My Mother’s Cacti

My mother’s Thanksgiving (left) and Christmas (right) Cacti

My mother had a mystical nature and was quite intuitive. To help you understand this story a bit of background needs inclusion to further insight into what unfolds. The Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti in the pictures above were my mother’s. She lived well beyond 103 years old and spent her last six-and-a-half years living with us. The cacti have been here for more than 10 years. They bloom either around Thanksgiving or at Christmas. They never bloom any other time. Never! Ever!

I know there are many varieties of these plants, and many bloom at other times throughout the year. Recently we visited a local art gallery where I saw a couple of large cacti in full bloom. My point with these two cacti is that they bloom only at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My mother was deeply religious. Her faith was forged in tragedy and pain. Raped by a neighbor at 13, she held that secret inside for 90 years before blurting it out to me a few months before she left us. In that instant, I knew my mother for the first time. Her behaviors and attitudes my older brother and I had pondered throughout our lives were answered at that moment. Later she endured the extended illness and loss of her first son to polio. It became the defining event of her life. It was the anchor she used to affix her faith and her purpose. It was also the moor for her pain and grief.

My parents divorced just after my sixth birthday. We moved to live with grandparents where my mother, with no education, marketable skills, or good advice, had to figure out the best path for raising two sons and making a living in an environment hostile to women and particularly a young divorcee in 1951 in Indiana. As I noted earlier, she was intuitive and possessed a mystical quality. She employed both to set a course to achieve her goal of raising two boys to be the best men they could be. Mother approached her task with courage, determination, perseverance, and grit. She was determined to set a high bar for her sons to emulate. She was my first hero. I recall watching her in the bathroom staring into the medicine cabinet mirror, almost green with flu and flush with a fever. She looked into the mirror, set her jaw, and proclaimed for anyone near enough to hear with a determination that stuck with me, “I don’t have time for this.” She then turned, went out the door to work. It was an act of pure will.

I am sharing this bit of backstory so that what follows will resonate with you at a deeper level of understanding. It is not the bad news or the tragic things that determine the course of our lives it is our response to these things that matter.

At this moment, as you see, my mother’s two cacti are starting to bloom. The brain tumor that was between my right ear and temple was removed on February 22, 2021. The blooms above appeared on March 5, 2021, the day I learned the tumors in my lungs are small, haven’t spread anywhere else in my body, and are very treatable. The news was as good as I could have hoped to receive. The treatment program will evolve as we know all the chemical and genetic information about this cancer and I complete a series of 10 radiation treatments on the spot in my head where the lump was removed.

What happened on Valentine’s Day brought back memories about an incident in 1966 and a story about David Whyte, a renowned Anglo-Irish poet. I read his Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, where he related a harrowing adventure while working as a guide in the Galapagos Islands. He and an assistant had guided a group of tourists to a blowhole where the ocean serf shot up through a hole in the rocks to create a spectacular show. At some point, he and the assistant, thinking the show was over got too close and were surprised and nearly swept into the hole and death by a rogue wave. They struggled for some time before they seemed to have been magically released from the ocean’s grasp.

Whyte returned to England and went to see his mother and was silenced when she interrupted his reporting this incident to her. In the course of the conversation, he described what had taken place, but she stopped him mid-sentence and shared she had seen the whole thing in a dream in which she had reached out and pulled him from the sea’s grasp to save his life. He was speechless.

On May 4, 1966, I was with two fraternity brothers riding in a car north of Muncie, Indiana, while we talked and shared a sixpack of beer. We three often did this as a way of marking the end of another school week. On this occasion, a drunk being chased by a local town marshal came out of a crossroad and made a wide arcing turn going off the opposite side of the highway before hitting our car head-on. The accident happened at exactly 2:30 a.m. I was in the backseat and suffered a laceration to my right temple and was briefly unconscious. John, the driver, was unconscious for a time and suffered some cracked or broken ribs. Phil, in the passenger front seat, suffered a broken leg, hip, and other injuries. An interesting irony, in the wake of the accident on May 4, 1966, it was also the date I started smoking cigarettes.

Phil was admitted to the hospital but by 6 a.m. John and I had been examined, treated, stitched, and released. I took a moment to call my mother to tell her what had happened and assure her I was all right. When she answered the phone, I told her I had been in an auto wreck but was okay, and she responded, “I know.” She told me she had awakened at 2:30 a.m. to see me standing in her bedroom dresser mirror. She knew I had been in an auto accident, but that I was fine. I was speechless.

I share this story with you because seeing the blooms on these cacti, I was transported back to that event and reminded of Whyte and others who have experienced similar moments. Learning that my tumors are small, contained, and have not spread, I felt a sense of relief. not only for myself but especially for my wife and sons.

The energy I experienced on the evening of Valentine’s Day I described as being hit by a jolt of electricity is to help you gain insight. The person I was disappeared in that instant. I was transformed into who I am becoming. I wrote earlier that I knew I was free and that saying the word could not begin to convey the depth of its meaning. But more importantly, the gift I received in that instant that gave me clarity, insight, intention, purpose, and awareness is not because of something I actually saw. To see would make me a mere observer. I did not see anything. I “knew truth.” That is the difference. Each day I have been in awe of my evolving consciousness and expanding awareness as the person I was fades away. I see the layers of that other me peel off, crumble, and disappear. We live in a wondrous universe. This is what I “know.” Love and serve.



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Greener Pastures – Humans Move Rather Than Solve Their Problems

I remember reading a short story titled “Farmer on the Dole” by a science fiction writer that first appeared in Omni Magazine (October-November 1982). Fredrick Pohl’s career (1937–2012) spanned 75 years. His numerous works earned him many prestigious awards for the following: Gateway (1977), The Years of the City (1985), Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (1980), Heechee Rendezvous (1984), and Man Plus (1976), Jem (1980). Also included were short stories Fermi and Frost (1986), The Meeting (1973).

This story became unforgettable and continued to trouble me because it contains a hint of what concerns me most about humanity. What it suggests about us leaves a negative aftertaste that cannot be washed or flushed away. It is a story where robots are created to imitate and replace the humans who have abandoned the planet they ruined to go to new worlds to repeat the process. Those humans remaining behind on the dying planet are a bit lonely and nostalgic and want company. It is a repulsive view of man and his unwillingness to solve the problems he created. It reveals the principal flaw in our species. We run from problems. We do not like having to work to solve them.

Farmer on the Dole focuses on an old human experience and attitude. Pohl merely changes the time, place, and circumstances. He takes the story out of our time and simply inserts it into the future elsewhere. Our species pollute, abandon, and go elsewhere to do the same all over again. We never learn. We never really grow or evolve in our behavior. It is a continuation of our stone-age primitive slash and burn agriculture practices to planetary levels. In Farmer on the Dole, mankind has launched himself into the stars, but his brain is still the naked ape hunter-gatherer. We are still the clever monkey of our dimming past.

Following his line of thought, we must ultimately accept mankind as incapable of learning from even the vilest of his past follies. Looking at our world at this juncture, we must accept that verdict as plastics flood the streams and rivers, clogging and collecting over vast stretches of the oceans that determine life. The conclusion is clear. We proceed to flatten mountain tops to extract fossil fuels raising the planet’s temperature and threatening to end civilization as we know it. It continues so a few can live luxuriously for a bit longer before the curtain falls.

Rather than solving problems, Pohl’s humanity leaves and creates a complete fleet of robot androids to carry on in their absence. What a novel idea; our ultimate dream. Androids have all the appearances and behaviors of living creatures like us. We are capable beings; however, we are not smart. Is this not the way we are currently treating the Earth, our home? Do we just go on wasting the land and ruining the water and air until the planet becomes a desert (physically and spiritually)? Will Ursula K. Le Guin’s observation in passing in The Dispossessed become our reality? Why would we bother to use science and technology to create phantom robot images of ourselves and an equally ridiculous likeness of a plastic replica of our world? What a ludicrous farce.

Our ‘slash and burn’ thought pattern has persisted from our prehistoric predecessors extending back for more than fifty thousand years. The world view of the last 300 years has been dominated by a Cartesian-Newtonian paradigm (Renee Descartes and Sir Isaac Newton) that operates on the assumption mind and body are separated, that the body is a clockwork machine, and reality can be learned or determined by the study of the smallest constituent parts. Not even Quantum theory and Relativity have managed to change the multitude’s thinking in this regard. Everything we have learned in the past 30 or more years with the rise of social media and the implications of our use of big data has not penetrated these beliefs among most. Our faith persists the universe is an orderly and predictable machine. Isn’t God in control? What is there to be concerned about? The book has been written, and events appear as written. We need not be concerned or worried. This has been a useful approach for many, however, the ideas we invent to explain and ensure our survival today become the cause of our demise tomorrow.

Philosopher William Irwin Thompson said the future belongs to the mystic and the systems analyst. Thompson suggested we get beyond our simple exploitive view of nature as a machine to be manipulated. We need to adopt a compatible view of nature that sees its parts as revealing its function rather than defining the entire system as a function of a few elements. We will appreciate the complexity of the system and act more harmoniously. The systems analyst will monitor and report on the organism’s health and the day-to-day conditions of things. The mystic will be the interpreter of the direction the organism must move in the future. The description and terminology Thompson uses are dated in light of all we have seen change over the past 40 years, but his thoughts are relevant and understood. Maybe there is a beneficial use for big data other than using it to control, manipulate, oppress, and enslave humanity.

Human minds internalize objects and make patterns. We internalize the universe as objects. These patterns, once constructed, are not easily changed or altered. The only way of altering embedded thought patterns, according to Thompson, is by one of three means. These changes result from insights often revealed in humor, because of a fortunate accident, and what the late creative thinker Edward De Bono called lateral thinking.

Our perception, according to Thompson, is based on the internalization of the mother/infant relationship, money (economic system), and religion. This illustrates how hard it is to change our way of thinking and perceiving reality. Our view of reality is dominated by ideas from 300 years past. The dominant economic paradigm dates from the same era. It threatens to destroy the planet, most life, and our civilization, but we resist changing or seriously questioning it. In addition to humor, the infant/mother relationship, and economics mentioned above, we should acknowledge our thinking also can be changed by catastrophic events. The ecological collapse caused by global warming and climate change, a massive planetary war, a meteor or asteroid strike, and the crumbling of governments across the planet due to the economic catastrophe caused by any of the above serves the same purpose. The universe within us is inseparable from the universe outside. One is the mirror image of the other. What we perceive influences, determines, and defines our reality. History shows us we rarely make such fundamental changes.

The human flaw may be due to our short life awareness of the consequences of our actions. We seem unable to appreciate the long-term implications of our behaviors. It reveals the inadequacy of our educational processes to foster a longer view. We have the acquired wisdom and knowledge of overcoming these shortcomings, but we refuse to employ them. Our resistance and comfort in wallowing in denial, ignorance, and superstition prevail. We must develop our awareness of the interrelationship of all things. We must acknowledge our role in the process. We must find and learn new ways to think about and approach our world. We must change our thinking from destruction and extraction of the planet to investing in its health and sustainability we require to survive and thrive. We will have time to explore the vast universe beaconing us. First, we must learn to solve problems in our own yard before we go about spreading our garbage and refuse across the cosmos. Wabi-sabi. Namaste.

Originally published at on March 4, 2021.

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I Received Life’s Greatest Gift on Valentine’s Day

Jerry M Lawson, “De omnibus dubitandum”

Photo by Chandan Chaurasia on Unsplash    

March 1, 2021

What you see on the surface often obscures what hides underneath. On Valentine’s Day, I decided to make some chili for a cold winter day. After my wife left for a short errand, I put some items in the laundry, refilled my coffee cup, and sat down in front of my computer to work on an essay I was trying to birth.

I began to study what I had written when I was overtaken by a strange sensation. I had the feeling my consciousness was fading, yet it was quickly replaced by the feeling of being detached. I was an observer but not in control of my senses. This feeling lasted several seconds, followed by an involuntary jerking of my neck on my left side while simultaneously experiencing a twitching of my left eye and eyebrow. This continued for about 30 seconds and vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. I was able to move my hands, arms, and fingers throughout. When it stopped, I grabbed my phone and called my wife, who quickly quit her errand, came home in less than five minutes, collected me, and took me straight to the nearest hospital ER.

Valentine’s Day is a day we traditionally celebrate our love and commitment to our special ones, wives, and sweethearts. This year I surprised my wife with a bouquet of red roses. It is not something I do every year. Over more than 50 years of our marriage, I did it when it seemed especially appropriate. I should add we are not inclined to show the importance of our love and commitment for each other in material ways. We do it daily. We skip commercially co-opted and promoted events.

This year I was moved to celebrate it when an opportunity appeared. I was in the store and saw the flowers. My wife divided the roses and placed them in several locations around the house. It added beauty, color, vibrancy, and a happy mood. What followed changed none of that.

I was admitted to the ER and interviewed by a physician assistant. As the assisting nurse prepared to transport me to have a CT scan and x-rays, I experienced another short seizure of twitching that lasted for about 10 seconds. This time my wife and the nurse were able to observe what was taking place. I was taken for a CT scan and x-rays. Upon returning, I had another conversation with the physician assistant. She identified the cause of my seizure as a small mass on the right side of my head. I was taken back for an MRI. When I came back, the ER doctor soon joined my wife and me to explain my medical situation. His demeanor was stiff and restrained. He chose words carefully, delivering a straight, honest, and factual message, no fluff.

The seizure was caused by an approximately one-centimeter tumor on the right side of my brain. It was located above the ear toward the frontal cortex and near the surface toward my right temple. It was causing a larger area of inflammation and swelling, thus the seizure.

Two days before I had become vaguely aware, I was having some difficulty while writing down a few reading notes. My muscle control seemed compromised. I had trouble writing legibly. I took notice and thought it strange but passed it off since I rarely write in cursive anymore. It was a clue I chose to ignore.

The doctor saved the most important news for the last. The mass in my head did not originate there. It had migrated from elsewhere, and when they x-rayed my lungs, they found some small nodules in my right lung. Here was the smoking gun. He said they could not make an accurate determination of what we were facing until a biopsy of the mass could be done to identify it precisely. He added these cases usually could not be cured. He left those words to hang in the air.

I returned to the hospital at 5:30 am on the following Monday, February 22, 2021, to be admitted to surgery to remove the tumor. I will not know what I face until the biopsy of the mass the doctor extracted from my head is identified. But some things are clear and do not require me to wait for an answer.

My response to this new reality was to accept whatever the future brings, knowing it will be challenging, difficult, probably painful, with an uncertain, or possibly a dreadful outcome. It is what it is. My choice is to play the hand I’m dealt with as much skill I can muster and hope to buy as much time as possible, taking advantage of each minute to do all I can to enrich this life and leave no stone unturned. But a greater awareness soon overtook me.

My life has been dominated by two diverse themes. One was the six decades of periodic severe depression that plagued every aspect of my life. The second theme was my having faced my death 35, now 36 times stretching over the whole of my life. I suddenly realized they were all aimed to this moment. My purpose was and is wrapped in these events. They prepared me to meet this challenge at this moment and in this place. The sudden insight unleashed a powerful jolt of energy. On this Valentine’s Day, I was gifted, granted, and bestowed the greatest gift I could ever dream of receiving. I was allowed intense insight, clarity, vision, intention, awareness, and purpose I could not have achieved by any other means. I am free! Writing that word does not begin to express the depth or breadth of its meaning. I perceived truth as taught throughout the ages and revealed in all religious traditions. It is overwhelming in a most profound way.

I am aware nothing is certain. Nothing is determined. Everything is impossible until it is done, or you do it. My mother was adamant in teaching me during her almost 104 years of life to never, never, never, ever, give up. That is how I am made.

That said, there are other equally or more important things to be shared and acknowledged. While I will never ever give up, I do understand surrender. I surrender to the experience and the challenges that lie ahead. I am comfortable with who I am. I know my reason and purpose. I live with intention. I understand today is all I have. What is most important is to live in this moment, do all and accomplish all I am able each gifted minute I am given. It is my way of honoring my creation. My gift of having received this wonderful life is filled with the love of family and friends.

I have goals to reach, tasks to complete, and promises to fulfill. My sense of urgency is increased, but I accept that as my motivation for becoming more focused, more intentional, more purposeful, mindful, and fully aware. I live my life with intention and purpose while pursuing work to awaken others to the perils we face. I encourage movement in the direction of restoring our Earth as we restore ourselves to lives filled with meaning, purpose, and love.

I focus on teaching and trying to be an example for others. My work is laser-focused on the questions that lurk behind every issue we humans face. We enter a future no less challenging than the one I am facing immediately. My goal is modest. I strive to change one person, change one life, make one more person aware, encourage one person to get involved and committed to changing our world. If I accomplish that, I view my work as being a success and my purpose fulfilled.

The filters, the governors, the censors have been removed. I am free to share as I feel. I know that I will without fear of what comes.

In the course of my more than 75 years of life, I faced my death 35 times. Before Valentine’s Day, I had hoped 36, the terminal event, would be delayed indefinitely. What is clear to me is these 35 moments were all designed to get my attention. Number 35 in May of 2018 did. I suffered a heart attack. I had experienced no symptoms nor prior indicators that would have been forewarnings. It was pure genetics. My father died of a sudden heart attack at age 73 with no previous conditions.

The heart attack got my attention. I took an extensive and intensive inventory of my life and decided what I should keep. I dumped the rest. It resulted in my making some profound life changes. A lot of things were cast off. It provided better insight and pointed to a different future with more purpose, intention, and practice living more in the moment.

This Valentine’s Day was a different kind of awaking. I face something I never considered as more than a remote possibility. There is no history of cancer in my long line of direct ancestors. Genetics may be missing, but environment and lifestyle also are a factor, however, none of this matters. I take what I know or will soon, and we will decide on a path and see where it goes, cherishing and relishing each moment we have together and enjoy the moments.

This event is a call for waking up. I have work to do, and each day, each moment is of much greater value and importance to use as best I can. I feel up to the challenge and surrender to the adventure. As described in Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, I seek the magic elixir to bring home so I can share its wisdom and its secrets with all others. The outcome of my path is unknown. I see the Balrog waiting on the precipice. I know I will prevail regardless of the result.


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