Every day, I encounter a new challenge to the idea that things can and should be open and real.

Be it social, political, or personal, serious or trivial -- every time, I ponder the implications.

I hope you'll join me in the conversation!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Esse Diem is moving...please come, too!

Dear friends, this little blog is packing up and moving over to Wordpress!

I truly appreciate all of you who have encouraged me to write and think over the past year, and I hope we can keep up the great dialogue over in the new space. Seeing your smiling faces on the Google followers widget has been inspiring, and I hope we will still connect, even more often and better, on the new blog. I'll keep using Google reader to follow you.

Come see what's happening over at www.essediem.wordpress.com. Eventually it will become www.essediemblog.com. See you soon.............

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Could Have Been

The Return of the Jedi.....ahhh. How I love the Star Wars saga, and I know I'm not alone. It
resonates for a reason, that simple reason being it rests on the greatest themes of all time.

Lately this image from the end of ROTJ literally keeps appearing in my mind. Trying to figure it out I've realized that I have many friends who are grappling with the permanent scars life is lashing on them. Myself, I have angled to try to convince myself and others that these dramatic and painful events aren't permanent, that we can overcome, that by lending our thoughts and our efforts towards good -- towards The Force, if you'll forgive me -- is the way out.

I've always identified with Luke Skywalker from the "could go either way"perspective. I'm not an Obi Wan, always clear and focused, without doubts and never truly in peril. I recognize and look up to those people, but I could never claim to be them. (Maybe in about 30 years....)

But I'm not an Anakin all the way, either. I battle darkness, and anger, and the occasional conviction that I can overcome what hurts me with more hurt. But I don't really believe that. And I don't want the people I love to ever believe that either.

So I look at my friends in pain, and I see their turning point. And I think about my own. There are clear moments to me when the woman I could have been, the woman I wanted to be, was lost to this life. My personal spiritual beliefs tell me that even if we go the wrong way, we will be restored to who we could have been through love. But you know.....I want to see that person, those people, NOW.

My heart is hurting for the turning point of losing ourselves in this life.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sisyphus-Cat Tries Again

Every culture has mythology to explain the human condition. There's always a creation myth, a big flood story, and the classic how-much-trouble-can-you-get-in-for-messing-with-the-gods stories. No one does it like the Greeks. In fact, I'd say every time I hear "mythology" I whisper "Greek."

When my sister and I were children, our parents invested in an entire library of Childcraft encyclopedias, and one arrived every month until the set was complete at around 24 volumes. I can only recall with any clarity one of all those books, and that book was Greek Mythology. I absolutely loved those stories, and as sacreligious as it may be to some, I learned more about the perils of being human and the deep warnings of hubris there than from anything I ever read in church.

The two stories that I have carried most closely in a conscious way are Pandora's Box and Icarus. I probably conjure up those lessons on a weekly basis to manage my life. But lately I've been thinking about dear old Sisyphus.

There is a lot more to it than this (and like many ancient stories, more than one version and more than one interpretation), but in short Sisyphus was punished by the gods for having the audacity to think he could play by their rules. His punishment manifested itself as having to push a huge boulder up a hill every day, only to have it roll down to the bottom again before he reached the top and could rest and have satisfaction.

He did this for eternity.

I always thought the old guy got off pretty good when it came to divine punishments. At least he didn't get his liver pecked out by a vulture every day, only to have it grow back again like Prometheus, right? When I was kid I thought, "Well, he knows what he has to get up and do again tomorrow. He knows what's in front of him, and he's going to try again."

Most days, I still feel that way. Sure, there are some days I wake up frustrated that the same struggles I had the day/week/month/year before continue to be in front of me. Those are hard days. But most days, I wake up grateful for another chance to keep trying.

And when you keep trying in the face of overwhelming odds, you kind of stick it to the gods, and that feels pretty good sometimes. I love that about Greek mythology too, that there is a much thinner line presented between all gods and all humans than in Biblical stories. The playing field isn't even, but it's always interesting.

Today I'm feeling very "game on." Which probably means I'm not really paying attention. Oh well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Like a Knife in My Heart....

I owe someone an apology. In preparation for our 20th college reunion, my friend Jay said, "It's like a knife in my heart that we're not young anymore" -- and I immediately told him all the reasons he shouldn't feel that way.

Well, I take it all back.

I love this picture representing the feeling, because it's not gory and it's not sad, and in many ways I think it represents strength. The heart still glows around the blade, and the two seem to be in the process of becoming one.

I knew my return to campus would trigger many conflicting emotions, and I thought I was prepared, but truthfully I did not anticipate the cascade of feeling that I think Jay had in advance.....and perhaps we all had before the weekend was over. The realization that essentially the same amount of time had passed since graduation that had passed from our births to when we all first met was monumental for me. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces, and so many beloved to me. Our lives were different then, and have perhaps become even more different now, but we will always have our Davidson experience during a formative time in our development and that keeps us connected.

What I did not expect was the powerful feeling that this was a turning point.

Going forward, I think I need to not take for granted that Davidson will always bind us, at least to the degree for which I hope and which I need. I am recommitting to these relationships.

The knife may not come out, but the heart will always be strong.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Life's Rich Pageant

Last night I had the privilege of attending the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra's performance of Beethoven's 9th, Ode to Joy.

Prior to the performance beginning, conductor Grant Cooper requested a moment of silence for the fallen Montcoal miners. It was one of the longer "moments" I've been a part of, and it was absolutely silent despite the dozens of people present.

The live performance of classical music is something timeless, unique, and awe inspiring; and the introduction of this particular symphony with a moment of shared grief was not ironic but somehow complete and fully human.

We've all read stories of people attending live music performances during intense and strange circumstances: bombings in London, occupations in France, under the eyes of Nazis, even the witnesses who speak of musicians performing as the Titanic went down to the depths of night and the loss of hundreds of lives.

We humans are a strange lot, and that's putting it mildly. But whenever I feel despair over how very dark and driven by evil our kind can be, I put my mind to this -- We spend years fashioning instruments to make exquisite sounds. We train our voices to express the richness and over the top joy and pain of human emotion. We come together to put our voices and instruments to the task of not only telling our story, but sharing it. And we come together to experience what cannot be said in words, but only played, and sung, and felt.

I don't go to the symphony to hear music. I go to be a part of something insanely gorgeous and strange. I'm thinking about season tickets.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Road to Hell Paved with Unbought Stuffed Dogs"

My college friend Peter recently unearthed this long-buried memory for me. Fans of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises will recognize the title of this post, but just in case you need the backdrop, here's the set up (www.perpenduum.com/2008/07/happy-birthday-yesterday-hemingway/) :

Jake is being encouraged by Bill to buy "just one stuffed dog" to "brighten up his flat" but Jake declines. Bill tells him "it will mean everything in the world to you after you've bought it" but Jake says he'll "get one on the way back." Few things are more clear than that he has no intention of getting one at all, and Bill drops the famous line, "All right. Have it your way. Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs. Not my fault."

It's been a long time since I did any meaningful literary analysis, and I'm not going to pretend to try now, but I am so grateful to Peter for bringing this strange and haunting passage back into my consciousness.

There are a lot of strange, small things that claw at my mind every day. Things that I can't really explain why I think it would be important, or of value long-term. Things that in fact in the moment are utterly bizarre and meaningless, and that run the risk of making me seem nearly unstable. (I mean really, who just buys a taxidermied DOG for crying out loud?)

But Hemingway is on it....and yes, he was seen as a tad unstable, but maybe that is the consequence of living in the Real. He is known to have said something to the effect of I don't know why everyone says writing is so hard, all you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed...........and that he did.

He bled out this idea that we don't know what is valuable all the time, but that it's the weird little chances we take that lead to our closest touch in this world with what is authentic and expressive and inexplicably imporant. Hell is when we realize we didn't exert ourselves or take chances on something being relevant or meaningful, even if at the time we can't explain it at all.

So here goes. Peter, I can't explain why you linger as an important personality in my life. We weren't particularly close friends, we didn't take a lot of classes together, we didn't have a shared social scene. But one thing I do know, my personal road to hell has been missing opportunities to tell people they mattered, they were unique, they stood out and they still enhance my life in ways large and small. That you would pop up with this quote seems about right.

Thanks for doing it, and thanks for reminding me we don't always get to know why something is important, but we do get a chance to follow through.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Skinny Branchin' It Again

So I just found out Glenn Beck didn't go to college. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh also apparently didn't graduate from college. This explains a lot.

I don't think one has to graduate from college or even attend college to be an intelligent, productive person. It's not that. It's the tendency of these people -- in fact usually the smart ones who might have been accomplished in higher education --to be so reactionary and intolerant and eager to pick a fight over, well, nothing.

I had lunch with two of my smartest friends yesterday, and their analysis of this was rapid and made a lot of sense to me. They talked about how the environment of respectful debate grounded in arguments that were expected to be based on research held to the highest standard shapes a person. How spending at least 4 years in a culture that trains you to only have serious arguments in this realm trains you not to take things personally, to stay focused on ideas, and to understand the problems of philosophy and false argument (the straw man, the slippery slope, etc.).

The dudes listed above are well known for being among the worst offenders when it comes to making everything personal, attacking people and not examining ideas, and gloating and profiting off of pitting people against each other instead of trying to solve problems. I honestly try not to pay any attention to them. They are like clowns to me, but beligerant, ignorant clowns, and who needs that? Some folks have outright phobias against that kind of clown, and for good reason.

Eventually, it does seem they out themselves for what they are. Beck recently ranted and raved against the government collecting taxes from the people, then puffed himself up and crowed that he taught himself that, "in the library!" Um, hello. Do you understand how libraries are funded? Apparently not. They teach you that in college.

My precious home state of West Virginia has 17% of its population with a 4 year degree. I don't care if you have a college degree because I think it's a status symbol. I care because I need you to have one. I need you to be part of a world where you understand ideas, and can hear criticism without going off the deep end frothing at the mouth. There's a lot of criticism that we need to hear in West Virginia (and our personal lives) so we can climb out of a heapin' mess of hurt and trouble.

I'm worried that across the board we don't have the training to hear important ideas and act on them before it's too late. I'd like to reexamine this line of thinking that says "college isn't for everyone." I think it should be.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8078381@N03/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Friday, February 19, 2010

In the Strangest Places

In my underwear drawer today I found a flyer I apparently picked up on business travel when staying at a Marriott hotel.

It was time management tips, and the Number One tip was "The Compass Over the Clock."

The tip goes on to talk about the madness we all perpetrate on ourselves by prioritizing speed over direction.

I haven't been writing much lately, and I miss it. Taking a deep breath and allowing my personal time and my core values to reconnect is always valuable, and has never not paid dividends in all areas of my life.

Compass over the clock. Try it with me? I could use the support!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Proper Wilderness

I had a lot of fun writing this post for Corporate Idealist; so much in fact I thought I'd cross-post it here to kick off the year. To see the original post, visit http://www.corporateidealist.com/2009/07/a-proper-wilderness/

I’m an unrepentant Bear Grylls fan. His show on Discovery Channel, “Man vs. Wild,” always inspires and encourages me. Most of us will never encounter the challenges and outright risks and dangers Grylls does, but this weekend’s show got me thinking about how we may not be so far apart after all. He used the phrase, “a proper wilderness,” and that feels like a great metaphor for so many people striking out to find their new best careers and goals.

Grylls served three years with a special forces unit of the British army. One can really only officially be on active duty in the army for so many years before one has to start thinking about other things; particular if one has broken one’s back in three places during service! But what if what you do, what you love, what you were meant to pursue and prove and teach, is the very thing you feel required to depart?

Today’s economy and the dramatic shifts in the work place have required many of us to take a step back and start thinking about how to answer this question. If you find yourself required to make a change, don’t be too hasty to assume that all of what you loved about what you used to do is now out of reach. Spend some time in self-analysis, identifying not only your hard skills but your favorite pursuits and activities. Think not only about yourself as an individual, but about your skills on a team, and within an organization.

Grylls left the special forces, and one might think he would never skin a rattlesnake barehanded and eat it raw for a living again; yet here he is, still doing what he does better than anyone, and doing that in which he finds the most personal and professional satisfaction. (He earns a nice paycheck as well. Coincidence? Probably not!)

Give yourself a taste of something new and off-the-charts innovative this week, but bring your favorite existing skills. You might just find yourself rethinking what is and is not possible for your own next adventure.

Year-in-Review: The 10 Most Commented Posts of 2009

My friend Dennis Taylor has a great blog, sprezzatura! http://dctadvisors.wordpress.com/, and it is the inspiration for this post -- I thought his taking the time to analyze the Top 10 most viewed posts from his first year of blogging was an interesting idea. http://dctadvisors.wordpress.com/2009/12/24/year-in-review-ten-most-view-posts/

My first post was April 13, 2009 -- I got started really to break the isolation of staying at home with a newborn. Since then, this blog has become much more than that for me, and I hope you've had some fun along with me over the past few months.

I don't track the views, but I do track comments. Let's take a trip down memory lane and see what we learn, shall we? Here's what got people exchanging ideas:

#6 Scarletts and Melanies (October 30) tied with How you Look, How You Feel (June 22)

My female readers could really relate to feeling the big "UGH" after having a baby and wanting to set goals to feel better. They also had a few things to say about how extreme characterizations of female personality are interpreted and misinterpreted on film and in real life.

#5 Meeting Needs, Sustaining Shadows (December 28)

I appreciated the acknowledgement that responding to stereotypes is not always a slam-dunk easy answer. Once more into the breach, dear West Virginians!

#4 The Skinny Branch (December 3)

When Tiger Woods fell from the heavens, I think we all were a little more troubled that we expected. This post was a challenge for me to write, but I'm glad I did. Thanks to all who were brave enough to comment.

#3 Fly Away Home (June 17)

It's uber popular to talk about "keeping our kids in West Virginia." It's less popular to talk about letting them leave. I'm grateful to all who wrestled with this one.

#2 The Tattoo and the Beach (June 1)

This is where I learned that I was, in fact, being an idiot. I'm over 40 years old. I need to get a grip. Mucho props to those who shared their tattoo confessions and resolutions.

#1 Something Wicked This Way Comes (May 29)

Sometimes you just are plain surprised by what people want to talk about....I really just posted this for myself to purge my own frustration with unhealthy marketing and products for young children. I found out I'm not alone, but also that not everyone views what I think of as plainly problematic as a big deal. I'd say what I ultimately learned is that this problem is on a slippery slope -- there are individual small things that incrementally add up to big issues, and by the time you're avalanched at the bottom of the hill it's too late.

Let's be careful out there, everyone. Wishing you a 2010 full of authenticity, peace, and understanding. Thanks for reading Esse Diem. It means a lot to me.