Learning to Replace “BUT” with “AND”

Starting from a vulnerable place, I am deeply flawed, but seeking a higher state of consciousness, even perfection in the Greek sense of that word, which is wholeness or completeness. Aah, there it is, that pervasive BUT. Why do I insist on using but as my go-to connector of compound sentences?  Our language reveals much about our state of consciousness and connection with the eternal.

“But”, “however”, “nevertheless” or its many other derivatives are not always, but often the products of an argumentative mind-set that seeks to justify one’s own point of view.  It comes from a place in adult development that seeks solutions through logic where we defend our position adamantly while sometimes grudgingly acknowledging but rejecting an alternative perspective. We are the “expert” on our opinions as only we can and should be.  This is right.  It’s a pretty solid place to be. It is a necessary place to be at certain times and stages of our development.

When I examine my own speech and writing, I notice it is full of argumentative buts that seek to resolve binary questions through logic.    The deepest questions of meaning in life are not binary, to be solved with either/or propositions. Life is deeper, more complex and more nuanced than that.

In my thirteen year journey to develop deep community with the Village on Sewanee Creek, I have been forced to face many areas of incompleteness in my own life.  And, consequently, I have grown.  Slowly, often in imperceptible increments.  Today is one of those aha moments that I will probably struggle with for some time.  The word “but” has served me well, at a lower state of consciousness.  And . . . I can do better.  BUT will remain useful in my thought toolbox.  And, I will seek to increase my frequency of use of the word AND.

Why?  AND is an inclusive word.  It recognizes that many differing, valid and true perspectives can co-exist without conflict.  I can strongly hold to my beliefs that are based on my experiences and interpretations of those experiences.  And, by recognizing, with a bit more humility, that my views do not encompass the entire universe of possible truths, I can welcome additional truth that adds to the richness of my understanding and relationships.  AND invites me to conceive of possible solutions that defy resolution in a binary world.  AND is the little word that signals advancement from the “expert” level of consciousness to “strategist” in the newly emerging discipline of adult development.

When I do that, I am blessed in so many ways.  I am less contentious, less annoyed by others, more at peace and, most importantly, my heart becomes softer and more capable of unconditional love.

Recently, a friend shared an interesting quote that goes something like,

“If you are not a liberal by 20, you have no heart.  

AND

If, by 30, you are not a conservative, you have no brain.”

anon

I interpret this in the context of the evolving stages of human development where each successive stage of development does not erase or replace earlier stages.  It simply builds on earlier foundations, adding new dimensions and perspectives.  A perfection in wholeness requires both the heart and the mind working together in harmony.  So, the appropriate word tying those two sentences into one is most definitely AND, not but.

The perfect example of this openness to other perspectives is best informed by the life of Jesus Christ. His perfection of love is enabled by His ability to accept and deeply understand every perspective with respect, kindness and the grace of forgiveness.  This is the perfection I hope sometime in eternity to achieve. Wouldn’t the world be heaven if we all saw each other through the inclusive lens of the word AND?

In Harmony with Nature and People

Permanent residents in “the Village 1.0” are delightful neighbors.  The trust and camaraderie and personal insight we share is deeply enriching.  Then there is what I call “the Village 2.0”, made up of hundreds of equally delightful, endlessly diverse and interesting people from all walks of life who visit only briefly, stay in one of our vacation rental cabins and share their unique talents and interests.

This week, a couple on their honeymoon stayed with us in the container guesthouse for four nights.  Little did we expect that honeymooners would reflect the Village motto, “In Harmony with nature and people”, so well.

Double Capped Mushroom

I was fortunate to spend hours with newlyweds, Scott and Stephanie, learning about mushrooms that fill the forest floor of our property.  You see, both are highly accomplished mycologists.  They were able to point out, name, categorize, and identify many edible and medicinal mushrooms right in our 45-acre back yard.

So, I asked them to write something for this blog.

Stephanie wrote,

“There is nothing to describe how beautiful the area here is. The wide variety of mushrooms, plant life, and animal life was amazing. I couldn’t believe how many waterfalls are in the area. We saw four different waterfalls, one being on Grant’s property.  There were so many more we didn’t get to see while we were here.  I can see why Grant and his wife, Becky would choose to build their community here. I loved seeing how much Scott’s face would light up upon seeing new species of mushrooms he had never seen before. It was a truly spiritual experience for us. Thank you so much for having us.”

I think I was even more thankful to have them come and share their love for mushrooms with us.

Scott meticulously documented many of the mushrooms in the forest with beautiful photos.  Here is what he sent me.

A mycological survey conducted in the area surrounding the eco cabin between July 29 and August 1, 2019, finds the following:

The area is rich with fungal activity, amanitas, russulas, and boletes, are seen every few yards.
Found:

Amanita Varieties

This type appears to grow out of an “Egg”

1. assorted varieties of amanita including white, yellow, orange, blush and black

Russula Assortment

2. assorted russulas- mostly red and green, some purple

boletellus betula

Boletes

3. boletes- many varieties, most notably ‘boletellus betula’.

‘leotia lubrica’ (jelly babies)

4. ‘leotia lubrica’ (jelly babies)
5. ‘scleroderma citrinum’ (pigskin puffball)

tapinella atrotomentosa

6. ‘tapinella atrotomentosa’

cinnabar chanterelles

7. Both golden and cinnabar chanterelles
Delicious sautéed in butter.

calostoma cinnabarinum

8. and the coolest one of all ‘calostoma cinnabarinum’
9. a few types of coral mushroom, and many many more.
-Scott Ulrich
It was a day spent with two lovely honeymooners who were clearly in love with each other and the beauties of nature.  That’s Harmony.
Say Thanks with a Smile

Say Thanks with a Smile

Gratitude is the surest foundation of a happy life. That’s true for cultivating your own feelings of gratitude for things, events and especially toward people.  It goes the other way too. There’s nothing that makes me feel happier than knowing something I’ve said, done or helped someone experience made them feel great – AKA grateful. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean they say “thank you”. While that’s nice, there are just too many ways to discount a polite thank you from someone who doesn’t look all that happy.

I think deeply feeling someone’s gratitude is one of the reasons why giving is so much better than receiving.  For me, the best thank-you’s are non-verbal. You feel it to your bones because you know it’s real, and you know you made it so.  It affirms who you are.  You are good.

We rent out a couple of cabins near our gorgeous waterfall. I make it a point to take each new guest on a personal tour of the waterfall and trails, pointing out ways to enjoy it.

It takes some extra time. But I do it mainly so I can experience that flush of endorphins that comes from seeing the look of amazement and pure pleasure as they come to the top of the falls, peer over the edge, and find that it is so much more than they expected. You see, the expression of pure pleasure on someone’s face is a form of gratitude that beats the oral kind hands down.

Every time I get to vicariously experience pure joy just by seeing someone else’s face, knowing that I helped put the smile there, I want to do it again and again. It’s a good thing to notice the pleasure you feel from other’s genuine gratitude and how that programs you to keep doing nice things.  It goes the other direction too.  Simply by wearing a genuine, expressive smile, other people will do whatever they can to help me keep wearing it.  

So, smile. It’s your best way of saying thank you and it pays high dividends for others and yourself.

Awareness Care-ness

Be careful and caring about the things you welcome into your awareness.
Darkness that you are habitually conscious of wires your brain into dark habits.
Unhealthy habits become addictions.

Deep awareness of that which is light and good will gradually attract that which is light and good.
Positive consciousness becomes positive action.
Repeated action becomes habits that mold your life, your character.

Awareness of that which is evil is necessary; but you need not dwell on it.
If you can change it, make it a cause.
If you cannot, or it is beyond the scope of your interests, talents or abilities, let it go.
There are others more suited to bear those burdens.

Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
Jesus Christ, Matt 6:34

But you and I are sons and daughters of God.
We can be in this world but not of it – beginning with our awareness of light and good.

Be thankful for all that is good and dwell upon it.

Stay in our Amazing CONEX Tiny Home

Back in 2011, I finished my tiny guest house, built out of two forty-foot CONEX shipping containers.  It’s a comfortable, fully functional house with one-bedroom + sleeping loft, a large kitchen, living area, full bath, laundry and extra storage.  I was pleased with the results.  You can read my original post, including my floor plan design and original photos at Build a Great House for under $10,000.

We used it mostly for convenience and for family and friends that would visit from time to time.  Over the years, I couldn’t resist making lots of improvements.  That, of course added cost, but it has been so worth it.

 

My latest improvements included:

  • A generous covered deck with deck chairs and a large gas barbecue that overlooks our little pond, filled with catfish, bass and croaking bullfrogs.
  • Covered parking for one vehicle in addition to the carport that handles four of ours.
  • French doors opening onto the covered deck
  • Newly Steel Framed Massive windows looking out into the woods and creek behind the house.  The house is so much more bright and cheery.
  • Fresh, natural re-sawn pine wood paneling in the living / dining area.  Wood is so much more cozy than corrugated steel.
  • New Kitchen Cabinet faces
  • A kitchen bar, re-purposed from a big oak conference room table salvaged from my days at Baskin-Robbins corporate.
  • A new heat pump that cools and removes humidity in the summer and makes the place toasty warm in winter.  The original low cost insulation, added to the exterior under the wood siding, has been great.
  • A gas fireplace for some extra cozy when “the weather outside is frightful”.

A few months ago, we began offering the space for short-term rental on Airbnb.   The response has been amazing.  You can see the listing at Mountain Waterfall Cabin in Eco-Village

We also listed another one bedroom log cabin at Log Cabin on Miller’s Falls

The experience hosting and getting to know lots of great people has been fabulous.  Many of the improvements were prompted by suggestions from guests.  It’s still a work in progress.  Between guest visits, I can usually be found either making improvements to one of these two houses or making plans for the Village 2.0.  that I’m calling the “Enchanted” Village on Sewanee Creek, or Enchanted Village for short.  I’ll write more about that later.

So, if you are interested in seeing what it might be like to live in a tiny home or a container house built from Conex shipping containers, come stay with us in one of our comfortably small houses.  While here, I’ll be happy to give you a tour of the Village on Sewanee Creek.  You can meet some of our self-reliant Villagers and learn about rainwater catchment systems, off-grid solar, bee-keeping, gardening, the benefits of chickens (even harvest some fresh eggs for breakfast), Ham radio communications, raising mushrooms or foraging for edible woodland foods, the slower, more satisfying life-style we enjoy here and much more.

Wander over to the amphitheater and enjoy a cookout in the fire pit under the satellite dish gazebo.   If you are a singer/song-writer or musician, this is the perfect place for a songwriter’s retreat.  How about an awesome place in nature to perform for a few appreciative music-lovers.  Our amphitheater offers a great outdoor stage with a covered backstage.  You can book it for free (as long as Villagers are invited to enjoy your music).  I’ll take you on a tour of the surrounding area where you will meet the rangers at the Visitor’s center and arrange for a guided hike through one of our eight nearby state parks.

Take a short walk along the creek to the top of fifty-foot Miller’s falls.  Then follow the gentle trail to the bottom of the falls.  Go behind the falls and enjoy contemplating God’s wonders on the natural stone bench in the grotto.

If you enjoy the unique satisfaction of being creative and building things, I can always use an extra pair of hands in the wood and welding shop.  By the way, I’m looking forward to many more years building tree houses in the enchanted village and love to share creative ideas with others who are similarly motivated by the urge to create magical things.

The Growth Mindset

One of the characteristics I look for in people for the Village is drive for continuous personal growth. People who are continuously growing are good neighbors. They are interesting to be around. Their example is uplifting and inspiring. People who struggle, persevere and overcome challenging things are confident, usually happy people. Accomplishment is fulfilling. I feel happy when I accomplish something. Unhappy when I give up.

A growth mindset, value or habit can be manifest in many ways, My focus tends toward improvement in basic creative skills and spiritual or character growth. Like a lot of people, though, I am less interested in some areas of growth, feeling that I’m just not very good at or natively talented in certain areas. Math isn’t my strong suit. I have avoided it all my life. But I believe in expanding my personal horizons, so my procrastination bothers my conscience. Recently, I started a basic online math course with Kahn Academy that can take me as far as I want to persevere – for free.

Every day, I get encouraging emails, reminding me to enjoy learning and growing. Today’s is titled, “The learning myth: Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart” by the founder, Sal Kahn. I enjoyed reading it and watching the attached video. I hope you do too.
After reading it, I encourage you to embrace this mindset. Enroll in a Kahn Academy course. Then tell us about your experience. Let’s encourage each other to grow.
Here’s a link:

https://www.khanacademy.org/talks-and-interviews/conversations-with-sal/a/the-learning-myth-why-ill-never-tell-my-son-hes-smart

the Impact of Distance on Entitlement & Gratitude

Villagers hold, as a personal value, that we should not be dependent on government for our welfare. Dependence on distant entities breeds a sense of entitlement, which is the opposite of gratitude. There is broad agreement among clergy, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, scientists and thinkers that gratitude is the foundation of happiness.

We should be “self-reliant”. That requires faith and work. But it does not mean that we want to be alone. In the Village, we strongly value the giving and receiving of service within a tightly knit community.

An inspiring talk by Dale G. Renlund starts with the premise that “the greater the distance between the giver and receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.” Here is a link. The opposite is also true.  A generous and direct exchange (both receiving and giving between close associates) is an essential element of community. It strengthens ties, builds individuals, social resiliency and enhances gratitude and happiness.

By institutionalizing the giving and receiving of service through our weekly Village Projects, we remind ourselves of these values and create good habits.

Neighbors helping build a new shed

But ritual service is not intended to fulfill all of these needs. It only serves as a catalyst for regular sharing between community members, thereby enhancing a general sense of gratitude, self-reliance and happiness.

Another value of Villagers is a deep commitment to living our religious convictions, whatever they may be. The speaker in this talk goes on to illustrate the principle of distance as it relates to entitlement vs. gratitude in our relationships with God.

We believe that social relationships are important, whether with family, neighbors or deity. In healthy relationships, there is no room for entitlement, only gratitude that brings us closer together.

New Email: grant51miller@gmail.com