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Redemption Song

July 27, 2010

As you can tell (and as many of you have told me) I’m struggling with this joy thing. “The is The Joy Project?” people are saying to me. If you want it to just be about all your thoughts, then maybe you should be calling it The Charley Project, for chrissakes.

Yes, sometimes I detour off this road to Joy.

But let me tell you, all I’ve ever really wanted in my life was a way to connect with all my friends; to play, everyday, with them; to find a way to belong with and plug into the whole gang and to contribute something worthwhile. And with this blog, I have it. I’m not sure the value of what I’m giving, but I am sure of what I’m getting. These posts get responses from the people who matter most to me: the guys on my men’s team; my wife; my current shrink and a former one; and some to the best people I have ever found in my long sweet life — such friends I have! Your critiques and contributions and feedback give me so much, and every week. What’s that worth?

And this circle of energy helps me circle back to the Project at hand.

What follows are the things I notice now.

For the past several weeks, woven in with my reminiscences and ruminations, I’ve been feeling the Joy of Living On Purpose. This started some weeks back when I spoke to my friend (and teammate) David Grupper about my ongoing discontent about what I have yet to achieve in my life.

“I still want to make a really big splash in the world,” I said.

“You do”, he said. “Slowly; in your world; with what you give to those around you.” And I realized he was right. I give to my wife (all I have; all I know how to give); to my clients; to my men’s team (I’m the Captain this year); and, I like to think, to you. And though I’m not joyful when I’m not fully engaged; when I’m giving less than what I got, sometimes all I need is simply to step back and recognize that I’ve really been giving more, and more fully, than my negating-mind has allowed.

A few years ago, at my therapist’s suggestion, in the middle of a crisis and full of doubt, I wrote out a list of all my life’s accomplishments, large and small. I wound up  printing up and taping the four pages to my wall. Four pages. I suggest you try it sometime.

Another problem I’ve struggled with, besides this negating noggin, is the opposite. I came of age during the Great Awakening of my generation, which I, in my small way, participated in, and there lies the problem:  Like so many of us, I have been to the mountain top. I’ve seen the Promised Land; smelled its sweet aroma as it wafted by and then got snuffed out. I’ve been doomed to dreams of paradise ever since. How can I ever settle for less once I’ve seen that it’s possible?

I’ve been fated to play life big, or else suffer the domination of little problems when living life too small.

It’s a wonderful burden to have.

I’ve also noticed lately that I can take Joy more easily in sound bites than as an ongoing soundtrack. It’s less overwhelming. And to try, as the poet J.Taylor has said, not to try too hard. 

When it comes to joy, reaching for it is already a mistake.

Because it’s always right over here.         

And Joy is also about opening. Like to a moment here and there — like today on the G train, and the small, grizzled, almost toothless black guy who comes on late at night, bent and bearded, a pack of Cheyennes popping out from his shirt pocket, strumming and playing the only song he ever sings, with not much of a voice tonight but with all he’s got,

“…these songs of freedom

      All I ever had

         Redemption songs.”

He gave it everything and then walked away and almost missed the money from this Chinese lady and me.  

And it’s about opening by feeling gratitude. I am blessed so many times over! And I am blessed to be aware enough to know it. So I’m grateful to myself as well for that.

And opening by giving. And opening to another by giving to another.     

And finally, this past week, I realized the flame of Joy, that early each morning flickers and tickles its way up my body, gets trampled under a daily avalanche of thoughts. Hundreds and thousands of thoughts. So lately, in those moments that come like grace, when I remember this and stop the thoughts, then just for a moment, there It is! And I’m back on the road.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2010 2:09 pm

    The question I’ve asked myself about this, is, for whose sake was that “big splash” I wanted to make? When I took myself and ego gratification out of the equation, then why a big splash, unless there happens to be one to be made organically. Maybe we’re here to make an invisible tiny ripple?

    • July 30, 2010 3:54 am

      Yes…and maybe we’re here to decide ourselves what kind of splash we are to make. I don’t know. Your point about ego is well taken. I just don’t want to die without giving all I’ve got.

  2. Richard W. permalink
    July 27, 2010 3:15 pm

    The truth I’ve discovered for myself (with the help of constant reminders) is that joy is where I come from naturally; it’s not a place to strive to. And when I get caught up in my circumstances and thoughts and forget to dance, the joke is on me….

  3. July 27, 2010 4:05 pm

    So true, Charlie.
    Opening to the moment allows us to tune in to joy and filter through all the other current aspects (including suffering) which exist simultaneously…. Quieting the mind is mos’ def’ the key to allowing ourselves to embrace the subtle vibrations of higher consciousness, Easier said than done, but a rewarding life process to cultivate.

    Perhaps when we measure our accomplishments according to the distorted views of the “Establishment” we will always be disappointed… How can we “measure up” in a scene that ignores important life endeavors such as facing our demons, tuning into the flow of Joy, exploring new realms of consciousness, practicing generosity and compassion, truly connecting with loved ones?

    Is it within these processes that we can experience reflections of our genuine and ongoing “accomplishments”?

  4. murray permalink
    August 3, 2010 12:56 am

    Man, i just love the tone of this piece/peace. you have caught,no grasped, no recognized, maybe , where peace lies. stop grasping, clinging for,”what” . Ta what point are we, you ,I satisfied just where we are.? It doesn’t mean we can’t reach into the unknown/JOY. Charley, you caught me.

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