“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
— John Cotton Dana
Sisyphus watches the stone roll down
I watch my plans unravel
Another lesson gone astray
I stand naked
with my naivety hanging out
I thought I could teach
what I had learned
what I had thought
what I had dreamed
yet so little did I know
My teachings taste like ashes
as my students went astray
Back to the basics
back to the road
back to the books
It’s time for this lad to return to school.
— G A Rosenberg
“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.”
― Robert Macfarlane
I spent the greater part of today in Whistler, BC visiting friends and enjoying the mountain view. Whistler, besides being the site of the Winter Olympics in 2012 is renown for skiing and hiking. Outside of the resorts it also has become something of a large picturesque shopping mall. On a busy holiday weekend, thousands of people could be seen shopping and milling around. Many were attending a yoga festival and in the main field of the tourist park mall there were around fifty people, impressing lookers on and their friends with the way that they could contort their bodies. There were kids running and lots of dogs and people generally having a good time but moving quickly from one place to another.
It felt good to look to the mountains and see the unmoving. They have been there way before there was an Olympic village and way before there was a native fishing village. They preceded humans and may very well be there way past the time when we are not. I look to them and find patience and acceptance of everything that happens and a will to observe the hurry-scurry with tolerance, forbearing and humour even as I participated in it. Like the mountains I will forbear what comes my way tho unlike them I find times when action is necessary and even preferable. A mountain view always strengthens me tho as I realize that little that seems traumatic and important in the moment truly matters from another perspective.
“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Sometimes life seems to suck. We become disappointed in ourselves or in others. We may flounder spiritually or emotionally and feel lonely or angry without knowing why. We say we are going through a hard time yet is that necessarily true?
In retrospect some of the most difficult periods of my life have been when I have learned the most about who I am and of what I am capable. They have shown me who will stand by me in times of need, who may want to but can’t and who may not even want to know. I have learned during those times that I can trust everyone to some extent but to fully put my trust in myself and in the core of my being. Also, that I may bend but in reality there is very little that will ever break me.
So all times are good times. Either in their enjoyment or their lessons. Of course, some are more enjoyable than others.
“In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.”
— Anna Quindlen
All of my life I have been an avid reader. I’d be the kid always walking around with the book in his hand. In class, I’d have a novel hidden under my school books and trusted to my memory to fill in the blanks in the lessons. So much that other people did and said puzzled me that I looked to the characters in books and how the writers handled their interactions to clarify the relationships in my own life and it helped. I read a lot of non-fiction and from those I gain knowledge but it is from fiction that I tend to get the most insight. From Spider Robinson’s Callahan stories I learned about the importance of empathy and sharing both joy and pain. From Frank Herbert’s Dune novels I learned about the many layers that communication happens on and how to handle it when overwhelmed by emotions. The litany against fear (http://dune.wikia.com/wiki/Litany_Against_Fear) works with all emotions. From Charles DeLint’s stories I learned much about how to overcome past pain and the sheer wonder and magick that exists in our everyday life. From these and so many others I’ve learned so much that I’ve been able to apply and share with other people and I am grateful for the light that they have shone in my world.
Click on images to see full-sized:
Taurus by G A Rosenberg
Fractal Seeds in an Abstract Garden by G A Rosenberg
“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”
— Eartha Kitt
Everywhere I go becomes my classroom and each being I meet a teacher. I learn sitting by a campfire staring at the fire singing songs and sharing wine and stories with friends. I learn lessons of power play in boardrooms where the interplay of information and psychology takes precedence. I learn in the bedroom the meaning of intimacy and the magick that can be shared between people. I learn from the homeless and the rich. I learn from friends, lovers and even and possibly even especially from people with whom I share a certain animosity. They show me my shadow and I am grateful. I learn from my interplay online and from books. When I am in meditation, I learn from myself as I touch the part of myself that will graduate and move on to other classes.
“Over the years I’ve come to appreciate how animals enter our lives prepared to teach and far from being burdened by an inability to speak they have many different ways to communicate. It is up to us to listen more than hear, to look into more than past.”
― Nick Trout
Today my son and I watched as the vet put our dog to sleep. It came somewhat out of the blue. I knew that he had not been acting quite like himself and put it down to something that he had gotten into. Unfortunately after picking him up after our camping trip, it seemed his condition had deteriorated. It turns out that due to a number of possible causes his kidney and liver had all but shut down. I called my partner who was out of town on business and then called my son and gave him the option to come to the vet and say goodbye. Probably one of the most painful things either of us have had to do.
I’ve learned quite a bit from Rufus over the years. His endless patience with humans and his total lack of it with any other animals notwithstanding, He was an amazing being. He taught me acceptance of anything that comes in life. He taught me that the best defence to being caught doing something that others disapprove of is to act puzzled, as if I have no idea how I came to be in these circumstances. For Rufus, the escape artist supreme this usually involved all of us including him how he ended up in the front yard in the first place. He taught me to love openly and accept almost everybody. He taught me how to claim both time and space for myself when necessary. He taught me that sometimes cuddling on the kitchen floor with a loved one can make almost any day a bit better. This is not such a bad legacy for a 10 yr old Irish Terrier.
“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.”
― Roger Crawford
Lessons Loom Large. We get tested and refined in the fire of life. Sometimes it seems so hard and despair seems to come easy. We go to a dark place and carry it around inside of us. Reality has kicked us in some of our most tender spots, the spots where we erected towers which we thought impregnable but were really constructed of tissue paper and now they crumble in the rain. That’s ok though. That they would one day crumble was inevitable. At the core what’s left is what we started with. We have our divine beings, now armed with the gift of knowledge and hard won wisdom that we did not have before. From this we can build anew. Perhaps we will make another soft edifice, fated as before to crumble but it will be made out of the truer substance of our newly refined being. The important thing is to keep rebuilding for what we are truly building is always a purer more complete being.
“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?”
― Walt Whitman
I love meeting learning and learning about new people. Some of the most memorable conversations I have had have been with strangers. Yet, I find myself more and more with the thoughts in my own head. When working on a piece of art or writing and the little notification goes off on FaceBook I tend to growl and then reluctantly answer. On some level any communication that comes my way is meant to either as lesson, goad or spur. Who knows what opportunities for growth there may be in one simple conversation? Even when I answer a call from someone I may find less pleasant to interact with, I realize I may gain insight into myself (if only what in them is striking sparks off me.). Every interaction whether with a loved one, a stranger or ourselves is an opportunity. This is what I tell myself when the telephone interrupts my train of thought, anyway.
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
― T.H. White
Knowledge is power. When something knocks the wind out of our sails, whether in sorrow or anger or even joy, it contains a lesson about what pushes our buttons and by extension what pushes the buttons of others. Anything that pulls us from zero contains this lesson. For heavier sadness, sadness that won’t go away finding the lesson contained might not be enough. In those situations, I have found it best to feel what I feel until I don’t need to anymore. Riding out the storm in a place where I won’t bring others into the pit. Chocolate might help. So might either a good book or a comedy tape. Eventually I find myself ready to move on with my life and the fastest way to do that is to throw myself into something new.