GNL number 97

a report of doings at meeting #97, Sunday, August 16, 2015

including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends


People alter themselves so much that there is something new to be observed in them forever. ~~~Jane Austen

A man who had not seen Mr. Keuner for a long time greeted him with these words: “You haven’t changed at all.” “Oh,” said Mr. Keuner, deeply shocked. ~~~Bertoldt Brecht


Ann opened today’s conversation on Change in Our Lives OverTime, with a wonderful, perfect-fitting set of 6-wordies, and followed this with a poem from a childhood favorite of hers, A.A.Milne’s Now We Are Six. For these please see AFTERWORDS. She also recalled life with her older sister who did some edgy things as a teen that fussed the parents but helped A see what to avoid, and thus navigate her own teens. And then too, the many years with Elliott, and their deciding to formally marry seven years ago.

Sue spoke of her initial sense of not having changed much, but then recalling her history that included experimenting with drugs and relationships, and then the transition from her first marriage to the second, and a more peaceful life. She also told of an extraordinary moment with her dad near the end of his life when he was losing his identity, and at one point recognized her as someone he would like, that reminded him of his daughter, and how that was a joy to her, being loved by him anew. Sue also brought a poem and quotes. (See AW.)

Louise also said she’d found herself very little changed from her formative childhood in the big family with many siblings, and cousins: this was where as an adolescent she learned she enjoyed taking care of her little cousins, and the stage set for her long satisfying career as a teacher who felt “being with” was the essential part of teaching. Another formative aspect of her childhood was discovering the Nancy Drew mystery books that sparked a lifelong interest in investigating and problem solving.

Gail described herself as not much changed either, from the shy child who’s learned to recognize and move through that by will as an adult. She did picture her early adulthood with her first husband and going along with his style—wilder and more alcohol-related—, and then marriage to Cliff, who was the opposite, quiet and appreciative of her and all her qualities. And then, her relationship with granddaughter Virginia, with whom she’d just gone camping—a fine success— with both so glad to be who and where they are.

Cynthia, like the rest of us was conscious of the changes we’re undergoing as we age, and the rest of us had also watched with pleasure and awe as she developed her painting art over the past several years since retiring from the Natural Food Store. But Cyn had also brought a very interesting note on change from her and Ron’s friend Don, and this described the conversation overheard between a young supermarket cashier and an older lady customer, who was recalling the old days when everybody automatically did so many frugal and conserving acts.

Nancy also had had the sense of “not much changed” (except lots of health issues and wrinkles), but then some other ideas: she’d slowed down in terms of physical skill, but since moving into the new house, had not stopping moving, and needed to slow down and sit down. Looking back at changes of the last 20-30 years, she’d gone from busy family life with husband and six kids to a quiet solitary life, and from busy professional life to quiet retirement. And looking back further, how formative her childhood had been. Notes on this in AW..

Since the House of Flowers Orphanage in Kabul continues to need help, we readily agreed to send our offering this Sunday to this wonderful program.


We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden. ~~~Goethe


Sunday, September 13, 2015 (10:30), at Gail Sondergaard’s house in Worcester. The topic is Jobs We’ve Had


from Sue

Here’s the quotes I read:

Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one. ~~~Marianne Williamson

The Practice of Looking Deeply Using Three Dharma Seals: Impermanence, No-self and Nirvana, by Thich Nhat Hanh | 9/1/2002

When we bathe in the river today that we bathed in yesterday, is it the same river? Heraclitus said that we couldn’t step into the same river twice. He was right. The water in the river today is completely different from the water we bathed in yesterday. Yet it is the same river. When Confucius was standing on the bank of a river watching it flow by he said, “Oh, it flows like that day and night, never ending.”

“The insight of impermanence helps us to go beyond all concepts. It helps us to go beyond same and different, and coming and going. It helps us to see that the river is not the same river but is also not different either. It shows us that the flame we lit on our bedside candle before we went to bed is not the same flame of the next morning. The flame on the table is not two flames, but it is not one flame either. (also in No Death, No Fear)

A poem for the month of Elulby Rabbi Rachel Barenblat


How to make it new:
each year the same missing
of the same marks,
the same petitions
and apologies.

We were impatient, unkind.
We let ego rule the day
and forgot to be thankful.
We allowed our fears
to distance us.

But every year
the ascent through Elul
does its magic,
shakes old bitterness from our hands and hearts.

We sit awake, itemizing
ways we want to change.
We try not to mind
that this year’s list
looks just like last.

The conversation gets
easier as we limber up.
Soon we can stretch farther
than we ever imagined.
We breathe deeper.

By the time we reach the top
we’ve forgotten
how nervous we were
that repeating the climb
wasn’t worth the work.

Creation gleams before us.
The view from here matters
not because it’s different
from last year
but because we are

and the way to reach God
is one breath at a time,
one step, one word,
every second a chance
to reorient, repeat, return.

This is the poem I wrote and shared with friends and family during Elul of 5765 (also known as 2005). I suspect the beginning of the poem was influenced by Ezra Pound’s poetic dictim of “make it new.” The “it” in question was poetry, though I think it’s an interesting instruction for life, too. What might it mean to make life new when even the most cursory process of discernment reveals the ways in which we repeat our old patterns year after year? This poem offers one possible answer.

from Ann

6 wordies:

Not who I thought I’d be.

Watching myself age is:

  • often fascinating
  • not pretty
  • sometimes awesome
  • really scary
  • watching mom
  • not me
  • really unreal

When I was one, I’d just begun
When I was two, I was nearly new
When I was three, I was hardly me
When I was four, I was not much more
When I was five, I was just alive.
But now I’m six I’m as clever as clever
And I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

A.A. Milne

from Nancy

Weep not that the world changes — did it keep a stable, changeless state, it were cause indeed to weep. ~~~William Cullen Bryant

There is nothing permanent except change. ~~~Heraclitus

It is in changing that things find repose. ~~~Ibid

Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. ~~~George Bernard Shaw

And some notes on ancient history:

Recalled how being an only child for years probably led to some introspective habits, like reading and library-hanging and running early into things like John Donne’s No Man is an Island. And to exploring alone outdoors, especially one very special time: was about 9-10 years old, had gone up a high grassy hill near my aunt’s house, and was struck with a sense of the bigness and beauty of the world I was part of, belonged to. This was surely a big part of what became a life-long love of the natural world, and my own enthusiasm for the back to the land choice Phil and I made in the 70’s. And probably not too surprising either that an introspective nature lover and avid reader also bumps into Eastern philosophy, and finds she’s not the only one seeing this way. One big messy beautiful process, life is change.

PS—And bending back to that original ‘not much changed’ theme: early in this exploration, old feelings of regret surfaced for having reached my advanced age without developing talents, especially music (other than fine and persistent whistling). And I realized I am still dabbling in everything, the kid who wants to look at it all. So, something like regret, but also a bit of gladness, to have the curiosity, and some of that non-expert, beginner outlook….


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