Not That Kind of Girl

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But I kept all this to myself around Heather and Jenny. I had made sure never to say anything about what they were doing because I knew I had no right to judge them, but they’d found me out. I thought that I had been the one watching and listening, observing teenagers being teenagers the way I used to watch jump ropes whipping before it was my turn at double Dutch: okay, okay, I want to get in there, I want to get in there, but I need to make sure I’m jumping in on just the right beat because if I don’t, I’ll bring the whole thing down with me, all of us laid out on the pavement tangled up in rope and all of it my fault, all of it because my timing and judgment were terrible. So I’d worked hard at not making a fool of myself. Just hold still, I told myself. Don’t make a noise, make a smell, make a scene. (p.63)

Nothing seems like it fits — my clothes, my friends, my church. If I were truly brave and original, I know, I would have gone out and made my own reality, the way I should have made my own prom dress in a fit of inspiration and outsider resolve, but I didn’t because I am sort of lazy, if I’m being honest with myself. I would have borrowed from the lives I’d read about in Norton’s, thereby committing the sin of unoriginality on the way to iconoclasm – instead of wandering around knocking into and then retreating from everyone else’s facade of self-confidence. (p. 70)

– Carlene Bauer, Not That Kind of Girl

 

No Child On Earth

No child on earth was ever meant to be ordinary, and you can see it in them, and they know it, too, but then the times get to them, and they wear out their brains learning what folks expect, and spend their strength trying to rise over those same folks.”

–Annie Dillard

We Hardly Pay Time Its Due

‘Carthusians mark time not by decades, years, or days,’ explains the writer Nancy Klein. ‘Their time is out of time, directed… by the tolling of the immense church bell… in measured instants of the Latin ‘now’: nunc, nunc, nunc. For the monk, there is no future and no past, merely a series of ‘nows’ (p. 215)


And now I find myself a world away in a basement too, with a window letting out on to mountains and the bells of a monastery nearby and the monks – if I could hear them – chanting their morning prayers. We make a circle of our life and never know it. We hardly pay time its due. The bells here are little different from those in Dharamsala, or the bells that hung from the necks of my goats. Each is a call to prayer, the tongue of the bell saying nunc, nunc, nunc. Does it matter the bell one chooses? (p. 227)

– Brad Kessler, Goat Song

We Live In Exile, Not From Paradise But From The Present

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The milkings continue to pleasure. Nobody leaps the line. Before it was a chore but now a meditation, the Hebrew Ameeda. Silence the most important part. During my morning milkings no one talks. The animals like their routine. They won’t tolerate noise or visitors or novelty. The only sounds a song or breath and the squirts of milk and the clank of the gate being closed. The calmer and more focused I become the clamer grow the goats. ‘What is important,’ wrote Basho, ‘is to keep mind high in the world of true understanding, then, returning to daily experience, seek therein the true and the beautiful.’

We live in exile, not from Paradise but from the present. How often do we dwell there? How often does a wind bring us back?

– Brad Kessler, Goat Song, p. 131

The Value Of Time

In a garden you learn the value of time. Weeding, like farming, is never accomplished. It’s an activity, not a result, so a good gardener learns not to fret about finishing a job. It’s all in the doing. Otherwise, the quack grass will drive you insane. After a while you learn to go into the ‘zone’ and just work. Beautiful work. You work until your mind runs free.

– Brian Brett, Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life, p. 78

Knowing How To Live

On another day that same week, I planned to take Isabella to the park. She waddled along beside me on the sidewalk. We hadn’t traveled half a block when she stopped to play with a little chain hanging from a fire hydrant. She tapped the chain with her finger so that it swung back and forth. She patiently waited until it came to a standstill and tapped it again, fascinated.  I tried to push her along so that we could hurry up and get to the park.

She started to cry.

I relented and she went back to the chain, patiently poking it and watching it swing back and forth until it stopped, and then poking it again. I wanted to rush to the park so we could start having fun. It took me forever to see that Isabella was already having fun.

At what age did I start to think that where I was going was more important than where I already was? When was it that I began to believe that the most important thing about what I was doing was getting it over with? Knowing how to live is not something we have to teach children. Knowing how to live is something we have to be careful not to take away from them.

– Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, p. 87

How Should I Live?

It’s easier to figure out how to get another iPhone or a flat-screen TV or a trip to Bermuda or some other life distraction that to think about these questions. Like, How should I live? Like, What is my life really for?

It’s easier to assume that the purpose of life is to get a good job and a good salary and a good box to live in and another good box to ride in and hope that the boxes will keep you safe from everything. Including these questions. We all, I think, want to hide from the questions. I know I do…

Anyway, Dae Soen Sa Nim would say, “Everybody says I want this and I want that but nobody really understands this ‘I.’ ” What is this “I” that wants everything? Where does it come from? Where does it go? Why does it live? Why does it die?

These questions are so important, because we live our lives on the assumption that the way to happiness it fulfill our desires. The economists believe that our desires are limitless, and that the economy is one big machine intended to fill those limitless desires. The problem is that our planetary habitat’s resources are not limitless.

Everybody says I want this and I want that. If our assumptions about happiness and the fulfillment of desire are true, well, then, so be it: the economy is rightfully predicated on the fulfillment of desires and it will burn along until there’s nothing left to burn. But if that is so, why did Jesus say that a camel can fit through the eye of a needle more easily than a rich man can get into the kingdom of heaven?

If my understanding is correct, his meaning was not that no one should be rich. It was that if we attach ourselves to riches to the point that we exclude more pressing concerns, we may well cause ourselves a lot of difficulties.

What if we don’t really understand the “I” and what its true purpose is? What if we kill the planet filling our desires and then discover that that’s not what we are here for? Isn’t this worth stopping to figure out?

– Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, p. 115

A Commencement Address

I remember when I was your age I’d look at people of my parents’ generation and wonder how on earth they managed to do it. They kept the wolf from the door. They raised children. They acquired houses and automobiles and electric refrigerators and kept them more or less in repair. They held down jobs and got their taxes paid. Generally speaking they seemed to be in charge of their lives and independent and resourceful and able to cope with reality in ways that I couldn’t believe I’d ever be capable of myself even if I had a hundred years to work at it.

– Frederick Buechner, from “The Emerald City: A Commencement Address” in The Clown in the Belfry: Writings on Faith and Fiction.

So I Wonder

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“Even modern replacements for priests, rabbis, and Zen masters – the positive psychologists – have something to say on this point. That new breed of shrinks has discovered that happy people spend a lot of time being grateful for what they have and savouring their experience. They don’t rush through ‘now’ to get to later. They don’t make taking care of themselves or taking care of their families something they have to get over with so they can get to the good stuff.

So while I’m humping my three heavy black bags down the hallway to the building’s trash bins, while I’m getting all the undone chores out of the way, what I can’t help thinking is that all this wasting somehow contradicts the very possibility of savouring my short life. Is it not implicit in wasting for the sake of convenience that what I’m doing right now, in this moment, has no value – that the life that produces such waste is itself being wasted?

So I wonder. Just a thought. But if I treated the resources that pass through my hands as though they were precious, might I also begin to feel that this very life – the one right under my feet right now and right this very moment – might be precious too?”

– Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, p.47