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I’m leading a discussion group about the spiritual essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Its the second time I’m doing this and it is enjoyable and enriching. We use “Emerson as a Spiritual Guide” by Barry Andrews, published by Skinner House Books, Unitarian Universalist Association publishing house. I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn more about Emerson’s spiritual writings.
In reading Emerson’s essay, The Over-Soul, I found this time that I have much more clarity. One passage struck me as particularly important: “For the soul is true to itself, and the man in whom it is shed abroad cannot wander from the present, which is infinite, to a future which would be finite.”
This is related to an idea that Joesph Campbell expressed — “Eternity has nothing to do with time.”
Why am I suddenly writing about this? First of all I need to get back blogging!! Secondly these assertions are helpful to me as I seek to be in the present and mindful of it. I thought they might be helpful to you.
Heather Von St. James knows fear. She is a mesothelioma survivor who had her left lung removed in order to save her life. That was back in 2005. The operation and treatment were successful and Heather is a “seven year cancer survivor.” I put that in quotes because that term must, at times, still frighten Heather. We all are survivors of whatever life has thrown at us, but most of us have not had the terror that a diagnosis of cancer creates.
So to ward off any residual or persistent fear, Heather has created a special holiday in tribute to the surgery that saved her life — Lungleavin Day. Here’s what she says about it:
“With Lungleavin Day coming up, the opportunity is here to write our fears on a plate and smash them into the fire, I’m going to once again take control of my emotions and overcome. I know I have the power to do it; sometimes it is just making the choice to do so.”
The date is February 2 and its a online event as well as one at Heather’s home with her friends, loved ones and supporters.
Here’s a link to Heather’s blog in case you’d like to know more about her story.
Fear might be the most corrosive of all passions, eating away our ability to be happy. Fear is one of our most troublesome pitfalls — no doubt about it. If you are dealing with a terrible illness or know someone who is Heather’s story might just be what you need to help you deal with fear and the uncertainty that creates it.
Thanks to Heather for helping us to understand that fear can be confronted and vanquished. We fear lots of things, after all we live in the liminal space allotted to us by our nature. What is linminal space? From the blog Liminal Space:
“The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word limens, meaning literally, “threshold.”
A liminal space, the place of transition, waiting, and not knowing is…
…a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.
– Richard Rohr”
A cloud of unknowing is created by every diagnosis of life threatening disease. Its also created when we get lost in a strange city or the woods. Job change, divorce, auto accident, fire, flood, etc — all these things put us in Liminal space. How we deal with this condition will determine how happy we can be from that point on.
Years ago Muhammad Ali explained what he did when he was knocked into liminal space — in other words almost knocked out. He said that in that state the boxer hallucinates, he might see a theatrical dressing room, with a magician’s top hat and cane, clown’s costume and makeup, a zebra and dancing girl. He said if you let this place freak you out you will be knocked out. But if you look around, put on the top hat, pick up the cane and say hi to the dancing girl you should be able to clear your head and leave liminal space getting back to the fight (hopefully the bell will end the round by then!).
I believe we exist in liminal space. Constantly. To survive on earth we need a very narrow set of conditions, temperature, humidity, availability of nutrients, biological balance so that our bodies are able to ward off bacteria. We are always between a rock and a hard place. I find it helpful to explore the space afforded to me but don’t feel a need to stretch beyond my comfort zone simply to test myself. Others want to explore the entire globe and ski where no one should be skiing, etc. Whatever it takes to help us deal with being in a place of transition. Learning what we can about our liminal space is a great help.
We came from a place unknown and are headed to another one. No matter how religious or spiritual a person might be no one knows where human consciousness is headed. We live in a cloud of unknowing; in liminal space. So we need to figure out how to deal with it. I’m with Ali — let’s look around and see what we find interesting, attractive — see what and where we can contribute what we do best. After all, our time in this frightening space is short no matter who we are — best to make the most of it and enjoy the journey to the other side. Smash plates, dance the tango, ski, pray, meditate, (I take photographs!) Enjoy your liminal space!
Maybe I need more power?
Looks like I’m off to a slow start with my new blog, not too many visitors so far. On this blog that you’re reading I have topics like Hawk Eating a Squirrel, and Lettuce Lichen; always attractive posts. I guess I need to review my camera equipment on my new photography blog — that’ll get attention — people always need help in deciding on new equipment. Meanwhile I just published a post today about a blog and an article that I found inspiring and how I plan to use my inspiration. Please go and read it if you’re interested. My posts that are largely about photography will be posted there — all attempts to solve the mysteries of life will continue to be posted here — so if you like my photos …. please take a look at my latest post in my photography blog.
Please take a look and let me know what you think. Many thanks!
I thought this was well worth sharing — Thanks David. See — there’s beauty right in your backyard, especially this one.
I’m the driver when we take Mom or Dad to see Doctors. Today it was Coney Island Hospital. Most of the campus is in disarray due to repairs of damage from hurricane Sandy. The Tower building, one of the newest one’s, wasn’t damaged.
These ladies were having a smoke and chat in front of the sign saying “no smoking within 15 feet of this sign.”
Street life on Ocean Parkway.
This is an iPhone/Hipstamatic image that I love. Something from nothing? Maybe there is more here than meets the eye.
Its raining today in Sandwich where I live. Snowing some other places. I don’t know if its raining in Newtown Connecticut but it should be. It would befit the mood in a town that has had its gun culture turn on it in a horrific way. If that sounds harsh it is meant to. Newtown is emblematic of our country. A few people in most towns own guns that are designed to be effective killing machines. Designed to kill not rabid dogs or pheasants – designed to kill people. These guns must be taken out of the hands of anyone other than our military and police. No private citizen should have weapons of war. These weapons facilitate mass murder. Ownership of them must be controlled.
In Newtown attempts to control such weapons were blocked. A New York Times article, ran with this headline: “In Town at Ease With Its Firearms, Tightening Gun Rules Was Resisted.” The sound of rapid gunfire was heard in town causing concern. The mother of the mass murderer (shooter is far too delicate a term for this individual) collected high powered guns and took her kids to a shooting range. She was part of the town’s gun culture. The easy access to automatic, high powered guns facilitated this mass murder. Nothing that has that effect should be legal.
Those who advocate guns because they are protective miss the fact that guns in our towns and homes too often fall into the hands of the insane or malevolent. That is what happened in Newtown. Rather than give every school Principal a Bushmaster, we must work to get such weapons out of our homes and off the streets.
I have read arguments against control of automatic, high powered guns saying the second amendment is in place to ensure that the citizens of this country must be armed in case the government becomes tyrannical . As if an armed citizenry could over throw a government with the armaments at this one’s disposal. Not possible. Not the way to control tyranny anyway. A silly, frivolous argument.
In Newtown the police and town leadership has tried to institute regulations over guns. They have been blocked by gun advocates. The sound of gun fire – rapid gunfire is heard regularly in Newtown. People shoot propane tanks and cans of explosives to have the fun of blowing stuff up. This is not healthy behavior and must be outlawed and the weapons of war taken off the street. Any existing or new regulations must be enforced and enforced for real. Any weapon that has no use except to efficiently kill people by the dozens – these weapons must be taken out of the hands of citizens. Immediately.