Day Five of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

What’s In Your Heart?

Not having much time to write for this space today, I thought I could come up with a short list of suggestions around developing the kind of life to live, according to one’s visions and ideals. But at least for me, it’s a bit more complicated than “First, turn on the dreamin’—let it rip!”


Brazilian guitarist, singer, songwriter Jorge Ben’s Big Ben album, 1965.

That’s because until quite recently, I hadn’t given myself permission to dream. So, from childhood on, I’d get little snippets of visions, important, yet incoherent.

But that’s the funny thing about humans: Whether we give ourselves permission or not, we are primed to dream. But we can dream in a laissez faire way or we can be deliberate about it.

And because I’m not liking the either/or, black/white feel of that last sentence, I’ll add that I sense there’s a third way that combines easy-going and more deliberate approaches. Maybe this example’s not an exact match, but it’s like when you’re driving and you keep the gas steady—not too much, not too little, and you’re just moving along and actually, from behind the wheel, can notice those peace eagles waiting for the sun and the warmth to help dry their wings or the way the sky looks on a clear day in March just as the willows are starting to leaf out. Too much laissez faire, the dreams come, but may be incoherent and disconnected. Too much deliberate, I suspect, and we feel a bit pinched in our dreaming. Combine them and we get a directed ease.

All my life, I’ve been aiming for an internal consistency. Perhaps it is already there, within, and like Michelangelo, my only task is to learn to discern it and chip away all that keeps it hidden. Yet my own tastes feel so completely eclectic. Maybe I made a contract with myself in the “life between lives” to be all-out eclectic in this one. Could I have predicted when I was five and listening to my parents’ and siblings’ 45s, ranging from Mary Ford and Les Paul to the Ohio Players, that today I’d be trying to learn Jorge Ben’s “Patapatapata’” in Portuguese? No way, though I know the five-year-old me would embrace the endeavor; she loves Jorge Ben.

Maybe besides enjoying a diversity of tastes, it helps me forge links with people with whom I’d otherwise have apparently little in common. If I’ve made any “mistake” in this so far, it’s not learning enough about the arts and philosophies of those in my own background—my ancestors. But there’s still time.

This desire for diversity burns in my heart and I imagine it’s latent in everyone’s. Otherwise, why would we humans have such a large range in our sense of appreciation for “other”?

So, my only suggestion here is to go try something you think doesn’t interest you. You like metal? Listen to Mahler. You like ancient Greek art? Look at some paintings by Alex Katz. Can’t stand being outside?…You get the idea. You don’t have to hike the Appalachian Trail; visiting a local park will do.

Feel some trepidation? Good. Sit with it. Notice where you feel it in your body. Take some belly breaths. See how you feel. The point here isn’t to develop some newfound loves—but if you do, that’s good—but to expand your range.

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