Posts Tagged ‘Mary Oliver’

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is warning.

Sometimes in moments of acute frustration, I find myself wishing fervently for an external, clear path to follow. I wish for a path or a system that could tell me exactly what choices to make and how to achieve that elusive goal, success. That path would have road signs that point, “You are here. This is how you get there.” It might even be handy to have a red warning light on my forehead that could predict, “Danger! Danger!” in a no-fooling, mechanical voice.

Usually, though, I am counting on the belief that trusting my Inner Guidance is an art that can be learned and depended upon for all of my life choices. It is the art of Listening, augmented by the ability to pay attention to, and learn from, the outcomes of my choices. When I am not in a fearful (or frustrated) state, I remember that human beings are bodies and souls. Such a dual journey may well be more about the Soul’s journey than it is about the status, resume, or bank account growth. It may be that the acquisition of property, success and external perfection are not what we are really here for…not the Purpose of a life. If it’s not for external achievement, then what are we here for?

Surely Leonard Cohen was alluding to the true purpose when he wrote, “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (“Anthem” lyrics from the album, “The Future”)

Mary Oliver, in her poem, “Wild Geese”, said this another way,

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Let us remind ourselves: we are already the goal. There is nowhere to get to, nothing to achieve that will make us more perfect, more successful than the miracle that we already are. When we realize this, we bring the joy and peace of that understanding to everything external that we do. “Success” takes on a whole new meaning…


“Danger” (watercolor, gouache, pencil, pen & ink)


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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is star gazing.

Clear nights, bright stars… humans have contemplated the heavens since the beginning of time, wondering deeply about their place in the Universe. But there is another kind of star gazing—the one known as ‘watching the famous people…’

Psychologists say that humans are hard-wired to be tribal, and archeologists confirm that mankind’s earliest history was communal. The contemporary person is quite a bit more solitary, but the tribal-ness is still there. It causes us to behave in certain beneficial ways—and also in some less-than beneficial ways. It should come as no surprise that marketing experts have figured out how to capitalize on this basic nature… and most especially, the deep human need to ‘position’ oneself within a group (or tribe, as they were once called), preferably at the top.

We’ll call this need  to self-position, ‘The Better-Than/Less Than game.’ This is a game of comparison… and one of its side-effects is Envy (or envidia, as the Spanish so eloquently name it). With television and Internet, humans can go celebrity stargazing night or day, and our Envy can be triggered by the click of a mouse. We can see what the latest movie star is wearing to the Oscars, where the new basketball star bought a villa, where the rich and famous are congregating… and who is excelling in our chosen realm, while we ourselves are falling behind. It is even possible to feel temporarily better by comparison. Being unavoidably human, we will all play this Better-Than/Less-Than game at some point in our life.

Lucky for us, advertisers are ready with a plethora of solutions and consolations: this season’s fashions, cars, entertainments, and the most alluring of all: food. The list of consolation pleasures is endless, but they never satisfy for long… nor very deeply. Behind the surface encouragement to become our best selves with slogans like, “Just Do It!” and  “Be All That You Can Be!” are the companies profiting from our deep self-esteem and self-direction issues… courtesy of our tribal hard-wiring.

But becoming our best selves is what we are here for. Listening and acting upon the heart’s dreams is one of the major purposes of being alive. In the middle of the night, in the depths of our heart, we know this. But yes, life can be very distracting. We get side-tracked. We have fears. Life goes by. We fall into amusing and distracting ourselves from the pain of a life un-lived with the little games of Better-Than/Less-Than. For a day we may have relative peace because, by comparison, we feel Better-Than… or today we may become depressed and reach for something to sooth our comparative Less-Than, if only temporarily.

But life is going by… can you feel it?

If we are breathing, it is not too late to quit the star gazing habit, to turn inward for direction, and to contemplate this question from the American poet, Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Jealousy” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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