Dee's Blog
Thu 09/25/2008
The Importance of Stories
Topic: spirituality

One method I like to use, in exploring new ideas, is to take a profound book that gets me going down a new thread of thinking, then to work quite a lot off of the bibliography as the author picks up many strands that she or he has woven into writing to formulate creative thoughts that will stimulate thoughts of various nature in readers.

Real art does not lead us all to the same conclusions.  Nor to necessarily to the exploration of the same strands of thought.  It frees our minds to roam--okay, as Leslie Van Gelder would say, "on the wild side."

Patrician Monaghan is the author that recently caught my eye, thanks to Leslie.  This scholar's work is mind-boggling.  I don't contend that I understand half what she is saying, but I love her thoughts on the importance of story.  You can explore some of her ideas through an interview:  Here's the gem that I bring to you today:

I think that (with) a group of people talking, and really listening to each other, the situation becomes more complex because they note their connections through storytelling. Then they become connected to each other. I told my story last night, because Joe told his. Systems move towards complexity and then to a stasis where you've heard each other's stories....."

Seems to me that stories that are difficult to tell and difficult to listen to so easily get lost in history.  It is SUCH work to keep them alive.  Or even to keep the principles that they illustrate alive!  Yet so important that we become more willing to connect through stories--especially the listening part.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:07 AM CDT
Wed 09/24/2008
Let's Just All Get Our Guns!
Topic: Making Changes

Heard it no NPR this morning.  Election predictions and concerns.  I have a love-hate relationship with trying to keep up with this campaign.  Figure it's a lesson in human behavior, anyway.  And Lord knows, I need lots of those lessons as I continue to try bringing my expectations and appropriate responses to violence and oppression into check.

This time it seems that the people in Southern Pennsylvania think one of the biggest issues is the right to hunt down wild animals as a sport.  So they are showing great excitement for Gov. Palin now.  She's one of them, they are thinking.   Rather significant observation since this is one of the the geographical areas where the way the vote goes may determine the final outcome of the election.

Amazing the attitudes people have toward the "wild life"--whether it's animals or people thinking outside the box!   More amazing.....

Last week I was shocked to read that 40% of Caucasians in the United States are hesitant to vote for a person of color, just because of the skin color!  Yes, in this "enlightened day," 40% say they still "do not trust 'em" and think "black people are lazy."

Sad to think that we are such a backward nation in our thinking, after all these years of "progress."  When will I ever learn that paradigm changes always take much longer than I think they take?   When will I stop being shocked at bigotry?   I hope never.   Heaven help me when I do!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 10:59 AM CDT
Tue 09/23/2008
Keeping the Wild Life Reserves from Becoming Dangerous
Topic: coping

Back in the 80's when we were living in Malawi, a young mother and her daughter were walking in an area near a wild life reserve.  It was located right in the heart of a major city, however.  Generally, the wild animals did not leave their protected area.  This time, unfortunately, one did.  When it was least expected--right in the heat of the day!  The result was disastrous.

The young girl, walking ahead of her mother, was suddenly attacked by a hyena.  In order to save her daughter, the mother distracted the hyena, who then turned on her and bit off several of her fingers before somebody managed to come to her rescue and somehow scare the animal so that it ran off into the woods.  I do not recall what decisions were made about tracking down the wild animal; but as I recall, people were quite certain it would be impossible to even do so.  People could only look at the story and learn from it, drawing conclusions as best they could about what actions to take in the future--in regard to city politics, as well as individual actions for self-protection.

The protected area had always been considered quite safe for visitors, as well as wild life.  There were rules so that hikers did not trespass onto the rights of animals.  It was as though there was invisible fencing around the wild life reserve. 

Nobody knows what went wrong, but the results sent shivers down the spines of the city's residents as they read the paper telling of the incident.

It was a strong reminder that we must be vigilant, and that there are limitations and unpredictable outcomes at times, even when we've lived for years in harmony with others who are enjoying the wild life areas.

So do we want to do away with the areas where we can learn and explore and consider how we want to believe and live in connection with other creatures, including people who are also learning and exploring, learning to tame the wildernesses of their lives?  Or do we want to just work to make them safer while respecting the choices of those who choose to use the areas and choose where and how they will roam?

Those are the big questions that keep environmentalists, as well as politicians, engaged in conversations that aren't about to end anytime soon.  They are the same nature of conversations that take place in our institutions when it comes to what we do with people who act like wild animals.

Keeping the freedom to think and move, while still enjoying the advantages of the wild life, is indeed a challenge!

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Mon 09/22/2008
Diversity in Thinking--the Way of the Wild Life
Topic: spirituality

When we are comfortable living the "wild life" way, we do not expect everyone around us to think like we think.  Nor do we believe that our way of thinking if necessarily the ideal way to think.  We accept diversity and are content to live in our own section while respecting others.



Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 2:31 PM CDT
Sun 09/21/2008
Confucius Says
Topic: coping

As Confucius saw it, we stand in a fast-flowing stream, with our backs to the past.  We look into the future as we also are feeling the present and seeing the things closest to us.  At least, it seems that's how he thought it should be in a healthy state.

The strong current comes from the past, and it is continually pressing in on us so that the present and the future is interpreted according to how we are currently perceiving the past.  Our perceptions change as each new wave hits us, bringing with it the opportunity to see the present and future in a different way as we evolve.  

The important thing is to stay standing.  We cannot allow the past to wash us away or make us topple over.  For it's definitely hard to see downstream at all if we allow the past to be our primary focus.   

"Forgetting what is behind, I press on....."  or look forward, counting my blessings for what I still possess and for my potential in the days ahead.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CDT
Fri 09/19/2008
The Darkest, Brightest Wilderness
Topic: coping

It seems that the darkest places to be--the ones that seem most like wilderness--are the deepest recesses of our hearts.  The longer they are neglected, the darker they become, the more difficult it is to make these places into lovely "wild life" areas.

Yet they also hold the potential for being the brightest places, for there are both unknown shadows and unknown places of intense light in those recesses.  To avoid entering is to avoid experiencing the greatest joys, even as we attempt to avoid the sorrows that come because we are afraid to explore.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 10:38 AM CDT
Wed 09/17/2008
Moving from Wilderness to the Wild Life Area
Topic: Making Changes

Just in case you were wondering where I was yesterday, I should tell you that I was in the wilderness.  Quite unexpectedly.

Partly from the shock of the economic news on Monday.  It sent me, perhaps like some of you, to start taking stock of my meager assets and to wake up from some of my denial about getting older and needing to be less of a risk-taker than most people my age are.  Literally, when it comes to my tendencies with my personal financing.

Oh, I'll stay a risk taker in some other areas.  That shouldn't come as a surprise to any of you.

Of course, as I get older, I'm recognizing the need to think twice about a lot of risks and about how I want to invest my time, as well as money.

Then, yesterday while I was coming to grips with some decisions from the Monday "crash," I had about a 10% reduction of my weekly income with some unexpected calls!  Ouch!!  Even for a self-employed person who rolls with the punches somewhat gracefully, this was a shock I'd never experienced all in one day.

This morning I found an e-mail from a friend I haven't seen in a couple of years or more.  Asking me to get together with her for lunch.  That was all I needed to make me realize that the wilderness experience is indeed temporary, and it really doesn't have to take much to bring us back to a place where we realize what is really important in this unpredictable life we all lead.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 9:39 AM CDT
Updated: Wed 09/17/2008 9:42 AM CDT
Mon 09/15/2008

Leslie Van Gelder really has me thinking, doing some soul-searching.  She talks about her experience in the wilderness--literally in the wilderness--and how this relates to our personal processes of individuation.

A few people are comfortable in any wilderness, she says, because of life experience.  In fact, they quickly convert what others see as "wilderness" into the "wild life" place of refuge.  I certainly haven't gotten to that point yet, but would love to be there.  She says such people quickly are able to turn wildernesses into a habitation for wild life and humans together.  Translating that into the unknown things over which we have little or no control, but still maintain a high degree of comfort, so that we co-exist with the unpredictable and very quickly integrate that into our lives, almost seamlessly.

It dawned on me recently that the people I have the most difficulty relating to, in all the world, are those who have an extremely low tolerance for the wilderness.  Maybe that's because I am quickly perceived as BEING the "wild" one to most people.  My husband says I scare a lot of folks to death. 

Maybe so.  Maybe I don't care most days, if it means having to give up my own comfort as much as it seems I have to.  If I sound a little conflicted and confused, you are reading me right--at least for the moment.  Sorting is SUCH hard work, even in the "wild."

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 3:11 PM CDT
Sun 09/14/2008
Life in the Wild
Topic: coping

Been reading some about life in the wild lately.  Not just the actual areas where wildlife abounds in our world.  Also, about the rich experience of living where few people live because of life's choices.

It occurred to me yesterday that one has to be very alert to live in the wilderness, where everything is unknown and people are definitely not in control.  The wilderness is where nothing is predictable, and all we can do is move by faith and a hope that there will be something that will allow us to at least survive the raw elements.

According to Leslie Van Gelder, in her new book WEAVING A WAY HOME, life in the wild isn't the same as the wilderness.   "The Wild" is where others have gone, but it's still untamed territory.  There is much to learn and explore there, yet we have a better idea how to survive. 

Some of you have lived in the wilderness, as I have--a spiritual wilderness, that is.  Where few survive for long.  Maybe you have found your way into the wild, where there is a little more comfort due to experience, so that it is beginning to feel like home.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 1:37 PM CDT
Fri 09/12/2008
The Real Perpetrator
Topic: Power

Sometimes, in stories involving professional abuse, I feel like we should bring back an old show, from the 50's, entitled "To Tell the Truth."  A contestant was brought on the show, on one side of the stage.  On the other, behind a screen that allowed the audience to see while the contestant could not, were three people who were introduced by the host with a one-paragraph teaser.  The contestant was allowed to ask questions of the hidden people, one by one.  Only one of the hidden guests was the real person, the only one who was telling the truth.

This morning, I woke up to the news that Eric McLean was found not guilty of murdering his wife's teenage "lover."  OK--on that I'll agree.   As the story shows, the shooting was not murder, though McLean was recklessly using a gun.  If he'd wanted to only scare the teen, Sean Powell, I don't understand why Eric was carrying a loaded gun to the confrontation in the first place!  Nor why he, an adult, would have been dumb enough to have his finger on the trigger, especially knowing it was loaded, when Sean reached for the barrel of the gun!!  Eric McLean made a HUGE error in judgment and brings into question the whole issue of why we so readily allow such easy access to guns in America, to start with!!

That's a sub-issue, however.  So before I get too far afield, I would like to be like Horton with his tiny little voice, and ask:  "Will the real perpetrator please stand up?"

At this prompting, if we had the whole scene on an episode of "To Tell the Truth," the person to stand would be MRS. McLean (I can't even quickly locate HER name this morning).  While she certainly didn't shoot her student, she certainly ABUSED HIM.  And all of the journalists and lawyers with big names are missing the main point of the story. 

Eric McLean was a victim, though a secondary one.  SO--especially so--was Sean Powell.  He was even a minor!  Teachers do NOT have affairs with their students.  Neither do ministers have affairs with their congregants.  PLEASE GET THIS STRAIGHT! 

The biggest perpetrator here may even still be teaching, or soon will be, the way things go!  Let's face it.  The real perpetrator--the one who betrayed her student and also her husband--got off without much notoriety at all.  Meanwhile her primary victim is dead, leaving a huge impact on the lives of all the secondary victims, especially his family.





Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:13 AM CDT

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