Asking questions, as Socrates taught us, brings light and awareness, critical thinking, and activation.
My father’s philosophical bend along with his serious inquiry about the workings of nature led him to wonder what place humans have in the scheme of things. It led him to ask his children, his friends, and even strangers, “Why are we here?”
Perhaps there is some loneliness in the pursuit of understanding the reason for our birth on this planet, and that’s what prompted my Dad’s little project.
Maybe it allowed him room to question, like the carte blanc a journalist assumes with her duty to cover something important. Maybe it gave him permission to reach out so that he might make connection, create intimacy with another.
I am my father’s daughter and I have full permission to ask too. I give it to myself.
This week, the activating question is,
“Who are we?”
Actually, I have a month’s worth of questions to pose---one for the next four weeks . These questions when asked one at a time, with a little rest in between will lead us toward the last question, which, I don’t mind disclosing now, because it is the purpose of this inquiry and it might provide some motivation to ask the tough questions. Make no mistake, these questions are not for the faint of heart. They are especially not for the” too busy.”
The last question is: How do I feel about myself and my life? This is a question of Well Being.
But let’s not jump ahead. Back to question two.
“Who am I?”
One way to go at this question is to ask it multiple times, like this,
“What would nature say I am?”
“What would science say I am?”
“What would God say I am?”
“What would soul say I am?
French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin answered it this way,
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
My favorite way of answering this question right now is through art. The “I am poem.”
Just say” I am” over and over and over, and think of nature,and the senses. Think of your essence, and beauty.
“I am the salty taste on sunburnt skin from ocean baptism.
I am the lonely call of the last seagull on the beach.
I am windswept and worn--permanent blown branches facing south.
I am rotten yet sweet smelling seaweed/fish/life/death/ and in between.
I am endless upon endless sight beyond blue, beyond gray, beyond line to more, more, more.”
And so it is.
Come to our next Meet-up of Yo-eco Art Walk. We will be hiking through Milbrook Marsh in State College and then writing an I am poem. Oct. 6 at 5:30.
I would venture to say that not every child is as lucky as I was to have had a parent continually and persistently ask me (and everyone who came to our home) the question, “Why are we here?”
Am I right?
Why is this lucky? And, why do I ask this question today?
Let me provide some context. My Dad, John Thomas Ammerman, was a self-taught naturalist.He was born and raised in a little town, where I was born and raised--Curwensville, PA. Population 3,000.
He spent his boyhood and most of his twenties “in the woods.” To me, it's a miracle that he came to town long enough to fall for my mother.
But fall for her he did, his “wildflower from Kerrmoor.” And, they married in August, well before Buck season.
There is no one on this earth now or ever who walked it with such gratitude as my Dad. He loved nature as his mother, counselor, teacher--and as himself. When he was 80, he told me, “I feel no different than an Oak tree.
Throughout my years of reason, my father would ask the question periodically, “Why are we here.” He would listen to my child heart answer, “to play in the woods.” He would listen to my teenage answer, “to make friends and have fun.” He would listen to my college days answer, “ to make the world a better place.”
He would ask anyone that came into our house, my college boyfriend included, and anyone who sat around our campfires when we would invite friends and relatives to join us in our outdoor adventures-- “Why are we here?” It was embarrassing!
Dad said that sometimes when he asked, people would get a real scared look on their face. Sometimes they would clam up, and other times they would wax philosophical. He always listened with interest to their response, cataloguing the qualitative research.
And then, if people would ask him, he would give his answer du jour.
I remember the answer he gave when I was a college student. And, it was very unsatisfying to me, but it made perfect sense too, given his background.
“We are here to reproduce!” What? “Oh Dad, that’s not why we are here, humans, that is--there has to be something beyond our biology! Beyond our sex drive, beyond the mundane!”
“Well, I’ve been walking in these woods all my life. I’ve been watching nature, the seasons for years. And, what I see is that life wants to insure that it continues. Look how many acorns fall! Look how many dandelion seeds are dispersed to the wind!”
It wasn’t until my father’s 87th year, on a November day which turned out to be three days before he died, that I asked him this question for the very last time.
He was sitting at the kitchen table, breathing with an oxygen mask and then he took it off to bid me goodbye since I was leaving to go back home after a weekend visit.
I hugged him, and then I said, “Dad, you’ve been going through quite a lot these last few months. I just want to ask you something before I go, “Why are we here?”
With no hesitation, he looked me straight in the eyes and he said, “To love...and don’t hold back.”
I ask you, am I lucky or what?
Why are we here? To Love--yourself, one another, the world. Life itself!
Join our band of artist/activists in Brazil during Spring Break--March 8 through 13.
Yo-eco ART Retreat! Love Your Life!
Turns out we love the chance to share our ordinariness!
My friend asked people to share on Facebook, "something regular" you did today. You could probably lump the over 50 responses into -- doing things with pets, being with spouses, parents and kids, doing nothing, procrastinating or resting, and getting little jobs done, including eating.
And, when you read each one you thought, “Yeah, I get that! Me too!” This IS what life is made of, this ordinariness.
And, you also noticed that, there is something else about ordinary. One person acknowledged that, “holding hands with hubby walking down the street,” is both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.
As was my post of sharing a salad at a restaurant with my husband--something I have done for over 34 years. Suddenly it seemed extraordinary that we have shared our differences--he eats meat, I’m a vegetarian--in this way. Steak and fries on salad split equally from top to bottom.
We love the daily ordinariness of our lives. Sitting on the front porch and watching our neighbors’ preschool children toddle off to school like little ducklings behind their parents.
Watching a single leaf fall from a grand Maple tree out front. When do things turn into extraordinary? Perhaps it is in the noticing of it.
As Emily asked the Stage Manager, in Thornton Wilders’ play, Our Town,” Do any human beings realize life while they live it? Every minute? His answer, “Saints and poets maybe--they do some.”
And yet, the extraordinary calls, doesn’t it? Our love and appreciation of our ordinary lives certainly must be the stabilizing, resting force for something else. For something we didn’t know we could do, see, or experience!
So my follow-up Facebook question might go something like this, “What is something extraordinary that you desire to experience? Love? Unbridled passion? Travelling to exotic destinations? Becoming friends and colleagues with people that you admire? Doing something important for yourself, your family, the world?
Ordinary is the stuff of life. Ordinary is filled with all the integrity that we can muster--to do the right things, as in, doing what is good for us and others-- to enjoy, to inhabit, to show up, to participate.
Extraordinary is noticing the golden light that shines on EVERY moment.
Extraordinary is also picking up on a certain exhilarating vibration and saying yes to it! Falling back into ordinary at that time is hiding instead of living.
So let’s give ordinary her honor and extraordinary her due.
A special thanks to my friend Cindy who started it all and inspired others with her FB post. :)
An exhilarating and extraordinary experience awaits in Aquas de Lindoia, Brazil
Yo-eco ART Retreat during Penn State’s Spring Break
March 8 through the 13.
Ask yourself these questions?
Are YOU an artist/activist?
Here are a couple of questions to find out if you fit the bill. They don't have anything to do with being a professional artist, and they have nothing to do with whether you go to rallies, and protest,and that sort of thing. Just ask yourself these questions and see if you match up?
YOU are an artist/activist….in training
Join us in Brazil where we will learn from Brazilian artists how to express ourselves and our love for the planet. Here is where we will BECOME artist/activists.
Yo-eco ART Retreat. March 8 --13, 2020
Aquas di Lindoia, Brazil.