Binding Judgment | Beatific Smile no Black and White

Binding Judgment | Beatific Smile no Black and White

brett and carol

Does it ever make sense to judge a book by its cover — literally or metaphorically? Tell us about a time you did, and whether that was a good decision or not.

“…the men I have noticed, the ones with the particular blend of nuances that speak to me with a silvery cord, a unique alchemy,” (from an earlier post: List Lesson | Things I Remember).

The first time I saw him, I just knew. A kind of knowing you have little control over. I think it happens on many levels. Pheromones definitely come into play, as well as mostly subconscious linkages that hook into a kind of emotional, unspoken secret, that which attracts one to another. It has happened this way a handful of times and in my experience, only happens this many times in a lifetime.

It was his height, at least 6’3″ that first caught my eye. A lovely construction of the face and the beatific smile. Just as one can imagine a thousand ships launched for Helen of Troy, so this particular construction launched my ship. His hands, sculpted, like the hands of David. And, that smile! In matters of the heart, the rational mind does a kind of disengage. So, even though one knows on an intellectual rational level, that this may not be workable for you, it is overridden by the primitive brain, the basal ganglia do “get it” first. Researchers at the MIT Picower Center for Learning and Memory in the Feb. 24 issue of Nature, 2005, found that the primitive areas in the basal ganglia, do seem to have a greater role in high-level thinking processes than thought before. However, it takes some time for the cerebral cortex to catch up.

By the time my cerebral cortex caught up, it was too late. The pathways were already carved. Did the original response to the judging of the book cover link to a good or bad decision? I prefer not to think in these matters in black and white. Love is something beyond these climes and for me, was a valuable and life changing experience, a kind of honesty, never mind the fallout. In the words of the timeless Viktor Frankl:

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” 
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Did I grasp the “other” innermost core? Yes, I did. Did this person actualise his potentialities? No, he did not. I can still glimpse him in others, many years later, a particular walk, height, bald head, build, but never again that beatific smile.

Brett and I with our precious teacher Geshela Damcho

Brett and I with our precious teacher Geshela Damcho

Images courtesy of Carol Knox.

Brett Pelser: May he find peace. I discovered this notice in the Sunday Tribune of 2007. PELSER Brett, father of Trinity-Ann. Service at Glenwood Community Church, Glenwood on 28/03/2007. Now I know when to remember his passing.

To see some information about the Venerable Geshe Damcho Yonten, see the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre.


Breathing Room | Mindfulness Full Stop

Breathing Room | Mindfulness Full Stop

An extra room has magically been added to your home overnight. The catch: if you add more than three items to it, it disappears. How do you use it?zafu_meditation_cushion

This is my mindfulness space. The full stop of mindfulness over distraction. Peopled only by  a cushion to sit on, with a mat below and small plant. This is where I will take my mindful meditation moments. This is literally my breathing room. What could be more important than this?

Frankl and the Sustenance of Love | More Luminous than the Sun


What sustained Frankl, gave him courage, or even inspired him during the time of his suffering?

An example from Frankl will illuminate this question. It occurred on an early morning march to the work site. Amidst shouting, and stumbling over rocks in the cold of the morning, the man marching next to him whispered: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”(Frankl, 2008:48) Frankl began to think of his wife, through icy stumblings his mind clung to her, he heard her voice, and saw her encouraging look. He describes that her look was “…then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise” (Frankl, 2008:48) He was transfixed by the words of poets and thinkers who had pointed to the truth. “…That love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire…the salvation of man is through love and in love. (Frankl, 2008:49). In this way Frankl was transported to another world as he communed with his beloved. He realised that love goes beyond the physical person and that it is a deep spiritual experience of the inner self. This communing with and visualisation of his beloved wife, sustained Frankl.



Frankl, V. (2008). Man’s Search for Meaning. Great Britain: Rider.

Image purchased at Creative Market – Huge Nature Photo Set

Provocation to Meaning | We are Called


Provocation to Meaning, (inspired by Langle and Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning)

This formed part of a portfolio for a course on Logotherapy. For Frankl, meaning has an element of a unique demand that is made on us by the situations we find ourselves in over the course of a lifetime. So this kind of turns the idea of “meaning” into something a little different to our usual ideas. It is something with which we enter into a dialogue, in the words of Langle (2003): “the capacity for dialogue is a characteristic of being a person (i.e., a being with mind and spirit and a potential for decision making.” Since we are beings who are dialogical we look for something or someone who “speaks” to us, calls us, needs us, talks to us, looks for us, challenges us. This element of provocation then emerges from everything that confronts, challenges or engages us. This being provoked means we are called.

So then this unique demand or call from a place of value creates a moral imperative to act in a personally responsible and accountable way. Each situation requires that we do or be something. This speaks to our conscience and provokes us to “do the one thing that is required.” Meaning for Frankl is not found like a gold coin under a rock, it is something given to us.

We can think of meaning as unfolded as we live our lives and are provoked to meaning and towards self-transcendence in this meaning. This meaning then is beyond and ahead of us pointing to a future. Frankl once defined meaning as: “a possibility against a background of reality”. [1]

For Frankl conscience is something spiritual and transcendent which has universal and timeless significance. Therefore, it seems to suggest that life’s meaning exists a priori, waiting to be discovered. Perhaps it is enfolded waiting to be opened, (this could also be too much poetic licence here). This makes me think of e. e cummings:

“Somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond

any experience, your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which I cannot touch because they are too near.

Your slightest look easily will enclose me

though I have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as spring opens

(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose.”[2]

Langle, (2003) talks about a meaningful existence that is characterised by “inner consent” which relates to what we do, commit ourselves to, or leave out. This continuous consensual activity has a two-sided dialogue – one external characterised by questions like: “What appeals to me? What attracts or challenges me? Where am I needed or what do I want to do in this situation?” The other side of this dialogue goes around whether I agree with my decision. If inwardly, I have said yes then there will be harmony between inner experience and outer action.

Let’s look forward with hope then that we are all provoked to meaning to the “most worthwhile (the one of greatest value) and realistic possibility present in a given situation and one for which we feel we should decide. “ (Langle, 2003:19).

A meaningless life by contrast could be filled with trivial pursuits, such as seeking wealth, power, popularity, without an awareness of the richness of meaning. This could be characterised by depression, cruelty, sadism, anger and aggression amongst other things.

How do we experience meaning in life?

In three ways in Frankl’s view:

  1. Goals or projects – creative values
  2. Through love and loved ones – experiential
  3. Through a right attitude to life and the tragic triade: pain, guilt and death – having the right attitude – attitudinal.

[1] In Langle 2003: 34. The Art of Involving the Person.

[2] Reference for Cummings: (Accessed 05/05/2012).


Frankl, V. (1963). Man’s Search for Meaning.

Langle, A. (2003). The Art of Involving the Person – Fundamental Existential Motivations as the Structure of the Motivational Process. European Psychotherapy, Vol. 4, No. 1.

Image from Creative Market purchased Epilogue Presentation.

Aha at the Mekong



But, at the Mekong River, I had one of those AHA moments. I was doing a visa run into Laos. I was sitting at a table watching the expats and their young Thai partners, thinking how I saw the worst of my own culture in this place so far from home. Then my gaze shifted to the Mekong. The mother of all rivers. I watched as it became dusk. At once, more conspicuous as a person than I had ever been, but never more independent. The lights came on over in Laos. Small craft passed by, I could hear the gentle voices floating over the water. I was utterly alone. Then I had this flash. Nothing is impossible, I could do whatever I set my mind to, all I needed was courage and probably foolishness.

Image purchased at Creative Market.