To do what works, to know what does- a daily post on learning

Life is not that easy

Life is not that easy

I am a hands on person, even the theoretical stuff has to work on some level or other for me to grasp it. So when I studied theology  I could feel my brain go all mushy when studying theories of ethics, to do what’s right? Yes.

Lloyd Schermer: An America Puzzle, 2005

Lloyd Schermer: An America Puzzle, 2005

To be able to categorize the different intellectual schools defining” how and why and if so”s? No.  Even God makes it simple,  to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it.

To me that is what life is all about, understanding this: to know what works we have to ask, not presume that I know what is best for someone else, but constantly learning, asking, being willing to think new thoughts, look for new solutions.

Greensboro Lunch Counter, Museum of American History

Greensboro Lunch Counter, Museum of American History

The irony is that when I went back to do my MBA at a business school,  ethics was suddenly interesting, necessary and important, even as an academic subject. I think the reason was just that, I was older.  I had lived, asked, wondered and been curious so that I could grasp  the existential questions behind the theory.

Now Aristotle and his ethics is my constant companion when I am working with groups of people. He insisted that the highest wisdom, phronesis, is the practical wisdom, the one we learn through doing, reflecting, sharing, to be able to repeat doing what works. Not that books and tools is not important, it is just that they alone can not be a road to happiness, still according to Aristotle.

There is an enormous energy and endless possibilities in asking people to contribute, to share their practical wisdom. There is no force stronger than  a group of people who stand together and has decided, this is our values, this is what important to us, this is what I have to stand for to respect myself, this is how we will build a better world.

Last week I walked from Union Station in Washington DC, down Constitution Avenue, to the Reflecting pool. Next week it will be 50 years since the March on Washington also followed that path. Have we learned? Yes. Are we still learning? Yes. Do we still have a long road to go till that dream is true? Yes. Is it possible? Only if we keep asking, sharing, standing together, only if we keep being willing to learn from one another.

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You, the people- on standing alone

I am a ‘one of a kind’ person.

Yet,as I look around the coffee shop where I am having my morning coffee, I see no duplicates of any of the persons I see, so I guess that goes with everybody? 

Nothing fancy with that.

I am a ‘take charge and let’s get this done’ person, the big sister of the world, my siblings tease me.

Yet, as I am in Washington D.C just now,the streets are teeming with suit clad people who think that is the normal way of living. 

Nothing standoutish about that.

If I feel something is unjust or wrong I try to make it right. Yet according to Karen Armstrong’s TED project, compassion is the core of all religion.

Nothing special with that.

The only thing is, I am not American, which is OK, most of the time. 

We attended a meeting with my husbands motorcycle buddies. They start out with the pledge of allegiance.

A room full of ‘guys and gals’ in black leather gear, their hands on their hearts, looking towards the flag, being part of the one nation under God. There I am, in pink cotton, not in leather, not driving a bike, and not pledging allegiance. I can feel everybody having a half eye on me. The person not wanting to share the responsibility is always a threat. The social pressure is strong, either you are one of us, or you are against us. 

To me it is not like that. It is all about being whole. The need to stand out is not a calling to be different, it is a calling to be true to yourself, knowing where you belong. At times it takes courage, daring to take the stand no one else dares to stand for. At times you just have to recognize the truth, this is who I am, this is who I am not. Co-existing is not becoming someone else, it is to keep being who you are.

Could I have placed a hand on my heart and mumbled something? Could have, but what is the greatest threat, someone being true and trustworthy, always to be reckoned with or someone changing their spots to fit in? As it is I pledge allegiance to peace and goodwill and the brotherhood of humanity, one world with God.

A handful of choices or a hand full of choices

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If there was any professionalism at all in the palm reader in today’s prompt, she would have asked to change seats. If not she would soon have known that she had met her equal. Not for reading palms, but for loving to hear people talk about them selves.
Of course I would have taken her hand.
I would have listened for the tremble in her soul.
I would have searched her eyes for her guidance light.
I would have felt for the energy in the space her body occupied.
Most of all I would have been eager to let her talk, all the way probing her words for what she really believed in.
As for my hands, I know what they would tell her, as I just had a manicurist tell me that.
She turned them over, looked at them, and looked surprised. “You know”,she said, ” I think you actually use your hands!”
I was so happy to hear that, I would have been sorry if somebody thought I let that precious gift lie idle.
If they could I would hope they tell a story about being open, not clenched.
Of lifting people up, not holding them down.
Of giving comfort, not sorrow.
Of creating, not destructing.
Of caring, not neglecting.
Above of all of love not war, of peace, not conflict.
And even if I do not believe in palm readers, I believe our heart shows in our actions, as in our hands.
Walking through the Smithsonian National Art Gallery in Washington DC today, I found hands showing hearts all over. Well, at least as the artists saw them! Perhaps it is all a lie?!

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Dreamscape

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Our house was getting too small.
Or our lives were too crowded. We were to busy to do anything about it. I was not able to go to sleep, tossing and turning, worrying and thinking. When I finally drifted into a troubled dream it suddenly all made sense. I had just dreamt that we had an extra room that we did not know anything about. I felt calm, relaxed and happy and slept soundly the rest of the night. The next morning I was halfway down the stairs, going to open the door to that new room, before I realized how impossible that would be in a house that we had built ourselves.

I still knew the dream to be true though, I just was waiting to understand how. 

I prayed and waited, thought and wondered. 

For several weeks I did not understand the answer, even if I got one clue after another.

 I was asked to write some texts. I was asked to design some book covers. I was asked to do some creative sewing projects. I had some paintings framed, and sold them. I was asked to sit on a board. 

Not out of the blue, I had always done these things, I had just not known that I had to do them. 

Now I know, I am happy only if I create something. 

Not necessarily things, even peace has to be made. That is how I regard counseling, coaching and board work. To create in these settings is to visualize and to make a setting where reflection is possible.

My soul told me that it was not really the physical space that was too crowded.My whole family was suffering because I had acted as there was no place for my soul. 

Now I know the dream was true, now I know it is up to me to make it possible.

Small steps won’t take you there

Long path, small steps

Long path, small steps

I just finished mopping the kitchen floor. Which is good, I suppose. I like having a clean house. The question is, do I like it most of all?

My mother in law and me was just finishing up the preparations for a party. We both love that, and she is really good at it. Even so, we were running, doing too much, as the wrong things had been left for the last minutes. “It’s the small steps, every day, that takes you there”, she said, ” it’s a pity they are so boring,” she added.

Lot's of the same, boring?

Lot’s of the same, boring?

I just read Julia Cameron’s advice, to do a few simple things, each day, and keep doing them, is what gets her creativity flowing and her books coming.

I know they are right. Just yesterday I was trying to find the rhythm and the habits, the long road with the small steps that actually will take me there. Wherever that is! In my mind, having a year off is a gift to cherish, and too precious to waste. Which makes me set lots of goals and make plans to get there, the only thing is I get frustrated by not seeing any results.

And it is not because I am lazy, it is not because I am unstructured, it is not because I waste my time. I had just forgotten the most basic strategic knowledge of all.

IMG_5709 dunesIf you are going in the wrong direction, even small steps won’t take you there.

As for boring? Don’t ask me, I am never bored. I might not know where I am heading though.

Look! Sand!

Look! Sand!

The beginner’s guide to jealousy

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If I was really jealous, and still had a friend, I would write her a letter to let her in on the secrets of jealousy, it would not be anonymous though! 

I’ll share it with you, there are a lot of tricks to be learned! 

Jealousy is a prickly weed that goes well in a bouquet of envy, greed, ungratefulness and ignorance. You may chose to make this arrangement as a wreath on your front door, place it on your dinner table, or best of all craft it into a small buttonhole nose gay. You need to make only one, as it will sprout, grow and cling to every human you approach. 

It is so easy to care for, every resentment and snide you ever utter will make it grow, you do not even have to think about it! It just takes some small adjustments in your daily routine. 

 First, every time you smile and start to enjoy yourself, stop and tell yourself that what you have is actually much less than you are entitled too. 

Second, if you should feel the slightest inclination to be happy when a friend achieves something, remember to tell yourself how much better you would have done given her opportunities.
If you ever have leisure time always find something to do that you think somebody else should have done. 

Above all, always remember never to give anything away, always compare and keep complaining. 

If you succeed you will be able to establish a thriving jealously patch in your home and your workplace, that will be felt by everyone around you.
Just by practicing a little every day you will soon be the most jealous, grumpy, miserable, friendless person you will ever know. 

You will not realize that this is you though, as you will cling to the fact that there is a lovelier, richer, nicer you somewhere if you only got what’s meant to be yours.
Keep practicing, or you’ll just have to enjoy life.

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Mrs. Knowitall has coffee

 I try to be kind, I really do. Too often only in a passive ‘ doasyouwouldbedonetoo’ way, for instance I do not publish or comment pictures of unknown people without their consent, as I would hate people doing that to me! I can not help myself listening, watching and constantly making up stories though. This is how my morning went today.

We had just had breakfast, and I ventured out for a cappuchino. Even if it was 110 degrees outside, parts of the piazza was still in shadows and I settled in at my favorite table. From here I can see the canal, the campanile, the bridge and the gondolas. This week there are masks all over for the carnevale. I can hear the bells ringing every hour, and enjoy the opera from the loudspeaker at the coffee shop. What I can not see is the view behind me where the canal continues into the old Venice.

Except it is all fake. This Venice is in Las Vegas, and I am enjoying my coffee time while my husband is working. ‘The old Venice’ is painted on the  wall and the rest is fairly well staged, to put it that way. Even if it is not real though, like the real thing, it is still real like in real stones, real mortar and really beautiful…..sometimes. Anyways, I enjoy watching people as they stroll, wander, run and saunter on the bridge. 

As I was getting seated today a grown up couple in matching outfits stopped on the bridge. Well pressed in white, beige,black and brown, but oh so worried! She consulted her guidebook, he his phone, and both oracles informed them that they were lost, so they hurried on, without a glance at the scenery.

 They almost collided with a round, eager woman who ran up on the bridge. Her yellow and red dress was fluttering behind her, and her husband followed quietly in her wake. They both wore flip flops and red sunglasses and she leaned on the bridge railing while laughing at her husband: ‘picture!’ He smiled back and took her picture, just in time before she went along.

Then the bridge lies silently in the scorching sun until a young, slim girl in a white designer’s dress glides up and poses at the railing. She wears a big white hat which her matching boyfriend leans over and adjusts. He looks critically at her, takes up his phone and she turns on a glittering smile for the benefit of the camera. Then they glide on, obviously part of each others stage set.

Just as I am writing this a big, laughing Spanish speaking dad shouts at his wife and kids, ” come here” Mira,Mira! They all stand with him at the bridge, point at the fake view, takes pictures with their phones and shouts: “it almost fooled me! It is all fake!” Then the youngest goes,” the water is real, isn’t it?” and they laugh even more as they continue on the other side.

The next one is a Japanese girl dressed like a doll. She pouts at her phone and takes a picture of herself. A little apart her boyfriend looks into his phone and does the same. As they check their results, a curlyheaded cherub stops at the bridge. He listens open-mouthed as the bells ring. When they finish he is so full of energy that he hauls himself up on the railings, almost fall off, and jumps down again. While he has been enjoying himself his parents are conducting a frantic search in the buggy of the youngest one. They find their cell phone, grabs the boy and continues, without looking at the bridge at all.

Then I admire the yellow dress of a beautiful older lady. She seems alone, but then she shouts at her husband ‘get my picture, hon!’ He keeps reading his paper and she asks a passerby instead. She poses, smiles, with her mouth turned down.

Just as I am leaving, a bride and a groom takes their stand on the bridge. They are followed by a hired photographer. They lean together and are so sweet, enjoying the moment, but the photographer shouts: ‘ move on, one shot at each spot!’

That’s it, I think, as I move on too. Only one shot, in one spot, even so I have been moved, irritated, angered and felt joy over the stories I read into that moments. Walking along I realize that most of those scenes could have been from my own life. The only difference being that my automatic judgement over each of them would not decribe how I feel about my life as a whole. Another reminder that even if the moments can be recorded, seen, counted and journaled, life itself escapes indexing.