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Archive for June, 2010

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is satellite.

A household word in the 21st century, satellite calls up my memory scrapbook of the bright and shining Space Age. You know… those big, shiny objects placed in the sky so that folks everywhere now have the magical privilege of communicating via laptops and watching Aussie soccer matches. All for the small price of having our every move watchable by Big Brother. I do wonder sometimes if technology is worth the cost in the fine print…

On a brighter note, the word satellite also evokes memories of elementary school planetary mobiles with tiny Moon, giant yellow Sun, and Saturn with her colorful rings–miraculously manifested from paper mache, coat hangers, poster paint and a little help from the encyclopedia. Those were the care-free days when creativity was simple… earning a living as an artist wasn’t even a fuzzy constellation on the night horizon. (For a fun look at an artist who has managed to hold onto those care-free days, see children’s picture book author/artist Douglas Florian’s Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings.)

This morning, however, the word satellite (loosely defined as something which orbits or follows something else) is a good description for my Conscience… that ubiquitous back-seat driver who is rarely content, and when she is, it’s only for the brief moment before something else is unsatisfactory. Psychologists say that this voice is the internalized judgements and criticisms of parents, teachers, priests, peers and the standards of our society at large. Some of what my dear Conscience says can be helpful, but most is not helpful because it is delivered with the very subtle message that I am remiss because of multiple and inherent personal flaws. She implies that only by the militaristic motivations of her guilt and shame tactics do I manage to survive at all.

Nonsense! A contemplative person realizes that the dark-hearted Conscience is a harkening back to that out-dated boogyman, Original Sin. And that guilt as a motivator (like modern pharmaceuticals) has a LOT of unhealthy side-effects. Surely humans have evolved enough to do the ‘right thing’ simply out of the goodness of our hearts? Surely we have evolved enough to do things out of love and caring?

In flower essence therapy, the model for treatment is not to attack, cut out, or resist the manifesting symptoms, but to flood out the negative with a consistent input of the positive frequency. This is a model for healing (and for living) that is based on a positive reinforcement of the essential goodness of humankind. It implies that we do know what is right, which are the best choices, what is kindness, what is love. And that all we need is a tiny push in that direction, a gentle reminder when we forget. Not a guilt-and-shame sledgehammer.

The next time my ubiquitous Conscience satellite guilt-trips me over the chocolate that I am craving, I hope I will remember to respond to her with a gentle reminder of my own. “A mango actually tastes much better, comes with no hangover, and won’t add to your cellulite!” It’s not her red-alerts that I detest… it’s her heavy-handedness…

“Of  Two Minds” (watercolor)

Note: My humble blog passed 5000 visitors last week… My warm “Thanks!” goes out to all of you who have stopped by, and especially to those who have offered your friendly comments!

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is ripple.

Did you play the children’s game where a whispered sentence goes from one to the next, changing in hilarious ways as it traveled around the circle? Have you witnessed the ripple effect as a person wakes up irritable, kicks the dog, the now-nervous dog nips at a neighbor’s child, the child screams, and the neighbor sues…? Communication–whether it be action, word or mood–has a lot of negative potential.

An uncredited quote from my ubiquitous scrapbook couches this ripple effect in contemporary societal terms: “One great paradox about the age of mass communications is that misinformation can now be passed along to more people than ever before.” Newspaper tabloids profit from this trend, and it is worth considering that daily newspapers and television can also spread misinformation, inadvertently and otherwise. A published book does not necessarily contain Truth, and even photographs may be ‘doctored’ now to moderate their effect. What can we trust?

However, for better or worse, we humans are still very tribal in the way that we receive and communicate information. We are hard-wired to react to everything and everyone around us and, most especially, to our peers. It is very tempting, very easy to surrender to the expert’s opinion, to the Tradition, no matter how poorly the fit. In the last century, Anais Nin (1903-1977) wrote, “We always keep forgetting… that we live in a very deadening culture, a very corrupt one.” But even in the twenty-first century, it is a sad fact, that there are so many of us who follow the path of least resistance. The Still Small Voice within each of us is easily drowned out when there is no intention or encouragement to listen to it… and humanity as a whole suffers for this error.

But that quiet voice is still there. And it is important to remember, “The way that can be followed is not the way,” (attributed to Lao Tzu, 4th century BC). I do not mean to advocate anarchy here, but simply the cultivation of each of our own unique potentials within the whole of this thing called the human race. And it is a Whole. Modern science is beginning to verify the mystics’ stance that we are all connected in some invisible way, and that we all share information, no matter how distant how bodies. “The Hundredth Monkey effect” is a contemporary expression of something that we all know, deep down, to be true. Modern communication technology, astounding as it is, mirrors only a fraction of what humans are capable of.

If we are all unique, all connected, the implications can only boil down to this: each of us is here to offer her individual gifts and her portion of the Light to everyone else… for the good of all. The inhabitants of this planet cannot afford to hold onto the illusion that we are all ‘separate’ much longer. The environmentalist, John Seed makes this very clear: “Just hold your breath for two minutes and you will understand the illusion of separation. There is no separation possible. We are constantly cycling the water and air and earth through us.” The belief in humans as separate (which is not the same as individual) is a belief whose run has ended.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1825-1926) wrote: “For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” And it is in our communication, the very energy that we ripple out from the center of ourselves, that we have the potential to communicate love… or something else. We communicate through our creativity of any form, our attitudes, our moment-by-moment actions and our words. We change the world, keep it the same or make it worse with every moment’s choice. I am not saying that the best choice is easy… only that it is necessary.  “Mostly people change not because they see the light, but because they feel the heat.” (Unknown)

Can you feel the heat?

“Communication” (oil on paper)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is trail.

My mind loves to announce loudly that “this is not my beautiful life!” (Inspired, no doubt, by lyrics from the song, “Once in a Lifetime,” on the Talking Heads album, Remain in Light). I hear this voice most often first thing in the morning, and I admit, it is not the most receptive way to start a day…

I have lost count of the number of times that I was sure that my life had deterred dramatically from what it should be, whether by ‘accident’ or my own strange choices. And yet as I look back much later, I see that virtually all of those events, people, situations and places fit neatly into this thing called The Journey of My Life. They have all added up and been woven into the cloth of who I am today… although some of that past has only seemed relevant many years later.

That voice in my head is not deterred at all by these facts. It perpetually drones on about how this moment is never quite right, or should not be happening at all. If this voice belonged to someone else, I would probably pat it’s owner on the head and offer her some chocolate, with a “There, there now,” and a compassionate smile for her painful mental track. But since that voice lives in me, I tend to take it much more seriously. Alas! It is certainly part of my trail to learn compassion for my own mental ruts…

“The world is as you dream it.” (from the book of the same name) is a phrase that resonates deeply in my heart. In a seemingly same vein, I was briefly intrigued by the currently hip notion that we can make anything happen if we visualize and think positively, intensely enough about it. Eventually I realized that there is a great deal of difference between creating from the “little me” mind… and creating from the Spirit. And that yes, I may be creating all of the events of my life, but the “I” that is creating them is not that little self, but the larger Spirit or Soul “me”. This realization explains perfectly (to me!) the disquieting sense that something else is running my life… and at the same time, the sense that somewhere beyond memory, I actually signed up for these experiences so that I would learn something significant.

Perhaps the best that any of us can do is to be present with the unfolding of our Journey, moment by moment, and trust that a deeper wisdom is guiding our steps and our choices even when it looks otherwise. This is a very large and long view to take of one’s life, but it probably is the healthiest view. Why wait to be a wise old grandmother when I can view my life that way now? I leave you with this wonderful poem by Lew Welch

I saw myself

a ring of bone

in the clear stream

of all of it

and vowed,

always to be open to it

that all of it

might flow through

and then heard

“ring of bone”

where ring is what a

bell does.


“Tempted at the Gate” (oil on board)

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