Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Best Playground Ever: “At Play in the Fields of the Lord”

After beginning this blog entry, the phrase, “at play in the fields of the Lord,” from Peter Matthiessen’s novel suddenly popped to mind.  I think it has a Biblical source but don’t know which book or chapter it came from. If anyone remembers the source I’d love to have it.

Spring Lizard Two Days Ago
I started this piece a few days ago.  I was mentally drifting as I drove up Paseo del Pueblo Norte on the way to Cid’s, our local whole food market, when I became aware that I was floating toward the “what if” cloud again.  The power of spring was all over the place and the uselessness of life itself and the pure joy of being surrounded me. I do a lot of drifting and I get my best ideas that way.   All the same, I don’t believe I can really take credit for insights found in the mysteries of space, it’s more likely that when I’m in that state of semi mindless drifting, certain concepts floating out there on a cosmic iCloud find their way back to my personal hard drive. I can imagine an invisible fractal infinity that bids me follow its stems and curls to the maybe land of creation.

Long ago, when I was a much newer member of the Earth Now club, having arrived only five years earlier, I began to get the concept of play vs. work as interpreted by our local tribe.  My family was of the mind that work was good and play was bad, i.e., unproductive, possibly out of control and therefore without value. I was by nature quite playful as are most young creatures.  However, we were Baptists, a conservative evangelical denomination, and perhaps you’ve noticed that most evangelical church buildings are utilitarian boxes and that says a great deal about their stance toward play.  I suppose the idea is to avoid such worldly expressions of pride and sensuality as beautiful architecture by making the unfortunate though unavoidable physical aspects of life bland and uninteresting.  We were routinely indoctrinated with the concept that “this world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” as the old spiritual says.  Play is by essence pleasurable and pleasure creates a seductive attachment to this life and consequently to our ultimately damned world. 

The moral problem with this anti-play philosophy is that it disables our hardwired ability to enjoy and we inevitably and naturally value whatever we enjoy.  An inability to enjoy counters the ability to value and have faith in life.  Ironically, all of the qualities that glue us to life are equally necessary for a bona fide relationship with our spiritual source.  If we are alienated from our nature, we won’t have much appreciation for the source of that nature. We don’t learn to love just because the Bible tells us to. Philosophers and Theologians are inclined to forget their rank in relation to the Big Boss and assume that they actually know more than their maker does. The experience of existence is a reality not because of learned beliefs or reason but because of emotional investment in what feels right.   In addition, just because the modern orthodoxy, of Scientific Materialism has replaced older religions as a dominant belief-system doesn’t mean that its approach isn’t equally misplaced arrogant. In most ways, it is as unnatural as the older religions. Nature will always trump philosophy. That’s why religion and philosophy have a history of going bad every time they attempt to go over Mother Nature’s head.

Play seems to be a fundamental expression of the life force.  Close after food and sex would be play, which frequently is intertwined with the first two. All young creatures learn about their potential abilities and their species’ life essence via play. Play is a fundamental interaction with environment and fellow creatures. The more intelligent the animal the more playful it is and the longer playfulness will persist throughout its lifetime.  I was raised to believe that playfulness was silly and childish, something to be suppressed until grown out of. But I was also taught that we human beings are made in the image of God, and as near as I can see God is the source of playfulness.  Now I’m trying to bring it out of the lockbox I’ve hidden it in for safe keeping all these years because intertwined with play is creativity. God him/herself/theSelf must be playful and although there is much pain and struggle in the world, play is an antidote to defeat. Of course, I’m thinking of that natural playfulness that delights in discovery, appreciation and invention while skirting the edge of danger. There is also escapist play lived in denial or excessive indulgence but like any addiction it is based on the misuse and imbalance of a normal function. 

I watch baby animals playing with boundless joy and sometimes wonder how it’s possible when in the wild, their future is doubtful and many of them will never make it through the gauntlet of perils all the way to adulthood yet in their window bit of time they explode into life with rambunctious faith.  Paradoxically, misery is often the inspiration of great works of art and literature.  How can that be? Perhaps the bitterness of pain and frustration make playfulness even sweeter and stronger by contrast. We all know that dark chocolate, French Roast Coffee, and hot chili are even more pleasurable because they have some bitterness or pain adding oomph to their pleasurable qualities, just as a few dissonant notes gives spice to a song.  One of the gorgeous things about playfulness is that it comes from an original innocent part of being. It is spontaneous and fresh, and because of this, it is the necessary state for discovery and creation. A volcanic eruption, tornado or lightning strike doesn’t seem playful any more than does war and famine. Nevertheless, destruction seems to be part of the life game as well. After such destruction, life surges forward with even more gusto.

Yes, I can see that God is playing all the time, even when it seems dangerous to us. It isn’t a perfect world in the sense of painless and complete but in constant change.  We are in the life game not as helpless pawns but in constant interaction with the cosmic gamer and ever co-creating the outcome.  We are “at play in the fields of the Lord.”

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I haven’t written anything for almost a month.  There are ideas that pop up here and there like the dandelions popping up in my garden right now, but I failed to write them down and when I don’t they fade back into the same shadowy corner where I keep the “will use this sometime” clutter in my mental basement.  Not yet getting around to doing taxes is another sign of avoidance.  I’m just not ready yet. What is really going on?  I feel intuitively that I’m trying to collect energy around something in order to surge into something new with laser focus but what that might be is eluding me. 

Spring in El Prado by White Deer Song
We will be making another trip to Arizona in a couple of weeks.  We both feel that we are supposed to be there at this time but haven’t yet found a way to make it happen long term.  Since giving up the little Cottonwood cottage, along with all our furniture, we haven’t had enough green resources to start again.  In the meantime, PQ needs to be at that lower altitude more than ever. He is coasting right now.  Here and there, I get the urge to interfere and confront him with the need to make a decision about preparing for a lung transplant and then something stops me. Now and then he will say something like, “I’m waiting for a sign that I’m getting better or worse.”  Actually, he is gradually getting worse.  I notice that he runs out of wind more easily doing small things now, and each time we return to Taos from Arizona it takes longer for him to adjust.  We seem to live quietly in our monkey-mind morning coffee on the patio and, “do you want to go to up to Seco for lunch and then pick up the mail” world. However, I notice small changes that are adding up to pretty big.  Maybe we humans love these little habits because they assure us that our world is familiar when it’s actually full of blind corners.

Spring is a new start for an old theme.  After a winter of hiding underground, plants begin to pop to the surface, the leaves bud out, butterflies escape their cocoons and birds chirp their love songs.  Life is never perfect but in the spring, we all want to do life better than we did last year. It’s about a new beginning, but the seeds for this year’s garden are the product of last year’s fruit.  This is the dilemma we all face when trying to get a new lease on life. 

What if time is an illusion and everything is always now, it’s just that we can only see little bits at each viewing and within one lifetime.  Not a new idea, I know, but its having a new effect on me and maybe, just maybe that’s where a new beginning really exists.  It may be that this Mayan 2012 idea is ultimately about cosmic spring, and of course, winter comes before spring so there may be some cold grey times before any fresh outlook is even possible. 

 Actually, I don’t believe previous history or planetary karma will disappear even if we blow ourselves into the stratosphere.  Although there always is this hope/fear that we will get the messy slate cleaned by cosmic forces, I don’t think there is anything in history to support this hope. Revolutions begin with enthusiasm for a pure new start and end up falling into the same pattern as the previous regime and frequently worse. Simply wiping the slate clean only means that we will soon write all over it with the familiar design embedded in our species’ memory.

Maybe genetics provides the best metaphor for hope.  A species maintains a certain genetic pattern for ions and yet every now and then there is a small mutation in the mitochondrial DNA that may make a creature better adapted to changing conditions but sometimes less adapted in which case this alteration tends to extinct itself. It seems to me that consciousness has a similar progression.  Changes are minute and sometimes undetectable in the beginning but those better adapted to the greater picture gradually become stronger. Learning to recognize the potential of those small changes is possibly the biggest challenge.  

Spring is here again and each of the plants in our garden are little different than they were last year.  Some didn’t survive winter, some have spread and flourished, some found a new location that they like better than where I planted them. The Starlings in our bathroom air vent quit leaving in the winter two years ago and are now permanent residents.  PQ talks to them when we have our morning coffee and they answer back.  Has anyone really studied them?  Their repertoire of calls, chirps and gurgles is awesome. We humans are so homo-centric that we seldom consider how other beings might see this world we share or if it intersects with lives on any other dimension. After all, we might not have the biological equipment to venture beyond our species borders but imagination isn't so limited.

Consider stepping off the cliff of reason and its pretense of security and find out where the winds will take you.  This is what happened when your ancestral DNA mutated again and again and again over many cosmic springs.  That's how you got here and its the only way you'll get anywhere else.