On not knowing what to do

Well, there’s a nice image for you! Some of you might recognize it as two cards from the OH deck, a radically improvisational way of generating images. The deck has 88 “frames,” words, and 88 impressionistic images, many of them much less friendly than this one today is. It’s definitely not all sweetness and light. Using a device like this, or a poem, can be a writing prompt or deepener, as it was today for me. It can also be a way to start off a group because everyone will take a very different meaning from them. Reality is individually constituted. 

What I see today, as the writing’ll suggest is that there’s a world of pain out there. The Tower of Babble comes to mind.

Yes sometimes there’s a space inside in which communication happens. Is that true?

I have a story that we don’t yet know how to respond to these times. Sir David Attenborough made a speech today at the UN Climate Conference today about the condition we’re in. It came, and so far it seems it  will go without making much of a wave.

Why so little response?

It seems that it’s very hard for us to know now, how to respond to messages. We used to know, in an earlier time, in a seemingly easier world. We used to have our categories all neatly packaged. This goes here, that goes there.

But that’s no longer the case. Now we don’t know how to respond as we witness the world that doesn’t know how to respond either.

We’re like the fishes who don’t know they’re in the water. We’re learning to swim in a medium that we haven’t  recognized yet. Many people have pointed to it but it doesn’t have a name, at least one that’s stuck. (The evolutionary present?) If we’re over 50 or so, we can perhaps remember a time when we could feel that our small part was a part in a story that we understood, an agreed upon story. We were part of a bigger venture.

Now . . . not so much.

And this is terribly painful for many of us. We feel the underlying malaise and we see its effects on the people we love who cope bravely with it. And we don’t know what to do. Perhaps this dimension has always been there and we’re just waking up to something like a universal compassion for each other, caught in this fractured existence. It could be that a natural Boddhisatva-like impulse of witnessing this, wanting to gather the others in and work together, is rising, rising everywhere but only seen by some. We don’t have a way to note it and signal it yet. Seeing this may be part of seeing that we’re caught up in a deep – or high – “Tower of Babel. “Not just that they are so caught up, the George H. Bushs a and the Justin Trudeaus but that we are too.

In that sense our illusion might be instructive.

But sitting here this morning I’m also noticing that I’ve been talking about things. Talking about my experience rather than from it.

What’s happening right here as I sit on my ergonomically ruinous couch, pen in hand? There’s the sound of the too-loud fridge and I hear too  what I think is the hot water for the radiators, gurgling as it circulates in the bowels of the small building. My stomach is full and my body still, at peace for now with this unknowing.

I was just in touch with the daughter of one of my oldest friends, and he’s in my mind as I sit here. This Nameless Friend is an almost-recluse who’s been living in the woods up north most of his life, estranged from almost everyone. No one in his original family has seen him in a long time and neither have I. His daughter and he are out of touch. He’s in my mind now,  part of my story and I want to see him.

But right now he could be a metaphor for how we all are, alone and speaking a language only we fully understand. Not sure exactly how the twists of fate, providence and free will brought us to here.

So I’m sitting with a feeling or an imagination that I often have, that there’s something important that we’re each looking for, or if not looking for, intuiting, that we usually can’t touch together. We feel part of it in our highest, and often in our darkest hours too, but usually we forget it, caught up as we are in the minutiae of living.

Caught up in making ourselves understood in the modern Tower of Babble – a full time job that many of us do as we continue with everything else. If there’s a saving grace, it’s that we recognize sometimes we’re in this together.

If you enjoyed, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below and tell us about it.


If you want to explore in depth with others, join a committed group starting soon. I think of it as a Soul Camino . . . a three-month personal exploration you”ll undertake with a committed group of others.

I’ll be hosting at least two drop-in groups throughout December  to practice Presence.  I think this process has a lot to commend it as a way to gain insight and relief from the effects the modern Tower of Babble. Come try it out. The times and links are on the page.

Let me know if I can help you with my guiding practice, which largely consists of deep listening so that what you’re wanting can come more to the surface. You can also choose a free discovery session for 30 minutes, or the time you want. Longer times are offered on a Gift basis. Please let me know the amount of time you’re interested in when you book.

 

Posted in Presence, Story, Uncategorized, What I learned today and tagged , .

7 Comments

  1. Andrew, I read quickly this morning, and I am captivated by your sentence –
    “alone and speaking a language only we fully understand.”
    So very often that has been my experience, I came to relate to it as comedic. There is also the experience of really pouring my intention into my words and being very perfectly understood, on a visceral level. I have seen and felt people respond that way, also. It is rare, I think, that I have anything to communicate that fully. Most of what passes through sound between us is noise.

  2. Hello Andrew
    It has been a long time for me since I have made a connect with you. I often think of the wonderful contribution to others that this work you do with the online forums. I would love to share this, may I?
    Signe

  3. Dear Andrew,

    Your comments about the speech of Sir David Attenborough seem to support the obfuscation that he has maintained all his career about the issue of Climate Change. See this scathing article by George Monbiot:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/07/david-attenborough-world-environment-bbc-films

    Of course we know what to do, and we know it will be painful and difficult. We also know that governments and world leaders are unwilling to take those steps because they will be unpopular and may cause them to lose their positions. Saying we don’t know what to do is just hiding our heads in the sand and bewailing our fate while the seas rise and tornados storm.

    It is probably already too late! But don’t let’s pretend we don’t know!

    Anna

  4. Anna, You’re touching on big questions for me. Who has the power? The leaders or us? And what part of us or them? If we put it on them do we let ourselves off too easily? I’m still working on these myself 🙂

  5. Hey Andrew — how nice to see you pop up this morning. I very much enjoyed your thoughtful piece — thanks. Communication — wow. How can we ever hope to do that clearly if we don’t communicate skilfully with ourselves? Which, of course, most of us don’t — we’ve been taught not to from birth pretty well. And what an adventure it is discovering how to do this — or at least begin from a place of kind enquiry. Hugs to you, Susan

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