Island Illusion

“No man is an island.” John Donne

Islands bring adventure! Beauty! Exotic sights! Or perhaps they can bring danger, hunger and isolation.

By definition an island is surrounded by water. Without a means to leave the island by boat or swimming one could feel trapped there. Emotions can be like islands. We can feel so overwhelmed by an emotion that we believe there is no escape. When the emotions are jubilant, we don’t mind. We would like to live on the jubilant island forever! But when emotions are dark, we wish to seek light and an escape from such despair, sadness or loneliness.

One must start with John Donne’s declaration. ‘No man is an island’. No matter how isolated one feels, there is a way of escape. The first step is an act of the will-a desire to escape. The desire must translate into actions or the presumed desire is not real. It is an illusion which further traps the inactive person in despair.

So how might one bridge the water which seems to obstruct escape?  Remember, we are not islands. We are people with connections to others. Approaching others may not be easy. A bridge may have to be built or repaired. A person may have to learn to swim to escape. Sometimes we can build the bridge alone. Sometimes we can teach ourselves how to swim. Sometimes we need external instruction. This instruction can be obtained via a friend, a counselor, a book, or a sage. When we want to escape, we must take the action required for that desire to become a reality.

“Too much self-centered attitude, you see, brings, you see, isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering.” Dalai Lama



Mosaic Marvel

The year was 2006 and the popular book, “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert was on every book shelf. But not mine. I resented her. When she went through her divorce, she spent a year abroad: Italy, India, and Indonesia. She had opportunities to work through her feelings, hurt, and anger. She received teachings from Gurus, Zen Masters and Yogic Sages.

During the same year I lost my father to cancer and my husband of 30 years divorced me because my faith had disintegrated. I wanted to crawl away. Any where. Just somewhere other than where I was. But I couldn’t. I had bills to pay, a job to report to and responsibilities that I could not walk away from. I remember thinking, ‘Well how nice for you. Your heart is broken and you get to receive this -what I believed to be- fabulous support and balm to your broken heart.’

At the same period in my life I was given, “Gift of the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh written in 1955. Anne writes this wonderful book as she stayed by herself at a Florida island cabin. Early in her book, she writes, ‘And then, some morning in the second week…” I had to put the book down. I wrote in the margin, ‘Never have I been able to do this-I have never been anywhere for two weeks for a break. How wonderful it would be, to go somewhere, stay for several weeks, and have time to rest, reflect, revive and restore.’

So the daily blog prompt has now given me permission to ‘study abroad’. It challenged me to select a place to spend one year. I am going to suppose in my fantasy, that all expenses are paid, that the experience will be a time warp so that I can return to my job without penalty of loss. I am dreaming that the year is for my own enjoyment, pleasure and restoration.

My god-what a challenge. I have never been anywhere for very long, and never gone far from the United States. What an assignment. Hence, I could not write this yesterday, I had to dream a little.

My Place- by the ocean side on a bluff. Not that I like to be in the ocean, but I love to hear and watch its soothing rhythmic crash to shore. It would need to be in a community, where I can walk to places of necessity such as the grocery. It would need a fully stocked kitchen, as I love to cook. It would need chairs on the beach to sip my morning coffee or to linger over my evening glass of wine. It would need a fabulous library where I could access many more adventures and insights from others. It would need a typewriter – or paper galore – so I could sort out my thoughts with writing. It would be grand if it was also conveniently situated by public transportation-such as trains-that could take me on one day journeys to broaden my explorations. There would not be a daily schedule to keep while on this year long experience. I could let my body sync with nature.

And I would have my beloved husband with me on this adventure. He is a comfort and encouragement in my life. He hugs my soul. As beautiful as my destiny place would be, it would be hollow if not shared with him. He may need his corner of our paradise to access internet to maintain he love of researching, but that is who he is. He loves to learn.

The final criteria for anyone who lives in my place of paradise is that all the inhabitants accept each other. We help if needed, but don’t interfere. Each is able to pursue their own interests. I would be hopeful that the potential combination of variety would not be a ‘melting pot’ where all are merged into one sameness-but it would create a beautiful mosaic piece of art that we could take home with us and keep as our survivor from this one year oasis.

“I close my eyes, then I drift away, into the magic night I softly say a silent prayer, like dreamers do, then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.” Roy Orbison

Challenge of Change

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  is the opening line in Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities”.

Odd as that may seem, it can be true.

Enrolling in college classes seems innocuous. People register for the class, they attend lectures, they make new friends and they learn. Thousands do it everyday. The level of involvement may vary. The interest level may fluctuate.

When I enrolled in my first college class, I was 26. I was a minister’s wife, and had two children. My daughter had undergone 11 surgeries. I had married right out of high school. My husband’s work took us to many states. Each move meant a whole new establishment of medical support. My life was wrapped around my husband, my children and my church. My scope of existence was lived in a glass bowl under the scrutiny of a thousand eyes that watched my every move.

When my children went to school, so did I. I enrolled in one class at the local community college. I fell in love with learning. I learned new things, and my world cracked open. It took me nine years to obtain my college degree. Beyond that degree, college taught me to seek; to question and research and to be open to the discovery.

Funny thing about a world that cracks open. The previous foundation for what I believed began to shake. The truths that were infallible became flawed. Going though a personal transformation was painful. There were many who did not want me to change. Ultimately, it resulted in the death of many friendships and of my long marriage. But it birthed me.

The decade of my 40’s was the best of times-as I became more at peace and in harmony with myself and my worldview, and it was the worse of times-as I had to say goodbye to the previous familiar way of life.

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but-I hope-into a better shape.” Charles Dickens in “Great Expectations”

Under the Influence

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought.” Dwight D Eisenhower

We are influenced every day. From the simple act of passing people in the hall-who can encourage us with their warm greeting or cause a shudder of cold isolation as they ignore or disdainfully look at us- to placing ourselves under the direct tutelage of a teacher.

It is nice to select a mentor to provide influence. Someone who inspires you or encourages you to be the best that you can be. Someone who reminds you that you can do what ever is placed in your journey. Someone whom you trust that you believe will be at your back when times become rough.

Unfortunately, there are many who don’t get to choose their constant companions: children and prisoners of war come to mind. They both arrived in their situation by no fault of their own. My particular concern in this blog is the influence to children. They are young and cannot take care of them selves. Their developing minds are easily bent toward what is put into them.

Leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention clearly advocate the need to control what is put into a person’s mind.  Timothy George wrote an article where he advocated, “May God give us again Baptist families and Baptist churches who will take seriously the awesome responsibilities of indoctrinating our children in the things of God.” ( Adrian Rogers, past Southern Baptist Convention President said while discussing the need for the seminary professors to teach as they were told, said “If we say pickles have souls, they better teach pickles have souls.”  (same source)  

Being ‘under the influence’ is dangerous. It creates an altered state of consciousness or reality. We say people are under the influence when they have had too much to drink, or taken drugs. Their thinking process is interrupted. They cannot process information as they would otherwise.

So it is with being indoctrinated. That is not the enjoyment of receiving the influence of someone that you respect, or art that you enjoy. Indoctrination is forced on you and it steals your ability to reason. It is challenging to have a discussion with someone who is under the influence-you go around and around in circles and arrive nowhere.

So how do we stop the dangers of indoctrination and the state of being under the influence. In the drinking and drugs scenario, we have laws that provide safe thresholds. As communities we attempt to provide education on the proper way to balance drinking or taking appropriate doses of medication. But in thinking, we seem to leave people on their own.

I think education and discussion is the key. Exposing new ideas, or new approaches to life broadens a person’s awareness. I know it did for me. I advocate that we have more dinner conversations, more open classrooms and less isolation. Let people discover for themselves the beauty of living and the joy of embracing their own life journey.

Forced to Discover

“Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth” Ludwig Borne

I had to give this quote some thought. Finding a truth can be enlightening. The new discovery may  lead me to change my mind, or my actions. Assuming in this quote that truth would in fact be truth. For instance, I may believe that I know the absolute correct way to do something like bake a cake, or plan a trip. As I prepare to do them, I discover a truth such as a road is out; which will lead me to re-route my travel plans. Or I may learn  that living in a high altitude will change the cook time and oven temperature. I then will adjust my plan for baking my cake. I think that is the type of truth Ludwig was referring to. The truth would simply re-direct me.

When something that you once believed is shone to be untrue, it occurs to you that what you believed was an illusion. It does not re-direct me, it leaves me with a void. Now I have to figure out how to fill that void, or if it is necessary to fill the empty space.  I am not re-directed, I have to self-discover. That is the journey that will provide me with wisdom.

I had this experience when I realized that what I had been taught to believe about God, the Bible, and Salvation was an illusion. It was an illusion that I held onto and believed with my whole heart for 30 years. So when that confident, unquestioning, belief began to disappear, I found I had a very large spiritual void in my life and I was not sure how to begin the journey to question, think, discuss and discover what was the truth.

I am still on that quest. I can see that the discovery of a truth is settling, the discovery of an illusion can create disequalibrium. It forces me to discover. And that journey may take time.