mouth cave.jpgWhose life am I living?

It’s a question worth considering when I’m able to disentangle myself from the assumption that I already know the answer. It’s an untamed wilderness, this question, and it must be approached with the reverence demanded by all wild things. In order to enter it, I have to understand that I might never come back, that I might get lost in there. I have to know that it will ask something of me once I enter it, take something of me, take all of me, maybe. In fact, if I am not prepared to die some kind of death, I shouldn’t even bother approaching this question. Better to give it a wide berth, content myself with the comfort of believing that the answer is self-evident.

Whose life am I living?

It’s quite apparent that there’s no path in this wilderness, once I’m in it. My path is my own. No one has walked it before me, and no one will ever walk it again. Deeper and deeper I go, and soon I cannot see the light from the outside anymore. The questions that so concerned me out there have vanished, and new questions have spawned in their stead. This question breeds and feeds, proliferates and destroys—a wilderness with a will of its own.

Whose life am I living?

I’m not in that wilderness now, mind you. I’m in Starbucks. I’m tiptoeing along the edge, peeking inside, reporting what I see. I don’t think you’d be able to hear me if I were deep inside this question. I don’t think anyone could, not even I, since the heart of the wilderness speaks only in silence. Every language is a foreign language in that quiet place, and if by grace I find myself there, it’s best to speak the native tongue, which is no language at all. But from Starbucks, here on the outside, I can wonder a bit about this wilderness.

Whose life am I living?

What is my life, anyway? If it has something to do with the thoughts I think and the actions inspired by those thoughts, then isn’t it important to ask: whose thoughts am I thinking in the first place? Are they really mine, or have I inherited them, or bought them, or been duped into buying them? Are these thoughts worth claiming? Are these thoughts worth living?

Just as I consider the source of my food, so should I consider the source of my thought, given how influential and devastating unexamined thought can be. Eat enough junk food and you’ll get cancer. Think enough junk thought and God knows what you’ll get.

So, I ask: Where is this thought coming from? Who planted it? How was it cultivated and harvested before it got to me? What will it cost me, to believe it? What will it cost others? Will the world be nourished by this thought, or will it be made ill by my belief?

This inquiry can be applied to every thought that arises within me. It is a path into the wilderness and through it. Whose life am I living? The answer cannot be “mine” unless I am intimately involved in the process of asking the question. How would my life change, if I were to make my life “mine” each day? What would it mean, to live by this inquiry?

It would mean attending to the question with patience and vigilance and kindness. It would mean getting lost. It would mean witnessing the death of who I thought I was over and over again. It would mean learning how to trust the unknown because there’s no other choice in the deep wilderness. And someday, perhaps, it would mean stumbling into the clearing of silence, that empty courtyard in the heart of the wild.

*“Mouth Cave” by SamDakota

I’ve been sitting with it for a while, and I’m coming to realize that the most honest thing I could write today is simply: I got nothin’. . . So, I’ll leave it at that, before I start lying to you.


Singing for Mom

I sat up all night with the universe not long ago, in a circle of her children. We sang to her the songs of gratitude that every mother is due. Thank you for my birth, and thank you for my death, and thank you for holding me in between, even when I forget you, even when I forget myself. Just thank you, thank you, thank you, deep into the night.

“Sing on,” she whispered, “sing on,” so we sang and sang, because we could, and because she asked, and because it hurts too much to say no when your mother asks you if you have a song to sing. How could you say no to her when she first said yes to you? She, who sung you into existence, and you, her song made flesh and blood.

“Sing yourself,” was the call, “every unsung song inside you,” and that was how she drew them out of us, long lost lullabies, found, and then gone again once the silence swept in with the sunrise.

Thank you, Mom.


I was thinking about heaven today, and about a woman who stopped me on the sidewalk a few months ago and said, “Jesus loves you.” She went on to say that if I didn’t love Jesus back, accept Jesus as my personal lord and savior, then I’d burn in eternal hellfire, along with the Buddha who was already down there enwreathed in flames. “He’s got snakes all in his hair, like all over his head,” she told me—one of her prophets had had this vision, and she took it to be true.

I wish I’d asked her a few questions: Would you really want to spend eternity in that heaven, knowing full well that in some faraway hell there were countless souls suffering unimaginable torment? How could you really enjoy your bliss? How could you truly rest in peace? How would that heaven be any different from this life on earth, right here and now?

If that hell were next door to your heaven and you could hear all the screaming, wouldn’t you be bothered? Of course you’d be bothered, because your peace is tied to everyone else’s. You’d spend eternity begging God to soundproof the kingdom, or to build higher walls, or to move heaven elsewhere. And if God acquiesced, would you finally be at peace? Wouldn’t the memory of that screaming haunt your paradise? How could you enjoy the cherubic choirs with all that screaming in your head? You’d have to numb it out, or forget altogether, and so enjoy the rest of eternity in a state of delusion.

Give me hell over that heaven. I’d rather live in the truth, even if that truth is painful, than in a fantasy held together by anesthesia and amnesia. May that my afterlife. May that be my life.

*“Idling” by SamDakota


Right before I set out to walk across America, one guy offered me some sage advice: “Remember, if you get tired out there, take a break.” Feeling tired this week, taking a break from the wordy world. Peace, all!

Worst weatherman

not coming home small.jpg

The mind is the world’s worst weatherman,

always forecasting the future,

always wrong.

Poor thing can’t keep up with now.

Poor thing doesn’t realize it doesn’t have to,

doesn’t know how to not know,

doesn’t see it can just be.

Don’t tell me it might rain tomorrow, blind meteorologist mind.

Tell me how the sun feels on my face right here,

and if it does rain tomorrow,

tell me how it feels on my face right here again,

when we’re there then,

if you want to tell me anything at all.

*Not Coming Home Small by SamDakota

dinner for one.jpg

Most nights I eat alone. Best learn how to eat alone, I figure, since death is a feast for one. I want to be a king at that feast, not a paranoid prisoner railing against his sentence, so I practice. There’s definitely something sad about my little solo dinners. Beautiful, too, but there’s no denying the sadness. And yet, I think that’s the point of them: to feel the sadness of being here as I am now, a human who loves so many and will love so many more, and who will have to let them all go someday, every single one. Dining with that grief by candlelight, inviting it in and keeping it close, this is how I practice belonging. I belong at this table, the king will say at the feast, breathing easy. I am no stranger here in my kingdom. I say the words into the silence of my kitchen, watching the slow twilight flow of the liquor store outside, dozens of kings and queens buying wine for their dinners and beer to share. I share with sorrow, in the chair to my left. And at my right hand sits gratitude, whispering thank you to whomever else joins us. They come and go as they please, each thought and emotion, like the kings and queens outside. I bar none, during these dinners for one. All are welcome at my table.

*Dinner for One by SamDakota

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,312 other followers