Bottle Fish. Going and Doing. Being.

Alice Keys, MD
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Bottle Fish

When I was walking on Tuesday, I passed a house near the river covered with sculptures and art. Three fish made from old glass bottles with sheets of metal shaped into heads and fins were suspended above planters beside the street. These bottle fish are like my experience of the creative spirit. I am a hollow vessel to be filled, a fountain pen for ink, a tea bag that awaits the kettle.

First I breathe open the space inside. Then I wait and watch and listen. Like the bottle fish, there must be space for the creative spirit to inhabit and also an egress for that which flows through.

“The ocean swims inside the fish.” Rumi.

This creative process requires a lot of being.

Going and Doing

Since our blatant acts of de-materialization this year (we gave away and sold ninety percent of what we owned), my husband and I have both been wondering what to do next and where to go next.

Our conversations sound like this:

“I don’t know what to do next.”

“Me neither.”

“I don’t know where to go next.”

“I don’t either.”

We live with our children are in our rental outpost. We hold each other and our few possessions tight to us like flotation devices in an unknown sea. We each have shreds of going and doing to comfort ourselves while we re-open to the less familiar being.

Most nights I dream that I awaken inside our former family home. I realize we’ve been asleep in a house that belongs to another family now and hurry to get us out of it. You don’t need to be a psychoanalyst to read this dream’s meaning. It’s a snapshot replay of our de-materialization that I made happen over several weeks this past summer. I awoke to the fact that I could not continue to go and do as I had been. I got rid of things and left our house to a new family.

I did and then I went.

Since then, I have been preoccupied with where to go next and what to do.

Do and go.

Go and do.

Slowing

As I walk and sit, cook and eat, I watch the busy-ness around me. Everyone else is going and doing. There’s a lot of going and doing happening all around me.

I’ve slowed my cooking. I walk to the markets for fresh vegetables and bags of flour and masa. I slow-ferment my dough in a traditional French method. I bake my loaves till the edges are just this side of black. I soak beans for 24 hours and then sprout them two more days before cooking them. I ferment vegetables. I make tamales. This is all going and doing as well. But it’s a much slower version.

Now I watch the brightening of the sky each morning. I sit and study the waves before we put on wetsuits to venture out into the ocean. Then I wait and watch for the good wave that will carry me to shore.

I walk. A lot. I walk for errands. My twenty-year-old car stays parked. Around me on the streets, many others are going and doing at high speed and costs.

Segue: Cars don’t kill people. People kill people.

All this going and doing by automobile has allowed the grim reaper to hire additional staff for his industry. Automobile accidents are the number one cause of death of all Americans from the age of 4 to 34 (per the CDC). Death by car is a close runner-up in most other age categories. These preventable deaths are only the tip of the death-iceberg when it comes to the costs of racing around going and doing.

Being

Do you remember being? I remember being.

Being was before we were trained in school to go and do. We go to school, do school work. This is to train us to go to work and do our jobs.

I remember being. I remember.

I lay high in the swaying arms of my favorite tree and watched the leaves play. If I were very still and quiet, I could hear everything speak. Trees murmur and sigh. Golden light makes soul music on skin. A field of green fast-growing corn in late July whispers and chatters like leggy teenagers in the sun. Water speaks with many voices. It tinkles and giggles, hammers and rattles, booms and lays silent. Water talk is my favorite still.

There was time to be with others. Mostly the old people, the old farmers and retired gardeners, castaways on their small plots of land growing food the old ways. At the end of weeding a row we would sit in the shade and wait for hoes to cool. The older children, who had been spirited away to school, had no interest in this.

I couldn’t imagine any other way but this being.

Then school came for me.

Paradise Lost

Going and doing. Buses and homework. I got credit for going and credit for doing. Credit for sitting still and credit for shutting up. My sunlit song was replaced by sticky gold stars. Rain water trickled silent on the outside of the school bus windows.

More going to school. Then even more going to school. I rigorously trained to go and do for credit. I was graded, judged and valued on going and doing. Staring at clouds lost me the credits I had gained by all the going and doing. Talking to others lost me credit. I learned that my only value was go and do for credit.

I lost being.

Paradise Regained

It seems that all the wants I have now for going and doing are a drug withdrawal, of sorts. I have been hooked, addicted to motion, fed on credits, isolated from the earth, from my humanity and from myself.

The value of my being has been reduced to going and doing, working and earning. My fish was caught and pulled from the sea, emptied of water and given credit for going and doing, sitting still and shutting up.

There is extra credit to be had for going along with the rest and doing what they do.

To stop this is not easy.

I feel uncertain, simply being in the midst of all this going and doing.

How much uncertainty can I tolerate?

 

To those who wander here:

Thanks for reading this mental meander of mine.

All those who wander are not lost.

Best.

Alice

 

 

 

 

 

15 COMMENTS

  1. Have
    Be
    Do

    Do
    Be
    Have

    DO BEHAVE! haha.

    I think this sort of fits rather nicely here, to reflect your message. From Dana:

    “This time ‘our work’ won’t so much be about inner work for those who have been heavily focused on that. It will be on embodying, living, being and creating in physical form what we know to be true on a higher level. ”

    http://spiritlibrary.com/dana-mrkich/december-2012-monthly-visions-our-turning-point

    “Most of us have read all the books, done all the seminars, healed, released, cleansed and cleared. We have done what we needed to do to reach higher states of consciousness, thinking this would give us the fulfillment we were looking for. Instead we find ourselves more conscious yet still feeling that something is missing. It is now time to descend back into our bodies, taking our hard-gained wisdom with us and using it to give it meaning, power, and purpose to every aspect of our daily life. We are being called to a new kind of enlightenment, one that takes all that we have discovered on our inner journeys into the outer world. It’s time to get out of our caves and take whatever enlightenment we have into the real world, into corporations, governments, politics, schools, media, health and social systems. We have been waiting for the world to change, meanwhile the world is waiting for us to act.” – Dana

  2. I know exactly what you are talking about.I grew up in Europe just after the war in a village. We had so much freedom! I pitty the little children of today. After university, I worked for two years in Austria. People had time for friendships,contemplation and meditation after work.Then I went to Canada and I was shocked by the way of life in Northamerica. it was all run, run, run, work, work, work, no time for friendships or philosophising. There was money, much more than in Europe but money was not enough for me. Mind you the american way of life has moved over here. Luckily I am a pensioner by now so I can take my time and sit in the garden, listen to the blackbird, feed the robin, smell the honeysuckle, tend my garden. One doesn’t need much to make life worth living!

  3. Alice,

    You are such a gifted person and such a good soul that I am sure you will find a way to make a big differences in your communauty with small gestures nicely thought upon.

    I might even suggest, as an example, that you set up some local communauty awareness about mourning a loved one -or even loved ones in case of car or boat accident or whatever.

    I use myself for my pro bono informal practice with great preventive success the leaflet for mourners and their carers from the Royal College of Psychiatrist. Although they ask for a donation, it is free to print their material as long as you print also the ligne of intelectual property at the end of it.

    Those leaflets are printable not only in English- which is useful.They are concise and crystalclear but comprehensive -even the possibility of hallucinations seing the deceased or hearing him-(her)is explained and dedramatized- in my experience it is better than just having a psychaitrist telling you tha tit is nbothing to worry about to the client and their carers ).

    I think you can make a big difference only by putting those leaflets in funeral homes or at the office where people do declare the deaths is useful in a country where the national association of psychiatrists will ufficially allow only two week for mourning in the DSM5 .

    Just a passing thought of course.

    All the best to you and your family.

    Ivana.

  4. Dear Alice,

    Here you are:

    ///Updated May 2011. Due for review: May 2013. Royal College of Psychiatrists. This leaflet may be downloaded, printed out, photocopied and distributed free of charge as long as the Royal College of Psychiatrists is properly credited and no profit is gained from its use. Permission to reproduce it in any other way must be obtained from the Head of Publications. The College does not allow reposting of its leaflets on other sites, but allows them to be linked to directly.///

    http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/expertadvice/problems/bereavement/bereavement.aspx

    NB: I am not as keen on every RCP ‘s leaflets but I couldn’t do easily without their bereavement’s leaflet.

    Indeed, it prevented in my pro bono practice several people being pushed into psychiatric medication starting with sleeping pills,costly conselling sessions with a psychologist when nothing was wrong with them. It helps at any distance of the loss, in my experience, but the sooner the better.

    The human condition makes that everywhere around you some persons will lost a love one, or several.

    Thank you for taking my suggestion kindly.

    Ivana.