9 November

Every Heartache: The Best Argument

by Jon Katz
Every Heartache

I’m learning – slowly and over great time – that the best way to argue is to not. The best argument is to live your life well and meaningfully. Napoleon Hill wrote that every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. This is so true, at least for me. There is not a bad thing that has ever happened to me that did not yield some good, some wisdom, some strength.  Hill spent his life studying the reasons some people succeed and others fail. He found the most common denominator in a successful life was a determination to grow and change, a mindset to live fully and successfully.

I’ve always known on some level that the hero journey is not about dealing with happiness and success but about dealing with heartache and failure, fear and anger. It is not a perfect life I seek, but a life well and thoughtfully, especially when there is trouble. I believe that fear and anger are poisons, they corrode the sender and the receiver, they destroy lives and gobble up souls and spirits. I work continuously to remove them and the people who transmit them from my life.

I live an open life, a life I share on the Internet, the great leveler of boundaries and borders. Through the door comes all kind of stuff, good and bad and can spend your life in explanation and argument, or simply give thanks for your life and live it.  It is so easy to hit those send buttons, so easy to obliterate the boundaries that are the stuff of healthy human interaction. One of the best lessons I ever got was in my hospice work, when my teachers told me there is only one thing to say to someone in pain or distress: I’m sorry, can I help you? I wish you well. Nothing else is appropriate. This advice changed my life because it forced me to see people and  meet people where they really are, not where I wished them to be or thought them to be.

There is little more humbling than to hold the hand of a person leaving the world Again and again, I am reminded that I know nothing, have no answers, cannot tell other people what to do, how to feel.

I appreciate sharing my heartaches and failures, success and adversities, it has helped me to grow and change. For all of it, I love my blog. Interactivity is my politics, I have been practicing it every day of my writing life. I am in a great dialogue with the people who read and follow my work, a miraculous thing for all of its warts and challenges. When you open that door, you have little control over what comes in, and that, too, is the challenge and drama of the open life. There is a lot of good stuff, a lot of bad. Some time ago, I decided that my life cannot be an argument for other people to make, that my decisions are mine, and not subject to advice, praise, condemnation or the opinions of others. It’s a good rule, and I have been affirmed in that again and again.

The best way to argue, I have come to see, is to live my life. To find love. To take photographs that touch souls. To write things that reach people, get them to think, reflect the struggles of their own lives. To treat my animals lovingly and well and work to know and understand them. I love Napoleon Hill’s seminal observation. This is the meaningful life – awakening to the idea that ever fear, every anger, every failure and heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

The best argument is one’s life, is my life.

9 November

Storm Windows: The Return Of Ben

by Jon Katz
The Return Of Ben

Ben was gone for most of the week, finishing up the big stuff on the farm before winter. This week’s first burst of winter got him back. Maria’s studio is a bit porous and the chilly winds were cutting right through it. Ben came and is building storm windows which should take care of the chill. I do miss him already, we have had such a great time working together, plotting barns and hatching plans to get the place fixed up quickly and economically. Could not have happened without him. This weekend, Maria and I will be glazing (she will do that), priming and painting. Ben is getting the glass cut, and they should be up by Monday. We are going to paint her schoolhouse studio yellow.

9 November

Video: Simon, Red, Rocky, Rose And The Call To Life: When The Angels Sing

by Jon Katz
The Angels Sing

When Simon first came to us, he was near death. Weeks later, after he was able to stand and eat on his own, I came out to the pasture one morning and he stood and turned to me and let out this ear-rattling bray of greeting. It was a beautiful sound, a call to life and it still is a beautiful sound. I ran into the farmhouse and I told Maria it was like hearing the angels sing. Simon was telling me he meant to live, and so he has.  Simon greets us with his bray every morning and several times a day. Our new neighbors have even come by to say they love hearing this cheer for life.

I get more requests for Simon’s bray than anything and a long time reader who is gravely ill e-mailed me yesterday and asked if he could hear Simon’s call to life at least one more time. Sure thing. The angels sing all the time, I thought and so I went out this morning and got some shots of the call to life her in its various forms – Simon, Rocky in his stall, Minnie the barn cat, Red at work,  the chickens emerging from their coop, the dogs beginning their day so eagerly. I came across an older clip of Rose herding some sheep at the other farm, the first Bedlam Farm, and so I added that as well. The angels never sing louder than when Rose was doing her beautiful work, another kind of call to life.

For me, Simon’s Bray has always called me to hear the angels sing, to open my heart to love and experience, to listen to the better side of my angels. Every day I rise and I fall, I move forward and fall back, I am touched by the human spirit and discouraged by it, I am proud of myself, I am not. This is the journey, as Simon showed me, taught. From the worst of the human experience to ecstatic experience, the gift of awakening is to hear the call of life, to listen to the angels sing. No matter how badly you stumble or how much it sometimes hurts, you get up each morning and heed the call.

I will always be grateful to Simon for that. Come and share this with me.


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