Tag Archives: silence

protagonist parting words: the gray scale

grayscale 2images

I am finishing up this week with what this month’s chapter writer Seth called “the Trinity” readings. My experiences through Seth’s suggestions have helped me develop some clarity and understanding of what kind of spiritual practices speak to me. I must say though in these mere 30 days in which I’ve scrutinized these topics, I feel as if I have only scratched the surface wandering down the endless paths that examining religion and/or spirituality can take you. And where am I now after this month of March? Well I am no closer to any specific truth, and I may actually be further away. Which is A-OK in my book.

In the search, between right and wrong, black and white, and good and evil, I have been finding large territories of gray landscapes, with unmarked highways, unnamed cities, and unspoken languages. But this does not deter me. On the contrary, it excites me.

Being a lover and maker of black and white photographs, I spent years of my life in a darkroom trying to re-create the correct balance of black and white and all that lies in between by using a machine that directs and times the quantity of light. (sounds strangely like many of our searches for truth no?) I never made the same picture twice and gave up searching for any kind of perfect balance. I was happier with making what I called art.  What I did find though in my darkroom explorations, is that no image is more beautiful and real than the ones that have a spectrum of gradations – a true white and a true black and the full gray-scale in between.

How does this metaphor translate to my beliefs at the end of this month on spirituality? Well, I believe that the shades of gray (what it is we don’t know or can not prove) are the most important arenas to explore and examine, even if we are not sure what we are looking at?  I can look outside of myself to a religious doctrine, a literary text, ancient manuscript or a scientific equation to prove what I believe to exist or to not exist. Or I can look within myself and observe my feelings, reactions, and instinct in my immediate environment to understand what I believe to exist at any given moment. Instead of trying to prove or disprove an existence of any God, I ‘d like to start by observing, accepting and being grateful for my existence and life itself.

My last reading of the month is “Silence”: the Lectures and Writings by John Cage. In a strange way I feel as though Cage’s writings are depicting the same thing as the Tao Te Ching but only in literary and musical metaphors. I found Cage’s lectures to be a repetitive description of the constant process of construction and deconstruction of what we as a society understand to be “true”. It’s a way in which we have all learned throughout history to understand our place in the world.

Remember Lao Tzu’s words?

“The Tao that can be followed is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”

Flip to any one of the 276 pages of free form verse and prose in John Cage’s writings on Silence and find the same sentiments re-worded in ways that could engage all or any one of us.  His words continuously question and dissect; they don’t define.

One of his thoughts that resonates with me greatly is the following:

“The activity of movement sound and light we believe, is expressive, but what it expresses is determined by each one of you – who is right… if he thinks he is. The novelty of our work derives therefore from our having moved away from simply private human concerns towards the worlds of nature and society of which all of us are a part. Our intention is to affirm this life, not to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one get’s one’s mind and one’s desires out its way and lets it act of its own accord.”

Silence itself has been a reoccurring theme in my personal explorations into self-awareness and development. It is something that I would like to continue to return to and thank Seth for bringing it to my awareness in a new way this month. I believe that it is in the silence where the listening begins, not to other sounds or voices from the outside, but from the guidance that is held within us. It is there in the space that silence gives us where the process of construction and deconstruction occurs. It is what depicts and fills in the full gray-scale and brings our own truth to life.

But don’t listen to me. Find your own silence and your own truth. Where are you on the gray-scale?


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.


january: wild card

Dave SchottIMG_6285

During the time that I began to know Beth, she was immersed in a number of projects in Baltimore.   These included: “Speaking of Silence”, “Middle East Baltimore Stories”, and “Remington Youth Community Radio” . These endeavors centered around uncovering voices and stories that had been purposely silenced or ignored as unimportant, or they were designed to give an outlet for those who don’t normally get to share themselves.  I remember spending time with Beth and plunging into questions around how these topics and people had been marginalized and silenced.  Something that I realized about Beth, was that as she was undertaking these projects, she was forging a connection to place, which helped to create an even deeper feeling of home for her in Baltimore.

This month you have been asked to investigate your new home of St Croix and share some of the things that you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.  As you make new discoveries, you are connecting in different ways with your new environment.

For this month’s wildcard I would like to combine this exploration of your new environment, with the exploration of silence and marginalization.  As part of your discovery process you have been instructed to conduct three interviews.  During one of these interviews I would like you to try and interview a Crucian.  Along with the general questions you ask about the area that will help in completing your field guide,  I would like you to delve into some questions that will uncover something hidden within the fabric of life on the island.  This could be linked to the environment, culture, history, etc.. but must uncover something that has been  marginalized or silenced (possible examples:  crucian language and people, agricultural resurgence, cultural heritage, diversity of climate, water scarcity, bio-luminescent bays, hovensa oil refinery).  As this uncovering process helped you during your Baltimore projects, the goal is that this exploration of silence on St Croix will be a way for you to discover the depth of your new home, and possibly even uncover a creative project or interest for you there in the future.

As your field guide continues and as you use one interview to uncover something hidden about your new home, I would also ask that you take one photo per day of something that makes you feel at home there and to publish at least five of these at the end of the month on the living chapters website.    You can add short captions to each one or leave them to speak for themselves.

As a final link between home and silence: try to take ten minutes per day (you are welcome to extend the length if time allows) for yourself where you calm your mind in your new environment and just breath and relax.  I know that in previous chapters you have been asked to take on similar awareness exercises, and this is just a small continuation and reminder of that, as I know from my own life that when I am moving around and adjusting to new places, I forget to take this time for me, and have to be reminded to do so.

It is clear that there is much happening with your settlement on St. Croix (long plane rides, unfinished living space, remote roads, hindered communications and/or internet).   Don’t let this month’s chapter or additional wildcard challenge overwhelm or add difficulty to your life.  Instead, continue to adapt to each moment as you have before to see what it holds for you and how it can further your integration there.

As this is a busy time with adaptation and logistical considerations, let this also be a time of exploration, awareness and relaxation .

This chapter has set a direction and goals for you this month………but reaching the destination, as always, is not the important thing….


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

protagonist parting words

This month Amy, Agnes and Grace challenged me to be mindful and aware of my thoughts, my body, my feelings, and the passing time that holds them all together.

I found great benefits in the exploration of meditation, silence, stillness as well as silliness this month.  Even though I feel as though I’ve merely scratched the surface in this exploration, I’ve noticed that what I have put into practice this month really has helped me to let go a bit more, relax into my resistance and disentangle from the situations in which I can not control.  I also learned that looking directly at my discomfort or resistance has lead to greater clarity and comfort.

I will keep my parting words brief and leave you with the above lessons I’ve learned as well as a few of the same questions that we started with to ponder.  I don’t suspect these questions will ever really be answered with any amount of reflection and meditation. I kind of hope that they stay unanswered.  I have enjoyed indulging in this exploration and hope to continue to do so in each future chapter to come.

What is happiness? Is it something we can find or do we create it ourselves? How long can it last?

How do we balance the act of leading and planning our lives while allowing them to unfold?

Can darkness pain and resistance lead to clarity peace and understanding?

What can our physical realities teach us about our existential existence?

As long we are all making it through our existential crises day-to-day, I think we’re all doing ok!  Be here now.


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

September: Wild Card

chapter4wildcard ch4

My daughter and I have finally agreed on a wild card.  It was through much deliberation on my end to come up with an enhancement for this month’s theme as Amy has thoroughly covered all areas, which I fully commend.  My daughter, Grace, on the other hand knew right away what she wanted for Beth to do this month.  Leave it to children and their “free” minds to celebrate an opportunity.  We know Beth is going through a lot of changes in her life at this time so we believe these requests are reasonable and beneficial for her.  So here they are…

Grace says – Beth must wear a mustache every time she meditates.  Now since Grace and I saw Jim before he left for St Croix today, and will be meeting up with Beth, he promised to pass on to her a pair of glasses with attached mustache that Grace insisted upon.  Stick on mustaches just wouldn’t hold up and these glasses are more like wearing a disguise or a hat.  It’ll definitely keep her in the moment of her meditating.  These “must” be worn anytime she meditates, even if it’s in front of others.  Testing the strengths of limiting distraction.

Aggie says – each week Beth needs to take a “day of silence”.  Beth is able to choose which day but these days must consist of no talking…at all.  Only communication with others will have to be by notes – handwritten or typed emails are acceptable.  The objective is to pull within to the extreme of recognizing what truly needs to be expressed, overcoming expectations of others and self and exercising will power.  It’s very easy for us to speak without thinking and reacting to our environment, thus this will give her the time to silence her being, mind and allow clarity to come forth for the true desired expression.  Beth is encouraged to write down or log any thoughts which occur on a day of silence that need to be discussed at a later time but they must be succinct by the time she is ready to speak them.

OK that is it!  Grace & I hope Beth enjoys the rest of her month’s living chapter and that these are attainable without being stressful wild cards.  Let us know if any elaboration or clarity is needed and thanks again for the opportunity!

Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.