Friday, October 03, 2008

AOL Redux

AOL is shutting down its journals service permanently. I came to Blogger in 2005 after AOL put ads on our journals, but I never migrated my entries. I honestly don't know if I will go to the trouble of doing that. But I did visit that old journal today. I suppose I should be grateful to AOL journals. I don't think I would have started a journal if AOL hadn't initially made it so easy. But I think it's just cynical and sad that they are shutting down that service now because it brings "no money."

Here is an entry I did at the AOL Journal just prior to the ads showing up on our journals, quite to our suprise, one fine day:

October 31, 2005
Times are busy for me right now at the university, but I wanted to do this entry before the thoughts slipped through my hands.

Of late, I've seen journalers questioning why they are keeping a journal. I've seen journals abandoned, journals put on hold, and journals searching for a new direction. Just a few entries ago, I was writing about how we are finding our tribe. Now people are questioning what their role is within the tribe. This is a good thing, it seems to me.

"Where are our moorings? What behooves us?" These are questions the poet Adrienne Rich once asked.

In searching for my mooring, I find myself always going back to the heart.

At the end of our time at Esalen, Sy Safransky, editor of The Sun, mentioned a book called After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. After I got home, I ordered the book and have just finished it. I still need to reread it and underline passages that are important to me, but I want to say something now about this book and how I think it relates to my moorings.

After the ecstasy of discovering our tribe, comes the day-to-day work of living within the tribe. Of "doing the laundry," so to speak.

In a section of the book, called "The Heart's Intention," Kornfield says that "Becoming aware of intention is a key to awakening ..." He says that it is in "small things that we fulfill the lessons of the heart. It is from our intentions that our life grows. It is in opening to one another that our path is made whole" (253).

I think that as long as we bring some kind of awareness to the table we are spreading for our Internet friends, we are fulfilling an important need. In opening up to one another, our lives are made whole.

Later in this book, Kornfield quotes E. B. White, who once said, "Every morning I awaken torn between the desire to save the world and the inclination to savor it."

I find this is exactly where my intention springs from--the tension between these two states of being. If I incline too much toward trying to save the world, my writing gets dull and preachy. If I write just to savor life, my writing loses its spiritual component, which is very important to me. I have always been drawn to authors who elevate ordinary objects to the realm of the spirit--Richard Brautigan was such a writer, so was J. D. Salinger. So, naturally, that is how I want to write, too. To do that, I have to cultivate awareness.

Richard Brautigan wrote a story called "The Kool-Aid Wino." In the story, a child found delight in making a jar of Kool-Aid. Because the child was poor, he put at least twice the amount of water into the mixture he was supposed to. But the point of the story is that when he drew the water, the spigot thrust itself out of the earth like the finger of saint. Thus, making the Kool-Aid became a ritual, a spiritual act.

That is the kind of awareness I want. That is the kind of awareness I want to bring to my writing. Even to this journal.

In my last entry, I talked about the perils of the publishing world, that uniqueness is sometimes eshewed in favor of the "tried but true."

Another idea I meant to express in that same entry was that if I begin any creative work with the goal to publish it, that piece of writing is dead from the start. That's because, for me, writing for the sake of publishing is the wrong intention.

Don't get me wrong, getting work published feels good. But I can't start there, with that intention. I have to start with the need to reveal an awareness.

All of us do writings that have clear purposes, writings that are requirements for our job, for our bread and butter. I'm not talking about that kind of writing. I'm talking about the kind of writing we do because of what's in our hearts. The kind of writing that expresses why life itself is so precious.

It is much harder to determine the purpose of heart writing. But that is indeed what we must do.

Lest you think your writing is self-absorbed or that you're being selfish by taking the time to do it, consider what Kornfield says in his book:

"Years ago Ram Dass went to his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, to ask, 'How can I best be enlightened?' His guru answered, 'Love people.' When he asked about the most direct path to awakening, his guru answered, 'Feed people. Love people and feed people. Serve the Divine in every form.'"

Remember what I told you Barry Lopez said? That sometimes a person needs a story more than food?

Kornfield then asks, "But whom are we serving?"


His answer:

"It is ourselves. When someone asked Gandhi how he could so continually sacrifice himself for India, he replied, 'I do this for myself alone.' When we serve others we serve ourselves. The Upanishads call this 'God feeding God.'"

So then, what are our moorings? What is our heart's intention? Why do we keep a journal, anyway?

For many of us it is to speak the matters of the heart.
In doing so, we feed ourselves. In feeding ourselves, we feed others. In feeding others, we get closer to the divine.


I've never had as many readers/commenters as I had at the AOL Journals. They really had a good thing going. It's too bad they couldn't see that. The Comments:

#23 Comment from deabvt Email deabvt11/11/05 5:13 AM Permalink
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Hi, TheresaI just completed a seminar with a friend of Kornfield`s, a devotee of Tibetan Buddhism. It was great.V
#22 Comment from belfastcowboy75 Email belfastcowboy7511/6/05 8:12 PM Permalink
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Theresa, I hate to see you agonizing like this. Don't you know that all you need to do is hit "align center"? Pure poetry.
#21 Comment from libragem007 Email libragem00711/6/05 8:10 PM Permalink
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"Why do we keep a journal, anyway?..""For many of us it is to speak the matters of the heart."wow...hits home!I was nodding my head in total agreement the whole time I was reading this entry.Gem :-)
#20 Comment from tsgerkin Email tsgerkin11/6/05 12:41 PM Permalink
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Okay Ms. Theresa, I love this entry only don't you think your break time is up? Hugs and smiles always,Tamara(I finally figured out how to put your link at my blog. Don't laugh, just stop by when you have a moment and say hello. We miss you!) http://tianka.blogspot.com/
#19 Comment from crashtruthgirl Email crashtruthgirl11/5/05 8:27 PM Permalink
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Theresa,> I was reading Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of> Bees at work today on> my lunch, and I came across this paragraph and had> to share: > "Where do you come from?" he asked me. This is the> number one most-asked> question in all of South Carolina. We want to know> if you are one of> us, if your cousin knows our cousin, if your little> sister went to> school with our big brother, if you go to the same> Baptist church as our> ex-boss. We are looking for ways our stories fit> together. Later Kidd says, "If you don't tell a story, it dies." > > Isn't that neat? I felt a small epiphany surge as I> read that. It's so> true! I love the connection. It makes me want to> find my own words and> write them. > > :) > Megan
#18 Comment from oceanmrc Email oceanmrc11/4/05 7:44 PM Permalink
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This is a really fine entry, Theresa. And I've always loved Jack Kornfield books, too. AND as I've been catching up on some reading tonght I'm discovering just how many of my alerts are kaput, yours included. So. . . hi there!http://journals.aol.com/oceanmrc/MidlifeMatters/
#17 Comment from ibspiccoli4life Email ibspiccoli4life11/4/05 5:53 PM Permalink
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Kornfield's book is wonderful and I love the way you conveyed some of his thoughts here. I've out and about "savoring the world" lately, but I always have ideas to write about, and I plan on getting back on the journal bus real soon (actually I just posted something new on the Blue Voice yesterday). At any rate, I love this post. Thanks for being here. dave
#16 Comment from meforevermore Email meforevermore11/4/05 1:58 PM Permalink
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Very true. I believe wholeheartedly that writing for the sake of publishing kills the work. If it isn't written from the heart, it hasn't truly been written.Lovely entry, as always lol~Lily
#15 Comment from octoberroots Email octoberroots11/4/05 1:03 PM Permalink
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I so enjoy coming hear to read your writings. You feed me, Theresa. Wonderful entry. I will be back when time allows for a second read.SINS
#14 Comment from ggw07 Email ggw0711/3/05 11:40 AM Permalink
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I watch the fall leaves rustle in their splendor and all I can do is enjoy this- Delicious thoughts!ggw07@aol.com
#13 Comment from floralilia Email floralilia11/2/05 7:54 PM Permalink
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lovely. succulent food for thought wisdom too...http://journals.aol.com/floralilia/SucculentWisdom-juicynessfromj-l/entries/1074
#12 Comment from ckays1967 Email ckays196711/2/05 7:21 PM Permalink
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In dreaming my dreams I touched your souland it surprised me to see myself there.http://journals.aol.com/ckays1967/myjourneywithMS/entries/1151
#11 Comment from gypsytrader49 Email gypsytrader4911/2/05 3:15 PM Permalink
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I have Jack Kornfield's book on tape. It was one of the great helps to me when I was first diagnosed. You reminded me that I need go back and re-listen. Listen and re-listen. Learning to do that is hard. Thanks for such a thoughful entry.KAthyhttp://journals.aol.com/gypsytrader49/ksuergiu/
#10 Comment from ckays1967 Email ckays196711/1/05 6:01 PM Permalink
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I know one thing, if I should happen upon you in a coffee shop, we would sit and talk and maybe just stare a bit at the sugar.And that would be ok.
#9 Comment from ckays1967 Email ckays196711/1/05 5:57 PM Permalink
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So then, what are our moorings? What is our heart's intention? Why do we keep a journal, anyway?For many of us it is to speak the matters of the heart.In doing so, we feed ourselves. In feeding ourselves, we feed others. In feeding others, we get closer to the divine.Humm.......speak (or write) slowly and enuciate all of your words. I sense peace here. I sense divinity.I shall linger a bit more for the taste of it.
#8 Comment from judithheartsong Email judithheartsong11/1/05 2:24 PM Permalink
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very good post Theresa. judi
#7 Comment from deabvt Email deabvt11/1/05 2:11 PM Permalink
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In doing so, we feed ourselves. In feeding ourselves, we feed others. In feeding others, we get closer to the divine.Wonderful!V
#6 Comment from deabvt Email deabvt11/1/05 1:44 PM Permalink
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You write such thoughtful essays.V
#5 Comment from courtenaymphelan Email courtenaymphelan11/1/05 2:49 AM Permalink
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Tonight I was feeling guilt. I wrote an entry...Your Worst Nightmare... a true happenstance...my readers were disapponted with the anticlimatic ending. I was disappointed I had written it at all. It was heartfelt. It was the truth. But did it edify anyone? No! It may have helped me get it iff my chest. BUT.... I wrote an epigram once to the effect "when we get something off our chest, we need to consider how it will look on someone else's ear"Thank you for this entry. If we have a responsibility to society, we certainly have one to our readers in J-Land. We never know who is thirsty, and through our own selfishness, we are not available. Love, Courtenay
#4 Comment from vxv123 Email vxv12310/31/05 11:18 PM Permalink
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I do love that picture, Theresa. I've seen it before!A heartfelt entry, my dear, and well worth reading. I have just about finished the Kornfeld book, and every page contains a piece of wisdom that has me nodding my head in understanding. And of course when he quotes my beloved Ram Dass, then I am hooked. I am re-formatting my journal, or maybe returning to the original format, and in so doing, I find I am feeding my self. This way, I can be more centered, and thereby be of more support for others. You have certainly done that for me.Love, Vicky xxhttp://www.livejournal.com/users/vxv789/
#3 Comment from bethsfrontporch Email bethsfrontporch10/31/05 8:01 PM Permalink
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"I have to start with the need to reveal an awareness. " I find I have to start with a question I want to answer. Perhaps it is the same thing. I have to write to even find out what the question is! Theresa, I especially loved this entry. --Beth
#2 Comment from sistercdr Email sistercdr10/31/05 7:21 PM Permalink
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I'm reminded once again of the spiral as a symbol for the spiritual journey, the deeper one goes into oneself, the nearer one draws to the Divine, always moving inward and outward simultaneously.
#1 Comment from tsgerkin Email tsgerkin10/31/05 5:40 PM Permalink
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Bravo Theresa! Great entry! I love your introspective thoughts and especially those at the end of this entry:"Why do we keep a journal, anyway?For many of us it is to speak the matters of the heart.In doing so, we feed ourselves. In feeding ourselves, we feed others. In feeding others, we get closer to the divine."Hugs,Tamara

4 comments:

Libby said...

Truly. It is always nice to be able to stop by and glimpse into your thoughts and doings. Thank you for that.

ggw07 said...

Please save your AOL journal! (if you haven't already) it is an incredible journey that I and many of your readers have taken with you. If you can transfer the whole thing to Blogger it would be terrific. AOL is missing the point of human connection and its far reaching effects as offered on the web and in your journal. Don't let it disappear.
Gretchen

emmapeelDallas said...

I agree with Gretchen, don't let it disappear. That would be a real loss for your readers as well as for you.

Judi

Kathy said...

And so it seems we've come nearly full circle. I've been following you for a while, first there and now here. And this forced move for me has become a good thing. I have renewed interest in ... all of the process.

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