Art and Climate Photos

Art Polanski was difficult to ignore. I was all about diversity and even I had difficulty with his acting out and belligerence. But he was a poet, a sensitive soul, and a fucking brilliant programmer. And this is a tribute to him.

Art smelled bad and looked bizarre. He wore zebra-striped pajama pants, printed tee-shirts over his barrel chest, and sandals. His hair was long and flowing, reminiscent of Sunday school pictures of Jesus, except Art’s hair was usually damp and probably greasy.

Art couldn’t sit still, especially in conversation, and would make grunting noises and seemingly uncontrollable editorial blurts.

I was told that after his first meeting with management, the deputy director erupted out of his office red faced,”Who the hell hired that guy?!?” Art had been hired, over the phone, by the chief scientist; Art was a graduate of MIT and knew the material.

His biggest crime was that he was gay. He wasn’t flamboyant; that would have been more acceptable. Art was just authentically Art. I never saw him more blissful and content than when he returned to work after the rainbow festival. But when that euphoria wore off he was back to acting out.

Art was lonely. The only family I heard him speak of was his sister; he said she suffered the same illness but hers was worse. Later, when he was arrested, the marshals found him living in squalor with cat feces on the floor.

But Art was also very intelligent. His disorder, or the medication for it, made him hot. When they screwed his window shut, he wedged a seed under the head of the screw and watered the seed. The judge at Art’s hearing, nearly a year later, said he would have done the same thing had he been smart enough to think up the seed trick.

Ultimately, Art was arrested for endangering the lives of others; he had a nose bleed and wiped blood onto the window in front of the exercise bike in the fitness room and he was gay. That made his bloody snot a ‘lethal weapon.’

Art was first put on administrative leave. I was given his project to finish. He called me late one day and he was quiet and subdued and said he didn’t blame the director; Art admitted that he had brought it on himself.

They held Art in federal prison for six months before giving him a hearing. He was charged with a misdemeanor and ‘time served.’ It was months later that he was found dead in his home.

While Art was in prison, he sent me a poem. I wish I still had it. He would stand at the window of his cell looking out at the field of yellow flowers…and watch as they were being mowed.

I took these photos of the draft climate report. My favorite photo is the one above. I first made the graph on the left in November 1997 when I finished the coding that was started by Art. My name then was Catherine S. Godfrey.

Art Polansky, this is for you.

Addendum: As a sworn civil servant, I took an oath, and because of that oath I feel bound by it to not “copy, cite, or distribute”. But I am also a photographer and writer. The draft says nothing about those activities. This is me, sticking it to the man.

 

The Journey Through Life and the Value of Video Games

In the past, I have lamented about my having “wasted” my youth; I suspect we all have lamented that lament;  I don’t anymore.  I am at a place in my life journey now, where I can look back over the terrain that I have navigated, and I can see the benefit…if not the purpose…of the trip.  Walk closely with me here…

In wrestling with my history (difficult relationships, failures, sloth and stagnation, abuses of others and indiscretions, seemingly ‘dead’ ends,…), I have looped back and tied up and seen connections that were not clear then.  I can see how frustrations then, initiated these revelations…now.

For example, the memory of intense longing that I felt (in my 20s and 30s) at the doorway of a bookstore, informs me now of the importance of intuition…but also of proper timing.  (“Yes, but not now.”)  The perceived import and relevance of the knowledge, insights, and wisdom to be imparted by those books, only makes sense to me now; only now am I ready to read those books; only now do I have the hooks to hang the insights from.  All, in good time.

In fact, I take comfort in that memory; I see the longing then to have been evidence of my being drawn along…all along. We are not puppets of God in this Universe, we have free will, but neither are we left totally alone to figure it all out.  We get help.

Oh, and those deviations and lungings off the path, they were not ‘wasted’ time but times of information gathering, insight development, and even anecdote material…for future use. Had I not been through dark nights and prodigal journeys, I would have no knowledge of such things…I would not know that terrain…no way to relate to those who have such nights and take such journeys and who need my steadying evidence of survival.  (“I got through it and learned from it and you will, too.”)

Throughout my dark nights and times of desiring to end my life, I had a sense that “this doesn’t make sense; I know this is not where I should be…where I belong.  I want to go home.”  Suicide seemed to be the only way to get home.  But then I received messages…so many messages…that the only way to get there from here is THROUGH.

Looking back, I see that it was in the THROUGH that I picked up all the ‘tools’ I would need to be of use to others on the other side of it…tools like strength and stamina, faith and trust in what I could not see, anecdotes and stories of others who have shared their stories of their own journeys…stories heard and shared in mental hospitals, even language and jargon…and those books.

I have been wrong to criticize and condemn people…particularly young people…for playing video games hours and hours at a time…particularly the ones where the character gains experience points and gathers tools along the way.  I sat through hours of knitting while my boyfriend and his friends played Dungeons and Dragons.  I thought it was stupid.  I have been concerned about the days my son has spent playing digital versions of the same sort of thing.  But I have been wrong.

Teaching kids that we benefit from experience…especially ‘failure’…and to look out for tools, messages from bystander, signs,… that might be useful later on, is valuable in helping them get through this life…and not just ‘get’ through this life, but ‘gain’ from this life.  Our lives are about more than just our lives.  (By the way, don’t tell my son, but I have been reading Fallout Equestria.  Does that make me a ‘mom-ony?’)

Finally, a friend and I have been sharing how we have often said, concerning our hard dark times, “I would not wish it on my worst enemy.”  Life is damned hard and the ‘richest’ of lives is not for the faint of heart.  I suspect that those who experience the worst sorts of journeys, are meant to do so.  I, myself, believe that I asked for it…that I requested it; I did so intentionally because without my hard times I would be of little use to others, now.

When the Heart is Ready

Sometimes I read something and there is no purchase.  Know what I mean?  The hooks aren’t in place or I have yet to have ‘taken the prerequisite?”

Last night I started rereading The Meaning of Mary Magdalene by Cynthia Bourgeault. In Chapter 4 of TM3, “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene,” I ‘got it’ at a level I hadn’t before. Here are some notes I took and my thoughts on them:

p.46 (bottom) – Jesus: “find contentment at the level of the heart, and if you are discouraged, take heart in the presence of the Image of your true nature.”  I receive that as instruction…and as significant as if it were one of Jesus’ commandments.  A few thoughts:  1) it reminds me of something my priest said at the beginning of my desire to ‘return’ to God.  I had said, “I’m not sure I believe,” and he replied, “For now, just know that your friends and I believe enough for you.” In other words, trust that there is more connecting you and securing you than just your sense of your faith.

2) It points out the REASON for habitual contemplation and centering prayer…to reinforce one’s dwelling at the level of the heart.  Abide there and find contentment there.  (Again…my profound grasp of the obvious.) and 3) Back in 1979, several things happened: I graduated from college, my sister suffered her stroke in Germany and was moved to DC after her surgery, I chose to go to DC to help care for her rather than go to grad school.  While in DC, I became interested in Christian faith and theology.  I read a lot of CS Lewis, at first.  I also read some deeper theologians (Karl Barth, was one) but I’m not sure who I was reading that addressed this same concept of the presence of one’s Image in another realm and the importance of being aligned with it.  I recall waking in the wee hours because I heard the ‘heavenly host’ singing; they were rejoicing in my spiritual ‘turning’ or arriving or in-turning.  I’ve always referred to that experience as my ‘being saved,’ if I was ever asked about being ‘saved.’

p.47 Jesus: “the Son of Humanity already exists within you.  Follow him, for those who seek him there will find him.”  I wrote in the word “in” after the instruction to “Follow him” because it behooves me (and might behoove others) to realize that He is not saying to walk the paths of the Holy Lands or even my neighborhood, but to follow Him inward because I will find Him there…within me.  It is not so much ‘What would Jesus DO?’ as it is ‘How did Jesus BE ?’  He, too, went inward.  He dwelt inward.  He abided inward.

p.47 Jesus: “do not lay down any further rules.”  I don’t think the “lest you…” is even necessary.

Jeff Foster, in his podcast with Sounds True, described how to discover one’s true nature by honoring what ‘comes up’…what one feels (pain, fear, anger,…).  By allowing and respecting one’s feelings and reactions, one opens them to the elements and one’s clutching of them dissipates.  You own it….and that’s all.  It goes.  No struggle, no force, no clutch, not really any striving.  When the cap is released and the fumes dissipate, one’s true nature is all that remains and one is able to ‘rest,’ as he put it.  This…sans fumes…is one’s true nature…one’s origin or at least one’s transmitted or analogue Image.  ..how one is.

p.48  CB relates: “…ignorance of one’s true nature, is to blame for the suffering of this world.  Acting in ways that are ‘adulterous in nature’ (stems from) a failure to stay in alignment with origin…with the ‘root’ of one’s nature.”  …again, the REASON for frequent and habitual contemplation and the regular practice of centering prayer.

Patience and Thinking in Deep Geologic Time

This morning, Mark Nepo reminds me of Lao-Tzu’s wisdom:

I have just three things to teach
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These are your greatest treasures. 

Patience with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.

Nepo elaborates:

Fear wants us to act too soon.  But patience, hard as it is, helps us to outlast our preconceptions.  This is how tired soldiers, all out of ammo, can discover through their inescapable waiting that they have no reason to hurt each other.”  

Given enough time, most of our enemies cease to be enemies, because waiting allows us to see ourselves in them.

Richard Rohr, in this morning’s meditation, puts today’s political tensions in similar perspective:

I know the situation in the world can seem dark today. We are seeing theological regression into fundamentalist religions which believe all issues can be resolved by an appeal to authority (hierarchy or Scripture) and so there is no need for an inner life of prayer. In the United States we have seen the rolling back of a compassionate economic system and the abandonment of our biblical responsibility for the poor, the sick, and refugees. Fear and anger seem to rule our politics and our churches. We see these same things in many parts of the world.

The negative forces are very strong, and the development of consciousness and love sometimes feels very weak. But a “Great Turning” is also happening, as believed and described in many ways by such people as Teilhard de Chardin. There is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness.

The Apostle Paul has a marvelous line: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). In so many places, there are signs of the Holy Spirit working at all levels of society. The church might well have done its work as leaven because much of this reform, enlightenment, compassion, and healing is now happening outside the bounds of organized religion. Only God gets the credit.

The toothpaste is out of the tube. There are enough people who know the big picture of Jesus’ thrilling and alluring vision of the reign of God that this Great Turning cannot be stopped. There are enough people going on solid inner journeys that it is not merely ideological or theoretical anymore. This is a positive, nonviolent reformation from the inside, from the bottom up. The big questions are being answered at a peaceful and foundational level, with no need to oppose, deny, or reject. I sense the urgency of the Holy Spirit, with over seven billion humans on the planet. There is so much to love and so much suffering to share in and heal.

So how are we to be patient if so much is wrong?  By keeping today in perspective of a long view of mankind and by tending to our own “solid inner journeys.”  Krista Tippett, also guided by Teilhard, shares in Becoming Wise:  An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, that he foresaw that the “realm of human intelligence, information, and action…like the Internet…would drive the next stage of evolution–an evolution of spirit and consciousness.”

Tippett makes clear, however, that “Teilhard thought in slow, deep, geologic time, and so must we.  A long view of time can replenish our sense of ourselves and the world.  We are in the adolescence of our species, not by any measure in full possession of our powers.  The twenty-first-century globe resembles the understanding we now have of the teenage brain:  dramatically uneven; immensely powerful and creative at times and in places, reckless and destructive in others.”

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Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening is an excellent guide book for one’s “solid inner journey.”

Richard Rohr’s daily meditations are solid gold wisdom found at Meditations@cac.org .

I’ve just started Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise, but it looks to be the exact book I need to be reading right now.

My thanks to Ansel Adams for beautifully depicting visually, the massive stable strength that stands behind all of what we know as life.  Also, my eternal thanks to Lao-Tsu.

Delayed Gratification – not what you think

I have not always appreciated the value and merit of my hard life. But with 20/20 hindsight, I can see that God has been answering my prayers…all along the way.  I find myself now in a place of honor.

The beauty is that I can stand toe-to-toe with scientists, professionals, bureaucrats, and managers; I have been all those things. I can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with single mothers, divorced women, abusive / neglectful parents, persecuted Christians, even the promiscuous because I have been them.  Now, I can look in the eyes of customers who are missing teeth, wear worn-out clothing, and are buying cheap food with EBT cards and show them ‘knowing love’ and compassion; my smile is genuine.  I can sit with patience as the crippled man and the one with slow speech get to the parts of their stories where the true deep wisdom of life comes out.  I am one with them because I am truly one of them. The ‘crazy’ woman in the doctor’s office is no different from me except that she is at a bad place in her illness and is unmedicated.

To be no better off than anyone around me is a truly privileged place to be.  I am never embarrassed by their poverty or uncomfortable with their conditions.  I sit easy in the DSS or Social Security offices because I belong there.  Jesus was able to break bread with the tax collectors and prostitutes because He was one with God.  For me, though, it took a lifetime of abuse, neglect, mistreatment, and illness.  But I had prayed for that…sort of.

When I was a teenager, I prayed for the wisdom that scripture said was so valuable.  I also prayed to have a mastery of words so that I might be able to heal and to help people understand life and to get along.  Then I forgot that I had prayed for all of this.  Thank God, God did not forget.

So, here I am. God has been answering my prayers for the past 61.8 years.  And God is not done with me yet.