The Spanking Machine

It seems that Mike had lied to his teacher,  Sister Beatrice, which sounds like a real 1950’s nun’s name, doesn’t it?  As it turns out, Mike was going to have a tough year.  Later in the Spring he would come down with encephalitis, which caused him to completely lose both his bearings and his balance.  He really didn’t know where he was, up from down or one side from the other.  He was lost and senseless and overwhelmed, and he was sure it was because this was, indeed, another incarnation of the spanking machine that the Mother Superior had told him about, and which he had tried as mightily as a little boy can to avoid.

Earlier in the Fall he had failed to bring something back signed from home.  He had forgotten to give it to his mother entirely, becoming distracted with play after school, and then, as children sometimes do when caught between trouble at school and the trouble that can cause at home, Mike lied.

He didn’t say the dog ate it, that would be stupid.  He didn’t tell Sister Beatrice that his parents were fighting and that his dad had given mommy a black eye and that she had been periodically sobbing in her room all night after Dad had stomped out of the house into the dark to go drinking at the NCO Club.  His father had peeled out  of the driveway in the Chevy Bel Air, leaving a cloud of burning rubber and the echoes of the rumbling engine sounds reverberating through the mufflers.   He just hid under his blankets and he never showed them the permission slip.

So Mike told Sister Beatrice that he lost it on the way home, and was afraid he’d get into trouble.  It wasn’t entirely true, and somehow, Sister Beatrice always knew when little boys lied. So Sister Beatrice sent him, with a note, to the Mother Superior’s office to explain himself to her.

It seems that there was a rumor that the Mother Superior had a spanking machine in her office.  It was in a closet that no student had ever had the nerve to open and no student who had been subjected to it had ever disclosed the details of their experience.  It was just one of those things that all of the children knew and all of the nuns took advantage of for what it lent to peace and order in the school.

Mike got up from his desk as bravely as he knew how and turned toward the classroom door as Sister Beatrice passed him the note.  It was folded in half and he was instructed not to look, that it was for the Mother Superior and not for him.  He trudged onward and out of the doorway, turning down the hall towards the office.  Tears began to leak out of his eyes even as he bit his bottom lip, trying to contain them.  He began to quiver and shake.

Little Mike began remembering everything that he had been told about the spanking machine.  Apparently, the other kids had said it was like a big washing machine that the Mother Superior put the bad and disobedient children in for punishment.  It had big hands with paddles, switches, leather belts and sticks in it that randomly struck the child it was punishing.  But the worst thing of all was that once you had been put inside the spanking machine only God could stop it and it wasn’t just for the thing you had been sent to the office about that you would be punished:  it was for everything!

Walking towards the office, all of the inadequacies that had already been pointed out to him loomed like terrible sins for which he would be punished.  All the ways he had disappointed his recently violent father.  All the ways he had made his mother cry.  He was pretty sure that he would not live.

He stood before the glass door to the office and the nun who acted as the  receptionist saw him and waved him in to the office, taking the note and pointing toward a big, dark wooden bench.  He sat on it alone with his feet dangling in the air.


She picked up the telephone and he fainted with the weight of the fear that had been consuming him since last night.

When he awakened he was lying on the bench with a scratchy, grey wool blanket thrown over him and his mother was sitting beside him looking worried.  The Mother Superior said she wanted to speak to him for a moment.  She took him into the office, and let him know that he had given them all quite a scare, and she handed him a copy of the permission slip for his parents to sign.  He walked past a couple of closet doors before being led out of her office.  He wondered which one contained the spanking machine, but at least for  today, today would not be the day when he found out the secrets behind that closet door.




Bhagavad Gita: Fear not what is not real

“Fear not what is not real, never was and never will be.  What is real, always was and cannot be destroyed.”

The Bhagavad Gita

“In principle and in potential we are immersed in good for we are in the Mind of God. But we have freedom, or volition, to create in our own experience, out of the possibilities of life with which we have been endowed, the prerogative of heaven or hell. So we need to shake ourselves loose from the tyranny of fear and superstition and isolation and the emotional traditions.”

The Spiritual Universe and You

Ernest Holmes

Beginning anew is the key to waking up. If we keep trying to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, even we begin to suspect our mental state as a hellish one, while we may not yet grasp who is at cause in the matter. Of course, we are always at cause in our experience and this is a difficult thing to consider when we are going through a rough patch.

If we start anew, we can begin again to directly experience this environment of good that is our natural home. What if all that other stuff we experience is something we have made of the good opportunity that we are given? One of my early Religious Science teachers, Rev. Dr. Dominic Polifrone, used to tell us that “Everyone goes through hell from time to time, but that’s no reason why you should stop and build your house there!” Each of us lives in alternating states of present awareness broken up by intermittent periods of unconsciousness—not all of them deep sleep! The practice of affirmative prayer, and the supportive practices of contemplation, spiritual study, service and mindfulness in our everyday lives begin to lengthen the experience of present awareness, or consciousness, little by little until those around us actually have easier lives as a result of the spiritual transformation that occurs in us. I believe that we know we are doing well when folks around us begin to have improved lives.

Not long ago, I was talking to someone here locally, and the practice of humility came up. I believe a true, deep, and spiritual humility arises in us when we realize that we are truly made of Divine stuff and we begin to tell the truth of who we are, making no more, and no less, of the lives that we are given. The more we allow God to be God in and as us, the more amazing the things that we are able to do with our lives; the more the people around us reap the benefits of what we (You, God & I) have wrought with the opportunity of life itself.

And, of course, we all screw it up from time to time. We get grumpy, impatient, tired or find an infinite number of other ways that we can block our divinity its full expression. You can fill in the blank for yourself here; you know how it looks when you get off track. From time to time we need renewal and self-forgiveness. I urge you to take a few minutes to release all feelings of failure, frustration, denial, or any form of self-rejection and judgment you may have held against yourself. We cannot begin anew and hold any form of grudge against ourselves or another. Picture yourself releasing it as a small boat on the river of life. Allow it to sail away beyond the horizon, forgiven, released and then allow yourself the respite that only such forgiveness can grant. Let it go. Don’t waste time making yourself wrong.

Wake up. All is well!  What you are afraid of is not real.



Peace Principles

There was a hog farmer, Brown we will call him, who year after year won first prize at the county fair with his pigs. His neighbors competed each year, but always lost to Farmer Brown’s hogs. At last the lot of them threw up their hands and went to Brown.
“We give up,” they said. “We won’t compete against you anymore. But please just tell us what it is you do that causes your hogs to win every year.”
“Well,” he said, “okay. The first thing I do is get up every morning at four and get out to the barn early so I can wake ’em gentle. Then I mix up a batch of oats I’ve soured up for a few weeks until they’re just right and mix that in to a careful proportion to the other slops. After their breakfast I walk ’em out to the yard, hose ’em down and give each one a hand drying and a rubdown. While they are out for the day I hose down their place in the barn, put in new hay, and clean the area until it’s good enough I could sleep there. That evening I bring ’em in and give them a special corn mash mix I fix up by hand. I try to spend time with each hog, talking to it, brushing it down. Then I bed the whole bunch of them down and make sure each has a comfortable place. I usually stay awhile and sing them asleep.
“You do that every day?” the other farmers asked.
They said, “But isn’t that a huge amount of time?”
“Well, boys,” the farmer admitted. “It is.” Then he added, “But what’s time to a hog.”
Hampshire Hog

Someone sent me this story years ago.  I have no idea who wrote it, but I still appreciate the lesson.  Imagine, how often we judge ourselves harshly because the way we have been living our lives hasn’t produced the result we wished to produce, as quickly as we would have liked?

In one of the best spiritual books of the 20th century, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa, he wrote of spanning the gulf between the esoteric tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and the everyday joys, sorrows and questions of spirituality in everyday modern life. In this book, Trungpa focused on the presentation of the spiritual path from the perspective of the role of expectation and promise of reward.

Before I read that book, I was still trying to be a “good girl” and was trying to get living “right” so I would really be worthy of a better life than it seemed the one I was born into had been so far.  Let’s not talk about my being in my early thirties at the time!  Perhaps Buddha would smile on me and suddenly things would be so much better. It wasn’t working for me and I was deeply dissatisfied.

Trungpa wrote about how these expectations obscure our ability to be with life the way it really is, and isn’t.  So long as we have a story about how long it takes to do something, we can use that story to stop ourselves in two ways:  the first being that we block ourselves from experiencing the present moment, and the second, we impede ourselves from moving forward in our lives in the direction of our dreams because we create the idea of difficulty as a burden, as if life should always be easy and challenges have no value.  Where do we get the ideas that we should pit “easy” against “challenging” and one should be of higher value than the other?  What makes a lifetime project of less value than a quick fix?

What if we would simply choose today to live a spiritual life today, and tomorrow we choose again what kind of life we would live, today we don’t have to worry about it and we don’t have to worry about results or spiritual attainments?  Wouldn’t living such a simple life relieve us of the burden of opinion, measurement and self-inflicted suffering?

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism – Chogyam Trungpa
The now classic Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism is the record of two series of lectures given by Trungpa Rinpoche in 1970-71.


This I share for Dan. Our friend Melanie Bassett read this favorite poem at our wedding 24 years ago last New Year’s Eve.  We were, against all odds, still hopeful for a good married life after my three failed marriages and his divorce after eighteen years and four hardy, smart and challenging McMullen children. He was nearly 52 and I was 40. It’s hard to be hopeful when you’ve seen more failure in your relationships than anyone ever warned could happen. Those failures want to force cynicism into our hearts like cement hardening us, making it more than a little difficult to hang on to any part of our innocence.  But we tried: I put on my brave-flowered dress and Dan matched my call with his tuxedo, Father Charlie donned his robes, and we try and we continue to try, and we have succeeded.

Dan Garter

Our Wedding

Our Wedding at Father Charlie’s House in Pacific Grove, CA

The Cartographer's Wedding by Sam Hamill_1981


Nobody knows what love is anymore —

not the groom in his rental suit

flushed with desire, not the bride

blushing in her one-day dress and flowers

smouldering with the fires of expectation.

Nobody knows, and I least of all.


Still, we are here, against all reason,

the products of that ancient spoken

or unspoken vow.  To the east, across

nearly insurmountable summits caked

with snow, the Great Plains rise

and fall while we continue to remain

steady as November rain, having grown

accustomed to a cold that never freezes,

to a shade of deep, spectacular green

intact, season after season. And so we find

ourselves outside in fog, in hoarfrost,

in rain or snow, living as we do


at the edge of a continent or a dream,

living perhaps with our hearts

not in our hands, but on our lips,

although they are seldom spoken.

(Friendship hereabouts is assumed

like an old mackinaw or a blanket.)


But that time comes, and it will come,

when you try to recite the names

or find the odd, almost familiar faces

that move beyond the old events, like fog,

that made you what you are.  The years

that disappeared like falling stars

are lovely to remember.  And there will

be time aplenty for flowers on a grave.

No, nobody knows what love is.  Nobody

understands the past.  Saddled with

all the hopes that will outlast

a lifetime’s dedication, we,


groom, bride, friend and friend–

we step into the day amazed to find our-

selves among companions eager to weather

the winds of change that turn us

heavenward, poor fools together,

never to learn what love is, we


who map the country where it lives.

  Sam Hamill, Fatal Pleasure,1984

 Breitenbush Books, Portland

A View Into the Woods Renewing

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

The view out of my darkened office window on June 6, 2010.

Foxgloves in the Woods

Foxgloves in the Woods 2

These views might be unremarkable except for what happened here not so long ago…


This is what it looked like after they cut down the trees and ran over and turned their heavy equipment around on a fern covered forest floor immediately behind our house in January, 2009.


 For more about what happened, read my post:  Toad Lake Logging: Is 80% enough for them?  

I don’t see this kind of logging any differently than I see what is going on in the Gulf of Mexico at the hands of BP and its cronies. What my neighbor’s trustee did to the woods here was only different in scale. It is kind that they have not objected to our cleaning up the mess and encouraging some wildflowers and replanting uprooted ferns to grow where they left carnage, but the woodcutters have not returned to plant trees or to remove the piles of detritus.  It was pretty clear that they would not do that work, even though the state permit requires it. They took the wood and left the debris.  There is no enforcement of rules about cleaning up after the logging process.

With their heavy equipment and giant chain saws they destroyed the gentle slope of the meadow where cattle once grazed and girls rode horses.  The path where joggers ran around the west side of the lake is gone.  They have moved on to pillage elsewhere.

Blackberries have now grown over some of the massive heap of sticks and branches they left behind, and I can only see it from the second story deck, but eventually the brambles will engulf it in berries.  It’s just about to flower and there will be lots of blackberry jams and syrups made this summer.

Foxgloves in the Woods 3



The Spiritual Tourist’s Guide to Casual Spirituality

Buddha Maitreya

 There are a wide variety of ways in which we can be “spiritual tourists.”  I should tell you a little about how I came to this name for this state of spiritual inquiry.  Each of us here has done some traveling, my husband Dan and I have done a good bit by car because we really like the way you can get close to the landscape, open the windows, smell the smells & see the colors.  We like to get a place and stay for a while and find out what a place is like for the people who live there.When I began teaching classes online  years ago, one of my students was a very intelligent, creative woman from the South.  She had worked as a businesswoman and was very successful in her work.  She was able to do the written work of the course very clearly and to express herself somewhat exuberantly and amusingly with her classmates.

Abruptly, she dropped the class and when she did so she sent me a long email in which she admitted that the work was more than she had expected and that she had come to view herself as a “spiritual tourist.”  This distinction in the way she had described her state of spiritual participation came in a very authentic and honest communication and was the beginning of my thinking about this idea.

In any case, each of us can use this reference, this state of being a tourist as a metaphor for how we approach our spirituality.  For instance, there are those who fly above the earth in a jumbo jet. These are the folks who learn intellectually about the “high notes.”  They may know the names of some of the major religions and the geographic places where they originated, but the practices and basic ideas of those spiritual paths are obscured from their view, as if by the cloud of unknowing.

Then there are those who pilot their own small aircraft.  These fly closer to the ground and because they do, they get a much better view, but these are the folks who are still learning facts and the details, but they don’t really try out any of the specific practices or think about what it would mean to apply the ideas in their lives.  While they may have a more detailed view, there is still missing any practice of what one has learned.

There may be a bit of yearning to do so here, but these are still a people who are moving so fast through their lives that they still can’t seem to find the time to slow down, sit down, and go within, where what they have learned in their inquiries might begin to seep in.  The possibilities of going within have not yet been revealed, but there is a sense of intrigue, a sense that one day one not so far off, one will begin to engage on a deeper level.  The choice about when is still open.

Now this metaphor can get extended pretty far so that it includes parasailers, paragliders – you know who I mean, these are the folks who take some kind of motor driven vehicle or boat, and using it’s velocity, fly behind it.  This is a metaphor for those who begin following someone else’s inspiration because they have not yet learned how to generate their own.  These are likely to be the folks who you see on TV following a great evangelist or a guru.  Now I know that this can be an authentic path, and what we are talking about here are those who are looking for someone else to do the work for them.  They don’t yet know that there is a source of Truth inspiration within themselves that is bottomless and rises whenever they call upon it.

And there are those of us who really are driving our cars over the landscape of our spiritual lives.  We see things far off and we see some things close up.  Sometimes we drive right over to the experiences.  Sometimes we drive way too fast and all we see is a blur.  Sometimes we drive with a few people in the car with us and we all report to one another what we see as we go along.  This is pretty much what being in an open spiritual community is like.  We don’t have to do all the work ourselves, we trust that someone in our community will let us in on their experience, and as a result, we will learn from their experience as well as our own.  We serve one another in this form of spiritual tourism.

In all these descriptions there is a sense of aimlessness, a sense of wandering around without a purpose.  What would make the greatest difference in our experience of how our spiritual lives work?

Just about everyone whom I have known who lives a deep and purposeful spiritual life has certain qualities.  These are focus, commitment, a sense of oneself being worth the investment of time and effort, and the knowledge that they were not alone.  All of these are founded on the profound knowledge that all is LOVE and that God is the essence of love.  In New Thought we say that Love is also what we are.  That whatever God is, we are that too.  In How to Speak Religious Science, Dennis Merritt Jones writes:

“He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is Love.” Love is the self-givingness of spirit to its creation and is a cosmic force whose sweep is irresistible. Love is the highest vibration in the universe; nothing can withstand its embrace. The opposite of love is fear. In the light and vibration of love, the darkness of fear cannot exist. To know God’s presence is to experience unconditional love. To see the presence of God in others is to love them. Unconditional love is always the answer.”

This passage brings to mind what it would mean to be a tourist on foot, the kind of tourist that the Peace Pilgrim was.  Can we be that courageous?  Can we trust God for each and every part of our experience, for each bite of food that we eat, for the place where we sleep, for the nature of our work each day and for the bounty of our personal spiritual experience?  Could we let go of the trappings of our life as she did in answer to the call of Spirit?  Can we go on foot wherever spirit leads us?  Notice how extreme that might feel?  And yet, each of us has a yearning to go farther, to go deeper, to know God better and there is really only one place where we need go to do so, within ourselves.  So let’s do that today.

So let’s clear off our laps, adopt a good meditation posture now, close our eyes, and for a short bit of time, let us go within and contemplate what kind of spiritual tourism we wish to engage ourselves in at this time in our lives.

Picture yourself flying over the earth in a great jumbo jet.  Notice the great mountain ranges of Spirit, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism with their great contemplative and meditative practices.  Will you take a smaller aircraft and fly closer to the ground of being now?  Will you commit yourself to engaging in meditative practice, if for only ten minutes a day listening to the still small voice within?
Will you take that smaller aircraft and flying it over Zen Buddhism now, will you choose mindfulness practice, choosing to be aware moment-by-moment in your life?  Will you now choose to think more deeply before you speak, knowing that your words have creative power?  Will you reverse the path of negative thoughts when they arise, practicing more carefully the affirmation of the deepest desires of your heart so that more often in your day you radiate out the light of love?  Will you affirm now the practice of thinking consciously for the good of all humankind as often as you can, increasing the frequency of such thoughts as you grow in the demonstration of Love for all?
When Jesus said, “Know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” he was simply saying to the degree you know the real truth about yourself, you will then be free and able to direct your own life in wonderful, creative, meaningful ways, simply by understanding that your every thought is creative.

 The practice of Truth is personal to each, and in the long run no one can live our life for us.  To each is given what he needs and the gifts of heaven come to all alike.  How we shall use these gifts is what matters…”          Dr. Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind

The truth about you is this, “God in you, as you, is you.” God really is all that is. Know this truth and you are free to express your true Self!  Spiritual tourism is not something that we have to be worried about.  It is our self-exploration in action.  It is our self-knowingness and it is up to us how we go about it.

Comments from Open Salon

Hi. There is a lot here to contemplate. I’ll have to re read it
sevveral times. But what I know is that you speak the truth
and you speak from your heart.
It seems the hardest part of being a Spiritual tourist is taking
that first big step of opening up. Once one does that, it’s like
“what was the big deal?”
Thank you!
After reading your blog today, I am sure you are quite able to be open and available to spirit Dakini. Thanks for your kindness & recognition.
Bump to get by the mass postings of SPAM this morning.
Nice to see you. Enjoy the sand.
Susanne–I’d be curious as to your view on something. Whenever I talk to someone versed in one religious tradition—no matter which one—and I ask them about another–they often say thes same thing:
“I only have time to really know one language of relgion.”

Has that been true for you?

And 2nd—what I search for here in what you wrote—is community. I see the relationship between the individual and the higher power (for lack of a better term) but I don’t see it done in community.

To me—I need that community.

Is that here and I missed it? Or is it not here?

Thanks for reading this!


I don’t agree with those folks who say they only have time for finding only one religious/spiritual expression. I think we should continuously inquire throughout our lives Chicago. I do focus on the mystical tradition because it is virtually impossible to cover all religions with any depth. That should not be an excuse not to inquire. Part of the problem, I think, is that some folks look for there to be a ‘final answer.’ I don’t believe that we can know one while we live. We do the best that we can.

As far as I am concerned, participating in a spiritual community is the best reinforcement we can find, bit it takes a good bit of care to find a community where one fits. Sometimes it takes more than one to meet ones needs. In the case of this post, it is written for the individual, but in my experience, while spirituality is a personal, inside job, spiritual community provides a way to share ones experience, challenge, growth and gives us a self-correcting mechanism. Somebody will set you straight if you know and trust them to do so. But some communities are just ‘attaboy’ generating places for the egos of their leadership. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Intuition is valuable in spiritual experience. My first sermon was about Spiritual Community. I’d be happy to share it with you if you send me a message with your email so I can send it privately.

KNOWING MYSELF: Miss Penny of Long Ago and Far Away Maryland

Her name was Adele and she was a widow who had sharecropped in North Carolina tobacco.  She was so tiny that she made me feel tall, and at 5’3″ there are not many women whose heads I could tuck under my chin when I stood behind them.  I believe she was over 75 years old when I moved in next door, and she smoked like a Hoover on fire.  She had the kind of skin that only a Camel smoker can cultivate over many years.  My only defense to her smoking at the time was that I smoked my Marlboros along with her as we drank endless pots of coffee.  Everyone called her Miss Penny but nobody knew why or how, since neither her first or last name was Penny.

She was my next door neighbor in North Laurel, Maryland 1971-3.  I lived next to her when George Wallace was shot at the GIANT FOOD store where we went to shop for groceries together with our fists full of coupons.  I was collecting the brown and mustard floral ironstone ‘dish of the week’ that you could buy if you spent $10 on food.  Miss Penny would always buy Eggo waffles even though I told her I would make them for her homemade on my Sunbeam.  She thought them to be very modern, popping them into a little toaster oven in her closet-sized kitchen.

If you could picture the house below painted white it would look a lot like the house she lived in, it was made out of a steel shipping container.  I believe her husband had done the work just before he died.  She lived there alone, and since it was very tiny, maybe that was a good thing.  There was another shipping container in the back yard sitting at an angle that said it had been dropped off without any idea that it would sit there with weeds growing up around it for many, many years.  It was going to be a second part of the house, but then death intervened and the house stayed small and housed this sweet little widow for about three decades.

boxcar cottage

The front had an elevated tiny front porch and stairs that were built of cinder block and painted grey.  It was not so large as the one shown here, I think one fan back metal chair fit there and I painted it red.  There was an old galvanized bath tub out in the back too.  I painted it red, brought it around to the front yard and  filled it with dirt and planted it full of Anenomes, Muscari, Daffodils, Geraniums and Creeping Charley for a Mother’s Day present.


Miss Penny sewed for folks to augment her tiny Social Security check.  I think her daughter sometimes sent her some money.  I only saw her there visiting her mother once in three years.  It wasn’t that long a drive to where she lived in Virginia, I knew because I drove to National Airport two or three times a week in my little Volvo 122S.

1968_Volvo_122SMiss Penny taught me to refine my shopping mojo.  She was the queen of thrift shopping.  She knew all the stores and when the annual tag sales were held by churches and civic organizations.  She was my second hand shopping mentor.  I would take her to lunch after we plundered the sales and spent less than a couple of bucks to drag home dishes and pots and utensils that I didn’t have as a young bride who married far from my family in California.   I found vintage 1940’s clothes that fit my taste and she taught me to alter them.  Dresses like this:

 1940's Pink Sequin Bow Black DressPeplum Dress

Now it cost hundreds or more to get these.  I got them for something like $2.  Maybe I’d have to renew the sequins.  Miss Penny would show me how.

Now here’s the truth about what I was like at age 21.  I was a snob about getting to know anyone who wasn’t close to my age.   I was just beginning to get over a painful childhood and I hid out in the culture of my youth and I smoked a lot of pot and dropped quite a few psychedelic drugs.  I wasn’t sure yet what I wanted out of life or what I could actually have.

One day, I was in the kitchen washing the dishes listening to John Prine album we had just gotten.  It had a song on it that got right under my skin.  Here’s a video of him singing it recently:

Because of this song I got to be friends with Miss Penny.  I learned a lot about being helpful to others, about learning to have fun some other way than what I already knew how to do.  I learned that making do isn’t the worst thing that could happen.  I learned how to be something more than a stupid kid.

In Memory of Miss Penny

Integrity: What Constitutes a Good Life?

“People who lead a satisfying life, who are in tune with their past and with their future- in short, people whom we would call “happy” – are generally individuals who have lived their lives according to rules they themselves created.” 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Psychologist and Author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

The following isn’t the best written thing, it is certainly not gender-neutral, but on the subject of Integrity, it does makes it’s point.  I understand that this is from an NGO in Mahashastra District of India and was written sometime in the early 1970’s as far as I can find out.  In fact, there are a couple of things I will quote in this post that I have lost the source material for in a flood of my office a couple of years ago.  I’ve used these quotations in courses I taught for ministers and others doing spiritual leadership coursework.

Maliwada Human Development Training School


We are going to visit the arena of Profound Humanness called “Integrity”.  Sometimes “integrity” is reduced to mean a kind of moral uprightness and steadfastness, in the sense of saying, “He has too much integrity to ever take a bribe.”
 But profound integrity goes far beyond this. Sometimes, in order to distinguish it from more limited popular usage, it is called “secondary integrity”. This is the integrity which is not constrained by limited moralities, however well-intentioned. The integrity that is profound living is the singularity of thrust of a life committed and ordering every dimension of the self towards that commitment. Thus the self is in fact shaped by the self, and focused towards that commitment. You can say that an audacious creation of the self takes place in integrity, without which you are simply the creation of the various forces impacting you in your society.
 Thus the basis of integrity is a destinal resolve – a resolve that chooses and sets your destiny and out of which your whole life is ordered. The object of that resolve is the ultimate decision of each person, and each person makes that choice, consciously or unconsciously. To do so with awareness is the height of man’s responsibility. It is incarnate freedom. It is what real freedom looks like. When man has thus exercised his freedom he realizes that to be true to himself ever thereafter he has a unique position to look at the values of his society.  He is no longer bound by the opinions and codes of his fellow-man, but reevaluates then on the basis of their impact on his destinal resolve.
Thus the man of integrity is continuously engaged in a societal transvaluation, a moving across the values of society and reinterpreting them in line with his life’s thrust. It does not give him the liberty of ignoring his society, but his obligation transcends the conformity of living within the codes and mores of his society. Thus the man of profound integrity always seems to not quite fit with his fellow-men, but his actions always are appropriate for him, even to those who oppose him.
No matter how odd the man of profound integrity appears to his neighbors, he experiences himself as securely anchored. While he is very clear that this world is not his home, nevertheless he experiences himself as having found his native vale. He experiences an eternal at-one-ness, not so much with the currents and waves of activity around him, but with the deeper trends of history itself. Amid the flux of wavering to and fro that is so evident in others, he experiences an inexplicable rootedness, as though he has sunk a taproot deep into the foundations of the earth itself. Though he experiences his life as a long journey, even an endless journey, towards the object of his resolve, yet he never senses himself as a stranger on the journey It’s as if he’d been there before. Original integrity is experienced primarily by this sense of at-one-ness.
Kierkegaard once wrote a book about this kind of integrity that he titled,” Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing”. An ancient philosopher focused his wisdom around this integrity with the advice, “Know yourself, and to your own self, be true.”

The Maliwada Statement reminded me of something I had read by Charles Lindbergh (below) that addresses the same kind of awareness and motivation.  I think that when we live our lives as if something located outside of our own experience of living is going to direct us,  or we allow someone else final say over our decision process, we are looking in the wrong places for direction and inspiration.   No matter who we consult, who teaches us, who we listen to, our choices about how we will live our life have far reaching consequences that are precious.

And there is something more to choosing ones life direction than a merely intellectual process or just choosing just what we like, as if we were at the local ice cream shop.  Given the discipline and practice suggested in this reading, we can make choices based in values that are deeply rooted in life itself as it expresses in and through us, and while these are our individual choices, the connection to the whole of life is apparent to us in our heart of hearts.

integrityI know full well that one of the greatest gifts that I’ve been given is that of awareness.  I see things, I hear things, and I feel things that I’ve recognized that other people just don’t notice for some reason.  I truly appreciate this gift, for it gives me so much in life that’s already there, just waiting to be seen.  I can stand still for an hour in a field in the mountains, just seeing things and feeling the air and hearing the sounds.  I love to sit in one place in the city, just watching people go by, wondering what they’re thinking, wondering what that look on her face means, how their lives are going, why he seems so agitated.

Of course, there’s a prerequisite to awareness–we have to slow down.  We have to realize that life is going to go on whether or not we rush around in order to get everything possible done today, and that our own mental, emotional, and physical well being is at stake.  We have a beautiful world that surrounds us, that offers us unlimited opportunities for peace, serenity, learning, helping, getting, feeling, hoping, love–you name it, it’s there in abundant quantities, more than any one of us will never need.  But we have to see it, to acknowledge it’s there, to let it become a part of us by making ourselves a part of it.

Rainer Maria Rilke claimed that there are angels and spirits all around us, but over the course of the history of humankind we’ve pulled away from the things that we used to be able to see clearly; we’ve lost our connection with this planet upon which we live and everything here.  I believe he has a good point–we’re so wrapped up in our jobs and television and movies that we almost never consider what’s here that we can’t see.  And as much as I dislike what the people involved in television have done to our culture (it’s not the television’s fault), I appreciate the show the x-files, for that’s one of the few shows that actually approaches the possibility of there being more than we can see on this planet with intelligence and respect.

Awareness is seeing all around you with different eyes–appreciative eyes, wondering eyes.  It’s knowing what you want out of life (and yes, you have to ask yourself in order to find out) so that you can go after it.  It’s knowing that things change, and that what you want today may not be what you want tomorrow.  It’s looking into the eyes of a friend or another person and realizing that that’s another human being put on this planet with hopes and fears and dreams and desires and needs.

As Rilke says, “perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.  Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”  Awareness is the ability to see that the way we see things isn’t necessarily the way things are–for every setback or terrible incident, there may be hundreds of ways to see it.  We have to choose to be able to see many possibilities, many explanations.  If we get caught up in being right all the time, we’ll never have the blessing of being aware.Shut your eyes and you will know what I mean by thought entombed in darkness.  Light comes through the senses, and not only through the sense of sight.  When you see without feeling, you are still partly blind; you lack the inner light that brings awareness.  Awareness requires the interplay of every faculty, the use of your entire being as an eye.

Charles A. Lindbergh

I believe that living a life of deep and full integrity requires this level of holistic awareness.  Carelessness and inattention are anathema to a state of integrity, though I will say, there are times that we have to give it a rest– just for the perspective supplied by a few moments of complete relaxation.

Comments from Open Salon

If you are here, thanks. Please comment and rate, if you like.
Hi Susanne: I also am constantly striving to live a life of
integrity. I believe that being present at all times is the key,
and that’s where the work comes in, it’s so easy to get distracted
and let the mind wander. I think maybe that’s it’s also possible
to relax in a state of integrity and just be.

My spiritual path is a blend of Tibetan Buddhism and Wicca
and I honor all religions at their core.

Compassion is a key element as well. A while ago, when I was
fretful about another person’s reaction to me, a friend told
me “let it go, people do what they do. ” This was an epiphany.
Every one’s point of view is as valid as mine, regardless
of whether or not I agree with them. In a way, that realization
is very freeing for me. However, it can also be a challenge,
because I have to live in my core and to honor myself as well.
I am a strong 9 on the Enneagram, which is all about finding
one’s core.

Thank you for posting this.

I liked this statement best:
I think that when we live our lives as if something located outside of our own experience of living is going to direct us, or we allow someone else final say over our decision process, we are looking in the wrong places for direction and inspiration.
Very thought provoking post. Thank you for posting.
The picture of “Lindy” gave me some qualms when thinking of men (or women) having their own personal integrity outside the norms of their society. Lindberg was a leader in the pre-WWII “America First” (sound familiar?) organization which wanted to keep the US out of the war. His reasoning seemed to be that he agreed with the nazi idea of blood purity.
So what if their integrity is wrong?
It just seems that ideas/principles that you may form in your youth may not be useful your entire life. Making yourself the measure of all life is too egocentric and does not allow for change.
Couldn’t agree more, Rich. Inspiration comes from within.

I recently saw a Benny Hinn telecast where he was preaching
that the audience should not pay attention to their own accomplishments and attributes but instead to give “God”
all the credit. Everyone was enraptured by his dramatic
presentation, many were in tears.


This isn’t about the expresson of ego at all, though that may well seem like it what it is saying to you.

Someone once said a similar thing about Heidegger to me. Since he didn’t “stand up to the Nazis, why should we give his ideas any creedence?” By then I was married to my husband and I knew exactly how lost in his/her work an individual can become. By the time he looked up from his desk, all kinds of horrors were happening all around him. He was so lost in philosophical theories that he was not PRESENT to the circumstances surrounding him. That doesn’t mean that his ideas were bad, but that he wasn’t fully practicing his ideas in his own life. This is a fairly ordinary fact of life for many people, don’t you think?

So here’s the thing: no one isright and good or perfect with every idea that enters their head. But perhaps if you think about the difference between being a person who behaves more like a sheep and someone who can actually do the right thing because they have learned to see what is right for themselves in a self-generating kind of way.

For a simpler, and less morally ambiguous example: when I was a kid I was a slob at home. When I began living on my own it became internally evident to me that it was the quality of my own life that I was creating with my habits. If I treated my home like a dump, who was it that was living in a dump? If I wanted to be treated well by others, how was it that I was treating myself so poorly? How could I expect or anticipate anything other than a mirror image of the conditions that I was creating for myself?

Thanks Rich. It’s nice to see that my point registered.
Dakini, yup, that distraction thing is a big deal, and I think it may very well be what led to the problem that O’Stephanie is grappling with in her answer. Sometimes we just make something more important than it needs to be, and that is one kind of distraction from the practice of presence. Can you name any other kind of distraction?
Susanne—thank you for upping the level of discourse about 10 rungs on the ladder!. Here’s my question: where have you found this noton of integrity in literatire, art or music?
Yes, thank you for your long response to me. Integrity is a wonderful thing. and you’ve posted on it beautifully. I see it in my daughter who is very observant and very good at being true to herself. I agree with you on all of this and just got to thinking.

Your post was thought provoking, so I did go off on a tangent of sorts. Did not mean to go off topic so much. I suppose that I was thinking of claims of personal integrity by those who would extend their guiding principle to others. And I also wonder how some tightly held beliefs might blind you to alternative perspectives but, like you say, if a person is observant then it would not present a problem.

I think that Ken Wilber goes after it with Integral Theory, for instance. Friends of mine who are artists certainly do. Mary Moore Bailey, art shown on a post on my blog earlier this month.

Those are the people that volunteer to exercise our responsibility for us.

The law provides for such a thing formally in a power of attorney., but most of us would never think of leaving one in place except under extraordinary conditions such as illness or lack of capacity.

“Thus the man of integrity is continuously engaged in a societal transvaluation, a moving across the values of society and reinterpreting them in line with his life’s thrust. It does not give him the liberty of ignoring his society, but his obligation transcends the conformity of living within the codes and mores of his society.”

A simple test of your conformity:
Suppose that you are driving in a place such as the great plains or the Nevada desert, where you can see clearly for miles in all directions. Ahead of you is an intersection with another highway, and there is a stop sign for the road you are on.

You look both right and left, and see that there is no one on the crossing highway, nor is there anyone approaching nor following you. Do you:

1. Obey the law. Stop before crossing.
2. Slow down, perhaps even to a “rolling stop” before proceeding through the intersection.
3. Just drive right through without stopping or slowing.

I maintain that if you choose either 1 or 2, you are not taking respomsibility for your own actions, but are allowing an outside force to make decisions for you. Are you really content to have some paint on a sheet of metal afixed to a post (the stop sign) direct your actions? Or do you trust the integrity of your own decision making?

Observing the law can be a self-generated decision Wayne.
Music: Stuart Davis, Saul Williams
Art: website for artist Pamela Sukhum
Alex Grey (I think you can find a book by him online)
Mary Moore Bailey, painter,
“Observing the law can be a self-generated decision Wayne.”

My point exactly. In my opinion, and if I understand him correctly, in Perls’s as well, ALL decisions are “self-generated”. The question isn’t whether they come from within, but to what extend are they reflective of your own self-interest. In the example I gave, the decision to obey the law is plainly a submission to outside authority, with no actual examination of any public safety considerations.

Self-interest doesn’t necessarily come from anywhere but within the individual. Even if we do take into consideration what the law is, we can observe for inner directed reasons, as we may have a value for cooperation with the law even if we do not agree with the law or like it. Or we can do it because “they said so.” The latter is not a self-generated position, but is other directed.

But no matter what our motivations, we are ultimately responsible for our own acts, no matter whether we are inner or outer directed. Thus, “I was following orders” was not considered a defense for genocide during the Nuremburg trials, for instance.

“Self-interest doesn’t necessarily come from anywhere but within the individual.”

I expect that you can leave the word “necessarily” out of that statement.

And, yes, I was referring to Fritz Perls. I used the last name only, as it passes the “Google test”. Search on it and his is the only surname reference returned in the first page.

Now you have me remembering what I got out of the Gestalt Group I participated in during my 20’s. “You do your thing and I do my thing and if we get together it’s groovy.” Kind of what you said Wayne.

I wonder, do we now realize that life might have a little more urgency than that sounded like it was encouraging us to engage? It’s one thing to be unattached and another to live life uncommitted.

It’s an interesting piece, Susanne, and I don’t want to say I disagree with it in some per se basis. I think the place where it leaves me nervous is that I’d say some sort of analysis of integrity of this kind is a necessary but not sufficient condition to a personal goodness.

It addresses personal needs in a way that is often neglected, so in that sense it’s useful, but it could easily be the tool that allows people to detach themselves from responsibilities that society reasonably imposes upon them. In particular, I could easily imagine someone from the Religious Right subscribing to this as a justification for their intense disregard for not only other individuals but even standing law protecting the rights of others. I could see a member of the leadership of any of a variety of aggressive powers using this as their doctrine. And, at the same time, it could be used by forces for good. It seems, as such, both soothing and pleasant on the one hand and yet quietly dangerous on the other hand because it is lacking in essential constraints to operate standalone as a piece of inspirational guidance, to the extent that it allows flexible manipulation of one’s sense of responsibility to others.

For example, I was careful not to rate that propaganda piece about abortion someone wrote this morning, and I’m being deliberate in not creating a programmatic cross-link to it here, but I did comment on it; but I could easily imagine its author using a creed such as the one above as the justification for his views (to which I did not subscribe).

Or so it seems to me on a first read. Your mileage may, of course, vary.


I get your concern, but I think that most of the people commiting criminal, fraudulent, manipulative or unethical acts in the world, and imposing their views on others are signing up for being the authority relied upon by the people who don’t wish to take direct responsibility for their own acts. What I am talking about might provide a high level of ethical leadership but it wouldn’t provide a good basis for manipulation. Remember those big Moonie weddings? How about the kind of life that the consumer culture intends to impose on us? What about the religiously motivated instances of discrimination and hatred or murder that have been committed throughout history? I honestly think, from my own practice of this idea that it is too rigorous for people who run roughshod over others.

Certainly it is possible that there are those who would pervert any idea, but really, that is no reason to avoid living ones life true to oneself for the rest of us. When we run into the sociopaths, they too provide us lessons in our own practice of living in the present, to our own level of present awareness, to our own choices to live our lives to the highest and best purpose that we can find for them.

Susanne, I don’t deny the existence of sociopaths in our society. But I think a number of the situations you describe are not sociopathic but just people with a misguided sense of patriotism, party loyalty, mission from a perceived God, or other such things. Those actions are not, in my view, sociopathic. (Cue Bill Maher to explain in more detail.) I don’t think modeling them as sociopathic is fair, but that isn’t the reason I care if they’re labeled correctly or not. I care because correctly identifying their nature is critical to predicting them and defending society.

And, once in a while, it’s critical to redirecting society itself when it has gone awry, such as when a nation starts to drive itself bankrupt in an attempt to drive Evil from the world, as the US has done. That’s not sociopathic either, it’s just well-intentioned people pursuing a misguided agenda with an untethered sense of personal integrity standing in the way of their stepping back and seeing what it’s doing to us. In plainer terms, I actually believe that Cheney and Bush and Rumsfeld think they have personal integrity and a noble mission. I wouldn’t be surprised if they would totally endorse the piece above. That’s my point about its not being sufficient to define “Good”.

Perhaps you misunderstood what I meant, or I wasn’t clear. I was talking about a variety of ways that people do miserable things to other people, not just sociopaths.
Also Kent, Christianity requires that you give away your choices to following a prescribed set of commandments. The Nicene Creed requires that you recite certain things as truths that operate within your own life. That hasn’t stopped the likes of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney et al. And I doubt from the depths of my soul to the bottom of my feet that they would sign up for what I am describing here. It takes too much attention and dedication.
In the spirit of just being the wise ass kid tossing spitballs from the back of the room—while listening to Kent and Susanne’s exchange–I am compelled to wonder who exactly would be the person explaining this point of view to Cheny/Rumsfeld etc—and would that task even be possible!
interesting thoughts. ‘there is no fear in love’: a recent fav. quote of mine.
Chicago Guy, I should have thought of that myself!
You write: What I am talking about might provide a high level of ethical leadership but it wouldn’t provide a good basis for manipulation. 

Yes, and this is much needed. Thank you for your post!


This post certainly presents some interesting philosophical, ethical questions. I found myself wondering how many different interpretations there might be of this writing. Here are some of my thoughts…

***** “This is the integrity which is not constrained by limited moralities, however well-intentioned.”

It seemed that this one simple statement suggests far more than first appeared to me. First, I’m not clear on what “limited moralities” are; limited as opposed to what: unlimited? But the overarching question I had was this: how “well-intentioned” can LIMITED morality be? Why, how, and by whom, would morality be limited?

***** “Thus the basis of integrity is a destinal resolve…”

This statement immediately seemed questionable to me. We often recognize that someone who has strong “resolve” may also exhibit “integrity”. But I don’t know that I accept the premise that resolve is the basis of integrity. I only say this because, depending on how we define the two words, integrity and resolve, they could end up being opposed to one another under some circumstances. As a high-profile, current example of this, Bush’s Iraq invasion; his resolve in that undertaking, in my opinion at least, thoroughly undermined any integrity that he might have had. He was dishonest, and he failed to make any correct decisions; not much integrity to be found on the basis of his resolve.

***** “The object of that resolve is the ultimate decision of each person, and each person makes that choice, consciously or unconsciously.”

I also questioned the efficacy of describing a “choice” as “unconscious”. Doesn’t “choice” necessarily imply consciousness, awareness? Does making an “unconscious” choice refer to choosing based in ignorance, perhaps? I wasn’t sure exactly.

As I read this, the primary assertion, I thought, was that a person of “profound integrity” constantly questions, never accepts blindly what others say he “should” do, but considers carefully the impact that suggested actions might have, and adjusts his actions accordingly. He questions himself, as well, but remains confident in his actions through his truthfulness to himself. That questioning truthfulness to himself would seem to be the basis for his integrity.

Unconscious choice would be leaving ones choice to others or by failing to make a choice consciously, unconsciously choosing to let the prevailing winds to be in charge. Not voting has its consequences, for instance.
Yes, but not voting is a conscious choice, not an unconscious choice. This may be merely semantics to some people, but to me, words have meanings for a reason. Unconsciousness does not allow for choice.
“Remember those big Moonie weddings? How about the kind of life that the consumer culture intends to impose on us?”

My personal values come in great part from Fritz Perls, my intellectual values from Alfred Korzybski, and my views on consumerism come from Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping.

We’ll have to disagree on that one Rick. Lots of people make no choices at all and I think that is a measure of unconsciousness similar to the legal concept of intentional negligence versus unintentional negligence. Unconciousness is when you know you ought to make a choice but you don’t. That is a choice. Not a good one, but the inevitable result follow in its wake.

If someone drinks and drives, and they know that it is a dangerous thing to do that could cause harm to themselves or another, but they do it anyway, if someone is hurt they have the level of intent that could make the results of an accident a felony on the basis of that intent to take the risk. They didn’t decide consciously to go out and drive a car and cause someone harm, but they did consciously drive while drinking. The results, the harm, are the same.

The First and Last Freedom
by J. Krishnamurti, published by Harper San Francisco
“There is hope in men,
not in society, not in systems,
not in organized religious systems,
but in you and in me.”
“To understand the misery and confusion that exist within ourselves, and so in the world, we must first find clarity within ourselves, and that clarity comes about through right thinking.
This clarity is not to be organized, for it cannot be exchanged with another. Organized group thought is merely repetitive. Clarity is not the result of verbal assertion, but of intense self-awareness and right thinking. Right thinking is not the outcome of or mere cultivation of the intellect, nor is it conformity to pattern, however worthy and noble. Right thinking comes with self-knowledge. Without understanding yourself, you have no basis for thought;
without self-knowledge, what you think is not true.”
“Our system of upbringing is based on what to think not on how to think.”
“True liberation is an inner freedom of creative Reality.
This is not a gift ; it is to be discovered and experienced.
It is not an acquisition to be gathered to yourself to glorify yourself.
It is a state of being, as silence, in which there is no becoming, in which there is completeness.
This creativeness may not necessarily seek expression.
You need not be a great artist of have an audience; if you seek these, you will miss the inward Reality.
Thanks Bart. I know that Krisnamurti was clearer about this than I have been here, but here I am struggling along, seeking to express this with some clarity.
You’re doing great!

I’m not quite sure what you/we are disagreeing on. If you are saying that an unintended result from a conscious choice or decision is an unconscious choice, so be it. But my point, here, is that what you are doing is redefining the words, giving them non-standard definitions, so my initial purpose was to determine whether we are using standard dictionary definitions, or whether the person who wrote this was implying something different, but did not specify what.

What you have defined is not the meaning of the words being used. Unintended results are not unconscious choices, they are what they are; unintended results. But if you wish to define them as “unconscious choices”, I’m okay with that as long as I know that is what we’re doing.

Integrity — wow, what a big question, and how inadequate any response of mine must be. But a few points that I find helpful —

1) when I look in the mirror, who do I see? Am I ashamed by the person who looks back at me?

2) when others see me, what do they see?

3) to what extent do I look for ways to help others?

4) to what extent am I willing to sacrifice my own happiness for the benefit of others? Will I be sad so that others can be happy?

5) to what extent do I put myself at risk for the sake of what’s right?

6) to what extent does self-interest govern my words and actions?

7) how much am I able to put myself in someone else’s shoes?

8) am I willing to “swim against the tide,” perhaps even to be ridiculed, for the sake of what’s right?

9) am I open to criticism, and willing to learn from criticism, and willing to be disappointed in myself?

10) do I treat all people equally? Do I favor the rich over the poor, the intelligent over the slow, the successful over the unsuccessful?

In other words, I think integrity is ultimately about love of others, love of the truth, and honesty about oneself and one’s failings. And sometimes — probably most of the time — the truth hurts. And it should hurt.

I just recently read the Bhagavad Gita and there are passages that give me solace and direction to lead a better life. One that comes to mind is in Chapter 2 under The Characteristics of the Perfect Sage verse 56, “He whose mind in untroubled in the midst of sorrows and is free from eager desire amid pleasures, he from whom passion, fear and rage have passed away-he is called a sage of settled intelligence. Or verse 64, same Chapter, “But a man of disciplined mind, who moves among the objects of sense, with the senses under control and free from attachment and aversion-he attains purity of spirit.” The Bhagavad Gita has many beautiful teaching passages such at these.
Rick, I am just saying when we don’t choose, in a sense we are choosing to let whatever will happen to go ahead and happen. Similar to a default position that automatically arises out of the failure to choose and that is also a kind of choice. Itr’s what happens when people say “Whatever.”
I find that sorrow thing a bit difficult. So far I have only been able to get to right action in the face of sorrow and tears. Also, I note, I have never fallen apart from “falling apart” if you get my meaning Bart.

If you read the Bhagavad Gita then I am thinking you would also enjoy The Crest Jewel of Discrimination by Shankara.

Thanks Susanne, I will look it up.

One question I had was how to define integrity and found a good discussion of it here.

Very thoughtful. Thanks. The article there really gets into it.
Susanne, here is one more link that discusses virtue and how the ancients viewed education and the pursuit of “human flourishing.”
This was a transcript of a speech made by one of my favorite professors at university. He had studied the Classics at Oxford. Hope you like it or it puts you soundly to sleep.

C:\Documents and Settings\khzz236\My Documents\Articles of Interest\Queens University of Charlotte – Dr_ Charles Reed Published in iVital Speeches-i.htm

Sorry, he studied Classical History and Greek at Oxford.
Thanks Susanne, that was fun and thought provoking. I might even have learned something although it takes me longer every year. Talking about virtue, religion and philosophy makes me think of the movie, “A Fish Called Wanda.” In it there is a dialogue between Ken and Wanda that makes me laugh at myself when discussing some of these topics.

Wanda: To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people. I’ve known sheep who could outwit you. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs, but you think you’re an intellectual, don’t you, ape?
Otto: Apes don’t read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto, they just don’t understand it.


Okay, we’re on the same page…

Lovely response, particularly the conclusion:

“In other words, I think integrity is ultimately about love of others, love of the truth, and honesty about oneself and one’s failings. And sometimes — probably most of the time — the truth hurts. And it should hurt. ”

How much we unnecessarily hurt ourselves by trying to avoid the pain of being alive. After a few of my relatives had died, and particularly my grandfather, I realized that I didn’t mind a few tears when I was remembering him. It was as if the shadow of the deep love I had for him was travelling through me so that I would remember and perhaps long for who he was to me. We don’t break from pain, but perhaps from resisting it. I like knowing I loved people that much. Thanks Mishima, very thoughtful post with wonderful questons.

umbrellakinesis sez;”You mention not making a choice, and therefore living by default…”

General Semantics, created by Alfred Korzybski , refers to the study of what Korzybski called “semantic reactions”, or reactions of the whole human organism in its environment to some event. Korzybski called this reaction the most useful for human survival, i.e. delayed reactions as opposed to “signal reactions” (immediate, unthinking ones).

e.g. Obama = semantic reactions, Palin = signal reactions.

I like your post, Susanne. My trouble (and I admit I have to re-read your post later as I’m on my lunch break and rushed a bit) is that I find myself too aware. I can sit on that park bench or on that mountain for hours soaking in the world, watching the people, leaves, birds go by. But it hurts me. It’s like I feel the pain of the person walking past me and absorb it. I see a small rabbit and somehow know its mother is gone and I pray for it to avoid the coyotes and owls and the other predators. Damn, I hurt for the world. I know this sounds melodramatic but it’s true. You can ask my husband who watches me cry all the time (and yes, I take my meds).

So I guess sometimes I wish i was less aware and could harden myself a bit. But then who would watch out for the baby rabbits.

Dr Susanne, Thank you very much for this thoughtful post. It comes at a time in my life where I am learning to recognize and honor the gift of my unique voice as vehicle and vessel, and it requires courage, faith, serenity, many things, and above all awareness. Opening myself to what is out, what is in, and the alchemy of the marriage. It is a wonderful path, an alive one. And because I am not a seasoned traveler on it I look for and rejoice in inspiration, guidance and companions.
“…you name it, it’s there in abundant quantities, more than any one of us will never need. But we have to see it, to acknowledge it’s there, to let it become a part of us by making ourselves a part of it.” the last line here is particularly powerful for me.
I’m bookmarking this and returning to appreciate the stimulating comments others left here, especially those who had questions or misunderstandings – for your replies.

Low Tide @ Lummi Island with Clue


Spring is evident every where we go right now.  So we went to Lummi Island, one of our favorite places to visit, a place that is always on Aidan’s list when he comes to stay with us.


 The tide was way out…further than we’ve ever seen.

It was the warmest day on record in Bellingham.  What a great day to play and hike around the Lummi Island shores.



Little tide pools and places that had been hiding sea life for centuries were open to our view.


We saw a multitude of  sea snails, giant barnacles and mussels clinging to the rocks…



A visit to Lummi Island has a tradition that we have been observing since Aidan was old enough to come on trips to visit without his Mom & Dad:  dessert and a Clue game or two at the Beach Store Cafe.

Some family traditions are all about fun, AND DESSERT!


 After Aidan wins one and Grama wins one, we make our way back to the car, and then the Ferry Dock

From the Whatcom Chief we can see Mount Baker sixty miles away on the horizon enshrouded in the high clouds.


The Pacific Northwest has its pleasures, a warm Spring afternoon on Lummi Island is certainly one of them.  To share such a rare day with our grandson was unforgettable.

All photos were taken with my old iPhone 3GS.  If only I had steadier hands…