Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Triad of the Little Oak

Three conditions for the little oak to become grand: a conspiracy of imagination, the audacity of a beginning, and a tenacity through time.

Commentary: As it might be obvious, I wrote this triad after planting this tiny little oak in my yard recently. There is a story. My wife and I have been working for weeks on reclaiming a garden space left rather overrun by previous owners. The transformation has resulted in an area devoted to flowers, to vegetables, and to herbs. In the process of clearing, cleaning and preparing the space, we came across a few baby oaks planted, no doubt, by industrious squirrels. This created a bit of a dilemma for the tree-loving Druid.

It would have been easiest to pull them up and compost them with the rest of the weeds, and that's not a bad option. The trees, if left in place, would have grown far too close to our house, and ultimately would have caused damage to the house, and made the gardening space un-gardenable.

So, the second choice, of leaving them there, was out of the question. The third choice was to try and relocate them. The first such relocation was a failure. A combination of a baby oak that was really too old for good relocation, a poor job on my part of digging deeply enough to get all the roots, and our now serious Georgia drought resulted in a transplant that only lasted about two weeks.

The picture above, though, is one such transplant that I have considerable confidence may just make it. And so, after transplanting this tiny baby last week, I've spent some time reflecting on it. What would it take for this little baby to one day make for marvelous, grand oak shade in our front yard (away from the house and garden)? The same three things, it struck me, that are required for any life effort to have some significant effect.

A conspiracy of imagination: The Latin roots of "conspiracy" mean to breathe together. A significant life effort requires that we breathe together with some other creature in the field of imagination. Can we see where this just might lead? Can we see it together?

The audacity of a beginning: This is just deciding to use the nerve one can muster to start. I'd already lost one oak, and felt badly for it. Did I dare try it again? This little one was growing right where it was (and that it would not ultimately be a good place only complicated this). In one solitary moment, I got the shovel and made the move.

The tenacity through time: it means showing up. In this case, during this serious Georgia drought, it means show up with a watering can, regularly, tenaciously, persistently. Over longer time, it means keeping the base clean, mulched, composted, watching for invasive insects or unobservant traffic through the yard.

This little oak has the potential for teaching me a lot, and reminding me often. Just so that you can see how tiny it is, compare it to my hand.

Robert Patrick © 2007

Friday, June 1, 2007

Triads of Any Task

The Triads of Any Task

Three motivations within any task: compulsion, blame, and delight. Wise is the one who knows what moves him.

Three perceptions in the midst of any task: the one completely cloaked, the one in the shadow, and the one completely in the light. Wise is she who constantly seeks them all.

Three experiences within any task: the experience of the slave, the experience of the condemned, and the experience of the creator. At any moment, both the slave and the condemned may become the creator, by a choice.

Three rivers of feeling run through any task and leave their mark on those involved: the feeling of fear, the feeling of shame, and the feeling of joy. Wisdom thrives swimming in only one.

Three choices within any task: To see it as an obligation, to see it as a punishment, to see it as an occasion to dance. Wise are they who can find the inner music in any task.

Robert Patrick, © 2007


I wrote this triad after having one of those (for me) significant dreams where I wake up, remember the details, experience strong emotional content with the dream, and know that it is speaking to me. I spent several days reflecting on this dream, listening to its message, and then wrote this triad over another several days.

Part 1: for me, I have come to realize that any task I engage in, whether daily and routine, or huge and life changing, if I consider it, I can find lurking there these three motivations. I say "lurk" because one of these is usually obvious. The other two, though, are always there, hidden, perhaps, to my ego. The significance of noticing that "compulsion" or "blame" or "delight" is a motivator is that I can notice which is moving me at the time, and then I can choose which one I really want to work with. In reality, I am finding that compulsion and blame, vestiges of the culture and family I grew up in, often are the initial and obvious motivators, delight is the one I choose to work with.

And the great joy of this is discovering, so far, that there is no task, however difficult or trivial or overwhelming or boring--in which I cannot find a delight.

Part 2: I have alluded to this already. Compulsion, blame and delight are all already present in any task I undertake. One might be obvious--in the light. Others may be lurking in the shadows, barely perceptible, or completely hidden to me. Regardless of which is where, I do better to find them all and see how they are moving me, and then, am free to make my choice for how to proceed.

Part 3: The slave is the extension of compulsion. When I do a task because "I have to", then I am slave to the compulsion. Likewise, when I do a task because not doing it will leave me "guilty" of some judgment, I must ask whose judgment this is I am walking around with. I stand, in the task, already condemned. The point of observing these experiences of slave and condemned is that I can then choose, rather, to work from the delight involved in the task. When I choose to work from delight, I become creative, fluid, dynamic. I become the creator--I who moments before was the slave or the condemned.

Part 4: The feelings, too, are extensions of the motivators: fear of the compulsion, shame of the blame,and joy of the delight. This is just another angle on any task: the emotions that are running through me will color my world and will leave a mark on those I am "tasking" with and for. Suppose I am cooking food for my family, am doing it under some compulsion (I have to do this), am feeling anger and fear around having to do this task--fear that I won't get to do other things that I'd prefer to be doing, for instance. Does the food not become filled with the emotion I am running? Will not my family then "feast" on my fear at some level?
Imagine the same meal prepared with the choice to cook in and through the delight of the task. Fact is, I love to cook, and if I can settle down and observe what is moving me, I can choose to cook with delight.

Part 5: The word "choice" should be obvious by now. No great coincidence that I am also re-reading William Glasser's Choice Theory: A New Psychology for Living right now.

About Triads

Littered throughout this blog, you will find some of my triads.

What are triads, you ask? In short, they are one of the few written forms left from ancient Celtic and Druidic communities. Triads express what today we might call spirituality, psychology, sociology and just plain human wisdom in sometimes pithy, sometimes truncated, but most often dense sayings, expressed with three aspects. Reading a triad, and better, reflecting and ruminating on it, is like walking around a three legged stool. You view it from three different points of view, but you are viewing the same stool in each view.

There are collections of ancient Triads. I find some as fresh and powerful as anything I've ever read, and those I often commit to memory. They begin to salt my thoughts, my writing, my view on the world. In other words, they help me make sense of things. They become companions, wise companions, on the journey. The clearest example of this type I learned while working through Bardic grade with OBOD. It goes:

"Three foundations to success: bold design, frequent practice, and frequent mistakes."

That triad so clearly and succinctly and deeply expresses for me what the journey of life and learning is about that it is has become a personal and professional motto of sorts. I teach it to my students, and it effectively becomes my classroom motto each year.

Others of the ancient Triads clearly need a great deal of cultural and linguistic excavation to make sense, or they sound "good" on the surface, but are difficult to make much sense of. Consider this one:

"Three tendencies of a persons lifetime: hope, love, and joy."

Who wants to argue with hope, love and joy? And yet, how is it that these are three tendencies of a person's life time? We could all take a stab at that, and many might disagree. I simply don't find enough here to work with. And so it goes.

After this post, I will from time to time post some of my own triads. Unless indicated otherwise, the Triads that I write here are my own creation based on reflections of my personal experience. They may or may not be useful to someone else. So, the wisdom is--read, try it out, decided for yourself. I am not claiming to be adding to the ancient store of triads, but I am claiming that this way of reflecting on and distilling my own experience is very helpful to me. At least, this is a writing exercise. For me personally, it is also an exercise in the practice of my path, my life journey.

I will also at times give comment to the triads that I write. And, as always, comments to any of this are welcome from those who read them.

I have created links to some online sources for ancient triads.