29 July 2006

Care of the Soul: excerpts

Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992, ISBN: 0060165979, pp.xi-20.

From Introduction

The great malady of the twentieth century, implicated in all of our troubles and affecting us individually and socially, is "loss of soul." When soul is neglected, it doesn't just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or to try to eradicate them one by one; but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, even our interest in it. We have today few specialists of the soul to advise us when we succumb to moods and emotional pain, or when as a nation we find ourselves confronting a host of threatening evils. But within our history we do have remarkable sources of insight from people who wrote explicitly about the nature and needs of the soul, and so we can look to the past for guidance in restoring this wisdom. In this book I will draw on that past wisdom, taking into account how we live now, to show that by caring for the soul we can find relief from our distress and discover deep satisfaction and pleasure.

It is impossible to define precisely what the soul is. Definition is an intellectual enterprise anyway; the soul prefers to imagine. We know intuitively that soul has to do with genuineness and depth, as when we say certain music has soul or a remarkable person is soulful. When you look closely at the image of soulfulness, you see that it is tied to life in all its particulars - good food, satisfying conversation, genuine friends, and experiences that stay in the memory and touch the heart. Soul is revealed in attachment, love, and com-...
...munity, as well as in retreat on behalf of inner communing and intimacy.

Modern psychologies and therapies often contain an unspoken but clear salvational tone. If you could only learn to be assertive, loving, angry, expressive, contemplative, or thin, they imply, your troubles would be over. The self-help book of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which in some fashion I'm taking as a model, was cherished and revered, but was never great art and didn't promise the sky. It gave recipes for good living and offered suggestions for a practical, down-to-earth philosophy of life. I'm interested in this humbler approach, one that is more accepting of human foibles, and indeed sees dignity and peace as emerging more from that acceptance than from any method of transcending the human condition. Therefore, this book, my own imagination of what a self-help manual could be, is a guide offering a philosophy of soulful living and techniques for dealing with everyday problems without striving for perfection or salvation.
Jung, one of our most recent doctors of the soul, said that every psychological problem is ultimately a matter of religion. Thus, this book contains both psychological advice and spiritual guidance. A spiritual life of some kind is absolutely necessary for psychological "health"; at the same time, excessive or ungrounded spirituality can also be dangerous, leading to all...
...kinds of compulsive and even violent behavior.
Tradition teaches that soul lies midway between understanding and unconsciousness, and that its instrument is neither the mind nor the body, but imagination. I understand therapy as nothing more than bringing imagination to areas that are devoid of it, which then must express themselves by becoming symptomatic.

You can see already that care of the soul is quite different in scope from most modern notions of psychology and psychotherapy. It isn't about curing, fixing, changing, adjusting or making healthy, and it isn't about some idea of perfection or even improvement. It doesn't look to the future for an ideal, trouble-free existence. Rather, it remains patiently in the present, close to life as it presents itself day by day, and yet at the same time mindful of religion and spirituality.
In the modern world we separate religion and psychology, spiritual practice and therapy. There is considerable interest in healing this split, but if it is going to be bridged, our very idea of what we are doing in our psychology has to be radically re-imagined. Psychology and spirituality need to be seen as one. In my view, this new paradigm suggests the end of psychology as we have known it altogether because it is essentially modern, secular, and ego-centered. A new idea, a new language, and new traditions must be developed on which to base our theory and practice.

Care of the soul speaks to the longings we feel and to the symptoms that drive us crazy, but it is not a path away from shadow or death. A soulful personality is complicated, multifaceted, and...
...shaped by both pain and pleasure, success and failure. Life lived soulfully is not without its moments of darkness and periods of foolishness. Dropping the salvational fantasy frees us up to the possibility of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, which are the very foundation of soul.

Soul is nothing like ego. Soul is closely connected to fate, and the turns of fate almost always go counter to the expectations and often to the desires of the ego. Even the Jungian idea of Self, carefully defined as a blend of conscious understanding and unconscious influences, is still very personal and too human in contrast to the idea of soul. Soul is the font of who we are, and yet it is far beyond our capacity to devise and to control. We can cultivate, tend, enjoy, and participate in the things of the soul, but we can't outwit it or manage it or shape it to the designs of a willful ego.

The act of entering into the mysteries of the soul, without sentimentality or pessimism, encourages life to blossom forth according to its own designs and with its own unpredictable beauty. Care of the soul is not solving the puzzle of life; quite the opposite, it is an appreciation of the paradoxical mysteries that blend light and darkness into the grandeur of what human life and culture can be.
As you read this book, it might be a good idea to abandon any ideas you may have about living successfully and properly, and about understanding yourself. The human soul is not meant to be understood. Rather, you might take a more relaxed position and reflect on the way your life has taken shape.
Let us imagine care of the soul, then, as an application of poetics to everyday life.

From Chapter 1: Honoring Symptoms as a Voice of the Soul

A major difference between care and cure is that cure implies the end of trouble. If you are cured, you don't have...
...to worry about whatever was bothering you any longer. But care has a sense of ongoing attention. There is no end. Conflicts may never be fully resolved. Your character will never change radically, although it may go through some interesting transformations. Awareness can change, of course, but problems may persist and never go away.
Ancient psychology, rooted in a very different ground from modern therapeutic thinking, held that the fate and character of each of us is born in mystery, that our individuality is so profound and so hidden that it takes more than a lifetime for identity to emerge. Renaissance doctors said that the essence of each person originates as a star in the heavens. How different this is from the modern view that a person is what he makes himself to be.

Care of the soul, looking back with special regard to ancient psychologies for insight and guidance, goes beyond the secular mythology of the self and recovers a sense of the sacredness of each individual life. This sacred quality is not just value - all lives are important. It is the unfathomable mystery that is the very seed and heart of each individual. Shallow therapeutic manipulations aimed at restoring normality or tuning a life according to stan-...
...dards reduces - shrinks - that profound mystery to the pale dimensions of a social common denominator referred to as the adjusted personality. Care of the soul sees another reality altogether. It appreciates the mystery of human suffering and does not offer the illusion of a problem-free life. It sees every fall into ignorance and confusion as an opportunity to discover that the beast residing at the center of the labyrinth is also an angel. The uniqueness of a person is made up of the insane and the twisted as much as it is of the rational and normal. To approach this paradoxical point of tension where adjustment and abnormality meet is to move closer to the realization of our mystery-filled, star-born nature.

Copyright 1992 by Thomas Moore. I apologise for so blatantly messing with Mr Moore's copyright; I'm doing it because I think these ideas are important and interesting, and you should be able to read them whether or not you can buy/borrow the book.

23 July 2006

Care of the Soul: Gifts of Depression

"Chapter 7: Gifts of Depression," in Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992, ISBN: 0060165979, pp. 137-154.

The soul presents itself in a variety of colors, including all the shades of gray, blue, and black. To care for the soul, we must observe the full range of all its colorings, and resist the temptation to approve only of white, red, and orange - the brilliant colors. The "bright" idea of colorizing old black and white movies is consistent with our culture's general rejection of the dark and the gray. In a society that is defended against the tragic sense of life, depression will appear as an enemy, an unredeemable malady; yet in such a society, devoted to light, depression, in compensation, will be unusually strong.

Care of the soul requires our appreciation of these ways it presents itself. Faced with depression, we might ask ourselves, "What is it doing here? Does it have some necessary role to play?" Especially in dealing with depression, a mood close to our feelings of mortality, we must guard against the denial of death that is so easy to slip into. Even further, we may have to develop a taste for the depressed mood, a positive respect for its place in the soul's cycles.

Some feelings and thoughts seem to emerge only in a dark mood. Suppress the mood, and you will suppress those ideas and...
...reflections. Depression may be as important a channel for valuable "negative" feelings, as expressions of affection are for the emotions of love. Feelings of love give birth naturally to gestures of attachment. In the same way, the void and grayness of depression evoke an awareness and articulation of thoughts otherwise hidden behind the screen of lighter moods. Sometimes a person will come to a therapy session in a dark mood. "I shouldn't have come today," he will say. "I'll feel better next week, and we can get on with it." But I'm happy that he came, because together we will hear thoughts and feel his soul in a way not possible in his cheerful moods. Melancholy gives the soul an opportunity to express a side of its nature that is as valid as any other, but is hidden out of our distaste for its darkness and bitterness.

Saturn's Child

Today we seem to prefer the word depression over sadness and melancholy. Perhaps its Latin form sounds more clinical and serious. But there was a time, five or six hundred years ago, when melancholy was identified with the Roman god Saturn. To be depressed was to be "in Saturn," and a person chronically disposed to melancholy was known as a "child of Saturn." Since depression was identified with the God and the planet named for him, it was associated with other qualities of Saturn. For example, he was known as the "old man," who presided over the golden age. Whenever we talk about the "golden years" or the "good old days," we are calling up this god, who is the patron of the past. The depressed person sometimes thinks that the good times are all past, that there is nothing left for the present or the future. These melancholic thoughts are deeply rooted in Saturn's preference for days gone by, for memory and the sense that time is passing. These thoughts and feelings, sad as they are, favor the soul's...
...desire to be both in time and in eternity, and so in a strange way they can be pleasing.

Sometimes we associate depression with literal aging, but it is more precisely a matter of the soul's aging. Saturn not only brings an affection for the "good old days," he also raises the more substantive idea that life is moving on: we're getting old, experienced, and maybe even wise. A person even in his middle or late thirties will be in conversation and offhandedly recall something that happened twenty years ago. He will stop, shocked. "I've never said that before! Twenty years ago. I'm getting old." This is Saturn's gift of age and experience. Having been identified with youth, the soul now takes on important qualities of age that are positive and helpful. If age is denied, soul becomes lost in an inappropriate clinging to youth.

Depression grants the gift of experience not as a literal fact but as an attitude toward yourself. You get a sense of having lived through something, of being older and wiser. You know that life is suffering, and that knowledge makes a difference. You can't enjoy the bouncy, carefree innocence of youth any longer, a realization that entails both sadness because of the loss, and pleasure in a new feeling of self-acceptance and self-knowledge. This awareness of age has a halo of melancholy around it, but it also enjoys a measure of nobility.

Naturally, there is resistance to this incursion of Saturn that we call depression. It's difficult to let go of youth, because that release requires an acknowledgment of death. I suspect that those of us who opt for eternal youth are setting ourselves up for heavy bouts of depression. We're inviting Saturn to make a house call when we try to delay our service to him. Then Saturn's depression will give its color, depth, and substance to the soul that for one reason or another has dallied long with youth. Saturn weathers and ages a person naturally, the way temperature, winds, and time weather a barn. In Saturn, reflection deepens, thoughts embrace a larger...
...sense of time, and the events of a long lifetime get distilled into a sense of one's essential nature.

In traditional texts, Saturn is characterized as cold and distant, but he has other attributes as well. Medical books called him the god of wisdom and philosophical reflection. In a letter to Giovanni Cavalcanti, a successful statesman and poet, [Marsilio] Ficino refers to Saturn as a "unique and divine gift." In the late fifteenth century, Ficino wrote a book warning scholars and studious people in particular to take care not to invite too much Saturn into their souls; because of their sedentary occupations, scholars can easily become severely depressed, he said, and have to find ways to counter their dark moods. But another book could be written about the dangers of living without study and speculation, and without reflecting on our lives. Saturn's moods may be dangerous because of their darkness, but his contributions to the economy of the soul are indispensable. If you allow his depression to visit, you will feel the change in your body, in your muscles, and on your face - some relief from the burden of youthful enthusiasm and the "unbearable lightness of being."

Maybe we could appreciate the role of depression in the economy of the soul more if we could only take away the negative connotations of the word. What if "depression" were simply a state of being, neither good nor bad, something the soul does in its own good time and for its own good reasons? What if it were simply one of the planets that circle the sun? One advantage of using the traditional image of Saturn, in place of the clinical term depression, is that then we might see melancholy more as a valid way of being rather than as a problem that needs to be eradicated.

Aging brings out the flavors of a personality. The individual emerges over time, the way fruit matures and ripens. In the Renaissance view, depression, aging, and individuality all go together: the sadness of growing old is part of becoming an individual. Melan-...
...choly thoughts carve out an interior space where wisdom can take up residence.

Saturn was also traditionally identified with the metal lead, giving the soul weight and density, allowing the light, airy elements to coalesce. In this sense, depression is a process that fosters a valuable coagulation of thoughts and emotions. As we age, our ideas, formerly light, rambling, and unrelated to each other, become more densely gathered into values and a philosophy, giving our lives substance and firmness.

Because of its painful emptiness, it is often tempting to look for a way out of depression. But entering into its mood and thoughts can be deeply satisfying. Depression is sometimes described as a condition in which there are no ideas - nothing to hang on to. But maybe we have to broaden our vision and see that feelings of emptiness, the loss of familiar understandings and structures in life, and the vanishing of enthusiasm, even though they seem negative, are elements that can be appropriated and used to give life fresh imagination.

When, as counselors and friends, we are the observers of depression and are challenged to find a way to deal with it in others, we could abandon the monotheistic notion that life always has to be cheerful, and be instructed by melancholy. We could learn from its qualities and follow its lead, becoming more patient in its presence, lowering our excited expectations, taking a watchful attitude as this soul deals with its fate in utter seriousness and heaviness. In our friendship, we could offer it a place of acceptance and containment. Sometimes, of course, depression, like any emotion, can go beyond ordinary limits, becoming a completely debilitating illness. But in extreme cases, too, even in the midst of strong treatments, we can still look for Saturn at the core of depression and find ways to befriend it.

One great anxiety associated with depression is that it will never...
...end, that life will never again be joyful and active. This is one of the feelings that is part of the pattern - the sense of being trapped, forever to be held in the remote haunts of Saturn. In my practice, when I hear this fear I think of it as Saturn's style, as one of the ways he works the soul - by making it feel constrained, with nowhere to go. Traditionally, there is a binding theme in saturnine moods. This anxiety seems to decrease when we stop fighting the saturnine elements that are in the depression, and turn instead toward learning from depression and taking on some of its dark qualities as aspects of personality.

Insinuations of Death

Saturn is also the reaper, god of the harvest, patron of end-time and its festival, the Saturnalia; accordingly, imagery of death may permeate periods of depression. People of all ages sometimes say from their depression that life is over, that their hopes for the future have proved unfounded. They are disillusioned because the values and understandings by which they have lived for years suddenly make no sense. Cherished truths sink into Saturn's black earth like chaff at harvest time.

Care of the soul requires acceptance of all this dying. The temptation is to champion our familiar ideas about life right up to the last second, but it may be necessary in the end to give them up, to enter into the movement of death. If the symptom is felt as the sense that life is over, and that there's no use in going on, then an affirmative approach to this feeling might be a conscious, artful giving-in to the emotions and thoughts of ending that depression has stirred up. Nicholas of Cusa, certainly one of the most profound theologians of the Renaissance, tells how he was on a journey, on a ship in fact, when the realization dawned on him in a visionary way that we should acknowledge our ignorance of the most profound...
...things. Discovering that we do not know who God is and what life is all about, he says, is the learning of ignorance, ignorance about the very meaning and value of our lives. This is a starting point for a more grounded, open-ended kind of knowledge that never closes up in fixed opinions. Using his favorite metaphors from geometry, he says that if full knowledge about the very base of our existence could be described as a circle, the best we can do is to arrive at a polygon - something short of sure knowledge.

The emptiness and dissolution of meaning that are often present in depression show how attached we can become to our ways of understanding and explaining our lives. Often our personal philosophies and our values seem to be all too neatly wrapped, leaving little room for mystery. Depression comes along then and opens up a hole. Ancient astrologers imagined Saturn as the most remote planet, far out in cold and empty space. Depression makes holes in our theories and assumptions, but even this painful process can be honored as a necessary and valuable source of healing.

This saturnine truth is evoked by Oscar Wilde, who, for all his emphasis on fullness of style as a central concern of life, knew the importance of emptying. From the prison cell where he was being punished for his love of a man, he wrote his extraordinary letter, "De Profundis," in which he remarks: "The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?" We may have to learn this truth, as Cusa did, that we cannot calculate (notice the mathematical image) the orbit of our own soul. This peculiar kind of education - learning our limits - may not be a conscious effort only; it may come upon us as a captivating mood of depression, at least momentarily wiping out our happiness, and sending us off into fundamental appraisals of our knowledge, our assumptions, and the very purposes of our existence.

In the ancient texts Saturn was sometimes labeled "poisonous."
In recommending some positive effects in saturnine moods, I don't want to overlook the terrible pain that they can bring. Nor is it only minor forms of melancholy that offer unique gifts to the soul; long, deep bouts of acute depression can also clear out and restructure the tenets by which life has been lived. The "children of Saturn" traditionally included carpenters, shown in drawings putting together the foundations and skeletons of new houses. In our melancholy, inner construction may be taking place, clearing out the old and putting up the new. Dreams, in fact, often depict construction sites and buildings just going up, suggesting again that the soul is made: it is the product of work and inventive effort. Freud pointed out that during bouts of melancholy the outer life may look empty, but at the same time inner work may be taking place at full speed.

Coming to Terms with Depression

In Jungian language, Saturn may be considered an animus figure. The animus is a deep part of the psyche that roots ideas and abstraction in the soul. Many people are strong in anima - full of imagination, close to life, empathic, and connected to people around them. But these very people may have difficulty moving far enough away from emotional involvement to see what is going on, and to relate their life experiences to their ideas and values. Their experience is "wet," to use another ancient metaphor for the soul, because they are so emotionally involved in life, and so they might benefit from an excursion to the far-off regions of cold, dry Saturn.

This dryness can separate awareness from the moist emotions that are characteristic of close involvement with life. We see this development in old people as they reflect on their past with some distance and detachment. Saturn's point of view, in fact, can some-...
...times be rather hardhearted and even cruel. In Samuel Beckett's melancholy play Krapp's Last Tape, we find a humorous, biting depiction of saturnine reflection. Using a tape recorder, Krapp plays back tapes he has made throughout his life, and listens with considerable gloom to his voices from the past. After one of the tapes, he sits down to make another: "Just listening to that stupid bastard I took myself for thirty years ago, hard to believe I was ever as bad as that. Thank God that's all done with anyway."

These few lines reveal a distance between past and present, as well as a cooler perspective and a deconstruction of values. In most of Beckett's plays we hear characters express their depression and hopelessness, their inability to find any shreds of former meaning; yet they also offer an image of the noble foolishness that is part of a life so riddled with emptiness. In the absolute sadness of these characters, we can grasp a mystery about the human condition. It is not a literal aberration, although it may feel that way, to suddenly find meaning and value disappear, and to be overwhelmed with the need for withdrawal and with vague emotions of hopelessness. Such feelings have a place and work a kind of magic on the soul.

Krapp, whose name suggests depression's devaluation of human life, shows that cold remorse and self-judgment do not have to be seen as clinical syndromes, but as a necessary foolishness in human life that actually accomplishes something for the soul. Professional psychology might try to correct Krapp's self-criticism as a form of neurotic masochism, but Beckettt shows that even in its ugliness and foolishness it makes a certain kind of sense.

Krapp playing his tapes and muttering his curses is also an image of ourselves turning our memories over in our minds again and again, in a process of distillation. Over time something essential emerges from this saturnine reduction - the gold in the sludge. Saturn was sometimes called sol niger, the black sun. In his darkness there is to be found a precious brilliance, our essential nature, distilled by depression as perhaps the greatest gift of melancholy.


If we persist in our modern way of treating depression as an illness to be cured only mechanically and chemically, we may lose the gifts of soul that only depression can provide. In particular, tradition taught that Saturn fixes, darkens, weights, and hardens whatever is in contact with it. If we do away with Saturn's moods, we may find it exhausting trying to keep life bright and warm at all costs. We may be even more overcome then by the increased melancholy called forth by the repression of Saturn, and lose the sharpness and substance of identity that Saturn gives the soul. In other words, symptoms of a loss of Saturn might include a vague sense of identity, the failure to take one's own life seriously, and a general malaise or ennui that is a pale reflection of Saturn's deep, dark moods.

Saturn locates identity deeply in the soul, rather than on the surface of personality. Identity is felt as one's soul finding its weight and measure. We know who we are because we have uncovered the stuff of which we are made. It has been sifted out by depressive thought, "reduced," in the chemical sense, to essence. Months or years focused on death have left a white ghostly residue that is the "I," dry and essential.

Care of the soul asks for a cultivation of the larger world depression represents. When we speak clinically of depression, we think of an emotional or behavioral condition, but when we imagine depression as a visitation by Saturn, then many qualities of his world come into view: the need for isolation, the coagulation of fantasy, the distilling of memory, and accommodation with death, to name only a few.

For the soul, depression is an initiation, a rite of passage. If we think that depression, so empty and dull, is void of imagination, we may overlook its initiatory aspects. We may be imagining imagination itself from a point of view foreign to Saturn; emptiness can be rife with feeling-tone, images of catharsis, and emotions of re-...
...gret and loss. As a shade of mood, gray can be as interesting and as variegated as it is in black-and-white photography.

If we pathologize depression, treating it as a syndrome in need of cure, then the emotions of Saturn have no place to go except into abnormal behavior and acting out. An alternative would be to invite Saturn in, when he comes knocking, and give him an appropriate place to stay. Some Renaissance gardens had a bower dedicated to Saturn - a dark, shaded, remote place where a person could retire and enter the persona of depression without fear of being disturbed. We could model our attitude and our ways of dealing with depression on this garden. Sometimes people need to withdraw and show their coldness. As friends and counselors, we could provide the emotional space for such feelings, without trying to change them or interpret them. And as a society, we could acknowledge Saturn in our buildings. A house or commercial building could have a room or an actual garden where a person could go to withdraw in order to meditate, think, or just be alone and sit. Modern architecture, when it tries to be cognizant of soul, seems to favor the circle or square where one joins community. But depression has a centrifugal force; it moves away from the center. We often refer to our buildings and institutions as "centers," but Saturn would probably prefer an outpost. Hospitals and schools often have "common rooms," but they could just as easily have "uncommon rooms," places for withdrawal and solitude.

Leaving a television running when no one is watching, or having a radio playing all day long may defend against Saturn's silence. We want to do away with the empty space surrounding that remote planet, but as we fill in those voids, we may be forcing him to assume the role of symptom, to be housed in our clinics and hospitals as a pest, rather than as a healer and teacher - his traditional roles.

Why is it that we fail to appreciate this facet of the soul? One reason is that most of what we know about Saturn comes to us symptomatically. Emptiness apears too late and too literally to have...
...soul in it. In our cities, boarded-up homes and failing businesses signal economic and social "depression." In these "depressed" areas of our cities, decay is cut off from will and conscious participation, appearing only as an external manifestation of a problem or an illness.

We also see depression, economically and emotionally, as literal failure and threat, as a surprise breaking in upon our healthier plans and expectations. What if we were to expect Saturn and his dark, empty spaces to have a place in life? What if we propitiated Saturn by incorporating his values into our way of life? (Propitiate means both to acknowledge and to offer respect as a means of protection.)

We could also honor Saturn by showing more honesty in the face of serious illness. Hospice workers will tell you how much a family can gain when the depressive facts of a terminal illness are discussed openly. We might also take our own illnesses, our visits to the doctor and to the hospital, as reminders of our mortality. We are not caring for the soul in these situations when we protect ourselves from their impact. It isn't necessary to be only saturnine in these situations, but a few honest words for the melancholy feelings involved might keep Saturn propitiated.

Because depression is one of the faces of the soul, acknowledging it and bringing it into our relationships fosters intimacy. If we deny or cover up anything that is at home in the soul, then we cannot be fully present to others. Hiding the dark places results in a loss of soul; speaking for them and from them offers a way toward genuine community and intimacy.

The Healing Powers of Depression

A few years ago, Bill, the priest I mentioned earlier [in the book, not in this chapter], came to me with a remarkable story. In his sixty-fifth year, thirty years into the priesthood, as a compassionate pastor of a ru-...
...ral church he had given what he thought was perfectly appropriate aid to two of his women parishioners. His bishop, however, thought he had mishandled church funds and used poor judgment in other respects, and so, after a lifetime of respect, he was given two days to pack and leave the diocese.

When he began talking to me about his situation, Bill was quite lively and interested in his experiences. He had taken to group therapy well, where in particular he had found ways to engage some of his anger. He even decided at one point to become a therapist himself, with the idea that he might be able to help his fellow priests. But when he talked about the trouble he had fallen into, he gave me explanations and excuses that seemed naive. About one woman he said, "I was only trying to help her. She needed me. If she hadn't needed my attentions, I wouldn't have given them to her."

I knew I had to look for a way to hold and contain all of Bill's unusual experiences and interpretations without judging them. We spent a great deal of time with his dreams, and quickly he became quite expert at reading their imagery. I also invited him to bring in paintings and drawings that he had been doing in his group therapy. Discussing these images week after week gave us some insight into his nature. By means of this artwork Bill also had a chance to look closely at his family background and some of the key events surrounding his decision to become a priest.

Then a curious thing happened. As the naive explanations for his behavior fell away to be replaced by more substantive thoughts about the larger themes in his life, the tone of his mood darkened. As he expressed more of his anger about the way he had been treated throughout his life as a seminarian and priest, he lost much of his lightness. Meanwhile, he had moved into a home for priests, where he was largely withdrawn. He embraced his solitude and decided not to participate in activities in the home, and gradually, the wounds of his recent experiences deepened into genuine depression.

Now, Bill spoke critically of the church authorities and talked...
...more realistically about his father, who had tried to become a priest and had failed. To some extent Bill thought that he was not cut out by nature to be a priest, that he had taken his father's place, trying to fulfill his father's dreams and not his own.

Bill trusted his depression enough to allow it a central place in his life. In true depressive style he would start every conversation saying: "It's no use. It's all over. I'm too old to have what I want in my life. I made mistakes all along the way, but I can't do anything about it now. All I want to do is stay in my room and read." But he remained in therapy, and every week he spoke from and about his depression.

My therapeutic strategy, if you can call it that, was simply to bring an attitude of acceptance and interest to Bill's depression. I didn't have any clever techniques. I didn't urge him to attend workshops on depression or try guided fantasies to contact the depressed person within. Care of the soul is less heroic than that. I simply tried to appreciate the way his soul was expressing itself at the moment. I observed the slow, subtle shifts in tone and focus that Bill brought in his manner, his words, his dreams, and the imagery of his conversation.

In his depression, when Bill said that he should never have been a priest, I didn't take that statement literally, because I knew how much his priesthood had meant to Bill over the years. But now he was discovering the shadow in his calling. His life as a priest was being deepened, given soul, by new reflection on its limitations. Bill was having to face for the first time the sacrifices he had made in order to be a priest. This was not an absolute disavowal of his priesthood; it was a completion. I noticed that even as he uncovered piece after piece of the sacrifices he had made, and even as he felt intense regret for having become a priest, at the same time he spoke of his loyalty to the church, his continuing interest in theology, and his concern for death and afterlife. In some ways, he was only now discovering the real core of his priesthood. The docile, compul-...
...sively helpful priest was dying off, to be replaced by a stronger, more individual, less manipulated man.

From his depressed state, Bill could only see the dying, the ending of a familiar life and the emptying out of long-held values and understandings. But the depression was clearly correcting his naivete. For most people, their cardinal virtue is also their pivotal fault. Bill's childlike concern for all beings animal, vegetable, and human gave him his compassion and altruistic sensibilities. But his vulnerability also made him the butt of jokes among his fellow priests, who never realized how much he suffered from their teasing. His generosity was unlimited and in a sense had destroyed him. But his depression strengthened him, giving him new firmness and solidity.

By means of his depression, Bill was also better able to see the villains in his life. Previously his naive point of view gave everyone in his experience bland approval. There were neither real heroes nor full-bodied enemies. But in his depression Bill began to feel things much more deeply, and his hostility toward his colleagues came out of him with real grit. "I hope they all die young," he once uttered through his teeth.

Bill would tell me convincingly: "I'm old. Let's face it. I'm seventy. What's left for me? I hate young men. I'm happy when those young turks get sick. Don't tell me I have lots of life left. I don't."

Bill was strongly identified with being an old man. How could I argue with his telling me and himself to face facts and not deny his age? But I believed that this clever statement was a defense against considering other options for identification, and that, paradoxically, it served to keep Bill protected from the lower dimensions of his depression. By giving up at that particular moment, he didn't have to think the thoughts and experience the feelings that were waiting for him in the wings.

One day he told me a dream in which he was going down a steep flight of stairs, then down a second flight; but the latter were too...
...narrow for him and he didn't want to go any farther. Behind him the figure of a woman was urging him on, while he resisted. This was a picture of Bill's state at the time. He was well into a descent, but he was fighting against taking a deeper plunge.

Bill's complaint "I'm an old man; there's nothing left for me" was not really Saturn settling in. Although his statement sounds like an affirmation of age, it is more an attack on age. When he said this I wondered if he had been denied the opportunity to grow up during his many years as a seminarian and priest. He told me that in some ways he had felt like a child the whole time, never worrying about money or survival, never making life decisions, but simply following the orders of his superiors. Now fate had shoved him into a place of profound unsettling and reflection. For the first time he was questioning everything, and now he was growing up at an alarming speed.

"Your dream," I said to him, "about descending a narrow staircase with a woman urging you from behind - I think we might turn to Freud and see it as an attempt at birth."

"I never thought of it that way," he said, interested.

"You seem in your melancholy to be in a bardo state. Do you know what that is?"

"No," he said, "I never heard of it."

"The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes that time between incarnations, the period before the next birth into life, as bardo."

"I don't have any taste for the events of life these days."

"That's what I mean," I said. "You don't want to participate in life. You are between lives. The dream may be inviting you to descend into the canal."

"I feel very reluctant in that dream, and I'm disturbed by the woman."

"Aren't we all," I said, thinking how difficult it is to be born into this life again, especially when the first time around was so painful and apparently unsuccessful.


"I'm not ready," he said with understanding and conviction.

"That's all right," I responded. "You know where you are, and it's important to be exactly there. Bardo takes time; it can't be rushed. There's no point in premature birth."

Bill rose to leave and go back to his "cave," as he called his room in the monastery. "There's nothing else to do, is there?" he asked.

"I don't think so," I said, wishing I could give him some specific hope.

Bill had measured the steps of the moon in his theology classes, and he thought he knew what was good for the soul. But now, having learned from his depression, he was speaking a more solid truth. "I will never again tell another person how to live," he said. "I can only talk to them of their mystery." Like Oscar Wilde in his depression, Bill was finding a greater point of view, a new appreciation for mystery. You would think a priest would be the one person familiar with mystery, but Bill's depression could be seen as a further step in his education in theology.

Eventually Bill's depression lifted, and he took a position in a new city where he worked as both counselor and priest. His period of schooling in Saturn's truths had some effect. He was able to help people look honestly at their lives and their emotions, whereas at a former time he would have tried to talk them out of their dark feelings with purely positive encouragement. He also knew what it was like to be deprived of respect and security, and so he could understand better the discouragement and despair of many people who came to him with tragic stories.

Care of the soul doesn't mean wallowing in the symptom, but it does mean trying to learn from depression what qualities the soul needs. Even further, it attempts to weave those depressive qualities into the fabric of life so that the aesthetics of Saturn - coldness, isolation, darkness, emptiness - makes a contribution to the texture...
...of everyday life. In learning from depression, a person might dress in Saturn's black to mimic his mood. He might go on a trip alone as a response to a saturnine feeling. He might build a grotto in his yard as a place of saturnine retreat. Or, more internally, he might let his depressive thoughts and feelings just be. All of these actions would be a positive response to a visitation of Saturn's depressive emotion. They would be concrete ways to care for the soul in its darker beauty. In so doing, we might find a way into the mystery of this emptiness of the heart. We might also discover that depression has its own angel, a guiding spirit whose job it is to carry the soul away to its remote places where it finds unique insight and enjoys a special vision.

Copyright 1992 by Thomas Moore. I apologise for so blatantly messing with Mr Moore's copyright; I'm doing it because I think these ideas are important and interesting, and you should be able to read them whether or not you can buy/borrow the book.

20 July 2006

Hannah and her Sisters: an extract

Woody Allen. Hannah and her Sisters. London, UK: Faber and Faber, 1988 [copyright Orion Pictures Corporation 1986] ISBN: 0571151175, pp. 168-173.

... the film cuts to an almost isolated path in Central Park, complete with old-fashioned streetlamps and scattered leaves. Holly and Mickey stroll into view, deep in conversation.

HOLLY (Gesturing) Gosh, you really went through a crisis, you know that? H-how did you get over it? I mean, when I ran into you, you seemed, you seemed just perfectly fine. Well, you seem fine now.

MICKEY: Well... (Chuckling) I'll tell you. (Sighing) One day about a month ago...
The film abruptly cuts to Mickey's flashback, a visual counterpoint to the story he is telling Holly. A close-up of a nervous, perspiring, and panting Mickey alone in his apartment appears on the screen as his voice is heard.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: ... I really hit bottom. You know, I just felt that in a Godless universe, I didn't want to go on living. Now I happen to own this rifle... (Coughing)
Mickey raises the barrel of a rifle to his forehead. He shuts his eyes tightly.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: ... which I loaded, believe it or not, and pressed it to my forehead. And I remember thinking, at the time, I'm gonna kill myself. Then I thought... what if I'm wrong? What if there is a God? I mean, after all, nobody really knows that.
The camera moves past the desperate Mickey to a mirror on the wall behind him. Its reflection shows his spiral staircase and some standing lamps. A clock faintly ticks.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: But then I thought, no. You know, maybe is not good enough. I want certainty or nothing. And I remember very clearly the clock was ticking, and I was sitting there frozen, with the gun to my head, debating whether to shoot.
The gun goes off with a loud bang. The mirror shatters.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: All of a sudden, the gun went off.
Mickey, holding the rifle, is seen running over to the shattered mirror. The sounds of his excited neighbors, their shouting, a knocking door, are heard as he continues his tale.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: I had been so tense, my finger had squeezed the trigger inadvertently...

NEIGHBOR #1 (Offscreen, overlapping): What's happening? Wh-wh-what's going on?

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER (Continuing): ... but I was perspiring so much, the gun had slid off my forehead and missed me.

NEIGHBOR #2 (Offscreen, overlapping): I don't know. I heard a gun. Is everything all right?
Mickey, still brandishing the rifle, runs into his sunlit living room. He looks around frantically, his shirt loose. Finally, he throws the rifle down between the sofa and the coffee table. The gun goes off a second time. Mickey, standing nearby, jumps, his hands flying to his head. The doorbell rings; the neighbors begin pounding at the door.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: And suddenly, neighbors were, were, pounding on the door, and-and I don't know, the whole scene was just pandemonium. And, uh, you know, and I-I-I-I-I ran to the door.
Mickey runs offscreen briefly to answer the door.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: I-I-I-I didn't know what to say. You know, I was, I was embarrassed and confused, and my-my-my mind was r-r-racing a mile a minute...
He returns onscreen, panting; he looks frantically once again around the living room.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: ...and I-I just knew one thing.
The film cuts to a West Side street. It's an overcast day. Mickey, walking slowly along the sidewalk, passes several other pedestrians and numerous storefronts, including Klein's Pharmacy and a "Bar-B-Q" take-out. Occasionally, he is obscured by a tree trunk on the opposite side of the street; a few taxis go by as he talks over the scene.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: I... I-I-I-I had to get out of that house. I had to just get out in the fresh air and-and clear my head. And I remember very clearly, I walked the streets. I walked and I walked. I-I didn't know what was going through my mind. It all seemed so violent and un-unreal to me. And I wandered...
The movie cuts to the exterior of the Metro movie theater, with its smoked glass entrance doors and its Art Deco feel. An old publicity photo hangs inside. Mickey's reflection is seen at the almost-transparent doors, as well as the reflection of the street and various cars whizzing by. His reflection walks towards the theater entrance; he continues his story.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: ...for a long time on the Upper West Side, you know, an-and it must have been hours! You know, my, my feet hurt. My head was, was pounding, and, and I had to sit down. I went into a movie house. I-I didn't know what was playing or anything.
Mickey walks into the movie house. He is seen through the glass doors, which still reflect the street and traffic outside. He makes his way through the lobby into the actual theater.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: I just, I just needed a moment to gather my thoughts and, and be logical, and, and put the world back into rational perspective.
The film abruptly cuts to the theater's black-and-white screen, where the Marx Brothers, in Duck Soup, play the helmets of several soldiers standing in a line like a live xylophone. The sounds of the "xylophone" are heard as the movie cuts to the darkened theater, where Mickey slowly sits down in the balcony seat. The "xylophone" music stops and changes to "Hidee-hidee-hidee-hidee-hidee-hidee-ho" as sung by the Marx Brothers and ensemble in the movie. The singing continues faintly in the background as Mickey continues his tale:

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: And I went upstairs to the balcony, and I sat down (Sighing) and, you know, the movie was a-a-a film that I'd seen many times in my life since I was a kid, an-and I always u-uh, loved it. And, you know, I'm, I'm watching these people up on the screen, and I started getting hooked o-on the film, you know?
The film cuts back to the black-and-white movie screen as Mickey continues to talk. The Marx Brothers, as well as the hundred-odd other cast members in Duck Soup, are kneeling and bowing as they sing "Hidee-hidee-ho." They kick their heels up in the air. They sway back and forth, hands clasped, singing "Oh-h-h-h-h-h..."

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: ...And I started to feel how can you even think of killing yourself? I mean, isn't it so stupid? I mean, l-look at all the people up there on the screen. You know, they're real funny, and, and what if the worst is true?
The movie cuts back to Mickey, sitting almost obscured in the dark theater. The Oh-h-h-h-h-h's coming from the offscreen movie are heard as he continues to speak.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: What if there's no God, and you only go around once and that's it? Well, you know, don't you want to be part of the experience? You know, what the hell, it-i-it's not all a drag. And I'm thinking to myself, geez, I should stop ruining my life...
As Mickey talks, the film cuts back to the antics of the Marx Brothers on the black-and-white theater screen. The four brothers are now swaying and singing and strutting, their voices indistinct over Mickey's narration.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: ...searching for answers I'm never gonna get, and just enjoy it while it lasts. And... you know...
The film is back on Mickey's dark form in the audience.

MICKEY'S VOICE-OVER: ...after, who knows? I mean, you know, maybe there is something. Nobody really knows. I know, I know "maybe" is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that's the best we have. And... then, I started to sit back, and I actually began to enjoy myself.
As Mickey continues, the film cuts back to Duck Soup on the black-and-white screen. The Marx Brothers are sitting on a judge's bench, playing banjos and singing with the other cast members. They jump down from the bench, still singing. Their voices swell.

MARX BROTHERS & COMPANY: "Oh, Freedonia / Oh, don't you cry for me / They'll be coming around the mountain..."
The Marx Brothers kneel, strumming their banjos, and the movie cuts back to Central Park...

18 July 2006

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

A newspaper column by Mary Schmich, published by the Chicago Tribune on 01 June 1997.

Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who'd rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there's no reason we can't entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.

I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

09 July 2006


National Lampoon recorded this song in 1972 as a parody of the spoken-word Desiderata. Lyrics were by Tony Hendra. (see Wikipedia)

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Deteriorata, Deteriorata)

Go placidly amidst the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof. Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep. Rotate your tires. Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself; and heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys. Know what to kiss - and when. Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do. Wherever possible, put people on hold. Be comforted, that in the face of all irridity and disillusionment, and despite the changing fortunes of time, there is always a big future in computer maintenance.

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)

Remember the Pueblo. Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate. Know yourself. If you need help, call the FBI. Exercise caution in your daily affairs, especially with those persons closest to you... That lemon on your left, for instance. Be assured that a walk through the seas of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet. Fall not in love, therefore, it will stick to your face. Gracefully surrender the things of youth: the birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan - and let not the sands of time get in your lunch. Hire people with hooks. For a good time, call 606-4311, ask for Ken. Take heart in the deepening gloom that your dog is finally getting enough cheese. And reflect that whatever misfortune may be your lot, it could only be worse in Milwaukee.

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)

Therefore, make peace with your god, whatever you perceive him to be: hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin. With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal, the world continues to deteriorate. GIVE UP!

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)



Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

- Max Ehrmann

According to the notes accompanying a recorded-voice version, Max Ehrmann wrote the poem in 1906 and then in 1927 applied for copyright under the title, "Go Placidly Amid the Noise and Haste".

There are so many different copies online, I don't know how it's supposed to be set out. This is the Wikipedia version, just because it's the one I like best :)

02 July 2006

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Robert L. Fulghum. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Ballantine Books, 2003 (1986, 1988) ISBN: 034546639-X, pp.1-3.

Taken from the excerpt at Amazon.com; book details are here.


Each spring, for many years, I have set myself the task of writing a personal statement of belief: a Credo. When I was younger, the statement ran for many pages, trying to cover every base, with no loose ends. It sounded like a Supreme Court brief, as if words could resolve all conflicts about the meaning of existence.

The Credo has grown shorter in recent years - sometimes cynical, sometimes comical, and sometimes bland - but I keep working at it. Recently I set out to get the statement of personal belief down to one page in simple terms, fully understanding the naïve idealism that implied.

The inspiration for brevity came to me at a gasoline station. I managed to fill my old car's tank with super deluxe high-octane go-juice. My old hoopy couldn't handle it and got the willies - kept sputtering out at intersections and belching going downhill. I understood. My mind and my spirit get like that from time to time. Too much high-content information, and I get the existential willies. I keep sputtering out at intersections where life choices must be made and I either know too much or not enough. The examined life is no picnic.

I realized then that I already know most of what's necessary to live a meaningful life - that it isn't all that complicated. I know it. And have known it for a long, long time. Living it - well that's another matter, yes? Here's my Credo:

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don't hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don't take things that aren't yours.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Copyright: Robert L. Fulghum