Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Willow Tree

Mickey Newbury, the great American song writer who died a few years ago, wrote a song that's always been a favorite of mine for the sense of what it says. The song is "Willow Tree", but part of the lyrics goes like this:

Wish I was a grain of sand
Playin' in a babys hands
Fallin' like a diamond chain
Into the ocean.


A grain of sand is all I ever wanted to be
Lay me down let the water
Wash right over me wash over me.


Oh a grain of sand
Is all I ever wanted to be
Lay me down and let the water
Wash over me wash over me.

I bought the album the first time I heard this song and it's alway stuck in the back of my mind, trying to understand what it would be like to be a grain of sand and to lie on the beach and have the ocean wash over me, to travel where the waves take. To feel free with the water and the water carrying me, cleansing me of whatever I gained sitting somewhere else.

From Mother Teresa

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Taoism and Dysthymia

One thing I haven't fully resolved, and probably will never resolve, is how Taoism and my Dysthymia are related, for me anyway. As I've noted, I was diagnosed with lifelong (genetic) Dysthymia in 1991 after the death of my brother (Greg) and 3 years before the death of my father, who didn't talk to me after Greg died.

I began studying Taoism in the mid-1970's after reading Alan Watt's books, and especially "The Watercourse Way", about the Tao. I was fascinated and read about the idea in Taoism. I always called myself a lazy Taoist because I haven't been totally dedicated or motivated to delve into the depths of Taoism, but simply stayed on the surface, using the ideas for my own life.

It was, and still is, in some ways my anti-depressant. That and running, which I started 1978 along with hiking, walking, and photography. The mental side has always been a struggle for me, and while Taoism has helped me work through situations and circumstances in life and work, the Dysthymia has always been the overriding, and often overwhelming, force. I just wasn't lucky in those genes department.

Try as I have and do, I do not have more than a handful of "happy" genes. I was handed more than my fair share of Dysthymia and realism genes to compensate, almost like there this a quota of these depressed to happy thought genes and my brain was filled with Dysthymia genes before I got to the happy gene part of the mind buffet. It's not a buffet of choice but one chosen for you or more so, given you.

You're stuck with what you have. And try as you want, it will always be a struggle to change your thinking. Happy people don't seem to care to change, only depressed people care to change. That's not saying being happy is normal, right or better, just happy people are blind to their own deficiencies. To them, realism isn't what the rest of us see and know, and especially experience.

A decade before my diagnosis I read the research by some medical folks at the Wharton School looking at how people see reality, meaning do happier people see it better than depressed people. In their results, they discovered that happier people, especially extremely happy people, ignore reality. They're simply blind to anything negative. Depressed people, they discovered, tend to see more realistically.

But in their results they found an anomaly. They found a group of people who they identified as chronically mildly depressed, meaning their depression was a part of the being, and a few years later, after additional research, identified this as Dysthymia. The anomaly was that this group were the most realistic in the view of life and the world. Everybody else happier or more depressed were less realistic.

What they surmised from the results was that life and the world, meaning reality, is slightly to moderately depressing, if you look at everything going on all the time. The world is a busy place, and much of it is either ordinary at best or depressing at worst. In short, happy isn't the norm, but mild depressed is, and this is what this group saw, thought and felt.

They found this group saw more of life and the world, and then more realistically, not focusing on the best (happy) or worst (depressed) parts, but focusing on the big picture and more of life and stuff in the middle, more the ordinary stuff of life and the world. After all, they said, it's what makes up the vast majority of our lives, and sadly as it may be, it is slightly depressing.

That was the proverbial light bulb going off. That was me. It took another decades of struggling and then my brother's death to go to a psychiartrist, actually on National Depression Day in 1991 because the meeting and evaluation was free. It was there, the psychiatrist said it was Dysthymia and likely lifelong (genetic). I can't remember not thinking, feeling and being this way.

I can remember my childhood when I started something, I could see the whole of the work to do it and then get it done. But sadly, for a child (me) it was also overwhelming, and I discovered it was far easier to live in my own small life and not venture out into the larger world where everything wasn't happy, not unrealistically being that I was physically a late bloomer and teased a lot for being small for my age.

It was reading Alan Watts' book I connected the dots why I was interested in and read about Taoism, and later how Dysthymia and Taoism are intertwined in the perspective of reality and the world. Taoism focuses on what is there, whether the continuum of the past, the present, or the path into the future, being realistic is part and parcel of The Way. Without it, you're not being honest, let alone real, about yourself trying to understand.

Understanding is part of the world and the Tao, for me anyway, and which is likely far from the teachings of Taoism. Hopefully not, but I borrow from Taoism to live, understand and get through the world everyday. I haven't learned to better or more use Taoism to frame my view of the world and live better. That's the struggle for me, finding where it all fits together.

Together in my life, my body and my mind, and in the world, or from my corner and view of it. Real or not, it's mine, as given, seen, thought and felt.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thought in passing

Two thoughts in passing and probably from somewhere, long forgetten where.


Clever people speak to impress.

Smart people speak to inform.

Intelligent people speak to teach.

Wise people speak to share.


Wisdom isn't knowledge, but understanding.

Understanding isn't education, but experience.

Wisdom is understanding experience, and sharing it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Glass of water

Notice.-- This was first written and posted on my Dysthymia blog (see my profile for my blogs), but it overlaps into my view of Taoism as both my Dysthymia and Taoism are inextricably linked in my mind and part of my sense of being and living, so I am duplicating it here for others to read.

Glass of Water

Why do they always ask you about the glass of water half filled with water, "Is the glass half empty or half full?" What not just say, "It's a glass of water." Why is the water seen as optimism and the air as pessimism? Or better yet ask, "Gee, I'm thirsty, do you mind if I drink it?" Or ask, "What type of water?", meaning where did come from, to know it's origin more than the faucet.

Why can't an optimist say, "It needs to be filled up."? Or, a pessimist say, "Maybe someone is thirsty."? Why do they want to assign some qualitative value to a clear glass of water? Relative to its content of water and air? Why can't they give you the option to say it's both, half full and half empty, an equal amount of each?

Well, I don't know but psychologist love to make things an either-or judgement to see which side of the fence you mentally live. Like it matters? For what? It doesn't change you, and certainly not the glass of water. Only them making some judgement of you, not that it's important or critical, just personal to them.

Which means, to me, it's simply cow pasture material. A Taoist would look at the glass and say, "It's a glass of water." Nothing more than the simple observation. A realist would say, "Well, is anyone going to do anything with the glass of water?" Nothing more than thinking out loud.

But it's at the heart of many psychologist's, or therapist's, questions, the either-or idea to discover something good or bad about you or your thoughts, emotions, or feelings. And if you can't or don't want to make a choice, then they'll push until you make it, meaning your reaction is now part of their judgement.

Like, "So why are you afraid to say if the glass is half full or half empty?" Like it matters? And if you, "The glass is both half full and half empty.", they will ask you why you thinks it's both. Like it's the reality of the glass and the air and water inside it? Why are we driven to either-or choices?

Taoism teaches you it's both as both are necessary to the balance of the world. And Dysthymia teaches you to see it's both, like there isn't any other reality, let alone a choice between two, if not more, choices. It's always, "All of the above." when it comes to life and the world.

I would ask, "Why a clear glass?" Why not an opague one you can't quite see the line between the water and air? Why not a black one where you have to imagine the air and water? Would they ask to imagine and decide, make a choice? Why? What does it say about you? What does it tell the psychologist? They all don't interpret the answer the same, so then why answer?

The whole world of your mind, all in a glass of water. And now I'm thirsty.