Posted in Musings and Reflections

A Hidden Life – Why I’m Leaving Facebook

Recently I had the privilege of attending a pre-showing of the movie “A Hidden Life.” To say that I was profoundly affected would be an understatement. I sense that there will be other changes occurring in my life as I continue to reflect on the quiet faith and conviction of an Austrian farmer, yet there is one that I feel I must make in the new year.

That change is to leave Facebook, at least the public, manually posting part. (My PeaceGrooves and Lyndaker Inlay pages will update automatically when I post to my blogs for now I think, but I will not be maintaining them or overally obsessing about visits, comments, etc).

I have appreciated connecting and re-connecting with many folks I have known over the years. I have been encouraged by comments and likes for various posts or endeavors I have shared.

Yet I have also been frustrated by the tendency for folks to engage in online discussions that are really not very productive or to present opinions that they otherwise would not dare to do so face to face. In other words, there seems to be a greater appreciation of the relationship, lack of ego as it were, when one does not have the distance the internet provides. There is also an illusion of it being a safe place to share anything when the reality is, it is anything but.

There is a moment near the end of the first Highlander movie when the main character states that with his new powers, if he is quiet, he can hear the thoughts of everyone in the world. As much as I would love to, I can’t, nor can I keep up with the lives of my friends on Facebook. I’m not the Highlander. Nor am I God. I cannot nor should I strive to be omnipresent. And it can be overwhelming at times looking into the rather strange window that persons choose to present on FB. As much as I feel I have something to share too, there is quite a cacophony out there, with a plethora of voices competing to be heard, and so, as difficult as it may be, I am going to remove one voice, my own, from the noise.

I began by limiting the notifications I received, even at the cost of missing birthdays. Still I found myself succumbing to the temptation to visit FB. I continue to be in the process of limiting all of my notifications, because I am realizing that my everyday life is constantly being interrupted and my ability to remain attentive is subverted by the distractions. I have yet to find a notification, however important, that fits the definition of “the one necessary thing.” I must ask myself if I am growing more receptive to the still small voice that calls me from my cave (internet cafe?) or less so as a result.

The older I get, the more I realize that I am on borrowed time, and there is no substitute for real rather than virtual interactions with people. If I am honest with myself I have fallen into the illusion of connection that FB presents. I must also confess that I have sought out validation based on responses or lack thereof to my posts. And I must ask myself if my online presence is truly Christlike or is it quite frankly about feeding my ego?

I must admit that I spend way too much time online. Am I happier as a result? I don’t think so. I also wonder if some of my discontentment is fostered by my scrolling through FB posts. I did see a survey awhile back that stated that folks who left FB were less informed, but happier. Am I the only one obsessed with information, suffering within the paradox of sensory overload yet never getting enough? And do I really want to keep giving away pieces of myself and my loved ones to the internet giants?

Part of this is about taking my life back. Like Pavlov’s dog, I have been well trained. And similarily, no matter how much I salivate, the bell, however loud, is no substitute for real food.

I’m not withdrawing from the world. Rather I hope to be more fully engaged in the world….the real one. I seek less face-time or Face-book, and more face to face. I invite anyone to visit or give me a call. My line and door will always be open.

Or feel free to comment here or zip me an email. I do intend to continue to explore contemplative writing as long as it does not feed the ego and remains prayer, which requires much practice. To that end, I have found blogging quite helpful. Again I welcome your responses and reflections here now and for future posts.

I hope to do more longer length writing. Perhaps on paper like I used to and not so much on the screen. I’ll keep working with my hands. I’ll still have an online presence I think but I want to be fully open to the possibility that perhaps I should have none.

Other changes are in the wind I think as I continue to reflect on what it means to live A (more) Hidden Life.

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Community

I am a man among a sharp-edged people
with corners like the rocks
that made this
mountain,
scattered on the slopes all the
way down past Hog Run,
tumbling through the
baptismal silt
to the Shenandoah
and beyond.

They are smooth by then,
worn by water and
collective abrasions,
banging,
bumping,
knocking against each
other on the
journey.

I am not enamored with edges.
I prefer more subtle curves with their
laughing reminisces.
I want the joy of the end
without the pain of the
sharing that makes
stones smooth.

O for the grace to be content
in the midst of this angry splashing of
love where I am learning to be at best
an awkward swimmer.

(Written January 14, 2006, reposted from July 2011)

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Poet In A Coma: For My Friend Alan

When they cut out the tumor,
they took some of you with it.
But we were grateful because most of you remained.
You were still among us and we got to be with you.
They did not take your gentle spirit and the words tumbling forth
like a soothing stream after the rain.
They could not cut out the poetry from your brain.

So each year we listened and we were blessed.
Tomorrow never guaranteed,
each day and each new word from you a precious gift,
so quickly lost in a fall in the darkness.

Did you know we would find you in the night lying across the
broken sidewalk that brought you down?
Did you hear our songs and poetry as we gathered around your bed?
Did you hear us praying in a circle in the wooded place where you wandered and
where so many poems came to your head?

It makes me sad that I cannot hear the
wonderful words running through your mind.
But I know that they are there,
you softly whispering them into the ears of the Divine.

October 29, 2007

Posted in Musings and Reflections

Making It Personal -Annoyance As Inner Educator

Inevitably, today you will be annoyed. If not, then perhaps you are not where you need to be.

What do I mean? It is simply this. Adversity teaches best. As the Dalai Lama put it; “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”

Or as Jesus said; “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?

If all I do is regurgitate the rantings of others I agree with then I am simply a “ringing gong or a clanging cymbal,” void of love. Rigid beliefs remain so when I only interact with like-minded individuals.

It is fear that keeps me from those different than me. In this day and age, with the rampant divisiveness that seems to permeate our society, it is imperative that we be a “crossover people.”

Wall building is easy. Building bridges less so. Finding the common ground takes tenacity, patience, and the willingness to see past the fortresses that we have erected around our hearts.

Statistics and facts can be used and abused to justify any position. But more often than not they simply depersonalize the issue. We forget that every issue is really about people. People whose lives and hopes and dreams are every bit as important as mine or yours.

So hopefully today someone will annoy you. And even more so, may you have eyes to see the reason why and ears to hear the still small voice that prods you to respond with compassion.

Let’s make this personal.

Midweek essays occur every Wednesday. See the publication schedule for more details.

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Smith’s “Pray for Me”

it is gray and rainy today
i can see it in your eyes,
hear it running down the glass
pain
think of the times we shared before
the tears
days like today
together
and less murky days
i want to hold you
to cross this frustrating
distance
bridge the silence
silence not from lack of words
speaking
never saying
what we really feel
silence
i step through the door
into the gray world again
song playing softly in my mind

April 5, 1989

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Buzz

Conversations spin on in the night without me.
They rumble in rooms I know not how to enter
and gather like sticky strands high up in dusty corners
where the wall and ceiling meet.

Caught up in the buzz, I hover above,
listening but not hearing the murmuring sound,
a fly with one shriveled ear and no compound eyes
torn between the almost-but-not-quite-lucid-word and the know.

I tremble on the web but the spider doesn’t seek me.
She remains in her lair to watch and to wait,
refrains from the poison bite while I am left to
wander among the cocooned carcasses of friends
blind and alone.

Written November 23, 1996 while at a Men’s Retreat

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Five Minutes Until Ten

We gather here to make decisions
but also to laugh as well,
to share in the delight of this joyful endeavor
we are privileged to do together.
Outside dark thunder,
here we bask in the quiet light of smiles.

In this place where we are meeting
an antique clock on the wall is stuck at
5 minutes until 10.
The residents do not know why.
Only that time has stopped.

And so I imagine it has.
Drink in this moment,
feel the warmth of wine and
commonality way down deep
in the belly of my
contentment.

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree (Poems)

Carabiner

This cable which has caught F-16s on
aircraft carriers and kept them from
careening into the sea is now the
keeper of me.

The 40 feet of space between you and
I is filled with nothing but air and
your words which hold me like a
carabiner.

I am suspended in the web of your
encouragement and love. If I needed to
decide between these wires and you and
I was given a choice, I would choose
your voice.

December 11, 2003

Posted in Longreads and Essays

The Complex of a Thousand Eyes

Eye Window by kmlsI am a mirror.
I reflect exactly what I feel a person thinks of me.

I am always sensitive to the people around me, constantly being distracted, when perhaps conversing with one person, or even when I am alone, by thoughts of another, brought on by sight mostly. In the classroom, in the cafeteria, while walking to and from class, when I feel the presence of someone I may or may not know near me (out of the corner of my eye), my thoughts quickly turn to that person. I become that person and try to see me through their eyes. What do they think about me? And so I try to act what I think they see me as and if I don’t feel they see me as “good,” I will talk loudly so they can hear. I don a quick masquerade to raise, or even lower me in their eyes, to put forth an image of falseness.

To those whom I wish to open myself to, I do. To those I do not, I do not. But it all depends on how they see me. I am like a looking glass, clearing long enough sometimes to allow brief glimpses of the real me, someone I don’t even know, but remaining cloudy, murky, most of the time. This is so I can play my little game of mockery, of flitting to an fro from extremes, not allowing anyone to put a handle on me, to point to one description and say that is me. By becoming for a moment the person they see me as, I give them a false impression of who I am and so the game goes on. It is a form of protection. The lie is that I am manipulating, mocking, them, when in actuality I am allowing them to manipulate me, to constantly live a life of masquerade, a lie.

It is a complex. To feel wherever I walk seemingly thousands of eyes watching my every move like buzzards waiting for the kill so that when one false move is made they will pounce upon me in my weakness. Perhaps this is a very dim view of my fellow peers, but as a mirror, I wonder if I am not reflecting what many other people, even you, feel. Can you feel them like live coals burning into your back? It is the old fear of the unknown. Not knowing what if anything a person is thinking of me. So I try to figure it out and in panic put on a masquerade of indifference, of ignorance, of not giving a damn, when in actuality my very life depends on it. Every fiber of my being cries out for the acceptance of others, to be seen as I really am: a man who has been hurt and who wants to break the barriers of his own hurt, to see and help the hurting of others.

This is a result of being mocked as a child, of being broken down unmercifully, until all that remained was my pride which is like unto a monster now, self-conceit to build myself up, to admire myself because I feel no one else does. That is the dilemma, the never ending circle. For nothing turns off the acceptance of other people more than being obnoxious, indifferent or self-conceited. These monsters which cloud the vision of myself to others must be slain and the glass must clear to reveal a weak, bleeding heart that will only thrive and be hurt in the world outside. This must be done soon or like all mirrors in time this one will soon crack and shatter into a thousand little pieces from which no one, not even God, can piece back together.

Or perhaps it is this brokenness which leads to healing. Is it a lack of faith in the creative power of the Almighty to say that He cannot mend the pieces of a shattered life? There must be release from the Complex of a Thousand Eyes and, Lord, if that means to be shattered where nothing within is hidden and my true self is revealed, weak and unprotected, then so be it. Lord, I am willing.

My God, I hope I am willing.

Journal Entry – March 2, 1987, 4:30pm