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Paul Desmond riffing on his alto saxophone. For All We Know.

Reflections on a stream that come and go with the intricacies of improvisation.
That can’t help but be what they are --  us in reverse.

That we never get to see as we are.
Never get to know as we are.
Haunted by beauty.
Drawn by scent and touch imagined.
By the taste of Memory heard and gone.
A here and now, place and time, that can never be.

Yet the Now that you will always be to me.

Shorty Baker riffing on his trumpet. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.

A call for love from time out of time.
And I didn’t know.

Notes gently trailing a caress across the whorl of preoccupation
Lifting me out of cold blankness into the warmth of acceptance.
By the vulnerability of subject in a room full of objects.
Cause beyond effect that needs no intoxicant, no commotion
To excuse the brashness of its intrusion.

I’m not done with it.
Can never be done with it, your call for Love.

Alyosha bidding Dostoevsky’s farewell. The Brothers Karamazov.

“There is nothing more wholesome and good
Than sacred memory preserved from childhood.
Let us be kind, then honest

And then let us never forget each other.

“You are all dear to me.
From this day forth I have a place in my heart for you all,
And I beg you to keep a place in your hearts for me.”

Everybody Comes to Rick’s

This was the title of the play that was to become the film Casablanca. And a good thing, too, because you’re invited to a year-end celebration and Rick and I don’t want any excuses. Everybody is invited and everybody belongs. It’s an imaginary birthday party, Auld Lang Syne, and a lot more combined. The Guest of Honor will be there. “Jesus” is associated with Christianity, but the Logic of reality and truth in A Course in Miracles covers everything. Its message of understanding is for everyone. Even for those who, like Groucho Marx, wouldn’t lower themselves to join anything that would have them for a member.

Many traditions coalesced to turn December into a madhouse of activities that strayed from their origins. Jesus’ birthday is one. But if you pan around Rick’s Café Americain with the camera, on the opening shot, you’ll see the setting is cosmopolitan. These people really do come from all over and not everyone gets excited over the same thing. Except the cause that brought them there and will send them on their way. The beauty of where they are, where we will be honoring life-changing, mind-changing events.

In our imaginations. I can get us started, but the guests are invited to attend to their own comfort so everyone has fun. Celebrating a new life and new year with festivity – food, drink, song and dance – and a rebirth: the rebirth of the sun. The winter solstice. Whatever event, whatever tradition, makes this a holiday for you. Temenos is all about fun. Mine to begin with but yours, too. One big sanctuary, a blend of differences where differences attract instead of distract. Where we can just Be.

Where Maxfield gets his inspiration

Casablanca honored cause that brings us all together. “The beginning of a beautiful friendship” between Rick and Louis, two cynics who joined the cause. Who set an example for change of mind, the event that our situation calls for. That, hopefully, we’ll get around to before it’s too late. Rick’s Café is part of my temenos. So is the airport where Rick gave up the love of his life for the cause. Gave up the letters of transit signed by General De Gaulle so Ilsa and Victor, a paladin of the cause, could take the last plane to Lisbon and continue their work.

Jesus could have authored the script. But so could any figure who embodies our ideals if they match. The name we give it doesn’t matter. Casablanca rose to the top of the list for a reason: it speaks to something universal that’s real and true in all of us. The thing that our guides still teach, that made Jesus’ miracles possible then and makes miracles possible now. The reality we were born into and the truth that still lives. We celebrate with a prayer of thanks for its guidance and comfort while we change our minds. For a reality that doesn’t have to be imagined and a birth that’s leading us there.

Call it Christmas Eve or whatever you want. You’ll be all in when you see Rick himself behind the bar serving the nectar of the gods. Beneath the branches of Ewah, the great tree of eternal life. The great tree of Logic radiant with lights and ornaments put there by children -- Owen, Courtney and Amanda – assisted by the goddess Psyche & friends: Puddy and Buster, Sparky, Cuddles, Grayheart, and William Roofus Marmalade, my orange tabby. The tree is their home where they play. Where Maxfield Parrish draws inspiration for his celestial art through a telescope in his treehouse.

The nocturnal lyric of wolves and loons

Ewah combines two trees from Avatar: the giant communal tree and the smaller illuminated tree that ended the story with resurrection. It represents safety – the benevolence of Logic that governs and protects all of reality and creation. The Innocence of temenos, its atmospherics decorated by the nature of our imaginations:

• The deep blue pure waters of Lake Parrish shimmering beneath an incandescent moon and stars
• Silvery clouds billowing above our gathering, where we can swoop and soar to the heights on Pegasus forever free from worry and regret
• The airport beacon sweeping its corner of Lake Parrish in red and green
• The nocturnal lyric of wolves and loons in the distance joining our chorus of joy
• Twin lighthouses standing guard at the Straits of the Pacific
• Up on high, the Course in Miracles Lighthouse, anchored to the side of Mount Olympian, beaming mindfulness and love, freedom and innocence, across the Aegean and beyond. To Athens, Bethlehem, and Alexandria, incubators of ideals: the ethics of Socrates, the virtue of Plato, the understanding of Jesus.

Ambiance courtesy of Maxfield, who will turn any request into a portrayal of heaven. Catering by the King Cole Grill at the Saint Regis Hotel in Manhattan. We will be met by the gatekeeper of the Garden of the Gods: Old King Cole himself will come down from Maxfield’s mural behind the bar to direct us to our choice of tables: beside the mountain stream with the pure, healing waters; around the campfire on Maxfield Island; along the shore of Lake Parrish; beside the children’s playground beneath the tree. Dance music courtesy of the orchestra at Rick’s Café, the same one that brought down the house with La Marseillaise.

Saving the best for the last

Caroling accompanied on the piano by Sam. Sam, who played it again for Rick and Ilsa. Sam, whose piano hid the letters of transit that saved the world. Well, not quite, but it came close. Before Auld Lang Syne we’ll sing As Time Goes By. If that doesn’t melt hearts and open minds nothing will.

I’m bringing honored guests. My darling granddaughters. Family from around the fireplace on Christmas Eve when I was a kid – mom, dad, and grandma, brother, sister, and our Dalmatian. The teenage girl who cared for me while my mother recovered. My son and his mother who left us too soon. My spiritual family: mother Persephone and father Apollo, sister Psyche and brother Jesus. Charmed escorts from Calvary to Ewah and resurrection: Black Beauty, Rhoda the show horse, and Ferdinand the Wall Street bull with the golden horns. Dobbin the magnificent sorrel flying draft horse, Pegasus – the free spirit of Love. Plus best friends forever like you. Who will you bring?

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Happy Holidays!!

1

We cherish our friends.
How can we be there for them?
How can we make them happy?
How can we be close to them and stay close?

By being interested in them, curious about their stories
By listening to them and responding to what’s on their minds
By hearing what they need from us and how they’re feeling
By letting them know we are with them.

What can tell us what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling?
What they need from us?
What can we offer them that will make them happy?

Here are gifts that are valued by everybody
Gifts to be shared
Our best guides to what make us best friends
With thoughts on how our guides can show us the way

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Friends need the gift of Love

We can speak the Five Languages of Love:

• Make time for friends and be accessible
Give them our respect, our undivided attention, and our trust
Connect with them by being open --
By sharing our thoughts, our feelings, our lives

• Be there for them when they need help
Do things for them that let them know they can count on us

• Show our love and appreciation by being affectionate
Let them know that their friendship touches our hearts

• Reward their kindness with generosity
With gifts that let them know we appreciate them

• Encourage them by admiring their talents and achievements
Let them know that they matter, they are important, they are the best

Friends need the gift of Community

We can make friends feel welcome in our lives, so they know they belong
Welcome them into our circle of friends and family
“Treat friends like family and family like friends”

Friends need the gift of Health / Wholeness

We can have fun with friends that’s wholesome and disciplined
That makes happy without risking abuse, injury, or sickness
Without pressuring, or being pressured, to do things that aren’t good for us

Friends need the gift of Freedom

We can give friends space to think and choose for themselves
To express themselves as they are
To reciprocate (return) our kindness or not
Without judging them, blaming them, or pressuring them to be more like us

Friends need the gift of Worth

We must always practice good manners and be polite, to show respect
We can respect friends for things they do well but also for just who they are
By giving them our attention, our gratitude, and encouragement
By letting them know, when they are with us, no one is more important

Friends need the gift of Empowerment

We can let friends take the lead and be in control sometimes – take turns.
Let our friends win sometimes if we’re better than they are
Learn from our friends if they have something to teach us
Let everyone in on the fun and make it fair for everyone

Friends need the gift of Abundance

We can share the fullness and joy of life that’s in our hearts
The wealth that wants and needs to be shared
Let it join us in happiness when we are both feeling it
Or lift us up by sympathizing and caring for one another when we aren’t

Friends need the gift of Safety

We can make it safe for friends to trust us and play with us
Where it’s warm and welcoming
A place of tenderness and gentle loving kindness
Where they can be themselves without fear of being blamed and attacked
For who they are – personalities that aren’t like ours

Friends need the gift of Hope / Purpose

We can share what we see that leads the way forward
That renews our friends’ faith in themselves, their work, and their futures
Friends don’t let friends give up!

Friends need the gift of Beauty

Share the moments, the passion, the beauty, that inspire and move us –
Our triumphs against adversity, our discoveries
Stories, images, and music that make our spirits soar
That express the beauty, the spirit, of friendship

To all my shining stars, my friends
Who have the gift of Love and Abundance in their hearts
Doing their very best to share it
Thankfully.

The five languages of love are acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, and affirmation.
Thank you Gary Chapman: The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (Northfield 2015).
My favorite is affirming a person's worth, because the world keeps trying to take us down.

Quality time means intimacy, sharing lives.
• Being accessible mentally and emotionally, being honest and truthful.
• Being spontaneous, which means being with your friend-partner in the moment where they're at
• Being in their circumstances subjectively as well as ours
• Being always subjective, never objective, always intimate, never social.
• Letting "social-group" be the servant-protector of the individual rather than the other way around. I.e. rather than subordinating individual intimacy to social-group control / insincere superficiality.

Happiness in individual intimate relationships is sharing, empowerment, affirmation.
• it is never wealth-possession, power-control, competition / dominance-winning.
• It is never superimposing our circumstances-facts / agenda on our partner-friend's.
• it is subjectifying, never objectifying.

Love is one part coupling-connecting, one part uncoupling-letting go.
It is one part binding embrace, one part liberating freedom.
It is never any kind of predatory entrapment, coercion, or captivity.

Personality types who excel at love-intimacy and happiness are introspective, intuitive, and thoughtful.
They are also conscientious and disciplined, endowed with a strong sense of universal values.
They have an internal moral compass that doesn't need social norms for guidance.

Personality types who prefer superficial social relationships crave belonging that absorbs the individual into the group.
Not the kind of belonging that provides a safe sanctuary for individuals to experience intimacy.

Practice an intimacy of openness that fosters honesty and trust and happiness will follow.
Allow rules of possession, control, competition, dominance and winning to intrude and happiness will vanish.

Further reading: the gold standard is A Course in Miracles.
And a little something I wrote for kids: "Creating Great Friendships", my next post.

Be assured that anyone who takes the time to read this has the perfect personality type and the wisdom to achieve intimacy and happiness.

Go in peace with my blessing.

Not long ago, I asked a friend for a favor. It was a bit unusual and I knew it would require some thought, but not so unusual that it could upend a friendship. But it did, at least for a while, quite emphatically. The way my friend and I interpreted what happened was a study in contrasts. It was as if we lived in two separate realities, spoke different languages, and transacted business with different currencies, hers as worthless to me as mine was to her.

It was one of those things, a train wreck in a relationship we’re all familiar with. And yet it turned out to be very interesting. It revealed that my friend and I, who have been close over the years, are exact opposite personality types. I’m an INTJ and she’s an ESFP: INTJ for Introvert-Intuition-Thinking-Judgment, ESFP for Extravert-Sensing-Feeling-Perception. These are from Isabel Briggs Myers’ Gifts Differing, not as “scientific” as other theories some might prefer, but my Intuition trusts her Intuition.

The holidays are all about one universal value: everything that makes us family. Forgiveness is one of those things, and let me be the first to admit: If you’re reading this it probably means you’re a big nuisance but you’ve been forgiven – many times. “I love you in spite of your many faults” my dad liked to joke, usually to a good laugh. But it’s no laughing matter, because real forgiveness is beyond reach. At least it is for me. Especially if the big nuisance happens to be my exact opposite personality type.

My instinct in this case was to bail for good. I was on my way out the door. Then I read Gifts Differing and discovered that Isabel’s theory doesn’t stop at showing us how opposites wreak havoc with relationships. It shows remarkably how opposites can be used to bring us closer together and, in the process, promote personal growth and self-awareness. What philosophy, what faith, couldn’t use an analytical tool like this to bring about peace and forgiveness!

It’s done by accessing the opposites of your weak personality traits – mind-Intuition, for example, if you’re a body-Sensing type, -- preferably in consultation with someone who’s your opposite. You “pool your resources,” and at the end you’re both more fully developed, better balanced personalities, more sympathetic, more adaptable to change, and better equipped to forgive. That's the theory and, so far, it's working for me.

Isabel’s theory is inspired, not least because the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles calls for its practical application to individual circumstances, and students of the Course intent on practicing forgiveness will find that it’s a big help. If my friend is reading this she might be incensed that I’m talking about us, but not if her Feeling has accessed Thinking, and Perception has accessed Judgment. You see, what this is all about is making everyone more like me. Proof that what I've learned from her is the joy of spontaneity and laughter. Pity the poor INTJ Scrooge who never learns it!

Wishing you the Joy of Life and laughter for the holidays and all through the New Year.