Gentle Thoughts About Jealousy

She glanced over at the newly ensconced diamond on the pretty twenty-two year olds hand, and later that evening she took a moment to cry, in the lonely safety of her home. She wanted that.

He glanced down the street to the stoplight and his eyes stopped on the new red Ferrari. He ran his eyes over the curves, the lines, the tail pipes. Later that evening he looked up the price of that model online. He wanted that.

Weddings, cars, houses, jobs, resources, good hair — we want them. Health, safety, influence, love, good calves — we have all been jealous of someone who has more or better or superior goods or looks or personality.

Jealousy is interesting. It is the ugly-step mother everyone has. It is universally hated and universally practiced. Everybody feels some of it, very few if any admit it, because jealousy carries with it shame, self-reproach, and extreme social disapproval.

And yet jealousy is that one ugly family member, that one piece of clothing we just can’t bring ourselves to get rid of.

Why?

There is an intrinsic inner core to our jealousies that finds its existence within our deepest hopes and dreams. Jealousy is a flag waving over a soul in need of something.

Jealous of someone else’s engagement may arise out of desires to be loved, to be someone’s special one. This is so human, so normal, and the core desire in this is not wrong or nasty or evil. We need to be loved, we want to be loved and we should be loved. Jealousy of love tells us we too have this need.

Desire for a home is the same. Jealousy of someone’s nice house may often show that we have a dream within, of living in the shire, of having our own garden to putter in, of having a safe and beautiful castle for ourselves and our cats, a refuge-home from the wild, wild wood and world.

The fast, sleek beautiful car we might admire? There is a universal dream in many of us to launch, to fly, to fly fast and slick and sleek, to turn heads, to go past those slow, cheap, ugly utilitarian vehicles around us. The sports car represents the fulfillment of the dream of being beautiful and free.

All this, so human, so real, so common.

What to do?

Not cheat, fight, hurt, attack, criticize, condemn, hate. That is jealousy’s dark side. Jealousy’s principal temptation is to destroy what we can’t have.

We need to see this. We need to look unflinchingly at our jealousies, and recognize how they might ruin some of our best relationships. Jealousy can lead us to stupidly devalue our friends and turn them into our enemies. It can lead us to the ugly side of human sociality, to gossip, to undermining, to stonewalling, to attacking, to displacing and to destroying other human beings. Not good, not a place of health or quality or goodness.

There are other better options. We can look our jealousies in the eye and admit them. We can honestly admit to jealousy, and then decide not to turn its harmful ways on ourselves or others. We can take a moments to stop comparing ourselves to someone else, and to appreciate where we are, who we are and what we have.

And we can be gentle with our jealousies, and employ them, to understand our fragile, needy persons. Within our jealousies often lie the hopes and dreams of our souls.

These dreams need to be discovered to that we can begin to find realistic and legitimate and custom-made ways to fulfill them, to go out and get what our souls need.

The antidote to jealousy is found in the beautiful ensoulment provided by contentment, self-care and self-advocacy. The antidote to jealousy is found in the divine imperative to live within what God has allowed, given, graced, opened and provided. This is rich. Grace is always rich. There is and always will be enough for the soul aligned.

Are you jealous? So am I.

Then together, let us admit this, and with gentle love for others, and gentle self-care for our own souls, trust in what has been allowed, and with insight and understanding launch the warrior, lover, thinker and dreamer within to go out into the wide-wild world and wood to find the gorgeous safety, beauty and love we need.

I Love You, Emily!

This week I returned again to one of my old loves — literature, watching the BBC version’s of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, and Coriolanus on a university data base.

Obscure as the plays are they move me. I grieve over Coriolanus’s hubris, and recognize my own. In Cymbeline I am reminded that “Great griefs … med’cine the less.” So do great joys. What a silly play. What a silly life. All’s well.

I also spent a Day and night — with Emily Dickinson. I fell in love with her years ago when I was teaching literature to 11th graders. I inflicted her on them. It was revenge for how they treated me. This week I went back to her like a neglectful lover and found her still as charmingly odd as ever.

Why love a weird, reclusive, abstruse 19th Century American poetess? Because when you read her, as when you read Shakespeare, bumbling through some odd bits and pieces of fusty language, you get the top of your head nicely blown off by improvised verbal explosive devices. Love that feeling!

Here is one of my favorites:

Did life’s penurious length
Italicize its sweetness,
The men that daily live
Would stand so deep in joy
That it would clog the cogs
Of that revolving reason
Whose esoteric belt
Protects our sanity.

In Emily we get truth condensed, but there is more than that. In her we find the universal longing for life and love and affection and attention and affirmation which we all share — and the not getting it — and the attendant gorgeous genius that follows. What does one do with unrequited love?

One makes the world pay by reinventing the language, by blowing up the literary universe into splendid little pieces — then hiding.

In honor of her I wrote a small set of proverbials, included below, each one drawing something from her poems, a fragment of a line, a piece of a thought, a slight verbal posture. In doing so, I incorporate her into my self and am the better. I sooth myself the way she did.

Weird little sister, I adore you! If I had known you I would have taken your hand, walked through Amherst with you, and we would have talked and named the flowers, and I would have loved you.

…..

When good men are very few, then Revery will more than do.

The soul selects its own society — then ducks.

Success is sweetest in suppose, a loyal love, a longer nose.

Charge into the danger zone, a heated brain — zero at the bone.

Tell the truth — add a slant — make a beeline — end tangent.

It’s okay now and again to be seen without our Diadem.

Love is never dead if it be fed — and plainly said.

Measure sadness and surprise with anything but analytic eyes.

Madness makes a kind of sense; sense has a slightly unhinged bent.

We outgrow everything but love.

Some show off, some hide their powers — reclining shyly within flowers.

Emily will more than do if Eloquence be lost and bees be few.

More of my proverbials may be found at http://www.modernproverbs.net. Check out the recent Franklins, anti-proverbs based on the proverbs of Benjamin Franklin.

Easter 2015

There is a definite spacio-temporal aura about the thing — nothing overly metaphysic — the very early-quiet morning, the women moving together wordlessly, the absence of so very many perhaps-expected others — the misty Mediterranean-like light.

And yet there is also a definitive recherche quality to the scene, the women standing in a half-dark with spices, present-uncomprehendingly, struck bewildered before a very empty tomb.

And then there is the interiority of it all — hidden and yet nonetheless real — the barrier falling softly through the floor of their reality, the new door opening for them on an entirely different existence, life picking up its feet, a new lift in its step, the world’s sociopathic intellect brightening, shy justice moving towards the front of the room, demure beauty blushing and touching her dark hair — and old, stupid, splenetic, soporific death falling over backward.

And therein is the laugh, the guffaw, the fall-out-of-your chair hilarity — the butt-kicking, power-excising, humility-making new order of all things.

This — this word-worthy, surd-sonant, ineffable-voluble totality, to me — this is knock-you-over delicious! This is flutter your heart gorgeous. This is nonpareil evocative. This is incipient reviviscence. This is our God, re-initiating life on earth.

This is nothing less than the resurrection of God from the dead!

Take that!

Epistemology 101

Though all our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it all arises out of experience.”

Kant

According to Kant, there are two kinds of knowledge.

A priori knowledge — Things known by reason alone, independent of experience.

A posteriori knowledge — Things known by means of experience. This is what we call empirical knowledge.

In our modern world we are somewhat Kantian, often without even knowing it. We make much of experience. We also make much of reason. We tend to think of the mind as that which shapes our sensory experience.

Like Kant, many moderns see the mind as a filter, an organizer, and an enhancer of experience. In Kant’s day, this was revolutionary thinking. Kant turned epistemology inside-out by theorizing that objective reality depends on the mind instead of the other way round.

For me, I see reason and experience as merging, the a priori and the posteriori as enmeshed. I don’t think that they operate independently, ever. Reason shapes experience, experience shapes reason, what is true comes to us out of the entanglement of the two. There is no pure reason and no pure experience — we operate with an enmeshed epistemology.

Yesterday I spent the day rewriting my Cat, a Christian catechism for kids. As I wrote, in answer to the final question of the Cat, ‘How do we know all this is true?” I heard a knock on the office door. There was a man there, who often comes to the church for food, who wanted to volunteer.

He told me, “I want to work. I like to work. Do you have any work I can do?”

I did. It just so happened that the we needed to fill a hole, with dirt, an old driveway, taken out, in our new courtyard construction project, a small piece left over, untouched by the bobcat, needing some shovel and wheel barrow work. I got him started working and went back to my work.

I wrote in the Cat, “We know what is true by our experience, and by the experiences of others, and by our own thinking and judgments and by what we read in the Bible, that is, revelation.”

Kant believed that revelation was possible, but that for any given revelation we couldn’t be sure it is revelation.

I differ. So did Pascal. He saw revelation as a valid way of knowing. So do I, and it can be tested, with reason, and with experience.

In Psalms 104: 27-28 the author writes,

All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. …”

How does this writer know this? By experience, by reason and by revelation — as one process. He sees creatures with good things, he defines what a good thing is by his reason, he hears in his mind God telling him that He provides for his creation, and so he communicates his reason, experience and revelation to us in the Psalm. We compare that with our sense of revelation, our reason, our experience. We compare, and test and determine truth.

A man, at a door, on a day, exactly when help is needed. A scripture, telling me this is what God does. From this and in this all I see, experience, reason and revelation mixed to help me concluded, that God satisfies us “with good things.”

I sit in my office. A man appears at my door and asks to do a good thing for me. Is this coincidence? I remember that I recently asked God to help me with this very thing. I read in scripture that another man, the Psalmist, thinks God provides us with good things. I have myself been often provided with good things in life. The evidence of experience, my reason and what I have read that was revealed to another person — these three combine to cause me to determine, “I am being helped.” I conclude that this isn’t chance, luck or coincidence.

A man has work to do, good; another man needs meaningful work, good; a space is beautified, a barren patch of land is turned into a garden, good; a people trying to represent God to the world are helped, good; connection exists between heaven and earth, very good.

Reason and revelation combine in me to say that if there is a God, and he loves me, and if he created a beautiful world out of love for me, then it would follow that he would continue to love me and to help me bring more beauty and justice and goodness to that world.

Epistemologically, I live in one world, the world of reason and experience and revelation. I live in one house, all the rooms are connected, it is a single thing.

I am confident in how I know what I know.

God on Fire!

Last Thursday I went out to the Anza Borrego desert.

It was on fire with bright yellow California poppies, flaming red Ocotillo, with the magenta blooms of the beaver tail cactus.

The desert floor was silver cholla, blazing in the sun, golden poppy, burning up the rocks, roaring Ocotillo, rowdy red against bright blue sky.

The fire was from God, the gold was from God, the earth and all the rich, warm, glorious colors that pop out of it after it rains — and suns — from God.

Beauty is from God. Fire, which makes gold shine, which makes it pure — also from God.

In the book of Revelation, God speaks saying, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself …”

God is with us — as refining fire, as beautiful fire!

Do not be afraid. His fire is a warmth, a goodness, a beauty-making thing, a white-robed, holy making thing.

We are deserts. God is rain and sun, to help us bloom, to dress us in the beauty of magenta, of golden yellow, of flaming red.

Our God is a refinery, crafting and refining beautiful lives.

Run to him, give him everything, buy the refiner’s gold, grow rich — in beauty.

Wake Up Me Up To Purple Faces

I love to wake up.

Do you too?

I woke this morning to a dark room, the fan humming softly, the white moon setting in the west over the house, a bright butterscotch Saturn hanging over the earth, my soft, black cat waiting for me downstairs, the coffee warming the kitchen.

I woke up wanting something.

I want to see a purple face today.

I pray a simple prayer, “God I want everything you have for me in purple and orange.”

I remember catching a bluegill when I was young, it’s etched-on face looking up at me like a sunset, its purple chin looking up at me from my hand, its bright blue lines radiating past its dark eyes, its olive green body, its bright red-orange underside — gorgeous!

I loved him.

I want him.

I want to pull purple faces out of dark waters, I want to hold them, speak to them, love them, put them back, dive in, swim with them.

I want to wake up to purple faces today!

On Saturday my wife and I hiked the Guy Fleming trail at Torrey Pines State Park here in San Diego, high on the red and green cliffs hanging out in the soft Pacific breeze above the lovely glossy blue ocean.

The purple sand verbena, the orange California poppies, the olive green leaves of the lemonade berry bush — the face of the earth, my lovely bluegill, the face of my friend, the face of God, the face of everything I hope to wake up to.

Privacy

Privacy is now the fixation of modern society.

Why? It’s threatened.

I own the issue, we all should. My bank account was once hacked, my Apple ID has been hacked, and yet I still retain many of the intimate privacies of my own society.

What to do? It’s a balancing act. We want to be known: we don’t. So we allow information about ourselves to get out. I do: I pay for items at the store with my cards and my phone and so I trade a bit of my privacy for convenience.

I keep my personal feelings hidden at times, and so I trade being known for the privilege of personal privacy.

How do we best manage such a game? Carefully.

Here are some of my recent thoughts on this in axiomatic, proverbial and aphoristic form.

These mini-wisdoms balance the extremes, as we should. We all need society; we all need to be alone. Try these on for size.

Hone the edge of your alone; zone your own precious unknown.

Our passwords are fig leaves; they cover our modern modesties.

We fake our smiles and our profiles.

To be let alone takes the power of a throne.

The privilege of privacy savors its society.

Everyone is a privacy we judge by what we do not know.

Protect your soul; hack your mind.

A date is a hack; a marriage is an identity theft.

Convenience does business using the currency of privacy.

The difference between privacy and duplicity is intention.

What does society gain if it privatizes the whole world and loses its collective soul?

Notoriety sells its privacy to buy its own celebrity.

Our deepest privacies are filed under our deepest dishonesties.

Lately, I find myself particularly attracted to proverbial truth. Axioms, epigrams and proverbs get at things — profoundly yet simply. By such short wisdoms we can nicely juxtapose extremes. To find more of my proverbs on various topics you can visit http://www.modernproverbs.net