Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Canopy

The Canopy, Kailua Beach Access Point #91A, Kailua, HI, October 2013, Canon PowerShot S90, 6mm, 1/30 sec @ f8, ISO 800, 0 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]

There is this magical place, on the way to the beach from where we first lived in Hawaii.  A healthy Banyan tree is flourishing in the sand at the beach access point.  It's not the largest tree, to be sure.  You might not even notice it while driving down the road.  But if you are walking past it, on your way to or from the beach at dawn or dusk, you will surely hear the tree -- it is alive!

In the canopy, largely hidden from sight by the dense foliage, are hundreds and hundreds of roosting birds.  And at the turn of each day, they are very chatty.  Cannot-hear-yourself-think chatty! 

And that is good, because our thinking can oft times inhibit our appreciation of the sensory world; of paying attention "now."  And what might our mind be thinking about?  Just about any thing other than our immediate and felt experience.  

So thank those flocks of birds, and anything else that jolts us awake or applies the brakes to our locomotive brain.  And be reminded of this:

"Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares
which will not withdraw from us.
We need hours of aimless wandering,
or spates of time sitting on park benches,
observing the mysterious world of ants
and the canopy of trees."

~Maya Angelou

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When is a Question more important than an Answer?

Who am I?, Lanikai, Oahu, HI, 2/1/15, Nikon D600 with FX 28-300mm VR lens, 300mm, 1/250 sec @ f5.6, ISO 640, -0.67 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Once upon a time, I went through a mid-life crisis.  It was the good kind, not the red corvette and trophy blond kind ;-)

During those tumultuous-but-introspective days, a group emerged, somewhat as a parody of my state of mind, called "The Seekers".  It was pretty normal for every group gathering to end up discussing some of my "urgent" questions.  Who, what, where is God?  Is there a personified God?  Which religion has the Truth?  Etc.  While I may have made the gatherings somewhat stimulating, I know I also challenged a lot of deeply-held beliefs, and that is not the best way to win friends or influence people ;-)

I also read -- a lot.  And I was quite inspired by all of this.  To the point of having brief glimpses of what some might call "the divine", "satori", or the "true self".  I wrote about them on this and some of my other blogs.  But emphasis on the world "brief".  Good news:  I knew (aka experienced) that there was something there.  Bad news:  easy to lose that state, and hard to get it back.

But the end result of this wondrous 10 years or so was that I had in fact "found my answers".  I was no longer a "Seeker".  When you feel you understand the "Truth", or at least believe you have an understanding of its fundamental nature, so much of our religiosity and consumerism and modernity becomes clear as nothing more than a side-show spectacle.  So it is pretty easy to drop.

But another thing happened on the way to understanding ... I lost my voice ... my creative muse.  Where the heck did it go?  And why?  Well today I was reminded of the answer to those questions.  Which is somewhat ironic, as the real answer is the title of this blog post -- "When is a Question more important than an Answer?"  When you are looking for the meaning of life.

Meaning -- at least for me -- will not come by finding answers, but by remaining open to the great mysteries and eternal questions.  Not by understanding the evolutionary purpose of our biological life, true as that may be.  Meaning for me, will come I now realize, by continuing to delve deeply into the inner life -- my inner life. 

Recently, I made a significant decision to retire from the one and only company I have worked for my entire adult life -- 37+ years with one firm.  Pretty unheard of these days.  But October 3rd will be my last official work day.  While day-to-day activities will continue to demand much of my time, I've now realized just how essential it will be to dedicate as much quality time as I can to asking Questions.

And to what end?  I don't know, for sure.  And that, my friends, is a part of this adventure we call Life.  Anyone wish to rejoin "The Seekers"?  Everyone is welcome.  The goal is not so much to challenge, as it is to be open -- to new questions, new insights, new experiences, and to uncertainty.  I can think of nothing better to spend my "retirement years" on.  Oh yeah, and having some fun all along the way.  Welcome home, I say.

Oh one more thing.  It was this interview with Jacob Needleman (for whatever reason) that inspired me to think these sorts of thoughts again.  That's probably more a reflection of my state of mind, than this interview per se, but who knows -- it might be helpful for someone else as well.  Enjoy, if you are so inclined.