Wabi-Sabi

sidingI’ve been enjoying the simple treats of life lately and this has sent me back to the Taoist/Zen concept of wabi-sabi. It is a hard to define term, yet one that permeates Taoist philosophy and art. It is perhaps best described as a celebration of the simple, the transient, the humble, the asymmetric, and the imperfect. In Taoist thought these qualities are seen as the essence of the Tao, which moves in natural, flowing, and ever-changing patterns throughout the Cosmos.

We have inherited from Greek culture a different philosophic perspective and aesthetic, one in which the permanent, the grand, the symmetric, and the perfect are the ideals. Frightened of the seemingly chaotic and transience of nature, western culture has, to a degree, sought to impose order and permanence in its economic, philosophic, and artistic endeavors. We look for perfection and control in our lives, and in doing so, create an inevitable undercurrent of unhappiness.

I notice the old wood siding on the little cabin and wonder if it should be replaced with stovemodern materials. As I pay closer attention I see the beauty inherent in the weather-beaten character of it all. It is still solid, though not at all pretty in the modern sense of things. It blends with its surroundings and suggests that it may have grown here rather than being built. The ancient cast-iron fireplace sitting in the corner was not installed by experts and the pipe slants as it makes its way to the ceiling, but it has been in place for decades and draws easily. Our morning fires are all the more pleasant because of its presence.

Wabi-sabi in design can not be easily defined but you can learn to appreciate it when you see it. It tends to be earthy in its color tones. There is a degree of aging that is evident in the object or setting. A functional simplicity of purpose and sense of spaciousness is present. Wabi-sabi is not wabi-sloppy. Age and weathering is present, but not dirt and clutter. The natural qualities of a garden, room, object, or person are allowed to be seen without extraneous modifications and decoration.

I feel wabi-sabi myself, asymmetric and imperfect. My life has not been the Greek ideal of grand symmetry and perfection. It twisted and turned as it grew and the weather-beaten nature of my being is evident. Healed wounds create knots and hollows on the surface and also within the psyche. The wonder is this: I find myself to be beautiful! I find it all to be beautiful.

How much more joy we might find in life is we let go of the need for the “ideal.” Perfection is a given in the very nature of being and we do not need to “achieve” it. Let’s celebrate the earthy, the weathered, the so-called imperfect, and the beauty that time brings to all beings, a natural loveliness more wonderful than any gleaming soulless machine or model-perfect face.

Just My Hands…

People Hands Together Partnership Teamwork“Back in the day,” I earned coffee and beer money playing in a bluegrass/folk group, singing occasionally at coffee houses in Berkeley. Nancy and I were talking this evening when an old tune from those times popped into my mind from where it has been hiding for decades.  Pete Seeger wrote it and his voice is associated with it in my mind. Odetta did a wonderful version of it as well. You may remember it: One man’s hands… 

On one of the albums Pete recorded with friends he changed the words to a more inclusive version.

Just my hands can’t tear a prison down
Just your hands can’t tear a prison down
But if two and two and fifty make a million
We’ll see that day come round
We’ll see that day come round.

Just my eyes can’t see the future clear…

Just my voice can’t shout to make them hear…

Just my strength can’t ban the atom bomb…

(make up your own lyrics – endless possibilities)

I am convinced that the power of one person’s choices is the fundamental energy of transformation. Nothing can happen without that individual choice – to step away from complicity in injustice, cruelty, mindlessness, avoidance, and biocide in ever deeper ways. Individual choices come together of course. Sharing, witnessing, writing, and acting together naturally arise. First, however, comes a choice, a simple, in-the-moment choice that forever changes the direction of a life.

What are these moments of choice? I won’t define them but we all know the things we’d rather not see and examine – Where what we eat comes from. Where what we buy originates. Whether or not a particular purchase, trip, or other action is in line with our deepest ethics. What, indeed, are those deepest ethics in the first place? What would we rather not have interfere with our conditioned habits and comforts? We examine ourselves as deeply as possible and make a choice. Another choice follows, building upon the first. Then another, and another, and another…  Another person begins the same process, then another person, then another, and another,…

“We’ll see that day come round. We’ll see that day come round”

Simple lyrics. Simple tune. Powerful energy, especially when sung by someone like Odetta

 

Mixed Memories

memoriesI have been reflecting on my life, something that 75 year olds tend to do. I am delighted to find that self-punishment is no longer playing much part in my memories. Early events previously labeled as embarrassing mistakes or grievous offenses are now seen as simply the best I knew how to do given my conditioning and experience.

One period of my life, spanning from age 28 to around 50, was spent as a Christian clergyman. While studying science and engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, I one day wandered into the campus Presbyterian Church. I was moved by the philosophy and social concern I encountered there. I spent four years working for the Navy after graduation and then decided to do graduate work at a Seminary. Quite a change!

This led to an attempted career as a clergyman. I tried for 10 years to fit in that mold, but had already, due to my Taoist philosophy, begun to see Jesus through different eyes than those of the church. I remained a clergyman for another decade but went into private practice as a pastoral counselor. I confess much from those years has been pushed aside and that’s too bad. There was much to affirm in the spirit of that young man who was looking for a connection to the Numinous. The Spirit of Jesus was real to him but could not overcome his experience with the spirit and doctrine of a church which had lost its way. Looking for a life of reflection and divine connection, he was offered instead a mid-level management position in an institution whose priorities were building programs and clergy salaries.

I remember that I came to believe that Jesus, at heart, was a Taoist. He surely knew that he was a part of God and thus of the same “stuff” as God. He also knew that you and I were the same as he, also of the same “stuff” as God with no possibility of being anything else, but we couldn’t stand the intimacy of that reality so we made a god out of him and an idol out of the Bible. Placing them both out of reach so we could use them as we saw fit. So sad.

I no longer believe the premises of traditional Christianity, especially the sin/redemption model of human life. As humans, we do indeed “sin” but not because we are in any way truly separate from God, but only because we suffer from the self-imposed delusion that we are, which leads inevitably to fear, isolation, and hate. That is convenient because then we don’t have to take the responsibility of actually being a part of the Whole Thing. We can stand separate and judge this or that, pick and choose, love and hate. Were that delusion to heal we would transform the world because we would be the world. That was Jesus.

To my friends who have experience with the church, positive or negative. That model can still provide a place of home and peace, but only if it is transformed. I offer a link to a new hymn that I just discovered this morning and that led to this post, written in a flurry of memories. Whatever your tradition, you may find this song a helpful connection to the lost spirit of Jesus.

A Hymn for the 81%

 

Council of Elders

elderwisdom2Human life seems to have evolved into a life and death confrontation between the reptilian brain, located at the back of the brain stem, and the empathetic brain, located in the frontal cortex. The reptilian brain is concerned only with personal survival, power, and pleasure. It is the vestigial brain that once served an evolutionary purpose. It still has its place in certain situations, but is not fit to dominate our lives. It is sociopathic in essence.  I can think of no better way to describe the effects of this reptilian brain than to point to Donald Trump. He represents a leadership quality completely devoid of empathy, compassion, and wisdom – qualities of the frontal cortex that is a relatively recent evolutionary development. If we are to continue on our journey towards a renewed humanity and a renewed Earth, we must find a new kind of leadership, the leadership that grows only in the spirit of true elders.

Wise elder leadership does not happen automatically. It requires willingness, commitment, and the courage to step outside of the cultural conditioning that flows deep and hidden within the human mind. It requires the support of the community and of other elders. Simply growing old creates a certain kind of “experience” that is by no means automatically wise. Many older adults solidify their lives around decades-old assumptions and let the energy of culturally approved attitudes carry them to their graves. They become fearful and self-absorbed, isolating themselves in retirement communities where distraction remains the norm. This occurs, not because older people are more selfish than younger people, but because they, like all of us, have been conditioned by powerful messages from family and culture. When those messages go unexamined for decade after decade they become a worldview that is hard to shake.

I long for a recovery of true “Elder Wisdom” and also long to be able to find myself in a circle of Elders whose wisdom is tolerant, thoughtful, deeply spiritual, gentle, and supportive of a long-term view of life on Earth – to the seventh, fourteenth, and twenty-first generations. I long for a circle completely unlike the virtual discussions of social media.

In such a circle ideas would be expressed with thoughtful words and attitudes. Listening would also be thoughtful and founded in respect. Acceptance and tolerance of differences would be evident. Differences, however, would arise from different gifts and talents, not from different fundamental assumptions. The good of the people and of the Earth would always be understood to be the guiding principle.

I can’t begin to count the ways in which this council differs from modern forms of discussion, neither can I imagine how we might eventually return to such a forum, but perhaps my imagination is too conditioned by culture.

I can, however, imagine how I and others might meet in such a forum and share in a manner that is fundamentally different from the kinds of discussions that seem to be the standard today. I wonder if, starting next summer or fall that some of us might gather here in Mt. Shasta to sit by the fire under the stars and converse in this manner? I have the place if you have the time. Consider yourself invited.

 



 

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Resist and Refuse

disobedienceI have been immersed in Thoreau for the past week. I re-read Walden for the umpteenth time and once again found new inspiration and insight. He is one of my Archetypes of Simplicity” but his Walden experiment is perhaps not the most important element of his legacy. The two years at Walden blends with his passionate resistance to slavery and to the unjust war against Mexico to form what I believe is his true legacy: that Simple living is the foundation of all political action. The two are inseparable.

His, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” essay has long been a touchstone for protest and activism. It arose from the heated and divisive time leading up to the Civil War. His home state, Massachusetts, was a “free” state but had passed the Fugitive Slave Act which required escaped slaves to be returned to their masters in the slave states. The United States was also involved in war with Mexico which Thoreau opposed as illegal and imperialistic. He was fed up with both state and federal governments and he wrote a compelling case for the moral necessity of disobedience. I highly recommend using this link to read his timeless essay.

I am always aware of the fact that my attempt to live a simple, authentic life rests upon all of the complexities of the current capitalist economy. There is no escape from this reality for, at the moment, the economy is what it is and I must navigate its territory to the best of my ability. Much of the time, like Thoreau, I adjust my needs to be those that truly satisfy me, live more simply and closer to the elements of the Earth, and hope that the insanity we call economics and government pass by without noticing me. But when the power of that economic/governmental machine grows to the point where it is literally destroying the Earth, I have to, again like Thoreau, make choices of resistance and refusal to cooperate. My deepest commitment is to the Earth which I love and of which I am an inseparable part. Politics and economics now emerge from that first love, that essential connection.

Make no mistake, simple living is more than a satisfying life-style choice. It is an act of political resistance and of civil disobedience. It is the foundational act out of which all other actions emerge. It is also extremely difficult because so many aspects of our psychological comfort and well-being are intertwined with cultural norms and expectations.  Simplicity often equals poverty to our conditioned minds unless it has been prepared for over decades of learning and experience. Nancy and I jumped into the fray much later in life and that adds difficulties. It doesn’t matter. 2020 will be a year in which we will speak and write as clearly and honestly as we possibly can about freedom, simplicity, joy, and Earth-centered living.

Some of the ways I am working on my own “resist and refuse: practice:disobery

Quite a while ago I deleted my FaceBook account (though I assume it is forever lodged somewhere in a data base) for many reasons. I refuse to support the mass gathering of data, the manipulation of opinion, and the tampering with elections that such a platform enables. But I also refuse to participate in any hate-driven social media ironically called, “discussion.” I never click to follow such threads. There are much better ways of communicating and conversing. Question: what might these better ways be?

I refuse to listen to ignorance masquerading as, “news.” I’m trying to make my primary sources be periodicals and books, reading only authors who have taken the time to fully research and digest events.

I refuse to vote unless there is a candidate who is truly committed to radical action. The, “lesser of two evils” is a ruse that keeps us heading for the cliff.

I’m trying not to indulge my own, “confirmation bias.” I don’t need to be constantly affirming the, “ain’t it awful!” mentality in my reading or conversation.

I am attempting to resist the pressure of advertising that creates artificial need.

I am trying to resist friends and family who tell me how to behave.

I regularly disobey the habitual thought patterns of my conditioned mind by practicing meditative awareness rather than impulsive action.

Thoreau disobeyed the law by refusing to pay his poll tax that supported an unjust war and slavery. I have friends who have gone to jail for refusing to pay income tax that supports injustice. I admit that, for the moment, I am not ready to risk imprisonment on this issue. Our approach, for now, is to keep our income below the level at which we would pay federal income tax. Income tax basically supports the military industrial complex, foreign “aid” which is actually a way of controlling other countries, and bailouts to financial institutions. An ever-decreasing tiny percentage goes to social programs. At the moment, flying under the taxation radar seems best. That may change. We are happy to pay state tax, sales tax, property tax, gasoline tax that funds roads, and taxes that directly benefit the community.

As the year progresses I will be thinking more deeply about these issues.

Let me know what you are doing to resist, refuse, and disobey.

The Moment Has Arrived!

ravenI woke this New Year’s Day with a strange and curious sensation, something I have not experienced before. I have an uncanny feeling that the preparation is over and that the moment has arisen. It is as if the past seventy-five years of life have been an extended period of education geared for this moment, this time, this place.

No New Year’s resolutions are necessary. It is not a time for vain intentions for self-improvement, intentions that only guarantee that there will continue to be a separate “self” that needs improvement. This illusory self cannot continue to set the course for my life, nor can it continue to be the guiding spirit for our collective lives. Since this self is an illusion and only the Spirit is real; and since the Spirit needs no improvement, let’s be done with futile resolutions. The time for resolutions is over. The time for waiting is over. The time for comfortable self-delusion is over. As the beautiful and compelling lyrics of Paul McCartney’s, Blackbird, tell us, “You were only waiting for this moment to arrive.”

I don’t imply that my journey toward freedom, simplicity, and joy is over. I have not, “arrived.” I still take the Taoist simple “next step,” stumble often, and fall occasionally. But the reason I’m still alive has suddenly become clear. I don’t know how many years I have left – not many in the grand scheme of things in any case. They, however, will be the years for which I have been preparing all my life.

You’ll be hearing from me more often in the coming year/decade. I can no longer measure out my words on the scales of popularity or acceptability. My weekly journal, The Journal of the Wandering Taoist, will contain deeper looks at important books and themes, as well as my poetry, meditations, and chapters from my novel. This blog you are reading will also continue to be the place I put more concise thoughts and suggestions. I am going to read with attention, listen to the wild Earth with care and love, breathe with deep free breaths, live in as radical a simplicity as possible, and say what must be said.

2020 will not be an ordinary new year. Life on Earth is teetering on the brink and, in the most optimistic case, will be undergoing convulsive transformations. I will not be arguing this fact. That would be like arguing that gravity exists. I will be doing my best to inspire, support, offer suggestions, share feelings, and create community in the midst of what will unfold.

Two days ago, I was sitting under “Grandfather Pine” out on the corner of the property, gazing at the snow-covered field and feeling frightened and confused. I looked up and a conspiracy of five or six ravens flew in from the south and began to circle, calling loudly. It was clear they were bearing a message, but it wasn’t until last night that I became suddenly aware of what it was:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night
Blackbird singing in the dead of night

We have all been waiting for this moment to arise.

It’s here!

Blessings to us all

Just a 2% Shift!

chimpAs the solstice arrives with a gentle falling of snow, I rejoice at the warmth of our little cabin home and send gratitude to the spirits of the Earth for their eons-long nurture of life. My thoughts turn to intentions for the coming seasons with a mixture of grief and hope. Grief is the reasonable response to a culture which has lost its way, yet hope remains if I take the long-term view that Taoist thought recommends. (I have always said that a Taoist is a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist.)

The chimpanzee differs from the human by a tiny 2% of its DNA, yet what a difference it makes. We marvel at the most intelligent chimps who are able to communicate at a rudimentary level, use tools, solve simple problems, and feel empathy – basically the things a human toddler can do.

When I try to envision what an evolved humanity might be capable of, I am limited by what is essentially a chimp-like perspective compared with that future human. If a human pre-schooler of today were asked to envision his or her ideal future it might be composed of more nap time, more chocolate at lunch, and bigger Lego blocks. To the human of the future, my imaginings might seem as child-like. I have no choice but envision the future using concepts that are familiar to me, but I recognize that these concepts may be quite simplistic in the context of possible transformational evolution.

What if I imagine a DNA shift of 2% in the human species? What if I remind myself that we might be at the very beginning of an evolutionary journey that, if we don’t destroy ourselves, will make our distant progeny as different from us as we are from chimpanzees? Granted, self-destruction is a distinct possibility, but not at all a certainty. The species has adapted to cataclysmic change before and may well adapt again, though not without a period of destruction and chaos. The current period of idiocy, moronic leadership, and insane economic separation between the very rich and the rest of humanity my be seen as a necessary step in the journey – a fever-like symptom of a disease that will eventually be cured.

So, as I envision my own future I want to hold to a sowing the small seeds of my words into the soil of human experience. I want to dream, not of my own desire for the equivalent of bigger Lego blocks and more chocolate, but to envision a symbolic image of a truly transformed future – a 2% transformation that will renew the possibilities of joy and peace on Earth. What might it look like? What might we be like?

Here’s to the 2% Shift!

Which Flow?

salmonMy spouse, Nancy, recently shared an image that came to her in a shamanic meditation – that of conversing with Salmon, who shared wisdom about the “elder” stage of life. In a seeming contrast to popular interpretations of Taoist thinking, the later journey of the salmon is a concentrated, focused imperative to swim upstream in order to get “home.”

This brought to mind that the popular Taoist, “go with the flow” idea has some important caveats. Just which “flow” are we to go with? Is the cultural rush toward oblivion and meaninglessness to be interpreted as the main “flow” of Tao? Or does the Tao actually have a deeper and more powerful current flowing in another direction. Is the current of Tao difficult to discern because it is flowing in this more mysterious place, under the seeming rush of culture?

The stream of culture is shallow and noisy, rushing over rocks and falls and gathering our attention. Where is the deeper stream? And do we have to let some of the imperatives that salmon feel arise to our awareness in order to discover it? There are two paradoxical processes: One – seeming to swim “up stream” against the shallow current of culture. And two – going “with the flow” of the deeper, more powerful and eternal current of Tao.

All the surface streams find their way to the ocean, where the power of water becomes turtlemultiplied a thousandfold. Sea turtles find these immense flows and allow them to facilitate long migrations. These deep currents are so powerful that all surface weather is formed by their action. Does the salmon have an intuitive memory of these depths that allows it to face into the surface current regardless of cost? Has the time spent in the depth of the ocean given it the strength for this journey? Perhaps, in order to find the flow of Tao at this point in my life I must seek out these deeper currents.

The analogy of the salmon isn’t totally applicable to my life, but it has enough resonance to provide me with some wonderful lessons. Culturally speaking, I am swimming upstream on an extremely difficult journey. Like the salmon, I have to touch the deep conviction that I am on a journey home and let nothing interfere with that journey. I cannot stop and let the shallow stream of culture carry me backwards. But, unlike the salmon, perhaps more like the Sea turtle, I have access to a deeper current which I can trust to carry me along this path.

Which flow shall we go with? The conditioned mind says that going with the surface stream of culture is far easier, more entertaining, and full of toys, trinkets, and so-called safety nets. But where will it lead? Home? Hardly. There is an instinct in each of us as powerful as that in the home-bound salmon. But few are willing to heed its imperative. “Futile!” our conditioning says. “Go with the flow,” it insists. But if we want to truly find home, we must swim upstream, all the while gathering our trust, hope, and strength from the Deep Current of Tao that enlivens us, the Earth, and the Cosmos.

Seeing Through the Holidays

This is a guest post from my spouse, Nancy’s blog: Earth Centered Living After 60

 

solsiceOur eyes, minds and nervous systems have been deeply trained to follow the surface patterns of our culture in an exaggerated way as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach. It is as though a switch is thrown and we go unconscious to our usual self-care, balance and common sense. We are swept into overindulging in food, entertainment, buying, gift giving and family/friend gatherings. We push our energy to the limit to meet some inner standard of what we should be, and lose sight of who we are and what has meaning in our lives. In short, we run head-long into the prison of our economic system and end up carrying debt, extra physical weight, exhaustion, and heavy emotional fallout that keep us overworking and distracted well into the new year.

Instead of falling into this trap, we can set our intention to see through all of this illusion and unhealthy conditioning. I invite you to walk away from the noise and confusion of the cultural norms and into the spaciousness of the unseen spiritual mysteries that fill our lives.

The secret: We must remember who we are and that what is true of us is true of all human beings. Before, through and beyond this Earth-walk existence, we are beings of light – expressions of the amazing love and infinite creative energy which has formed our universe and beyond. The playful, powerful, wondrous, imaginative force that births all the living beings of this planet, brought each of us forth as an unique embodiment of life.

Each of us is a creative soul who knew the purpose and path through this lifetime before it ever began. That we have been distracted from that path and lost sight of that purpose is natural given the noise and confusion of our current world. Our loss of focus does not mean that we do not remain beings of light who possess the energy of love, creativity, and the gifts of self we came here to share.

When I look at all the people in my life, near and far, I remember that we are all made of the same elements of earth, air, water, fire and spirit. The spark of life the enlivens us, also animates all living beings – not only flesh creatures, but mountains and streams, trees and shrubs, physical buildings and automobiles. We are all beings of the same stuff, here to honor and support one another.

When I carry this perspective back toward the holiday season, several things emerge:

1  No living being is truly honored and celebrated in vast amounts of food and drink consumed, or in the mountain-high stacks of presents under a tree. The inherent beauty and natural gift of each is lost. One taste overpowers another. Another glass of “holiday cheer,” adds to the depression of body and mind, and separates us from one another. Package after package of new toys, gadgets, trinkets or treasures dulls gratitude for the deeper gifts of life, love, friendship and connection.

2  When I see all of the people in my life as beings of light, I know that there is no “thing” they need from me. Whether they are near of far from me, it is my willingness to hold their inner being in focus throughout the year that seems the greatest gift I can offer. If I can remain open to the creativity, unique perspectives, their individual path through challenges, and their capacity for it all clearly in my heart, every encounter becomes a celebration.

3  Winter is an inward and reflective season. In this hemisphere, the whole outward rush of November and December pushes us straight against the pattern of the natural world around us. It is as though we are so afraid of what the quiet, inner journey will reveal, that we run out into a world of light, color, sound, party, and tradition, to avoid discovering our own light. It is not that we all need to become introverts or go into hibernation mode when the days shorten and the weather grows cold. But this season does invite a different tempo and focus for our creative energy.

May you find your own ways through this holiday season, which honors the light of your being and with wisdom of your soul. May you see through the distractions of the season to discover the deepest and richest gifts of joy, life and light in your life and in the lives of all those you love.

 

Vulnerable Courage

Attempting to control external events will never keep us safe.
Control is an illusion.

Whatever we try to control, we separate from ourselves.
Whatever we try to fix, we ruin.
Life is sacred, and flows exactly as it should.

From The Tao Te Ching – Chapter 29

 

vulnerableTo be alive is to be vulnerable. There is no option. Yet how desperately we work to escape, deny, and hide that essential fact. This effort is a tragic waste of time. Not only is it futile, it diverts energy away from creativity, love and courage.

If outcomes could be assured, there would be no need whatsoever for courage. Since no outcome is ever truly assured, courage therefore becomes one of the fundamental energies of a well-lived life. Paul Tillich, one of the twentieth century’s great theological and philosophical minds, wrote a powerful book titled, The Courage To Be, which I read decades ago and assimilated long enough to regurgitate it on a graduate school exam. I’m going to find it again and let his lucid thinking sink into a deeper place in my mind. As the title asserts: to truly “be” is the great act of courage.

In the meantime, I am indebted to Brené Brown, a qualitative researcher and popular author, for her wonderful presentations in TED talks and in a Netflix special. She has an earthy presentation on the absolute necessity of wading into the vulnerability of life in order to experience any of the joy, creativity, and love we seek.

As I embarked on the adventure of “freedom, simplicity, and joy” I had no real idea of the deep vulnerability such a journey would engender in me. Each of those three qualities are predicated on the willingness to face vulnerability, in the form of physical, emotional, and spiritual risks and uncertainties.

For instance, right now Nancy and I are facing a harsher winter than either of us has ever experienced. We are in a motor home and tiny cabin, surrounded by the drifts of snow from the first of many winter storms. We won’t be able to drive the motor home out to dump its holding tanks so will have to occasionally use a camping toilet. Fortunately, the cabin has working (at the moment) plumbing into which we can dump the camping toilet. We won’t be able to fill the propane tank on the motor home so will have to rely on electric power, which can be iffy in the winter as well as expensive.

I report this, not to bemoan or complain. We are happy and content; actually excited and energized. It is just that our sense of vulnerability has deepened greatly. Of course, the fact of vulnerability hasn’t changed because we are all always vulnerable, but life now presents us with that fact in more face-to-face terms. As Brené Brown reports, when that happens we are led into the realm of joy, courage, gratitude, compassion, and love in ways we could never before have imagined.

As my life is being transformed by my journey into vulnerability and courage, I am saddened by the almost complete lack of vulnerability in our country’s leadership. We are frightened by the appearance of vulnerability in leadership because we are terrified of its reality in our own lives. Leadership capitalizes on this fear by cloaking itself in a mask of invulnerability and convincing us that it is strength. In reality it is just the opposite. It is the weakness of terrified children. Only by accepting and embracing our existential vulnerability can we possibly find the adult courage and creativity necessary for true transformation of our culture. Only thus can we free ourselves from manipulation that draws its power from our fear.

Perhaps, as we as individuals step into our own “courage to be,” we will stop looking to others to hide our fears. Perhaps, as we face the vulnerability of our lives and find that we have courage and strength beyond our expectations, we will no longer tolerate denial and pseudo-strength in leaders. Perhaps facing into a severe winter in simple surroundings is an act of political agitation. Perhaps facing whatever we face in life without denial is a political coup. Perhaps the “courage to be” is the most powerful act of revolution.