JUST WHAT CHAINS
are you flying free. . . ?|
COULD IT BE THE THE PRISON
OF UNFORGIVENNESS. . . .
It’s really good to hit the rewind button sometimes
even if it’s all the way back to 1983
to know now
what we were shouting for then
and way before THEN. . .
NEWS FOR THE REAL WORLD
This morning, I want to wake up
with no headlines.
I want to find that my New York Times
has been replaced
with a worn-out copy of The Velveteen Rabbit,
and the Skin Horse
is inviting me to love the world
in all its broken realness.
I want to touch the Earth
where the soft fur
has been rubbed off
and see it with my fingertips.
When I feel the need to know who
is fighting with whom,
and what disaster occurred overnight,
I want to hear
the wind chimes in my backyard
whisper in the breeze,
“I am as real as anything you
will find on the front page.”
When the hard facts are just too hard,
I want to press
the tattered velveteen ears to my cheek
and remember that the hot cup of tea,
and the warm blanket,
and the beloved sleeping by my side
are every bit as real as the rage
that fuels the news,
and for today I want to embrace
the real I can touch
with my hands and see with my eyes,
and let the world rage on without me.
The best way for a little good news today
IS TO MAKE IT
AND ASSURE THAT EVERYONE IS A PART OF IT
SHE MAKES THINGS GROW
All ground is fertile
and she proved it
by taking what had no life
L I V E
She makes my soul her soil
when she digs deeply
and prunes, sharply
The ache is more of a yearning
than a moaning Owwwwwwl
She makes things grow
out of nothingness
hardly without notice
but never unnotable
This is a poem I wrote a little over a week ago. Its title is the one for my sixth chapbook that I just finished as a result of the SPRING poetry challenge that demanded 15 poems in 10 days that couldn’t exceed 15 lines. It had a different theme of the day where one or two poems could be written on that given theme. The theme for this poem on this particular day was EMERGENCE
S E E D S
even in the most soiled of hands
have no chance of growing
no matter how warm the wish
or fervent the prayer
b u t
BRING WHAT YOU HAVE
(who you are)
TO WHAT YOU’LL SERVE
(who you love)
You have a magical garden
S U R P R I S E
There’s no secret to a HAPPY MARRIAGE
I can’t give you the 12 STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIPS
But showing up each day
with the goal to be a
has never failed me
and it has failed me horrifically
WHEN I HAVEN’T BEEN A BETTER ME
or at least not given it a better than
half of a chance. . .
OUR BEST TIMES
HAVE BEEN OUR ROUGHEST TIMES
(an ohhhh, there have been some severely rough times)
because soaked, shaken and jostled about
we’ve always ended up stronger, more invincible and
C L O S E R
SHE MAKES THINGS GROW
especially when I’ve given her
that served as some of the richest fertilizer
to some of the
that could never really been imagined
. . .only experienced
37 Years ago,
on June 9,
the day after we got married
we were laying by the hotel pool we had all to ourselves
talking about the future;
we both assumed we’d never see 50 years together
because of our ages
have never been bothered much by how much time we’ve got
because of the time
(and so the message that I usually include in each wedding ceremony
I conduct, is the message we’ve always taken to heart)
. . .Marriage is
but it’s the best job
you’ll ever had. . .
I may have seemingly had The World to give
but Erin’s always had the grace to
bring me HomeWe’ve been able to show each other
what we could have never seen alone. . .
Neighbor By JJ Heller, David Heller, and Andy Gullahorn
Sometimes it’s easier to jump to conclusions Than walk across the street It’s like I’d rather fill the blanks with illusions Than take the time to see
You are trying to close the back door of your car You are balancing the groceries and a baby in your arms You are more than just a sign in your front yard You are my neighbor
I can get so lost in the mission Of defending what I think I’ve been surfing on a sea of opinions But just behind the screen
You are grateful that the work day’s finally done You are stuck in miles of traffic, looking at your phone You are tryin’ to feel a little less alone You are my neighbor
When the chasm between us feels so wide That it’s hard to imagine the other side But we don’t have to see things eye to eye For me to love you like you are my neighbor My neighbor
Oh, to fear the unfamiliar Is the easy way to go But I believe we are connected more than we might ever know
There’s a light that shines on both the rich and poor Looks beyond where we came from and who we voted for ‘Till I can’t see a stranger anymore I see my neighbor May my heart be an open door to my neighbor You are my neighbor
S O M E T I M E S
Music is more than MUSIC
and Words are more than
W O R D S
From the beginning of time the question has rung out,
sometimes louder than softer:
JUST WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
No matter what you say, You
SHOW THE ANSWER,
Person by Person,
Neighbor by Neighbor…
with this certainty:
It just isn’t the person next door or across the street…
SO JUST WHO IS
YOUR NEIGHBOR. . . ?
I didn’t lose my mind; this is the the video I posted on this past Monday’s blog and as A Caring Catalyst but also a real, live CHANGE MAKER. . .
This hairstylist had a job he was paid to do. . .
Beyond the job, he had the same options every other cause-driven compassionate human being has for comforting someone who is struggling.
Maybe think of these options as “Levels of Sacrificial Giving.” Each level requires a bit more sacrifice on the part of the giver, thereby imbuing the act with an increasing measure of beauty.
LEVEL 1: WORDS
Saying something genuine to affirm the sufferer’s enduring worth.
LEVEL 2: UTILITY
Supplying helpful goods, services, or money for the sufferer’s use.
LEVEL 3: TOUCH
A tender gesture to inhabit the same physical space as the sufferer.
LEVEL 4: TRANSFER
A permanent exchange from giver to sufferer (e.g., organ donation).
LEVEL 5: CO-SUFFERING
Voluntarily joining the sufferer to share the experience of their pain.
This hairstylist is a Level 5 Giver.
It begs the simple question:
ARE YOU A LEVEL FIVE GIVER
I’ve come to learn that no ironclad argument exists for convincing someone that Level 5 Giving is worthwhile or even rational.
The beauty of an act of Level 5 Giving either pierces you in a life-changing way or it doesn’t.
My hope for you and me is that this act, or another like it, so pierces us that we level up our giving in a world that is groaning louder and louder for it every day. . .
Lets LEVEL UP
always to a better way. . .
A letter from Albert Einstein to his daughter, Lieserl, who donated 1,400 letters written by him to the Hebrew University, with orders not to publish them until 20 years after his death.This is one of them, to her.When I proposed the theory of relativity very few understood me. What I will reveal now to mankind will also collide with the misunderstanding and prejudice in the world.I ask you to guard the letters as long as necessary, decades, until society is advanced enough to accept what I will explain below.There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe, and has not yet been identified by us. This universal force is LOVE.When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force. Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it. Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others. Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness. Love unfolds and reveals. For love we live and die. Love is God and God is Love.This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love, because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will.To give visibility to love, I made a simple substitution in my most famous equation. If instead of E = mc2, we accept that the energy to heal the world can be obtained through love, multiplied by the speed of light squared, we arrive at the conclusion that love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits.After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces of the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energyIf we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.Perhaps we are not yet ready to make a bomb of love, a device powerful enough to entirely destroy the hate, selfishness and greed that devastate the planet.However, each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love, whose energy is waiting to be released.When we learn to give and receive this universal energy, dear Lieserl, we will have affirmed that love conquers all, is able to transcend everything and anything, because love is the quintessence of life.I deeply regret not having been able to express what is in my heart, which has quietly beaten for you all my life. Maybe it’s too late to apologize, but as time is relative, I need to tell you that I love you, and thanks to you I have reached the ultimate answer! “.Your father,Albert EinsteinHmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. . .
kind of makes you think
that everything’s not so relative. . .
IT IS MORE
. . .SO MUCH MORE
we can meet in the land of MUCH MORE
living as Caring Catalysts
who all understand and teach
Life is short, 🔴 ⚫ 🔴
and we have too little time
to gladden the hearts of those
who travel the journey with us.
So be swift to love,
and make haste to be kind.
🔴 Henri-Frédéric Amiel
Swiss Writer 1821-1881
It’s a great Friday Blog Question:
IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE KIND TO EVERYTHING. . . ?
or to poetically put it:
CAN KINDNESS BE BROUGHT TO AN EVERYTHINGNESS. . .
Looking for hazards
Watching for water filled potholes
He appeared across my windshield
Traversing it’s clear continent
Like an unexplored universe
Not yet known
Far from knowing
He could be exterminated
Crushed not so carefully
From a runaway McDonald’s napkin
Snuggled between the car seat
But when arriving safely to my destination
We both escaped from unknown dangers
Never to be seen/known
By the other
For a time
A Kindly Kind-of-ness
Without a sacred
(With a Praise to be to the Universe Creator for not allowing it to be snake)
I recently re-read the Commencement Address author George Saunders gave which reads well in all Seasons, as each day brings us to a Commencement Ceremony. He shares:
What I Regret Most Are Failures of Kindness
(–by George Saunders, syndicated from theladders.com, Jul 28, 2018)
Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).
And I intend to respect that tradition.
Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?” And they’ll tell you. Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked. Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.
So: What do I regret? Being poor from time to time? Not really. Working terrible jobs […] Not so much. Do I regret the occasional humiliation? Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl? No. I don’t even regret that.
But here’s something I do regret:
In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.” ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.
So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” — that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.” And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”
Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.
And then — they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing.
One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.
End of story.
Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.
But still. It bothers me.
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in yourlife, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
Those who were kindest to you, I bet.
It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.
Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?
Here’s what I think:
Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).
Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.
So, the second million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?
Well, yes, good question.
Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.
So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition — recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.
Because kindness, it turns out, is hard — it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, everything.
One thing in our favor: some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age. It might be a simple matter of attrition: as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish — how illogical, really. We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality. We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be. We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now). Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving. I think this is true. The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”
And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE. If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit. That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today. One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.
Congratulations, by the way.
When young, we’re anxious — understandably — to find out if we’ve got what it takes. Can we succeed? Can we build a viable life for ourselves? But you — in particular you, of this generation — may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition. You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can . . .
And this is actually O.K. If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously — as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.
Still, accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.
So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf — seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.
Congratulations, Class of 2013.
I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer.
Come on everybody. . .
Let’s break out in a robust chorus of TOY STORY’S
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME
did the Pandemic take care of
T H A T,
t o o?
For many of us, some personality traits stay the same throughout our lives, while others change only gradually. However, evidence shows that significant events in our personal lives that induce severe stress or trauma can be associated with more rapid changes in our personalities.
A new study, published in PLOS ONE, suggests the COVID pandemic has indeed triggered much greater shifts in personality than we would expect to have seen naturally over this period. In particular, the researchers found that people were less extroverted, less open, less agreeable, and less conscientious in 2021 and 2022 compared with before the pandemic.
This study included more than 7,000 participants from the U.S., aged between 18 and 109, who were assessed before the pandemic (from 2014 onwards), early in the pandemic in 2020, and then later in the pandemic in 2021 or 2022.
At each time point, participants completed the “Big Five Inventory.” This assessment tool measures personality on a scale across five dimensions: extroversion versus introversion, agreeableness versus antagonism, conscientiousness versus lack of direction, neuroticism versus emotional stability, and openness versus closedness to experience.
There weren’t many changes between pre-pandemic and 2020 personality traits. However, the researchers found significant declines in extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness in 2021/2022 compared with before the pandemic. These changes were akin to a decade of normal variation, suggesting the trauma of the COVID pandemic had accelerated the natural process of personality change.
Interestingly, younger adults’ personalities changed the most in the study. They showed marked declines in agreeableness and conscientiousness, and a significant increase in neuroticism in 2021/2022 compared with pre-pandemic. This may be due in part to social anxiety when emerging back into society, having missed out on two years of normality.
Personality and well-being
Many of us became more health-conscious during the pandemic, for example by eating better and doing more exercise. A lot of us sought whatever social connections we could find virtually, and tried to refocus our attention on psychological, emotional, and intellectual growth—for example, by practicing mindfulness or picking up new hobbies.
Nonetheless, mental health and well-being decreased significantly. This makes sense given the drastic changes we went through.
Notably, personality significantly impacts our well-being. For example, people who report high levels of conscientiousness, agreeableness, or extroversion are more likely to experience the highest level of well-being.
So the personality changes detected in this study may go some way to explaining the decrease in well-being we’ve seen during the pandemic.
If we look more closely, the pandemic appears to have negatively affected the following areas:
- our ability to express sympathy and kindness toward others (agreeableness);
- our capacity to be open to new concepts and willing to engage in novel situations (openness);
- our tendency to seek out and enjoy other people’s company (extraversion);
- our desire to strive toward our goals, do tasks well, or take responsibilities toward others seriously (conscientiousness).
All of these traits influence our interaction with the environment around us and, as such, may have played a role in our well-being decline. For example, working from home may have left us feeling demotivated and as though our career was going nowhere (lower conscientiousness). This in turn may have affected our well-being by making us feel more irritable, depressed, or anxious.
What next. . . ?
Over time, our personalities usually change in a way that helps us adapt to aging and cope more effectively with life events. In other words, we learn from our life experiences and this subsequently impacts our personality. As we age, we generally see increases in self-confidence, self-control, and emotional stability.
However, participants in this study recorded changes in the opposite direction to the usual trajectory of personality change. This is understandable given that we faced an extended period of difficulties, including constraints on our freedoms, lost income, and illness. All these experiences have evidently changed us—and our personalities.
This study provides us with some very useful insights into the impacts of the pandemic on our psyche. These impacts may subsequently influence many aspects of our lives, such as well-being.
Knowledge allows us to make choices. So you might like to take the time to reflect on your experiences over the past few years, and how these personality changes may have affected you.
Any changes may well have protected you during the height of the pandemic. However, it’s worth asking yourself how useful these changes are now that the acute phase of the pandemic is behind us. Do they still serve you well, or could you try to rethink your perspective?
QUESTIONS WORTH EMBRACING
as we go about
not so much discovering
A n S w E r S
in new ways. . .
help others along
Their W a Y s
There are many different covers of this song but I like this version because it reminds me what we know, what we know we know, what we’d bet our lives that we know but for the LIFE OF US never act like we know. . .
WE ARE ALL INSTRUMENTS IN THE SYMPHONY OF THIS UNIVERSE
and the WE ARE AT OUR BESTS when we not only play in unison and harmony but when we just merely play together. . .
WE NEED TO BE THE CHORUS we already long have been and need to be now, UNMUTED, UNDILUTED, PURE, UNADULTERATED, UNFILTERINGLY US. . .
The video starts quietly but builds. I love how the singers end the song. ENJOY!