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My Inner Dancehall


Sometimes I imagine the different “parts” of my self as persons at a high school dance or a wedding reception. My Vulnerability is turned sideways, glancing only briefly toward the dancefloor. My Shame – its back to the room – droops at the wall. My Confidence locks onto my eyes whenever I glance its way, ready to join me on the floor any moment I reach for its hand.

And standing in the dark corner of the gym, with all the other personifications like Regret, which feel unwelcome…
Or…
At a reception table, seated by itself, glancing only periodically at the rest of the hall, regarding the other personifications invited to dance often, so feeling unwelcome…

There sits my Pain.

To a handclapping dance number, I groove gleefully with my personification of Joy, in a circle of other dancers gathered around Freedom personified.

The song fades and lights dim to signal the coming slow dance. I’m left without a partner, beside a nearly empty table. I look back at the floor where Joy has partnered with Freedom to sway and flow effortlessly, and Vulnerability accepts the embrace of Confidence.

My Ego can’t bear to be seen alone, naked, without a partner. To avoid being left out of the slow-dance spectacle, I extend a hand to invite the only personification nearby.

But Pain’s eyes reject me.

My Ego and I are forced to sit to save face, so we make it look as if I chose to sit to rest, spinning an empty chair to put my feet up after pouring a glass of water from the table’s untouched pitcher that’s sweating – rivulets dribbling down its smooth glass sides.

I sat with my Pain.

Still anxious I was being watched, my Ego wouldn’t let me idly watch the dancers, so prompted me to talk at Pain.

But Pain merely sat staring straight ahead at the weeping pitcher.

If I stood and left Pain, watching eyes would witness Ego’s rejection. I was trapped. Mortified. I could only stare ahead at the glass full of cold tears I had poured.

The Ego voice in my head played victim, “This is payback for avoiding Pain.

The first of two slow dances dragged on, excruciating. My Ego’s incessant monkey-mind chatter was finally interrupted as the song was ending, because Pain had pushed back its chair to rise to its feet.

So my eyes too lifted, from the iceless glass of warming tears in front of me. Then, my Ego was mortified…

Pain was extending its hand to me, for the next slow dance.

My Ego felt every other personification watching for my response, so what could I do?

Other personas on the floor made space, we embraced, the music rolled on…

The Ego-chatter in my head faded as Pain led us in a dance I don’t even remember. Just pure expression. My mind stilled, I followed Pain’s lead with no effort.

This dance belonged to both of us.

Into my ear, “Sorry we sat out the first one. I needed you to sit with me…
Now, I need you to carry me; you lead and take me everywhere…

Once in my arms inseparably, Pain seemed less a burden, and my steps lighter, a part of me no longer dragged behind…

My Ego snapped me out of the dance to alert me that we had been yielded the full floor. The music faded to silence breathless. All personifications were riveted, and the seated ones stood…
Confidence nodded.
Joy wept.

The gawking DJ had failed to queue the next song, so now lowered the arm of the record-player’s needle, and the crackling sound from the groove between songs echoed through the hall for long, quiet, still, breathless seconds, until…

All the personifications – from dark corners and limelight alike – rushed the floor with the opening lyric,

Wellllll…”

The Full Neil threw up all his arms in unison…
.
.
.
.

You know you make me wanna SHOUT!

.
.


Leave a Comment below about a song that moves the Full You.

Related:
Stay where the pain is” (Richard Rohr)

Neil D. 2022-08-18


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Marriage as monument


[Personal preface here – 2 minute read]

In this article, the author describes how a movement which becomes institutionalized into a religion, becomes a monument. I have replaced this reference to religion with an individual “marriage,” for an interesting exercise…

.
In The Wisdom Pattern, Father Richard summarizes five stages of change that take place in marriage. He calls these stages the “Five M’s”: human, movement, machine, monument, and memory. This week we explore these stages as inspiration for marriage renewal.

It seems that many great things start with loving a single human being. If a person says/does something full of life that names reality well to a partner, the message often moves to the second stage of becoming a movement. That’s the period of greatest energy. A marriage is at its greatest vitality as a “Love Movement,” and marriage is merely a vehicle for that movement. The movement stage is always very exciting, creative, and also risky.

It’s risky because partners’ movement in marriage is larger than any culture, or any ability to verbalize it. We feel out of control in this stage of romantic love, and yet why would anybody want it to be anything less? Would we respect and love a spouse that we could control? I don’t think so! Yet we move rather quickly out and beyond the risky movement stage to the machine stage. This is predictable and understandable.

The mechanical or machine stage of a marriage will necessarily be a less-alive manifestation of the love between partners. This is not bad, although it is always surprising for those who see marriage as an end in itself, instead of merely a vehicle for the original vision. We need “the less noble” parts to keep us all growing toward love (1 Corinthians 12:22–24). There is no other way; but when we don’t realize a machine’s limited capacities, we try to make it into something more than it is. We make it a monument, a closed system operating inside of its own, often self-serving, logic. By then, it’s very hard to take risks for/towards our spouse.

Eventually this monument and its maintenance and self-preservation become ends in themselves. It is easy just to step on board and worship a monument without ever remembering the risk-taking love that originated it. At this point, we have jumped over the human and movement stages and have become “frozen people.” There is no hint of knowing that we are beloved by spouse and invited to inner journeys. In this state, marriage is merely an excuse to remain unconscious, holding on to a memory of something that must once have been a great adventure. Now marital love for our partner is no longer life itself, but actually a substitute for life or, worse, an avoidance of life. The secret is to know how to keep in touch with the human and movement stages without being naïve about the necessity of some machines and the inevitability of those who worship monuments. We must also be honest: all of us love monuments when they are monuments to our human, our movement, or our machine.
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Neil D. 2022-03-06

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Embrace your pain?


I’d like to humbly encourage you, in the form of discouragement:

Don’t let anyone try to talk you out of your pain.

Own it. Get to know it. Intimately. It is exclusively and personally yours. It is one thing you can have all to yourself.

Many people don’t want to hear about it. Many people want to fix it so that they don’t have to watch you bear it, because they might then pay attention to their own pain.

Some kinds of people always pay attention to the pain of others at the expense of their own. Perhaps you are like that also. Either way…

Your pain wants to be known and owned.

Your pain does not like loneliness.

When we are honest with ourselves, we know we cannot run away from our pain. No matter how long we keep running, it is still there.

We should also know that “stronger” doesn’t mean more impervious to pain.

When we want stronger muscles, we might lift weights so that we can carry heavier burdens. What muscles carry pain? Your heart is a pretty impressive muscle. Exercise it.

If your heart has been bruised or broken or wounded, you may think it is too weak to carry your pain. But that’s “thinking,” and uses a different ‘muscle’ than your heart.

We can borrow thoughts, and pretend they are our own.

When it comes to the heart, though, we cannot borrow or pretend.

We can harden our heart, hoping it will suffer no more pain. But that hardened barrier also keeps the pain inside. And we know hardened arteries are not healthy. Neither is a hardened heart. It is not stronger; it is more brittle.

The only one who can know your pain intimately is you. And, oh my, we know with certainty that our pain aches to be known. Give your pain your love. Give your pain your compassion. Have a self-pity party.

We permit self-pity to shame us because we are acculturated to avoid pain. Pity is a very strong and clear signal that you have avoided your pain for too long. Maybe the people closest to you did not want to be intimate with your pain. And when you are close to them, you yourself are discouraged from being intimate with your pain.

Blaming others for your pain is irresistible if you perceive yourself too weak to carry it. But that’s a game no one ever wins (https://feelwithneil.com/2020/11/24/shitty-blame-boardgame/).

Blame all you wish, but no one else will carry your pain for you.

So perhaps now you are alone with your pain. That IS what your pain wants. Your full attention.

Be intimate with it. Love it. That is what it wants. Lift it up in your tender arms and console it. As you do, notice yourself, lifting it and holding it.

You are NOT too weak to carry your pain. You ARE carrying it – always have been, and always will be. I would discourage you from trying to forget that. It is yours. All yours. And it wants to be yours and yours alone. Self-love and self compassion begin here.

The following exercise struck me as ridiculous and corny also. But, I didn’t have to do it many times to feel its deep and lasting impact. And it helps to revisit it periodically.

In quiet solitude, sit across from a couch pillow as your pain. Study its physical details. Then have a chat, and speak to it, speak for it, and *listen*, to both of you.

What are you? “I am your pain.”

How big are you?

Where do you live, physically and literally, inside my body? Give me a moment to locate you and feel you.

Where do you want to go? “Nowhere. Nowhere different than, or apart from, you.”

What do you want?
“To be noticed. To be loved. Not to be ignored. To be picked up, right now, and held in your arms against your heart.”

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Neil D. 2021-10-02


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A psycho-spiritual role for logic


I’m not an overly enthusiastic fan of reason, logic, rationalism, scientism, physicalism, thinking, etc. But I am absolutely an enthusiastic fan. What does “overly” mean to me?

When you put all of your eggs — all of your big questions — in the basket of rationalism, you cheat your humanity. The height of reason is not the height of humanity {see endnote for more}.

Logic — no matter how pure — is simply not a person’s only way of “knowing.” Let’s take up the question of, “Who am I?”

Mire your self in as much logic as you wish about the question, “Who am I?” You stumble quickly into irrational grandiosity which inflates your self-importance, like Mushu presents himself as The Great Stone Dragon to Mulan (voice, Eddie Murphy): https://youtu.be/zn_nM7x7Lcw.

At the opposite end of the Logic Pendulum‘s swing is that you are but a speck on a tiny planet in the universe, bound to be wormbait and dust.

We each sense that we are something special in the universe, but that sense does not, and cannot, come from our faculty of reason isolated from the rest of our life experience.

“Who am I?” leads us to ponder both the universal and the specific. Neither seems to make sense alone. I am part of something big, and I am an individual. Let’s play further with another question logically…

“What is my potential?”

Here, I think logic has a deep and profound psycho-spiritual role to play for a person. You are NOT the ideals and values you espouse. That’s illogical grandiosity. Yet most of us live our lives thinking and acting this way. We wish to be something we can never be. Consider it logically. An ideal is an ideal and cannot be entirely embodied by… well… a body. Neither ANY-body nor EVERY-body.

Objective truths are unreal. They objectify us. And something within us tells us that we are not mere objects, in reality. So poo-poo on your idolization of objectivity. We are each subjects—agents of action.

“Who am I? What is my potential?” Logically, I am Neil. Logically, my potential cannot exceed Neil’s theoretical potential. Logically.

Why do we get so easily tempted by lures of achievement? By promises of becoming something we wish for? Because we live in a materialistic culture with expert marketing! And those forces are not founded on logic! They appeal to “something” in us far beyond our faculty of reason. At their extreme, they are imaginary realms, outside the realm of logic.

Our imagination lures us, logic be damned!

This propensity, proclivity, impulse, and compulsion for imagination is evoked when we hear platitudes like…
Be all/the best you can be.
Be your best/full self.
Self-actualize.
Know thy-self.

So, set aside your imagination as best you can, and apply here some brutal logic. And remember that psychology informs us by unequivocal consensus that Comparison is a lethal practice for The Self.

You cannot be “that” in its imaginary entirety. You cannot be “this” at every moment. You cannot be this or that by choice, by will, voluntarily in every circumstance.

This is the fullness of logical honesty.

In the sense that you deny each of these truisms, you are logically ill. You become *mentally* ill when you rely exclusively on logic. Because “you” are so much more than an engine for reason.

A human being is much more than a thinker.

A human being is also a feeler.

We try to sort out those two, but that is an exercise of logic! Can you peel an orange with an orange peel?

Anytime we consciously exercise logic, we sense that it is incomplete. And so have the greatest minds in philosophy throughout our history.

Today’s brilliant thinkers have an imaginary hope that we haven’t YET figured out how to subsume our faculties of emotion into our faculty of reason, but will in the future—like scientific discoveries remain incomplete and point to paths we should follow for further discovery. Of course we should do that, but if the aim of those pursuits is a fantasy that we will detangle our thinking faculties from our feeling faculties, and reduce the mystery of the human being, well, then, what are we left with?

Anyhow, that may seem to have strayed from my purpose here. I have drifted into talking about universals, and not the specific You, or Me.

Stop being so hard on yourself because you do not perfectly embody ideals, which were never meant to be perfectly embodied. Be content with valuing them. You are unique in the universe, even outside of time: Never has there been, nor will there ever be, another you.

To “do You well,” practice some logic about who you are, and, especially, who you aren’t.

Then practice some more logic: The full You that you just conceived NEVER remains static.

You are this and that… sometimes.

That’s *honest* logic.

“‘Neil’ is a name which should never be spoken.” Or only spoken as a whisper. Or whatever. Why? Mystery.

This morning’s Neil is not the same as this evening’s…

Logically…


Related: Beware of therapy goals! (2) Envy and the Pitfalls of Validation

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Neil D. 2021-09-01


{ ENDNOTE

The Enlightenment is a wonderful collective achievement, but it is not the end game. It was just a corrective swing of the pendulum away from the oppression of both the superstitious middle ages and the religiosity of The Renaissance. (https://slate.com/human-interest/2015/01/whats-the-difference-between-the-renaissance-and-the-enlightenment.html)

The Age of Reason and the Industrial Revolution have put us in the age of technology, biotechnology, information, etc. accompanied by political revolutions which have put the freedom of individuals on par with service by the power of the state.

If you are more interested in his characterization of European/western historical ages, I recommend reading about the aforementioned topics as well as “Deism.”

}


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Brené Brown & Richard Rohr on Power


So many hymns and prayers in institutional Christianity misrepresent the revelation by Christ. Each of us has been deeply wounded by power domination in relationship(s). Our religious brainwashing bears some culpability for that. Authentic power has no relationship to domination and surrender. But because we have been normatively blinded to that by religious conditioning, we suffer under that illusory form of power. Here are words from Brené Brown and a Christian mystic on Friday the 13th…

https://cac.org/no-domination-in-god-2021-08-13/

[Excerpts]

We will continually misinterpret and misuse Jesus if we don’t first participate in the circle dance of mutuality and communion within which he participated [in the Trinity]. We, instead, make Jesus into “Christ the King,” a title he rejected in his lifetime (see John 18:37). He never sought that kind of power.
…This isn’t a vulnerable, relational one who knows how to be a brother to all creation… [W]e no longer kn[o]w Jesus in any meaningful sense that the soul [can] naturally relate to (which was the main point of the Incarnation!).
…Our notion of society, politics, and authority—which is still top-down and outside-in—would utterly change…
[T]here’s no domination in God. All divine power is shared power and the letting go of autonomous and self-serving power.
Brené Brown writes wisely about vulnerability and power… “The phrase power over is typically enough to send chills down spines: When someone holds power over us, the human spirit’s instinct is to rise, resist, and rebel. As a construct it feels wrong; in the wider geopolitical context it can mean death and despotism.”
There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinite flow of trust and mutuality. This should have changed all Christian relationships: in marriage, in culture, and even in international relations. Instead, we continue to prefer kings, wars, and empires, instead of an always leveling love…

These are tricky and loaded ideas, perhaps impossible for most of us to grasp as a single point. So instead, share with us a comment below about what these words raised up inside of you, please.

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Neil D. 2021-08-14

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Aching To Know


God knows I’ve diagnosed everything wrong with me and others: My relationships. But, if everything has an explanation, faith would be moot. I am infinitely valued and infinitely complex. I am God’s unique child–not another like me.

Ever.

Though I compare my self to other selves, there is no comparison.

Creation without me is senseless. For I AM!

There is no creation without me, for as long as I am ordained to be. Which is forever!

I don’t think God intends me to understand all things. What would be the point of faith then? As a child needs a parent, so I need my divine Parent.

NEED.

Not a nice-to-have.

A fundamental and desperately hopeless–without hope–NEED.

It’s how I was made. To fundamentally need to know my Origin.

The Tree of Knowledge’s fruit is forbidden NOT because it hurts God. Directly. But only because God hurts, knowing that *I* hurt when I try to eat its fruit.

Its fruit is too big, chokes me. Not because of some inferiority, or curse. Or decree that I must be subservient to a master.

I cannot know all–even about my own self. I am too gloriously and unfathomably rich and complex. And that unknowability–even of
my
own
self
–makes me ache.

When I ache, my loving Parent aches more than I.

THAT is love. Love is immeasurably more than knowing, understanding.

Love is everything.

Both ways.

And even when it doesn’t come from my way?…

It’s coming from the Other Way…

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Neil D. 2021-02-15 (originally February 15, 2019]

Related: Young Messiah: “There’s still so much that I don’t know. But I do know this… I think I’m here just to be alive. To see it. Hear it. Feel it. All of it. Even when it hurts. Someday you’ll tell me why else I’m here. I don’t know when. But you will. I know that. Because… Father, I am your child.”


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Flamingo earrings are a sacrament


Eight-year-old students interrogated the teacher, who has a thing for flamingos: “Why were you absent, Ms. Doe?”

“I was sick…”

One gave her a gift, 2 weeks before Christmas: The birds as earrings, which weren’t very comfortable, “But I’ll wear them anyway.”

If you Google “sacrament,” you’ll easily find some definition like “a religious ceremony or ritual regarded as imparting divine grace.” More deeply, it involves symbols that point to “larger realities” which simply can’t be grasped with the mind alone. After all, how do we describe encounters which impart divine grace?

This gift wasn’t the last day before Christmas break, like a parent might suggest. Do you think the timing suggests a much larger reality in that student’s heart? I do.

Do you think that child thinks Ms. Doe’s ears are pretty? I’d bet.

It wasn’t an apple or a gift card, but a personal favorite close to Ms. Doe’s heart. That child “knows” Ms. Doe’s heart already, and longs to be closer to it.

I think that’s ALL divine.

And I think flamingo earrings are a sacrament.

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Neil D. 2020-12-11


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“How do you feel?” “I don’t know…”


“How do you feel?”
“I don’t know…”

I don’t think it’s unusual not know what we’re feeling. Nor even to be unable to feel.
What are you feeling now?
Are you feeling a mixture of feelings?
Are you feeling one shallowly?
Are you feeling one deeply?

If you aren’t sure, there are some almost universal triggers to make or help you feel.

I’m not at all a fan of the musical genres jazz, classical, or country. I can enjoy occasional hits from each, but rarely more than one or two at a time. Upon hearing of my disdain for classical, my sister challenged me.

I believe this 3.5 minute piece is one of the almost universal triggers that cannot be heard without a maelstrom of accompanying feelings (listen with space to move your arms through their full ranges, and fasten your headphones or earbuds securely, for your head will dance upon your neck, and, almost certainly, you’ll need to stand, and quite possibly dance):

If you are a classical music aficionado, don’t try to convert me, but please do share with me pieces like this one, which do not require an appreciation for the art form, and do not for the uninterested include wasteful bridges, interludes, and introductions. I wish to hear more brief pieces like this, in which every note has intrinsic value, even to the infidel.

Neil D. 2020-07-19


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My love letter to me


My love letter to me
…from my mom,
…from my soul,
…from me.

[6 minute read]

My rational mind loves theology, and I can wrap many of my beliefs into tidy packages to delight my reason. But that’s horribly dangerous, just like this theology: “The wages of sin is death, and you need a savior.”

“Do you NOW see and feel, Neil? Despite the crown of thorns, humiliation, false charges, excruciating death, do I threaten my wrath? ‘Forgive them, Abba…’ He was not begging on your behalf because you are unworthy of Our love. He was vocalizing what flows inseparably FROM Our love. Our sadness that you ‘know not what you do…’ To your Selves.

“Do you NOW see and feel, Neil? When I, your passionate and personal God, say that I love you unconditionally, that means no necessity of forgiveness. Our acts of love are not to show you how sinful you are. They are deeds to show you the purity of Our love for you. There’s no need at all for forgiveness when all is love….

“Love does not originate FROM or BY forgiveness. Love is no hostage, contingent on redemption by contrition and absolution. There is NO requirement that forgiveness PRECEDE My love. Neither offense nor guilt affect pure love. Nothing binds love. Forgiveness is a coincidence of true love, NOT a prelude…

“Look at me, my son Neil. LOOK at me. Don’t be afraid. Look at my Son’s crucified, bloody face. Does He look angry?

“The sadness on his face is for you. His face is My face. I am not angry and demanding justice because you have hurt Me. I am the Lord your God, Who fears nothing. I do not fear being hurt. But I can and do feel hurt. I can and do feel sadness. They are part of love, and I AM love. So I am also Hurt. I am also Sadness. But hurt and sadness out of love, not out of fear. Fear is not part of love. Do not fear that you have hurt me, and need my forgiveness. For I love you already. Fearlessly, and fiercely.

“You only fear Me because you cannot feel and trust the fullness of pure love — yet. My Son’s passion is a show of love’s purity, not a message that you need to fear Us, nor that you needed His sacrifice…

“My Son’s passion is Our love story for you, Neil. Don’t corrupt it into a tragedy about sin and penalty and any sense of justice and consequences and conditions and laws and rules…

“His love is pure. My love is pure. Conditions and rules for gaining it are impurities.

“I am sad, because you hurt your self, child. I, the Lord Almighty, BEG and PLEAD with you, Neil… I do not COMMAND you by any other power or authority except love… Fearsomeness is false power, and I am not false. Love holds no space for fear. And I am love…

“Your very Creator is begging and pleading for you to feel Our love in the story of my Son’s life. We do not wish for you to see some sacrifice to atone for your shame and restore your worthiness. Our love is NOT affected by your sin. It doesn’t stop just because you sin. Don’t be so conceited to think you can diminish Our love! Let this love story fly past your ego and annihilate barriers of shame, to touch your tender soul, sweet boy…

“The story of Yeshua is about Our goodness and YOUR goodness… Our and your OUTRAGEOUS capacity for love. Be outraged about that! Stop – STOP – making it about your badness and failure to love. You are hurting and saddening Us and your eternal Self by your ego-centeredness. Center the story on your WHOLE Self, as I made you. Be Self-centered about THAT story.

“Look at me, my son Neil. LOOK at me. Don’t be afraid.

“Let this story through your ego-self to your soul-Self. Begging… Pleading… In love… THAT is who We are.

“Know your shame, son. We do. Let it waft into your ego’s consciousness, and your whole Self can be compassionate with it, as We are. Your repression is keeping Our love from your soul. Even your ego, Neil, can love Us, and can love all of you, if your soul can embrace your whole Self tenderly, as We created it to do. You are made to love. Your soul can do its work, son.

“Imagine my Son’s face at the wedding in Cana, with a joyous smile crinkling his eyes. Imagine the fiery warmth of those eyes locked on the eyes of the woman to be stoned, ‘Nor do I condemn you…’ That is not a warmth that flows FROM forgiving; it is the fire of passionate love, from which forgiveness – like all things truly and purely good – cannot be separated.

“We hurt when those whom We love feel hurt. Just as you do. ‘I have become one of you.’ I have joined humanity because humanity is worthy. You are worthy of Our unconditional love because that love is Ours to give, NOT yours to earn. NO conditions. I am all-powerful. And I am in you. Our power is not rooted in meting out justice. Do not be afraid. Our power is love. I dwell in you: YOUR power is love.

“The moment I and your mother brought you to life, she held you in her arms, and adored you with unconditional love. You had done nothing to earn or deserve it. It was hers to give, not yours to earn. Your soul is no different from your mother’s. Your soul is no different from Me.

“You too have unbounded power to give love without conditions. Please, Neil, pour it out, unshackled by shame, with NO conditions. And, please, begin with pouring it onto my own infinitely lovable son, whom your mother named Neil…

.

.

Neil D. 2020-03-06

Related: My love letter to you, My love letter to you PS

This scene from The Shack is a potent exposition of how the love of the crucifixion is not a payment to a wrathful God who condemns: fuller context https://youtu.be/hUiW7bOqGPA; shorter https://youtu.be/QtVEk0oKtkM

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Advent Prequel to Footprints


YouTube video of the poem’s text with Christmas soundtrack: https://youtu.be/fD1k_hfUDFE


(Read the preface to this poem here.)


Based on Mark 5:25-34:

A woman suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. Immediately she was healed. Jesus, perceiving that power had gone out from him, turned and said, “Who touched my garments?” His disciples said, “You see the crowd pressing around you?” The woman came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace…”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened…” (Mt 11:28)


Adeste fideles. (Come, faithful).


Advent Prequel To Footprints

(Neil Durso)

Energy, misbalanced.
Self-centered lifetime.
Other-centered lifetime.
Tiresome battles lost.

Shameful failure.
Wasted toils?
No. Delivery to the now.

A curled, sobbing heap,
Writhing on sands of self-desertion.
A finger trembling, raised to an eye…
Tap its pool of tears, running them thin,
Glimpse through the blur:

A shadow over tears on dead sand
Shades the relentless brightness of scorching shame,
Revealing a garment’s hem resting on sandaled toes.

Stretch out of despair a hand.
Touch a finger to the coarse fabric.

From that cloak, a hand extends,
Re-flavoring tears that flow still.
From a spring deep within, never fully felt.
Feel it now. Don’t wrestle floodgates inside.

Epic struggle.
Ordained end.
Rivulets of tears baptize anew.
Every ounce of unrequited effort poured out has prepared the way

Enormous fruitlessness was the way.
En route to the quenching fruit of energy exhausted.

The garment takes you up, in its arms
So gentle, their power feels misplaced.
You tremble at tenderness so unfamiliar.

From this bottom, from this birthplace,
In His wake are one set of footprints.

At cool evening’s arrival,
You’re lowered lovingly
To your own feet.
Refreshed.
At His side.
He at yours.
Two sets of feet imprint the sands.

Onward in silence.
For a time.
Then,
The silence drips into distant song
On fleeting breezes.

Whispering beneath the rising chorus,
“Whither, Yeshua?”
“The City of David.”

A bright star draws your gaze.
And He is gone.

Shepherds appear.
On pilgrimage.
To Light.

Above the sonorous din of lambs’ bleating,
Lyrics grow clearer…

Carried by the parade, your heart then
Your tongue join the hosts’ song.
Reborn of unshackled brokenness,
The beckoned joins the calling:

“O… O… come, all ye faithful…”
(song)


(Read the preface to this poem here.)


-Neil D. 2019-12-16
(revised from 2018-12-24)

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Green Shirt

The gently soft-spoken 20-something didn’t seem to ever stop talking except when he asked of me simple questions and waited for replies with earnestness that made me feel like my answer would be divine and resonate with profoundly undeniable truth and universal wisdom. He sat on a park bench with his beautiful, unthreatening, expectant, wide eyes open naturally enough to look up at me as I stood beside the bench on which he sat lower. His eyes weren’t bloodshot or distant, squinted or spookily wide. His pupils locked on my gaze, without blinking, without discomfort or shame. Without abiding by any conventions of time or rhythm familiar. Just natural, as anyone’s might be awaiting an answer, unconsciously exhaling the puff of smoke from a satisfying drag off the cigarette he just bummed off me…

He did that several times, awaiting several answers to several questions. Of me. Me. Me? Me!

Not hard answers to give. But not easy questions to ask. So, wait–maybe hard questions to answer, but not hard words to summon in answer: “Yeah.” “That’s true.” I know.” “I feel you.” “Right.” “Damn.” “I know.”

Know? Do I really *know* anything?

Now I know I do.

Green Shirt talked and asked about his joy and loss of waking next to her, whose name he didn’t remember. Of being anxious about how he would get eggs and bacon like yesterday. Would the nurses let him have the medicine he needed again?

He’s glad it’s warm today.

Hopes it will be tonight, wherever he winds up.

Wants to work on my car. She knows how to service bearings. He knows he has to clean up dog poop in the park before her company lets him collect cans. She’s not afraid to work hard. Why do they think their reality’s rules make more sense?

Yeah, I suppose Yeshua from Nazareth wore some shade of white fabric in the middle eastern form of that time. But I think, yesterday morning, He wore a green t-shirt.

If you see Green Shirt today, tell her I miss him. Tell him I said hello. Tell her I remember him. Say Hello to her for me. Thank him for talking to me about her own world. Tell her I love hymn… because he trusted me just to affirm her truth. And … loved ME too.

Neil D. 2019-07-25

Librarian of the Monarch Chorus


The owner’s name is Jimmy (not really; I asked, but names here are changed). He serves tables and washes dishes. He suggested a cup of ice with my Brisk from the fridge.

Glancing at the menu, “What do you recommend?” I asked. It’s all good he says.

I answered, “Burger?”

“You want everything on it, right?”
Right. He didn’t push fries – just asked.
Sure. He shouted the order to the girl behind the counter.

“Out for a ride?” Yep. Where you riding from? Oakmont, but not really sure where I’ve been today. “Those are the best rides aren’t they?”
Yes, yes Jimmy they are.

I pointed my camera at the QR code on the Town Days poster, “My kids might think this is the cool way to do this…”

“How many kids you got, Neil?” Three boys. “They out riding too?” One for sure, another wishing.

“Who’s that behind the counter?” Brit and Candace. Daughters of a friend.

I looked at photos of my sister’s family at their daughter’s graduation happening today. Joy. Beauty. Pride. Relief. Hope.

I looked at a photo of a decades-old, small-town newspaper announcing a local young woman away at college being added to Who’s Who. Perfect match to the 80’s hits Jimmy picked on his bistro’s jukebox. She was librarian of the Monarch Chorus. A sob out of nowhere escaped my chest.

I looked up in embarrassment, wondering if Jimmy heard or saw.

On a wall it says, “Music… It’s not what I do. It’s who I am.”

Funny. Two hours ago I think I said, “We aren’t what we have. We aren’t what we do…”

So, ok, I don’t see any reason any of us can’t be Music.

.
Neil D. 2022-06-11


Kay’s Light

Hey Siri. Search for Dunkin nearby… One block past South Broad Street on Locust. Opening at 5:30 in 3 minutes, 6 minute minute walk. One cigarette. Chilly, but I have gloves.

First guy passed, arguing with himself, loudly, his face twisted up in some kind of deep pain.

Wherever steam rose through the sidewalk, a heap of human being lay to stay warm.

A few medical students rode by on bicycles in their scrubs. An apparent local rode by on his antique bike, holding a Giant grocery bag in one hand.

In the brighter lights of an intersection by some historical building, I checked my wallet to see if I had any cash in case I was asked. I liked the faux gas lamp’s faux warmth outside a church dwarfed by buildings on three sides…

“Your gigantic-est coffee please.” “What size?” Sheesh… “What’s the most gigantic size you have?” squinting at the menu, just now locating the undersized S, M, and L. But it wasn’t L.

She answered pleasantly, “Extra large… Cream and sugar?” Yes please. As I waited, the guy behind me in a long, dark raincoat and blinding white sneakers didn’t seem to want to talk, so I checked out all the Christmas decorations and hummed with the carol.

Three blocks, halfway back, she was strolling toward me, carrying a flatscreen TV in a clear plastic bag, talking out loud to no one. Crossing the alley toward me, “Can you spare a smoke, sweetie?”

“Sure… Need a light?”

“I got one. Thanks. Most people just walk by…”

“What’s your name?”

She was already three strides away, looked halfway back over her shoulder, “Kay.”

Kay lit up my dark morning. She doesn’t need a light. She’s got one. Me too. You too.

.

Neil D. 2022-12-02.
From the City of Brotherly Love

Depressed on Thanksgiving

If today you feel sad, anxious, or depressed, I do not urge you to look on the bright side of things to be thankful for, if that is no impulse you have. If you feel abandoned or rejected by the world, I do not further reject your sadness by veiled encouragement, aimed at soothing mostly me, not you.

Perhaps your depression is no signal of your brokenness. On the contrary, perhaps it is a signal that you are a functioning whole human being, in a plight that rightly calls for you to respond with despair and the deep-rest of depression. At a horrible time, you are not pretending to be otherwise. That’s to be commended as whole and functional, not to be condemned as broken.

I am not glad that you are depressed, but I am glad that you are here, witnessing that you are still whole in brokenness. That you are still you. That any notion about the depth of despair or the loftiness of joy are only notions, not a human being who can experience those and all in between, because in the wholeness of this moment, you transcend them while *being* in them.

If I could see you with *my* eyes, that is what I would see. A full human being, being however they are in this moment, and being full, whole, enough, and with me. Any way that you are in any moment is an ok gift to me. Sadness is ok, as ‘right’ as any other experience of you, and not broken at all.

Neil D. 2022-11-24

Thanksgiving and introverted pillowcases

At my age, with the blessings showered on me, it is gladly effortless to list things I am thankful for. I honestly find it more challenging to list things that I am NOT thankful for. But the top of that list is easy.

Before I launder my bedding, I do NOT stuff a pillowcase into the tight corner of a fitted sheet. But, in every load, there seems to be a shy son of a bitch who finds its way there. As if it likes to be the only damp item emerging from the basket. No way it can dry, all rolled snugly in the corner. You know who you are, you bastards!

Neil D. 2022-11-23

PS. I put the son of a bitch on a hanger and let it dry in the cold air we all have to breathe.

It might be shy, but the bastard is conceited – as if I don’t have extra pillowcases.

Voters are part of the problem


We have latched on to the simple phrase “the government” as a scapegoat, as if we cannot affect it. As if it is not us! As if “the government” has a life of its own and is not constituted by the lives of each citizen.

It is the egocentricity of each of us which makes us feel powerless. Since we cannot change the world ourselves, as an individual, fuck it. I can’t affect “them.”

Holy inflated ego, Batman.

“Look Neil, I tell everybody to vote, and I vote myself, and I stay informed, etc.”

I, I, I…

When was the last time you asked someone why they don’t vote, and listened without interrupting to tell them they’re wrong because they aren’t you? They aren’t your ego.

YOU are part of the problem. Why would someone else expect “the government” to listen when the person standing in front of them will not?

You want action right now, because YOU know all the answers. The answers are simple. Because your ego is simple.

You are not powerless, and either is any other individual you might talk to. But you do not have the power to overturn current institutions in an instant. So your ego gives up. You are part of the problem.

Truthfully, everyone is part of the problem, aren’t they.

That’s not something hard for your ego to swallow. It’s just that your ego-mind doesn’t include you among everyone. This is true of the individual you are talking to also! Are you including them in your world? It is prior “government” that hasn’t included them, and that’s why they don’t believe in institutions, in you, or in themselves.

If you’d like to fix the world, stop aiming to fix the world.

Right-size your ego, for crying out loud. And recognize that your ego is not a small thing, but is more powerful than you ever realized. Think honestly about how conflict evolves. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes out of each way individuals think, act, and speak every moment.

So, if you want to unfriend your adversary today instead of hear them compassionately, future generations can thank your ego for its contribution to their wars. Nice legacy.

You are no insignificant agent at all. There’s nothing you do that doesn’t matter eventually, in enormous ways.

“Election Day” is a day. That’s enough to satisfy your ignorant ego? “No, Neil. I am an activist all the time.” Your thoughts, words, and deeds affect other human beings every moment.

You may not affect a policy today, but you will absolutely affect other human beings a dozen times today.

Your power is – in very real reality – unfathomable.

Neil D. 2022-11-09

Vanilla Paige

From the moment I recall noticing her after the 8 of us entered the air-conditioned Moroccan Treats in Busch Gardens, her aged eyes twinkled above a dormant smile. She wrestled the hard ice cream with her wetted scooper, as if she’d rather be doing absolutely nothing else.

Paige was probably Rob’s age (68; https://feelwithneil.com/2022/09/16/uber-hippie-rob/) or older. When my turn came, I greeted her with a goofy face, then it did: That smile finally burst into its fullness. “And you, young darlin’? Plain or fancy waffle cone?”

Plain.

“I’m a plain fella:)”

“Oh, I doubt *that* very much {wink}…”

On my plain cone, I requested a scoop of “plain chocolate” and a scoop of “plain vanilla.”

Paige’s smile got even bigger:

“Vanilla bean, or French vanilla?”

Friends with me giggled at the show unfolding.

“Well now, Paige, YOU seem to be the expert in this popsicle stand, so I’ll take your recommendation:)”

She dug into the French without a word. And, my, she *was* the expert artisan, pressing the chocolate ball to a depth just shy of cracking that plain waffle wall. Ok, that’s experienced – but the expertise shone next.

She dipped that scooper into the water an extra long while, looked me in the eye, and winked again – irresistibly, so I peeked over the sneezeguard glass.

Paige withdrew the warmed scooper, flipped it with a stage-master’s flourish, and into the tightly tucked chocolate scoop, Paige seared a dent deeply enough to ensure there was no way that French vanilla ball was gonna roll off its plain chocolate tailored seat.

My personal ballerina has done the next move many times I’m sure – with effortless grace. Some silvery locks escaped from a hairnet, she drops the scooper into the water with a dainty two-finger release, from a height for the perfect, splashless “glubb” – despite the swollen, gnarled knuckles. Paige had to free her scooping hand, because, with my treat in one hand, she needs that second one to grip the top of the seenzeguard while she stands on her tiptoes to hand me my sacrament over the just-too-high glass, assuring me:

“You’re gonna LOVE this, darlin’!”

.

I have zero recollection how it tasted. But zero doubt I loved it. Zero doubt I love Paige, because Paige first loved me. Seems how God tricks us into loving, doesn’t it?

Eating ice cream *is* divine [https://feelwithneil.com/2020/04/29/eating-ice-cream-is-a-divine-experience-soul-and-ego-love-and-like/]…

Like Paige. Like you.

.

Neil D. 2022-09-16