Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Extreme Forgiveness

A friend of mine has a rather odd passion for reading obituaries, but every once in a while she turns up a gem.  

Her latest find was Eric Lomax who died this month at age 93.  Lomax was a British Army officer who was captured and tortured by the Japanese during  the fall of Singapore in 1942.  Savagely beaten, water boarded and forced with thousands of others to build the infamous Burma-to-Siam railroad, featured in the 1957 film "The Bridge on the River Kwai," Lomax deliberately avoided all things Japanese and went more than 45 years without speaking to a Japanese person, embodying a common POW attitude of "don't forget, don't forgive."  

However, late in his life after suffering post-traumatic stress for decades, Lomax decided to find the man who had been his principal interrogator during his imprisonment.  He wound up finding Takashi Nagase, who had published his own memoir of shame and regret and financed a Buddhist temple at the bridge to atone for his actions during the war.  Nagase's story prompted a meeting between the two elderly enemies on the bridge where they had engaged fifty years earlier.  

After their meeting, Lomax wrote Nagase a letter assuring him of his total forgiveness and Nagase said, "I think I can die safely now."   The meeting between the two was filmed for a television documentary, "Enemy, My Friend?"  Lomax later wrote a memoir titled "The Railway Man," which is now being made into a movie, starring Colin Firth.

Extreme forgiveness.  How does one forgive the most unimaginable cruelty?  What is that first step of letting go of that pain and anger?  And, if Eric Lomax can forgive the man who tortured him, can those of us who carry such minor, everyday wrongs, not do likewise?  

And, a question that has always confounded me … is it necessary for the other person to apologize before forgiveness can be granted?  Perhaps it's a two-step process … I can let go of anger and hurt … but, before there is that slate-cleaning moment, the other person has to express sorrow and request forgiveness.  Then there is reconciliation.

About this image:  Crack in the World

Perhaps the first step in forgiveness and reconciliation is that both hearts have to crack open.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

At Home Clarity Retreat - Day 2

This past weekend I attended a Bioneers Conference which set all my molecules spinning.  

They've actually been coming unglued for awhile prompted by different threads that seem to be weaving a new pattern … perhaps a whole new cloth.  Some of the threads:  Samuel Jackson's video, "Wake the F**K Up!" which I know he made just for me, a visit with my granddaughter and all the thoughts about what her world will be like, John Lennon's birthday (he would have been 72), and a Mary Oliver poem that repeats in my head:  "One day you finally knew what you had to do … and began."  And began!

The conference speakers bombarded my senses with urgency and a powerful call:  it's time … do something … wake-up … step-up!

I'm good at beginnings and there were a dozen or more possibilities spinning through my mind as I left the conference.  So I decided I needed a time out … a retreat … a clarity retreat.  I needed a "forty days in the desert" experience … however, I didn't have the time or wherewithal to do 40 days, so I decided to do 40 hours at home in Arroyo Grande … and to keep the wheels of day-to-day life moving, I would spread the 40 hours over 10 days.

To make sure that I stay focused, I eliminated as much external diversion as possible, no reading, movies and, during the designated hours, no internet, telephone, email, Facebook, and so on.  I even eliminated food as a diversion by making a huge pot of rice and vegetables which will be my staple for the 10 days of the retreat.  I also lined my hallway walls with large Post-it sheets and assembled various colors and sizes of small Post-it notes and colored markers.  And, to stay in balance at least somewhat, I'm committing to walk at least two hours a day.  Nothing like walking to allow space for clarity to play.

Each day, I'm drawing a card from the Voyager Tarot deck.  Yesterday … Day 1 … I drew the Two of Worlds which states:  Winter Reflection.  The moon, winter, pond, and night represent rest and reflection.  In this time of physical relaxation and mental contemplation, you crystalize your feelings and plans, as symbolized by the snow -- crystalized water.

I only managed 3 hours yesterday but I deeply explored one of the possibilities that had presented itself.  I like the idea a lot but a major flaw surfaced so I'm not sure whether or not it will survive.

This morning I woke up with a fresh idea that demands my attention as well as some new sheets in the hallway.

The Tarot card for today is the Ace of Wants:  Illumination -- a vision, a revelation, a flash of insight.  The hand means you have touched upon a truth.  You have seen beyond the surface reality.  

That seems like a good beginning for this day of clarity seeking.

About this image:  Follow Your Own Path

The main player in this image is a rooster I met years ago in Boca de Tomatlan, Mexico.  He shows up regularly and I know he's just telling me ... over and over again ... "Wake Up!"

More Info:

If you don't know about Bioneers, check them out … many people call their conference the "all natural anti-depressant."  http://www.bioneers.org/  Their mission is to "inspire a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations."

If you missed Samuel Jackson's video, here it is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og35U0d6WKY

Friday, October 12, 2012

Timing and Happenstance

Last night at the San Luis Obispo Camera Club, Bill Bouton told us an amazing story of timing and happenstance, with the underlying moral of:  Be Prepared!

A few weeks ago Bill bought himself a very expensive new camera lens and went out to see how it worked.  He tried one place but nothing of great interest showed up so …
… happenstance … he decided to go to Avila Bay, where he saw a bunch of pelicans diving.  He parked his car and took his camera to see what was happening and it turned out that a humpback whale was feeding at a "bait ball" at Port San Luis.  Bill took five shots and returned home, where he shared the photos with a friend, and … 
… happenstance … she posted the photos on a local area blog, and … 
… happenstance … the photos showed up on Yahoo News Front page … and then went viral.    
Soon Bill was getting calls from around the world … major newspapers, television, blogs … everyone wanted to use his photos … especially the one below, featuring the girl "in the little black number."  By the time it was over, his Flickr images had registered almost a million views.

Bill's moral about being prepared came because he was not prepared for the avalanche of calls he received and didn't know how to charge for the use of his images.  "If I had known how to charge, I probably could have made $20,000 in those few days,"  he stated.  "As it was, I paid for my new lens," he concluded with a grin.

It's hard to be prepared for lightning … but sometimes it happens.  Where could it happen in your life ... and how might you be prepared?

More of Bill Bouton's images can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/billbouton/

Friday, October 5, 2012


I am sitting at tunnel viewpoint in Yosemite looking at the view that never tires, watching the bus load of Japanese tourists with their cameras, marveling at this place that speaks its universal language of peace, beauty and permanence.

It reminds me of the opening lines of David Wagoner's powerful poem "Lost."

Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost.  Wherever you are is called Here.

Here.  That's what I felt as I drove through the big trees and glimpsed the morning mist  hanging in the valleys.  Here. In my life, on my path.  Clarity replaced the turmoil that had been roiling my spirit.  Here.  Wherever I am is called Here.  I am not lost. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bullets and Beanie Babies

Last night I listened as a wounded Iraqi veteran talked in halted, nervous tones of his struggles with anger, of his lost jobs because he could no longer do simple math, of his efforts to put into art the things that he could not put into words.

He talked about the soldier's pack he carried … filled with bullets and Beanie Babies … and two cans of Coke ... because I like Coke.  Beanie Babies to make friends with the children during the day. Bullets for the middle of the night or early morning ... when people were deepest in their sleep and would be least likely to resist.  Beanie Babies for the children … bullets for their resisting parents.

He talked to a room full of students who sat sanding plaster casts of their smooth, innocent faces … faces untouched by the veteran's world … and answered questions about bronze and glass and why.

What have we done?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

WakeUp Dreamers: Anthem

One of those songs that made us dreamers ...

We had dreams when the night was youngWe were believers when the night was youngWe could change the world, stop the warNever seen nothing like this beforeBut that was back when the night was young

We headed straight south in a sundown lightOn highway sixty one through the delta nightWe shared the back roads with card sharks and griftersTent show evangelists and Luke the Drifter
What is lost? What is missing?What's been gone way too long?
We had dreams when the night was youngWe were believers when the night was youngWe could change the world, stop the warNever seen nothing like this beforeBut that was back when the night was young
Sign reads 'God Bless America', guns and ammoI'm not sure that's what it meansSign reads 'Repent, the end is near'I'm not sure that's what we need
Get your heart beating in the right directionThat's when you make a real connection
We had dreams when the night was youngWe were believers when the night was youngWe could change the world, stop the warNever seen nothing like this beforeBut that was back when the night was young
Now Andy Warhol's in the hotel lobbyHe's waiting for the late night museBut she won't be back before morningShe's gone downtown to hear some blues
Like the sun rising out of the seaIt's how you embrace the mystery
We had dreams when the night was youngWe were believers when the night was youngWe could change the world stop the warNever seen nothing like this beforeBut that was back when the night was young
We had dreams when the night was youngWe were believers when the night was youngWe could change the world stop the warNever seen nothing like this before
 But that was way back when the night was young