Life, the Greatest Gift of All

There are a bunch of shadbush on the far side of Scattergood.  Every time I walk by and see their delicate flowers and red-brown leaves I grieve not being able to see the shad in flower along the Gale River.  I miss the wild landscapes of Franconia.  Though now that I’m reading Braiding Sweetgrass, I realize that the most beautiful landscapes, like the ones in England, are made by people & nature working together.  That most of what I’ve known, in Cincinnati and Franconia, has been second growth after clear cut.  Homesick for the home I never had.

The music in my head is “We are the world, we are the children …  there are people dying, and it’s time to lend a hand…”

“to life, the greatest gift of all” — I still have a hard time with that.  Can’t see life as a gift.  Certainly not my life.  My life has felt like a punishment, or a difficult chore that takes all my energy just to get through the day.  But then, what about the “life” described in Braiding Sweetgrass, in Spontaneous Evolution — the life of Nature, so beautiful and intelligent, creating conditions for more life.  Not human life — we’ve made such a mess of it — but the ongoing creative abundant forgiving life of the universe.  I say “forgiving” because I finished the chapter about “Sacred and Superfund” in Braiding Sweetgrass, where Robin Wall Kimmerer discovers how the plants are coming in to reclaim the poisoned dead land.  This is the land around Lake Onondaga, both land and lake poisoned by industry.

But if I think of “Life” not as something that came to me wrecked, but as some Great Power in the Universe, that (who?) starting from hydrogen, created the periodic table of the elements.  After I had my realization/vision of that incredibly complex, unbelievably beautiful, intricately interconnected Whole, the periodic table of the elements changed from something familiar to something totally amazing. It looked like something clearly created by an Intelligence. But an intelligence way beyond human brains. I have some sense of the complex process by which the elements up to Iron were created in the interiors of stars, producing energy which blazed out into the Universe as light. The elements heavier than iron have to be created by input of energy, so they are only created by a supergiant star which explodes, sending all the elements out into the universe, seeding the primal hydrogen with heavier elements, thus making the creation of planets possible. And the universe goes on creating, by what rules only he/she/it/they know. (What is the correct pronoun for the Universe?) On a planet the right distance from its star to have liquid water, elements combine into molecules, which then combine into living cells, which then combine into complex organisms, which then combine….   the result is incredible complexity and diversity and fertility of ecosystems…   with ever increasing awareness until we have beings capable of detecting quantum mechanics and enacting compassion.  The full story is well told in Spontaneous Evolution.

When I look at that, there’s clearly a wise, compassionate, Intelligence behind all Creation, or becoming all creation.  I do not understand why so many beings have to suffer, unless it’s that we don’t learn without suffering, but I do know, at some very deep level, that we are all held in Compassion. And I so much enjoyed all the birds singing as I walked Mocha this morning.

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Feeling our Way, Intuition and Improvisation

From my journal:
3rd cup
. coffee.  Yesterday was a good day, despite things “going wrong” like a Zoom meeting for a play reading that got hacked, a walk with the dogs that was cut short by rain, etc.  

When I took Mocha out this morning, it was in the 40’s, bright sun, brisk wind.  Windchimes ringing, grass greening, trees budding.  I could almost hear singing “Life! Life! Life!”  But does that cry, does “Life,” contain spirit?  Or is it just, as Sartre claims, without pattern or direction?  I go back and forth.  Sometimes life seems to be purely material.  But then what animates it?  If what we call life has its source in a universal process that includes self-organizing, then “we were meant,” then there is intention, and the goal or direction of the process is shown/proved by the existence of the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Jesus, and the love I feel when I am able to allow myself to be free of what I “know” about myself.

[Stuart Kauffman talks about the process of self-organization and the autocatalytic set theory in Complexity, p321.  “Life is the natural expression of complex matter.  It’s a very deep property of chemistry and catalysis and being far from equilibrium. And that means that we’re at home in the universe. We’re to be expected. How welcoming that is! How far that is from the image of organisms as tinkered-together contraptions, where everything is bits of widgetry piled on top of bits of ad hocery, and it’s all blind chance. … we make the world we live in with one another. We’re participants in the story as it unfolds. We aren’t victims and we aren’t outsiders. We’re part of the universe, you and me, and the goldfish. We make our world with one another.”]

I’ve been reading Stephen Levine, Meetings at the Edge, and getting an enormous amount out of it. Working with a therapist who had a client wound his wife badly, kill someone, and then commit suicide, he says “If you are working on yourself to examine jealousy and fear and self-protection, then you are the best therapist for this fellow who is feeling these same confusions. It’s all just the braille method — until we each participate in our wholeness, we must just feel our way along moment to moment, practicing deeply the forgiveness and investigation that brings us closer to our true being. Speaking more and more from a sense of what is appropriate in the moment, letting go of attachment to ‘results,’ to that ‘appropriateness’ working. You just do what you do as work on yourself, deepening the compassion and love, letting go of the fear and knowing that keep us so isolated.”p52

Yes, “feeling our way,” using intuition and improvisation, is the totally appropriate way to work with a complex adaptive process. Which is what life is. Which is what the pandemic is. Which is why we are dealing with it so badly, coming from a culture addicted to prediction and control. What is truly amazing is that so many people are coming from a place of compassion and generosity. And that itself shows me that compassion and generosity are built into the “pattern” for the human. If “survival of the fittest” were really the foundation, there would be total chaos and violence.

“Complex Adaptive Systems are dynamic systems able to adapt in and evolve with a changing environment. It is important to realize that there is no separation between a system and its environment in the idea that a system always adapts to a changing environment. Rather, the concept to be examined is that of a system closely linked with all other related systems making up an ecosystem. Within such a context, change needs to be seen in terms of co-evolution with all other related systems, rather than as adaptation to a separate and distinct environment.”  From MIT papers.   The difficulty with them is that there are so many factors interacting that it’s not possible to predict what will happen in the future with any accuracy.  One common metaphor is “If a butterfly flaps its wings in China, it will change the weather in North America a few days later.”

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Gaslighting, Reprise

I posted “Another Complete Cycle” on March 18, 2020.  It’s about a day when Daily Kos posted something about Donald Trump’s minimizing of the COVID crisis, and I suddenly didn’t trust Daily Kos.  Now that didn’t really make sense, because I never trusted Trump, and I usually believe what Daily Kos says, so why am I suddenly not trusting Daily Kos? Why am I suddenly feeling that I can’t trust anyone?  Why was it such a total knockdown?

Recently, as I’ve been reading through my old journals, I came to place where I did some work with Dana.  He was using a counseling technique called Structural Consulting, and what resulted was seeing that I couldn’t trust myself.  I remember that I said “You mean I really am as lost as I feel?”  He said yes.

From my journal for April 1987:

Dana said that I felt that certain feelings were only appropriate in certain circumstances, and if my feelings didn’t match the circumstances, then I would invalidate my feelings.  “I shouldn’t feel guilty for the deaths of my cats, I was so sick I couldn’t have done anything different.”  “I shouldn’t feel fear, there isn’t anything to be afraid of.”  “I shouldn’t feel angry at the planes, they aren’t doing it to me on purpose, they’re just having fun.”  I realized that I had been persistently and systematically invalidating my feelings for a long, long time.  I’m so busy telling myself I shouldn’t feel what I feel that I never look further, to see what information I might get out of the fact that I do feel this way.  The picture Dana got was of a person who did not trust her feelings, and so she does not know who she really is, nor what is really happening.  Such a person would be disoriented.  My reaction to being disoriented is to make up an explanation, justification, fantasy, whatever.  But since this gets me no closer to the truth I remain disoriented.  Or else I recognize that my fantasy is not the truth and demolish it, but this leaves me more disoriented than ever, because I still don’t know how to find the truth or how to tell the truth when I find it.  No wonder I went into science, at least the rational process of science gave me a method for checking the truth of my perceptions.  The problem continued, however, when I discovered, through the rational process (and my own desire and commitment to the truth) that the rational process could give me only a limited truth.  But how to get in touch with the real truth?

Much later, I saw that the only way to know something was true was if I experienced it myself, or trusted the person who told me about it.  Everything else is second hand, and might not be “true.”

But I’m realizing now that my childhood with Mom was an immersion in “gaslighting.” What Erica calls her “mis-representation” is being a very important concept for me.  An example: when I would get excited about something and start talking about it with enthusiasm, she would call that “thinking I was so great.” This left me terrified to share about something I was excited about, thinking that I was “bragging,” and believing that bragging was bad.  Mother was wrong.  What I was thinking was “great” was not myself but something that I loved and wanted to share.

My first post on Gaslighting, September 2018

Gaslighting, Again, August 2019

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A Day in the Life During Pandemic

Typing up Wednesday, March 25 a month later, which is when I usually do it.  It’s odd to go back a month and see how we were just starting to come to terms with the pandemic.  To see the fragmentation of my day, the search for things that will help.  Also how I move back and forth between fear and connection.

From my journal:

Woke up at 4:20 with headache.  Accepted that I wouldn’t sleep again, and did lovingkindness for all beings.  Then I began to feel scared.  I had one moment of feeling horribly scared of death.  I accepted the fear, added “friends are forged on a dark road, heading out of town…” to “may all beings be held in lovingkindness.”  Feeling scared helped me feel connected with everyone even more.  Then I realized the headache had faded.  Possibly I even slept again.

“Friends are forged….” is from Stephen Jenkinson.

Spent a lot of the day on the internet, signing petitions.  Deena Metzger wrote a beautiful thing about our destruction of the earth, and how it’s also destruction of ourselves.

I wonder what a cell experiences that’s in the body of a person who commits suicide?

I posted what Charles Eisenstein said about initiation.  It’s fun that I’ve gotten a lot of responses from friends I haven’t heard from in a while.  Victoria Cole!  Judy Robison!

I think what made me finally feel scared was the sign at the top of the Waterfall Staircase.  It just repeated what they said before: that there was someone from Mott 2 who had the symptoms of coronavirus, that they were in isolation.  They haven’t said they have a diagnosis, though I suppose the tighter quarantine might be a sign.  I met Bev as I was leaving the dining room, and she lit up.  So glad to see me.  She had worried because I’m on Mott 2.

Here at Kendal, the Waterfall Staircase connects the living areas with the community areas, in particular with the dining room and café.  Mott 2 is the second floor of a section named for Lucretia Mott.  There are only about 23 people in that area.

At that time we were still going down to pick up dinner.  Now we stay in our rooms and dinner is brought to us.  Now we have a guard at the entrance to turn back anyone who isn’t essential, and make sure any resident who leaves knows they will have to self-isolate for two weeks.  So far we have had no definite case of COVID-19.

I spent a lot of time putting together a post about Energetic Connection.

Just read an email from Hunger Mtn Coop on what they are doing to protect employees and shoppers, and help those who need it.  My heart softened, tears behind my eyes, and the fear is gone for the moment!

Two more great resources.  One from YES! magazine. one from Sounds True.  My heart is staying soft, my eyes still have tears.

I picked up Sharon Salzberg’s Faith, which I’ve been reading.  She’s writing about sitting on the porch with Ram Dass about a year after his stroke.  “Having faith doesn’t mean that we don’t make an effort. … The particular gift of faith is that it allows us to make the intensity of effort guided by a more holistic vision of life, with all its mutability, evanescence, dislocations, and unruliness.”  p90.  I had told a friend about how trauma can be transmitted through our genes.  Our genes are much more mutable than we realized, we started by thinking they were fixed, deterministic, and that mutations were “random.”  We are surrounded by mystery, our lives are rooted in mystery.  Salzberg says Ram Dass taught us about “a power of faith that doesn’t depend on clinging to the known, but instead on opening to the vastness and mystery of what life provides in each moment.”    (p92)

“Whatever takes us to our edge, to our outer limits, leads us to the heart of life’s mystery, and there we find faith.”  p92

“Life will never be served up with guarantees of safety and security.”  p95

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What if it’s Armageddon?

Reposted from May 2010

This is one of my favorite quotes.  It keeps me going when things are very dark.

“I’m asked, night after night, ‘Is this the New Age, or is it the Armageddon?’ And I say, ‘I used to think I should have an opinion about this, but as I examined it, I saw that if it’s going to be the Armageddon and I am going to die, the best thing to do to prepare for it is to quiet my mind, open my heart, and deal with the suffering in front of me. And if it’s going to be the New Age, the best thing to do is to quiet my mind, open my heart, and deal with the suffering in front of me. It turns out it really doesn’t matter. So I don’t care.”

-Ram Dass, interviewed by Sy Safransky
(the editor and founder of The Sun magazine)

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How I Healed the Phobia

These are the last two paragraphs of my blog post from 2011 about the airplane phobia:

“Looking back at it, I can see better how it became so horrendous.  Hypersensitivity to sound is a symptom of PTSD, but I still had no idea that I had been traumatized.  One thing about an obnoxious and very loud sound, you can’t look away as you can from an ugly sight.  Your only recourse is to go far enough away.  Finding it impossible to live in your own house, in your own town, is depressing in itself.  I felt hopeless and helpless. The planes were triggering flashbacks to a helpless, terrified infant.

“Healing from the phobia happened literally overnight.  I had started taking Imipramine (Anti-depressant medication) in February and after a few months was beginning to feel  better.  I had started therapy with Dr. Cynthia Rankin in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.  She was a specialist in mood disorders.  I had been seeing her for several months.  It was May and the planes were starting up.  On Friday I had a session with Dr. Rankin.  I asked her if it was OK to “white-knuckle it” through the noise.  She said “Of course.”  Then she said she had observed a pattern in my behavior.  I would start a project that had several steps.  I would do the first two steps just fine, but if I ran into trouble on the third I would conclude that I “couldn’t do it.” I would fail to see that I had already managed to do part of it successfully, in fact I would even define those first steps as failures.  This was enormously interesting to me.  I knew something about training dogs and that the principles worked for human beings also.  I figured I could retrain myself about the planes.  I would write down each one survived with white knuckles as a success, and see how many I could survive before I had to leave the house.  Saturday was rainy, and I went to the first level Reiki training.  I had the oddest feeling afterward that my immune system had “switched on.” I could almost feel a protective field around me.  Sunday was sunny and I sat down with paper and pen, waiting for the planes to start.  Each time one went over I would say “that’s one survived” and make a little airplane symbol on the page.  By the end of the day, I had survived 13 planes, and I knew the phobia was over.  Dr. Rankin had given me my power back for which I am eternally grateful.  I still hated the sound, but I no longer freaked out, and gradually the sound began to fade into the background.  Every now and then I notice a plane towing a glider and think “God! I suffered from that for 13 years, and now I don’t even notice them.”

More recently, in 2018, I realized that the process Dr. Rankin had identified was actually rooted in something my father said to me.  “If you didn’t know how to do it, why did you even try?”

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Invalidating and Trivializing my Experience

I have been reading my journal for 1986, and came across this entry about the noise phobia in November.

I had a bad time with anger yesterday.  Feelings of rage kept surfacing, and I would let myself feel it, but that was painful because it just emphasizes that I am powerless to do anything about the noise, so then I would just stifle the anger which is painful in its own way.  I don’t know what to do with the anger.  I asked Dana but he couldn’t really help.  He doesn’t have the same difficulty letting go of anger.  I said something interesting, I said if it’s something real, I don’t have trouble letting go of it.  I suppose what I meant by something real was a situation were I’m angry at a person who is close to me, not these impersonal situations where somebody is making noise that hurts me and I don’t know who they are.  But what does it mean that I define one as real and the other as unreal.  “Real” means there is something I can work on, a relationship or situation that I can confront and perhaps affect.  “Unreal” means I have no power in the situation, it’s “all in my head”, so I should just stop fussing about it.  What I’m doing is invalidating myself.  My reaction to noise is not “all in my head”, it’s in my body too, I feel just as sick as when I’m down with candida poisoning.  And I’m making it worse by being angry at myself, as though I had any control over my reaction.  So I’m invalidating my own feelings, trivializing them, (you shouldn’t be angry), and angry at myself for being helpless.  No wonder I feel so beaten.  But I’m not being beaten by the noise so much as by my own feelings.  The noise reaction is not unreal, it is a stress reaction, but I’m making it worse by being angry at myself, and by invalidating myself.  I don’t know how to stop doing that, but I will at least try to become aware that that’s what I’m doing.

Reading this, my heart just breaks for myself.  I didn’t have enough information, and I followed the pattern I learned growing up.  That I “wanted to be miserable,” that my pain and my needs were irrelevant.  No one understands what I’m going through because they don’t notice the sound.  Someone even suggested that I go to the airport and find out that the people were really nice.  I couldn’t even see a sign saying “airport” without my heart going off in what I now understand was a fight or flight reaction.  People would say to me the same thing my mother said “Don’t be so sensitive,” as though I had a choice.

What I needed was for someone to say “What you’re dealing with is ‘hyperacusis,’ a possible consequence of PTSD.  Will power won’t change it.”  When I first got here to Kendal, I had trouble with a lot of the noises that I heard when I was here in this apartment.  I remember being very scared briefly and then remembering that if I knew what it was I would stop reacting.  Also, my reaction was nothing like the fight/flight I experienced with the airplanes.  By this time I’ve stopped noticing a lot of common noises. There is a set of new noises which are catching my attention: people’s voices, both outside and in the hall.  I’m pretty sure it’s people having to talk louder because of social distancing.  It is distracting, but fortunately I don’t go into fight/flight.

I talked to my therapist about it this morning, and she said I had learned to talk to myself like a good parent.  “Once you know what the noise is, you will stop being so bothered by it.”  I started to feel wonderful.

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I Can Trust MYSELF

from my journal for Thursday, April 16

3rd cup. Dandelion tea.  Richard Rohr says that real hope rests on a deep knowledge  and experience of God.  Because I have such a deep distrust of “God,” I see that my experience of being able to trust myself, to trust that deep within me there’s one who picks me up and goes on when I can’t, deep within me there is one whose wisdom has been leading me — to journal, to astronomy, to stonehenge… to Kendal — even when I did not appreciate that wisdom at the time.  O but the Universe also sends messages, hints, leadings in the form of synchronicities, birds or rabbits appearing    — I heard the wild geese this morning — “announcing your place in the family of things.”

I’m also reading Tattoos on the Heart, and Father G spoke to me in stories of the homies.

“Fabian… wasn’t all the abuse he had endured.  He was something else, astonishing and glorious.”  p103

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for today:

We might make the following observations about this other kind of hope, which we will call mystical hope. In contrast to our usual notions of hope:
1. Mystical hope is not tied to a good outcome, to the future. It lives a life of its own, seemingly without reference to external circumstances and conditions.
2. It has something to do with presence—not a future good outcome, but the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand.
3. It bears fruit within us at the psychological level in the sensations of strength, joy, and satisfaction: an “unbearable lightness of being.” But mysteriously, rather than deriving these gifts from outward expectations being met, it seems to produce them from within. . .

March 17    my notes from talk with Erica:

The news feed not consistent.   I’ve been through another cycle
baby can’t trust parents its life dependent on
untethered — my earliest intelligence —
my process has gone brilliantly
I’m in freeze, that’s why walking dog, doing dishes work
go on & do the next right thing
I couldn’t do my usual coping — puzzles, type
my system is saying I don’t want to check out
I want to come back into coherence
and back into grounded connection
I can trust myself!   [I say with surprise and tears]

in post for March 18

My therapist pointed out that I had somehow done just the right things to bring me out of it.  The state I’m in is FREEZE, because a baby can’t flee or fight, and the default in that case is “freeze.”  So just moving helped.  The fact that I couldn’t do my usual coping activities: digital puzzles, typing journal, reading, was because I knew I couldn’t check out, I had to stay present.  This hadn’t been conscious, it came from deep within.  But it was the opposite of reaching for a drink.  I said to Erica, in tears, “I can trust myself.”

I gathered these pieces and planned to write a summary bringing them all together.  But my writing capacity is nil right now, I’ve fallen into a place of despair, my neo-cortex is offline.  I’m triggered by overwhelm, by too much news both bad and good, I can’t handle anything right now.  So, dear reader, you get to make sense of this collection of fragments, or not.  I’ll just post it in the faith that if it doesn’t make sense, perhaps you will have a better understanding of how trauma affects the brain.

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Noise Phobia

From my journal for January 6, 1984  I am just beginning to experience the noise phobia.  It will continue until 1997.

I’m having an extraordinarily hard time lately.  I’ve been oddly sick, up and down, for about two weeks.  Sore throat, cold, fever, nausea, lack of energy, lack of appetite.  At one point I got badly dehydrated and when I started drinking a lot I began to feel better physically.  But mentally I feel just awful.  At first very depressed, not seeing any reason for doing anything, can’t get in touch with what I want.  Doing something like washing dishes seems to require a huge effort, is joyless. Read some books about the Holy Grail.   That work was fun and meaningful and very exciting.  Then began this awful harassment by noise.  The Car crusher down the street was running for three days, somebody’s been running a snow mobile in Whitney’s woods, there have been chain saws nearby, or maybe not nearby, I can’t tell any more I’m so freaked out.  All my muscles are tense and my stomach in a state of nausea.  Every time I hear a renewed snarl, a renewed shot of adrenalin throws me into spasm again and then I seem to go on tingling and vibrating for a long time.  Every time I think of the Taylor’s logging their property, the same spasm shakes me.  How will I live through it?  (Well, I lived through Whitney’s logging, but we weren’t living here then and we were doing our own cutting)  Well, I have chosen to increase my tolerance to noise, and to come to terms with the part of me that is causing this thing with noise to be such an issue.  I’m sick of being so overly sensitive, sick of being thrown off balance by such little things.  And thats another thing I do to myself is judge myself harshly for letting such a little thing upset me so.  Forgive, forgive.  Forgive them their noise and forgive me my weakness.

I feel utterly overwhelmed and utterly helpless.

Some kind of very delicate balance must be found, between the resistance which gives it energy and the passivity which allows it to flatten me.  Some kind of taking a stand, some kind of robust strength within myself.

In the margin of the printed version is a note:  “Dear Jenny, it’s called “hyperacusis” and it’s one of the symptoms of PTSD.  May 2008″

January 24
All my life I’ve been overreacting to things, taking them as personal insults, getting upset about something that hasn’t happened yet.  And it didn’t seem odd because it usually seemed justified: trouble with a boyfriend, money difficulty.  But now, with something as trivial as the noise, I can see that I have been overreacting and I can work on this discipline for being more tolerant and robust, not so sensitive and nervous.  I can also see that I’ve been expecting in some childish way that the world should be arranged for my comfort.  It seems unfair that I should have moved to the country only to be harassed by noise.  But that’s the condition of life in this industrial age.  I want to live in a world in which people value the beauty of nature and don’t deface it by noise, smells and pollution, but cherish and enhance it by appropriate building, gardening and forestry practices.  That’s my vision for the world.

Here I am taking responsibility for the symptoms of PTSD. “I’m sick of being so overly sensitive, sick of being thrown off balance by such little things.”  Exactly what it feels like to live with PTSD.  Imagining that I am creating them for some sick need, since my efforts to change don’t work.  I have no idea how big and overwhelming is what I am up against.  It will be 13 years before the phobia ends, as a result of anti-depressant medication and an astute therapist.

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Good Friday

Richard Rohr:

I believe that the cross is an image for our own time, and every time: we are invited to gaze upon the image of the crucified Jesus to soften our hearts toward all suffering. Amidst the devastating spread of COVID-19, the cross beckons us to what we would call “grief work,” holding the mystery of pain, looking right at it, and learning from it. With softened hearts, God leads us to an uncanny and newfound compassion and understanding.

Elizabeth Goudge, The Scent of Water, p 307

“He did say that he believed the fair Lord of life had accepted a death so shameful by deliberate intent of love, so that nothing that can happen to the body should cause any man to feel himself separated from God. … fearful though the sight was, it was not what he saw that made him weep.  It was that the Lord of heaven, giving himself into the hands of men, that is to say into his hands, to do with what he would, had by his hands been broken.”  

Today is Good Friday, and I have a lot of memories.  Probably the most important was the time that I was in a house of friends, I was very severely depressed, and hanging on their wall was a picture of the head of Jesus on the cross.  His head was bent to one side, and around it was the crown of thorns.  I looked at it, and I thought that in the whole pantheon he was the only god who knew what I felt like.

Some background.  I was raised Episcopalian, but stopped believing in God and church as a teenager.  In college, I took a course (required) in biblical history, literature, and interpretation.  It gave me a critical appreciation of the construction of the gospels, and a sense of the life of the man Jesus.  I have come to appreciate Jesus as a person, and feel much closer to him than to “God.”  I continue to struggle with the question of whether the Universe is friendly or not.

The year after I graduated from College, I went to Europe with a friend.  In April, 1965, we were in the tiny village of Naoussa on the Island of Paros in the Aegean.  We were in the house of the rich man of the village, Frankie, who had worked all his life in a filling station in Chicago, and retired on Social Security of $25 a week.  It was the night of Good Friday. We were playing a card game, when we heard sounds in the street.  When we looked out, we saw some priests carrying tall candles, followed by the flower-covered coffin of Jesus Christ, followed by the women of the village, dressed in black and wailing.  I realized that this was an opportunity for each woman to mourn the husband lost at sea last year, the child who died years ago, in fact all the losses of their lives were being communally mourned.

Another memory is of a statue of Jesus that I saw when I was traveling in Brittany.  It was part of a sculpture showing a series of scenes from the life of Jesus.  I remember that the Last Supper was being enacted by men with heavy Celtic faces wearing medieval Breton clothing.  One of the scenes was a big fish with its mouth open and small people inside.  Facing it was a large figure of Jesus.  I was told that the fish represented Hell, and the scene was Jesus going down into hell during the three days before he rose again.  The face of Jesus really struck me.  It was so compassionate.  I thought that just seeing that face could bring you out of Hell.  I took a photograph, but alas it didn’t carry the same feeling.

On Good Friday I remember that a dark-skinned man, citizen of an occupied country, was executed by the Empire for teaching revolutionary ideas like helping the poor.

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