Copyright © 1999 by Anne Herbert. All rights reserved.
By Anne Herbert
The idea is you have some great ideas.
The idea is sometimes you don't notice your great ideas because they are very different than what already exists.
That difference, which makes you shy off your ideas, is part of what makes your ideas great, and needed.
The idea is that the rest of us could use your great ideas if you get them out among us. The idea is your different ideas could help make a different world that would be a better place for us all to live.
The idea is that some of the words here will remind you of your ideas.
A guy I used to work for, Stewart Brand, said that once you have an idea you have about five minutes to do something about it. You don't have to do everything the idea calls for within five minutes, but you've got to do something right away to make it real.
That's a good idea, too.
YOUR WEIRD THOUGHTS ARE THE HOPE OF THE WORLD
The word "impossible" is a kind of an order telling you what you can't do. But orders don't have to be obeyed. For example:
How much money can one person make?
What can one clever gadget do?
How good and easy can life be for everyone?
Around where I live we're pretty much trained to think there is no limit to how much money one person can make--though you can't know in advance which person.
Also, we're trained to believe that interlocking human-made what-cha-ma-call-its can do anything, especially tricks that we thought were impossible yesterday.
But how about having an interlocking human world where all beings are having a pretty good time, eating good food, sleeping in good places for their bodies, and creating what they were born to create?
Where I live we are trained to know that that is impossible. We are supposed to settle for hoping that we'll be the ones to have a bunch of money that can buy a bunch of gadgets. We're supposed to not worry about wading through other people's misery to live because we are supposed to know that a great life for everyone is impossible.
But how do we know it's impossible?
Epistemology strikes again!
Epistemology is the theory of knowledge--what can be known and how it can be known, what can't be known, and who is capable of knowing and who isn't.
If anyone ever said or sneered that you couldn't know something or that everybody knows something that you were daring to not believe, or that people like you weren't capable of knowing what you knew, or that nobody could know what you said you knew, they were trying to shut up your mouth and your mind with their epistemology.
Hey, it's only their theory of knowledge. There's a reason they are all intense about making you buy their theory.
It's cheaper for the people in charge to stop your mind now from knowing what you know than stop your body later from doing what they don't want you to do. If anyone's sneers stop you from knowing what you know, their epistemology has struck your power.
You have as much right as anyone who ever condescended to you to have a theory about what can be known and who can know it. It's good to run any ideas you get by air, earth, fire, water and the whole material world dance troupe. There is no reason for taking someone else's snottiness as the boundaries of your knowing. All your ancestors from the fishes and the monkeys to your great-grandma carried your DNA to you and that DNA has never met this way before or had the experiences you've had. All the beings before and beings after could really use you knowing what your DNA, your head and your heart know as they have your experiences.
You are here to know what you know. Maybe one time your heard a song inside and started to sing it, and someone yelled at you, and you remembered the yell and not the song. Maybe now you can hear the song, and sing it whole.
ANGELS & IDEAS
If some force from outside our usual round of assumptions wants to get in and get something new started that has been, til now, beyond human imagination, the emissary from outside might sometimes present itself as an angel and sometimes as an idea, depending on who it was talking to.
Sometimes people have seen an angel with a message for them and not acted on the message because they didn't believe in angels.
Sometimes great ideas have occurred to people who didn't act on them because they didn't think they were the kind of people who got great ideas.
So the messengers from elsewhere might sometimes accommodate people's pre-existing mind furniture by appearing as angels to people who believe in angels and as ideas to people who expect themselves to ideas.
The emissaries don't always accommodate to people's prior assumptions of how messages comes because sometimes blowing away the pre-existing mind furniture is part of the message.
Believing an angel or idea often involves doing a lot of work and sometimes involves having other people think that you are odd. If what the angel or idea has to recommend was obvious and easy for people, it would already be happening, and the angel or idea wouldn't need to look for a human with ears to hear about it.
Other dimensions are around the corner. The decision to turn the corner lies with beings from other dimensions. The decisions to notice that those beings have turned the corner often lies with us.
A college education helps me overvalue ideas and undervalue angels. This isn't good. It helps to value both. It helps to be ready to check the ideas out with angels as much as a check the angels out with ideas.
Angels can make your life jump because they come from where it's real. Grown-ups lives tend to be a web of compromises. A grown-up has often said many times, "Well, given what's possible, I choose to live this way." And an angel or idea zooms in and says, "You were incorrect about what's possible. Now you must choose things that you didn't know existed when last you made choices."
It's natural that if someone gets a thought that seems unlike any other thought they ever heard of, the person who gets the thought might think it's a wrong one. But maybe not.
It might be a way of being the world needs and has been missing entering the world through one person. And sometimes that person might be you.
STORIES FROM ANOTHER PART OF HERE
And now a few words from the intraterrestrials. They're the ones from a different way of looking at things who lie around some inner corner on Earth, the non-standard folks who live in visions, stories and dreams:
* I was at the stuff-from-Tibet show at the De Young Museum, and the standing Tibetan metal Buddha looked me in the eye and said, "Why don't you do it directly?" No, actually the Buddha said, "Do it directly."
And I agreed, yep, I'll do it directly. I didn't know what "Do" or "directly" meant in this case. "It" I knew meant stopping the vicious circle of human history as we know it--moving from routine atrocities to routine elation, ending the built-in repetitive cruelty of families, governments, schools, etc. Stopping all the wars. That Buddha said to do it directly.
In alternative activist organizing, one of the ways you know you're doing a good thing is that the bad guys notice it and don't like it. So you and the bad guys keep fixated on each other and on what you both understand to be activities.
Einstein and others said you can't solve a problem on the level at which it was created--you have to move to another level.
Well, the urban, middle-class, well-meaning life I am part of seems to be a problem. My way of living is a central part of a big problem that's killing much, possibly including killing a future for all humans
If what I think of as activities (good and bad) are the problem, I can't solve the problem on the level of any activity I can easily imagine from here inside the problem--my daily life.
Why don't I do it directly?
The solution will not be televisable.
Perhaps there is something you have noticed inside or outside your head that is so odd, so small, so large, so not-what-you've-been-taught-to-notice that you haven't done it. Or haven't blessed it as you did it.
Maybe as you run your fingers over the tapestry of your life there is a thread that can be said yes to in a new way now, and now you're doing it directly.
There's an idea that hangs around the Talmud and Jewish folklore that the world keeps on going in spite of its many evident problems because of the lamed-vov--the thirty-six. (Lamed-vov is Hebrew for thirty-six.) There are thirty-six people alive in the world at any given time who are living their lives as lives are meant to be lived, with justice and generosity and stuff like that. The thirty-six keep it all alive.
The lamed-vov don't know who they are and probably aren't famous. They live ordinary lives well. They aren't noticeable to those who are looking for noticeable people. Personally, I think a couple of them are retail clerks, but who knows? They don't; neither does anyone else.
Now, you can't choose to be one of the thirty-six, but what would it be like to be in the thirty-six learning league, honing the skills you would need in the bigs?
What would it be like to live your life in aid of that which keeps this world alive? What would that be like for you?
Your guess on that is better than anyone else's. This is to remind you to notice what your guess is.
The play starts with the people in the play singing, "This play might last till midnight; this play might last all night long" and dancing and jumping up and down.
The way the people in the play sing and dance "This play might last till midnight" causes people in the audience to dance also and jump up and down, so that part in itself goes on awhile That gets the little kids tired so they can just go ahead and go to sleep in laps soon.
Later, at the end, the way the play ends is so that everybody seeing or hearing the play is in the play, and everything they do from then on is in the play and is making the play's best promises come true. Not everyone in the audience takes it to heart, of course, but some people do, and they live the rest of their lives in the play. It's a good play. It starts much more frequently than it stops.
FOREIGN WIVES, THE ECSTASY OF AIR MOLECULES, AND, OF COURSE, YOU
When I was a kid, the things that really mattered, the things took me to being alive and feeling alive at the same time, when I noticed them out loud, it wasn't so much that people said, "That's wrong."
What they said was, "That doesn't matter." Or--things that mattered to me, the whole chorus of the way the people around me lived said, "That doesn't exist.'
Do I like sugar a lot because of a chemical imbalance, a tendency to low blood sugar? I was a little kid born to ecstasy, looking for intense sweetness in a group of people dedicated to the holiness of the dull.
A candy bar was the only intensely sweet thing apparent to me after I was at all socialized. And after the short, sweet hit, it would physically bring me down--so I wouldn't be an ecstatic little kid anymore--but a bummed out little kid, to match a bummed out little world.
Now, I can sometimes feel the ecstasy of the air molecules--how they vibrate with joy being together and being apart in just they way they are in this moment, and then another moment happens and it's all different and they revel in the change and then it changes again. . .
When I was a child, I could feel the echo of the echo of the echo of that glory, but mostly as a missingness. Every day the way we lived said air was nothing. Smart books said air was a series of ideas that I might understand or not. Nothing said that I was born to stand amidst air > quivering with the joy of its own being, feeling that and joining in.
Everything implied that I was a separate lonely being with problems defined by other people to solve with solutions designed by other people--that life was a series of homework assignments made up by an unhappy teacher so I could be unhappy too.
"Foreign" and "wife" are such odd words in English--each meaning "this is not the central real thing"--each word taking it for granted that one thing/person/way of living can be central and important and that others can be understood by their not being that, by being a planet when suns are where it's at.
We used to know how to pray; praying is the littlest edge of what we used to know how to do. Women's direct vibrational action for healing used to make the power of violence to destroy look faint. We used to be able to change and heal the space directly. We used to be able to change the space so more and more kinds of ways to heal and delight each other became apparent and easy--and doing those things changed the space for the better again. We can still change the space directly for the healing better, except we sit around scaring and boring each other into forgetting how.
It is hard for an 11-year-old girl on the edge of knowing exactly what her way of healing and delighting is to go ahead and find it and live it out in a society that has a diseased idea of what an activity is.
When I was little, I would say inside myself, "My feet touch my socks, my socks touch my shoes, my shoes touch the floor, the floor touches the walls, the walls go down and touch the earth. My feet touch the earth." Looking back, I think that would have been a good place to start learning from, but as it was, my sense of connectedness didn't feel connected to what was going on around me.
I loved narrow spaces between buildings, I still do. Looking at them makes me feel safe and happy and amused. In this space no one is really regarding, extremely obvious magic could go on easily without anyone knowing. Spirits sit in the spaces 3 feet wide or 5 feet wide between buildings with "nothing" but leaves in them and maybe a dying box and a potato chip bag. I look at those spaces now and think healing is sneaking in there. And I think thinking that is oddly and in a small way helpful to the whole process even though I don't know if it's true, the way people talk about "know" and "true" around here.
I loved those spaces as a kid, looking at them, thinking of them, trying to hold their strange shapes in my heart. No one thought of them, but they felt real and like they mattered in some way just beyond where I'd been taught to corral my brain cells, right beyond where I was allowed to think.
I loved, I love alleys, bigger spaces between buildings, places where you could both travel and play, streets between streets.
I watched the water in the alley potholes and cracks flowing after a rain next to where we lived in Cincinnati. I'd think the water goes from alley to storm drain, from storm drain to the Ohio River, from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River to the Gulf Stream to England to everywhere.
I said that to myself again and again and my feet touched my socks and my socks touched my shoes and my shoes touched the asphalt of the alley and the alley touched the earth. I look back and go, yeah, you're right little girl, you're big time right and all the little girls humming it all together around the world--you're right. Learn from there, grow from there, do your power from there. Don't let anyone make your smartness of deep connection a foreign wife to your own self.
In books of the Bible like Kings, part of the plot line is that there is one right way of valuing reality and that the guys who are writing the books know what it is. When people value reality in a different way than the guys writing the book, the book writers go on and on about how bad they are for having different ideas about what is holy, holier, holiest. They call the people who disagree with them names and one of the names is "foreign wives."
The idea was that the king really knew the one and only truth but sometimes the king would get confused by his foreign wives who were burning incense for the wrong reasons and thinking the wrong things were really valuable. Some of the people called foreign wives may actually have been women married to the king who were born in another society and valued the things as they were valued where the women were born. Others may have been women born in the same society as the king and the writers who nevertheless didn't buy the official story of what was valuable but listened to other stories that their moms and their bodies and the rocks and sky told them. They probably heard the big loud story from above and still kept knowing what they knew and honoring what they honored and doing what their body and their mom told them needed to be done to honor the spark of the world.
A woman born anywhere who honored ideas in public that the dudes in charge said were unworthy of honor--she was a foreign wife, the story tellers sneered. Even guys who honored different things than what the powerful honored might have been lumped in with foreign wives, even as guys now are sometimes called pussies, not because they are female but because they aren't with the "men gotta be mean" program.
The people sneered at as foreign wives might have been doing the very things that were necessary to keep the world going for everyone, including the sneering storytellers.
What does it take to keep life going? We're all born knowing that in our cells, and knowing it in different ways.
Each of us has body-souls that know exactly how we in particular are to value and continue life. And some of what we know to do are activities people around us think are worthy, and some of what we know to do to keep life flowing are activities people around us think are against the rules, and some of the activities we were born to do are activities people around us say aren't activities at all.
The loudest king stories now, the things we are supposed to believe, seem to be working together to kill quite a few things. The king stories don't seem to be doing a good job of keeping the spark of life flowing.
It might be time to bring out your foreign wife and listen to her and do what she says and don't do what she says to not do.
Listen to thoughts that you've blown off for years--burn incense to what she wants to burn incense to. If we're all going to live, we have to make things central and real that we were treating as inferior and on the edge.
Assume that in this time of crisis, you know what to do for yourself and all of us, but that the part of you that knows is not going to be the part you usually listen to.
Nobody's a foreign wife. Every one is central, each of us a teeming world put here to know what only we can know in quite that way, and live what we know into being. You're on.
WE'RE NOT FAT--WE'RE THINKING.
Once I saw a slide show about sea turtles that made me feel more at home on land.
It started out with a grownup mama sea turtle sitting on the beach. She looked uncomfortable and awkward, lurching to one side, flippers hanging oddly at each side. The flippers had nothing to do because they weren't touching anything, dangling above the sand.
A few slides later, the turtle is swimming under the sea, or a turtle just like her. She's just the right shape for the water, cruising and gorgeous. Her flippers are flippers of power, and she's going right where she wants to go.
Almost all the women I know well enough to know feel they have something wrong with their bodies. Oddly dangling awkwardness, wrong shape, wrong size.
A friend of mine thinks about the people who made things she uses every day. She touches the item and feels back to the person who made it.
She thinks many women all over the world have some kind of connection like that they are running all the time.
Many women, of course, have the publicized, promoted connections running to the people around them, people they know. But also, my friend thinks, they are running connections to things they are not supposed to be able to run connections with, to people they aren't supposed to care about. It's a small world; it's a big heart, and we're the muscles strands of the heart more than is easy to talk about.
I used to accompany water molecules in my heart from the alley where I was playing after the rain in Cincinnati to the coast of Britain. I really liked doing it, and I knew it was trivial and weird, so I didn't talk about it.
It wasn't until my friend talked to me, years later, about touching the person who made the object as she touched the object, that I began to realize lots of people are doing things like that all the time; it's a real activity and it matters.
Another friend of mine told me that when she is doing things like wiping dishes or lying down to sleep, sometimes she feels she's doing it in unison with women who lived a long time ago who are with her in that moment, and she is with them.
We were born to live in a sea of connectedness. Everything is connected, and we were born with flippers to glide through the connections and feel the connections touching us as we touch them. That's one reason we're here.
Our flippers, our body/minds, which are made for moving in a world where we feel connections thick like water, look odd and off-center flapping where there are not enough connections to glide through.
Some people make places where it's easier to be the graceful turtles we were born to be.
All this talk about women's beauty and so much of it means "get small, get shallow, get thin and flat."
When you are moving within the connections you were born to feel, you are beautiful for real and the right shape and the world around you supports you because you know it well and love it skillfully.
Sometimes people together make places where more of the connections we feel are safe to feel, easy to see, and natural to talk about. Places where we can help the connections we feel be stronger in reality, and not worry about sneers. As we live there, we swim in the connections we feel.
And we are beautiful.
Your body, as is, is invited.
When "shit" means not that it's worthless, but that it's where the new stuff will grow; when "fuck" is always love, not a threat of invasion; when "cocksucker" means "I'd trust you with the tenderest thing I have," and a cunt has the strength to let life push on through--then buried treasures, hidden rooms with views and marvelous rippling muscles will start to appear in that formerly wimpy word "peace.
BEAUTY AND BAD ATTITUDE
People used to say that lesbians want to destroy Western Civilization.
Well, sure. I'm a lesbian, and I want to destroy Western Civilization.
And replace it with something less nasty and more often intensely pleasant.
Now we, the people of Western Civilization, tear down the hills, kill a lot of people and sit here in the center, often simultaneously bored and frantic.
Which is partly because of insufficient appreciation of rocks. Not listening to them enough and not melding with them. Rocks are conveniently everywhere, more common in cities than even primates, hanging out in buildings, asphalt, plaster, lamp posts and cars. If we got into a natural and deeply felt "ain't-rocks-grand" mode, we would calm down, being surrounded by something we love.
There would be less need to beat up the world and its people in order to be able to buy more objects we don't connect with. We'd be happily enjoying the material glory right where we are now.
Why do some people get so irate about same gender love, lust, and loyalty? I think it's partly a kind of last stand. They figure if you could love just any human just because you love them, next thing you know people would free to love just any thing.
We'd start openly melding with the world in general. A list of professions that are dependent on many people being unhappy would start with advertisers and politicians and go on for a while. If we were happy just melding with the people, places, and things all around us, these people would need to find other ways to pass their time. Now, they achieve importance by telling us we should be scared of each other. If we were pretty much free to really like all beings a lot, those now important would be irrelevant.
Not going to work because you're happy communing with the sunlight on the plaster wall is as counter to the plans of the guys-in-charge as not going to work because you're stroking the hair, etc., of the wrong kind of person.
I don't want to destroy Western Civilization in an old-fashioned Western Civilization kind of way, blowing it up and leaving gaunt, starving people crawling through the ruins looking for crumbs of food as babies whimper helplessly and die. We, the people of Western Civilization, have been there and done that.
It's weird that the tsunami of despair and fear that goes forth from such mass nastiness tends to make people fiercely settle for the politicians they've got. Why should we settle for such bad politicians when we've got such excellent fingers?
Fingers good at making ourselves and others feel great. Fingers also good at lots of other fine movement, like, for example, slowly touching and loving fabric and then making the loved fabric into a garment that slowly touches and loves the person wearing it. Fabric and clothes making could easily be one of the basic human pleasures. As things now are making clothing out of fabric is one of the truly torturing jobs to have--tiny pay, long hours, horrible conditions. That's just another reason that my desire is to destroy Western Civilization.
"The natural world is something to be forced to do what I want" is a theory that matches up with "People who aren't me are something to be forced to do what I want." I'd like to offer my resignation from these theories, which are largely responsible for the shape of the world I live in. Under those circumstances, it is hard to know how to make the resignation real, but my desire is there.
The material world is alive, and is like skin--when it is touched in the right way at the right time, a lot of happiness can flow between touchers. Our minds and excellent fingers don't have to be about expanding our ability to destroy and force. Our minds and excellent fingers can be about going with our ability to touch ecstatically.
One day we'll notice we're gently touching the soft of the Earth in just the right way, and she'll sing. Actually, she's already singing and western civ is saying, "Shut up!" My desire is to stop the shutting up and join the song and segue clean out of Western Civilization.
THESE ARE THY GOLDEN DAYS
Thinking the world should entertain you leads to boredom and sloth. Thinking you should entertain the world leads to bright-colored clothes, odd graffiti, and amazing grace when running for the bus.
MAKING GENEROUS TROUBLE
For a princess to get involved in things like AIDS and land mines and homelessness is generous and a bit of a stretch. Maybe when we do things that are generous and a bit of a stretch, we're doing a Diana.
If you broke out of your role a bit, and used who you are for others' benefit in a new way, what would you do?
San Francisco. Market Street has many bands on many sidewalk stages in honor of International Music Day, June 21.
Summer Solistice=Music--they do it a lot in Europe.
Here it's called the Making Waves Festival. It's sponsored by the Goethe Institute and Alliance Francaise, agencies of the German and French governments. Makes me wonder if US agencies abroad sponsor beauty and boogie down events. Hope so. Doubt it.
Walking slowly past one sidewalk stage to decide if I wanted to stop, I see women on stage and an unusual combination of instruments--I'm there.
One of the woman says, I hear her say into the mike, "This is Go Band Go!" They start to play, 2 saxes, electric violin, bass, drums--2 women, 3 men. Way good. The saxes do the history of music, and the history of the world, and throw in what sounds like whale calls to me. Intense trance music with much rhythm. Complex rhythms, like this bass and drums, sound really accurate when done well--just like life, just like what makes life interesting.
Glance at the program and find the band is called Go Van Gogh. Yeah.
The woman on electric violin really gets into it--the violin is an intense instrument if you both may and can do whatever you want with it, thus cutting through the everyday day, leaving a trail of singing gold. The woman swirls with her music and her instrument.
A little girl in the sidewalk audience watching her is very toddler, of exactly the age of dancing for no reason and sometimes crying for no reason. This little one isn't crying--she is toddling out, twirling and loving it and the violin player, also filled with enjoyment, catches her eye, and they grin at each other and dance together a bit, on sidewalk and stage.
The kid is on the edge of her own future memory. She might specifically remember that moment or she might not.
Either way it is there for her--young, dancing a moment with a woman on stage, and knowing consciously or unconsciously that making intense beauty with an instrument in front of people is another one of her many choices. On the day our local star shows off the most, she's reminded that she, too, can shine. Go band go!
[The band has a web site: www.govangogh.net]
Dancing, and sending the blue light between the notes out to everywhere, and the stars bounce it back.
WORKS OF FRITH
Carol said, "The name of my band is 'Failure to Disperse.'"
Which is the very activity we are called to right now. Some of the most important work to do now is to fail to disperse and to remind others to fail.
People with microphones who may be more interested in their own interests than in ours are strongly recommending that we disperse.
Suggestions popular now include being scared of the group or groups du jour--gays like me, immigrants like the family I come from, people in other countries we haven't met, poor people, people who aren't pale or aren't suit-bound or both, people who don't live inside.
Be scared of them, miss any connection you might have with them.
If you're in one of the recommended icky groups, be more scared of everyone else.
Also suggested to you by those who want to control you:
Watch lots of TV. Inside, in your own place. So what you mainly know about other groups is what people who plan to profit from your fear tell you to make you scared.
Stay in your car. See other people as good or bad drivers, in your way or not. Don't see their faces and possibly, in their faces, their story. Keep your face behind a windshield so they won't see your face and your story.
Stare at screens. Don't have very many times and places to look at people.
Disperse. Be alone with whatever manipulative info is coming at you through screens. Spend less and less time being in your own physical situation with your own body and your own impressions. Disperse; break < up the connection with your own physical life.
Watch TV and say how stupid it is. That's fine. Just as long as you watch it. Using your intelligence to say that TV is stupid is not really having a very strong connection with your own intelligence.
In fact, it is dispersing from the great new stuff you'd come up with to do if you applied your intelligence to the situation you yourself are actually in. If you came up with great new stuff, you might not follow orders from leaders, so please do watch TV and get off on knowing it's stupid.
One thing that bums me is that when there are so many "Disperse! Hate! Be scared!" instructions in the air, they tend to work, one way or another. For example, right now much money is going to tell me that illegal immigrants are an awful bunch and a big problem. I don't really think so. All the noise about it hasn't directly changed my mind. It hasn't changed my mind about immigrants.
However, all the noise about hating immigrants has apparently convinced many other people that hating immigrants is where it's at. So I have a very low regard for them, for the people who have allegedly fallen for the hating immigrants idea.
For the long term campaign to get us all to disperse and sit in different corners thinking ill of each other, it's fine that I end up disdaining people who disdain immigrants rather than the immigrants themselves.
The campaign to disperse us has lost me on the specific content of this issue, but they've got me going in the direction they have in mind distrusting another group of people, isolating, dispersing.
So I'm wondering, where is the frith?
Frith means "peace, freedom from molestation, protection, safety, security," says the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, which should know.
I ran across frith while wandering around the OED at the library, which I like to do because I bump into lots of regular-people words I don't know.
If I browse a standard dictionary, it has a lot of words I don't know, but many of them are expert words that I don't want to know, like names of chemical compounds and obscure medical conditions.
But in the Oxford English Dictionary are words I've never heard of that would fit the mouths and lives of regular people. Dubby means blunt, as in not sharp, like a dubby pencil. Loof means the palm of a person's hand. Rouk means mist. Those sound like words possible to use in a sentence. Grat used to be the past tense of greet.
I've never heard these words because they are old. In the centuries-long and ongoing task of putting English together from old German languages and old French and Latin and about every other language on the planet, these are words that didn't make it into to the version of English currently spoken around where I am.
I can't remember what word I was looking for in the OED when I noticed the word frith-stool, but I was really looking to be distracted and frith-stool did it.
A chair in a church for a person to sit on who was seeking sanctuary. From frith which is, like I said, peace, safety, freedom from molestation, and all that. Frith is from, says the OED, "the old Teu. root fri- --to love. see FRIEND."
The "Teu." there is Teutonic, one of the several kinds of old German that English comes from. The fr- thing seems kind of like the am- thing, which goes back to Latin and travels to lots of languages.
Amo, amas, amat--I love, you love, she, he, or it loves, in Latin.
Amity--getting along, in English. Amiable--friendly and pleasant, in English.
Ami--friend in French. Amigo--friend in Spanish. Freund--friend in German.
What I don't get is why I'm supposed to be so unfriendly to people who get their friend word from the Latin love thing as opposed to the German love thing.
When I was little, I learned to speak the language that people around me were speaking. That sure doesn't make me unusual. It's the toddler task. The people around me were speaking English, Midwestern U.S. variety.
I don't get that picking up the English around me at two and three and four makes me superior to people who did the same thing with another language. Or that the language that was around for me to pick up on when I was little makes me worthier of living in peace, safety and security that people who picked up another language.
There are a lot of ways that some people want to make people who don't speak English sit on the opposite on the frith stool. They want them to sit in the danger seat, just because of language.
That weirds me out, as well as scaring me. Weirds me out because when I roam through the Oxford English Dictionary I see much English that I, born in the US Midwest, don't know. When I'm there, I don't even feel like someone who speaks ***English*** with bells and whistles and spotlights, but someone who speaks a form of English local in time and space.
I don't think peace, freedom from molestation, safety, and security should depend on speaking a certain language. We have several major world religions started by people who never spoke a single solitary word of English. Some of them lived on an English-free planet. Lots of people think these major world religion founders are outstandingly good.
Would anyone go up to Abraham or Jesus or Mohammed or the Buddha and say, "No frith for you. You don't speak English."
I don't like it when people who more or less share my local-in-time-and-space language want to use it as a proof of superiority, and as a weapon.
Where is the frith, amigo? I'd just as soon have a frithy future, and making ancient and beautiful languages the danger stool is not the path there.
Alamo as in "Remember the!" means poplar tree and Los Alamos as is "I know! Let's build a bomb!" means the poplars which means to me that we the people of the United States of America owe the poplar trees some peace.
We've used places named for them for enough famous war stuff that we should take some time to give them their kind of peace.
We could sing to them. We could make sure they have the soil type and water amount they like the very best. We could spend more energy, as a human groups, on helping things live than on killing things.
Poplars can't be happy poplars alone need a whole healthy planet. War isn't good for the poplars. Neither is living in clever complicated ways that produce a lot of poison and use up a lot of water and pave over a lot of good soil.
Beneath the bravery of war, like the Alamo, beneath the great cleverness of war, like Los Alamos, is something more important--life in its many forms.
When you look back on the bravery and cleverness war, they don't always seem the same as they did to the people who did them. Especially after hearing from the people on the other side of bravery and the cleverness.
Wars look different from different times, but we always need a planet healthy enough to grow poplars. We always need life.
Would we stand to the last man for the poplar? Would we spend billions of dollars to make many poplars? We need to spend that kind of energy on all the life forms, from the little bitty live things to the routine trees.
The energy to help life doesn't need to come in a big burst like a battle or a bomb building project. It comes best steadily for years like trees grow, like poplars grow, like the poplar. Remember.
Are we all assholes? Who knows? I think there are ways in which we could go either way. It depends on what kind of story we invite each other to join in. It's not that we are or we aren't but that we have some slack and can bring out different possibilities in each other, if we meet as ourselves, if we talk as ourselves directly with each other, if we don't disperse.
These are scary times. I think of the real teacher portrayed in the movie "Stand and Deliver," whose students had been told forever that they were stupid and destined to flip hamburgers, at best.
And he insisted they could do calculus and go to college and have a decent life. Calculus was his entry way to teaching them they were smart and worth something. And his passion and dedication cut through and helped some of his students break out of the "not-worth-nothing" idea about themselves they had been taught. They got great at calculus and changed their ideas of who they were and what their lives could be.
I was thinking that now we are called to all be like that teacher to each other. To say in different ways, you aren't dumb, you're great, and let's go and make it so we can be great together. To say, don't believe the negative hype you've been fed about you and about other people.
The breakout class in "Stand and Deliver" was calculus. Our breakout class is showing each other, demanding that we show each other that we are all interesting, valuable, complicated, human, we basically mean well, and we all want a great life for as many beings as possible. We can all act dumb when scared so it would work for everyone if we stopped trying to scare each other.
Our labeled leaders, many of them, are leading a "people are dumb, vicious jerks" class which is working. It's bound to work. If I think another group of people is dumb and vicious, it inspires me to act dumb and vicious at them. And my behavior inspires them to be dumb and vicious back. Living in a world where we think others are worthless and stupid and scary is no fun and tends to make us act worthless and stupid and scary. All the time we could all be other better ways if we expected it of each other, if we showed it to each other, if we were dedicated to making life be a demanding, inspiring class for each other.
The other class starts now. The "people can be great" class. People can meet and find each other interesting. People can meet and find out about each other's lives and want to work together to make each other's lives better. People can meet and be smart and wise and entertaining and better than TV.
The human story is a very mixed bag. Sometimes humans have acted great and often humans have acted awful. I hate seeing our leaders trying with all their might to sell us on being awful to each other. I'd hate to see the human story end with people alone believing a flickering screen that tells them that everyone else is a jerk.
We could maybe go outside and meet and act like we're not
jerks, like we're imaginative and creative and generous. Even
a faint imitation of imaginative, creative generosity seems like
a better way to go than cowering inside listening to nasty rumors
generated by people who don't know us and don't want to.
What is an activity that would make you think better of humans if you heard of humans doing it? There's no time like now for doing such things, and if not you, who?
GRACE AMONG MAMMALS
There's a story about training dolphins in Gregory Bateson's "Steps to an Ecology of the Mind." The dolphin trainers had a rhythm of teaching dolphins tricks, and dolphins picked up on them at a fairly predictable pace. It took a few days to a week for a dolphin to get a new trick down.
Then the dolphin trainers thought of trying to train a dolphin to do something the dolphin had never done before.
Not a specific new trick, but anything the dolphin had not previously done. It took a while to communicate that idea, but once it got through, the dolphin whooshed out of the water and did fifteen new tricks in a row.
Like, "Oh, you finally asked me something interesting."
All of which brings up the question, "Is God as smart as a dolphin?"
I come up with tricks I want God to do. I ask for local tricks like, "My toe hurts. Fix it." or "My heart hurts. Fix the situation I think is causing the pain, now." I ask for larger tricks--"Nuclear waste hurts. Fix it."
But I'm sure God is as smart as a dolphin. And the stuff I can think of asking God to do isn't close to being the coolest stuff God can do.
So it might be more useful for me to get out of the way and make it easier for God to generate God-style tricks, instead of my keeping up this patter of tiny me-style suggestions.
I don't know what God's living situation is, but it seems to be different than mine. When it rains, God doesn't get wet in the same way I do.
This could be because God is outside of the rain, in some Godish yonder.
Or it could be because God is the rain and God is the sidewalk that the rain is splashing on and the iridescent oil spot gleaming in the street and you and me and also worms--all God, all the time, maybe.
Wherever God is, God seems to be in a different scene than the specifically focused wandering among physical stuff scene I'm in and has little or no occasion to say, "I wish I'd brought my umbrella this morning."
It could be that to pull off some of the really cool God tricks, God needs someone here inside this physical-spiritual stew humans splash about in.
God might now and then need someone who is here willing and ready to let a good God trick slide by. There might be some way we can be a door if we're willing to stop being a suggestion box.
A water drop in the ocean does not give a dolphin a list of "things that are bugging me that I want you to fix." But a water drop might say to a dolphin "You go, girl," as the dolphin twists a new gorgeous way from water to air and back again.
So instead of whining to God both locally and globally about what I want done, I might say something like, "Listen, God, if there's something you want to pull off that involves the physical set-up I'm in, and I could help, go for me."
Ready for pratfalls, ready for glory to shine through me without me ever knowing it, ready to see a flash of grey grace skim by me on the way to remaking the sky as I say to God, "You go, girl."
THERE'S A REASON IT'S YOU
There's a reason that it's you there, in just this place.
There's a reason the air around you touches your skin now, a reason that it's that air and your skin.
You're necessary and delightful.
Where your skin meets the air of this Earth, there is no break between you and the air. There is no break between you and every other thing there is. You are part of this moment--all of you, the air's molecules, your molecules.
And there's a reason you're all here right now.
Dolphins don't swim home; they swim in home. They are already there. As are we, as are you. You're already here. You're being right here was the blessing that was desired and is celebrated.
Breath out blessing, breath in blessing. It happens anyway, but even more if you join in.
There's a reason it's you here now.
ZEROING IN ON YOUR HEART
Zeroing in on your heart. There's something there.
Your heart is the height of the waterfall and the slant of the continent and the tug of our lover moon and everything that makes water flow through life, your heart is that for you.
Nobody ever told your heart that life and love are different. Every heart you've ever heard of in poem or scientific rumor, all those hearts are your heart for you.
It's beating the pull of heat molten love, keep moving. Molten love is what you're made of, liquid at ninety-eight point six.
Quietly flowing through your eardrum with all the force you have, your Nile, your Mississippi, your creek in the back you. A river is all you are, and your heart flows it. Your heart is all you are.
Your oldest dream that you had as your youngest thought is a spring trickling slowly forever and if you don't drink it, it will slowly wash away your heartless life.
I try a little love now and then. I try to love, occasionally. My heart beats all the time, stays with it. My heart is real love.
Be sensible, say killers. Be sensible if you want but first
find something sensible to replace your heart, to feed every
cell of your being every minute of your day. Sensible. Make a
deal with something
that will keep you a living solid liquid all your life.
Listen to your heart beating in the night and busy afternoon. It beats and it beats again and it beats again. Will it beat again?
What does your heart want you to do?