Tag Archives: writing

Words, titles, and sounds…

Oh no, I’ve said too much.
I haven’t said enough.” 
~Michael Stipe
Losing My Religion

So these writings (ramblings) began sort of as notes to myself…a way to record, aknowledge, and even monitor myself as I attempt to simplify my life. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I should share what I do…if my sometimes seemingly aimless and meandering words will be of interest or even any meaning to anyone but me. But still I do it, and I’m not sure why. Sometimes it just has to come out. Anyhow, here’s another story, and a rather personal one.

One year ago today I was standing in front of an altar and in front of about 1500 people, along with 60 of my classmates, at Riverside Church in NYC. We were graduating from a two year seminary program from One Spirit Learning Alliance. The director of the program announced each one of us to the public, and when she said my name it gave me goosebumps; it was the first time I heard someone say, the Reverend Joe George. I can still feel the moment deeply when I recall it.

I recall the moment so deeply not because of the title. I’ve always found titles a bit silly, and have in fact recently taken a job where for the first time in 26 years my job title is cook, not chef (but more on that later). The reason I was so moved at that very moment is that I was so proud of myself and my classmates for having completed the program. Many of the students lived in the NYC area, some attended class part-time and via webinar, and others—like myself—commuted to the city for one weekend each month.

Mostly I entered seminary for personal reasons and being an ordained minister was not the main reason. I was so proud of myself because I had managed to do this while working full-time as a chef. I almost didn’t enroll and flip-flopped about it for a couple years before actually doing so. And I can still remember the day when I sat in meditation questioning it and was told (not through a voice but intuition…an inner voice) that if I really wanted to do this I could, that doors would be opened. And they were.

And so, as I stood in the front of that incredibly awe-inspiring church one year ago today I was both exhilarated and exhausted. Twenty-two trips to NYC (mostly by train) in twenty-four months had depleted me financially and exhausted me emotionally and spiritually. The inner work that was required of us had quite literally turned me inside out. I was raw. And while standing there hearing the director announce each one of us, and as she came closer down the row of people towards me, I glanced around at my classmates and some had tears trickling down their cheeks but we were all beaming; we were glowing.

I’m not sure what I expected after graduation. I was already middle-aged and three-decades into a culinary career when I entered the program. Did I want or expect to work as a minister in the traditional sense? No, of course not, I knew that. But I wanted this to change me and open me to new possibilities. And in many ways it has. As I’ve gotten older my priorities have changed, but I suppose this is common with a lot of people. Still though, this past year has been difficult financially, spiritually, and emotionally. But the one thing I have learned is that most things will work themselves out and that everything really will be okay, even if it doesn’t seem it at times. I’ve also come to realize that material things mean less and less to me, but experience and relationship means more (and more and more). But now I’m rambling so I’ll try to tie this together with some relevance to the above note.

The day we stood in front of everyone at the church was our graduation, but we were ordained in a private ceremony at a retreat center upstate along the Hudson two nights prior. One of our ordination requirements was to write our own vow which we would take and say aloud. We were asked to make them brief. I wanted to make it as personal as I could and my initial one was about three or four sentences, then we were asked to condense and distill them down to one sentence, two at the most. I found this to be more difficult than writing the original version. But I digress.

Two days ago I was having a rough day…nothing major, just “one of those days.” Everyone has them now-and-again, I suppose. I had gone up to my room to do a few basic asanas, which I do as a spiritual practice but mostly to relieve lower back pain. It was warm outside and I had the windows open and a fan on to create a cross-breeze. And as I was preparing for my stretches the breeze blew a piece of paper across the floor directly in front of me. I’m not sure where it came from exactly (probably from on top of one of my messy dressers) but I am convinced it was something I needed to see.

At the retreat center we were required to stand in front of everyone and speak our vows aloud to the class, our deans, and into the universe. We had to speak into a microphone, which always makes me nervous. So I wrote out my vow on a little scrap of paper so I wouldn’t forget the words out of stage fright. Words, I’ve come to think, carry so much weight when spoke aloud. The most obvious Christian example of this comes from the Gospel of John…”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and Word was God.” In Hinduism the word (sound) Om is considered the original vibration sent forth as the beginning of creation. But again I digress. 

Soon this recent day, as the scrap of paper rolled in front of me I picked it up and threw it in a small trash basket nearby. But as I did I noticed my own handwriting on it, so I retrieved it to see what it said. When I opened it I shivered. To my surprise it was the very note that held the words that I spoke aloud to the universe on that very day one year prior. Was this just a coincidence or a Jungian synchronicity? Who knows, but it certainly was something I was meant to (re)see. This scrap of paper likely sat on a dresser for a year. I’ve had the windows open and fan on many times since then, but it was at this time that it was delivered to me. I spoke those words aloud and one year later they came back as a reminder. A reminder of so many things. But mostly, I think it was meant to remind me that things do work themselves out and that everything is okay and that I (and you and all of us) are in the very spot that we are meant to be, even if we don’t realize it or if it doesn’t feel right. I’ve also come to think of life as a sort of journey—sort of like one lesson stacked on top of another—and today, just like tomorrow and the day after and the day before, are all part of that journey. 

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” 
 ~Philippians 4:8 

Urban Simplicity.

Pictures and words…

 

Fluidity

What is life?

This life?

That’s what I find myself wondering.

A series of events?

Experiences?

Relationships?

People drift in.

And they drift out.

We work.

Love.

Worry.

And like drops of water finding our way,

we eventually return.

We return to the great ocean from whence we came.

Dissolving into one.

Becoming one,

again with the great flowing source.

But this…

This very concept…

This is what we should strive for now.

That’s what I think.

What I feel.

Here and now.

But it is so difficult.

To remember.

Because we’ve simply forgotten.

Though we may seem separate,

we are still from the same source.

The same living ocean of life.

But for now we appear as droplets.

Urban Simplicity.

Pictures and words…

Fluidity

What is life?

This life?

That’s what I find myself wondering.

A series of events?

Experiences?

Relationships?

People drift in.

And they drift out.

We work.

Love.

Worry.

And like drops of water finding our way,

we eventually return.

We return to the great ocean from whence we came.

Dissolving into one.

Becoming one,

again with the great flowing source.

But this…

This very concept…

This is what we should strive for now.

That’s what I think.

What I feel.

Here and now.

But it is so difficult.

To remember.

Because we’ve simply forgotten.

Though we may seem separate,

we are still from the same source.

The same living ocean of life.

But for now we appear as droplets.

Urban Simplicity.

Advice on writing from Charles Bukowski…

Image found here.

So you want to be a writer…
if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else, forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,

don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was. 

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was. – See more at: http://allpoetry.com/So-You-Want-To-Be-A-Writer#sthash.d5SekyYn.dpuf

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was. – See more at: http://allpoetry.com/So-You-Want-To-Be-A-Writer#sthash.d5SekyYn.dpuf

Look Up! (and down and all around)

This post coincides with me coming to an end to another journal and beginning another. Why, I wonder, do I write in them…I’ve been doing it on-and-off for more than twenty-five years; I do it for myself, I suppose. Really it’s for self-preservation. But this video (below) makes me think; actually I’ve thought about this a lot lately…how we are virtually connected but not really connected at all. While I try to live simply I am still tethered to my phone or some other device daily (hourly). And it may seem odd for me to post this on my blog, as this is sort of an anti-blog post. I of course do hope that you keep visiting this little blog everyday, but I also hope that you watch this video…it’s a sort of spoken poem really. This said–and you’ll know what I mean by this after you watch the video–I’m wondering what life experiences will fill the pages of this new journal in the coming days and months.

Urban Simplicity.com

Look Up! (and down and all around)

This post coincides with me coming to an end to another journal and beginning another. Why, I wonder, do I write in them…I’ve been doing it on-and-off for more than twenty-five years; I do it for myself, I suppose. Really it’s for self-preservation. But this video (below) makes me think; actually I’ve thought about this a lot lately…how we are virtually connected but not really connected at all. While I try to live simply I am still tethered to my phone or some other device daily (hourly). And it may seem odd for me to post this on my blog, as this is sort of an anti-blog post. I of course do hope that you keep visiting this little blog everyday, but I also hope that you watch this video…it’s a sort of spoken poem really. This said–and you’ll know what I mean by this after you watch the video–I’m wondering what life experiences will fill the pages of this new journal in the coming days and months.

Urban Simplicity.com

Five (or ten) quotes from Stephen King

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

“Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

“Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

“When all else fails, give up and go to the library.”

More Five Quotes.
Urban Simplicity.
  

Five Quotes from Albert Camus

Photo found here.
7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”

“There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for.”

“Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.”

“Always go too far, because that’s where you’ll find the truth”

Two more…

“I would rather live my life as if there is a god and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.”

“Peace is the only battle worth waging.”

To read more in the five quotes series, click here.

Urban Simplicity

Five Quotes from Jack Kerouac

Image found here
Jean-Louis “Jack” Kerouac
March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969

I can say with all seriousness that the first time that I read On The Road, and later The Dharma Bums, it changed my life; changed my way of thinking. I was in college at the time (culinary school) and my mind and soul were like a sponge…ready to accept and absorb anything worthwhile that passed before me. Though I haven’t read his books in a while, Jack Kerouac’s writing has lit a fire in me that still burns. Thank you Paul Ryan for introducing me to him.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” 

“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.” 

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.” 

“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” 

OK…I know I said five quotes, but here’s a couple more.

 “The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”

 “Life must be rich and full of loving–it’s no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone.”

To read more in the Five Quotes series click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Five Quotes from Thomas Merton

Monk, activist, writer, poet, and artist, Fr. Merton was a true renaissance man. He was friends with Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama, and a contemporary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Before his untimely death he penned a huge number of books pertaining to spirituality, poems, artwork, and an incredible and moving autobiography. His work continues to touch countless souls…including the one typing these words. To read more about Thomas Merton click here or here.

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

“Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.”

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”

“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.” 

OK…I said five quotes, but here’s five more. 

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

“I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me.”

“We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.” 

“The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith.” 

“Perhaps I am stronger than I think.”

Urban Simplicity.