Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wisdom and Creativity

Wisdom is an interesting concept. It sounds like a very important word. But what does it really mean?

My first inclination is to think that common sense is required. But, what is common sense? Some people would say that you know it when you see it. But is that always true?

My own interest in the word wisdom really came into focus after the 9-11 attacks. How would our leaders, those we put into power, deal with its aftermath. (It is interesting to me that I found myself using the word aftermath because that feels like there is some sort of calculation going on.)

But my feminine side kept thinking, there is more to this than a rational set of factors that contribute to this complex response.

My hope was that our leaders would not exploit this for their own purposes, but focus on the most correct response as the facts became clearer.

A few years later, I was seeking to develop my own counseling approach with clients. I wanted a way to move past checking off the "done" box regarding some problem thought or behavior, and then repeating the same mistakes again. I wanted to understand key elements of growing in wisdom.

Developing wisdom doesn't seem like something that happens overnight. I was beginning to see that in human development, older adults were often overlooked in counseling theories. Youth were the dominate areas for detailed developmental perspectives. Yet, in many cultures there was a special place for elders in their societies for honoring the wisdom of experience.

What happens between youth/young adult development and the aged? What were our adult leaders thinking? How would their own experiences and understandings come into play?

While exploring this in the conscious world, I had a dream one night:

I walked into a restaurant that had a down-home country feel to it. A game of chance was available. It consisted of a large water jug with cups in it. The idea was to drop a coin into the jug and if it landed on one of the cups, you won something. There were lots of coins at the bottom and very few in the cups.

I took out a penny and dropped it in the top. I saw that the top cup was wisdom. My penny dropped past it. The coin continued past the other cups on its way down and I began to feel sad that I missed the wisdom cup and worried when I kept missing the other cups. However, it landed upon the last cup which was creativity.

Immediately, the whole jug and room lit up in a brilliant, fluorescent colored blue. The color was gorgeous and bathed everything. I was thrilled.

Upon waking up, I had mixed feelings. I was elated from the vision of such a rich and beautiful dream. I was relieved that the coin wasn't wasted. I was also sad that I hadn't hit the jack-pot with hitting wisdom right off the bat.

But upon reflection, I was grateful for the insight. One of the most important elements to wisdom is creativity, thinking outside of the box. Creativity seemed to be a stepping stone to wisdom. Knowledge alone isn't enough. Einstein is quoted:
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all that we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there will ever be to know and understand.

A favorite concept of mine, borrowed from the Buddhists and the Quakers, is to live experimentally. Test ideas and concepts. Don't just take other peoples' words for it. This helps prevent group-think or other social group problems where people often have a piece of the puzzle but are afraid to speak their minds about something.

Another realization that I had was that there are plenty of charlatans - people parading around spouting stuff that sounds good, but for their own purposes. The ego is dominated by such a character. What good is it to attempt to become wise when there is lots of learning, creating and experimenting to be done?

There was a time in my younger adult life where I really wanted to have things figured out, be considered smart or wise, get things right. In the process, I worked very hard to read and become knowledgable about life in an effort to avoid problems. Sometimes that helped. But just as often, I just postponed a real run-in with the concept or idea I was working on.

In this dream, I was given a piece of wisdom. I imagine that others who wish for and dream about wisdom will have their own pieces of the puzzle revealed in their own unique ways that help them grow and develop into mature elders.

My prayer is that our world focus on developing youth and adults interested in true growth and development over a lifetime that supports the best in all of us.

The sky is the limit using our imagination. Our world depends on it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Love my trucks

I have a relationship with my truck that goes beyond rational. After the family car was totaled back in 2000, I took the insurance money and put a down payment on a used Chevy Tahoe, complete with heavy duty suspension and tow package, 4-wheel drive, and plenty of room for the family and stuff.

I grew up on a farm where the family cars were International Harvester Travelall's. They were god-ugly and an embarrassment to me as a teenager. I used to cry when I missed the bus and begged my parents to drop me off a block from the high school entrance, which they refused to do.

There was nothing graceful or attractive about them. I learned to drive stick shift in one of those tanks. I think my parents let us kids learn to drive the family tank around age 12 years because you couldn't hurt those things. I remember once missing a sharp curve in our lane and hitting a locust post. It hurt me more than it hurt the truck or the post, let me tell ya.

They certainly had their quirks. It was from driving Travelalls that I learned that I have two rules when I buy a used vehicle: it has to have brakes and heat. Everything else is extra.

And, I mean everything.

The floor was rusted out in the second seat area so that when my dad drove us out the lane and he hit a mud puddle, we got splatted on. We had one truck that had barn-door style doors that swung open when going around a corner. We just over-corrected the curve and they usually slammed shut on the rebound.

Windshield wipers sometimes worked. And, forget the defroster. I figure I've got plenty of experience for when cataracts set in or macular degeneration because I learned to drive with a vague sense of what was "out there."

My rationale for latching onto the Tahoe was that I drove to work using a two-lane highway in Virginia that had no shoulders and lots of tractor trailers and motor homes on it. If the roads were bad or if someone lost control, I at least wanted more than a prayer to help protect me. Nothing else I test drove felt that powerful or functional.

I’ve had the Tahoe for 10 years now and the thing is getting tired. After changing jobs and roads, I purchased a small, energy efficient car. I get to feel better about the gas mileage, but I miss sitting up higher so that I can see better out the window; not to mention, I loved driving the Tahoe.

My partner actually took it over a while back and uses it as his daily driver. The interior is now grease-stained and gritty with dirt. The back window over the gate doesn't latch. We use a bungee cord to hold it down. The air conditioner has long since quit. The radio and speakers don't work right. The interior lights only work manually.

But it still runs.

The amazing thing is that the engine has had a knock that started at about 85,000 miles. My beloved, being the cost-conscious mechanic that he is, was ready to dump it.

However, my years of growing up on a farm with lots of equipment and vehicles that never ran right, but got us where we needed to go (usually), kept nagging at me.

It has been a faithful workhorse. When the weather was bad, this was the "car" to take. When a trailer needed to be pulled, this was the truck equipped to do it. When I needed to take a vehicle down to where my partner was injured, this was the one with the ability to get down and up the hill, and have enough space for him to maneuver getting in and out of.

My partner has been having trouble with the Tahoe. Once or twice, it actually stalled on him while on the road. But then it ran again. He had the engine checked. A valve is shot, but that isn't new. He keeps making noise that it really is done. But I encourage patience.

At 226,000 miles, I have a ritual when I get into the truck. I treat it like a reliable horse.

I pat the dash and say soothing things in quiet tones like, "Good, boy," or "Let's go," or "You can do it." Mostly, I thank it for giving such good service and hope it has it in it to make another trip.

Last night I attended a meeting in a rural part of the area. After Partner had been making so much noise about its unreliability, I was a little nervous.

Was the truck really shot?

The oil pressure had been hanging at zero. Partner changed the oil earlier in the week, hoping that would do something. But he was taking the other truck to work. The oil gauge was still hanging at zero on my trip to and from the meeting. But I didn’t have any problems. Maybe the gauge is bad.

Partner took the truck to work himself today. He didn’t say a word about its performance when he got home. I didn’t get a call to come pick him up either.

Like all things of this world, its days are numbered. But, the old Tahoe hasn’t let me down yet.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Longing for Friendship

I'm back.

The trip to find the younger me on my North Carolina trip lead me elsewhere. It took me to Friends and friends.

To be frank, I wanted to see this with my first love, my coming of age boyfriend I came to know at the Eastern Music Festival. But alas, in my old age, this is a fantasy that makes no sense. What I could do was to bring my 14 year old self along as my 48 year old self made her way to Guilford College to witness the last performances of the summer music festival for youth and to visit Friends in the area.

To explain the usual difference, capital "F" Friends are Quakers and lower case "f" friends are what everyone commonly refers to as people we know and love. In my case, they often mean the same thing. My faith requires of me to treat others as I want to be treated, to love as I want to be loved.

I think I am a lousy lover. I read Rumi on the trip and am reminded of the beauty, passion, tenderness, desire, and so much more that Love/God/Goddess/Divine Grace holds. But maybe I can be a good friend.

After reading Rumi, I realized that the only capital "F" Friend is the Source. Except all of my lower case "f" friends and Quaker friends contain that sacred seed of the Source.


Just think that all capitalized words are archetypal energies and are connected to the Divine. Everything else has the Source within them, but is reflections of God, but is not God. All great religions struggle with the divine dance and interplay of the potentiality everything has and is of Creation.

The balancing problem I have at home is this: I love being with my friends and family and, I cherish my time alone. There is something about alone-time that keeps me close to the Source, my greatest Teacher.

Paradoxically, alone-time also frees me up to meet others. And a trip gives me time to break away from my daily life routines and experience life with a fresh view.

At Greensboro, North Carolina, my youthful self intersected with my adult self. Little did I know at the time of my Eastern Music Festival (EMF) experience at the Quaker Guilford College that would I leave behind my Lutheran denomination for Friends after as a young mother of two.

Not only did I leave music behind, but I embraced silence. For the Quakers I hung out with were "unprogrammed" - no music, no liturgy, just waiting to be moved to speak out of the great Silence - the place beyond words.

While visiting on the Guilford College campus at the Easter Music Festival (EMF), I met several music students. It was a joy to talk with them, listen to their hopes, dreams, and challenges. Other youth I got to hear through their music, bringing me to tears. Whether music or words were used, there was a deep well from which I listened.

The music students had no idea about the importance of the campus they were living at for the summer - what it means to be a Quaker, its history, etc. I met two young men in the Hut, a place where Quaker student leaders meet, where students worship, and where a small Quaker library provides materials.

It was simply a quiet, out-of-the-way place to hang out. Maybe some sort of seed is being planted that I can't see, just as I had no idea until much later how this important this campus would be in my life.

While visiting Jamestown Friends Meeting, I got to experience a semi-programmed meeting - where there is a barebones program with some singing. I wish my meeting had some sort of music in its meetinghouse. Once I sang during an invitation for "after thoughts", but I haven't heard anyone sing during worship.

I talked with many people. I found such warmth and interest in sharing their stories and interests. But, they weren't very interested in the EMF kids. There was a disconnect. But the younger adults who found their way from Guilford College as traditional students to Jamestown were engaged in the world, bringing a vibrancy and relevance to the meeting that might otherwise be missing.

In the midst of these two experiences, I visited with my Quaker friends living in the area. How sweet. The time too short together. A relief in seeing how well they are doing. A longing to see each other again.

I think my younger self is so wrapped up in so many layers of my older self that I don't know if I will ever find her again. I kept wishing that her old friends from the Festival were with her as she visited. But maybe the spirits of those friends were there. Maybe the reflection of the Friend through others is more than enough.