Friday, May 29, 2009


Once upon a time, when I was a reporter, there was a local story about a young woman who climbed two, low fences and put her hand through the bars of a polar bear's cage at the zoo. She seemed to have some vision of the oneness of nature.

The polar bear promptly bit down on her arm and a police officer felt compelled to shoot the bear in the head in order to free the woman. The bear let go, the woman went to the hospital, and the bear subsequently lost an eye, but did not die, on account of the shooting.

Letters to the newspaper squarely sympathized with the bear and castigated the young woman for an idiocy that led to the harming of this incarcerated white behemoth. Put in simple language, reader sentiment seemed to be, "What a jackass!" I don't remember if there was any follow-up story detailing the woman's sanity or lack thereof.

A loving heart, whether sane or insane, meets the raw realities.

To my mind, both things are important. It's not enough to criticize or stand at a distance from a loving heart and it is not enough to ignore the raw realities.

I think, but don't know, that everyone has an "awwwwww" factor within. Or perhaps "awe" would be another way to put it. Something -- some circumstance or sight or sound or thought process -- just calls out to us and the doors of the heart open up. Why? However reluctantly (I'm dubious about the Hallmark, oozy-goozy overlays that can occur), I think it is because an open heart is what is most convincing and, more, because it is what is most true.

The diffident and smart and controlled (the raw-reality folk) may cringe at the ecstasies of evangelicals or dervishes or young lovers, but their keen-eyed abilities are never quite as convincing as their sensible arguments suggest. Whispering at the edges of their wisdoms -- which may be quite good -- is the question they secretly long to answer: "Where's the joy?" And when the diffident and smart and controlled do in fact find some circumstance that opens their heart's doors, they can be blown away ... crumbled and crumpled where they stand, delighted and defeated simultaneously.

Whether an open heart meets some countering raw reality or a controlled existence finds some convincing "awww" or "awe," I think there is potential ... for both wisdom and idiocy.

Let's face it -- an open heart feels so damned good. It is just plain so convincing. Holding on just seems to make sense ... wouldn't I always like to feel like this, open and relaxed as salt? If one's good, two's better ... hold on tight!

But holding on, building a controlling world view around an open heart, is not the way of an open heart. It is not the way any more than a diffident, controlled approach can ease this life.

Once upon a time, I saw a statue outside a soaring church in Mallorca. It was a large bronze statue of a broad-shouldered, big-breasted peasant woman who was holding a baby in the crook of her left arm. Her left breast was exposed as if offering to feed the child, but instead of suckling, the baby was just resting comfortably with its head underneath and propping up that breast. The woman was not looking at the baby. The baby was not looking at its mother. Both seemed at ease and natural and content with circumstances. Uncompromised and uncompromising love. The statue struck me as both true and very affecting. It broke me open in some way. To this day, I remember that statue with fondness and wish I had a picture of it.



No doubt others have had other, very different, moments when something just hit the spot ... and the doors of the heart opened. Very convincing. Very delightful. And possibly a little scary, as if opening those doors somehow made mincemeat of the diffidence and control that had gone before.

There are people and institutions in this life that cling to and try to format such openings, openings that exist only in a past that cannot be relived. "The oneness of nature" they may say. "We are not separate," they may say. They do their best, perhaps, to put edges and walls around what, in those actual circumstances, had no edges, no boundaries, no limits. They are inspired and do their best to bottle or box or sell to the masses some "vision" of that inspiration.



And the doors open.

Remaining mired in the past, however delightful, is likely to result in very painful wounds ... an arm ripped open by some perfectly ordinary, "jackass" circumstances, for example. But there is no reason we cannot consult with our "awwww" and "awe" as a point of investigation. What opened this heart? Or, more clearly perhaps, who opened this heart or imagined it was closed or limited in the first place? What is missing now that was not missing then? If you claim to have the answer, how much of an answer could that be?

A dollar in the collection plate will never produce an answer.

But investigation works wonders, I'd say.






  2. It's great to see your writings again. I'm glad I've found you.

    -Rangdrol/Paul of Northampton

  3. Good to 'see' you too, Paul, and I hope things are well. Writing-wise, I am even thinking of putting together another book...not that anyone asked. :) Take good care and, if you need a cup of coffee, the pot is hot around here.