Just Get Living

“Just Keep Livin,” was a notion from David Wooderson, Matthew McConaughey’s character from the movie “Dazed and Confused.” The motto struck McConaughey so much that he named his foundation after it. I have dug it as a way of going about life–you struggle, you fall down, if you are lucky enough to get back up, just keep livin. You have great moments, you celebrate, you drink it in, just keep livin. What else can you do?

But what if you get to a point in life, you come to a crossroads, you have an awakening of some sort, and you look at life differently? What if you wake up to a revelation you can’t go back from? You are compelled to do something. You have to act.

Our destiny is to live out what we think, because unless we live what we know, we do not even know it. It is only by making our knowledge part of ourselves, through action, that we enter into the reality that is signified by our concepts. – Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”

You can know something all you want, right down into your very being, but unless you act on it, act in accordance with it, unless it means enough to live it, what do you really have?

Thought and life, thought and action, need to be aligned. They need to have each other’s back, to prove one another. It can be a feedback loop:

Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. – Merton

2016-oct-cove-sunrise

I would venture to say, if you live in an area where you grew up, and you love life, you are tapping into something like experiencing new things in the old and old in the new. Coming at something familiar with fresh eyes is huge for me.

Let’s get back to action. We are a society whose actions don’t line up with our words. We see it in churches, politics, sports, schools, you name it. We are all guilty of it to some extent. But we can do something about it in our own lives.

I’ve been pretty good at thinking elevated thoughts, finding and mining great experiences outside, or as a father;  having moments, minor epiphanies that leave me reeling; riding that stoke, maybe writing it down, on to the next. Surely they are moments to be savored, to carry with us, to seek out.

Then I come to a place in life, where things look different. Things feel different. Life the way it was falls apart, shakes to pieces. And a new life is opened up–opened up and connected, or uncovered to be part of something bigger. Like I’ve been given the gift of a new way of seeing and being. If I do nothing with that, if I put it on a shelf to come back to later, or I just keep living the same way, and sit on it, then what do I know differently? What have I done with the gift?

The spiritual life if first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived. – Merton

When you know things to be different than they were, it is no longer okay to just keep living. It’s more a matter to just get living.

There’s a funny thing about an awakening where God is concerned. That kind of awakening is not a matter of: go to church, be good, color inside the lines and everything will be okay. Anybody can do that and churches are full of people who like that safe approach to spirituality: follow the rules, keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times. It’s comfortable, reassuring.

Look back at the lives that the early prophets lived, the life that Jesus lived, the lives the disciples lived. Did they play it safe? Not so much.

The prophets, too, were a wild bunch. They had to be because they were the spokespeople of a wild God, a God who didn’t care much about temples and offerings but who cared a lot about the way people were treated and the opening of the human heart. – Richard Rohr, “From Wild Man to Wise Man”

In my mind, any kind of spiritual life is not about playing it safe, but following, being led by the spirit, or more specifically, the Holy Spirit working through us. The opening of the human heart. And that can be some scary stuff. But it’s when and where the adventure begins. It’s where it gets good. It’s open eyes, new eyes, wide eyes, looking down a path, taking it all in, and walking it to see where it goes.

2016-oct-harper-wye

Hold on, what’s different? I’ve walked paths, walked and run trails for years? What’s new? The difference is a new understanding: it’s not about me, or my walk specifically. I’m not just randomly picking paths. I’m trying to go where I am led, called, and trust it, trust God. I’m not setting out down a path I would have chosen or thought about prior to now. I’m trying to act on thoughts that I don’t exactly know how they came to me.

Wisdom is God Himself, living in us, revealing Himself to us only in so far as we live it. – Merton

I’m trying to wise up. And just get living.

The Head, the Hand, and the Heart

I don’t know much about John Ruskin. But maybe he knew something about living. Ruskin said:

Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.

I’m not so much worried about fine art as about living fully, deeply, integrated, connected to God. And I’ve been thinking about when you get two of three of those things–the head, the hand, and the heart.

In church we’ve been talking about the head (beliefs) and the hand (actions) going together. If you believe something, truly believe it and hold it to be important, then your actions should show it. That seems wholly true to me. If your actions don’t show your beliefs, what good are your beliefs? But there seems to be something missing. I think it’s the heart.

If you put the head and the heart together, you get a band. One I’ve been listening to a bit lately.

the-head-and-the-heart

Their song, “Lost in My Mind” gets stuck in mine. It’s a great song. Getting lost in my mind is an easy tendency.  “Oh my brother, your wisdom is older than me.” There is a notion in the song I dig:

How’s that bricklayin’ comin?

How’s that engine runnin?

Is that bridge getting built?

Are your hand getting filled?

Won’t you tell me, my brother?

Cause there’s stars

up above

We can start

moving forward

It’s that notion of work versus dreams. You are working, making a living, but are you filling your heart, your soul, with the good stuff? The wonders of the Universe. The deeper aspects of life that we miss entirely if we don’t pay attention: raising kids; watching a sunrise on the beach with someone you love; playing an instrument; staring at the stars; writing a book; whatever it is that fills your heart.

But if you have just your head and your heart, you are missing your hand: you are holding your dreams, but not acting on them. Not trying to build them.

It’s not easy to yoke those three things together and drive them forward. For me, thinking and dreaming come easy. It’s building that takes work and effort. And attention.

At 44 years old, I’m not one to let go of dreams. As a father, I’m not about to wildly chase a dream that doesn’t help, include, or provide for my girls. A conundrum? Maybe.

Sooner or later, if we’re lucky, we come to learn a pretty big lesson: it’s not all about me. Though I try to shape them, use them, and do the best I can with them, I didn’t make or create my head, my heart, or my hands. I have to admit there are bigger things, bigger hands, hearts, and minds at work than mine. And if I want to put mine out there and try to make something of them, it requires a couple things: faith and risk.

I get a daily e-mail to contemplate every morning from Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest, Christian mystic, founder of the Center for Contemplation and Action. This morning’s musings came together like this:

This is probably why Jesus praised faith and trust even more than love. It takes a foundational trust to fall or to fail–and not to fall apart. Faith alone holds you while you stand waiting and hoping and trusting. Then, and only then, will deeper love happen. It’s no surprise at all that in English (and, I am told, in other languages as well) we speak of “falling” in love. I think falling is the only way to get to authentic love. None would go freely, if we knew ahead of time what love is going to ask of us. Very human faith lays the necessary foundation for the ongoing discovery of love. Have no doubt though: great love is always a discovery, a revelation, a wonderful surprise, a falling into “something” much bigger and deeper that is literally beyond us and larger than us.

We need our heads–our thoughts and our beliefs. We need our hands–our actions. And we need our heart–love, passion. And love is something that goes beyond us, is bigger than us, involves a letting go, a surrender; involves faith; involves God.

I’ve still got more questions than I’ll ever have answers. But I like to think about living life the way Ruskin describes fine art. And I like to think of giving my head, hand, heart, over to faith, to love, to God, and trying to build dreams, to build life, with a little Help.

2016 Hammock Swing

 

* The photo at the top came from Living Outdoor. It represents something of a dream for me–living and writing outside in the woods, in a simple cabin.