From lazy days of summer, watching sunsets and traveling to other places, to the wrenching events of the fall, one theme kept emerging. We have the power to tell our own stories. We can see the tumult and suffering of our times as an open invitation to reclaim that power.
In July, I speculated on why artists create, given how much work it is to make anything, whether it’s a building or a novel. We do what it takes to serve the muse.
“The act of writing is an act of optimism. You would not take the trouble to do it if you felt it didn’t matter.” ~ Edward Albee
In August, a sunset worked its magical way through my imagination and onto the page as a timeless reminder of the ephemeral. Continue reading
“A talent for speaking differently, rather than for arguing well, is the chief instrument of cultural change.” ~ Richard Rorty
This is the time of year for highlight lists. I thought about doing a best of Thriving on the Threshold list for about a minute. Instead, I’m offering a two-part look back on some of the themes that emerged this year. Visually, the site’s tag cloud indicates that the top themes are interdependence, mystery, wonder, humility, creativity, imagination, separation, uncertainty, magic, and beauty.
I use my writing to increase my awareness of the stories that we live by. This post presents a list of some of those stories, both the dominant ones and emerging alternatives. Cultivating that awareness involves “re-membering,” literally returning to the original home of the body, as in this post. And the way that appreciation, wonder, awe and gratitude arise from such re-connection. Continue reading
A few years ago, pondering my tendency to give in to fear, I got this image of my life as a birdcage. My body is the cage, the beautiful bird in the cage is Spirit, Unity, pure consciousness. As long as the cage is uncovered, the bird will sing and sing. My ego is the blanket that I throw over the cage, especially when I grow fearful of the song or can’t imagine how it can fit or direct the living of my life. Of course the cage is completely porous between inner and outer worlds. What happens when I open the door and let the bird fly out? What happens when I become the bird and fly to meet my fellows?
A dear friend who had recently come through a difficult period strenuously advised not to become the bird, and certainly not to leave the cage. Rather than paraphrase her words, here is what she wrote:
There is so much to chew on, but we are of matter. Of humanity. I think I tried to fly as they say. . . and in the end, I found out that I’m still just human. And we are connected. So my question is: how do we connect and fly together? Connect those dots. It seems to me, from a consciousness perspective, we all need to lift off together. Continue reading
Why don’t we go to the American Visionary Art Museum more often? It’s so full of energy and inspiration. The artist biographies alone contain worlds: stories of modest lives, of strange and average families, of being marginalized or anonymous or defying odds. And the art! Inspiration, desperation, madness, direct divine download, obsessive detail, love, beauty and hope. The human condition and human potential laid bare—and then bedazzled with mirror fragments, ceramics, jewels, beads, day-glo paint, and silver balloons. The whole messy reality of life as an embodied human.
AVAM is a funhouse of play and whimsy and joy-in-the-face-of . . . . I used to naively believe that such playfulness and inspired creativity was the reserve of a select few Chosen, and that they get to shine more brightly and be more loved than the rest of us. Of course, such artists experience the other extremes of despair, darkness, and depression more acutely too. There is no free lunch. Continue reading
I had an exchange on social media after the Paris climate talks, a back and forth of articles and videos with an acquaintance who challenged the veracity and conclusions of what’s known as “accepted” climate science. I let myself be annoyed by his posts, dismissing them as straw men. (The book and film, “Merchants of Doubt,” shows that many of them are). Among the challenges to climate science, the one I find most absurd is that scientists are after big government grants, so they’ll say anything. It’s just not persuasive when you consider that it’s usually leveled by those who DO have a financial stake—like the Koch brothers and others in the fossil fuel biz.
Then I had to laugh. Here I was defending science, when I’m more inclined to question its assumption of human exceptionalism and elevation of reason to exalted status over intuition. Rupert Sheldrake’s book, Science Set Free, shows that modern science, for all its value and rigor, has gotten so dogmatic as to be almost fundamentalist in its stridency. Anything that doesn’t fit the accepted paradigm of materialism is ignored, dismissed, and labeled “anti-science.” Data that doesn’t fit the expected outcome is shoved into a file drawer and not published. Continue reading
I’m shocked that in this day and age you’re actually advising people to send their kids outside. Continue reading
My 8-year-old son has recently been diagnosed with Nature Deficit Disorder. I should have seen it coming, as earlier in the year he sprained both thumbs playing video games. Continue reading
Tomorrow we will debut a new feature on the blog, called “Ask Edith.” I don’t think Edith would mind if I told you I was a bit skeptical when she first approached me. Sure, she’s credentialed* to give advice, but during each of our seven coffee meetings to kick around this idea, I detected an edge. Also, she had given me four references, but one never returned my calls, one was ambivalent, and two were unable—or unwilling— to speak to her qualifications (her kindergarten teacher and a distant cousin).
You would be justified in wondering why, then, I chose to give her this platform. The reason is simple. We live in uncertain, alienating, divisive, and confusing times. People have questions and Edith has answers. The emails with these questions have been piling up in my inbox. It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize that Edith was “sent” to me via some unknowable universal force of attraction. Who am I to stand in the way of that? Continue reading
Our fascination with Story is so deeply embedded I would be surprised if genetic researchers haven’t turned up a receptor gene for it. We are almost as fond of categorizing things as we are of telling stories, so I wasn’t surprised recently to come across an article about the seven archetypal stories. This take on it says that the seven stories are: overcoming the monster, rebirth, quest, journey and return, rags to riches, comedy, and tragedy. Other genre categories break it down differently: love story, thriller, murder mystery, epic adventure, etc. The point is, we relate deeply, even subconsciously, to stories that have familiar themes and structures.
Just as there are types of stories, there are also types of storytellers. Some we call entertainers, others leaders or politicians. Some we call teachers, or pastors, rabbis or imams. Some are advertisers, others activists. All understand the power of Story to help us make sense of our lives, to show us our struggles and shine light on a pathway through them. It’s telling that this particular article ran in an advertising magazine. Continue reading
We always have the choice to choose joy and love over resentment and misery. I’ve had two great reminders of this recently. Michel Martin’s editorial on NPR makes the case for rejoicing rather than lamenting opportunities for activism. And Liz Gilbert, in Big Magic, echoes with her challenge to the cult of anguish that hangs over creativity. Martin asks why so many people who offer themselves up for leadership these days do it with an air of “Why me?” Then she holds up the example of inventors:
“When do you ever hear people say, ‘Why didn’t somebody else invent the airplane, the smart phone, solar panels, the tea infuser, for heaven’s sake, so I didn’t have to?’ We even have commercials featuring the tiny garages and attics where supposedly this inventing took place. We understand that discovery is a joy that can feel like a physical sensation.”
Under the tyranny of the Old Story of Separation, “No pain, no gain” is infused into everything we value most. War metaphors may be the currency of our culture, but I wonder if our allegiance to struggle and competitiveness is thinning what could be a much-needed flood of creativity into more of a trickle. Martin again: Continue reading