Train of Thought

I find it interesting what inspires my thoughts, recollections, reflections, or insights. Susan and I watched the movie Inside Out recently. You know the recent Pixar animated movie? ere's the trailer. If you are looking for a family friendly good time, I would recommend it. Susan and I laughed out loud several times, and enjoyed it more than a little. Welcome to today’s journey down the rabbit hole.

As many of you are aware, I am reading a lot lately and my brain seems to be running most of the time. Running enough that someone I have come to trust may have very subtly suggested that I attempt to quiet it, or at least that I should consider the value of quieting the mind. Well played - something I may have to work on soon. In the meantime, I have been latching onto ideas and themes in the variety of books, articles, interviews, podcasts, and movies that I have been consuming. My recent favorite is the idea of `both... and` in stark contrast to the commonly used `either... or`. It came to me from a book I am slowly reading titled Falling Upward: A spirituality for the two halves of life by Richard Rohr. 

Both you loyal readers and long-time friends and family (I know some of you liked that) recognize that this could be the first you hear me write about spirituality. I make no promises about what is to come in this post or future posts, but I bring it up with great trepidation. I am by no means an authority or expert on spirituality (though who is?). Honestly, I feel that I know very little about my own spirituality and faith, but they are something I am working on. Today I am discussing this simply because it is related to the human experience I am in the mood to share.

 Getting up on weekends to Skype does afford me this morning view on a regular basis... It seems I cannot help but take a photo all the time.

Getting up on weekends to Skype does afford me this morning view on a regular basis... It seems I cannot help but take a photo all the time.

The both...and idea is something that appeals to me greatly, and seems to come from an inherently human approach to people, the world, and life. To me it encompasses a step beyond the gray areas, to a new (maybe even a more adult) way for me to view and accept reality. Accepting and encouraging the favorable aspects of myself and others, while recognizing at the same moment we are all battling our demons. Recognizing and coming to terms with the irreconcilable contradictions inherent in life. For instance, I am both selfless for coming to volunteer and selfish because I have temporarily abandoned a lot of friends and family to satisfy my own needs and desires.

The both...and idea is compelling to me because it helps me come to terms with a few things that pushed me away from religion/spirituality in the first place. Coming to terms with these items seems long overdue as well.

    1) People who treated others very poorly throughout the week and appeared to be the most devout Christians. 

    2) The fact that I constantly sin and make mistakes, sometimes desire to remain a sinner, and also want to be a better person. Yes -  I often feel unworthy and unforgivable.

For lack of better terms in this moment and most moments, I am both good and bad, which is okay. I already knew that, but it is cool to hear that it is kind of normal. If I keep working at it, perhaps God can be more than my conscience, judge, and deliverer of punishment (i.e. someone whom probably does not like me). He can be both that and my friend, traveling companion, encouragement, courage, and a whole lot more. Richard Rohr also discusses how this is a more adult view or relationship with your creator. See, I am becoming an adult. I knew it, just in time for my 36th Birthday!

Instead of everything and everyone being one dot on the black, white, gray spectrum, we are in multiple places at all times. But even those points are contextualized by the viewer (ourselves or people we come contact with). Like the whistle of a train, depending whether a bystander is ahead, next to, or behind it, the sound heard is actually different than what is being sounded. We sound off notes, but what is heard depends completely on the context of whomever is hearing it. The hard part is to try and remember that, and I guess the that here is, we are not in control.

  Sometimes this guy is in control. He pulled our raft (the thatch covered hut in the distance) out to an anchor in  the lake. Don't worry, every travel doctor recommends fresh water swimming in Thailand.

 Sometimes this guy is in control. He pulled our raft (the thatch covered hut in the distance) out to an anchor in  the lake. Don't worry, every travel doctor recommends fresh water swimming in Thailand.

The both...and initially jumped out at me as I thought the movie nailed (spoiler alert) the inherent need of joy for sorrow, as well as delivering a salient, kind, and progressive view of depression. Riley`s inability to feel anything, neither sorrow nor joy and how that impacted her decision making seems like a good perspective for children (and adults for that matter) to learn,. Just a small glimpse of what one type of mental illness might look or feel like.

Another part of the movie that I thought was creative, but also based in reality, was how some of the memories turned from joyful to sorrowful. The movie mentions how, over time, joyful memories of our childhood fade and are dumped from our memory banks. As we age, many of us become less in-tune with the feeling of joy when we think back to those happy childhood memories. The memories are missing that emotional connection that sustained us, they are lackluster. If you know Susan, you know someone who is the opposite of that person. A person who is a joy to be around because she connects with joy on a youthful and enviable level. I often laugh at her because I have lost enough of that connection that I can hardly empathize. However, I am happy she is resilient enough to ignore my teasing, because her joy is contagious. 

The movie does not make mention this, but another reason we start to lose joy is that we remember our memories wrongly. There is increasing research about the inaccuracy of our memories, Click for a short blog article that sites research from the Journal of Neuroscience and Northwestern that is very readable.. When many of us face difficult times, we unconsciously rewrite portions of our personal history, in a way that suits and often perpetuates our current feelings or predominate mood. I remember my ability to dwell in and draw upon so many negative life experiences after I was laid-off in 2008. A string of difficult times can lead to a significant amount of misremembered past and the destruction of the things we rely on for coping. For many of us, we are lucky enough to have close friends and loved ones to correct us when we remember things wrongly or to ensure that we know we are loved and supported as we struggle on (the support network).

As I intimated in my childish tantrum of a thanksgiving post about my broken cell phone - for those who are not lucky enough to have friends and family, I am glad there is the Good Shepherd Sisters and other groups trying to make sure no one has to navigate this life without any resources and anyone who loves them.


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