Feeds:
Posts
Comments

I set out to comment on this post by Thom Ingram, and realized instead that his writing had inspired more than just a comment. I’m not going to rehash his post; just read it for yourself because it’s a beautiful mindful struggle with the meaning of life.

I haven’t studied – or even read – multiple spiritual texts as Thom has – but I have this sense that in addition to the commonalities across texts that he mentions, there is also a shared thread of being fully present in the here and now; of living compassionately and empathetically towards myself and all others. And I think that is actually based on – and counterweight to – the commonalites he does bring up – that there is more than we know or sense, that we are more than we know or sense, that so much of what we think we are apprehending is not by a long shot the last word or the ultimate reality.

For me the idea of presence and humble empathy is often embodied in the squirrels I see out my window, just a representative for me of all the small and mindless little creatures living out their seemingly ultimately pointless little animal lives. I imagine what life is like in a squirrel’s mind. I empathize with this tiny furry rodent feeling warm sunlight and wintry winds on its body, its heart racing as it scurries illogically across the street in the paths of roaring automobiles, its simpleminded squirrelly chuckling laughter from a branch high in my backyard tree directed at my outraged terrier below. I think of it feeling hunger, cold, pain, and also delight, contentment, even rodent-level joy.

In the cosmic scheme of things, I am that squirrel. Except that my kind have tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and there can be no unknowing, no returning to the simple thoughtless life of the squirrel. I – and you – live in a cosmos that is beyond even our most-exalted-of-all-species intellectual capacities, but we have this extra level of knowledge that as far as we know, no other animal possesses: we know we’re going to die, that no matter what, every one of us is housed in a body that is falling apart, destined for the dirt. And beyond that, our knowledge fails us**. It appears to be the last word on the reality of the human body, as far as we’ve been able to ascertain through the senses and mental capacities of these bodies.

So we turn to imagination, art, faith, drugs, anything mind-altering, to see if somehow we can transcend the painful reality of the knowledge we can’t unknow, this knowledge of the ultimate decay of all things. And sometimes we can, and do. But that transcendence never gives our intellect the words and ideas it needs to feel satiated.

Thom says in his post, “I want to be in this world. In the here and now. I want to be centered on this place. But it’s all an illusion.”

And that’s where I turn to my powers of squirrel empathy for a little help. Whether it is all an illusion or not, this is the world where I have found myself. It is the reality I know, and you are here too. You are, right? Because maybe if everything is an illusion, then all the people around me are an illusion too, and it doesn’t matter how I treat them or what becomes of them.

I wonder, is this why the Genesis account of the tree of knowledge treats the tree and its fruit as so dangerous? If I understand that the world I think I know to be real is merely a virtual reality created by my senses and fed into my mind, why not seek to rise above it all? Why not make myself a god, the god of my own life, the god of this reality? Why shouldn’t I pilfer the planet and its people for the things I want, since it’s all a sham and even that is ultimately all falling apart anyway?

But back to the squirrel. The humble life of the squirrel. Breathe in, breathe out. Sunshine. Wind. Fear, laughter, hunger, and joy. And then, the human, who asks why? Always why, always, but why, what for, where is all this going, what’s it all about?

I don’t think asking why is ever a problem on its own. Instead, I find it concerning when we stop asking why because we think we know it all and we’ve come up short, disappointed and disillusioned with all we know, and throw up our hands and sigh, who cares, it doesn’t matter anyway.

It’s a hard fight some days, and others it feels small, pointless and never-ending – but I keep trying to faithfully live like a humble squirrel and an inquisitive human. I don’t think the fruit of the tree of knowledge is only bitter poison. Maybe if you squeeze out the sweetest part of it, let it ferment and share it with your friends, it can bring you some joy too.

 

**Of course humans are intellectually much smarter than squirrels, making discovery upon discovery, building wizard-level technological masterpieces – but that to me is just a way more powerful version of the squirrel brain. I’m referring here to consciousness, a sense of me and my place in the world, and its most painful realization of death and decay, that we haven’t knowingly encountered in any other species.

 

Bonus material – here’s a song I wrote last year and the origin of this post’s title:

 

 

 

Advertisements

It’s been a few months. Of leaving Colorado, loading all our stuff in storage and living in my parents’ basement, looking for houses in Saint Paul (we finally got the fifth one we offered on), getting kids launched into new schools, updating drivers’ licenses and vehicle registrations, you get the idea.

We’ve been moved into our new house for just over a month now, and we’re starting to get reacquainted with living in the Twin Cities, eleven years after we left it. There is so much going on here, and I’m excited to dig into it! Last Saturday we went to hear The Salt Vine and Annie Mack at the Aster Cafe; Tuesday night we sat in on a dress rehearsal for Sam’s Son, an upcoming musical; and last night Nathan and I biked over to Humboldt High School to hear the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra give a free concert for residents of our neighborhood – and then on over to Wabasha Brewing to sample beers from our most local brewery (we were not disappointed – Cathedral Porter and Darktober, mmm!).

I’m eager to start playing music here again. We’ve got some big renovation projects happening in our house that will take a lot of our attention for probably the first year we’re here, but I’m hoping to at least get out and hit a few coffee shops soon.

In the meantime, here is a very rough laptop recording of a song I wrote this summer. (We haven’t gotten the recording equipment set up yet.) You can glimpse our gutted kitchen through the doorway behind me! Reminds me a little of this video Nathan and I made years ago in the house we gutted in Owatonna.

Lyrics:

You’ll never recognize your life’s undertow

That subtle subcurrent stays hidden

Till what you should have done a long time ago

Meets what you are because you didn’t

Keep your eyes open wide

Wear your heart on the outside

Clowns and cynics clog our pocket scrolls

We search for angels on the airwaves

We trip and tangle in the threads of trolls

Ensconced in our respective enclaves

Reach your mind towards the light

Hold your soul through its dark night

Keep your heart open wide

Wear your eyes on the outside

Of all of this cursed and kissed existence

You may not feel it for a long hard time

But joy comes ever back around

And nothing beautiful stays in the lines

And demagogues eventually fall down

Raise your voice through the haze

Hold my hand through these dark days

Keep your ears open wide

Let the best songs inside

Of all of this cursed and kissed existence

 

The Last Week

Day 44 and the end of my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

Today was the kids’ last day of school. Yesterday was Nathan’s last day of work, and the day before that was my last day as music director at our church.

So it just seems fitting that even though we’re not pulling out of Loveland for good until June 19th, I’m going to end my little blog series of things I love about Loveland.

There’s plenty more I could add, but I must admit that my heart is really leaning towards Minnesota now and also there are many things to do to prepare for our move. AND we are excited that next week we will embark on a week-long tour of five national parks in the region with Nathan’s parents, who are coming out for a visit. This will include the Grand Canyon, and it will be the first time any of us will have seen it.

So I’m off on my own mini summer break here in Colorado, and will resume blogging after we make our move. Maybe there will be fun new things to post as I discover my new neighborhood there.

Much love from – and to – Loveland, Colorado!

Day 43 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

In 2015 my firstborn started middle school. We’ve loved that both schools our kids have attended while we’ve lived here have been walking distance from home. We also loved that at Bill Reed, Luthien started playing cello and enjoyed attending orchestra as part of her classroom schedule every day.

18527687_10210583984250433_4497214102379018083_n

She also joined yearbook club and played volleyball this year.

IMG_3043.JPG

The 7:25 am start time was not a favorite, nor was the predictable middle school social drama; and we felt her sadness both years when she tried out and didn’t get into the spring play – but we still loved going to all the plays because they were so well done. All in all, these have been good sixth and seventh grade years for my girl and I’m thankful she got to attend this school.

Day 42 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

IMG_3725.JPG

Tonight was our family’s last service with our church here in Colorado, Mustard Seed House Churches. We joined this community as it was forming in 2013, the year we moved here. It’s an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) congregation with a unique model. Each time we meet, we gather around a table and share a meal. The larger church is made up of smaller house churches based in different areas around northern Colorado. Each week one house church meets in someone’s house, and once a month all of these churches meet together in Fort Collins at the USC Lutheran Campus Ministries’ chapel for a bigger dinner and worship service together.

Tonight our pastor Andy utilized a selfie stick to get everyone in this group photo, and we said some tearful goodbyes as our community gathered around and prayed a blessing over us.

IMG_0435

 

Day 41 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

IMG_3722.JPG

Another of my favorite running routes takes me through River’s Edge Natural Area. In this photo the water isn’t showing, but there are several large ponds ringed by gravel trails through prairie grasses, and I suppose part of why I love coming here is because it reminds me of Minnesota. Except with mountains as a backdrop.

I took the above photo this morning when my dog stopped to sniff/pee on some grass and I noticed the blue flowers in the foreground.

Here are some photos I took when I ran through here in February:

IMG_3382IMG_3381

Day 40 in my “Leaving Loveland” challenge.

Today Nathan and I took a motorcycle ride out west of town into the foothills past Carter Lake and up to where the public road ends at Pinewood Reservoir. The hairpin turns up (and back down!) the mountain make for a slightly too-exhilarating ride for my taste, but it’s worth it for this view.

IMG_3721.JPG

And yes, that’s snow! There isn’t any left in Loveland from last week’s storm, but it’s still hanging around at slightly higher elevations.