Sunday, 24 July 2011

Can You Fail at What You Love?

I'm reminded of an old book title "Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow" - even in that book I seem to recall there were examples of people that underwent hardship pursuing their passion. Some, were not able to sustain themselves financially - others found it necessary to let go of a good many other things in their life, to make space and direct more of their energies, still others worked at some other concern to provide their base income (or to bridge the gap) and pursued their passion in the form of a hobby. Of course the book cited specific individual examples - it is not possible to capture all the variations of experience, paths or outcomes of those that have followed their heart. It must be realized that the writing of that book was much like a "snap shot" in time - any number of different scenarios might have spun off from any of the circumstances outlined in its stories.

So I think it worth mentioning that one could gain insight from the stories of others, both of inspiration and heightened awareness around some of the challenges they faced on their journey - that has been called,  (again I refer to a book title) "The Road Less Traveled". I really must read that someday - if for no other reason than I have on innumerable occasions been told I'm traveling it. Which brings up a question in my mind - will I learn more from reading a book that I presume was researched by someone that made such a journey or would there be more value in embarking on my own journey thereby gaining firsthand experience and perhaps a story to tell. Though perhaps entertaining as well as illuminating someone else's experience can only go so far. If what you are looking for is to duplicate their result, then there could be value in mimicking the methodology they used, certainly there can be found worthy guides, teachers, mentors with expertise in most any given area - still you can experience their pursuit but at some point, you might want to pursue your own experience.

Really a written account of another's experience is in many ways like a map left behind after they completed a particular journey (and if you read my previous post you know a little about my relationship with maps). So in general terms the "map" gives you an outline of how to reach a certain destination from a known starting point. It may also depict certain "landmarks" you could expect to encounter along the way (should you in fact follow the route outlined - otherwise you are apt to see something different). Which raises the question what do you want to see? How many times while engaged in a conversation about a planned trip have you heard ................. well if you're going to.................. you have just got to see.........................! Or, you went all the way to.....................  and you didn't see..................? So here's the thing, what if I don't want to see.................? What if I do get around to seeing it and I conclude "well okay I've seen it - not really all it was cracked up to be!!" Does that invalidate the experience/opinion of the other person - well no, and in fact that would not necessarily be my intention - but just the same, my experience is every bit as important - especially to me! So what if while following "the map" I'll go way out on a limb and suppose I get lost, but in doing so I come across this beautiful "lake" and go on to have some variety of personally fulfilling experience. Now - said lake was not on the authors outline - might not have even showed up on his/her map and even if it did (it was not "the" destination - might have even been relegated to the "if you get to the lake you've gone the wrong way" subtext) - but how can it be said to have been wrong if I have such a life enriching experience?
This begins to point to the paramount importance of the needs, experience, guidance (calling if you will) of each person. The road less traveled was given it's name because it is in the literal sense accurate - it is so, because it is far easier to follow the well worn paths - there are energies and influences including pressures of conformity that discourage many from "their" path. It is easier to justify and rationalize not following one's own heart as it is simple to find many others who would readily support that choice as it assists to uphold theirs.

Consider though this idea (attributed to Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of St. Thomas one of the "Gnostic Gospels"): "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." If taken at face value this idea is rather compelling - though I'd hazard a guess it is not necessarily the catalyst behind many a life plan. Why is there so often a divide between what people love to do and what they spend so much of their time doing? Of course there are the realities and expense of living in this modern world - but many of those are created by expectations or beliefs that one must have, do and be, according to a corporate sponsored world view which results in scores of people showing up day after day to places they don't like with people they'd rather not be with - working at something they don't believe in - to be paid the money they require to buy the things they don't need.

What then of following the heart's path - I think it worth mentioning that to hold a romantic's view that it will be perpetual bliss & ecstasy would be certainly not my experience - still to ignore this innate yearning would seem to bring on a variety of angst that will be soothed by none other than what it calls for.
So my particular stand on the question posed in the title would be you can fail to pursue that which you love that which your heart calls for - but in the continued pursuit lies the success. It is not determined by whether money, property or prestige is acquired as a result of the pursuit it matters not if there are others doing it and they do it "better."
No I would say the only form that failure can take in this regard is "failure to begin" or allowing outside influences to sway the choice to continue - then one is engaged in a failure to self - which fortunately can be rectified in an instant by choosing again.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Are There Angels Among Us?

Today I wish to delve into another realm or perhaps, the topic directly involves life here on planet earth and it is more a question of appearances & perceptions.  Belief might come into play though it doesn't necessarily change the fact that nothing is necessarily how it appears, a great many things just are - whether they are widely accepted as true or not - though on a person to person basis, experience and opinion will no doubt be shaped to provide evidence which will uphold a particular belief - I submit that many (likely infinite realities) exist independent of anyones knowledge or belief. It is the height of arrogance to suggest something doesn't exist, because it can't be explained or proven using existing assessment criteria that more often than not are already biased in their inception to yield a particular conclusion. At the risk of over-simplifying and with all due respect to the lifetimes of education behind those investigating that which I have no awareness of, nor it's significance in day to day living - I will still submit that if before entering into an investigation you are not prepared to find anything but a predetermined variety of results - then though perhaps not conclusive, I believe the chances are highly likely that the end result will be limited by the preexisting expectation.

The previous can be thought of as setting the stage - the story to follow is a true account of a series of events that occurred recently while I was in a town called Mostar (in Bosnia) it neither claims to prove the existence of nor lays claim to a definitive answer to the question posed in the title. All the events described in the story occurred as described the reader will of course draw their own conclusions (as I'm sure it will be argued is the case with me) the difference perhaps is that I, on an ever increasing basis am becoming less inclined to close the door of conclusion on a great many matters. To do so I've discovered in my life - creates a reality which severely limits "what is possible." What of the need to have some sort of base line beliefs etc. well I guess I can say at this point one need be where they're at but it doesn't seem to be of benefit to remain entirely invested in where that is - because at any moment "new information" can become available and suddenly that deeply entrenched way of seeing evaporates like mist upon the vale when warmed by the sun - then what?

So having been in Mostar for a couple of days and experienced a "guided tour" by my host a gentleman that was born and raised in the town and has lived it's history and also becoming familiar enough with the historic old town near my hostel that I now feel compelled to embark upon a self-conducted tour further afield - off I go equipped with two feet and a heartbeat. Now what you should know about me is that contrary to the popular consensus, that men won't ask for direction - I have no qualms about seeking direction, however something breaks down after I have received them i.e. within a few blocks of setting out it's as though I never received them in the first place. Doesn't mean I don't get where I'm going - in fact I always do - it might not be where I was "directed" - but without question I will arrive exactly where I was headed. Often times I will even get to the place originally intended - it just might involve a few (perhaps in the mind of others) unnecessary but nevertheless frequently delightful "side trips."Maps are marginally useful - they do draw my attention to the existence of certain places, but recent experience exploring the labyrinth which exists within the metropolis of Rome showed me that upon "checking in" with the map occasionally after significant meandering - I would discover I was at times 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where I had set out to find. But you know - there is always something beautiful and well worth seeing there too and eventually I see the other attraction (or not - never did see the Pantheon - but I don't feel in anyway as though my experience overall was diminished as a result).

So as I commence on my tour by crossing the bridge across the Neretva River to begin exploring I wander through various parts of the city and am struck by the presence of buildings of modern design some of which house retail outlets which carry fashion apparel and accessories made popular in various other parts of the western world largely through mass - marketing, coveted by many and commanding the high prices which afford those that worship at these altars the prestige the label affords them in a variation of the emperor wears no clothes kind of way i.e. the true appearance of many of these items is obscured by the presence of said label, rendering blind those that seek them and are willing to enslave themselves to possess them. Across the streets and there are the remains of buildings that at one time were representative of a completely different time in history -  left in various stages of collapse having been nearly completely demolished by shelling and mortar fire during the war. Those walls that remain contain majestic archways defiantly demonstrating the strength and integrity of their design as they managed to survive the relentless assault of a war ravaged city. Many homes are abandoned to this day left by their terrorized owners fleeing for their lives - some never found refuge, others became refugees within their borders - others began again (or at least that is the story line of the romantic, how life continues for each of these displaced souls is indeed their story to tell) in foreign lands that opened their borders in a time of need.

As I wandered further and further from the business district of the city I came up a wooded area and could see partially hidden within the remains of what appeared to have been a enormous structure at some time but again it had undergone partial demolition. I was inextricably drawn to explore this site having seen a great many ancient ruins in various countries on my journey I was soon making my way toward my discovery with a mixture of energies that might be said to include adventurer and naiveté one part Indiana Jones the other part Fool on the Hill. I hike in using a winding access road that quickly reveals that the area has seen frequent visitors for whom their main focus is to numb themselves from their existential pain with alcohol - bottles and broken glass are strewn everywhere. After rounding the corner my previous assessment is confirmed as I encounter a group of half a dozen young males sitting around the remains of a concrete foundation smoking, drinking and though speaking a language  inaccessible to me - the visual suggests that the interaction within the group is not unlike any other group of young men - not hard to imagine them engaged in banter over who's football team is the dominant force in the universe or just generally taking turns elevating themselves at the expense of one of the others in the group. I attempt to glean from any of them what the significance of the ruins are I'm approaching - the consensus among them seems to be that no one knows or perhaps no one cares to provide me with the information at any rate I pass largely ignored and unscathed with the exception I'm sure, that someone in the crowd would elevate himself with glorious pseudo-esteem by perhaps making disparaging remarks about my mother or comparing my face to the fertilizing end of some barn animal.

The serpentine road rose higher and higher into the skeletal remains of what once must have been the crowning glory of some architects career (not to mention the artisans that laboured toward its completion) even though much of it had been laid to waste - the remaining portions dirty and adorned with graffiti various sections overgrown as nature began to reclaim the area still speak of it's majesty.  I found lying in the tall grass various what looked like flat paving stones lying around. Closer inspection revealed that they were engraved with names and dates - I began to get a sense that an air of reverence was required though being completely unfamiliar with local tradition or the true significance of my present location - I soon wondered if just being there placed me in violation.

I wandered further into the ruins, upon turning I was taken aback by the realization that though I was unaware of his approach, I now had company and he wasted no time in getting up close and personal. My companion appeared to me to be of local ethnic origin his overall appearance was somewhat disheveled - absent were any of the designer clothes I mentioned earlier in favour of more modest apparel. Overall he appeared to be not so much a man of leisure - I suppose one could say driven hard and put away wet. As I mentioned he was apparently not schooled in the principals of personal space, encroaching upon anything that might be considered neutral territory and as he appeared to be rather agitated as I attempted to digest his verbal assault, I couldn't help but notice a significant number of teeth missing. I would guess his tirade was being delivered in Bosnian (and even if I could get a word in edgewise my "hello" "goodbye" and "thank you" would seem to be woefully inadequate under the circumstances). I asked if he spoke english - he continued his admonishment - punctuated on occasion by gestures of slapping himself on the forehead. I think it valuable to mention I have no judgment of those living on the streets and no fear in their company - but the language barrier and what seemed significant anger did make me wonder where this was going. It carried on long enough that I reasoned if he were going to assault me or rob me he would have done it by now - so I carry on speaking to him in english he carries on speaking to me in Bosnian the whole thing has an air of the surreal to me. At any rate after sometime he leads me by the arm out the roadway opposite to the way I came in - all the while still laying into me. I am relieved to be moving though acutely aware that my friend isn't offering to carry on from whence he came and leave me on my merry way. The road winds around and through the woods down a hill and eventually we have left the area completely and now we're walking through a residential area. A few blocks later we enter a large courtyard of one of the big churches - my escort brings me to a fountain that has on one side a pipe with running water he "suggests" I get a drink - at this point I am becoming more adept at body language - he is somewhat less agitated though he still occasionally looks at me and slaps his forehead and I begin to wonder about the soundness of his mind. Next he leads me to a bench under a trellis which is overgrown with grapevines - he invites me to sit and then joins me on the bench. He then wipes his forehead - points at the sun and with a sweeping gesture of his hand points out that we are now in the shade. My Bosnian language skills are not improving but nonetheless we are beginning to communicate. Oh to be a fly on the wall - he "insists" on speaking Bosnian - I of course respond in english - neither of us understands a word the other is saying yet we are beginning to make some headway. He offers me a cigarette I politely (at least I hope I'm received as such) decline - he shrugs and lights one for himself he sits back about as relaxed as I seen him since we met and though I occasionally wonder what would happen if I were just to get up and leave, somehow  I wasn't inclined to even try, I was somehow really engaged in what was unfolding here (though not entirely sure what that was). Next he digs in his pocket and pulls out a laminated card which was some sort of Bosnian national id - points at the picture and name and them himself and gave the Bosnian Nationality a little extra emphasis by repeatedly pointing at it with his index finger. I pull out my drivers license introduce myself and indicate I'm Canadian - can't say that he seemed particularly moved with that info but he seemed satisfied I was someone from somewhere. He then held the ring finger of his left hand with his right - which I interpreted to be a question as to whether I was married I indicated that I was not and returned the question - to which the response was a corresponding no. So there we sat beneath the grapevines sheltered from the heat of the afternoon Bosnian sun just two single guys - shooting the bull - not a care in the world (or so I'm sure it must have appeared to those strolling through the parking lot one or two of whom passed close enough that I could ask "Anyone speak English - no - well thanks anyway................. right then, it's a beautiful day for a cultural exchange in the church courtyard). Eventually he finished his smoke and stood up motioning for me to follow and I'm now thinking, well of course after all we've been through together, I couldn't possibly leave now! So we go down the block and across the street and he leads me through the door of a tourist information office where he begins to speak rapidly to the women working in the office and again he slapping his forehead. They're all listening intently occasionally turning to look at me and smiling and then returning their attention to my guide and his story. Finally he stops and I begin to speak to the women - beginning with does anyone speak english here. Hallelujah they all do, so I begin to explain that myself and this gentleman have been keeping company for quite sometime this afternoon after we met at the ruins not far from here. I said that at times he seemed to be very upset, that he had been lecturing me (or so it seemed) despite my not understanding a word of it and my inability to get him to understand I didn't understand. One of the woman began to explain what he had told her - apparently he said he found me in the burial grounds of the partisan troops - where I had no business being and if that weren't enough he said that I most certainly should not have gone anywhere in the woods in that area because there could still be land mines throughout and I could blow myself to kingdom come. (I didn't think it appropriate to engage in my trade mark hair splitting by pointing out I wasn't in the woods nor intending on going there). Instead I was overcome by the potential danger that lay so near by to where I had unknowingly wandered and that I had in fact been "saved" by this fellow and that I had at times, wondered about the soundness of his mind (suddenly all the forehead slapping was making sense - the dialogue must have been something like "for God sake how could you be so stupid" - slap, "did you know you could have blown your fool - head off?" - slap etc. In that moment the tables were instantly turned - who's soundness of mind could be in question now? Hmmmmmmm?

I turned to thank my friend and he had vanished - I looked out through the glass door and he was nowhere to be seen I looked at the woman in the office and they just smiled and returned to the work at their desks. I left the office dumbstruck by the afternoons events left with the question "are there angels among us?"

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Ashes to Ashes

To many who may read this and to the vastly greater number who won't, this might seem a day of little or no significance a mid-summer day in July perhaps in many ways seemingly no different than the same day one year previous or to yesterday. But if one begins to consider that because it is July, doesn't necessarily make it mid-summer in some parts of the world.  Even those regions for whom the season is summer are experiencing any number of things that each person living in those regions categorizes as being part of what they associate with the season of summer or they are not. So now what becomes apparent is we are talking about perspective which gives rise to a entirely different experience for each, though they might be seemingly standing and observing the same event. So when I say that today is in fact an auspicious occasion marked by both the creation of a blog and it's very first post I really only can state that from my personal experience. It remains true that it is the first time I have both created a blog and written it's content - which in the spectrum of life experience called Rob is a highly significant event - there have been fifty plus years (this time around) of varied circumstances, choices and outcomes that have led to this very moment. It could be seen as cause for celebration - excitement, acknowledgement and recognition, each word after all is being written with in the container of "the first time" what does it take to embark upon that first time experience whatever it might be? Given the results of many first time ventures - what compels one to repeated attempts of the same action or to embark upon a new first time experience? So while this is a first, it cannot be seen as a ground-breaking event in the grander scheme of things - after all it's not like I've discovered writing and now I will introduce it to the world - having said that "new ground" is being broken by me and as I am in this world (well at least I can say I reside on this world ) is this world still the same as it was before I began to write and does what I have written, change the impact on the world as much as just the fact that I have now written?

There is no question that I aspire to, through me, using the vehicle of writing, generate that which will positively impact untold numbers of readers to touch, move and inspire; that will never be the case without a beginning - so today I write. To draw upon the title of this piece it is said we originate from ash and to ash we will return - so what of the time in between - of course you have to this point indulged me now I will formally ask that you do so, and invite you to accompany me to the following metaphor-perhaps upon my passing there will exist somewhere a stone upon which will be inscribed "Here lies Rob" or would that be "Here Rob lies"neither would be entirely accurate I've lied all over the place (it would get very cumbersome to mark  each location - but I do digress) it would then likely go on to say blah, blah, blah - depending on how much anyone would care to invest on said stone - I would hope anyone I would know would find a better use for their money - but again I'm trying to paint a picture here. So then it says  1959 - ???? so what is this "-" going to be all about? More importantly what or who is going to define it? Do you think that symbol was chosen just because it is the accepted punctuation in our lexicon (perhaps in part) I believe that a hint closer to the truth can be found in the size of the symbol which keep in mind represents the time (life) spent between birth (ashes) and death (ashes) - give or take the rate of decomposing. In the grander scheme of things the time here on earth elapses pretty quickly - it's just a blip on the screen (if that). How is that time being spent? Which brings me back to perspective - does anyone have to have read something I have written before it is significant that I wrote it? Is it necessary that I gain wide approval for what I have written before I can deem my writing a success or before it could be said what was written is having an impact on the world? What of the process that has led from hesitancy to be seen or heard - in written form or otherwise - if that has changed and a willingness now exists to become visible - does the process itself not represent something of value to someone that has not yet brought their particular gifts to fruition and shared them with the world? If a transformation has taken place affecting how a given individual shows up in the world is the world not subject to change? What after all was Gandhi referring to when he suggested we need be the "change" we wish to see in the world? In this case, if I was to wait for wide spread approval or even readership to affirm my success I might not ever write in the first place. Change shows up for me by not collapsing "success" with "approval" - success comes in the form of feeling guided to write and following through on that - where that goes is not my business. The distinction here is following ones heart vs. doing what is popular or will gain popularity or is the widely accepted path. I wonder what the world would look like if more followed the call of their heart? Yes I know there are practical considerations to living - how many of them have become necessary through the constructs of systems and widely accepted ways of being that have nothing to do with a heart-centered path (this is easily recognized by the number of people that are left behind by such systems and the destruction to the planet in their wake).
I therefore declare on this day July 19, 2011 I have been one hundred percept successful - I am in alignment - doing what I feel guided to do. I eagerly await dear reader (at this time I will employ a leap in faith that a reader will materialize) for the time and place when you will debut your heart song (in whatever form it takes) it will be a beautiful moment in time and the world will be forever changed!
Until we meet again!