Some things I have learned #27

Subtitle: Or, at the least, I think I believe

Sub-subtitle: Or, at the most, I believe I know

On the matter of living and making meaning…


Life, for as long as there is breath, is a cycle of events and encounters, constantly spinning, ceaselessly, dizzyingly; often with little shape or sense. It is the purpose we find in our lives – through our choices of our callings to be and to become and, in our being and becoming, to do – that gives meaning to our days.

Nevertheless, always – in league with, indeed, overarching our choices – looms that invariable variable of circumstance, which spans the gamut of natural (e.g., climate and weather) and societal (e.g., economic, genderal/sexual, political, racial) forces beyond individual command or control.

And when (not if) any or all of these forces come to bear on our lives, there always is a chance that our choices are rendered meaningless.

And it is then, if we survive, that the work of living and making meaning deepens in death-defying necessity.

© 2021 PRA

6 thoughts on “Some things I have learned #27

  1. Indeed, Paul, indeed. I think John Lennon once expressed a related sentiment: “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” And if we haven’t yet begun to learn the lessons associated with that phenomenon over the past one, or perhaps more realistically, 529 years, we have been sorely lax in paying attention. Waking up in Minnesota every morning these days is a different experience than what I largely obliviously knew for the past nearly 50 years. And now I know that so many other people were waking up in Minnesota for all those years and experiencing their own personal excruciating versions of what all of us are now waking up to (double-entendre fully intended). So I would alter Lennon’s thought just a bit: “Life is what happens to other people while you’re looking the other way… And then one day there is no ‘other way’ to look.” And to the people who choose to mock the word “woke” and the state of “being woke,” I guess I would wish them a pleasant snooze while it lasts. Another 60’s troubadour – and a Minnesotan himself – Bob Dylan, a prophet before his time, said it: “The times, they are a-changin’.” We are all being forced to look daily at what we have built in this state, in this nation, and on this planet. And I do believe most conscious people are concluding we have serious, serious work to do.

    And so, dear Paul, I would alter your very wise words in two small ways as well: “ And it is [NOW], [because] we survive, that the work of living and making meaning deepens in death-defying necessity.”

    Much love to you, Paul, and much gratitude for continuing to walk this walk with those of us to whom it is, lamentably, still unfamiliar ground.



    1. My dear Karen, always I thank you for your commentary. And, in this, “And it is [NOW], [because] we survive, that the work of living and making meaning deepens in death-defying necessity”, I read and perceive an air, your air of hopefulness.

      My immediate reaction is one of self-realization. On two counts…

      1. When I penned this post, I ended on what I might term a note of realism, but not optimism. For all, irrespective of personal/individual choices, do not survive the burdens of worldly circumstance and chance.

      2. I realize anew (on a conscious level) how much one’s (my) unconscious self influences what one does (I do) consciously. For, without quite realizing it, I, though alive I am, wrote “if” from the perspective of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, et. al.

      Perhaps in this, point 2, I, now, recognize that though I am alive, how very fatigued, soulfully enervated I am that our world continues to go on its wearying way without much sign or sense of change.

      In all of this, I thank you, dear sister. For in your word of hope, I, even as I mourn another death, can find a measure of anticipation for betterment.



      1. Dear Paul,

        I hear and am in deep accord with both of your counts of self-realization, for I know how fully and intimately you identify with the pain and despair when our brothers and sisters are lost to worldly circumstance and chance (although in the most deeply painful and disturbing losses that keep occurring at the hands of police officers and “wannabe” police officers, I have to observe that worldly circumstance and chance are not primarily to blame). I also hear your crushing “if” and grieve that history both ancient and recent makes achingly conditional lives that should never have to be lived under the shadow of that “if.” I hear the deep fatigue, enervation, and weariness in your words and voice, and I hear those qualities also in the voices of so many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, aunts, children, and friends who must continue to keep raising the sounds of devastation, outrage, protest, comfort-seeking – all the sounds that naturally follow losses so profound and unnecessary that they can’t be contained, can’t be explained, and can’t be erased from your and their lives or from history.

        My “because” substitution was strictly for my own instruction. I survive, and I am terribly privileged to be able to expect to survive in circumstances that would so easily place a darker-skinned person, a Black man or woman, boy or girl, in immediate peril. I grow more conscious of that facile and unjust assumption on my part every day. It isn’t that I should not assume it; it’s that everyone should be able to assume it. The fact that others do not easily count on survival in encounters with police when I unthinkingly can renders me utterly discomfited in this skin of mine.

        It is not so much hopefulness that makes me say – in your words – “the work of living and making meaning deepens in death-defying necessity.” It is the commitment that I feel to try very, very hard to do what is in my power to do to defy the forces of death being visited upon my Black sisters and brothers precipitously, hatefully, rashly, unthinkingly, and out of all proportion to the rationality that should lie at the heart of public safety. I hope I am not alone in that commitment, Paul. I hope and pray that terribly uncomfortable pressure is building in every white person I know to visibly and actively stand against the senseless slaughter and injury of Black people by law enforcement in this nation. I hope I have the courage to help increase that pressure. I hope I can become a harpy for that cause.

        Thank you for being who you are and for giving yourself so selflessly to dialogue and thus to hope for the betterment we all pray must show itself soon.

        Much love,



      2. My dear Karen, in this word of yours — My “because” substitution was strictly for my own instruction… — I read, hear, find a measure (aye, a goodly measure) of hope; that capacity to imagine, envision favorable ends to the present less-than-favorable-and-favored state of things. For in your word I recognize anew your blessed capacity of introspective wrestling, which leads you to a new, higher plateau of your consciousness, and then your action. Thank you.

        Now, in your word, I read, hear more than the recognition of what or rather whom oft, these days, are called “allies” being those who may not or perhaps do not share the socio-economic-politico-racial frameworks/lives of an oppressed body of folk, but who stand on their side in support and in the labor toward enfranchisement. Rather, in your word, I read, hear the voice and intent of one…of you who is spiritually alert, thus, sensitive to your connection to your life within and your life without (in relation to the cosmos and all of humankind). In a word, I perceive you as one who did not have to be told or to learn to be an ally, but rather one who, by virtue of your innate spiritual sensitivity, is what and who God, creating each and all of us in the imago Dei, made us to be at the dawn of creation. Bless you. I am proud and privileged, honored and humbled to be in your company and to count you as my friend and sister.

        On another note, this morning I awoke — having watched last night’s news reports of the 4th night of protests of the Daunte Wright killing — still fatigued and in wonderment and worry. As one who, for as long as I recall, has valued and has practiced non-violent protest, I understand and believe in the principles of Gandhi and King. I also understand those who espouse more energetic, at times, violent protest, saying, in so many words, “What has non-violence gotten us, but more death and dying?” (In this, given the utterly cyclical nature of some aspects of history, I recall how Malcolm X, in his time and before his self-confessed-and-professed enlightenment, and then, later, the leaders of the Black Power Movement championed more aggressive means of self-liberation; and, in the words of Malcolm X, “by any means necessary.”) Yet I also believe that violence begets violence. I also believe that love and loving beget love and loving. Nevertheless, the former is more pronounced (perhaps because unrest and uproar always are) than the latter.

        I write/say all this to say…I’m tired. Nevertheless, I also believe that I, for my part — that is, where I am with what I have — am obligated by a calling greater than mine own reasoning and feeling, that is, the gospel, to stand on the side of love. As oft I’ve said since the time of my awakening (now, tracing back to 2005-2006, though, as I re-read a number of my sermons and writings in the latter 1990s into the earlier 2000s, I behold seminal signs of this awakening): When I know that for which I will dare to die, then I will know how to dare to live. For Jesus and his gospel, I am so willing.



  2. Karen & Paul,

    Dizzying is truly what I’d call our world today!! As soon as we have started to process one incident or event another one of similar or greater significance or trauma occurs then we feel the enormity of that one. I’m tired too… BUT I seek solace in the words of others, like the two of you…. and interestingly in the words of my Mom if all people. The only complete sentence she says (and has been constantly saying for the last 18 months or so) is Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And those words are enough on most days to give me hope. I’ve often wondered why she says those words but in truth it doesn’t matter.

    I am happy to be alive and just finished giving Lifting the Spirits of the Caregiver a couple of hours ago which always lifts me up too!! And more than anything right now in spite of all the ugliness in the world today I’m glad my Mom is still alive too!!

    Love to you both!!


    1. Loretta, I have wondered, too, why Doris says repeatedly, “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Though recognizing that we never may know with any certainty, I hear the phrase as a mantra, on a conscious level, to aid in one’s meditation and, on some deeper degree of awareness beyond our grasp, perhaps a recollected word of stability. For you, Loretta, this phrase bespeaks hope. Perhaps so it was and is for Doris. I, too, find it an anticipatory entrée into a state of being, even more a state of believing that defies all the carnage and sorrow we behold day by day. “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” works for me!

      As for “Lifting the Spirits of the Caregiver” – another definitive action of hope! — you know what I will write: Carry on!


      Liked by 1 person

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