Quiet moment at home with Burnsie

There’s a world of difference between the real and the simulated, between the ‘is’ and the ‘would-be’. In terms of soul-making and a life well-lived it’s all the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

In the greater scheme of things we’re all lightning bugs, I suppose, trying to shine, trying to find community and union.

I’m sensitized to the rarity of quiet authenticity these days as I venture into my seventh decade. As I wade into efforts to live and love again as I promised Charlotte I would do I’m struck by how little deep growth occurs between high school and mature years with reference to romance, dating, and love: same coy masks, same posturing to impress, same insecurities and self-consciousness, same fear of revealing True Self.

In fact, in some regards, it gets worse as we age. “Girlfriend” and “Boyfriend” sound fine at 16, but silly at 70. At 70, unless Life has awakened us and grounded us in our inner gold, we can be less spontaneous than the young because mind-numbing over-education exiles the child in us along with our awe and authenticity. Relational scars leave us living our fears instead of our joys.

But the trajectory towards masks and games can be averted. Since Charlotte’s death five years ago I’ve come to see the River of Grief as unique blessing that threw me in a new direction. Coming face to face with Death and the helplessness of the human predicament strips away illusions, tosses us naked into life’s tenuousness, fragility, and mystery. It takes Death to teach us the meaning of Life.

Said another way, it takes Death to teach us to be authentic, to embrace our True Self, to be what we are without pretense or excuse. I like Rumi’s word-pictures about the difference between the would-be and the real. He says:

“How long do you look at pictures on a bathhouse wall? Soul is what draws you away from those pictures to talk with the old woman who sits outside by the door in the sun. She’s half blind, but she has what soul loves to flow into: She’s kind; she weeps; she makes quick personal decisions and laughs so easily” (Coleman Barks, The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems, 2001).

Rumi is right. Soul is drawn to kindness, to eyes and hearts softened by grief composted into growth, to no-games self-assurance, and to easy laughter. Soul is all about the beauty of the authentic dance of the personal with the great mystery.

So, I’m getting out there as I promised Charlotte I would do. I’m experiencing joys I never expected and a Boy’s wide-eyed bewilderment over mysteries of new romance and love in my 70s.

I’m discovering Life has changed me.

In a crowd enamored of ‘image’ my soul is drawn elsewhere.

Joseph Harvill, publisher Great Scots Magazine

Contemplative moment at home with Burnsie

Laughter really is the best medicine. And when you’re dealing with the dark nemesis of engineering, the modern genius of which is creating packaging no adult can penetrate, veritable plastic-wrapped coronary arrest, laughter is the only medicine.

I was on a ladder recently, perched precariously near the ceiling to replace batteries in my house motion-detector device, part of my residence security system, when I got a Laughter 101 seminar in the importance of laughing at the human predicament. I was annoyed by the incessant beeping demanding that I change the batteries NOW, and I was unbalanced at the top of the ladder because I had to perch at ceiling level without hands in order to unscrew a screw. Now that screw is visible only from a bat’s position clinging upside down to the ceiling and clearly visible only when viewed under an electron microscope. Naturally, it is a screw which must be removed in order to get the cover off the old batteries, in order to access the next round of cursed inaccessibility.

So, there I was, cursing ” … those !!@#%*!! engineers who design products but never use them”; railing against ‘they’ who complexify our lives in the name of convenience; they who don’t know first-hand the nightmare their packaging creates for homeowner’s with arthritic fingers trying to use their products … etc., etc., etc. . . .

You guessed it. Grumbling my vitriol at faceless engineers who hijack my sanity I lost my balance and fell off the ladder, rolling onto my back in the middle of the floor.

My first act was a mighty roar of pain and anger lying on my back spread-eagled on the floor. Then suddenly the Laurel & Hardy slap-stick humor of the whole nonsense struck me and I began to laugh– at myself, at the situation, at the human predicament.

That’s when my peanut gallery showed up with their own brand of ‘medicine’. Albie was on one side of my face licking me as I lay laughing on the floor and Burnsie leaped up onto my stomach and nosed head-first into my face licking and snuffling and joining in the ‘game’ on the floor. What began as muffled laughs between grimaces quickly turned into yahoos of tickled laughing as the two dogs fended off attempts to prevent French Kisses and a total face wash– A Scottish Terrier version of ‘laughter is the best medicine’!

It is said, Man the Toolmaker shapes his tools, then his tools shape him. It seems we’ve already lost the war against engineers; we’re into planned obsolescence too deeply now, too far gone into let-the-consumer-worry-about-it packaging to turn back.

But experience is teaching me that laughter is the ultimate human triumph over Life’s nonsense; laughing is how the human spirit comes fully into its own.

So, there I was in the middle of the floor, reminding myself I could have broken a hip or ankle or arm or my neck; reminding myself to count my blessings … and laughing uncontrollably over the Lucile Ball character of my predicament: trying to be seriously angry at faceless nemesis engineers while laughing my head off under relentless Scottie slobbers, wet noses, and frenzied wet-tongues all over my face.

I was ‘medicated’ all right– with laughter as the best medicine. I laughed all the way to the storage shed to put away the ladder … laughing because I happily said to myself, “Damn the tyranny of engineered urgency, noisy REPLACE ME NOW battery safety alarms!”

Go away, ye purveyors of packaged-frustration and self-inflicted injury.

I’m in the middle of a happy life here, thank you very much.

I’m laughing with my dogs!

Joseph Harvill, publisher Great Scots Magazine