Mondays with Martin: Dragon Slayers

Editor’s note: This David Martin essay dates back to 1993.  The points made here are still as important ever.  Take a look and think about your own writing.  And there are dragons out there waiting to be slayed.

* * *

By David Martin
By David Martin

It is now 3 a.m. Lightning and thunder pound my head. I am tired and can not sleep.

An awful dragon chased me for 5 ½ hours tonight. Our battle sounded like the thunder and looked like the lightning of my dreams. I heard my sword crash against the fire breathing monster’s neck, and I awoke to hear real monsters clash with Zeus’ bolts of fire in the sky.

The monster of my dreams aroused the emotional “donder and blitzen” that took place yesterday at our monthly Dragon Slayer’s meeting. Those flashes of insight and the sound of truth now stir in me to write once again.

Outside, Mother Nature’s rain falls softly. The natural thunder and lightning keep calling my attention to life’s rebirth, baptismal cleansing, and regeneration. It’s never too late to start over.

Our discussion went from patience to parking lots, nuclear holocaust to Nikki Giovanni, a search for passion to paternalism, native desires to Nietzsche, individual courage to Camus, a creative swim to Schopenhauer, and a quest for real education to erudition. My mind became tired and excited as a result of our four-hour sharing. I feel there is much electricity in this group of writers. It is no wonder that Donder and Blitzen are now more to me than just two of Santa’s reindeer.

If Giovanni said there are no conversations, just intersecting monologues, what would she say about Sunday afternoon? Our sharing and discussion prove that good exposition and feedback occur when writers commit to their tasks.

No one really knows the mind and soul of another. Friend, husband, wife, child, do we really know who other people are? Probably not, but yesterday’s attempt was a huge beginning. Let the flow of written words never stop, as we follow our quest to write ourselves into our destiny.

“I can feel again . . . there but for the grace . . . it is the moments I like . . . memories last longer than experiences . . . suffer in order to create . . . passion and pride. . . courage to be . . . over the edge . . . eye of the tiger . . . it is a question of vision . . . a search for truth . . . be the rebel . . . personal battlegrounds . . . celebrate our 26 letters . . . a struggle to be authentic . . . .”

These glimpses of everyone’s participation are sparks for much contemplation and great composition. Don’t be satisfied to talk about them. Write them down. Develop them before they vanish. We must challenge our dragons before they disappear.

I try not to worry about the past. What is done is done. Just let me learn from my mistakes and move on. I pray I don’t repeat the same errors. I hope to move to a higher ground. Then, if I make more mistakes, at least, they will be new ones.

I use to spend so much time worrying about the “boo-boos” I made, people I hurt, and opportunities I lost, that I only made myself depressed. When I learned that my unhappiness was only sublimated anger at myself, I decided I was not progressing by hurting myself, so I stopped it. I am only human. Yes, I made mistakes. I will make more, I am sure, but I don’t want to dwell on them. I choose to think of the future, to emphasize that aspect of my life, to accentuate the positive things I can influence. The little things I know will be affected by my attention.

Living is endless “being,” a continuous growth. There is no finish line; just life in a marathon and small victories tacked onto each other. An ending is a new beginning. I try to keep my eyes on the road and relax behind the wheel. Instead of going around and around in circles repeating the same mistakes of the past, if I can slowly, continuously, move to a higher level, my circles will become spirals. That is enough for me.

The only responsibility a river has is to flow to the sea. I don’t have to be anything else but the river I was created to be. My mission is to simply live what I am. If I am the Missouri, I don’t have to be the Amazon. If I don’t do what the Missouri is supposed to do, that is my only mistake.

Rivers don’t go upstream. I don’t have to push the current. The current will flow by itself. The river’s job is simply to be patient, take the curves and bends as they come, and ride, ride, ride to the sea.

The Greeks said happiness was attaining perfect balance and moderation in all things. When I am not happy, I find that parts of my life are more emphasized than others. Often, I notice my unhappiness comes about when I am thinking only of myself. When I want something so badly that I crave nothing else, when I am obsessed by possessing something, when I am greedy, then my displeasure with life is at its highest point.

When I quit worrying about the getting, when I begin thinking about the giving, my happiness returns. When I am aware of serving others or something larger than myself, when I volunteer my time, when I let good things pass through me to someone else, my happiness returns. It is not the taking that is important; it is the touching. It is not the getting that counts; it is the giving.

If someone asked me, “What are the Dragon Slayers all about?” I would say they are about all of the above and more. Individuals have their own personal dragons to overcome, and according to Joseph Campbell, we may have more than one. The dragons can be many things: possessions, fears, ideas, jobs, school, teachers, wives, husbands, children, and egos. The monsters are concerns in life that prevent us from being ourselves and pursuing those things that let us become happy.

Campbell used the idea of following one’s bliss to find rapture and defeat one’s dragons. The barriers in our lives block our pathways and prevent us from going down the yellow-brick-road to Oz where we will surely be able to find ourselves a brain, a heart, and the courage we need to be successful.

Dragon Slayers travel the road of life searching for its truth through writing. Once the truth, as we see it, is found, the next step requires action. Knowledge is the knowing, but wisdom is knowledge in motion. We want to do more than just find the dragons. Going past those monsters to a better emotional and physical world creates the thunder and lightning that I hear. Let’s confront those dragons. Let’s keep our faith! Let’s write on!

Writing a Window

I love windows.

window3

I love their beauty, their simplicity, and their view. They provide protection from the cold. Their light pierces the dark. They give hope to the confined. Windows symbolize so many things to me, and they help make me whole. How I remember these windows is how I remember my past. How I feel about these windows is how I feel about my future.

 

For many, life is a bleak, passionless existence. I see lives of boredom all around me. Barriers of all kinds, real and imagined, keep people from participating in active, productive lives. Blank stares, uncreative minds, and empty hearts reflect this lack of direction and purpose.

 

Windows are miracles of glass, silica and heat.

They protect us and provide decoration in our world. They allow us to dream in safety. A window is frames what we see and limits our vision. They outline our view of the world.

 

Windows show character and variety as an individual’s personality does. Windows come in many shapes and sizes. Their diversity reflects their uniqueness. A simple, four-pained window symbolizes a simple life. Beveled glass window allow the sun to reflect through prisms creating rainbows on the floor and walls. Elements from nature produce visual kaleidoscopes.

Stained Glass Windows 

Stained-glass windows do not allow people inside a room to look outside, but they let the sunlight teach stories by reflecting images from the glass. These beautiful spectacles of art, nature, and philosophy provide inspiration hundreds of years after their construction.

 

A room with windows is a room that breathes. Windows become metaphors for transmitting images of hope, vision, and energy. They allow us to examine all aspects of our lives by focusing our attention on specific developments.

 

When windows are cloudy, dirty, or clear, they imitate confused people, unpolished individuals, or those with nothing to hide. Shaded windows prevent others from viewing inside, and people in the same way shade themselves by remaining closed to others, inhibited, and not seeing the light.

 

Where windows are placed in a building affects their appearance. Windows placed on the north side of a home receive less punishment from Mother Nature in this region. Southern windows are tortured by the sun’s rays and the strong winds from the southwest. While the north windows remain smooth and clear, the sun’s radiation on the south side forces the glass to expand and damages them.

 

Mirrors are windows coated on one side. They reflect backward what they see. Certain people are like mirrors. They reflect backward and use none of their energy to perceive the visions in front of them.

Metaphors 

If windows are metaphors for our lives, they come in all shapes and sizes: tall ones, skinny ones, short ones, some stronger than others, ones easily broken, old ones, and new ones with many different levels of tolerance.

 

Like the masks we wear during the day to conceal our feelings, window shades allow different amounts of sunlight to enter our rooms. When we are depressed, we pull down our shades. When we feel happy, our shades let in more sun.

 

If the eyes are the windows of the soul, a person’s view can be influenced by the thoughts and feelings allowed to penetrate those windows. A glass of waster may be either half full or half empty depending on a person’s point of view. Positive windows may simply be clean ones. Negative windows reflect life’s dirty smudges.

 

Windows hold anything a person’s mind imagines. “If dreams were for sale, what would you buy today?” Unlimited possibilities present themselves to some; others whose creativity is poverty-stricken limit themselves to the common. Windows for some only hold items of the past; some see only the present; a selected few reach into the future. Seeing from inside one’s heart and outward into the world is how some use their windows.

 

write worldWriting is a window for many. It allows people to see what they feel after writing words on paper that best illustrate their specific emotions.

 

“Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion” (Friedrich Hegel, German philosopher, 1770-1831). A wonderful quotation like this one becomes a window of wisdom that travels the ages. What a wonderful window we look through when we learn to read.

 

In an Eskimo language, the word “to make poetry” is the word “breathe.” Poetry is one of the windows important to me, and poetry allows me to breathe fresh air and see farther into my world.

 

Like pages of glimpsed clarity, a panoply of window panes, they make me aware of sunshine, the clouds, and the unlimited possibilities available in life. In my home, I built a sunroom and am surrounded by windows. I see the birds in the sky, the stars at night, and a rainbow of colors during each day.

 

Each window fine tunes my day. Each pane of glass adds increased focus to my life. An occasional cracked glass or a little dirt in the corners affects the vision I achieve out of each respective one. Each window becomes a frame of mind, a frame of hope, a window of my dreams.

 

Handshakes, books, connecting the “1,000 points of light,” five fingers turned into a fist, nets made from single strand are all windows of meaning. These images provide different cultural lenses, blazing insights through which we teach ourselves from our own life experiences. These windows of perception show the way to the other side.

 

As dogs are said to resemble their masters in looks and temperament, windows in homes reflect the personalities of the owners. A window’s appearance shows the owner’s concern, attitude, and imagination. Owner’s who take the time to keep their windows clean enhance their ability to see clearly more of the world around them.

 

One of the largest windows of my life is my work. Out of the day’s chaos, this window brings order. In an educational forest, I build a path. Confronted daily with despair, I create purpose. Surrounded by youth, I search for maturity. Enveloped by barriers, I imagine transcendence. Given yarn, I knit a sweater. Given colors, I draw a picture. To escape a death of spirit, I breathe a new beginning. Trapped by four ordinary walls, I build a picture window. As I continue to grow, the view from these windows becomes more focused.

– David Martin

A Writer’s Prayer

Vanishing Point by Oliver Hellowell
Vanishing Point by Oliver Hellowell

Great Spirit!

You give me a reason for being,

a sense of mission in this life.

I see small accomplishments and realize

there is a purpose behind them.

My creativity is a gift from You.

I recognize these blessings

more and more each day.

I know I am on the right path.

Continue to guide me.

Give me more strength,

so I can reach my distant goals.

I search for peace in my writing.

I ask for others to find happiness there.

I know You will guide those who listen.

I look to my writing in hopes of seeing visions,

those windows You open for me.

I ask for wisdom.

Touch my shoulder and guide me.

I pray to hear Your voice in the silence of the night,

in the noise of confusion,

and with the terror of the blank page.

– David Martin

Dragon Slayers

Photography by Timothy Wright of Omaha
Photography by Timothy Wright of Omaha

It is now 3 a.m. Lightning and thunder pound my head. I am tired and can not sleep.

An awful dragon chased me 

Our battle sounded like the thunder and looked like the lightning of my dreams. I heard my sword crash against the fire breathing monster’s neck, and I awoke to hear real monsters clash with Zeus’ bolts of fire in the sky.

The monster of my dreams aroused the emotional “donder and blitzen” that took place yesterday at our monthly Dragon Slayer’s meeting. Those flashes of insight and the sound of truth now stir in me to write once again.

Outside, Mother Nature’s rain falls softly. The natural thunder and lightning keep calling my attention to life’s rebirth, baptismal cleansing, and regeneration.

Dragon

 

It’s never too late to start over.

Our discussion went from patience to parking lots, nuclear holocaust to Nikki Giovanni, a search for passion to paternalism, native desires to Nietzsche, individual courage to Camus, a creative swim to Schopenhauer, and a quest for real education to erudition. My mind became tired and excited as a result of our four-hour sharing. I feel there is much electricity in this group of writers. It is no wonder that Donder and Blitzen are now more to me than just two of Santa’s reindeer.

If Giovanni said there are no conversations, just intersecting monologues, what would she say about Sunday afternoon? Our sharing and discussion prove that good exposition and feedback occur when writers commit to their tasks.

No one really knows the mind and soul of another. Friend, husband, wife, child, do we really know who other people are? Probably not, but yesterday’s attempt was a huge beginning. Let the flow of written words never stop, as we follow our quest to write ourselves into our destiny.

“I can feel again . . . there but for the grace . . . it is the moments I like . . . memories last longer than experiences . . . suffer in order to create . . . passion and pride. . . courage to be . . . over the edge . . . eye of the tiger . . . it is a question of vision . . . a search for truth . . . be the rebel . . . personal battlegrounds . . . celebrate our 26 letters . . . a struggle to be authentic . . . .”

These glimpses of everyone’s participation are sparks for much contemplation and great composition. Don’t be satisfied to talk about them. Write them down. Develop them before they vanish. We must challenge our dragons before they disappear.

I try not to worry about the past.

What is done is done. Just let me learn from my mistakes and move on. I pray I don’t repeat the same errors. I hope to move to a higher ground. Then, if I make more mistakes, at least, they will be new ones.

I use to spend so much time worrying about the “boo-boos” I made, people I hurt, and opportunities I lost, that I only made myself depressed. When I learned that my unhappiness was only sublimated anger at myself, I decided I was not progressing by hurting myself, so I stopped it. I am only human. Yes, I made mistakes. I will make more, I am sure, but I don’t want to dwell on them. I choose to think of the future, to emphasize that aspect of my life, to accentuate the positive things I can influence. The little things I know will be affected by my attention.

Living is endless “being,” a continuous growth. There is no finish line; just life in a marathon and small victories tacked onto each other. An ending is a new beginning. I try to keep my eyes on the road and relax behind the wheel. Instead of going around and around in circles repeating the same mistakes of the past, if I can slowly, continuously, move to a higher level, my circles will become spirals. That is enough for me.

The only responsibility a river has is to flow to the sea. I don’t have to be anything else but the river I was created to be. My mission is to simply live what I am. If I am the Missouri, I don’t have to be the Amazon. If I don’t do what the Missouri is supposed to do, that is my only mistake.

Rivers don’t go upstream. I don’t have to push the current. The current will flow by itself. The river’s job is simply to be patient, take the curves and bends as they come, and ride, ride, ride to the sea.

The Greeks said happiness was attaining perfect balance and moderation in all things. When I am not happy, I find that parts of my life are more emphasized than others. Often, I notice my unhappiness comes about when I am thinking only of myself. When I want something so badly that I crave nothing else, when I am obsessed by possessing something, when I am greedy, then my displeasure with life is at its highest point.

When I quit worrying about the getting, when I begin thinking about the giving, my happiness returns. When I am aware of serving others or something larger than myself, when I volunteer my time, when I let good things pass through me to someone else, my happiness returns. It is not the taking that is important; it is the touching. It is not the getting that counts; it is the giving.

If someone asked me, “What are the Dragon Slayers all about?”

I would say they are about all of the above and more. Individuals have their own personal dragons to overcome, and according to Joseph Campbell, we may have more than one. The dragons can be many things: possessions, fears, ideas, jobs, school, teachers, wives, husbands, children, and egos. The monsters are concerns in life that prevent us from being ourselves and pursuing those things that let us become happy.

Campbell used the idea of following one’s bliss to find rapture and defeat one’s dragons. The barriers in our lives block our pathways and prevent us from going down the yellow-brick-road to Oz where we will surely be able to find ourselves a brain, a heart, and the courage we need to be successful.

Dragon Slayers travel the road of life searching for its truth through writing. Once the truth, as we see it, is found, the next step requires action. Knowledge is the knowing, but wisdom is knowledge in motion. We want to do more than just find the dragons. Going past those monsters to a better emotional and physical world creates the thunder and lightning that I hear. Let’s confront those dragons. Let’s keep our faith! Let’s write on!

– David Martin

Content in My Bliss

Someone once said they read books to discover the souls of others. I write to discover my own.

I want to discover who I am. Few things in life teach me who I am more than writing in my journal does. This desire for self-knowledge inspires me to write almost every day.

papers andI seldom lack inspiration to write, but I often lose my focus. I spend too much time doing many things other than writing. Earning money, pursuing life’s pleasures, and trying to please others causes me to get lost in the fog of daily existence. I get tired making a living in a stressful environment. I feel waves of people, emotions, and work wash over me and knock me off my feet.

I search for my footing in my journal. I look for meaningful reflections in my sentences and metaphors, and my journal becomes a symbol revealing my true self.

I want to be good at a few things in life. Conveying accurate images through my choice of words is one of them. I want to use my gifts well.

 Simple things in life inspire me to write. My heart lifts when I see a male cardinal in a bare tree above the mounds of white snow. My soul warms when I see a strong, male hand hold a tiny child’s little fingers. Fathers teaching sons and daughters the sacrifices needed to reach maturity turn my pages. Lovers look into each other’s eyes and inspire me to paint the scene with words. Close friends sitting together, silently drinking coffee, as they watch moisture form on a window while the cold, Nebraska wind howls outside makes me warm to the possibilities.

I am urged to write when I feel friendly eyes locate me in a crowded room; when loved ones bare their souls to me; when a student comes to class with the attitude, “I am ready to learn today, and you can teach me.”

write worldI write eating gumbo, listening to Cajun music. I look for pen and paper when I hear the carol, “Silent Night,” pierce the air on Christmas Eve. I sit down under a tree to record my emotions when my daughter chooses on her own to take the training wheels off and ride her bicycle solo for the first time. Ray Charles’ “Georgia,” Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and the children’s story, “The Little Engine That Could” all speak to me in the same way. I can not pass up these opportunities.

When my work captivates me, when I hear, “Daddy, I love you!” when I see outstretched hands reaching for a baby’s face, when I feel soft fingers on my shoulder, when I hear the words, “Everything will be all right, now. I am here with you!” I feel fortunate if I can put half of what I feel onto paper.

 When I remember my writing passions, I stay on the path meant for me. These times inspire me to write. I am content in my bliss.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://finelines.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/David.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]David Martin is the founder of Fine Lines community. Also he is a writing professor, the Fine Lines Camp director, and head editor of the journal.[/author_info] [/author]

From Pain to Purpose

“Writing is the only thing. When I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else”  – Gloria Steinem

Motivation

Motivation is moving towards a goal. Abraham Maslow, the famous psychologist, said there were two kinds of motivation: deficiency motivation (changing an unsatisfactory situation) and being motivation (seeking a positive goal after lower order needs are met). People may use writing to achieve either type of motivation.

Writers often build armor around their psyches by using words to overcome inferiority (deficiency motivation). They add layers of protection and self-esteem to inner feelings of inadequacy and learn to compete with no one but themselves. What they write is personal. Fear, shyness, inferiority, and inadequacy rise into the open on the writer’s own terms, in safety, and confidentiality.

Writers construct strong foundations with words to support their needs. A firm outer image develops through the writing process because the inner image is patched and repaired (being motivation). Journal writers develop healthy egos. Formal writing, to prove ourselves to others, to be accepted, and to receive better grades is not the reason one usually writes in a personal notebook. Some of this writing could develop I to a product one might turn in for a school assignment because an intellectual component surfaces.

Journal writing wants to penetrate the flab, the insincere, and the lies of life. With the proper attitude, it touches unacknowledged feelings, becomes character completion, attitude development, and a healing form of expression, not just for the classroom but for life. It involves self-study, life education, skill, effort, a positive attitude, and discipline.

Move towards Self

Personal writing may require increased introversion, a change in value systems, and a movement toward self-realization. It reduces one’s ego and increases the development of creativity. It ties the unconscious to the conscious.

Albert Einstein said, “ The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” Writing gives us a tool for probing the mysterious, the unknown in our unconscious and connects it to our awareness.

Awake

Being awake in all aspects of life teaches us that we do not know as much about ourselves as we think. Intensive journalizing shows us there is more to explore than people previously thought, and one of the best to do this is to write about our dream images which illustrate psychological archetypes from our collective unconscious. Dreams restore emotional balance by igniting spontaneous creations the writer builds upon.

Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, used the term “archetypes,” psychic structures that organize and hold material in our unconscious file folders during our dreams reveal important ideas about ourselves. Intuitive writing is one effective way to touch these deep seated psychological structures.

Shadows

Journal writers often find shadows in their writing, Jung’s archetypes coming to life. When people face the sun, most do not see their shadows: those dark sides of their natures, their weaknesses, those parts of their being in need of repair. Shadows seldom surface in our conscious life, but when we touch our unconscious, we often reach those areas, which need the most work. Temporarily, turning our backs to the sun allows us to see the shadows we forgot were behind us. We limit our own development by continuously looking into the sun. The best writers recognize their shadows, accept them, and confront the biggest shadow of all, the inflated ego, the biggest barrier in our path, the fire-breathing dragon, perfectionism.

Writing empties the mind of distractions and offers glimpses of emotional clarity. Affirmations positively written transform normal awareness and increase one’s serenity. Journals write the dragons away and provide opportunities to visualize one’s goals for the day, for the year, and for life.

Open Your Senses

Writing success involves conserving energy, plugging leaks, and increasing one’s vision. We see with our eyes. We hear with our ears. We touch with our hands. We taste with our tongues. We smell with our noses, but we understand with our hearts. Open hearts make better writers.

People find strength in the careful selection of their language. Many go from pain to purpose. There is nothing like a serious writer’s block to discover what true opportunities lie in the next paragraph. There is like a crisis to reveal a true epiphany. We create our own miracles. The rhythm of life and the spirit of the universe are at our fingertips. Writing is a state of mind and reduces life’s negative influences. Accentuate the positive. Practice. Practice.

Road Signs

Confusing aspects of life make us feel that we go around in circles. When we drift, become discouraged, depressed, lonely, alienated, and bored, stringing words together becomes a silent place to record our confessions. Often, if we take the time to write about our difficulties, we see spirals instead of circles. Spirals indicate that even though we continue to go around, we may move upwards at the same time. This is progress even though it is cyclical. Writing a few minuets daily, changes people’s lives. Serious writers learn in a short time to find road signs for their lives. They write their way to Oz, down the Yellow Brick Road, and home again.

Writing is stress therapy for the grid-locked, an adventure of the mind and heart. One cannot stay depressed and continue to write a journal. People become optimistic, if they write enough.

Write On! – David Martin

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://finelines.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/David.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]David Martin is the founder of Fine Lines community. Also he is a writing professor, the Fine Lines Camp director, and head editor of the journal. [/author_info] [/author]

Six Ways Journaling Helps

The more I write in my journal, the more I learn about the world and myself. The more I share my writing with my classes, the more open I become to my students, the more open they become to me, and the better all of our writing becomes.

Becoming Unstuck

Often, I hear students refer to their feelings of isolation from family, friends, and other students. I sense they are stranded on a metaphorical, desert island waiting for a passing steamer to rescue them. Sitting alone under a palm tree, sunburned, and tired of eating coconuts, their lives are blocked. Writing in a journal – one that takes on a personality of its own, one that becomes an extension of the author, one that holds the truth like notes placed in a bottle thrown into the Gulf Stream as a means of salvation – will help create that puff of smoke on the distant horizon indicating help is on the way.

Celebrate Your Unique Self

Many times, students need to see themselves as unique individuals. Being different is the price we pay for being better. Following the herd creates a boring sameness, a death-like monotony, and keeps us from achieving our potential. Writing in a journal reflects back to us how truly original we are.

fl jh qInspire to Action

Wait no more. Writing in a journal encourages me to translate my ideas into actions. If I can write about my ideas, I can see them as real possibilities. If I can capture them in a journal, I refer to them later when I act on them. John Hancock Field said, “All worthwhile people have good thoughts, good ideas, and good inventions, but precious few of them ever translate those into actions.”

 

Get Through the Darkness

Many students dwell on their negative life experiences, and most of us go through periods like this, sometimes. When I have no one to listen to me, my journal becomes my best friend, my voice in the night, the big brother or sister I never had, my guiding light. Often, simply writing my feeling onto a blank page helps me get through the darkness.

Looking for Meaning

The seventh century Chinese Philosopher, Hui-neng said, “The meaning of life is to see.” Looking at something is not the same as seeing it. In our complicated world, we have so much to look at, but we see so little. Looking at things demeans life. Seeing things, clearly, gives life meaning. Writing in a journal forces me to see things, not look at them. I can’t count how many students have told me that by simply writing devotedly in their journals they found a meaning in their life they didn’t know existed.

Create the Answer

One of the wisest men I know told me that everyone searches for the meaning to life. He said the answer is not to be found but created. If there is no particular purpose, we must develop one. Following our own unique destiny is challenging for all and frightening for many. We can’t hide in the herd any longer, when following our individual path.

Keep the faith. Write on.Mondays with martin

How has journaling helped you?

 – David Martin

Simplicity, Synthesis, Synchronicity

“We must be true inside, true to ourselves, before we can know a truth that is outside us” (Thomas Merton).

Vanishing Point by Oliver Hellowell
Vanishing Point by Oliver Hellowell

I am responsible for my actions and my thoughts, and I want to learn much more than I now know. I sense the knowledge inside of me is much more important than the external knowledge I could acquire. No one else can teach me what I need to know. My insight comes from life experiences. I must each myself how to see.

Every year, I teach The Scarlet Letter to my eleventh grade high school students and renew my interest in the Puritans who settled New England. My mother traces her family name (Steele) to Abigail Adams in the United States and to Charles II in England. The Puritan religion plays havoc with her family tree. On my father’s side, Charles Martin was, in fact, the treasurer on board the Mayflower when it docked at Plymouth Rock. We can’t say for certain if he was one of our family, but it is possible.

The Puritan custom of labeling people into two groups was one of their interesting habits. If these people believed in the need to reform the Church of England and tell citizens the “pure” interpretation of the Bible, they were “saints.” If some expressed any doubt in the strict Puritan philosophy, obviously, those people were “sinners.” Life was so black and white, so simple. “Saints” and “Sinners,” that is all there were.

King James I threatened the Puritans when they asked him to change ceremonies, carried into the Anglican Church from the Roman Catholic Church. He said, “I will make them conform, or I will harry them out of the land.” He demanded a simple life, too. Subjects had to follow his way, or else they had to go to jail or leave the country.

These Puritan farmers, merchants, professionals, and scholars, especially from the University of Cambridge, came to be regarded as gloomy fanatics. For example, “They objected to bear baiting, not because of the pain to the bear, but because of the pleasure to the spectators.”

Some teachers try to “harry . . . out of the land” students who feel a need for new ways of thinking about old problems. These teachers feel they are on the front line of ethical values, and to alter their nineteenth century views is the same as succumbing to modernism. Many of their students feel no sense of unity and no sense of inner awareness. These conservative teachers take so much pride in being orthodox, like King James, that they retard many learning processes.

Rush Limbaugh sends his newsletter to interested subscribers for $20/year, but he “charges $10 more to liberals.” Doctrinal instructors put that “$10 more tax” on creative and non-traditional students in the way of stress, pressure, and a “saints or sinners” approach to education.

Opportunities to learn arise when different points of view appear on the scene. The greatest single educational lesson I learned in education revolved around the definition of the word “synthesis.” The main point of view in any discussion is called a thesis. The opposite point of view is the antithesis. Many hard life experiences taught me that seldom is the truth ever in one of these two opposing points of view. Almost always, the truth is somewhere in between the thesis and the antithesis. The truth is in a blending of the two, the synthesis. Once I accepted this lesson of life, I learned what tolerance really meant.

When I learned that my ego determined my thesis or my antithesis and that what I thought I saw was based on my pride in knowing the truth, I understood what Joseph Campbell meant when he talked about the dragons in our world.

Campbell’s discussion of the mythology surrounding the European dragon in literature and religion points out to me how important my ego becomes in determining what I think I see in any situation. European dragons are negative barriers our egos place in front of us to prevent us from achieving our desires and goals. Writer’s block is one dragon I must deal with on a regular basis, and my ego creates it, not anyone else. I learned how to over come my dragon.

This specialist in comparative mythology changed my life forever. He taught me the importance of following my bliss and why I should expect synchronicity in my life. He taught me to look inside myself, to find the life force to which I am connected and trust that my reason for living will become unknown. He showed me why when I do what I am supposed to do with my life, synchronicity will “open 1,000 doors.”

Campbell’s thirty books and forty years of studying cross cultural mythology reinforced what I sensed in y childhood years: most major religions have more in common than they do differences. If we study them far enough and rise spiritually high enough, somewhere beyond this mortal plane, they come together as one. That intersecting point is not located outside ourselves. It is only reached through an inward journey.

When my father was a young man, he was dressed in full combat gear, ready to board a troop ship to cross the English Channel and do his part in Normandy in June 1944. I remember seeing newsreels of General Eisenhower talking to young men, just like my dad, the day before they left for their meeting with “Hell on Earth.”

“Ike” asked one soldier if he had a religion. The smiling paratrooper said, “Yes, sir!” The general said, “Good. Where you are going, you will need one. It does not make any difference what it is. It just matters that you have one.” I wonder if this awareness is not just as true now, as we face our personal “Normandy Invasions” today.

A recent retiree became interested in construction of an addition to a shopping mall. Observing the activity regularly, he was especially impressed by the conscientious operator of a large piece of equipment. The construction worker went beyond what would have normally been required and reached for excellence in all he did. The day finally came when the retiree had a chance to tell the man how much he enjoyed watching his scrupulous work. With an astonished look on his face, the operator replied, “You are not the supervisor?”

Most people need supervisors looking over their shoulders to ensure excellence. Many look at the way we live our lives and draw conclusions about our self-reliance. True students have few supervisors looking over their shoulders. I see good students remaining disciplined because they are courageous enough to become their own supervisors. They don’t need someone else telling them how to study or when to study. Sincere students, teachers, and managers spread their visions of simplicity, synthesis, ands synchronicity to students, peers, and employees.

Mondays with martinToday’s Monday with Martin was previously published in Fine Lines Journal.

(c) David Martin

What do you need to ensure personal excellence? Who is your personal supervisor? Why?