I had some time to kill on this beautiful eve, so I got a FiiZ and drove up a canyon and listened to music and later on tried to find a place to take a leak. And I had some thoughts, so I’m gonna purge out just a crapload of words on Facebook because that’s always a good idea to sort out some super dramatic thoughts this way. Thanks, Zuckerberg.

My thoughts: These times, these times couldn’t be designed better to shake us up if they were engineered by the person who came up with the Blender Bottle. <rimshot!>

But for real, it’s like this perfect witch’s brew to generate uncertainty and fear and pride.

I remember the idea by CS Lewis, well probably by lots of people, but I love CS Lewis and his name is “Clive” so we’ll go with it. Anyway, the idea is that the people around you, every person around you, is the holiest thing you’ll ever come into contact with, the most important and permanent and eternal thing. But we’re living right now with so many things that challenge that idea, that disconnect us, that make us lose belief in each other.

This freaking virus, with the devastation to so much of what we knew, the way it’s necessarily isolated us from each other, the way it’s brought distrust and, now, as we try to move forward, the way it somehow pits us against each other and puts us into positions of such harsh judgement of everyone around us.

And the social upheaval and conversations about racial injustice and systemic racism and a movement that is so necessary and so painful and so overdue and so full of discomfort and guilt for those of us who are, for maybe finally, shamefully the first time, really listening, really trying to understand, and really confronting our biases, really ready to help, if only we can learn how.

And the consequences of this social upheaval, which somehow puts people we love and admire and respect and trust and who have brutal jobs doing their best to protect us on the other side of “peaceful protests” where they shield themselves with riot gear and endure countless hours of listening to the foulest possible venom directed at them, designed to make things personal and offensive enough to elicit a violent response.

And the social media where we connect with our friends without really connecting with them at all, where our “friends” are actually just “identified strangers” because of the medium.

And a fragmented mass media that cashes in on all of our worst instincts and profits on our built-in tribalism.

And politicians that are just the worst and all of the problem and also just a symptom of the problem.

All of these wonderful things happening in a presidential election year, which are genetically enhanced years that are perfectly designed to divide the closest of us even in the best times.

Well whoopity dooo for all of this.

It’s so easy in these times to just feel cloudy. Every day. Just cloudy. So tricky to feel hope, to feel abundance. It’s so easy to get stuck in my fear, in the uncertainty. It’s so easy to soothe myself with my pride. It’s so easy to put up barriers in my soul to keep me protected from my insecurities, to keep me justified in my fear.

But the thing is, it’s a time for change. I mean the freaking universe, evidently, says it’s a time for change, and here’s a perfect witch’s brew to get you used to the idea that it’s a time for change, and who are we to argue with the freaking universe? So it’s a time for change.

Which makes me think about this idea I learned while selling religion door-to-door in New Jersey with moderate success. The idea is this:

The point isn’t that we can change. The point is that we have to change.

I learned that idea in a religious context, and it’s been so powerful for me that way, but also in lots of other ways. It’s not just that we can change, it’s that we have to change.

So, I’m sitting there in the mountains tonight, needing to pee and sitting next to this completely gorgeous river, and I get to thinking about how alive that river feels and how solid these mountains feel, and how for thousands and thousands of years this river has been doing its thing, and how it will be doing its thing for thousands and thousands more years, and the water just keeps coming, not always the same, but always the same. It just keeps being alive. It’s so easy to be myopic, but somehow that river told me to stop sweating stuff and be alive.

And that got me thinking of my grandpas – Walt born in 1902 and Ralph born in 1911. These dudes. They were here to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and they were all out of bubblegum. But, ho-leeeee cow, did they live through some times of change. It’s hard to even fathom how much different the world became in their lifetimes, how much better it got, how much they had to adapt, how much suffering they encountered. It’s easy to gaze at my own navel and feel like these times are requiring more of me than any previous generation of humans could possibly understand. How stupid.

So I found a place to pee, don’t ask, and then I came up with four things to remind myself of as coming days and weeks and months remain cloudy.

First, give people a freaking break. Be kind. People, almost all of them, are just doing their best. The complexity multiplied by uncertainty doesn’t make for clean answers or plans. Cut people some slack. They are, in all likelihood, just trying to do their best.

Second, remember that my compass is already inside of me. There’s so much noise. It’s so easy to get distracted, to get befuddled, to get lost in the tall weeds. So, I need to keep listening with wide open ears and a full heart, I need to engage and be awake and be alive, but my compass, the direction I need, the right answers, those are inside of me.

Third, I need to love what’s right in front of my face. This is the most enduring lesson from having a kid with leukemia. You just don’t freaking know what’s coming. You don’t ever know. And somehow, loving the things right in front of your face in the best way you can, with your whole soul, with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that makes the uncertainty ok.

And fourth, there has never, no never, not ever, been progress without pain. It’s just what life on this planet is. You want to get better, you want your family to get better, you want your community to get better, you want the world to get better, all of that comes with a cost. There is no other way.

The underlying beauty is, we exist in narratives. I don’t know where that thought comes from, but I love it so much that I would give up my beard oil for it. We exist in narratives. Experience happens, we live it in the moment, but it’s only after the fact that we define it, that we create our understanding of it, that we make it fit the story that we tell ourselves about our own life. There’s such power in that, I think, the idea that we choose how to define what happens to us. It’s all just experience, all of this, and we choose what it means, and we exist in that narrative.

And with that crapload of words, I’m going to go pee again.

Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes.

And also, texting is simple and it works. Let’s text!

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Shmarmy Personal Post: Chapter 4