Tag Archives: charity

Joyous Gift

If I were a drummer boy, I would play for you.

“It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one’s fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit.” (Isabel Currier)

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

You and I are separated, but it is in my heart to connect with you, with others. I find this very curious—like it is in our DNA. I have studied a lot of genetics, because I seek to know how the universe works, and the genesis of life seemed central at the time. The focus of my studies has shifted.

I have not studied the drum for a long time although I have a wonderful elk-hide gift from a friend that I play for spiritual purposes. I have studied a bit of guitar, harmonica, keyboard, and even voice. Music is not my gift to you.

My ego demands that I find my gift that I may share it with others. I have searched a lifetime for it but all I have found is a few tracks.

Words are tracks.

Ernest Hemingway said something about writing being easy, that all one has to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. He bled to death.

I do not write because I am in love with words or particularly gifted in playing them, nor do I wish to bleed to death. I write mostly because I can’t seem to help it. I need to write if only to find out what I think about how the universe works. I choose to share it with you.

That is not easy for a shy person with a touch of PTSD. But, then, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be a gift to you, would it?

My gift is my art, and that is all I am to share. My medium is ideas. I move ideas around until I find some structure that pleases, amuses, or teaches me. Sometimes I stumble upon one that does all three and I simply have to share my joy.

“Life is self-controlled chemistry.” is such a structure. I built that sentence many years ago to challenge Advanced Biology students to design a philosophy of Biology.

Define self.

We are each individual, separated from one another in specific ways. Our individuality defines life. It is sacred. And yet, we strive to connect to others. Because we know, deep down inside our selves, that the connection is also sacred. It is spirit.

Trauma breaks something inside us so that we no longer connect well with others. Our individual survival depends upon our separation from others who would end our lives. Forever. And ever.

Still, we need others. We need connection. For combat veterans, we understand connection because our lives depended upon our brothers and/or sisters. But, they all went away to their own lives lived very separately.

Shy men who do not connect well with others can jump right into conversation with other men. Vietnam veterans talk to other Vietnam veterans. Oh, sure, there is a vetting process, but combat veterans understand that other combat veterans understand what the protected can never know. We need each other and we understand that.

Writing words is not my gift to you. Sharing my thoughts and feelings so that we might understand each other is all I offer this Christmas Eve. It is my hope that I can define self in a way that celebrates rather than denigrates the gift that is individuality, that defines life. It is my hope that I can help others who suffer directly or indirectly from Post Traumatic Stress to accept themselves, the sacred individuality, the blessed ego, the gift that finds joy only in being shared.

It is there, that gift, inside each of us, as unique as the freckles on our faces or the prints of our fingers. Track it, find it, and share it.

Have a joyous season—Merry Christmas, if you please—or any other reason to celebrate giving.

Happy Tracking.

Chains of Choice

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” (George Bernard Shaw)

Because choices have consequences and we all know that—deep down where truth cannot be denied.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

My life has been long, rich, rewarding, challenging, interesting, and punctuated by momentous choices from which, singly and in concert, has cascaded consequences for which I am responsible.

In 1963 I chose to participate in a six week Summer Science Training Program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. That led to enrolling there, jobs, degrees, more jobs, more degrees, and a whole lot of experiences that contributed to who I am, today.

In 1964 I chose to ask a classmate to marry me. That led to marriage, children, and grandchildren.

In 1968 I chose to enlist in the Army and almost immediately give up my guaranteed enlistment as a Chemical Staff Specialist to become an Infantry Officer, a Green Beret, and a Vietnam Veteran.

In 1971 I chose to take an early out from the Army and return to UW.

In 1979 I chose to return to school to get certified to teach secondary science.

In 1980 I chose to take a job teaching in Beaver Dam, relocate, and remarry.

In 1988 I chose to go back to school, again, to learn how to be a better teacher.

In 2000 I chose to finish my high school teaching career and retire in 2001.

In 2001 I chose to finish my dissertation and earned my PhD in 2002.

In 2005 I chose to relocate in Yuma for winters to be nearer grandchildren in San Diego.

In 2008 I chose to build a house in Yuma and become an Arizona Resident.

In 2012 I chose to read the help wanted ads in The Yuma Sun, then apply for and accept a job at NAU-Yuma as an Assistant Clinical Professor.

Choices have consequences. Each choice we make opens some doors and closes others. I don’t know about you, but I have never been clever or wise enough to foresee those consequences with any clarity.

And for every choice I made in freedom, I bore the responsibility for the consequences.

Oh, sure, there are always limitations to liberty (Selective Service comes to mind) but I still had many personal liberties of choice within those constraints.

Our options of choice rise in crescendo and then begin to fade like the years of our lives slipping past. I can never be an airline pilot. That ship sailed forty-some years ago when I chose to not complete my application for flight school. But, who knows? That might have meant getting shot down and killed in Vietnam.

I can never be a police officer, a medical doctor, or President of the United States. I can only be the me that is the result of my choices. All I have to give to the world is the me I am becoming. That is charity.

I believe all these choices came from one very deep personal intention of my adolescence. To this day I do not know if I decided or simply admitted that what I wanted to do with my life was to understand the universe. I do know that the paths I have chosen have taught me more than that high school boy could have imagined.

This is why I write—to find out what I am thinking. This is why I teach, because nothing teaches me as much as trying to figure out what to teach others and to hear what others are thinking. This is why I feel blessed, because I have followed a passion of my youth, with a few missteps and dead ends, to a place of greater understanding, and that gives me liberty to share my experiences with others in ways which might help them choose in harmony with their passions.

Deep down inside you, what is a passion of your youth?

Happy Tracking!

Holy Duty

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

We cannot experience charity by sharing ourselves with others unless we can accept ourselves, even our egos. Yes, the goal of many spiritual growth paradigms is to abandon ego; however, in my lay opinion, abandoning ego completely may lead to spiritual enlightenment and physical death. I aim to abandon the ego as the center of my existence.

And, that brings us to duty.

“Holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is a simple duty for you and for me.” (Mother Teresa)

I have made a leap from lay psychology to spirituality of the masses (pun intended). Come on, you knew it was coming. I have given you enough Jungian kind of psychology to expect some commitment to the unconscious.

This has been a challenging week for the entire concept of duty—with the release of the torture report. Last week I had searched for duty quotes and found many that are negative or inappropriate for this blog. I think the explanation is fairly simple: Egocentric duty is damned dangerous.

I recall a story about young Mother Teresa, but I could not find it. It claimed she was so moved by the hunger of the people she cared for that she gave away her own meager lunch. Day after day. And, being of youthful metabolism, she soon began to weaken until a superior noticed her failing stature and inquired. Young Mother Teresa was admonished to eat her lunch.

The point of the story? Unless we keep ourselves alive and reasonably healthy, we will have no strength, even no life, perhaps, to share with others.

I do not know if the story is true about Mother Teresa, but I know it is true about me.

It is the oxygen mask rule. In the case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure in the airplane, your oxygen mask will drop from the overhead panel. Put it on as demonstrated. If you are traveling with a dependent, put your mask on first so that you will be able to help your child or mother traveling with you.

That is why I say we must not abandon our ego—only put it in its proper place.

Proper place?

Yes, in service to others.

I am not Mother Teresa. Neither are you, I’ll bet, or you would not be reading my blog. We are people wounded by life, sure, but more than that, we are people with different duties, different callings.

Duty to whom?

Oh, no. You are not going to trick me into giving you my meager lunch. I have a deep conviction about my calling, my mission in life, and I am trying to live that. My gratitude is that I have been blessed with opportunities to serve others in that calling and that I continue to be so blessed.

For each of you, I pray such a blessing.

But, I am not a missionary to the poor. I am a teacher and occasional minister to the poor in spirit.

Who are you?

Whom do you serve?

There are very old ways of answering those most personal questions, ways that have much in common across indigenous cultures, ways that do not fail when the ego has been relegated to service, for then we become blessed with the joy of charity, of giving of ourselves, of doing our personal duty.

“Is it I, Lord?” (Daniel O’Donnell)

The answers are inside you, deep down beyond your ego, and they are Holy.

Happy Tracking!

Selfish Snowflake

Creation is a process of separation.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

In the grand scheme, we can view all of physical reality, Creation, as separation from God.

When my daughter experienced a miscarriage, she wondered what happened to that soul. I suggested that was like asking what happens to a raindrop when it returns to the sea.

A raindrop is the result of separation of water molecules from the gas phase of the solution that is our atmosphere. Each raindrop possesses an identity separate from the rest of the world, with a boundary that defines inside from outside; however, it lacks recognizable individuality.

A snowflake is iconic individuality. Not only are snowflakes particularly unique, but they are products of a process some claim to be physically impossible: the spontaneous change from disorder to order. The exquisite structure of solid crystal lattice geometry springs forth from the relative chaos of a gaseous mixture without effort of energy.

Snowflakes are proof that order is built into the Laws of Creation.

So are we, you and me. We are separate individuals, unique in our own special ways, and that is okay. It really is.

There is no need to find the prettiest snowflake, the largest, the most ornate, symmetrical, or intricate.

There is no need to contrast the complicated snowflake with the simple raindrop, the peacock with the sparrow, the bramble with the oak, or the lion with the shrew.

So why do we do that to ourselves?

Ego is just another word for self much maligned in quotes from wounded egos blaming the wounding on other egos, and that’s okay, too. The separation that is our creation isolates us and frightens us. It threatens our existence as individuals.

It’s rather amusing. The separation that creates and defines our individuality is the same separation that threatens the survival of that individuality. Then we blame it on Freud’s creation, ego, which is actually blaming it on…wait for it…ourselves.

I have an idea: Let’s accept our egos because without an ego, individuals quite literally cease to exist. No, we do not have to be egoists or self-centered in any way. When we accept individual ego, we can become our true, complete self.

Charity is nothing more than sharing ourselves with others, but first, we have to accept ourselves so that we might become the best inchworm, teacher, salesman, or soldier we can be. We just have to be ourselves, and we do that by finding our own uniqueness, our gifts, our talents, our beauty.

Happy Tracking!