"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Keeping On

Last night I lay awake thinking about various and humbling new realizations, some of which were influenced by reading your many comments following my last post. I realized I was lumping too much together instead of being thoughtful. I was channeling pain instead of tempering it. Then I knew I don't get to choose. I am meant to keep writing.

An apology. I never meant to imply that the books I have written are not useful. I am proud of my books. I consider the time and money extended by anyone who has honored me by purchasing one or more of them, well spent. I am sorry if I offended anyone by linking my doubt about being blog-worthy to your good sense about reading and learning from me. Please forgive me.

So I will keep writing, and I thank you for your expressions of concern and also your hard knocks on the head. I don’t think what I felt was cynicism; more like a sort of despair about where Art and making fit in. About relevancy. Your comments buoyed and surprised me, and since I am a big girl, I will pull away from any sort of poor me mentality that might have infected my thoughts and my writing. Caroline Myss wrote something to this effect – if you avoid the news, world events, and don’t engage actively with others, you aren’t being who you were meant to be. You aren’t fulfilling your potential.

My potential includes community building. That’s what counts and that’s what we’re doing here. And we’re good at it – as your many comments prove.

Revelations come in unexpected forms. I was listening to NPR and Scott Simon told a story about two dog companions found in the rubble aftermath of the earthquake. One dog refused to leave the other until humans rescued them together. He tied this to the story of a puppy just sold to a private buyer in China for over a million dollars. The breeder called the puppy a perfect specimen. Simon queried, “Of the dogs in the two stories, which really was the perfect specimen?”

Next came a forwarded letter from my friend Edie. I asker her permission to share the letter here and it follows in its entirety, for your consideration:

“Hi everybody,
Today I received an email with this enclosed letter from a Japanese student of Zen now back in her home country. Thought you would appreciate it.

Hello My Lovely Family and Friends,

First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.

Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend's home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.

During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line-up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets.

Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, "Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another."

Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often.

We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on.

But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not. No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.

There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun.

People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time.

Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled.

The mountains of Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently.

And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others. Last night my friend's husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don't. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent. Thank you again for your care and Love of me.
With Love in return, to you all.”

Gifts in unexpected packaging. Opportunities to become perfect specimens.

Thank you for being there.

Friday, March 18, 2011

No More Blogging

The earthquake and Tsunami in Japan are another reminder of the fragility and transience of Life. I don't think I can justify the use of your time reading this blog. So I will no longer be writing it. It would be different if I had anything really useful to say.

Perhaps we should start an Anti- campaign. Anti- pointless ego driven blogs, silly Twitter exchanges and endless Facebook drivel.

I am going to try to use what time I have more wisely.

Thank you for your support and friendship.


Sunday, March 6, 2011


How to live in community without scaring people or pissing them off?

Since I last wrote a post to this blog, I’ve struggled with the question.

One of my strengths, as a first born, and basic old-fashioned know it all, is my willingness to get involved. I was raised in an environment deeply committed to faith-based action. Add to this fundamental philosophy the fact that I’ve lived in my rather run down, inner-city neighborhood twenty-four years, and have maintained a studio here for ten, and you’ll understand why I have a large emotional investment in the dozen or so blocks around me.

In the early years, it meant feeding stray cats and inviting all of the kids In. Building solidarity with my neighbors. Before I moved into this house, my air conditioning window units were stolen one night. Two years later, I knew my neighbors had my back when they rallied at 3 a.m. - scaring a potential thief away from our pickup truck.

We watched out for each other. I bailed Sylvia out of jail, fed her kids when she had to work late, and kept the homeless pantry at the church stocked. Jeff played the Father card when my daughter and two friends got into mischief during one of my out of town teaching stints.

Now all of those neighborhood children are in their twenties, and have children of their own. The oldest people on my block have died. Renters have moved into most of the homes on the street. It’s the same neighborhood, but it’s different.

Now I am the Old Guard. What a shock. Time to take stock.

So I decided to revisit the Popsicle and Bubbles Strategy. You may not be familiar with this. I’ll explain.

Twenty years ago, it was easy to win the hearts, (and get the attention) of the kids on the block by passing out popsicles and bubble wands on a regular basis. Along with the treats came requirements like using the trashcan and cleaning up after the fun. And it worked. My heart swelled with pride one New Year’s Day morning, when I went to the front window and discovered Manuel, Sabrina, Samantha, Lauren, and Zenna on the sidewalk - picking up the refuse left from our previous night’s fireworks display.

Remembering the joy of this, I decided to befriend the legion of new kids in the neighborhood. I stocked up with a dozen plastic bottles of bubbles and wands, and laid in a supply of orange, grape and cherry Popsicles.

It went pretty well with the little boys next door. Their parents remember Popsicles fondly, so it wasn’t a problem to invite Jonathan, Adam, Mark, and Joshua in for a sweet treat. They stood shyly around the open freezer, scuffling and gently elbowing each other as selections were made. They marched single file toward the front door, as I brought up the rear, encouraging them to use the trashcan on the porch. Later, they loved the bubbles, and even traded a cap gun for a fresh supply of soapy water. Ah, the innocence of a four year old.

But it didn’t go so well with the kids on Michigan Street. In fact, it was a revelation. I know a couple of the dads. We’ve shared champagne on New Year’s Day. But children are quite rightly taught to be cautious in this world, and when I stopped the car to pass containers of bubbles to the four children playing in the yard, they screamed and ran into the house as I approached. Only the oldest of the four turned back, recognized me, and slowed his pace.

“Bubbles!” I shouted, “Here are some Bubbles for you!”

The other three poked their heads around the doorjamb like nervous kittens, followed by a Grandma’s sturdy frame. She eyed me carefully, and recognized me, if only vaguely. “It’s ok.” She said to them. “We know her.”

All four sidled back toward the car, thanking me politely for the gift being offered. Slightly chagrinned, I drove slowly toward my house. Thinking about the Cycle of Life.

How foolish of me to lose track of the fact that good work is never finished. It only feels that way. In fact, we must be vigilant and keep the good works going. It's the commitment to continuing that counts.

As the old Wiccan admonishment goes:

Every day do something that is good only for you. Selfish?
No. Self possessed.
Balance it out by doing something equally good
for the benefit of all...
This will depend on your opportunities.
Only you will know what you can do.
If you are an artist use your power to be original-
to try to heal the wounds you see around you.
Everything we do needs passion to be done well.
Passion is precious. It indicates good mental health.
Use it as an important energy source all day.