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Larry’s great mistake was leaving Paradise

After Larry left Crested Butte, his constant refrain was he wished he had never left. He made many friends here and he loved them all. Of course, seeing more of his family back east warmed his heart, and they were good to him. But Crested Butte doesn’t call itself Paradise for nothing. Larry was in Paradise here from the moment he and his dogs arrived in South Crested Butte beside the Slate River. Then on to Teocali Ave. downtown, where he celebrated his 80th birthday, followed by #15 Glacier Lily Road, the grand finale to a life of accomplishment and fulfillment.

Crested Butte was Paradise for Larry on many levels. He was a spontaneous force of nature who belonged in the wide-open spaces. One of many qualities that endeared him to me, because I came to associate him with its playfulness, a role that he took on with his characteristic humor and gusto. He delighted in recognizing possibilities, turning them into good works. He was unstoppable, particularly if the good in any of his works was justice.

His Public Affairs Forum wasn’t for distraction. He meant business, the disciplined man and journalist confronting issues that matter with facts and fairness. Bring up the Middle East and this former reporter for the National Observer, based in Beirut, would go off on a tear. Passionate about presenting a view of Israeli-Palestinian relations that wasn’t rendered insensible by lobbyists. So principled and passionate that lobbyists lobbied him out of a job at the National Journal. He was right and he wouldn’t back down.

Who the heck was Simon Pierchek?

Understand this about the often riotously funny character we’re celebrating. His was an unprecedented life, in my experience, for serving causes that need serious attention. A life exceptional because so few have the time and inclination to act. If a cause got Larry’s attention, he acted. Acted to good effect well into a time of life when others would rather let go.

Our last phone conversation was an energetic two hours, and even with his comprehension impaired he gave it everything he had – concentration, intelligence, and abundant patience and good will. It’s what he brought to protect Paradise from the depredations of molybdenum mining and other foolishness. The story of the High Country Conservation Advocates – then the Citizens Alliance – was Before Larry and After Larry.
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David, that’s enough.
What? Who said that?
It’s me, Larry. I appreciate your kindness, but “before Larry and after Larry?” Really!
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He put life and good will into anything he joined, including the performing arts. Who can forget Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard, at CB’s Performing Arts Center, after seeing Simon Pierchek, a marginal character played by Larry, steal the show? How? By not blowing his lines! OK, I’m getting off track here. But his performance did prove that our guy was game for anything – anything that would uphold the ideals of civil society. Ideals that couldn’t be taken for granted then or now.

He couldn’t be there with empathy

This avid fan of Amy Goodman, whose heart bled for every victim of injustice, could “feel the Bern.” But he couldn’t feel your pain. The child of a grande dame performer who hogged the spotlight, he grew up in her image. A narcissist born without the empathy gene. And he paid for it. In relationships that couldn’t sustain the promise of intimacy. His character and values attracted his equals who expected intimacy with empathy, and he couldn’t deliver. Couldn’t be there for family, friends, or intimate partners. Couldn’t be there for me. Hearts were broken including his. When I received the call to join him in Crested Butte, seven years ago, it was to help heal a broken heart.

Why then, didn’t he leave behind a trail of bitterness? He did, to some extent, and he regretted it. Yet what he inspired, for the most part, was remarkable loyalty and affection. The reason, I believe, was what love meant to him and the effort he made in good faith to learn and earn it. To take a mind conditioned to look without for affirmation and attention and turn within for understanding. To understand empathy even if he couldn’t feel it. Because it genuinely mattered to him.

If he loved you, yes, he cared for you in his own way, as best he could, but it was the real thing. It was love worth having. Never mind if he couldn’t remember birthdays, you were important. Family, friends, colleagues. He wasn’t a careerist building a network of connections for personal advancement. Larry had no use for superficiality. He did it for love.

But he couldn’t be there with retribution either

Injustice driving Larry up the wall wasn’t all that set him apart. The usual response, even by loving hearts, is a will, a temptation, and sometimes an act that evens the score. Retribution. Punishment. The same genetics that deprived Larry of the empathy gene somehow left out this gene as well. The soul that was incapable of empathy was also incapable of retribution. Of targeting anyone personally with sustained anger, hatred, or condemnation.

The narcissist lacking empathy was a risk for intimacy, but missing the retribution gene made up for it. It made him exceptionally safe to be close to if you could accept that love was there even if empathy wasn’t. If you were satisfied with what was there and ignored what wasn’t. Maybe he couldn’t feel your pain, but he wouldn’t cause it either. And if he did, know that it bothered him greatly. What he wanted was the opposite. And if you had earned his trust and affection, he never stopped trying to accomplish it.
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David, you’re done. Nobody is listening. They just want you to stop talking.
Larry, if you don’t mind. It’s my turn to get some attention.
I can feel others’ pain now, and I can feel your audience’s pain all the way to Heaven.
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My favorite nickname: “Waterman”

Until I met Larry, I knew I wanted friends, but I hadn’t learned how to be a friend. I was a hardass missing the empathy gene too. Over the course of our four decades of friendship Larry didn’t teach me empathy but he opened the door to a virtual paradise of friendship. John Milton’s Paradise Lost describes what life might have been for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Life for me before Larry felt like exclusion. Life after felt like inclusion. Like a kind of Garden of Eden where everything I’d ever dreamed of became possible.

He promoted my work in the National Journal with two major stories. Doors were opened. My insights into national water policy got a real-world test in the Red River Valley of the North. A success that extended my career into the Monongahela River Valley another nine years.

Why did this prominent journalist choose to make a nobody with ideas worth listening to? To gamble on a long shot and put his professional credentials at risk. Because national water policy was to him an incoherent mess. Nobody seemed to be dealing with it, and my ideas were worth a try. I had serious experience and knew what I was talking about. His journalistic instinct was right on, and I didn’t let him down.

And because of where our minds met: If something isn’t working you act to fix it. You get involved. And if Larry Mosher’s life role-modeled anything, it was involvement. Citizenship and commitment. You walk the talk. He was a professional of consequence and a person of conscience.

Face to face with fear: treading the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Larry welcomed me into his vibrant social and professional life, rented me a room in his N Street townhouse and welcomed me into his family. His gifts never stopped giving. We socialized back and forth on his turf and mine, in different parts of the country, until, one magical July 4th weekend, 28 years ago. Where, at his ranch in Crawford, he and his companion Mary introduced me to Needle Rock and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. To the West Elk Wilderness and to Crested Butte. And to my future wife. To many years of glorious marital bliss in Boulder.

He had already introduced me to Mary and her adorable daughters six years before, yet another family to be cherished for life. And now I was to have a family of my own, the first in 16 years, and the warmth of an extended family that lives on in Mary. Mary – a best friend who deserves a testimonial of her own. My cup runneth over, all thanks to Larry.
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Is that the best you can do, after all I’ve done for you?
It’s what you get for not letting me win at horseshoes.
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Long, long ago, far, far away, in La Jolla

What more could this good man possibly do for me? How about a year sharing his home and life in Paradise, a great blessing while I found a room to rent in LA near my granddaughters and saved money to pay for it. How about hosting my granddaughters and their parents for a holiday season in Crested Butte, where the tree tops glisten and children listen to live the magic of Christmas. An experience my granddaughters, born and bred in southern California, will never forget. How about sailing the Gulf on his 40-foot Island Packet sailboat, the same one that took him and his last great love to the Bahamas. All great blessings.

But the times now were different. Larry’s years were running out and so were his faculties. His last great love was to be the last. This fun-loving great spirit wasn’t looking for partnership in fun. His spirit just wanted the healing love of a friend. And that was what I was able to give back.

After I left, Larry visited Joany at her home in La Jolla -- his brother Robert’s widow. I came down from LA and got a memorable tour of Larry’s childhood haunts: the cove where he frolicked in the ocean; the family home on the bluff above; the fabled beachfront property that paid for his retirement; and the proper church close by where he and his wife were married. Where they had to get married, and Larry’s story took its first major turn.

Still, all of it witness to beauty, perfection, and abundance. If I were a biographer covering a legend, this was where it began. The key that unlocked its mystery, the yearnings that were almost palpable. I got a sense of a life full of promise that more than delivered yet could never be enough. His life, my life, any life.

What “Holy Spirit?”

Larry and I maintained close contact until the end, but with a difference. While his life that had kept me in its orbit was winding down, mine was expanding. With a steady stream of insights that I tried to share, to keep him going with purpose and meaning, safe from the isolation and despair of impaired memory and comprehension. I bombarded him with lengthy expositions on the Holy Spirit, an intimate Friend radiating the light and force of the Now, Mind and Love brought together in the moment, making the most of Life eternal. Did my rhapsodizing do any good?

The attention of a friend was always welcome. So, too, the love to which he was dedicated. But despite my best efforts, this gregarious realist, wedded to the great outdoors, who loved the fellowship of his church, never got its idealism. Never got the word. Intent on sharing my gift, I sent him to his minister for help discovering the Holy Spirit’s presence within. What did he learn? That the Holy Spirit is “energy.” A sure sign that the seeker prefers to search without. That my gift within can’t be his gift. A lesson for me to learn.
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By the way, you were wrong.
Wrong about what?
I don’t see any Holy Spirit. Everyone here has wings. We’re all wearing white robes, fiddling on harps, standing on little clouds. God is an old guy with a beard. You should have listened to me.
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All the same, Larry’s life was an expression of this inner Logic. He lived it. He did put it all together. Larry, if you’re listening, you transformed.

I’m off track again. Larry thought Match.com would yield more goodies if he could fool naïve females into believing that he was a guy “transformed.” A sensitive hunk who could bawl his eyes out with the girls. And he did bawl his eyes out. But, ever the narcissist, it was over his pain, not theirs. Larry, if you’re listening, forget about “transforming.” Forget about the Holy Spirit and just be yourself!

The touching trait of a playful child

It's a measure of the fulness of this man that I don’t want to stop there. I could go on for a lot longer.

Then let me close with this. To understand Larry Mosher is to understand that he needed your love and attention. And even though he knew he lacked empathy and couldn’t fully reciprocate, he would work to earn it. Whatever the obstacles, the love of friendship was so important to him that he would find workarounds. He would make sure you got from him what you needed. It was the touching trait of a playful child determined to share Love rather than deny it. That made him my benefactor, my cherished friend.

Goodbye Larry. Thank you and God bless.
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Thank you, David. Now, if you’ll let me have the floor, your audience needs to hear the truth. Remember that sign, “The reason I’m smiling is I haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on?” Well, you’ve just earned it. It’s yours now. Just kidding. OK, everybody, enjoy your freedom. See you in a bit. Ha ha.

Paul Desmond riffing on his alto saxophone. For All We Know.

Reflections on a stream that come and go with the intricacies of improvisation.
That can’t help but be what they are --  us in reverse.

That we never get to see as we are.
Never get to know as we are.
Haunted by beauty.
Drawn by scent and touch imagined.
By the taste of Memory heard and gone.
A here and now, place and time, that can never be.

Yet the Now that you will always be to me.

Shorty Baker riffing on his trumpet. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.

A call for love from time out of time.
And I didn’t know.

Notes gently trailing a caress across the whorl of preoccupation
Lifting me out of cold blankness into the warmth of acceptance.
By the vulnerability of subject in a room full of objects.
Cause beyond effect that needs no intoxicant, no commotion
To excuse the brashness of its intrusion.

I’m not done with it.
Can never be done with it, your call for Love.

Alyosha bidding Dostoevsky’s farewell. The Brothers Karamazov.

“There is nothing more wholesome and good
Than sacred memory preserved from childhood.
Let us be kind, then honest

And then let us never forget each other.

“You are all dear to me.
From this day forth I have a place in my heart for you all,
And I beg you to keep a place in your hearts for me.”

Everybody Comes to Rick’s

This was the title of the play that was to become the film Casablanca. And a good thing, too, because you’re invited to a year-end celebration and Rick and I don’t want any excuses. Everybody is invited and everybody belongs. It’s an imaginary birthday party, Auld Lang Syne, and a lot more combined. The Guest of Honor will be there. “Jesus” is associated with Christianity, but the Logic of reality and truth in A Course in Miracles covers everything. Its message of understanding is for everyone. Even for those who, like Groucho Marx, wouldn’t lower themselves to join anything that would have them for a member.

Many traditions coalesced to turn December into a madhouse of activities that strayed from their origins. Jesus’ birthday is one. But if you pan around Rick’s Café Americain with the camera, on the opening shot, you’ll see the setting is cosmopolitan. These people really do come from all over and not everyone gets excited over the same thing. Except the cause that brought them there and will send them on their way. The beauty of where they are, where we will be honoring life-changing, mind-changing events.

In our imaginations. I can get us started, but the guests are invited to attend to their own comfort so everyone has fun. Celebrating a new life and new year with festivity – food, drink, song and dance – and a rebirth: the rebirth of the sun. The winter solstice. Whatever event, whatever tradition, makes this a holiday for you. Temenos is all about fun. Mine to begin with but yours, too. One big sanctuary, a blend of differences where differences attract instead of distract. Where we can just Be.

Where Maxfield gets his inspiration

Casablanca honored cause that brings us all together. “The beginning of a beautiful friendship” between Rick and Louis, two cynics who joined the cause. Who set an example for change of mind, the event that our situation calls for. That, hopefully, we’ll get around to before it’s too late. Rick’s Café is part of my temenos. So is the airport where Rick gave up the love of his life for the cause. Gave up the letters of transit signed by General De Gaulle so Ilsa and Victor, a paladin of the cause, could take the last plane to Lisbon and continue their work.

Jesus could have authored the script. But so could any figure who embodies our ideals if they match. The name we give it doesn’t matter. Casablanca rose to the top of the list for a reason: it speaks to something universal that’s real and true in all of us. The thing that our guides still teach, that made Jesus’ miracles possible then and makes miracles possible now. The reality we were born into and the truth that still lives. We celebrate with a prayer of thanks for its guidance and comfort while we change our minds. For a reality that doesn’t have to be imagined and a birth that’s leading us there.

Call it Christmas Eve or whatever you want. You’ll be all in when you see Rick himself behind the bar serving the nectar of the gods. Beneath the branches of Ewah, the great tree of eternal life. The great tree of Logic radiant with lights and ornaments put there by children -- Owen, Courtney and Amanda – assisted by the goddess Psyche & friends: Puddy and Buster, Sparky, Cuddles, Grayheart, and William Roofus Marmalade, my orange tabby. The tree is their home where they play. Where Maxfield Parrish draws inspiration for his celestial art through a telescope in his treehouse.

The nocturnal lyric of wolves and loons

Ewah combines two trees from Avatar: the giant communal tree and the smaller illuminated tree that ended the story with resurrection. It represents safety – the benevolence of Logic that governs and protects all of reality and creation. The Innocence of temenos, its atmospherics decorated by the nature of our imaginations:

• The deep blue pure waters of Lake Parrish shimmering beneath an incandescent moon and stars
• Silvery clouds billowing above our gathering, where we can swoop and soar to the heights on Pegasus forever free from worry and regret
• The airport beacon sweeping its corner of Lake Parrish in red and green
• The nocturnal lyric of wolves and loons in the distance joining our chorus of joy
• Twin lighthouses standing guard at the Straits of the Pacific
• Up on high, the Course in Miracles Lighthouse, anchored to the side of Mount Olympian, beaming mindfulness and love, freedom and innocence, across the Aegean and beyond. To Athens, Bethlehem, and Alexandria, incubators of ideals: the ethics of Socrates, the virtue of Plato, the understanding of Jesus.

Ambiance courtesy of Maxfield, who will turn any request into a portrayal of heaven. Catering by the King Cole Grill at the Saint Regis Hotel in Manhattan. We will be met by the gatekeeper of the Garden of the Gods: Old King Cole himself will come down from Maxfield’s mural behind the bar to direct us to our choice of tables: beside the mountain stream with the pure, healing waters; around the campfire on Maxfield Island; along the shore of Lake Parrish; beside the children’s playground beneath the tree. Dance music courtesy of the orchestra at Rick’s Café, the same one that brought down the house with La Marseillaise.

Saving the best for the last

Caroling accompanied on the piano by Sam. Sam, who played it again for Rick and Ilsa. Sam, whose piano hid the letters of transit that saved the world. Well, not quite, but it came close. Before Auld Lang Syne we’ll sing As Time Goes By. If that doesn’t melt hearts and open minds nothing will.

I’m bringing honored guests. My darling granddaughters. Family from around the fireplace on Christmas Eve when I was a kid – mom, dad, and grandma, brother, sister, and our Dalmatian. The teenage girl who cared for me while my mother recovered. My son and his mother who left us too soon. My spiritual family: mother Persephone and father Apollo, sister Psyche and brother Jesus. Charmed escorts from Calvary to Ewah and resurrection: Black Beauty, Rhoda the show horse, and Ferdinand the Wall Street bull with the golden horns. Dobbin the magnificent sorrel flying draft horse, Pegasus – the free spirit of Love. Plus best friends forever like you. Who will you bring?

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Happy Holidays!!

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We cherish our friends.
How can we be there for them?
How can we make them happy?
How can we be close to them and stay close?

By being interested in them, curious about their stories
By listening to them and responding to what’s on their minds
By hearing what they need from us and how they’re feeling
By letting them know we are with them.

What can tell us what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling?
What they need from us?
What can we offer them that will make them happy?

Here are gifts that are valued by everybody
Gifts to be shared
Our best guides to what make us best friends
With thoughts on how our guides can show us the way

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Friends need the gift of Love

We can speak the Five Languages of Love:

• Make time for friends and be accessible
Give them our respect, our undivided attention, and our trust
Connect with them by being open --
By sharing our thoughts, our feelings, our lives

• Be there for them when they need help
Do things for them that let them know they can count on us

• Show our love and appreciation by being affectionate
Let them know that their friendship touches our hearts

• Reward their kindness with generosity
With gifts that let them know we appreciate them

• Encourage them by admiring their talents and achievements
Let them know that they matter, they are important, they are the best

Friends need the gift of Community

We can make friends feel welcome in our lives, so they know they belong
Welcome them into our circle of friends and family
“Treat friends like family and family like friends”

Friends need the gift of Health / Wholeness

We can have fun with friends that’s wholesome and disciplined
That makes happy without risking abuse, injury, or sickness
Without pressuring, or being pressured, to do things that aren’t good for us

Friends need the gift of Freedom

We can give friends space to think and choose for themselves
To express themselves as they are
To reciprocate (return) our kindness or not
Without judging them, blaming them, or pressuring them to be more like us

Friends need the gift of Worth

We must always practice good manners and be polite, to show respect
We can respect friends for things they do well but also for just who they are
By giving them our attention, our gratitude, and encouragement
By letting them know, when they are with us, no one is more important

Friends need the gift of Empowerment

We can let friends take the lead and be in control sometimes – take turns.
Let our friends win sometimes if we’re better than they are
Learn from our friends if they have something to teach us
Let everyone in on the fun and make it fair for everyone

Friends need the gift of Abundance

We can share the fullness and joy of life that’s in our hearts
The wealth that wants and needs to be shared
Let it join us in happiness when we are both feeling it
Or lift us up by sympathizing and caring for one another when we aren’t

Friends need the gift of Safety

We can make it safe for friends to trust us and play with us
Where it’s warm and welcoming
A place of tenderness and gentle loving kindness
Where they can be themselves without fear of being blamed and attacked
For who they are – personalities that aren’t like ours

Friends need the gift of Hope / Purpose

We can share what we see that leads the way forward
That renews our friends’ faith in themselves, their work, and their futures
Friends don’t let friends give up!

Friends need the gift of Beauty

Share the moments, the passion, the beauty, that inspire and move us –
Our triumphs against adversity, our discoveries
Stories, images, and music that make our spirits soar
That express the beauty, the spirit, of friendship

To all my shining stars, my friends
Who have the gift of Love and Abundance in their hearts
Doing their very best to share it
Thankfully.

The five languages of love are acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, and affirmation.
Thank you Gary Chapman: The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (Northfield 2015).
My favorite is affirming a person's worth, because the world keeps trying to take us down.

Quality time means intimacy, sharing lives.
• Being accessible mentally and emotionally, being honest and truthful.
• Being spontaneous, which means being with your friend-partner in the moment where they're at
• Being in their circumstances subjectively as well as ours
• Being always subjective, never objective, always intimate, never social.
• Letting "social-group" be the servant-protector of the individual rather than the other way around. I.e. rather than subordinating individual intimacy to social-group control / insincere superficiality.

Happiness in individual intimate relationships is sharing, empowerment, affirmation.
• it is never wealth-possession, power-control, competition / dominance-winning.
• It is never superimposing our circumstances-facts / agenda on our partner-friend's.
• it is subjectifying, never objectifying.

Love is one part coupling-connecting, one part uncoupling-letting go.
It is one part binding embrace, one part liberating freedom.
It is never any kind of predatory entrapment, coercion, or captivity.

Personality types who excel at love-intimacy and happiness are introspective, intuitive, and thoughtful.
They are also conscientious and disciplined, endowed with a strong sense of universal values.
They have an internal moral compass that doesn't need social norms for guidance.

Personality types who prefer superficial social relationships crave belonging that absorbs the individual into the group.
Not the kind of belonging that provides a safe sanctuary for individuals to experience intimacy.

Practice an intimacy of openness that fosters honesty and trust and happiness will follow.
Allow rules of possession, control, competition, dominance and winning to intrude and happiness will vanish.

Further reading: the gold standard is A Course in Miracles.
And a little something I wrote for kids: "Creating Great Friendships", my next post.

Be assured that anyone who takes the time to read this has the perfect personality type and the wisdom to achieve intimacy and happiness.

Go in peace with my blessing.

Not long ago, I asked a friend for a favor. It was a bit unusual and I knew it would require some thought, but not so unusual that it could upend a friendship. But it did, at least for a while, quite emphatically. The way my friend and I interpreted what happened was a study in contrasts. It was as if we lived in two separate realities, spoke different languages, and transacted business with different currencies, hers as worthless to me as mine was to her.

It was one of those things, a train wreck in a relationship we’re all familiar with. And yet it turned out to be very interesting. It revealed that my friend and I, who have been close over the years, are exact opposite personality types. I’m an INTJ and she’s an ESFP: INTJ for Introvert-Intuition-Thinking-Judgment, ESFP for Extravert-Sensing-Feeling-Perception. These are from Isabel Briggs Myers’ Gifts Differing, not as “scientific” as other theories some might prefer, but my Intuition trusts her Intuition.

The holidays are all about one universal value: everything that makes us family. Forgiveness is one of those things, and let me be the first to admit: If you’re reading this it probably means you’re a big nuisance but you’ve been forgiven – many times. “I love you in spite of your many faults” my dad liked to joke, usually to a good laugh. But it’s no laughing matter, because real forgiveness is beyond reach. At least it is for me. Especially if the big nuisance happens to be my exact opposite personality type.

My instinct in this case was to bail for good. I was on my way out the door. Then I read Gifts Differing and discovered that Isabel’s theory doesn’t stop at showing us how opposites wreak havoc with relationships. It shows remarkably how opposites can be used to bring us closer together and, in the process, promote personal growth and self-awareness. What philosophy, what faith, couldn’t use an analytical tool like this to bring about peace and forgiveness!

It’s done by accessing the opposites of your weak personality traits – mind-Intuition, for example, if you’re a body-Sensing type, -- preferably in consultation with someone who’s your opposite. You “pool your resources,” and at the end you’re both more fully developed, better balanced personalities, more sympathetic, more adaptable to change, and better equipped to forgive. That's the theory and, so far, it's working for me.

Isabel’s theory is inspired, not least because the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles calls for its practical application to individual circumstances, and students of the Course intent on practicing forgiveness will find that it’s a big help. If my friend is reading this she might be incensed that I’m talking about us, but not if her Feeling has accessed Thinking, and Perception has accessed Judgment. You see, what this is all about is making everyone more like me. Proof that what I've learned from her is the joy of spontaneity and laughter. Pity the poor INTJ Scrooge who never learns it!

Wishing you the Joy of Life and laughter for the holidays and all through the New Year.