Treatise on Integrity

integrit paper.jpg“Integrity: That which shall be humanly borne and displayed as an essential aspect of truth.”

Well that’s my definition of integrity if no one else’s.

“To live with integrity is to be intimately aligned to one’s truth and core values.”

Again, that’s my take on it.

But I do know from personal experience that if you live your life with integrity and truthfulness, you will never be disappointed in yourself.

There will be others who might not be very happy with you at times, especially when your integrity blocks their intentions, but you will stay true to your own ideals if you maintain your sense of personal integrity and right-action focus.

So what does this mean in today’s integrity-starved world?

For one thing, you will definitely stand out from the crowd—you might even be the focal point of the crowd’s anger, which isn’t the most enjoyable place to be.integrit 2

For another, you will find yourself reaching very deep within for the strength and courage to keep your integrity untarnished amidst the constant deluge of complaints and insults slung in your direction.

Another possibility? You might lose a friend or two during the process of staying true to your own beliefs on the rightness of a situation or an action.

But the really strange thing about personal integrity is that nearly everyone believes that THEIR core beliefs and the courage of THEIR convictions are the only TRUE ones possible, which makes the rest of our efforts to maintain personal integrity questionable to them.

integrit 3As much as I value integrity and truth, and I definitely do value them, I also know that what I believe to be the ultimate TRUTH may not be the same as what others believe it to be. We don’t all think and feel the same.

Furthermore, in my rational mind I know that truth is often the perspective of whoever is holding that viewpoint.

But also in my being I know that what I stand for as a loving and compassionate human being is as strong and unwavering as any army’s professed allegiance to any person, place or belief.

Stubbornness is my finest trait or so I’ve been told, because to me integrity is a core value that is worthy of staking one’s integrit 1personal reputation on and/or career future. Holding one’s personal integrity firm and unbending can define us as compassionate human beings when others around us flutter in the winds of political change and collective opinion.

In the largest sense, our Nation was built on certain fundamental assumptions on rightness and fairness, on equity and justice; and when the integrity of any democratically elected official is in question or fluctuating toward non-democratic ideals, then further exposition and assessment of possible wrong-doing must be allowed to happen. The democracy that supports us depends on the integrity of those who lead it.

If we can’t at least rely on a leader’s integrity to do what is lawful and right as guaranteed to us by our U.S. constitution, then we have little firm ground on which to take a stand.

integ world

As I mentioned previously, maintaining one’s integrity is often a tough and lonely stance to take in the face of tumultuous, self-serving opposition, but sometimes it is the only stand we truly have before we are driven to our knees.

Celebrating Grayness

(Written 10/23/02, Edited 8/21/16)

Outside the day was as gray as my hair appeared in the mirror that morning, and I sighed just thinking about it.cloudy.jpg

“I’m not nearly as morose as I sound,” I thought, but the enticing dreariness was convincing me otherwise. “It’s a dark day,” I said to my mirrored reflection. “But so what? We all have dark days. The sun can’t shine brightly every day.”

It’s easy to go with the mood of the day—to slide into cynicism and negativity. Why not? Who cares? Gray days are meant for gray moods, aren’t they?

Gray is that inbetween color—including all the multi-shaded variations ranging from blackest black to whitest white. There are a lot more gray areas than there are the polargray shades.jpg extremes wherever you look—whatever you see. Even silver is just light gray buffed to a high shine. There’s nothing wrong with gray. If you could actually see their true hair colors, some of my best friends are going gray. My favorite cat is gray and white. My favorite slacks outfit is gray. (Well, it’s not really my favorite, but it looks sharply astute.) That’s what gray does for you. It gives you subtle distinction.

So I was having a “subtle distinction” day. Yeah, I could go with that.

That definitely describes it better than calling it a “gray” day. A “subtle distinction” day is a day devoted to nuances rather than contrast, detached engagement rather than enthusiastic support, and perhaps even contemplative acquiescence rather than flat out refusals.

Today was the day for “maybe.” Today was the “perhaps” of lingered consideration. Today stood mootly by with glazed expression and simply said, “I AM, …or I think I AM, …if I don’t think too hard.”

Gray days are for indecision. They celebrate fence-sitting, hem-hawing, shrugging shoulders, sagging heads, blank stares, mumbled responses, luke-warm coffee, and melted ice cream.

At lunchtime a gray day will promote clerk indifference, order confusion, bad choices, and frustrated.jpgsitting in ketchup.

At dinner, you will see crabby faces, hear stinging comments about your cooking, and you will wish that you lived alone.

Gray is for quiet contemplation far away from the nasty attitudes of others.

Gray is for monastery cubicles lined with slender white candles that allow you to watch melting candle wax slowly fill the pewter holder until it spills onto the shelf and then the floor knowing that the residents won’t scold you for not blowing out the candle sooner.

Gray is for stupor—for simple, unabridged “nothing” existing between the ears.spouses.jpg

Gray is grumbling spouses and cranky workmates, all in the same day.

Gray is finding, as you are ready to leave for work in the morning, that your garbage bag has been shredded in the night by the neighbor’s dog.

Gray is having your toddler sit on your lap with a wet, leaking diaper when you are already 10 minutes late for an appointment.

Gray is discovering an ironing rack full of clothes to press and none in your closet to wear.crabby woman.jpg

Gray is welcoming your new neighbors with open arms before realizing that they like staying in your house better than their own.

Gray is having Sunday buffet with in-laws that smilingly criticize your every thought, word, and deed.

Gray is the smell of something rotten when you open the front door after a two-week, summer vacation and remembering that you meant to put the newly-purchased hamburger into the freezer rather than on the counter beside it.cat in litter.jpg

Gray is having a cat that occasionally “misses” the litter box and leaves little “Uh-oh, better cover this up,” front paw tracks up the stairs, through the foyer and onto the livingroom carpet, before nesting in your favorite recliner.

Gray is for taking a deep breath and helplessly watching that 3rd button from the top pop off your blouse while meeting your new employer.

Gray is for shaking your head in disbelief at how every stoplight changes to red, just as you approach them.vaccum grass

 

Clearly, a gray day is meant for thinking all these gray thoughts, and then laughing at the craziness you call your life.

Where to Start?

meditate.jpgBreathe…..just breathe.

Close your eyes (after reading this and the next sentence of course) and bring your focus back to your navel area and simply hold it there for a full ten seconds.

Now breathe slowly in to a count of four, …. and then exhale slowly out to a count of four…….

Okay, ….now that you’ve re-centered yourself for the remainder of this posting, I’m sure that you like all of us are wondering ‘what the heck is going on in the world?’

peace.jpgIf you are almost afraid to turn on the television or watch news alerts on your phone, you are not alone. Not that the last two years have been that great, but this has been one horrific 2-month time period for humanity in general everywhere.

And today in America, the Republican National Convention starts spewing more bigoted, inflammatory rhetoric over the airwaves to fan the flames of hatred throughout the world.

So, ……what do we do?

Individually, we refocus, re-center, and pull our energies back to recharge them with the purest and highest frequencies of Divine Love and Light that we can call upon, and then we push those recharged energies back out into the world around us.  We hold our own space!Divine Love.jpg

We literally hold the Light so strongly and powerfully that no darkness can dim us. And there are enough of us now to make a genuine difference in the world’s energies.

This is WHY we came…to do this very thing:  To HOLD THE LIGHT FOR THE WORLD at this tumultuous changeover from the patriarchal, authoritarian rule to the matriarchal, democratic rule.

But it’s not going to be pretty while that change is happening because those in positions of power never let go of that closely-kept powerbase easily or gently—or gracefully.

prayer.jpgHowever, that is what is happening and will continue to happen throughout the world because it is simply the TIME for it to happen.

So don’t despair, …and don’t be afraid. You are a very important part of this major change in humanity.  Most of us won’t even have to fight for the change.  We simply need to hold the frequencies of Divine Love and Divine Light and let those energies create the necessary change around us.

Love always conquers fear. It always has and it always will.

You are okay. We all are.

 

A Short Story Collection of Rick Bass

Rick Bass.jpgShort stories capture little vignettes of life as compared to a novel’s more-lengthy theme exposition and character development.  A good short story is every bit as difficult for a writer to master as is a good novel because you have far fewer pages to make your point and show your world view. It requires great clarity of vision and a high degree of literary skill. In other words, it takes discipline.

Do NOT consider short stories as the Reader’s Digest version of a novel. They are very different genre and as such offer a unique and rewarding reading experience. To me they are like browsing a buffet of favorite foods all stretched out before you to sample a bit of this, and then try a little of that until eventually you’ve sated your appetite. This book is the buffet grazer’s banquet.

And as mentioned previously, I really love a good writer—a word-magician who can string a few random syllables into multi-dimensional prose with such ease and grace that is effortless to read while being transformative in the process.For a LIttle While

This book I’m now exalting is called FOR A LITTLE WHILE: New and Selected Stories of Rick Bass.

As a short-story writer, Rick Bass could be the resultant love-child of Jack London coupled with Ernest Hemingway—birthed and nurtured by a Jungian midwife. His writing style is succinct, precise, sensory stimulating; and often depicts his characters’ intimate, dependent relationship with their environment.

Bass often shows how the environment has shaped each of the characters in his stories because the characters and the land itself often seem interchangeable with and indistinguishable from each other.

As a writer he subtly captures the depth of human interaction/emotions by describing actions (it’s what you DO, not what you SAY that counts). A character’s speech or dialogue might reveal conscious, flowing thought but actions reveal the unconscious motivations at work that drive the plot (and the life).

Overall I think Rick Bass really goes places that most writers never go—into the psychological core of basic human belief that drives their behavior—a spiritual connection to the land, which he often then parallels to animals of the same region.

tree tops.jpgIn fact in this collection of stories, there is an overwhelming oneness of every living thing interacting with their environment. That natural interdependency is often ignored in the prose of other writers—perhaps because of other writers not recognizing it. Bass, however, reveals the basic matrix of life itself—exposing the soft underbelly—with all its species interconnections and dependencies.

But more importantly is that as a really good writer he does it all so simply and elegantly—and that’s what just blows me away.

He doesn’t get salacious with his story line. He doesn’t go all horrific or deranged. He takes a rustic setting with simple born-of-the-earth people and examines each character’s internal machinations that translate into daily doings in such a way that it reveals WHO those characters are as human beings.

He shows the reader that WHAT his characters are swans on lake.jpgdoing in response to life’s challenges and grind are reflective of WHO they are; but it also helps us to see WHY that should matter to any of us. Bass deftly unveils how our simplest daily actions define our lives—it frames how we view each other, discloses how we treat each other, and clarifies what true life-lessons are learned during our journey here, whether separately or together.

rooted humanYou won’t read a Bass line claiming that life is fair or unfair; only that it is LIFE with all its beauty, tumbles, and bruises. He frequently shows how those strongly-rooted-to-the-land individuals derive their very life-essence from the land itself—how those “firmly planted humans” with feet to shuffle rather than burrowing filaments can more easily flow with and/or resist the life challenges that might test us lesser humans to the limit of our strength and stamina.

Anyway, I could go on and on here, but I think the book is a great short-story collection, especially for nature-lovers. The writer, Rick Bass is a phenomenal talent, and I’ll be reading more of his offerings soon.th

It comes as no surprise that he is an environmentalist.  He writes of nature and the land that supports us like an adulating lover extolling his beloved’s attributes.

Selling a Narrative

This morning while reading through some previously-shared, philosophicalAlberto.jpg Facebook posts, I reread this caption:

“When we enter infinity, the past and future are stripped away and only the here and now exists. We are no longer bound to the painful stories from our past, and our future is no longer scripted by our history. We realize that we are not our stories.”Alberto Villoldo

And because that same subject matter actually applied to my last blog post on Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island, Alberto’s last sentence reverberated in my thoughts: “We realize that we are not our stories.”

narrativeSatin Island was about examining the psycho-social science involved in “selling a narrative”—selling a story about the world we live in—a story about ourselves and our relationship/responsibility to that world we all share.

The key belief that almost all religions of the world share is the need for a “Creation Myth”—a story—a narrative, if you will, of how everything and everyone came into being on this planet: i.e., Who pushed the button to make it all happen and what wahands ball of fire.pngs the reasoning involved in the decision to do so.

The “WHO” in those Creation Myths may have many different names throughout the world. And the “reasoning” for such creation is often speculation at best.

Along with that Creation Myth for each religion there quickly follows the “governing rules” for living in harmony and/or conflict with every other being co-existing at that same time.

dao creationThe problem with so many creation myths and those governing rules that soon follow them is that they differ in small or large part from each other. This creates confusion as to which “Creation Myth” and corresponding rules are the TRUTH, which of course by elimination in that TRUTH category, must make the others false.

Herein lies the battle among world religions as to which religion is TRUTH above all others, with the resulting inference being that if THIS religion is the TRUE one, then all others are falsehoods, pitting devoted believers of one religion against the others.sign.jpg

But the actual TRUTH here is that all Creation Myths and governing rules are merely narratives created by human interpreters of Higher Intention; and the believers of those interpreted narratives have actually been “sold” on them in some way, or they would not believe what they are reading or being told.

That’s not to say that the “selling of a narrative” was a questionable practice—even for a Creation Myth. It is to say that what we tell ourselves about our own lives or about the world we live them in is a story that we buy into for one reason or another.

belief sign.pngAnd if, as Alberto says, we free ourselves from our history and our previous stories, we can change our future, because we are NOT our stories. We are NOT tied to our past. We are NOT limited by our personal or world belief systems when we open our minds and hearts to direct experiencing of TRUTH itself

TRUTH is NOT a story—it is NOT a narrative.

TRUTH is a lightwave frequency of such harmonious vibration that when we raise our personal vibration high enough our energy fields immediately slide into perfect resonance with it—we FEEL it on a far deeper level—and we KNOW that it is TRUTH. We don’t have to be told that it is. We don’t have to buy into anyone’s narrative to explain our veryknow truth existence.

We can FEEL TRUTH—OUR TRUTH.

So as Alberto mentions, when we reach that highest level of resonance with Higher Intention, the past and the future simply slip away; and we are left there in that harmonious moment resonating with immediately-recognizable higher TRUTH. That is when we know OUR TRUTH.

As he said: “We are NOT our stories.” We are beyond mere words and explanations created by limited minds with limited understandings telling us what our lives mean and how we should live them in accordance to their governing rules.

Beyond all human limitations, we ARE TRUTHever expanding—ever extending toward greater awareness and greater comprehension.

highest authorityAnd if you ever feel that you don’t quite fit into what others say you should be doing or what you should be thinking, then don’t sell yourself that old narrative.

Create a new one—a NEW TRUTH—just for you.

JOY!

During this night of deepest darkness she heard a voice sayingjoy1.jpg: “Let there be JOY!”

“Joy?” she said to the emptiness around her, “Joy now? Joy after all of this—this loss—this sadness? This is NOT a time for JOY!”

The voice calmly said, “JOY for ALL time and ALL places.

JOY for the meek and the mild.

JOY for the downtrodden and the derelict.

JOY for the desperate and the despairing.

Let there be JOY!”

“But how?” she cried. “How can I feel JOY after all of this death and destruction?”

The voice was silent for a moment, and just when she began to question herself that she had ever heard the voice at all, it spoke again:

“JOY is the light in any darkened room. It is the rising of fallen spirits. joy3.jpgIt is the underlying laughter in each breath of life.

JOY is the music of your soul’s purest essence.

JOY is the child’s uncompromised innocence and the expectation of goodness with every new discovery.

JOY is the heart so clear and light that it bursts with happiness at the sun rising.

JOY is always there awaiting you. Open the door and let me in.”

Again she scanned the too familiar bedroom so full of memories and emotions, and again saw no one speaking. “Who are you?” she finally whispered.

“JOY!” the voice sang with exuberance. “I am JOY!   I exist!   I am here with you always. Let me in.”

By now she was certain that she’d already had too many drinks trying to kill the deepest pain and all else was hallucination, however, the tiny spark of curiosity within her disheveled mind sent her to the tarnished door handle; and she opened the bedroom door.

The darkened hallway looked the same as usual, and the long night’s silence was broken only by the ticking of her old analog clock beside the bed. After looking up and down the empty hallway, she closed the bedroom door again and turned to the window beside the bed.

She walked over to the window and parted the curtains to stare out into rising sun.jpgthe night. Beyond the barren trees of winter a distant horizon was appearing and the earliest rays of dawn were peeking through the darkness before her. She had successfully made it through the sleepless night once again. No matter how dark the moment or how difficult sleeping became, the new day was dawning before her now and she was watching it appear. As the growing light overpowered the receding night, she stood there for some time—longer than she could fathom, watching it all unfold before she heard the voice again saying:

“I am JOY! I am the beautiful sunrise after an endless night. I am the light ever-building across this land. I am here—right here—right now—waiting for you. Just open your heart and let me in.”

A tear began to slide down her cheek, and she let it run nearly to her chin before wiping it off with her sleeve.

“New day,” the voice said. “New sun on the rise.”

She nodded, “New day,” she repeated. “New sun, but….”

choose joy“I am JOY!” the voice crooned encouragingly. “I am JOY! Say it.”

Tears were streaming effortlessly now—sobs erupted from her chest, and as her knees began to buckle she sat back heavily onto the bed.

“Empty your heart of sadness to clear the space for me. Let the sun shine now into the darkness of your sorrow to light the way for your new day. …I am JOY!” it repeated with emphasis.

“I am JOY,” she mumbled unconvincingly. Then after a few more tissues and a deeper breath she said it again, “I am JOY.”

The night was fast giving way to the strength of the rising sun, and soon a golden ball of brightness appeared above the distant hills—a light so bright that eyes could not contain it, but her heart could feel it filling with a soothing warmth and a unusual sense of peace. She stood, parting the curtains again to view the new day birthing before her now.

“I am JOY,” she repeated to the window pane with greater hope than before. As the sun rose higher and higher in the sky she repeated it even louder, “I am JOY!”joy2.jpg

“I AM JOY!” she suddenly yelled and scared herself at the intensity of the lifeforce behind the statement. Where had that come from?

Again, she looked about the room void of a presence beyond her own and asked, “But what am I to do without him?”

A lilting laughter sang between her ears, and the voice said, “Just let there BE Joy!”

 

Memorable Reads

There are spells when I’m a voracious reader. Every two weeks or so I’ve been going to the library—which is really an excellent library with continual supplies of NEW books, both Fiction and Non.

What I’ve noticed is that lately there are some fine quality Fiction books (as well as Non-Fiction—which are usually coleridgemy favorites) available; and then there are some, how shall I say it, less than well-written books with flashier covers and more provocative lead lines. Those tend to be more melodramatic and trite, and unfortunately, they are quite predictable by mid-story.

As a writer myself, I can admire and marvel at a writer’s skill in not only telling a story, but I also like to note the techniques used to create that story’s setting, how the main subjects’ character traits are defined, and how the author handles the passage of time.

Skilled writers are masters of the subtle details hidden between the covers. They can be tricky—like a sleight of hand artist palming a lesser card mid-deal and replacing it with an ace. A flick of the wrist and an unsuspecting eye could miss a persuasive key stroke.

There is far more to a quality novel than just rolling out a somewhat believable plot. Voice, tone, and tempo are all important factors to how a story is told. It’s a lot like that slogan “Destination is not what is important in life—it is the journey along the way.”

readerA good writer can make it a revelatory journey—show you the terrain—the winding curves, the bumps and potholes, the vegetation massed along the side—help you feel comfortable or uncomfortable with your tour guides who are describing scenes, and allow YOU to form your own opinions on what is really occurring in those faux interactions and situations where the main characters are challenged by extreme emotions or passions.

Ensconced in the telling, you even become the helpless witness when they eventually succumb to their own character flaws, allowing the story to play out like a true Greek tragedy—rich in pathos.

So I want to mention that reading-material wise, I was very impressed with The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson. the affinitiesIt is a bit Sci-Fi but not a far stretch for the possible future of social and cultural evolution where emotional attachments and character tendencies become group-based behavioral classifications. The book is more so a group character study (philosophical and psychological) than action-based, but it is so well-written that I will read it again just to take notes on how Wilson transitioned characters, defined settings, and massaged the passage of time.

Another good book (non-fiction that reads like fiction) is A Death on Diamond Mountain: A death on diamondTrue Story of Obsession, Madness, and the Path to Enlightenment, by Scott Carney, which is a masterful telling of truth and hard-gathered facts as if they were unfolding before you. An investigative journalist allows us to see behind the smoking mirrors of a popularized religion.

So how can you tell good writing from mediocre tries at such?

Good writing is easily distinguished from lesser attempts because it is effortless to read and yet deeply satisfying in effect—a bit like a spicy-hot Italian Sausage Pizza that lingers on your palate long after the meal is done.

Every after-burp is a reminder of its potency on your very being.