Lessons From the Dying

Hospice worker Kathleen Taylor shares insights from the dying that remind us how to live now. “People at the end of their lives are incapable of bullshit” – “at the end, people become these pure, distilled, crystallized, authentic versions of who they are” – “people talk about things they’ve never talked about before – they will reconsider things they’ve been certain about their entire lives – they do brave stuff like change their mind, and apologize, and forgive, they express love where it needs to be expressed, they find joy in the smallest moments” – “other things fall away at the end:  being right, being guilty, being busy, being self-conscious, being important…” The number one regret of the dying? “I wish I had had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not to what others expected of me”. “Dying people teach us that it’s never too late to shed what is false, and to become who we truly are”. “Take a hint from how people live their last days. If you really want to live every day like it’s your last, then do some introspection, discover and express your amazing uniqueness in the world, stop bullshitting, make your life story about how you truly are, because I believe the world needs you  

To Find Forgiveness in Everything

It’s easy to love through a cold spring when the poles of the willows turn green pollen falls like a yellow curtain and the scent of Paper Whites clots the air but to love for a lifetime takes talent you have to mix yourself with the strange beauty of someone else wake each morning for 72,000 mornings in a row so breathed and bound and tangled that you can hardly sort out your arms and legs you have to find forgiveness in everything even ink stains and broken cups you have to be willing to move through life together the way the long grasses move in a field when you careen blindly toward the other side there’s never going to be anything straight or predictable about your path except the flattening and the springing back you just go on walking for years hand in hand waist deep in the weeds bent slightly forward like two question marks and all the while it burns my dear it burns beautifully above you and goes on burning like a relentless sun – Mary  

Communication Wants to be Free

From TED’ster David Pogue at today’s New York Times, on Google’s new Gmail Voice Calling service. There will come a day, probably within two generations, when most global-interpersonal communication may be included as part of a common virtual access fee, like a water bill.  Effectively, free. What Voice Calls from Gmail does is open up another variation, one that strikes even closer to the “free calls from a phone, to a phone” ideal. Now it’s free calls “from a computer, to a phone.” At the moment, you can’t use this new feature until you download and install a special plug-in for Mac or Windows. But you can’t help wondering: What if Google released an app like that for Android phones, or the iPhone? Well, I’ll tell you what. At that point, you could, for the first time in history, make unlimited free phone-to-phone calls. We’re tantalizingly  

Six Simple Ideas

A nice little pitch-placed montage of pop scientists singing the praises of objectivity. I resonate with this thread. Science is a kind of poetry of shared reality. As Dawkins chirps, “science replaces private prejudices with publicly verifiable evidence.” World religion is fragmented into hundreds, perhaps thousands, of competing frameworks, with no central mediating idea. And while science can boast of central unifying tenets, it cannot address the depths of the human heart, the human spirit, the reality of hope (see Havel quote prior post). Maybe someday it will, but for now most of us embrace metaphysical metaphor to help make sense of mystery, death, and self. It is here: where objectivity meets mystery — where science meets spirituality — that our most important conversations are taking place. The world of religion can learn much from the scientific method, yet religion persists in trying to jam its clumsy superstitions into elegant, well-establish meta-patterns. Conversely, science, in its assumption that it can eventually objectify all reality, misses the fact that it hasn’t. Science would be well-served by integrating an engaged, conversational respect for the views of transcendence that currently fuel many of the planet’s greatest hopes and dreams. I’ve encountered a number of scientists who, while remaining atheistic or agnostic, have developed a healthy posture towards spirituality. Fact is, most scientists do maintain a sense of spirituality and/or faith. It’s a serious problem that the 5% militant extremes (on both sides) are often seen as the norm. As I mentioned here some years ago, physicist, astronomer, and atheist Marcelo Gleiser (Dartmouth) weighed in on the war between science and religion. He warns fellow scientists that they are becoming “as radical as the religious extremists, as inflexible and intolerant as the movements we seek to exterminate by our oh-so-crystal-clear-and-irresistibly-compelling rationalizations.” Gleiser admits that science cannot offer the humanly essential qualities of hope, peace, charity, and spirit. He concludes, “It is futile and naive to simply dismiss the need people have for spirituality… either science will teach us humility and respect for life or we will exterminate this most precious cosmic jewel. I am optimistic that scientists will teach people these lessons, instead of simply trying to rob them of their faith and offering nothing in return.” My public journal (aka blog) exists, in part, because of my desire to see greater consilience between science/technology and faith/spirituality. Numerous science/spirit resources can be found in the sidebar. What’s needed in today’s rapidly connecting global culture, especially religious culture, is a way towards understanding the nature of unhealthy bias – how it clouds our thinking. Philosopher/scientist Massimo Pigliucci (NYU) offers six simple ideas that can help us overcome this “meta-bias” — our “not wanting to be wrong.” – Divorce your belief from your self – Think of disagreements as collaborative, not adversarial – Visualize being wrong – Take the long view – Congratulate yourself on being objective, not on being right – If you can’t overcome your competitive instinct, re-direct it Until we “become fine with being wrong” we will continue to harbor survival techniques which force us to hold on to irrational meta-biases. I journal this more as a reminder to myself than anyone  

Generative Rhythms

Here’s a brilliant three-minute video of Bobby McFerrin leading an audience experiment. Something profound occurs at the 45 second mark, and again around 2:00. We are ALL pre-wired with certain shared resonant qualities. Innate musical cognition is one of those qualities. While the universe may seem random at times, it is not.  Nothing on earth or beyond happens outside of a perfectly structured set of organic, natural rules. We all operate within those rules. Whether it be the pentatonic primacy of music to the soul, the centrality of love to the spirit, or the human tendency towards selfishness, pride, and narcissism ” certain universal truths are wired into our collective sentience.” If we are here for a reason, then finding, living, and growing within these generative shared rhythms, while learning to eschew naturally degenerative rhythms, seems like our shared mission. But by fear or thoughtlessness we often stop sharing. We dig ourself into a hole that differentiates ourselves from others (us and them, my tribe / your tribe, my religion, etc.). If we individually lived more in this place of shared mindfulness, those we call “enemies” might start to look strangely like family. “No matter where I’m at, every audience gets this” — Bobby McFerrin World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on  

Facebook Hunter-Gatherers

Br. Paulus Terwitte, Franciscan monk and Gestalt therapist takes the stage at TED UK today (at first glance at the picture, I thought it was Steve Jobs). He reminds us that virtual technologies can never replace F2F human engagement, and that Facebook is a form of primitive hunter-gatherer behavior. In some respects, I think he’s spot on. As always, it depends on our intentionality in virtual engagement. I have a great number of thoughts, both inspired and critical, of Br Teriwtte’s TED Talk summary. But I’m out the door today to produce an orchestral recording for NPR in the Napa Valley.  So.. another time. Looking forward to viewing Br. Terwitte’s TEDTalk when it is released on video, and kudos to Chris and Bruno for inviting the meditative theologian to the TED stage. From the TED blog: …………………. Brother Paulus Terwitte takes the stage and immediately confronts the two questions he says everyone always asks. The first is, “Are you a real monk?” When he asked that, his usual reply is “Are you real?” The second is: “What do you do?” His answer to that one is, “Nothing.” He says that he does nothing because he wants to find the answer to the most important question in life, one that you can read on the first page of the Bible. We still don’t know what this question is, so he tells us that there’s a little machine used all over the world to remind us of this question — it’s the cell phone that everybody calls to say “Where are you?” And that was what God asked, “Adam, where are you?” Brother Terwitte asks, “Where are you with your thoughts and your feelings? Are you at home or all over the world?” He says that he was talking to someone the other day, when their phone rang, and the person took his mobile and walked away. It happens all the time, he notes. The phone rings, in the middle of dinner, in the middle of sharing ideas and people go away like the President is calling. Brother Terwitte says he eventually left the area after five minutes of waiting on this person, thinking he must not be so important. He says that he spends three hours of an organized, scheduled doing nothing every day at his monastery. He explains that they want to find the inner voice of their being, and that every man wants to find the inner sense of things. We all want to get the whole world in our hands, he says, and you have to decide how you (read  

Transcendent Trane

My friend Scott sent me this great video of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps with typewriter-like musical notation. For whatever reason, the notes appearing on-screen remind me of emerging theological conversations – a complex string of notes (ideas) put together to make music, to be enojyed as beauty and truth in the moment. Ultimately, music isn’t meant to be captured and studied like a lab animal. Nor, I would offer, is spirit. Both should be practiced and enojyed in the flow of the eternal present. And while certain elements of music, like theology, can be parsed and catalogued, the truly life-changing experience given by both music and spirit transcends rational understanding and touches a common place in us all – the shared  

Hacking at the Branches of Evil

Sometimes a small saying says more than an entire book … “Let the beauty we love be what we do”–Rumi “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” –Henry David Thoreau ”It is an irony that millions of dollars are being spent to combat obesity in one half of the globe, while the other is dying of hunger.” –Evo Morales “Silence is the home of the word.” –Henri Nouwen “Eventually, everything connects.” -Charles Eames “Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.” –John Muir “One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” –Henry Miller It is told that an architect offered to build for Plato a house in which every room would be hidden from the public eye. “I will give you twice the money,” Plato said, “if you build me a house into every room of which all men’s eyes can see.” -William Barclay “You must be prepared to act upon your dreams, in case they do come true.” –Bill Strickland, TED Talk 209 “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson “Western science is a major response to minor needs” –Matthieu Ricard, TED talk 191 “Never let your schooling interfere with your education.” –Mark Twain “Giving up mission can become the most effective space for mission to take place.” –Peter Rollins “Theology. Because love isn’t enough.” –anon “A witty saying proves nothing.”  

Songs of the Soul

On a dark night, Inflamed by love-longing— O exquisite risk!— Undetected I slipped away. My house, at last, grown still. Secure in the darkness, I climbed the secret ladder in disguise— O exquisite risk!— Concealed by the darkness. My house, at last, grown still.   That sweet night: a secret. Nobody saw me; I did not see a thing. No other light, no other guide Than the one burning in my heart.   This light led the way More clearly than the risen sun To where he was waiting for me —The one I knew so intimately— In a place where no one could find us.   O night, that guided me! O night, sweeter than sunrise! O night, that joined lover with Beloved! Lover transformed in Beloved!   Upon my blossoming breast, Which I cultivated just for him, He drifted into sleep, And while I caressed him, A cedar breeze touched the air.   Wind blew down from the tower, Parting the locks of his hair. With his gentle hand He wounded my neck And all my senses were suspended.   I lost myself. Forgot myself. I lay my face against the Beloved’s face. Everything fell away and I left myself behind, Abandoning my cares Among the lilies, forgotten.   From Dark Night of the Soul (16c) – St. John of the Cross Translation Mirabai Starr