “Roman Oaks” in the meadow outside our window.

I’ve come to see these fallen giants, the ruins of ancient oaks that lie scattered in the hills outside our home, with the same sense of tender regard and respect. Once they had been huge and thriving ecosystems, little cities providing shelter and food for a vast variety of creatures large and small. Some dominated the landscape for centuries. Children were born and grew old and died in full view of their robust splendor. The trees that now surround these ruins were tiny saplings or green shoots or still bound within round acorns when these giants spread their roots across the hillsides and threw vast shadows across the land.

I’ve come to love these ruins. There’s beauty in the sleek stripped limbs, sculptured by the wind and rain and passing predators. Beauty in their moss and lichen painted bark. Beauty in the way their sharp ruins rise like flames against the sky. Beauty in their hollowed trunks and upturned roots. I walk among them with their fine mulch crumbled underfoot and feel a sense of timelessness. The past and present tangled together.

I’ve gathered a few photos here to share with you.

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This Mud-Luscious World of Woe and Bliss

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HP_2Lately I’ve had a hard time getting a grip on myself. I seem to be sliding in so many directions. The better parts of me, the parts I enjoy, are becoming lost or shunted aside. While the wilder, unreasonable, agitated parts are trying to take over.

Sometimes I feel I exist in multiple layers with different parts of myself coming to the surface at different times. Some are easy and comfortable, the ones I’ve spent a good deal of time articulating on these blog pages: poet-writer,  spiritual seeker, nature lover, art enthusiast, literary critic, philosopher. The one who seeks to understand what this mud-luscious world of woe and bliss is all about. These are the layers I love to dwell in. They play well together. I can move seamlessly from one to the other without difficulty.

But there are other layers of myself that are torn to pieces and hard to make sense of. Parts that fume and rage and groan and don’t know how to let go or wake up or walk in a straight line. A part of me that seeks to control what’s uncontrollable, change what’s unchangeable, even if that means banging its head against a very hard and bloody wall.

A lot of that is mixed up with what I’ve experienced trying to help a son afflicted with addition. But part of it goes way back. It comes from all the years spent down in the trenches, fighting for worker rights and social justice and protecting the environment. Trying to right the wrongs of the world. Beating my head constantly against a wall of greed and exploitation, intolerance and hypocrisy, that would not budge! Doing it for so long and so hard, I had to walk away. I had to.

I feel like I’m getting sucked back into that fight mode again, and all I want to do is fly away. But I can’t leave my son behind.

That old head-banger is resurfacing and I don’t much enjoy her anymore. I understand her. I know where she’s coming from. But I don’t see a happy outcome for all her troubles. She can’t help herself. She’s an optimist, a passionate reformer. Perhaps all optimists, all social reformers, are born head-bangers, trying to break down insurmountable walls. We truly believe we can effect change for the good. We can make a difference in the world. In small but important ways we can help move the direction of society toward the greater good, toward health and peace and prosperity for all. And we do, we do, inch by inch we move that needle, but at great cost.

It’s more than that though. More than social change that many of us are after. We want to break through to new states of thinking and doing and being. To experience more peace and joy and power in our own lives. To experience heaven on earth right here, right now. Maybe that’s what happens to all the head-bangers of the world. When those outer walls don’t come tumbling down we turn inward, toward the walls within our own consciousness and try to break through.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Maybe that’s the most and the best we can do. Maybe it’s enough.

I’m still trying to get a grip on all this. To reconcile all the different parts of me, the world of woe with the world of bliss, both inside and out. The two are inter-twined. I can tease them apart at times, but they get all rolled up together again. There must be a way to walk in this world of woe while still experiencing that state of bliss. Some of our spiritual teacher/reformers have walked that path: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela.

I’m trying to figure out how to let go and hang on at the same time. How to let go of banging my head against an intractable wall, while not giving up on my son. How to accept this world of woe and bliss, inside and out, all rolled up together, in all its mud-lusciousness. Bear with me.

A Dream Within a Dream Within a . . .

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Sweet_Nothings_by_GodwardMy daughter’s wedding day had arrived and everything that could go wrong went wrong.  We arrived at the church only to discover no one had come to decorate it. The food we’d ordered was half-prepared.  My daughter showed up in her beautiful gown, but we’d forgotten to get her hair done or her make-up.  It was so horrible, we cancelled the wedding and sent everyone home. The wedding party climbed into a car and was driving away when my daughter said, “Stop! I can’t take this anymore, I just want it over!”

So she forced the car to pull over at a tiny diner and announced that’s where she was getting married.  I tried to talk her into going to someplace nicer, where it wasn’t so shabby and dirty. But she insisted. I remembered how I had planned to hang all the beautiful photos of her wedding on our walls at home. But how could we take photos of this! My worst nightmare was happening and it was all my fault. I shouldn’t have left the wedding planning up to her. I should have taken charge. I should have had a check-off list and made sure everything had turned our as planned. But it was too late. I screwed up. And now all my dreams for her wedding were ruined.

Then I woke up with a raging headache. And a sense of doom I could not shake.

It was crazy! Why was I having this dream?  My daughter had already had the most beautiful wedding imaginable just last year.  And she had planned it all!  I hadn’t had to lift a finger. Why would I be worried about her wedding?

Then I had a flash of insight. One after the other.

#1 Flash of Insight

This was just a dream! There had never been a reason to be so upset and despondent.  I could have changed the dream at any point–decorated the church, fixed her hair. I could have created the perfect wedding, if only I had realized I was dreaming. If only I had known I had the power to do so.

#2 Flash of Insight

This dream wasn’t about my daughter! It’s about my son. About the terrible addiction that has ruined his life, the beautiful life I had dreamed for him. And I blamed myself.  I shouldn’t have left something as important as his life up to him! I should have taken charge. I should have planned better. But now everything was ruined and there was nothing I could do about it.

#3 Flash of Insight

Maybe I’m still dreaming!  I remember how real it all seemed in my dream. Like it was really happening.  So much so that even when I woke, I couldn’t shake the sense of sadness and failure. Maybe I will wake up and find out that this is all just a dream of addiction.  Maybe in “reality,” he’s living the perfect life I’d always wanted for him, just as my daughter had had her perfect wedding.

Maybe I’d wake to find him in his perfect house with his loving wife, surrounded by his beautiful children, happy and healthy.  He’d flash me a big grin and put his arms around me and say, “Silly mama. Why so sad? You were just dreaming!”

#4 Flash of Insight

But if I can’t wake up, maybe I can at least practice lucid-dreaming, wake up enough to know this isn’t real, and that I can change things, if I could only figure out how. It’s possible, right? Isn’t change possible?

#5 Flash of Insight

Maybe this is what they call “magical thinking.”

I keep thinking of those talks by Alan Watts that I posted here not long ago. He talks about the interconnectivity of the universe and how it has evolved into human consciousness–how the very cells of our bodies and brains are made of star stuff. We are the eternal universe, he tells us. Each of us, individually, is a pinprick of the whole, and altogether we are the whole itself.

Is believing this more fantastic, more “magical,” than believing in the Big Bang in the first place? Or that an infinite number of galaxies are spinning out in space, or being gobbled up by black holes? Or more magical than the “fact” of all those electrons and neutrons spinning in the cells of our bodies like tiny galaxies?  What could be more fantastical or magical than reality! The reality we accept on “faith” because we believe what science has revealed to us.

Watts also mentioned this possibility: That we each are sparks of the divine–whatever force that created all we know–living an infinite number of lives over and over.  Sometimes we choose easy paths, sometimes difficult ones.  Sometimes we just want to see how much we can take, how far we can push ourselves, how bad it can get before we turn ourselves around.

Did my son choose his path? Did I choose mine?  Are there layers of reality, as I wrote about in my last post? Are our night dreams and waking dreams just various stages in the ever-expanding understanding of who we really are? Will we wake to another understanding of reality and realize this life is just a dream within a dream within a dream . . . and each life is just as “real” or as “magical” as the next one?

We once believed the earth was flat and the distant ocean spilled off into nothingness. Later that the sun circled the earth, and we felt smug and special at the center of the universe.  Then we woke up.

What more will we come to understand about reality–the universe and ourselves–as the eons unfold?

Wake up, Deborah, wake up.

 

 

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