Limbic

“So this is something you’re doing for your ministry life?”

Um, no. I have no objective reason for getting a Lay Counseling Certificate. For spending 4, 4-day weekends in Seattle with some of the most thoughtful, kind, hungry and true people I know. But in the midst of chasing after another to-do, I’ve backed into a To-Be.

I’m getting this certificate for me.

I’m getting it for my friends that bring their strength and their tenderness to everything they do.

I’m doing it for my children.

I’m doing it for my wife.

I’m doing it for me.

I’m traveling with two externs, one a friend of close to a half decade, the other a friend of nearly 20 years. They’re sensational counselors, they’ve already done this work before and they’ve been invited back to be trained as facilitators. They’ve created a sort of dinner group after hours. So I’m the one non-degreed dude who goes and drinks a beer and eats a salad with seven ninjas. So needless to say, 6 to 8:30 is basically a bonus group session in Belltown. We also do lunch together, although that’s a bit more rushed. But basically, free-time? None. I’m back on the Block Plan.

I’ve been gone almost five days, but because I was engaged with my limbic system, something Stat Nerd Neocortical Ben has frequently placed in a dusty box on the shelf, I feel like I’ve been gone since July. Time moves slowly in the Limbic.

Why do this? Why go face first into this, and come into the last of 7 weekend group sessions, and tell the group “here’s the paradoxical bind: this is terrifying, and this is Joy” ? For reasons like this: Mike shared one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard on Saturday. He told a story about encountering a homeless man in South Beach, Miami years ago. The man was on a pier, raging. “WHERE’S THE HOPE, MAN? WHERE’S THE HOPE?”

His companion looked back at him with tenderness in her eyes.

She replied, “It’s somewhere after the pain.”

The Gospel According to Seth

All my Heroes are Heretics.

Probably my favorite secularist, this is a convicting masterpiece of an interview by Krista Tippet of the most important business blogger on the planet, Seth Godin.

The New Killer App

Off.

It’s pretty killer. I suggest you try it. What’s amazing is that it comes pre-loaded on most devices. Sometimes it’s a bit of a trick to activate it. First you have to press it down. Sometimes, you then have to swipe a blinking red icon to make it truly activate. But once you do this, something amazing happens:

The device goes dead.

matthew-ferrara Matthew Ferrara is one of the great business bloggers out there, because at his heart, he is a philosopher. That’s not some badge he wants to label himself with and doesn’t have the guns to carry. It’s legit. I had the privilege of seeing him speak last week on Maui at Hawaii Life’s Worthshop3 event where he was – well positioned – as the closer.

Here’s a quick sample of what he shared:

  • The Killer App: Off
  • You are paid to think. Really, that’s what you do. And how often a day do you just shut it down and think for 15 minutes? Do you ever do this?
  • You cannot think and do anything else at the same time.
  • Who has a great brand? The Sun. The Sun has the best brand in the solar system.

  • Even the towel bar employees that live on Maui and watch the spectacular green flash sunsets every day “have great respect for the sun”.
  • The Four Seasons room service begins with a warm aloha greeting of you the consumer by your last name, and ends the order with “prepare to be delighted.”

There’s a lot in our world that is barbaric and uncivilized and done in the name of enhanced profit and productivity. I was at the ultimate first-world event, three days at the Wailea Four Seasons on Maui learning from Dwell Media, Concierge Auctions and Marc Davison about folks that have $100,000 in discretionary income every year, and how to work with them. I also learned about destroying friction and bureaucratic obstacles with simplicity and tribalism from the Hawaiian Land Trust, Wall to Wall Media, the incredible Lou Doctor and Winny. But kudos to Matt Beal and the Hawaii Life team for pushing the envelope and in the name of simplicity, deploying both Ferrara and Martin Heidegger. After this power-packed conference, Ferrara was the closer, and he asked a room full of drivers… to shut it down. Pau hana. The room was mostly Hawaiians, but these were Hawaiian capitalists, economic drivers, and if they weren’t from Hawaii, they were usually from Orange County or NYC. Oh, and me. Ferrara’s message embraced Heidegger’s existential call to due violence to our everyday interpretation of complacency and our tranquilized obviousness.

Yes, the sun sets everyday. And it’s still amazing.

Yes, our Droid, does. But it also has an off button. 

Somedays, you’ve done enough. 

Mahalo, Matthew. Mahalo, Matt. Well done.

Wailea Beach Sunset

 

Never Say Good Bye

A Love and Life Kept Vivid.

Men, how much would it revolutionize your marriage if you wrote a love letter-a- day to your wife? When was the last time you did that?

How much would it transform a calcified heart if you melted when offered “a little ice cream?”

How will you die? Will your wife miss you? Or will she say instead, “no, I don’t miss him. It was an honor to have had him.”

Look, I suck when I answer everyone of these questions. I haven’t written a love letter or bought a card for my wife in ages. I’ve struggled with our co-dependent relationship issues for years finally confronting them this year. There’s a continental difference between loving your wife with boldness and fullness, and co-dependent reactionary love. The first is essence, being, the real self, and from the heart. The second is soulish, transactional and reactionary.

I thought dudes in Brooklyn were bums. Not Dannie Perasa.

This is no shameless plug to be a KRCC member (although, yes, I am a sustaining member!). But consider spending four minutes listening to this podcast from a horse-betting clerk, and how much richer he left the world due to the love he shared. The love he gave. The selfless life he lived. How he bled for his wife.

Donnie Perasa led by bleeding. He bled first.

I’m undone by this man.

 

Lunch/Play

“Lets plan to get together and do something fun.  Tell me more about your family and then I can make some suggestions about what could be fun to do together.”

That’s an introduction.

My insipid, flaccid soul-man can suggest “lunch” as a possible place to get to know someone. Mmmm… Panera. Maybe P.F. Chang’s. Something probably… chainy. Let’s get to know each other for maybe $12 of expense and save the receipt.

Not this guy. I’m traveling a pretty good distance, he lives there, and being polite, I suggest a couple different things trying to make it as convenient as possible.

Vulnerability isn’t convenient. 

Here’s the challenge to me: actually asking to do something fun. I can think of lots of things… to do. But what if I ask my heart… hey… what would be fun? What do I love? 

Just as much… what’s in the hearts of my family? My wife… what woos her? My wife loves many things, is incredibly gracious at going along with what others want to do, but when she is most herself, when she is most the rapturous woman of my dreams, her spirit is wooed. My boys are 7 and 10 year old without much spatial awareness or volume control. They like to do about anything that is messy, wet… but what do they love? How do my children come alive? I asked my oldest tonight that question. I asked him to think about his heart. His answer was “family”. “I don’t like change very much Dad.” That which anchors him and settles him and takes him to a place of consistency… that’s what he loves.

The person who wrote this to me is a person who just does God’s business. He just does it, pretty much without thinking. Two sentences of God’s clear truth to me:

Once again, Monty Python got it right

Once again, Monty Python got it right

1.) God doesn’t put up random walls of posture and societal genuflecting. He doesn’t have time for that, and all that groveling and talk of “I’m just a man” kinda pisses him off. So God doesn’t mess with it. Bob Goff says “Love Does.” The verb, “to do” and the anti-verb, “people-pleasing” are not at all related.  The first is an action guided by spirit. The second is a construction guided by soul. I’m a master of posture and societal genuflecting. “What could be fun to do together” has no room for posturing and other positional nonsense.

2.) The only knowledge really worth knowing isn’t empirical sets of data… it’s finding the present in our heart.

“For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”
― C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters

Blood Makes the Grass Grow Greener

Part of my dark history is that I was a Fratter my freshman year. My live-in pledgeship at an all-male college in Indiana was quite the ball of laughs.

Life as a Wabash Pledge Chapel SingThings like Chapel Sing while having jalapeños stuffed in my mouth, an introduction to sleep deprivation during Hell Week, the cold dorm… the seasoning of my youth. One of the stranger parts of our particular pledgeship was that all the pledges at the college had to be on the field for home football games yelling whatever the Sphinx Club told us.

One of their go-to cheers that all 180 of us would yell at the top of our lungs: “Blood Makes the Grass Grow Greener, Greener!”

How lovely is the flower of masculinity.

Men celebrate blood-letting. The NFL is being attacked again as the No Fun League for it’s emphasis on player safety and the tradition of Sunday gladiators is under the gun. If you want to move men in droves to the movies, find a new Gladiator or Braveheart, movies loaded with barbaric combat. “Leaving it all on the field”, “no pain, no gain”, Under Armour commercials with high schools spearing each other in a driving rainstorm practice. This is what hardens men. Right?

Bullshit.

Men, as a chromosomal tribe, are a bunch of blood-fearing babies.

We have nothing on women.

For a women, to be born into the world is to bleed. An entire women’s life is associated with the very concept of blood-letting. Women are born to give birth (okay feminists, come and get me), women menstruate, women understand that at the very core of their feminine nature is blood. Blood is not tidy. I watched (for the first-time actually) Castaway last night and was struck how many time Robert Zemeckis focused on Chuck bleeding. Bleeding when he walked across the coral. Gushing blood when he crashes onto the coral. The painful wound in his mouth. Wilson is born via Chuck’s own bloody hand. Not one of these things is life-threatening. But Zemeckis emphasizes  the image of blood swirling through the tropical coral reef waters as if it is a dramatic aspect of peril. It sure caught me.

It didn’t catch my wife.

A macro-theory of mine: Men don’t like to bleed. Who does? Fair question. But how about this: Men will go out of their way not to bleed. Men will go so far out of their way not to bleed, that it takes on implications that are not merely physical.

Men avoid pain.

What causes pain?

Relationships.

Blood is messy.

What else is messy?

Relationships.

Predictable sounds pretty good. Unpredictable sounds pretty bad. Men tend to like predictable.

You wanna know what’s unpredictable?

Bleeding. Relationships.

I know some very rich men. Rich in the heart. Rich in spirit. Rich in their love of Jesus. Rich in their care for other people.

Many men espouse that they would lay their lives down for another. But you know why? They see it as a heroic action. Not as a volition.

“I’ll die for you” is a heroic statement.

“I’ll bleed with you”. What the hell is that?

Are people going to line up at the theaters for the story of “I will bleed WITH YOU.” Well… women will.

Part of my journey this year began with the statement my wife made to me that I had made a commitment to isolation. A companion to that was a statement from one  of my therapists (’cause hey, I’m so f’ed up, I need more than one, right?):

“I think you want to become a lot more like Amy.”

My wife leads with the heart. I lead with my head. Fundamental difference number one.

But as a posing, uptight, protectionist, passive provider-for-my-family, I’m also freaking terrified of bleeding. In private. In public. By myself. Around my kids. My wife.

I know that this isn’t the most pleasant conversation for men. Yeah, I’ll mention the concept of the Red Tent here. The Red Tent was an ancient Jewish custom where women would have to gather together when menstruating or giving birth. They gathered with one another and bled. Their culture forced them into isolation and they gathered under a red tent so people could identify what was going on. This was the same culture that created such outcasts of lepers. We are far more modern today with our Tampax commericals during primetime, but psychologically, are we so far removed? Think about that for a second. Amidst all the references to junk and cocaine and everything else in the Rolling Stones deviant Let it Bleed is the lyric:

We all need someone we can bleed on 
And if you want it, baby, well you can bleed on me 
We all need someone we can bleed on 
And if you want it, why don’t you bleed on me 

That’s about as close as men ever get to the concept of Red Tent, but notice the passive tense: bleed on me. In other words… you do the bleeding. What is the implied declaration? “Not me. I’m not gonna bleed. You can go ahead and cover me in you mess. You will see me as better for taking your mess. But I’m going to remain free of that myself. It is your mess afterall. Not mine.”

There’s a statement here: “I’m not going to be a mess.”

Masculinity takes a passive role to bleeding. Let’s leave it in theory. Let’s leave it to someone else. Similarly, we take a passive role to the actions of our relationships. We say we will do messy, but what we mean is that we’ll tolerate someone else’s mess. We’ll go to our passive position of mastery, a place where we are safe. We will tolerate someone else’s mess. But dammit, don’t ask us to be messy. Don’t ask us to bleed.

What happens when you allow yourself to bleed? What happens to that grass?

Dumb Sheep

 

 

Metaphorical living is easily accomplished.

In theory.

For 15 years I have lived at the foothills of the Rockies. Better said, in Colorado Springs, we have some rocks, and then we have a 7700′ vertical called Pikes Peak. I’ve been living in the shadow of the rocks.

And these guys.

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If you’ve ever seen a bighorn up close, one of the more disconcerting things about them is their opaque black eyes. There really isn’t much going on there. I mean sure, they’re really awesome looking. They’re powerful, all-terrain brutes and I’ve seen them ramming skulls in Waterton Canyon south of Denver on more than one occasion.

But then you see the eyes. They’re actually dumb sheep.

Here’s why that’s hard for me: I’m incredibly prideful. Like… nauseatingly. It hurts to write that because it’s me in the third person. “That guy”… is prideful, intelligent, smug, Ben.

My ability to trust anyone but myself is well-known – painfully – by those closest to me. Letting go and trusting… that is not my mentality.

Figuring it out. Building a system. A better mousetrap. Exercises in re-branding (I did TWO today no less). Complicating things unnecessarily. Trusting my brain at the expense of a calcified heart. Since I was a teenager, that’s been my M.O. Around five months ago my wife made a statement that put me first into a tailspin and second into a counselor’s office. That statement was “a commitment to isolation.”

Read that again: “Commitment to isolation.”

Sheep have opaque eyes. I had/have layers of emotional plaque built up disconnecting my spirit from experiencing others, and shutting down the wellspring of my heart. All in the name of defending that special, prideful intelligence that would ultimately prevail.

And then Linda said to just “shut up and be a dumb sheep.”

This was in a counseling session.

AN EXPENSIVE COUNSELING SESSION.

When you think you’re a regal orca and you’re told to shut up and be a dumb sheep, that’s offensive.

Truth is never light and fluffy. Truth is rarely elegant. Truth is sturdy. Truth doesn’t stumble. Truth scales mountains. Truth is tough as hell.

Truth is a dumb sheep. I think I might be able to learn something from them.

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