On The Road To Zen

I just learned that one of my passions has an Italian name.  In the simplest of terms, dolce far niente  means the joy or sweetness of doing nothing, which is what I’ve been doing and save for my seemingly endless routine at work, I’ve done a great job at doing nothing.

God knows whatever it is that I’ve been doing hasn’t involved composing on this now threadbare nonsense.  I’ve neglected this blog.  I had to don a pith helmet and grab a machete to hack my way through the  overgrowth.   The strange thing is that I don’t exactly know the reason for partial abandonment.  Lord knows I still have plenty to say.  But lately, I compose more in my head than I do at this keyboard.  But for some reason, it’s not transposing from gray matter to digits.   Trust me when I tell you that I’ve frequently grappled to figure out why my desire to blog has been so curtailed.

And ultimately, I think it’s because my NEED to blog has dwindled.

There was a time–five years ago to be exact–when this blog meant a great deal to me.   I was out of work and broke (fiscally and in spirit), I had little else in my life.  It allowed me vent frustrations,  be creative and see all the wrongs in my life and correct them.    But you can’t  redecorate or add-on to your home unless you’ve built one; unless you own one.


In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ve been watching  waaaaaaay too much Oprah lately.   Especially that Super Soul Sunday stuff.   I think some of its bunk, but some of it rings true.   I don’t think any member of her happy stable of life teachers (especially that short-haired African-American woman with the hard to pronounce name while drunk)  have reinvented the inner peace mousetrap, but they have the ability to repackage age-old principles and sell them to a populace that knows it needs so much help.

Props to their marketing VP’s.

For a while now, they’ve known so many of us sojourners are all learning.  Personally, I think I’m going on this really Wild Ride, Mr. Toad and I know I’m not the only passenger.  I can’t speak for any of my fellow travelers, but I’ve never  felt change as palpably as I do now and the signs…oh my God, the signs!!!!    I’m in such synchronicity with the Cosmos that I’ll see a word in print and hear it uttered on TV at the exact same moment.   There’s a little flush that goes through me when that happens; like the tiniest of electrical surges.  I guess you could compare  it to the process of charging a car battery.    The charge can only happen when you make the right connection and when and ONLY when that happens, power is restored.

It’s true.  I know this for a fact.    I report the news.   I see the end results of the disconnect.  Every day,  I’m inundated with just how fragile and errant we are as a species.  I think that’s because we’re all walking around like we’ve been fragged;  shot by one of our own.     You know, like Lt.  Neidermeyer from “Animal House”.    Wounded by someone we once loved and trusted who promised they’d never hurt us.   Jobs, parents, lovers…Roth IRA’s.    But how naive to think we we’re that Teflon coated.  How narcissistic of us to think it could never happen to us.    But it does and we’re all wounded.  We might react differently to  our inflictions and they’ll heal in their own unique ways, in their own time.

But heal, they will.

Even armed with this relatively new understanding of the uniqueness of pain, I still reach out to embrace my inner Laurie fore effectively by reading about roads less traveled and efforts to find Zen and harmony.

Author, Elizabeth Gilbert did it by leaving her situation and ultimately, her body and based on the book and movie,  “Eat, Pray, Love”, she might have lost a bit of her mind.  I’ve only seen the movie and it was in my opinion, a bit of a train wreck.


This isn’t to say that the film didn’t have its moments.

CONFESSION:  I am an incurable romantic.   Close friends know this.   Colleagues find this notion hard to believe.  My hard-shell exoskeleton is far more deceptive than  my emotional sinew.   you see, in spite of so many self-generated arrears of love and faith, I still believe the sanctity of commitment and relationships.      And it was the romantic in me that forced me to watch this movie.   It was journalist in me that only allowed me to view in sessions.   Carefully timed sessions.   To have watched the whole thing,  from the lion’s roar to the display of the production company’s logo before that final fade to black at the end of the credits, would have had me Googling  hari-kari.

But there was one scene–when the Julia Roberts character was learning her own path to bacchanalian hedonism in Rome ,and some friends or traveling companions or perhaps a tour guide took her to some ancient, structure and she marveled at its simply beauty and rugged, architectural staying power that’s defied the centuries.

“A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it a long with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins. It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it.     

Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

I agree with this, but I’ll take it one step further:  transformation is vital, but so is resurrection.  A classic analogy of that are the Watts Towers.

Built over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954 by an Italian immigrant, the towers are ostensibly made of trash.    They’re constructed from the real stuff—steel pipes and iron rods, wrapped with wire mesh and coated with mortar, but they’re decorated  with found objects–discarded  bed frames, bottles, ceramic tiles, scrap metal and sea shells.  Sabato Rodia built the towers with no special equipment or blueprints.  he worked alone, too and with a few hand tools and little else.    Neighborhood children brought him  pieces of broken glass and pottery.

I love how this now recognized historical landmark has such a random genesis.    And lo these many years later, it’s perceived as ugly to some, visually stunning to others but unarguably made from things taken from garbage cans or discarded wherever some rude, careless shmuck decided to leave what he no longer wanted…or needed.    It was trash turned into substance and valued once again.

Like an old glass Coke bottle, we humans are redeemable.  Unlike the imprinted vintage glass Coke bottle (redeemable for 10 cents.  Void in Michigan, Iowa and parts of Colorado), we get to  establish our worth.

Make no mistake:   WE get that honor; no one else.

One comment

  1. What a fine post Laurie. I’ve missed your musings, but only due to my own negligence. There are some real nuggets of wisdom here!

    While I could stare at Julia Roberts’ hideous oversized smile for 2 or 3 hours without blinking, Eat, Pray, Love became intolerably irritating within the first 10 minutes.

    Thank you for enlightening me on the Watts Towers. My ignorance of them, in concert with my profound narcissism, is only a tic less stunning than the towers themselves.

    Now back to my previously scheduled spontaneity.

    VIVA dolce far niente!

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