Monday, June 15, 2015

For Mom


Moist with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul
Shall—though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly—be
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard or foul,
And life by this death abled shall control        
Death, whom Thy death slew; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death bring misery,
If in Thy life-book my name thou enroll.
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified,
But made that there, of which, and for which it was;        
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sin’s sleep and death soon from me pass,
That waked from both, I again risen may
Salute the last and everlasting day.

John Donne 

Monday, March 09, 2015

Books: Passports to Truth

There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all. ~~ Jacqueline Kennedy
I can attest that Jackie's perspective is quite true. Books do enlarge a child's world. Books and travel.

In my kids' case, the books have led to travel, and the travel has led to books, and art, and music, and galleries. and people, and knowledge, and foods, and God.

Perhaps this is a taste of Heaven, these delicious aspects of life? Intellectual growth, discovery, healthy new perspectives, spiritual fillings which lead to passion and poetry and prayers and other such extraordinary happenings.

It's not enough to merely read. You must savor, digest, allow yourself to be changed for the better. Then, as the better you lives and moves and carries on its very being, you change the world around you, beginning with those closest to you, whom you love and share with the most. You model your growth. It ripples outward and God is glorified.

Through good books.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. ~~ Philippians 4:8

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hesitantly Going Where I've Never Gone Before

Nag nag nag.

"You should write a book!"

"You're wasting your talent!"

"If you don't write it soon there are people who won't get to read it!"

But what would I write about? Who cares what I have to say? Who am I, anyway?

Excuses whisper. Sitting is the last thing I need to increase. It's right up there with being on the computer and snacking. I mean, I should be moving more not less. There is nothing I have to say that hasn't already been said, and better. I have so many other things I find more interesting such as my French and Italian language studies, herb gardening, recipes I want to try, friends I want to connect with, a huge stack of books to read, weight to lose, trips to take, and life to live! Who has time to write!

And yet there is this nagging nagging nagging voice in my head telling me I ought to at least try.

I tried to silence the voice, 'ignore it and it will go away.' Right? I played a bunch of tennis with my husband, then went to a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory with my daughters. I juiced the softening leftover apples from autumn's harvest. I even cleaned off all the shelves in the laundry room combining duplicate bottles of bleach, Woolite, and Pine Sol. I weeded my twelve herb-growing flower pots which show life after winter's chill, I washed the living room curtains, and I made my very first batch of French Onion Soup using my daughter's homemade artisan bread for the croutons that float on top. I cleaned out my clothes closet, and my book shelves, and that catch-all drawer in the kitchen.

Still, it nags.

Deep in my brain.

The moment I've dreaded is here.

I have to try to write a book.

Then, it dawned on me: I've already begun a book. My blogs are full of writings, nine years worth!

A start.

Compilation has begun.

A surprising eagerness ensues, and the voice is hushed.

For now.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Remembering with Delight

 "Happy is it, indeed, for me that my heart is capable of feeling the same simple and innocent pleasure as the peasant whose table is covered with food of his own rearing, and who not only enjoys his meal, but remembers with delight the happy days and sunny mornings when he planted it, the soft evenings when he watered it, and the pleasure he experienced in watching its daily growth." ~~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Tibetan Perspective on Western Laziness

"There are different species of laziness: Eastern and Western. The Eastern style is like the one practiced to perfection in India. It consists of hanging out all day in the sun, doing nothing, avoiding any kind of work or useful activity, drinking cups of tea, listening to Hindi film music blaring on the radio, and gossiping with friends. Western laziness is quite different. It consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issues...We tell ourselves we want to spend time on the important things of life, but there never is any time...Our lives seem to live us, to possess their own bizarre momentum, to carry us away; in the end we feel we have no choice or control over them. Of course we feel bad about this sometimes, we have nightmares and wake up in a sweat, wondering; 'What am I doing with my life?' But our fears only last until breakfast time; out comes the briefcase, and back we go to where we started."

"In the modern world, we have to work and earn our living, but we should not get entangled in a nine-to-five existence, where we live without any view of the deeper meaning of life. Our task is to strike a balance, to find a middle way, to learn not to overstretch ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations, but to simplify our lives more and more. The key to finding a happy balance in modern lives is simplicity. Peace of mind will come from this. You will have more time to pursue the things of the spirit and the knowledge that only spiritual truth can bring, which can help you face death. Sadly, this is something that few of us do. Maybe we should ask ourselves the question now: 'What have I really achieved in my life?' By that I mean, how much have we really understood about life and death?'"

The above quotes come from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Morning Sun

"The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day."

~~ Proverbs 4:18


Satan's enticing traps are littered not only with wicked hearts, but with degraded, unguarded hearts of the defiled redeemed, those liberally splattered with the excrement of a thousand compromises, unaware of odors putrid, offenses cringing, and oblivion searing from the selling of refining sensitivity for thirty pieces of acceptance from a world gone dark.

"Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you: love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will be a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown." ~~ Proverbs 4: 6 - 10

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Bandy-Legged Hero

Photo by Cassie Klusman *
 "Socrates had a favorable opinion of men and women because he saw clearly that they were capable of the highest moral heroism. Their outward appearance was of no lasting significance. Beauty faded with age, and clothes could do little for a man or woman to enhance or detract from what nature had provided. He had no shoes and precious little in the way of garments, and God had made him an ugly man."
"Socrates was imperturbable. He exuded serenity. There were many things he deplored, but nothing left him depressed. If he was angry, he never showed it - except, in contrast to most people, who raise their voices in anger, he lowered his, and spoke quietly. To those who knew Socrates, he was impossible to dislike and difficult not to love." ~~ Paul Johnson, Socrates
In the light of today's perception of beauty equating happiness, Socrates seems a paradox. Here was a bandy-legged, ugly man with enormous lips, a flat, spreading nose, giant popping eyes, who was also bearded and hairy, yet, serene, curious, well-thought of, instructive, a seeker of personal virtue, wisdom, and understanding. He inspired and actually changed the world! A philosophical genius and a hero. His physical ugliness bothered him not. He light-heartedly joked about it. He fully grasped where lies the wealth of men and women. He was happy.

While a body can be spruced up a bit, outward beauty either is or isn't. It's a chance of birth. We can't change that no matter how much dye we use, or make-up, hair products, fashion sense, jewelry, or even Botox. Let me repeat that, outward beauty either is or isn't, we have it or we don't. It'd be helpful if we could all kindly accept that and move on. Physical beauty isn't a prize, it isn't a blessing. "She is blessed with good looks!" No, beauty just is or isn't. We have physical beauty or we don't. Beauty isn't 'good' nor homeliness or ugliness 'bad'. Bodily beauty - or lack thereof - isn't a moral condition. It just is.

Personal treasure lies in the mind, the spirit, the heart, the behavior, the levels of virtue, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Here is true beauty, attainable for all. Integrity and depth can be altered for better or worse all our lives long. Remarkable and encouraging. To seek truth by engaging in life in its simplest and most complicated forms is a choice.

So, why is it that we 21st Century Citizens feel the need to continually - manically - renovate our bodies - starving, punishing, waxing, plucking, shaving, dying, styling, manicuring, pedicuring, attiring, piercing, inking, perfuming, bedazzling, girdling, lifting, separating, deforming, and otherwise torturing them - in order to conform to a mysteriously ordered idea of beauty? Why, indeed, especially when the true worth of a man, woman, or child is within the attitude, the level of goodness, depth, and desire to grow in grace and knowledge?

Apparently modern man fails to understand where value lies. Tragedy this. Utter failure.

Obsessive beauty seeking seems to have created more insecurity and judgment than ever before. Unnecessarily so. Within each of us - whether outwardly ugly or beautiful or somewhere in between - lies the raw material to grow a serene, curious, relevant, helpful, inspirational, wise, understanding, caring, joyful person.

Please, don't misunderstand. I'm not opposed to bathing or presenting ourselves at our natural best. Of course not. It's a wonderful thing to brighten our homes and communities with loveliness for loveliness sake. Robust health boosts the enjoyment of life and cleanliness is still next to godliness. Fashion is fun. Tweaking what God has given us can tidy up the garden of our appearance. I don't oppose these things, I applaud them. The balance is just off, that's all. Too much time and emphasis on clothes, make-up, weight, hair, teeth, skin tone, body shape, and dress size leaves little room for absorbing the hows and whys of an integrated life.

This absorption requires solitude, a quiet mind, a contented yet curious heart, focus. With all that life requires of us there really isn't time for vanity or self-condemnation based on physical appearance. One thing is required, and it's not more waxing, excessive closet-busting shopping trips, long hours flipping through Pinterest for hair style photos and make-up secrets, or a daily, time-slurping primping in front of a bedroom mirror. Grooming, yes. Preoccupation, no.

Single-mindedly stopping up our ears liberates us from our culture's siren call to celebrate the superficial while demanding we neglect life's purpose. In liberty is the opportunity for prolific personal growth accompanied by the hope of discovering what it means to truly be a beautiful person.

Like Socrates.

* Cassie took this photo of the bust of Socrates in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, 2013. All Rights Reserved