Tag Archives: serenity

Empty Bucket

“Nuts.” (General Anthony MacAuliffe)

This response to a request to surrender at the Battle of the Bulge typifies a military valuation of the concept. Death before surrender, and there is good reason for it.

“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” (Vince Lombardi)

Surrender is not seen as a winning strategy. Americans are winners. We do not surrender. And, yet, surrender is the path to serenity. Confused?

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. March seeks serenity.

It is okay to be confused. Confusion is next to enlightenment.

“I couldn’t fight the tide, so I decided to float along.” (David Levithan)

Here is a clue. Surrender is not only an option; it is the only option. Power is the choice of what shall be surrendered and to whom. You may surrender your will to the tide, or you may surrender your life to the fight against the tide.

In Vietnam, I took some comfort in the notion that I had a choice: surrender my freedom to my captors, or surrender my life to, uhm, my captors. It was a choice I pondered but never had to make.

A thirsty man walks miles across the desert looking for water and finally comes upon a well near a dry wash with Mesquite trees. He finds a fine open well with water at the bottom, lined with sturdy rocks and capped with a sturdy roof and a sturdy windlass and rope; but, alas, there is no sturdy bucket.

Looking about, he finds a frail old-timer sitting quietly in the shallow shade of a Honey Mesquite.

“Excuse me, sir, but do you have a bucket for the well?”

The old-timer asks, “What do you have in that satchel you hold so dearly?”

The thirsty man stares, blinks, and looks at the satchel he clutches. After some time of apparently painful thought, the man replies, “My stuff.”

“Your stuff, eh,” the old-timer says and pulls an old bucket from behind his stool. “Tell you what, young feller. I’ll trade you my good bucket for your satchel of stuff you cling to so desperately.”

The thirsty man licks his lips and clutches the satchel even tighter, for it holds the sum of all his Earthly treasures.

Surrender your treasure or die of thirst. Where will your tracks in the desert lead? Will they end with you clutching your treasures in your bony dead hands?

Happy Tracking!

Accepting Fit

“You are truly home only when you find your tribe.” (Srividya Srinivasan)

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. March seeks SERENITY.

A Native American student invited me to a local Pow Wow and Nancy and I decided to view the Grand Entry. We love the drums, the regalia, the dancing. We love fry bread. But I had a sense of loss, a feeling of something lacking in my life. I have no tribe.

The next class, I mentioned this to my student, a mature man, Army Veteran, and father. He told me to go back to my people. That is my tribe. That would be Wales and Cornwall, and I have no connection to that land.

Ah, connection. We have separated ourselves from our ancestors. We have separated ourselves from others who do not share our ancestors. Well, biologically, we all share ancestors, but we separate ourselves anyway.

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” (Seth Godin)

I need a tribe, a group of people connected to one another, a group with whom I connect, all connected to one single idea. And I need a leader.

Gangs come to mind. Humans are pack animals establishing status in the mirror of our pack or tribe. Often, our status becomes our identity as a member of a tribe, our group which is separated from other tribes by some discrimination of genes, heritage, and/or ideas. Individual identity is a subset of tribal identity.

You don’t think so? Who is your favorite team in March Madness? Super Bowl? NASCAR?

Do you have a political identity? Geographic? Ethnic? Socioeconomic?

Oh, where, oh, where is this unselfishness we seek (from last week’s blog) that might liberate us from our troubles and free us to find serenity and power?

There it is, in the tribe. Serve the members of your tribe.

I had never desired to be a soldier. It was a duty of grave inconvenience to me, and I was happy to leave the Army early and return to the University of Wisconsin where I felt at home. Except…once I got there in 1971, I no longer felt really at home. So, I joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard—my tribe. I had combat medals and patches. I had status. But, more importantly, I belonged.

Until I didn’t. I lost the leadership I had respected. I no longer found a common idea to serve, and so I abandoned that tribe and went back to school. Except for a few intermissions, I have been in school ever since. School is a place I fit.

Life is a dance. Finding a tribe in which I fit is a futile challenge. Adapting to fit into a group is a dangerous endeavor. To find my tribe without losing my self AND to find my self without losing my tribe, that is my wish.

I have abandoned many groups because I could not believe in their ideas or their leadership, and in the abandoning, I lost myself.

I have found some groups accepting of me as I accept others. Working toward an important common purpose transcends trivial differences like race, language, political party, or team loyalty. Veterans’ organizations allow me to serve. Teaching allows me to serve. Serving allows me to think of others besides myself, to see our similarities rather than differences, to find unity rather than division.

When I seek ways to serve, I find myself surrounded by a tribe of others doing the same. When I stop seeking the tribe to save me from myself, I find myself accepted by a tribe.

My you find the tracks of service in your heart so that your tribe may find you.

Happy Tracking!

Together, We

“When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:” (How Great Thou Art)

I sat alone in the woods for four days and nights without human contact—only, I was not alone. The woods was there, all one of it.

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. March seeks serenity.

I have done it more than once. On one occasion, it was a wandering Quest. I found a deer fawn, a floating frog, and a whippoorwill that found me, hovering in the dark right above my face. There were no other people, but I was never alone.

I am part of the woods. We are one.

Have you ever been lost in the woods? The desert? The mountains?

Tom Brown, Jr. tells us we are never lost unless we have someplace to go and some time to get there. Lost is a state of mind. It is a fear of being alone.

The first question I was asked at my dissertation defense was, “What is data?” The professor went on to ask, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there, does it make a sound?” The point is that data is defined by the observation of it.

I didn’t think fast enough on that day, but I have pondered the question since. The answer is, “Yes.” The tree makes a sound and the forest hears it. In the woods are thousands of living beings that hear that tree fall. There are thousands more that sense it in other ways—light now reaching the forest floor, for example. The smell of wilting leaves. The vibrations of Earth generated by the crash to the ground. The feel of sunshine warming the Earth. The woods knows.

I know the woods knows because the woods responds with new growth, with decay of the tree, and with curious critters who come to investigate. I know the woods knows because the crashing tree leaves tracks, which are also data, so we can infer the reality of the event. I know the woods knows because the woods tells me.

From the womb we travel in fear of separation. In Vietnam, nothing was more frightening than the thought of being isolated from our unit in the jungle, just one against the rest.

But, the combat experience has taught us that people are more dangerous than lions, tigers, or bears. We are trapped between a rational fear of being alone and a rational fear of people.

I do not fear the woods. On one of those nights, eight inches of rain fell upon my head. A review of data informs me that less than 100 yards from my spot in the rain was a den in an old beaver bank lodge where a female cougar had her young. Certainly, she had to vacate that den in the rain. Certainly, she knew where I was. Certainly, I was not alone.

We are never alone. We are never separated from the rest of Creation—except as we choose to separate ourselves from Nature. If you doubt me, spend some time in the woods, the desert, or the mountains and just breathe. When you have no other people around you, Nature will communicate with you. It will leave data as tracks.

Happy Tracking!