Sunday, September 22, 2013

Which Way to the River?

A few days after the flood waters receded here, I came upon a crawdad in the middle of the sidewalk, little claws in the air, trying to flag me down.
"Excuse me," he seemed to be saying. "Which way to the river?"
Life will do that to you: pick you up in a flood a drama and set you down someplace unfamiliar and scary. You want to go back to the river. The problem is, the river isn't the way it used to be. It's a little bit wider now, and farther to the south.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Make a Choice, Change the Future


“When you make a choice, you change the future.”
--Deepak Chopra

"The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.

If this sounds too mystical, refer again to the body. Every significant vital sign- body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on- alters the moment you decide to do anything… decisions are signals telling your body, mind, and environment to move in a certain direction.”
--Deepak Chopra, The book of Secrets

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Pronounce an Oracle


The woman who was the Oracle of Delphi sat on a tripod above a rock crevice, inhaling fumes from the center of the earth. The fumes contained ethylene, a.k.a. laughing gas. When conditions were just right and the fumes didn't make her pass out, she spoke the prophecies that came from her untethered mind.

Nations and great leaders consulted her. For many centuries, all decisions of consequence required the input of the Oracle. But petitioners had to come with a really good question, something of great significance (Usually, it was some variation of, "If we start this war, will we win?"). And to get the Oracle's attention, they brought boat-loads (literally) of gold.

Over hundreds of years, many women filled the role of Oracle. Some young, some old. Some were more educated, some were simple country girls.

One thing was consistent over time: the Oracle spoke in riddles. Her pronouncements were always true, but often misunderstood. Nations that were wise (or lucky) enough to benefit from them built commemorative marble monuments on the grounds at Delphi. Those that misused or misunderstood the Oracle fell into ruin.

You might wonder, if the Oracle was so wise, why couldn't she just give a straight answer? But the Oracle understood that telling people what to do gives them an excuse not to think, and to refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Glorious Head-Tail


I was too young to remember my mother well, but I remember her licking me, my whole body rocking with the motion of her tongue. And I remember lying in a heap with my brothers and sisters, and climbing over each other to suckle, all of our tails knocking together, and the smell of my mother's fear.

And then my siblings vanished one-by-one. And then it was just me and mother. She trembled and licked and licked me, and sometimes we whimpered.

And then, it was just me, and the concrete floor and the sound of barking and the smell of nervous diarrhea. I was so cold. I curled up as small as I could and tried to cover myself with my tail. It really only covered my nose, but it was something.

The people talked to me in high voices and sometimes they held me, which I liked, and I did the only thing I knew: I licked them, like my mother had licked me.

But none of them stayed, and mostly I was alone.

Then one day I heard a voice from nearby. I couldn't see who was talking because of all the concrete, but it was a kind voice. Gruff, but kind. It said, "You're awfully young to be here all alone."

And that was when I learned about the outside world, and about people and about how fickle they could be.

"It's my second time in," he said. "I don't think I'll be leaving this time. I'm old and incontinent. Don't be incontinent. That's the number one thing people can't stand.

That's when I learned about The Room You Never Leave. That gruff dog had reliable sources, he said. He'd been talking to the cats.

And then, the next day, they came and got him, and he was gone.

And I was alone again.

I didn't know it, but I had been sick. As I got well, I started to hear all kinds of things, and then there were some things that we didn't talk about, but we all knew them. Like about The Room You Never Leave.

And I realized that I had to convince a person to take me home. But it had to be the right person. I had to choose someone with Heart. Because if I chose wrong, well, I would come back.

When He came, I knew his Heart right away, but he didn't know me. I yelped to get his attention, and when He finally picked me up, I was so excited I peed on him, then I stuck my tongue in his mouth to make it up to him. "I'm not incontinent!" I yowled. And my tail, my tail was out of control! It knocked off his eyeglasses, and when I ran to get them for him I accidentally trampled them and they skittered into a puddle. Guilty evidence from earlier. Now, he would notice for sure! No, no, don't leave me!

He picked up his eyeglasses with two fingers. I tried to lick them clean. And then he was leaving, and I had the presence of mind, finally, to use my eyes and my heart the way they were intended, and I ran over to the wire gate and willed him to bring me home.

He was back the next day. Oh, joy!

That was when I found out about cars and throwing up.
He brought the wife and She had the most glorious tail coming right out of her head, and I just couldn't help myself. I grabbed hold and pulled as hard as I could. She told me no, but I knew She meant yes! Because She had Heart, too.

Truth is Messy

"If you scrutinize your own life, you'll find you do plenty of things
that violate the dichotomies in your mind. I certainly do. We're considerate,
selfless, and clever (except for the times we aren't). Or we're luckless losers
(not counting the infinite things that go right for us every day). This is the
problem with either-or thinking: It keeps us removed from reality, and it
requires that we spend a lot of time and energy convincing ourselves that life
is one particular way (and burying evidence that doesn't jibe with that view).
More important, it will never feel truthful or satisfying—because it leads to an
answer that's only half-right."
-Martha Beck