I, myself

All acts and facts are a production of spiritual power,
the successful ones of power which is strong enough;
the unsuccessful ones of power which is too weak.
Does my behavior in respect of love effect nothing?
That is because there is not enough love in me.
Am I powerless against the untruthfulness and lies
which have their being all around me?
The reason is that I myself am not truthful enough.
Have I to watch dislike and ill-will carrying on their sad game?
That means that I myself have not laid aside small-mindedness and envy.
Is my love of peace misunderstood and scorned?
That means that I am not yet sufficiently peace-loving.  –Albert Schweitzer


I would love to believe that my life begins and ends within the boundaries of my skin; that I’m connected to nothing and no one, and that I bear no responsibility for anyone other than myself.

But that’s just not the way the world works. For better or worse, we’re all part of the same big world. We’re all connected in so many ways to each other and everything else on this planet.

There are ways of being in the world that do not contribute to its wholeness or well-being. I would like to crawl up into my head and say, “Not me!”

I’m doing it right. It’s the others. It’s them over there. They’re screwing everything up. And they should have to experience the consequences of their misguided, stupid, irresponsible, thoughts and actions. Not me. Not my responsibility. I’m doing it right.

But it is me.

As long as anyone on the planet is hungry, the responsibility is mine. As long as children are abused, the responsibility is mine. As long as other living things are devalued and not respected, the responsibility is mine. As long as the planet is being abused, the responsibility is mine. As long as anyone is homeless, unable to pay the heating bill, unable to get the drugs they need, unable to be educated, supported, loved, cherished, the fault is mine.

Because I am you. And her. And them. And us.

All of us. We. This world, and all the two-legged, skinned, finned, furred, feathered and green things in it. Whatever is lacking is whatever is missing in me. And I’m the one who has to fill those holes.

It begins with me. And until I really understand that, I’m not doing it right, after all.

Between the pages


I came across this site a long time ago, and it made me think about some of the odd things I’ve found in books over the years.

I’m a voracious reader, and I make good use of our (really fabulous) local library. I borrow books, I request books from other libraries, and I buy books at the annual book sale. I buy books at Goodwill and other second-hand shops, and at garage sales, too.

I have nothing against new books, but I can rarely justify paying for them when they are available for free or almost free. More than the cost, though, I value recycling and I also really like the idea of enjoying a book someone else has already read and had in their hands; it makes me feel connected to other book lovers in a distant, but oddly intimate way.

I love to find comments in the margins, and lots of times there is stuff stuck in the book. Usually I find innocuous or obvious things like the library receipt, a credit receipt from the second-hand store, or a bookmark.

But sometimes it`s other things, more intriguing things that I`m sure were left in the book accidently. Once I found a picture of a woman sitting on a couch in a living room and laughing. She was older and had dyed black hair, and bright red nail polish. She was wearing a red sweater and black pants.

The odd thing about the picture was that it had been ripped on all four sides to leave only the fragment with the woman in it. There must have been other people in the photo as the woman is looking away from the camera and laughing, obviously at someone to her right, who has been ripped out of the picture.

I looked at the picture for a long time. Our lives are connected now in a very odd way, even though I have no idea who she is, and she probably has no idea what has become of that picture. I want to know what she was laughing at, and what was in the rest of the picture.

She`s a real person, living her life somewhere, and she or someone who knew her had read the book on my nightstand. Or maybe she`s dead now. I would like to know her name. Doesn`t that seem wierd? Just the fact that I wasn`t meant to ever see that picture makes it seem like something stolen, or too personal, somehow.

Once I found a note in a book and when I started to read it I felt like I was eavesdropping or interfering in some way, so I folded it back up and put it back in the book without reading the rest of it. I always put the stuff back right where I found it, and send the book back out into the world for the next person to discover the unexpected contents.

Thinking about the ways in which we are connected never loses it fascination for me. Like people who are traveling on the highway at the same time, or flying on the same airplane, shopping in the same store or sitting in the same movie theater. There is always the chance that they`ll meet and their lives will become intertwined, for better or worse.

Otherwise, we just seem to each be in our separate bubbles. But we aren’t really. That’s just an illusion. The other people are there in the picture, but to each individual, life consists of only our own little fragment. The other pieces are out there, though, just waiting to come together.