Jonathan Carroll

Small Courage

Árbol de Hierve el Agua (San Isidro, Oaxaca, November 2010)

"I was reading an issue of Men's Journal magazine. The lead article was '100 Things To Do Before You Die.' On the list were things like climb Mt. Everest, parachute from a plane, hand feed a shark, etcetera. I skimmed the other things they suggested should be on everyone's list. I had no desire to do even one of them.

Then I thought is there anything I would like to do before I die that I haven't done yet? Hypothetically if someone is living fully, they're doing what matters (or is important) to them whenever and however they can.

There's something dubious, even pathetic about having to make lists of tasks to do before you die so in doing them, you can be sure you will have really 'lived.' The Japanese say 'live every day as if your hair was on fire' and within realistic bounds, that sounds about right.

Most of the time we know almost as soon as a situation arises whether we will regret not doing it afterwards or not if we say no. We also know most of the time that despite our many fearful, well behaved inner voices telling us not to do something, that we should ignore those voices and go ahead and do it. Because when we do and it works, it makes us bigger and life richer. If it fails, we hurt for a while but then heal and move on.

You don't need to climb Mt. Everest to have led a fulfilled life. You only have to have the courage, and usually it is only small courage, to say yes. Say yes and do something when your first, second and third instincts may be to say no because that frightens me."

~ Jonathan Carroll

Pain Bringers

A black poplar (populus nigra) tree with lightning damage

Facebook post by Jonathan Carroll (12.21.12):

"I now fully believe there are people who spread pain wherever they go. They aren’t necessarily bad like a Hitler or some other outsized villains. Often they are just you and me’s trying to live their lives. But somehow pain bringers are cursed with a dark talent for making things go bad; leaving behind them suspiciously long trails of angry broken hearts, or dreams, or plans...

Whether it’s conscious or unconscious they continuously mess life up, or make jobs harder for others to do, confuse where confusion is not necessary, grate where smoothness was once the norm before they arrived. It can be on a small scale or large. Whenever they enter a life or situation they tramp a kind of psychic mud onto clean floors that is difficult to clean and sometimes permanently stains.

Now and then these people are unquestionably mean or selfish, but not as a rule. Like those poor souls who are struck by lightning again and again for some mysterious reason throughout their lives, pain bringers only have to become involved in something and too frequently for it to be chance or coincidence, they cause it to go south in very negative ways.

I was thinking about this for a long time today and could specifically name three people I have known who fall into this category. You couldn’t identify it by looking at any of them. They’re often compelling, passionate, funny, capable, alluring, attractive, or even generous people. But bond with them in any other than a superficial way and you can almost be certain you’ll be hit by their lightning. Beyond any doubt it will leave some kind of nasty scorch mark on your psyche/heart/life/business/confidence/values/beliefs/soul or otherwise."

Animals Never Lie

Excerpt from White Apples by Jonathan Carroll:

White Apples “Here's something you must know and don't forget it—animals never lie. They don't lie, they don't put on disguises, and they are always true to what they are. That's why you can trust them."

“Excuse me, but I do not trust lions. Or bears or snakes—"

"That’s because you want them to be the creatures you imagined as a child. Lions should be the strong but sweet beasts in a Disney cartoon. But they aren't, so when they start acting like lions you're angry at them for not being the fantasy animals you imagined. Real bears don't wear top hats and ride unicycles. Nor do they sleep in bed next to Goldilocks. Human beings force them to do those stupid things in circuses and films or children's books. Sure, some might be more docile or more ferocious than others, but in the end they will always, always be bears. You know you should never should turn your back on a bear. You should never even get near them; it's that simple. They're not being dishonest—you are in your perception of them."

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

From Jonathan Carroll's blog today (it reminds me of the Secret Santa I read about yesterday, the poem Jorie Graham read on KCRW, and - much less poetically - an article on the etiquette of regifting I read this morning):

"Every year at this time a friend goes a little crazy and bakes hundreds of Christmas cookies which she then gives away to friends and co-workers. Each person gets a box of them that must weigh four pounds. Even if you're a Christmas cookie fanatic, it takes weeks to eat all of them. I got my stash earlier today. Carrying it home under my arm, I bumped into a really raggedy street person who looked like he hadn't had a merry Christmas in one hell of a long time. He asked for money. Instead I spontaneously offered him the box of cookies. He snatched it out of my hands and looked it over suspiciously, as if it were a joke or a ticking bomb ready to go off in his face. Satisfied that it was okay, the man asked shyly if he could open it. Then he asked what was inside. Before I could answer, he saw the mound of cookies in there and his face transformed. Cookies! he said, almost groaning. Cookies, cookies, cookies. He wouldn't stop saying that word as he reached in, grabbed a handful and ate them all at once."