I’m a Catholic, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a “good” Catholic. I’m a Buddhist, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a good Buddhist. I would describe myself as a human being trying to live a compassionate life that respects the diversity of ways of seeking.
Almost everyone that knows me is aware that I am Catholic, but few realize I accepted the precepts of Buddhism (Jukai) in 2015. I studied with Rosan Diado and now Dōshō Port. In Buddhism who one studies with is important. In Catholicism, it is not emphasized, but I will always remember that I first studied Catholicism with Fr. Gabriel Anderson, read Fr. James Martin and Thomas Merton, and truly touched the meaning of freedom, charity, and faith through wonderful Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Franciscans. Anytime I struggle I still think of Fr. Gabriel and the Sisters and what they taught me about the faith. Unfortunately, all Priests are not Fr. Gabriel and all cities do not have multiple orders of sisters that seek to teach first.
I’m on a journey. There are days the journey is to seek a closer connection with God, days it is transforming the mind, and days it is to find truth through science, philosophy, and nursing. Sometimes that means letting my logical mind rule while faith and myth are pushed aside. Every day it is to seek and express compassion, love my neighbor which I define very broadly, and seek social justice. There is never a day that my journey isn’t feminist in nature as I cannot conceive of a world where women achieve equality until equality is recognized in our spiritual lives and I do not mean separate, but equal spiritual lives.
This morning I woke up considering how I intend to pursue this journey. I was looking for something. I looked online for masses that may appeal to me because what I’m doing now leaves me detached. After the search, I decided to buy hostas instead and then mow the grass. I find more meaning in mowing the grass, seeing each pass as a line to completion, and each step taking me closer to realizing my goal. It calms my mind and shuts down the words or worry, and to-dos. Then I hit a big metal hunk from the power poll that KUB dropped in the tall grass when they were fixing whatever blew up. My spiritual life is a hunk of metal stuck in the blades of my lawnmower. When the mower stopped all the words rushed back in (some profane) along with the worry. It is time to fix the mower and my spiritual path, but unlike the mower, I can’t pay someone to fix my confused spirituality. I need to do the work myself.
I have a plan. It is as simple and complex as Mu. It is a Rosary of Modern Sorrows. It is a search for meaning and truth that doesn’t require me to be less than and make me desire to be more than. My only vow is to follow where it leads, be willing to strip away what I “know”, never ignore the truth, and always be cautious of dangers in the tall grass. When I can’t figure out the next step I will garden. I have a lot of work to do.
It was a good day…except for the broken lawnmower.
I was in St. Louis last week when my mobile phone rang and it was a St. Louis number I didn’t recognize. I assumed it was someone I knew. The person introduced himself as Frank Krebs. I immediately recognized the voice and his name as he was the Bishop of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion in St. Louis. When I was in Webster Groves I attended mass there for a few months and then would occasionally visit. He called because he noticed that I had not been around.
There is a part of me that wanted to point out I moved in June 2018 but I was too shocked that first, he noticed and second, he called. I am a fairly faithful parishioner. I donate money. I attend Mass regularly. I even attend talks and other events. In my adult life, I have never had a Priest or minister of any kind call me. I’ve had them notice when I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks but never had one call or visit. I was shocked that the call I got was from a Bishop.
The Ecumenical Catholic Communion is not Roman Catholic. They allow married, female, and LGBT Priest. They allow lay people to preach and have changed the mass to use gender-neutral language. My open and accepting side preferred them. However, my traditional side missed the music, the incense, and the beauty of an old church. Ecumenical Catholics are the people I wanted to be my friends, but in the end, I couldn’t give up the beauty of a more traditional mass. I wonder what I would have done if the building and music had been different.
Alas, there is no Ecumenical Catholic Communion in Knoxville as there is no Soto Zen center. I have to admit I liked it that he called. I wonder how many people would return to mass if ministers called and appeared to care. It must be what it feels like to a student if the professor calls when they miss a class.
I’m rarely shocked by the hate and vileness of religious leaders. I’m not numb to their hateful rhetoric directed toward LGBTQ, women, people of other faiths, and anyone that dares to disagree with them, but I’m not shocked by it. Who doesn’t remember the vileness of Westborough Baptist Church protests at the funerals of fallen war heroes or the Islamaphobic rants of Rev. Franklin Graham? And if you are a person that follows James Martin, S.J. who promotes of a church open to all and open tries to build a welcoming environment for those that are LGBTQ then there is little doubt you have seen the daily hateful attacks on him by Priest and lay alike. Today I was shocked.
As I was scrolling through my twitter feed today I came across a post that caught my attention. It was yet another post that questions what Pope Francis knew about a case of abuse and why he has not said more. The leadership not being open about abuse is not shocking as too many seem incapable of transparency about it. The shocking part was a priest saying “God has a fix for that; it’s called “death”.” He then apparently had a brief moment of what I interpret as a realization that some may believe what he said as calling for the death of the Pope and followed up by saying, “For the record I abhor contemplating death for anyone. Better to pray for eternal life for all with the Church.” To me, this seems like a difference without a distinction. After all eternal life for all…does require death. While I think he is aware of what he wrote and the meaning of it how can any Priest encourage people to pray for the death of the Pope? What level of vileness is that and what a supreme lack of supervision by his superiors?
There were a couple of people that pointed out how shocking his comment was, but there were more that hopped on board. If we can’t look to religious leaders to promote peace and Church of love then it falls to each of us to let the world know that we don’t pray for the death of others. The laity must take back the Church least within a few generations no one can in good conscience support it. People are speaking with their feet we have already fallen from 75% attending mass weekly in 1955 to 39% in 2017. Twitter may be our end as the hate in the hearts of too many comes spilling out for the world to see.
I love my Church and I won’t give up, but my days of being silent are over.
I recently read a twitter post about abortion that referred to abortion as the ultimate child abuse.
…It is immoral as well as a violation of human rights and it is also the ultimate child abuse. – Bishop Rick Stika
When I suggested it was not one person seemed to think that means I was insane. Approximately 700,000 children are abused in the United States each year and over 1300 of those dies. Additionally, Child Protective Services serves over 3.4 million children a year. Sadly 78% of the time the abuser is a parent.
In 2017 a couple was sentenced to 130 years in jail after their 9-month-old twin girls were found emaciated, with maggots in the wounds and crib, cat feces on the walls, and they each weighed around 8 pounds. Then there was the case in 2018 of a 4-year old that was so severely burned that the toe fell off and they found burned skin in the bathtub. Supposedly the mother had left the child unattended in a hot bath for an extended period of time. Only after returning and finding the child and then waiting 30 minutes was 9-1-1 called. The child died of the injuries, but only after extreme suffering. There are the parents that sell their children for sex and are only found after years of repeated rapes. Then there is the rape and murder of an 8-year old that was so horrific the medical examiner cried during the trial. There are too many of the cases in our country and so long as we see abortion as the worst form of child abuse we will fail to have the mindset to address child abuse and will continue to think it acceptable to put children in cages for being from another country.
A fetus is not cable of feeling pain until 28-30 weeks after conception because the nerves that carry pain stimuli to the brain are not developed. Nor does a fetus have the ability at that time to feel fear. As horrible as abortion maybe it is not as horrific in my mind as is a two-year-old or six-year-old that is tortured and abused until it is finally killed and all the time feeling horrible fear and pain.
I’m Catholic and understand that many believe that abortion is the ultimate evil act, but I think there are worse things than being killed before you can feel pain and fear. I do not understand how anyone can deny that torture of a fully sentient and aware child is more horrific to that child than is being aborted before 28 weeks. If that means I’m a bad Catholic then we have a difference in opinion in what it means to be good or faithful. When one can’t see the horrors we inflict on children it is no wonder that we do so little to protect them.
There are many evils in the world and when you only allow yourself to see one and turn a blind eye to the others maybe it is time to recognize that you are failing many and giving others the false belief that there is only one grave evil that can be done to children.
Each year I obsess about what to do for Lent and then like my New Year’s resolution usually fail and give up in short order. This year I will try to fully engage with my spiritual side and give my rational mind a 40-day sabbatical to the extent possible for a professional.
I’m going to intentionally explore areas of self-denial, giving, and prayer rather than just picking some food item I could live without? I live in the world and I see it not as a pit of sin but a beautiful and hopeful place filled with more people of good will than bad intents. My practice during this Lent will be to find the Church I seek in my own spiritual life rather than looking for it others. I seek a Church that isn’t filled with twitter post by angry and vengeful Priests or those that are so rigid in their faith that they are unable to accept others who have different practices. I seek people that see beauty in the world and the beautiful aspects of the Church and the faith. I seek tolerance for all that that are searching. I seek a Church where it is more important to worry about and moderate my own desires than to obsess about the perceived sins of others. I will trust that others know when they are going against their consciences and they will in time address it. My role in their lives is only to provide compassion and when asked honesty that is soaked in love.
I don’t have a pet sin for which I have zero tolerance. I do have great patience for the person that has failed in self-denial of desires and who struggles and fails. At 56 most of my sinning days are behind me. I try to live lightly on the earth, give to charity, etc., etc., etc. However, my weakness is food. I love to cook, and I like to eat and drink wine so it would be hard to deny that I fall victim to the deadly sin of gluttony and spend an excessive amount of money on fine food and wine.
“The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine” (No. 2290).
My excess can be measured in wastefulness, quantity, and spending more on food and wine each week than a person making minimum wage earns. I’m going to use the CRS Rice Bowl recipes as examples of meatless meals that that are simple and frugal. Whatever I save I will give to the CRS Rice Bowl as a donation.
I belong to Zen group and recently someone asks if the members prayed, did we think the prayers were answered and was it embarrassing to admit? My husband could not understand why anyone would be embarrassed by prayer. Being embarrassed expresses a sense of self-consciousness and confusion that should ideally be absent in prayer or meditation. I haven’t been able to let go of that as I have never been able to utter a public prayer. Once Sr. Joan, the Provost at Clarke University, suggested that since I should start meetings with prayer that it might help me to write them down so all I had to do was read them. It did not help.
Lent is the only 40 days of the year. This year I’m going to let myself obsess about religion and faith. My goal is not to be embarrassed that my rational mind loses out to my faith. Rational mind be damned I’m going to try and grow during this season. At my age, it is good for the continued functioning of the brain to learn something new. I’m going to learn some more Latin (good for the aging brain) and practice by attending a Latin mass or two during Lent and memorizing some of the Rosary in Latin. I don’t want to be the person that is so rigid in my faith I can’t be open to the beauty others find in theirs and in this case a Latin Mass. I admit that I have a bias against it. I often associate it with the vengful Priest that are too critical and those that are so rigid they only see the sin in others. It is odd that I hold this view as the one person I know that attends Latin Mass regularly is a very kind young woman. This will be an exercise in addressing my own biases and looking for beauty in a different kind of practice.
Giving is Easy
The easy part is giving. Donating what I save on food and wine to the CRS Rice Bowl is obvious. I will also make a sizable donation to the parish or order of the Priest I read on social media that says the fewest hateful, condescending, or uncharitable things about others. That includes not publicly criticizing what he sees as the sins of others. Fraternal correction is not the same as public twitter comments or criticism. Twitter is filled with blowhards that appear to think being critical of others is their pastoral calling. I think good behavior should be rewarded and maybe a potential donation will mean something to a parish or order that can help me to see the beauty of the faith through kindness in their approach to the many rather than the few.
I teach the art and the science of nursing. Nursing does not have a political ideology, so unlike what some religious leaders believe I do not teach liberal, progressive, or conservative ideology. I teach science, compassion, and the skills that help prepare students to care for all patients.
I view nursing as a calling and sharing and advancing knowledge as a responsibility. I teach nurses because I love my vocation and I want to nurture those who have a desire to care for the sick and the injured, change health policy, and improve outcomes. My philosophy of teaching is heavily influenced by three factors: 1) a career of serving the poor, the incarcerated, and those impacted by disasters, 2) the joy of being constantly surrounded by young officers with a desire to learn and grow into the future leaders of the vocation, and 3) having seen the profound impact that evidence-based policy can have on lives.
Teaching, like any truly human activity emerges from one’s inwarness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. – Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach
I believe a strong liberal arts education, supported by science, serves as a foundation for a well-rounded nurse. This is essential because nursing requires a broad understanding of the human condition, including cultures, religions, and history. Moreover, studying nursing is necessarily an interactive process between the instructor and the student that prepares undergraduates to be novice nurses and helps graduates students to become experts.
Imagine my surprise every time some or religious leader holds forth on how colleges and universities teach liberal ideas. I’m pretty sure the principals of chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics…and nursing are not liberal or conservative. Even more surprising is when educated people make comments implying that education does not improve one’s life. Not only does what I teach improve the lives of the students, but it improves the lives of all those in their care. The average new BSN graduate will make between $55,000 and $65,000 as a new graduate in a job with security, retirement plan, and health insurance. Many people find that nursing has flexible hours and part-time options are available when one is raising a family or as one moves into retirement. In addition to the obvious advantage of higher income that generally comes with a college degree those with a college degree live on average 7 years longer, have better health, and engage in fewer risky behaviors.
Of course, a college degree isn’t without a cost. When I attended the University of Tennessee other than my first and last semesters for which my parents funded I either borrowed money or earned it to pay tuition. I managed to only borrow $2000 while living at home for free most of the time. I had a full-time job(s) mostly waiting tables and went to school full-time. It did take me 6 years to graduate, but it was doable because I was essentially paying $243 plus some fees for 12+ hours of credit. The same 12+ hours now cost about $5555 plus fees today. In 1980 I was making $2 per hour plus tips so a little less than $10,000 per year. Add in gas, car maintenance, insurance, clothing, books, supplies, and other incidental expense and I could pay my tuition. However, I don’t encourage anyone to try and work that much while going to school. It was reflected in my undergraduate grades which are still embarrassing.
Today if a person made minimum wage, worked full-time, and lived at home with few expenses other than the ones I had that person would make around $15,000 per year. Tuition would be around $12,000 before books and supplies and in nursing, it isn’t unusual to pay $200-300 for a book. If one budgets $1000 per year for books the total of tuition and books is $13,000. Add to that gas, clothing, car insurance, and all the other expenses and a student going to school full-time would need to be able to live off of $3000 per year. It is not reasonable to expect a young person today to be able to work their way through college without substantial loans.
I think what struck me as most hypocritical about the comment from the religious leader was the suggestion that the students should pay just like everyone else. I’m a faithful Catholic and every year I give to my parish, Catholic Charities, the Bishops appeal (which helps fund seminaries), and various other calls for money. While some parish priests are expected to pay part or all of their education most dioceses help fund the education either wholly or in part or provide loans that the Priest can pay back after graduation, but even then those loans aren’t the full cost. Many religious orders pay the full costs. What if you did expect the young man to pay it all? If he lived at home and went to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary he would pay $26,000 per year. How is it that one would expect a young man to study for the priesthood and work full time to then take a job that with many orders requires a vow of poverty and even more parishioners expect it…of course $100,000 in student loans does almost guarantee at least tempory poverty starting out.
I’m proud of the fact that I worked my way through college and paid for most of it myself. I learned valuable lessons, but I would have preferred to have graduated with a 4.0, have had time to be socially involved on campus, and to have made friends that were not merely associated with my college job. I did work my way through college and it is exactly why I don’t want others to work more than 10 hours a week. College is a time for learning and the rest of life will be filled with work.
As a teacher, my objectives are to:
• Instill a desire for service to others
• Inspire joy in learning and facilitate life-long learning skills
• Develop students that are critical thinkers and exercise sound judgment
• Ensure students master the basics and proceed into the vocation with confidence
• Advance knowledge through service, research, and administration
If religious leaders do their jobs then they might be a little less worried about people like me teaching students the liberal way to change a dressing or start an IV.
Maybe I have reached the age when I no longer care if I’m complicit in evil. I cannot make people behave the way I wish, and I cannot walk away every time they do not act. I worked in a prison where on a regular basis I cared for those I did not think belonged there, but could not change their circumstance. I worked in an immigration detention facility where for too many the crime was crossing a border without permission; they forgot to say mother may I. Was I complicit? Yes, I was complicit, but I doubt they would be better off if I had not been there. I cared passionately about their well-being and ensuring they received quality healthcare. In the same way, I care about the Catholic church, but I cannot get to the same place in my reasoning.
I’m Catholic, and I love being Catholic. I hate it that too many of you (Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals) sexually assaulted or abused men, women, and children and even more of you covered it up and have continued to do so. Don’t bother trying to tell me it is only 1%, or that it is less than in the general population, or that teachers do it too. I know all of that, but I don’t look to any of them to help me grow stronger in my faith or be closer to God, or even to be able to be more compassionate to my neighbor. Sadly, too many of you are apologists for sexual misconduct of all kinds. We see it in our Church, and now we see you doing it in society.
As Bishops, you offered arguments for the coverup and allowed it to become embedded in your culture for too long. It seems every day we learn of some new old case that was hidden while the offender maintained his position and comfortable life as his victims struggled. Making lousy matter worse you tried to blame the scandal on the sexual revolution, which is utter nonsense as the sexual revolution was about consenting adults having sex without guilt and never about rape or molesting children or even sexual harassment. The sexual revolution was about freedom and control of one’s own body while what the Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals did was about power, control, and violence. The sexual revolution and the scandal in the Church had nothing in common. In an attempt to further cloud the issues those of you that disapprove of LGBTQ tried to blame them. It is as if you did not know that a homosexual man is no more attracted to a child than is a heterosexual man. People attracted to children are pedophiles, and they are not attracted to adults. These attempts to deflect blame are easily refuted, but how many of you care what caused them to commit such evil? We can’t fix every broken person, but there are some positions which the broken should not hold. What I don’t understand is how you were so blinded to this evil in your midst and why you still try to blame others for your failings.
Sadly, I have no power to make a change in the Church. I don’t know any of you on a personal or professional level. You don’t know that last week I chose not to attend mass, that I stopped my automatic donations two weeks ago, and told some friends I was leaving the Church because I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel powerless and deeply troubled by the decision to go and desperately wanted one of you to say don’t do it. That would require you to be aware enough to recognize my absence or give damn once you did. As one of the many that have written to my Bishop and never heard back, I hope you heard my vote when I walked out and took my money with me.
I tried to convince myself to leave the Church because I don’t want to be complicit with evil. I don’t want to give money to people I can’t trust, and I don’t know who to trust. I wish each of you would write down what you knew and when, what you did to address it, and how you reconciled your actions with your conscience. I wish you would then personally address an envelope to every member of your diocese and sign the letter you wrote and once they are all sent have as many listening sessions as it took for us to all vent our frustration. I would not want you to answer questions or to say a word. I want you to listen and then take what they hear to heart and know the pain you have caused not just to the victims of their sexual violence, but to all those they have victimized through the harm you have done to the Church we love.
I wondered aloud how all this could happen and the answer was the culture of the church makes it possible. The same culture that I love.
It is the culture that says we all have a sinful nature and by that nature will make mistakes, but we are not defined by our worst moments.
It is the culture that says for every sin there is forgiveness, and with that forgiveness, there is hope that the person will sin no more. There is hope that we will learn and grow closer to God and be what we were born to be.
It is the culture that believes obedience to rules is essential. The same culture that made me a successful officer for 20 years. Rules matter.
It is the culture that says when someone confesses a sin it is confidential never to be repeated to anyone. As a healthcare provider and even a professor, I wish I shared that level of protection of confidentiality that is given to priest. I am grateful you have it and that you would never break the seal of the confession, but I think some may have used it with the intent to keep you silent.
It is the culture that says we do not recognize the power of the State over us, but instead, we handle issues within our courts, our own rules, and our laws. And it is here where the failure occurred. Because we believe in freedom of religion and separation of church and state, it is here that absolutely must fix our house least we all turn to the state to fix our Church.
Instead of leaving I should have said what I meant. I’m mad as hell, and I won’t take it anymore. I’m the person that will be at every meeting. I will write you letters and I will show up at your office. I will stage a sit-in if I have to, but you will hear about my dissatisfaction with the job you are doing. Consider this the beginning of your 360-degree evaluation. Sadly, I’m not that person. I won’t force myself on people, and I don’t participate in protests. I take my money and my faith and go home.
I feel bad for those that are good, but like me you were complicit, and you remained silent out of obedience to the false god of scandal. I will be back when there is real change, but in the meantime, I’m looking for a church where the people have a voice in the leadership and where the rules don’t result in the clergy being silent in the face of evil. I’m looking for a church that doesn’t support men that sexually assault or harass others or think a man can sexually assault anyone so long as he professes to be “pro-life.” I’m looking to ease my conscience for not taking a stand sooner.
Labor Day honors the American labor movement which focused on a just society including social equality and good citizenship. We celebrate the contributions workers have made to the well-being of our country. Is there any better way to do that than to support the labor unions that helped create our prosperity? Among other things, we can thank unions for weekends, the end of child labor, and fairer and more equal wages.
I have never belonged to a union nor do I generally think they are necessary for professionals. However, there are times when we require assistance to use our skill for the benefit of others. For example, staffing minimums have a significant impact on the quality of care provided to patients. If nurses could negotiate evidence-based staffing ratios, they would. Progress has required the work of labor unions and professional organizations to push legislation making it a reality in sixteen states.
I am grateful for all labor unions have done in my life. My mother was a teamster, and my father was a member of the Atomic Trades Labor Council. I remember strikes and picket lines, but I also remember being firmly middle class, having good health insurance, and parents that worked 40 hour weeks. I support all those that belong to unions and look forward to a just society where they are no longer necessary for equality and a living wage.
If you hire a union worker, there is no doubt the works are paid a living wage. If you don’t then it is a good practice to ask what the workers are paid. If it isn’t a living wage keep looking.
This morning as I was going to Mass I passed a mom hugging her son and crying as the father stood by stoically. The son kept reassuring her he would see her soon. It was clearly a struggle to let him go. She had done her job and now she was sending this young adult off to find his way in the world. He will face new challenges and if he embraces the challenges he will grow into a productive member of society that can give others what his parents have given to him.
I love move-in days because it is a hopeful time of the year for students, parents, and faculty. Parents are sending us their greatest accomplishments in life and trusting us to help them transition into adulthood. We will help them build on the foundation their parents gave them. It is our responsibility to help students seek the truth, but not to define that truth for them.
As an instructor of nurses, both novice and experts, it is my responsibility to introduce students to the art and the science of nursing at multiple levels. It is also my responsibility to foster in nurses a sense of duty to those we care for that must sometimes outweigh self-interest. As with any art, nursing requires a passion for the vocation because without passion the skills and knowledge alone will not sustain one when there are too many patients, too few nurses, or not enough resources. Likewise, with students, it is the passion for nursing that will sustain them when there are too many pages to read, too many papers to write, and not enough time to memorize every possible medication.
As a teacher, I strive to recognize students that are having difficulties and help them to find a path to success. I have found in my career that it is those that came to me with the greatest difficulties, that when nurtured, became the most loyal and productive. I know from my own experience that early failures are not always a predictor of future success and thus it is important to look past grades alone and assess work habits, drive, and determination. The student is responsible for embracing his or her vocation, striving to learn, exploring personal motivations, and seeking guidance and assistance when needed.
We began Mass in the presence of new students and their parents singing “All Are Welcome“. It is never more meaningful than the beginning of the academic year.
The students enter with hopes and dreams for the future. Some will cling to what their parents taught them and some will choose another path. I hope that in all I do I encourage students to seek the truth through academic endeavors. I always remind myself that students see me in all I do and all I say. Let us all embrace our status as role models and know that parents are looking at us to be the role models in their absence.
It is time once again to help students fill their intellectual toolboxes, but it isn’t our job to ask them to throw out the gifts their parents gave them.
Tomorrow is Saturday and I need to finish painting the hall and then I need to get my syllabus revised and my class online. Tonight I only plan to sit. I need to clear my mind of the all the perfects I’m always seeking.
There was a time when I wanted the perfect briefcase or backpack whichever had all of the things I thought would help to organize my coming and going from work. Then I wanted the perfect purse. It had to be the right size so I didn’t try and put the kitchen sink in it and have pockets so I could find the important things among all the junk. There are many other perfect things I looked for wallets, ladders, gardening carts, and notebooks to mention a few. In reality what I’m looking for is something that brings a little order to my life. The search continues.
The theme of order consumes me at the beginning of each semester and it shows in predictable ways. There is almost always, depending on the time of year, either a gardening project or a painting project the week before classes begin that must be finished. One doesn’t need to look very deep to figure out the psychological roots of the behavior. It is all about order and progress. Whether it is gardening or painting there is a clear beginning and end. I can see the beauty that is added to my environment and it calms me. I pick up the brush and my focus is on a straight line, even color, making every stroke the same. The concentration blocks out all other thoughts. I’m present with the brush, the paint, and the straight lines. Nothing else. I begin my semester with a small accomplishment and a calm and centered mind.
Tomorrow I will take this sense of calmness and order and put it into a syllabus knowing that while I will never create the perfect syllabus for my course I will try to make the lines straight for the students, eliminate the junk, add beauty to the content in a way that engages their minds and spirits, and attempt to make all of the pieces blend together so that the individual strokes are invisible. I hope they will use it to create their ideal of a perfect knowledge toolbox. But tonight I sit.
“I forsake all that thing that I can think, and choose to my love that which I cannot think.” – Johnston, The Cloud of Unknowing
Sitting in the darkness I am able to let go of all the junk. My life is clear and calm when I sit and the desire is extinguished. There is no perfection and no frustration. Though I do not know God’s will, I do know that I am to serve, forgive, and be compassionate to others. I am formed moment by moment with each stroke of the brush. If I sit long enough with enough calmness maybe one day all of the brushstrokes that have formed me will be invisible. Tonight I sit so tomorrow I can serve.