struggle

Perpetual Self-Controntation

"We live in perpetual self-confrontation between the external success and the internal value. And the tricky thing, I'd say, about these two sides of our nature is they work by different logics."

~ David Brooks

The Mighty Strings of Pleasure and Pain

The Mighty Strings of Pleasure and Pain

"The universal war is not limited to the relation between different states, but takes place between villages, between households, and between individuals, and that it takes place even between the different parts of each individual soul."

~ T. K. Seung

If You Embrace It, It Will Teach You

If You Embrace It, It Will Teach You

"Healing comes in many guises. We're healed by just the touch of a friend. We're healed by the hug of a child. And healing does not imply that your life is suddenly going to lose all of the struggle, all of the challenge. What it does instead is it strengthens us for what is next. But to be open to healing means to be vulnerable. And I think if you look at me, you know I'm what they would call a vulnerable adult. The cat doesn't even listen to me here. I have no real sense of control anymore."

~ Bruce Kramer

No One Could Do Nothing But Let It Happen

HOARDERS, Raven Series, (raven, bird, coins, crow) etching on paper, 5 inch x 7 inch, by Larry Vienneau, 2012

Grief
by Mary Ruefle, from Indeed I Was Pleased with the World

First, it will comfort you to know there are crows.
And calipers for measuring the amount of sunshine
that can escape from under the shadows
of thought. Far out at sea ships go down
in a crippled light, and bunches of black iris
are sent to the remaining crew.
You, too, shall have lived and died
a jot, with the queer feeling you were vast and
ageless, with a good education in sleep, prepared
to die with one regret, that you could not devote
more years in vain. And no one could do nothing
but let it happen. Whatever was tied to the mast
the waves have come here they are:
after anxiety turns into pain and pain
turns into rain and the rain
into a doorbell on the face,
the forehead splits open.
Crows come for that speck of gold
you were saving for you eyelids at the point of death
and turn away, wildly happy.

The Infinite Horizon Against Which Is Set Every Word

Team Building (Align), June 16, 2012

Excerpt from "How Silence Works: Emailed Conversations With Four Trappist Monks," by , The Awl, June 1, 2012:

I would say that silence has become natural for me. This is not the case with most communities of monks. In community, we tend to struggle with silence. A human being is a social creature, and we find that, while maintaining silence alone is natural and a blessing, cultivating silence in a group is hard and a discipline we have to commit to over and over again.

I would not speak of the “sacrifice of words” except in relatively rare instances when a passion moves me to speak and I struggle to hold my tongue. The silence which is my natural habitat is not created by forcibly sacrificing anything.

When a man and woman meet and fall in love they begin to talk. They talk and talk and talk all day long and can't wait to meet again to talk some more. They talk for hours together, and never tire of talking and so talk late into the night, until they become intimate—and then they don't talk anymore.

Neither would describe intimacy as “the sacrifice of words” and a monk is not inclined to speak about his intimacy with God in this way. Is silence beneficial for all people?

I would say the cultivation of silence is indispensable to being human. People sometimes talk as if they were “looking for silence,” as if silence had gone away or they had misplaced it somewhere. But it is hardly something they could have misplaced. Silence is the infinite horizon against which is set every word they have ever spoken, and they can't find it? Not to worry—it will find them.

Willpower

Here are fifteen research-based secrets to building willpower compiled by Eric Barker (Barking Up the Wrong Tree). They are all so good that I couldn't decide which ones to highlight. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Enjoy!

  • "Precommitment devices" are very powerful. So give a friend $500 and tell them to donate it to the Nazi party if you don't follow through with your goals.
  • Form "if-then" plans. Decide ahead of time how you will respond when willpower is taxed and you'll be much more likely to default to that.

See also:

 

To Create and Thrive from that Place Where all Feelings Reside

To Create and Thrive from that Place Where all Feelings Reside

"We naturally long to sequester our doubts and fears, to disavow pain and worry. Unfortunately, to vanquish doubt is to leave the domain of the human being. Conversely, to embrace both one’s doubt and faith, one’s fear and courage, is to relate to the totality of the human experience." 

~ Dennis Palumbo

The Same Old Story

Brookline Reservoir, March 18, 2012

Dogfish
by Mary Oliver, from Dream Work  

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman's boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don't you?

*

I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,

whoever I was, I was

alive
for a little while.

*

It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don't know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.

*

Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don't we?

Slowly

*

the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.

*

You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it's the same old story - - -
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.

*

And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.

*

And probably,
if they don't waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

We Tell the Happy Ending First

"Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. We have worked hard, but we've hit the wall. We have no idea what to do next.

When we tell stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase. We neglect to mention those days when wanted to quit. When we wanted to believe that our problem was impossible. Instead, we skip straight to the breakthrough. We tell the happy ending first.

The danger of this scenario is that the act of feeling frustrated is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can know the answer, before we can even know the question, we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach. We need to have wrestled with the problem and lost. Because it's only after we stop searching that the answer might arrive."

~ Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works

IMAGINE: How Creativity Works from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.

See also:

 

What Love Will Do To a Person

Excerpt from "Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts," by Jonathan Franzen, The New York Times, May 28, 2011:

Jonathan FranzenWhen I was in college, and for many years after, I liked the natural world. Didn’t love it, but definitely liked it. It can be very pretty, nature. And since I was looking for things to find wrong with the world, I naturally gravitated to environmentalism, because there were certainly plenty of things wrong with the environment. And the more I looked at what was wrong — an exploding world population, exploding levels of resource consumption, rising global temperatures, the trashing of the oceans, the logging of our last old-growth forests — the angrier I became.

Finally, in the mid-1990s, I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about the environment. There was nothing meaningful that I personally could do to save the planet, and I wanted to get on with devoting myself to the things I loved. I still tried to keep my carbon footprint small, but that was as far as I could go without falling back into rage and despair.

But then a funny thing happened to me. It’s a long story, but basically I fell in love with birds. I did this not without significant resistance, because it’s very uncool to be a birdwatcher, because anything that betrays real passion is by definition uncool. But little by little, in spite of myself, I developed this passion, and although one-half of a passion is obsession, the other half is love.

And so, yes, I kept a meticulous list of the birds I’d seen, and, yes, I went to inordinate lengths to see new species. But, no less important, whenever I looked at a bird, any bird, even a pigeon or a robin, I could feel my heart overflow with love. And love, as I’ve been trying to say today, is where our troubles begin.

Because now, not merely liking nature but loving a specific and vital part of it, I had no choice but to start worrying about the environment again. The news on that front was no better than when I’d decided to quit worrying about it — was considerably worse, in fact — but now those threatened forests and wetlands and oceans weren’t just pretty scenes for me to enjoy. They were the home of animals I loved.

And here’s where a curious paradox emerged. My anger and pain and despair about the planet were only increased by my concern for wild birds, and yet, as I began to get involved in bird conservation and learned more about the many threats that birds face, it became easier, not harder, to live with my anger and despair and pain.

How does this happen? I think, for one thing, that my love of birds became a portal to an important, less self-centered part of myself that I’d never even known existed. Instead of continuing to drift forward through my life as a global citizen, liking and disliking and withholding my commitment for some later date, I was forced to confront a self that I had to either straight-up accept or flat-out reject.

Which is what love will do to a person. Because the fundamental fact about all of us is that we’re alive for a while but will die before long. This fact is the real root cause of all our anger and pain and despair. And you can either run from this fact or, by way of love, you can embrace it.

When you stay in your room and rage or sneer or shrug your shoulders, as I did for many years, the world and its problems are impossibly daunting. But when you go out and put yourself in real relation to real people, or even just real animals, there’s a very real danger that you might love some of them.

And who knows what might happen to you then?

Read Jonathan Franzen's entire essay here
or listen to the commencement address
he gave at Kenyon College on May 21.

Take Your Medicine

Cloud Cult - Take Your Medicine (Live on KEXP) from Jim Beckmann on Vimeo.

Take Your Medicine
by Cloud Cult, from The Meaning of 8

Bought myself a new look
Something gave me another chance to see
Each time, each time, I will try to do better
Right now, right now, is where I guess I belong

Pull my fist from my mouth
I beat myself for a quarter century
Remind, remind
That it's bigger than me
Dissolve, dissolve
Into evergreens

These are things that I keep hidden in belly
I can't see them but they control my life
For a moment you could see right through me
See right through me
Help me make this right
Look at all those skeletons running from their closets
Get them in the light

These are things that I keep hidden in belly
I can't see them but they control my life
For a moment you could see right through me
See right through me
Help me make this right
Look at all those skeletons running from their closets
Get them in the light
Get them in the light

You can take it in stride
Or you can take it right between the eyes
Suck up, suck up
And take your medicine
It's a good day, it's a good day
To face the hard things

Pull my fist from my mouth
I beat myself for a quarter century
Remind, remind
That it's bigger than me
Dissolve, dissolve
Into evergreens

We found
Beautiful babies
Sleeping in our ribs
Get them in the light
Get them in the light

Killing Time

Simple
by Rae Armantrout, from Versed

for Aaron Korkegian

Rae Armantrout has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for “Versed,” her 10th collection. Complex systems can arise
from simple rules.
It's not
that we want to survive,
it's that we've been drugged
and made to act
as if we do
while all the while
the sea breaks
and rolls, painlessly, under.
If we're not copying it,
we're lonely.
Is this the knowledge
that demands to be
passed down?
Time is made from swatches
of heaven and hell.
If we're not killing it,
we're hungry.