GNL number 30

the GOOD NEWS lately

a report of doings at meeting #30, Sunday, January 17, 2010
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


What if you slept and
what if in your sleep,
you dreamed?
And what if, in your dream,
you went to heaven
and then plucked a strange
and beautiful flower?
And what if, when you awoke,
you had the flower in your hand?
Ah, what then?
—–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

What if nothing exists and we’re all in somebody’s dream?
Or what’s worse, what if only that fat guy in the 3rd row exists? 
—–Woody Allen


Gail, whose idea it was to discuss WHAT IF…. today, began the conversation by recalling how after high school, fate had frustrated her hope of college for home economics, and her life turned in other directions.  But she also saw the creative aspect of the question, as in her present need with Cliff’s health issues to do more work on the farm and in the barn, and so to ask:  what if…we could rig up a conveyor system, and what if we could get Putumayo to run an allday music station, wouldn’t chores be so much more efficient and enjoyable!   She added a quote with advice what if followed would make a much happier and peaceful world: “We must encourage ourselves not to be angry at, or judge others for the places where they are broken.” (from Sarah Shendelman and Dr. Avram Davis)

Cynthia asked What If years ago, when her son’s crisis occurred, her dear boss Mickey had refused to accept her resignation from her job.  For then C had to continue, not lose herself in his struggle, as a woman in a similar situation had done in a book she had read (Night Navigator, by a friend of Sue’s, Ginnah Howard).  She said Mickey had been right, and expressed deep gratitude for her boss’s wisdom and faith in her, and in life unfolding.

Sue, saying the topic had worked on her more intensely than most, first remembered her frustrations of the last few years during her father’s decline and her brother’s continuing mental illness, and wishes, e.g., that her dad had anticipated and planned for some of it.  She also underlined the wisdom of Gail’s quote about our human broken places.  She was moved by the What If question to write several poems.  And these along with other notes and quotes appear in AW, below.

Ann was first struck by some big global considerations, like What If  there had been no Rachel Carson with her Silent Spring, and What If no GW Bush presidency, and then some very personal ones, two cases in which she could have lost her life but for fortunate choices.  For more on these, along with her always anticipated 6-wordies and a word-string on the subject, please see AW.

Anna spoke of What If in terms of openness to possibilities;  she recalled that, surprisingly, in spite of being unsure of herself as a young adult and in the habit of bowing to the authority of others, somehow something inside made her set off on her own in that young adulthood for adventure and faraway places.

Like Gail, Chris described hopes frustrated in young adulthood by finding herself in the wrong college, but then also in the wrong marriage, and without children, before ending up with her husband Paul.  And then she described another kind of What If,  her recent intensely opening-up experience at a workshop called Love/Loss/Forgiveness led by the therapist Michael Murphy. Chris can provide more information about these workshops, if you ask.

Adair noted that pain was well represented in our gathering, that hard things had indeed happened to us all, and that sometimes, though one keeps going, there is a heavy weight she calls chronic heartache, as in her own family, where an estrangement continues which is very painful to her.  She gave us a wise 6-word phrase, for which see AW.  And then she spoke of the tragic Haiti earthquake, which prompted a sub-topic of comments about strategies, like small tech, and how we can help, how move leaders, as well as worries the huge media coverage would further bury the issue of poverty in the rest of the world, and hopes that it would open people’s minds further to other suffering in the world.

Nancy said the topic question came at her from many directions, but first, most strongly, and positively, as the way her grandkids (and most kids) go about life, asking and doing What If everyday—the attitude of seeing possibilities, of imagination.  And from there, the John Lennon song Imagine, about the possibilities of real life on Earth. And then the classic film It’s A Wonderful Life, with suicidal George Bailey given insight by the angel Clarence about what if he hadn’t lived.  Which, added to her recent visit with 4 of her 6 kids and their families, reminded N of what wonderful people they are, who give so much zest, laughter, curiosity, kindness, courage, and love to the world, and how glad she is to have been part of that. (Further notes in AW.)

Jack spoke of his present life, in which he needs help to walk and do things with his hands, and has had to learn new ways of doing everything, including accepting assistance.  And then he said, from Maine to the Shakers and the Quakers to here and now,  all one story, one good story.  No what if regrets.

Erynne, whom the rest of us were so happy to see after many working Sundays kept her away, also had more than one interpretation of What If.  First, in a social-political sense: What If Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had not been killed—where might they have led us regarding civil rights and war and peace?  And then, her own experience: recalling that she had come to Schoharie County because of a relationship which ended up not lasting, but her relationship with Schoharie did, she said gratefully, and we agreed.

Special note:  At closing, we agreed our offering this time would be given for Haiti Relief, and we did so, through a special GE program which matched our gift (to UNICEF).


What if someday or night, a demon were to steal after you
into your loneliest loneliness and say to you,
“This life as you now live it and lived it, you will have to
live once more and innumerable times more.”
Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth
and curse the demon who spoke thus?
Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment
when you would have answered him
“You are a God, and never have I heard anything more divine.”
—–Friedrich Nietzsche


Sunday, February 7, 2010 (1030), at Jack’s place.  The theme is MUSIC in our lives.    (Yes—show/play/sing?and tell!)

And here is a sampling of recent TOPIC IDEAS for your consideration: POTLUCK (thoughts on topic of your choice, surprise us) / AGING / LOSS / GOOD and EVIL / SMALL PLEASURES / BEST & WORST JOBS YOU EVER HAD / TALENTS & SKILLS  / BOXES & BUTTONS / WISE WORDS that have helped you most / CRUTCHES, CRAVINGS, COMPULSIONS /  PRIORITIES / NECESSITIES / (and Sue’s latest good one:) THIS I BELIEVE.


from Sue

  • Quotes:  What is more mortifying than to feel you’ve missed the Plum for want of courage to shake the Tree? ~Logan Pearsall Smith
  • “Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.” ~Author Unknown
    “…you cannot appreciate the destination without knowing the starting point; you cannot revel in the simplicity unless you remember the alternatives.” ~David Eagleman, “Descent of Species,” Sum: 40 Tales from the Afterlives, Pantheon, 2009, p.11.
  • What If—An inquiry to point me forward on my path (1/10/10)
    What difference might it make if I welcome this difficulty with an open
    trusting heart rather than the gnashing teeth, the usual curses
    as I blindly hurl myself against all the obstacles before me?
    What If?-Looking Backward
    What if 40years ago, ____ and I worked it out—
    sparing our son the early pain of parting?
    Then there would be no daughter
    of my second man.
    What if I never married ___, in the first place?
    Then, no son, no grandchildren,
    no meeting up with second love,
    no daughter.
    All What-if’s interrupt the flow
    of who we are—like time travel’s paradoxes—
    one small twig snapped on the past’s forest path
    and your entire future world changes.
    No matter how many what-if whips
    we snap against ourselves
    we cannot change the past,
    nor guarantee a better future.
    The only backward looking What-if I can imagine doing any good is the one
    that somehow opens our hearts to a more loving, understanding future. ~1/11/2010
    Obsessive What-ifing too easily morphs into chronic If-only’s, which drag you down into a pit of regret, beneath which lies only subterranean pools of endless misery. ~1/13/2010
    Open hearted what-if-ing
    What if I always welcomed difficulty
    thanked loss for reminding me
    that all I truly own is my yea-saying joy
    my love for this life
    and all companions on this arduous path with me?
    Utopian What-if (1/16/2010)
    What-if all beings opened their hearts to the One in All, and completely
    understood, body and spirit, that only if/when we all give everything away
    will we all receive every thing we need?

from Ann

  • What if Rachael Carson had never written and published Silent Spring?
  • What if the US had not used the A-bombs on Japan?
  • What if GW Bush hadn’t been selected?
  • What if cattails were really smokeable? What if cattails were really cat tails?
  • What if us global warming warners are right?
  • What if we all, here and those not right here, had not met?
  • Personal life and death changers:
    • What if I had grabbed that 28,000-volt power line that was chest high near my sheep barn?
    • What if I had chosen the right side of the island in the raging river in the Rockies, instead of the left side where people could reach me and safely pull the tube and me out of the river before the dam?
  • All of our decisions have facets of “What if….” Rarely can we revisit, revise, or rescind, and we often think that if only I had done something else it would have been better. Somehow what isn’t done we think is the better choice because we often don’t see the good in the decision we have made – “The road not taken…” is the unknown, yet often thought to be the better choice.
  • Six Wordies (spell check gives the following choice for wordies: wordiest, worries, wordier, wordiness)
    • What if…and yet then again…?
    • On the other hand… five fingers.
    • Christmas carnage, deflated inflatable yard Santas.
    • Haiti begins the new year devastated.
    • Do the children really deserve this?
  • Choices, voices, noises, voyages, passages, sausages, messages, gauges, sages, cages, … end of choices.

from Adair

  • 6-wordie:   ‘What if, we truly appreciated life.”
  • Another that comes to mind is: “What if, peace came to Earth.”

from Nancy

(Personal notes, in the order given at the meeting)

  • What If—from a dark corner where a chronic, mostly unfaced worry sits like a heavy weight:   What if  we Americans don’t wake up, and change our way of life—our estrangement from the rest of Nature, our ignorance of the rest of the world’s human cultures and realities,  our attachment to a distorted American dream that worships material wealth and the individual’s right to all he can get….
  • —–from a common human backward look, regretting:  What if I’d done that or hadn’t done this, I’d be ok now.  Or another just as common backward look, blaming:  What if I hadn’t been cheated or victimized by someone or something, I’d be successful  now.    And from our familiar focus on the future, hoping:  What if I can just get or do this, then I’ll finally be happy!
  • But the first thought on What If was very positive: remembering how often I’ve heard my grandchildren, Headstart kids, any kids,  use that phrase and that open attitude  in their play; it seems a precious tool to discover how life works, which is after all their business, should be ours too.  Remembering making paper airplanes with Eli and Lucy this visit, and explorations like: “Grandma, what if we put a little tape on the top, and keep the point sharp, won’t it go straighter and further?”
  • Which idea led to another memory: Lennon’s song IMAGINE—What if we could open our minds and see, think differently——–

    Imagine there’s no Heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    and no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace

    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    But I’’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will  be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed nor hunger
    Nor folk with empty hands
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world.

    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one

  • And finally, It’s A Wonderful Life —an echo from the holidays, and a reminder how hard it is for most of us to register the good things we’re involved in when we’re living as fast and defensively as we are much of the time. We may not have Clarence’s gift of magical, what-if hindsight into our own lives, but surely it’s true all the same that if we hadn’t been here, some good things would not have happened.

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