Archive for the ‘clarity’ Category

This morning I sat with my latte, and my shredded wheat, clover honey and almond milk and discussed plans with my black-coffee-sipping wonder-wife.

We do that, musify in the morning, about what’s ahead. We are good at the back-and-forthification — which is fun — but reality keeps getting tossed into the mix, and it doesn’t always cooperate — thus there is precarity, amidst the plenty.

We get up, the sun comes up, our plans go up, the stock market goes up, our moods go up after drinking dark, rich forms of caffeine, and then the turn. Life-stuff eventually leaks, and floats back to the floor like helium balloons the day after the party — precarity.

Thus and so, we are precarious — all of us — even the wise choosers and the impressively prescient. As the scripture says, we live move and have our being within the precariat.

Did you think it said something else?

Hatreds, hopes, happenstances; genetics, genies, jerks; accidents, illnesses, taxes — all these and more, the various and sundry vagaries and variances of any given era — these insure membership in the precariat.

Oh, life!

And yet, and yet, ah — the persistent goodness. I am struck always by the astonishing plenty and loveliness of life amidst the persistent shocking, pandemic poverties. The ghastly demons shirk at the edges of exuberant gardens full of white roses.

Last week we put up an beautiful, rod iron, arched trellis at the church. And below it, we planted a passion vine. Thus there is hope, for vine, passion, flowers, butterflies, tendrils, the reach upward, the stunning beauty, the inspired community.

I am shock-smitten but such improvements, everyday, the preciosities of nature, love, babies, brains, branches of community, of friends, finials, finitude, of God.

Thank you God that the precosities keep gobbling up the precarities.

Fun is dribs, then some drabs, a call for dibs, a plea for dabs.

The quest for pleasure, the science of pleasure, it’s literature, it’s armamentarium, it’s practice has always been a dab elusive.  The hunt, peck and grab for fun, laughs, parties, happiness, good times — it’s tough hiking.

What do we do, we epicures, we gourmands, we hopeful debauchees?

I have just a few thoughts.

We can let  life’s pleasures come us as they will. 

Why thus and so this way? 

The opposite doesn’t work well. Coerced pleasures, forced joys, over-arranged fun has an artifical, trying-to-hard, unsatisfying flavor to it. Forced eating, forced laughs, forced sex — it’s yuck. 

Mandate pleasure and remain dissatisfied. 

But in contrast, as we relax, choose well, live at peace with our neighbors it seems that pleasure, using the element of surprise, peaks shyly at us from within the mystical realm of the divine ordinary. 

This morning, sitting in the car with my daughter in a parking lot, I was struck by the beauty of the small, pink flowers of a hedge blowing in the rainy wind as I prayed for her to be guided and safe. The beauty in front of me, moving in the storm, was not scripted nor orchestrated by me, not even expected. It was small, momentary, ephemeral — it was peace giving. 

I think of ataraxia, Epicurus’s state of lucid and robust tranquilty. That kind of pleasure, found in peace, seems to me to come from a conscious acceptance of the now, a making friends with reality, a seeing what is, not a forcing of what we want.

Want pleasure? Accept it as it shows up, bobbing in the wind in front of  you.

The other thought I have, meager as it is, perhaps helpful to us, is to be watchful, aware, tuned in, even purposely aligned toward the good and the pleasurable. It may come to us, and we may miss it, if we are not watchful for it. 

There are many whiners in life, in fact they are the majority. They are always looking at what they don’t like. And there is always something not to like, some pain, some health issue, some relational hurt, some slight, some jeaousy, some hate, someone to stumble on and take up arms against. But whiners are unhappy as they focus on the unhappy and so they miss the simple pleasures right in front of them. 

But in contrast, how refreshing it is to be in the presence of those who look for the good, and put their minds on the lovely, humorous, fetching nature of reality. 

In pain they laugh, hurt they help, sick they smile, irritated they keep their mouth shut, hopeful they pray. There is a kind of courageous gorgeousness to those who enjoy and celebrate the good, the pleasurable, the beautiful in a world of evil, pain and ugliness. They focus on the delectable-good. 

Pleasure is intrinsic to life. The enjoyable is everywhere. It is the gift of God. But it is found by those who look for it. Pleasure arises out of our own purposeful awareness of the good gifts of God. Pleasure is something we should keep an eye out for —  not force or mandate. It is something that happens as we watch. It comes to us now and again naturally as we wait expectantly — as the watchmen wait for the morning. 

Today, as it rains, and I write at home alone, my cat has snuggled up to me, keeping warm, seeking companionship, being close. 

It is a small thing, a micro-pleasure, a natural movement. It is a dab. I put the back of my hand on her silky, soft fur. This reassures me all is well. 

 


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.

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.

Normal is a miracle!

You know that when you don’t have it.

Today I talked to my brother on the phone. He has multiple-myeloma, a form of cancer. He is taking twenty medications — or so. That’s not normal.

His doctor asked him if one of his pain medication was working.

“How would I know?” he mused. He has three medications that he takes for his pain.

Today I talked to a friend who is in the hospital for three weeks, waiting for her baby to be born. Her water broke a few weeks ago. At thirty-four weeks, next week, they’ll induce her.

She’s waiting, for normal, for home, for nights not in the hospital, for food you get out of the refrigerator and make yourself. She is waiting to take her baby home. That’s normal, and good, for her and her husband.

This week I came down with a killer flu-cold! Brutal! Knocked me out for two days. I’m just blinking now, at the sunlight, “What the heck just happened to me?” thinking about just getting back to ordinary, beautiful, everyday normal — breathing!

We overrate the big deal, the miracle, the win, the triumph, the conquest, the lottery, the promotion, domination, the big kahuna.

For most men, just keeping their zippers up is a win. For most women just liking themselves for a day is a win.

Ordinary morals, ordinary self-love, the ordinary paying of the bills, an ordinary dinner that you make after work, an ordinary breath, an ordinary day where you can leave your house, an ordinary day when you are not locked up in a hospital room, an ordinary day where you aren’t on twenty medications — ordinary is extraordinary!

“The smaller the mind the greater the conceit.”
Aesop

Small has taken a traditional beating on the great world stage. Diminutive people are mocked, small-mindedness is scorned, ants and bacteria shunned. Small creatures are overlooked, small features ridiculed, small amounts and small accounts ill-regarded.

But small can be very good! Think poppy seeds. Consider rain drops. The truth is also fine in small doses, especially the truth about myself.

Small thoughts are powerful; we all love a proverb. I particularly like the miniaturization of meaning. I adore phonemes.

A phoneme is the smallest contrastive, meaning-laden linguistic scrap that carries us through each day. /oʊ/ as in the great “No!” is one of the most powerful phonemes; greater yet is /e/.

Consider the phonemes /s/ and /l/: they alone carry the significant difference between the the words “kill” and “kiss.” I am particularly fond of that difference.

One of the world’s most common phonemes is /i:/. /i:/ is so fun!

“Look at me,” shouts super /iː/ “Whoopee! I’m beep, receipt, feat and belief; I’m ‘Oh, baby!’, superb ‘Very!’, I am the sound of happy /iː/!”

/ i:/ is such a showoff!

I urge you, my great friends, think small, observe minuscule differences, think at the microscopic, subatomic, super-phonemic level. You’ll be entertained — more.

For more of my thoughts on the fun and wonder found in phonemes, visit my modern proverbs blog at http://www.modernproverbs.net where I have written a set of proverbs about phonemes.

Blue fescue is gorgeous! It sports tuffs of fine bluish-green leaves that color team beautifully with mounds of gold, orange, and maroon daisies. Together, fescue and daisies make a superb floral blanket. I like blue fescue so much I planted it in my back yard.

How did I know about it?  I saw it growing someplace; I got some of my own.

Yesterday I tripped on a door frame. Conclusions come to mind: The person who refuses to use their eyes will fall down in broad daylight.

I’m thinking these days that looking around pays off, particularly when gardening, and walking — or driving.

Two of my friends were recently in car accidents. In both cases, the other driver wasn’t paying attention, slammed into them, hard. I’ve been looking more carefully as I pass into intersections — self-preservation.

My doctor told me this week to quit drinking coffee. Yikes! He observed that it might be affecting me in an unhealthy way. Interesting, because I have often observed coffee affecting me in really good ways. It has often made my brain function. But I hadn’t observed a negative side effect. He did. I quit. The other part of my body is better. I am now, however, having trouble concentrating.

Accurate observations and the conclusions that flow from them can make life better. I just came back from the gym. Why? It is my observation that I look and feel better when I am regularly working out.

I know some very spiritual people who live with a lot of  “I feel like God wants me to …” and “I think the Lord is saying,” and “I’m just trusting God to do whatever he wants.”

I say things like this too sometimes. These are good people; they have a lot of faith, but there is sometimes a problem with the eyes-only-on-God approach. With only that, you can trip over a door frame.

Looking at one thing we miss another. We may miss the blue fescue. Looking one way we are hit from another. We may be broadsided in an intersection by a car that ran the light. Looking at one benefit, we may miss the harm in the benefit. Coffee may have some unhealthy side effects for some people.

Here is the deal. Christians should keep their eyes open. There is nothing spiritual about being inattentive to reality. I was talking to a Christian recently who seemed to have a deep mistrust in science. He kept pointing out how science might not have it right in regard to the age of the universe, the origins of man or genetics influence on certain human behaviors.  Interestingly, he isn’t a scientist, but he is skeptical.

That seems pretty par for the course with the Christians these days. I can’t remember last time I heard a sermon encouraging Christians to learn from science, to study science, to use the scientific method, to be better observers, to base their decisions on evidence, to test all their theories against reality, to “test everything,” although that phrase is straight from scripture and almost all true believers head to the doctor’s office for a scientific analysis of their bodies as soon as they get sick. There we all want them to “test everything.”

I love the proverbs, the wisdom of them, the observational truths they hold out to us, their science. “Go to the ant … and be wise!” In other words, base your life on what you can see around you, on evidence, on observation, on good science.

Jesus himself was very scientifically minded. He kept observing and pointing to reality. Consider the birds. Consider the lilies of the field. Consider the sower. Consider the sin. Which of you is without it?

” Look,” Jesus was always saying, behold this, see that, think about this, conclude from that. Look at clouds, rain, sun, seed, soil, rock, field, farmer — and grow wise. Observation? It’s smart; it’s helpful; it can be trusted; it’s holy.

Lately, I observed that I need more sleep. It comes from not drinking coffee. I’m getting healthier, by observation, and action.

Lately, I observed that God often doesn’t interfere and stop people from harming each other. They harm. They run red lights. Nothing stops them. They crash other people. I’m sad, and more vigilant.

Today, I observed the rain falling here in Southern California, after months of dryness, and am reminded that God rains down refreshment on all of us. He is good, even when we aren’t. I see this. It is right in front of me. My blue fescue is being watered.

It’s an observation, and it’s good.

It’s science.

It’s more than that.

Staying in touch with reality, it’s holy living.

“Aha!”

“What?”

“I get it.”

It’s a moment of clarity. I was boxed in, two SUV’s in front of me on the two lane road, side-by-side and going slow, oblivious or perhaps intentionally blocking me.

I knew what was  up. Sometime when I leave my office in the evening, they make the call, “He’s on the road, headed east on E Street; Get him!” Then out of their homes they stroll, and into their cars they ooze,  the slow people, the hired-guns who won’t gun it, the  decelerated personalities, their brains adagio, men moderato, ladies lento, sent out on the mission, to drive  in front of me and impeded my progress toward home.

It doesn’t work. There is something about slow that speeds me up inside, like the slow line to get my blood tested at the medical clinic the day before the SUV’s blocked me on the highway. Twenty-five minutes in line, just to check in, and then the question, “Did you fast?” from the nice lady behind the counter. “Yes,”  I wanted to say, “I fasted, and I wait-ed!” But I didn’t because I thought that if I got smart with her, she would give me a high number, punishing my insolence, making me wait even longer.  Slow and no go, and it adds up to cummulative-slow. Life piles on slow, the mounting slow of  medical lines, grocery store lines, rush-hour traffic, the agonizingly slow drip of the coffee pot in the morning, dripping at the pace of an IV, as I wait to pour the liquid life into my cup  — pure torture!

Finally, on the commute home from work the other night, one of the SUV’s pulled ahead of the other and I was on his tail until I saw it gap open, the space between the cars, and I made the cut from behind one to in front of the other and there, finally, ahead of me, “finally!” — daylight and the open road. My foot pushed ahead, the car surged and my blood pressure dropped, “I think that now I am going to get home.” And then it came on me, the twinge of guilt and the shame. To think that I thought, “They intend to hold me up,” to be so risky-impatient, to upset myself, by my own skewed interpretation of such neutral, everyday events —  and for a brief humiliated moment, I wished I wasn’t so fast with slow. But I was and I am.

It has occurred to me, in moments of recent clarity, on the road, that the universe is slow, think evolution or human maturity or the coming of dawn when we can’t sleep — slow, slow, slow. I think of the speed of light, fast, but then again slow, so terribly slowed by the vast distances of space, so that light takes years, light-years to get places. Last year, when I drove out to see the Perseids, I binoculared NGC 224 — beautiful, at 2.5 million light years away, our companion, the galaxy nearest to earth. Let’s be clear on this. If I was to head out today toward the Andromeda Galaxy at the speed of light, fast, and travel toward the great star spiral at 286,000 miles per second, I would arrive in 2.5 million years. Far has made the great star house we live in slow.

And so, it is not paranoid of me after all, to think that life is a plot, a slow-moving plot, and that I would perhaps do better to slow with it, to pause over the coffee pot, to luxuriate on the road, to dawdle with the gas pedal, to loiter in space, to ride the languid current of time at its own pace — laggardly. God is slow and has created slow. Who am I attempt fast?

And so this is what it means to live, to be the scientist, the teacher, the discoverer, the rhetor. It is to have moments of clarity — the major premise, the minor premise, the conclusion; the conjecture, the train of events, the conclusion.  “People are slow. I am a person. Thus, I am slow.” And also, “Yesterday was slow. Today is slow. Tomorrow will also be — slooooow.”

I want these deliciously hot and spicy, chai-tea-latte moments of insight, these psychosocial, deductive-inductive epiphanies. I think of Einstein, how he labored to discover  a “Unified Field Theory.”  He was interested in the four major forces: strong interaction, electromagnetic interaction, weak interaction and gravitational interaction and the fields that mediate them.  His unified theory, if discovered, would  bring  the force-mediating fields together into a single framework. He failed.  So have others since then in making this same attempt.  

In physics, there has also been a related  pursuit for what has been dubbed, “The Theory of Everything,” a supposed theory that  explains and links together all known physical phenomena, predicting the outcome of any experiment that could be carried out in principle. Not found.

It is frustrating; we want to know, the spring, the mechanism, the cog, the wheel, the everything; we spend a life on elusive epiphanies and exit in darkness. I salute! The attempt! I love the quest. “Einstein, you are not alone!” in the work, in the failure. Many of us long to know, with you, but we don’t, get there. We can’t — blocked by big, slow SUV’s along the way. We want to measure life, seize on its explanation, the famous answer, the essential theory in our discipline, the next generation’s popular paradigm, the eloquent model that becomes the standard, perhaps not everything, but at least something.

And we do, somewhat, have moments of clarity. The other day, I realized that when I was young I learned to speak up; now that I’m old, I’m learning to shut up. Slow — talk — works — best — sometimes. Last week, someone failed to do what I had asked of them, and I didn’t say anything, yet. There was a time when I couldn’t let such things pass, without a critical remark, stupidly right in the moment. Now I pick my remarks carefully, mostly, and I pick the times when I say things, mostly.

Such restraint is the wisdom of experience. But other insights have come to me uninvited, unannounced, a surprise. They are my unearned wisdoms, my unstudied knowings, my uninvited and subconscious awarenesses.

Unpaid insight? Amazing. There was cell division, so thrilling, “I can increase!” There was cell differentiation, “I’m powerful! What a hoot! My DNA knows.”  And there was birth, that amazing new awareness that there could be an unhooking, a detrailering of my body, a personal voyage into separateness. When I broke out of my mother, my soul  must have shouted,  “I’m free!” What a rush, to escape mother; I think that it can only be matched by death. Coming into the world, breathing, lying alone. The end will be the same, my last-minute, listening to the sound of my own labored breath, lying alone, detaching from family, flying out of my body, alone; I can hardly wait for this to-be-experienced epiphany!

There have been others, major, unsought — decentering, individuating, reattachement, each a new experience an insight.  Sexuality, “What at kick!”My body can feel, pleasure with another body, close, loved, accepted, received. “Who would have thought it?” and then at one stage, I thought it.

I want this too, socially, spiritually, psychologically, philosphically a unifying theory, and a theory of everything, and I now, finally, at this distant point of life, I have it.  I’ve discovered it. I know it, deductively, inductively, revelationally and in every other possible way of knowing.  “Aha!” I have come to a true moment of clarity.

“It is love.”My ultimate moment of clarity is that love glues the  force mediating fields together. Love is the unifying field, everytime it happens. Among the forces physics and of mind and body and spirit soul and object and idea, love mediates. Love links! Love hooks up the other with me. Love creates the time and space continum in which we meet, where spirit and soul connect, where idea and emotion merge. And when I do depart, love will bring me back again. I’ve reasoned this out; I know.

My wife and I sat on the couch last week and talked, about the girls, about her job, about this week’s calendar, chit-chat, small stuff, shared, between us two. It was easy talk, comfortable talk, much-assumed talk among two people who love each other. There are few greater small pleasures, than to talk, with someone you love, slowly. I love this slow.

My mom called me today because it’s my birthday. She reminded that she and my dad have been married 63  years and that my grandma and grandpa, on my dad’s side, were married for  71 years. It’s good martial DNA. She said, “We’ve been blessed.” Nice.  I’ve also been married a bit, trying to catch up, 31 years, to the same woman, who loves me, still and through it all. It’s slow, and long, and good.

I asked my wife recently when she thought that we had most experienced our love, some moment together, when we knew, the romantic now, the turn, the  click, the lock. I said to her, “Was it in Italy?” I was thinking that Italy must have been romantic for us, standing on the arching bridge over the canal in Venice, riding through Tuscany on the bus, the grape vines and castles along the winding road, among the hills. Surely this was the moment of clarity in our love.

She laughed and said, “No.”

I said, “Surely it was in Tuscany, in the back of the bus, remember that moment, when Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli were singing “The Prayer,” and we were just there.”

She laughed again and said, “That was when you were in love with Italy, not me!” We both laughed. She had it right. She was seated forward; I was in the back with Celine, my beloved journal and the gorgeous Italian landscape.

“It was duing the whole church devastation thing,” she said. “We went through it together. That’s when I really loved you.”

I agree. “Your gentleness with me,” I said, “that’s the thing that made me know you loved me I was so crazy, and you were so gentle, so gentle.” I love gentle. It’s a kind of good slow. 

I remember the day we went to La Jolla Shore for surf day with our daughter Rosalind. The La Jolla Surf club was there, helping people with disabilities surf. Roz surfed. The sun shone. The waves danced, and  I sat disabled on the beach. I was the most disabled person there. I have never felt so crazy, so whacked, so alone in my life. I twitched.

“I’m not sure why I was so crazy,” I told Linda the other day.

“It was because they beat the crap out of you in meetings,” she said. Right. They did, but she didn’t. She was there for me, she believed in me, in my dream, in my future, to be the thinker, the speaker, the writer, the pastor, the lover — of people.

Life can turn out so hard. Stuff happens, and when it does, and people don’t love you, it is just so crazy hard, being alone, having no support.  

A friend of mine told me today that she has a friend who has a friend who died of cancer a few years ago,  alone. “Wow, so sad,” I said. “What happened?”

“Well,” my friend said, “she got cancer, but she was pregnant and so she didn’t have full treatment so that she could protect her baby, and she died just a few days after the baby was born by C-section,  but I was told that some members of her family weren’t there for her at the end, and so I think that she knew in the end that she wasn’t really loved by them as she needed to be, and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to love her baby either, and so at the end she must have been just so alone. ”

Wow and wow! Too sad. What would it be like to die like that? 

It is interesting to me, a real moment of clarity, how love is most needed in pain and loss, and how it shows itself most clearly in the devastation, when in the, “I’ve got nothing left,” the broken on the floor, done in the sand, love rushes into the dark cracks and say, “Not! You’re not alone, and your’re not done. You’ve yet to live, and love and be loved by me.”

When I tell my wife Linda, “I love you,” I know now that the “I love you,”  is weighted, historical, slow. It is full of appreciation for her being there for me. It is full of knowing, who she is, what she wants, how she feels, what she needs; who I am, what I want, how I feel, what I need; who we are, what we want, how we feel and what we need — together. Our love is inductive, packed with patterned experience, logical in the conjecture, the evidence, the conclusion. It has come through the night, the coldest, darkest point when we huddled together against the world, and there it deepened.

I love my wife Linda in a way that I will never love anyone else, not even my two daughters. She was there before them; she gave us them; she was there in the broken hour, and she is here with me now when we are in the process of moving on. It’s all this, and I want her with me at the end, except I want her to move on before me, so she won’t be left alone inside, if I go before her. She is me, and I am her, but not completely, but the most anyone can ever be.

“Aha.”

“What?”

“I get it.”

The unified field theory, the theory of everything, comes clear to me now. It is love that heals, mends, lives on, deepens slowly — over 71 years or 31 or 2 — and lasts. “Love is the essence of the essence, the core of the core, the field within the field, the everything of the everything.

Love is what remains when everthing else is busted flat and gone, inside and out, and then love rushes slow and fast to our sides and says, “It’s going to be okay, because, I love you.”

Clarity.