Freedom: On the Edge of the Inside

[Check out the new menu on the home page. In case you didn’t see I post weekly health / well-being updates on the “My Journey” section. Fixed for mobile, too.

Thanks to the WordPress helper who assisted me to fix this. I recommend WordPress with all the accolades I have as a blogging platform.]

When I was in the hospital I signed up for a weekly email summary of daily devotionals from Richard Rohr. (I’ve already written about how I gobbled up Falling Upward by him while in the hospital and at home during my recovery.) I enjoy many of them, but this one stuck out enough that I feel moved to write more about it.

In it he discusses Inner and Outer Freedom, and uses the phrase “on the edge of the inside.”

Photo by Min An from Pexels

…On the edge of the inside. I like it. It’s got a certain ring, doesn’t it? If someone said Warren Buffett described himself that way, everyone would say, “Of course! Such a folksy genius!”

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True Self and Self 1 & Self 2


I’ve used the term “True Self” in earlier posts. It’s a phrase I’ve lifted from Richard Rohr and his work on finding our True Selves in absence of ego and other “shadows”. (Which, he most likely picked up from Carl Jung.) While it’s a theme found in a lot of his work, he really develops this in his book about True Self and False Self, The Immortal Diamond. (Spoiler: The True Self is the Immortal Diamond.)

But I’ve had this nagging feeling that I’ve heard something very similar in a book I read about, of all things, sports.

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance (first published in 1972) is a book by W. Timothy Gallwey and in it he develops his findings as a tennis coach into a philosophy for teaching and learning.

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An Experiment in Dying

When talking with friends and family about what I’ve been through, the topic of my radical perspective shift comes up over and over. And I always say that “staring down the barrel of that gun” or “dangling on the edge of that cliff” or “looking straight into the abyss” will do that do a person. But I am also quick to follow up with the qualifier that a person can’t force that experience onto themselves. It just has to happen— and dying will do that. 


In my much loved (now dog-eared and marginalia-covered) book Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, he writes the same sentiment— that one cannot force the second phase of their spirituality to happen. It just does. But he also mentions that it seems common for it to happen to people sometime around their mid-40s. 


I have heard of someone who did manage to simulate their own dying experience and come away changed forever as a result. Kevin Kelly is former editor-at-large at WIRED magazine and has his hands in a long list of fascinating projects. He’s written several books about technology and the future. I’ve read his latest futurist book, The Inevitable, and recommend it if you’re interested in things like what automation will look like, AI, and the singularity. At the heart of his futurist predictions there are very rooted and optimistic outlooks on what we as humans will learn from our own advancements. To paraphrase his take on automation, when robots learn to do everything we do and obviate the need for work, the result will be that we will learn, deeply, what it is to be human. 


The following summary of this story was made into the very first episode of This American Life. He also reflects on it during a long-form interview on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast.

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Saint Francis of Assisi

[Preface: I try to update this blog every Thursday morning or at the least by Thursday PM. I had family in town this week, which was great, but also pushed out this post a bit. It also took longer because it required a good bit of re-reading.]


“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred…let me sow love,
Where there is injury…pardon,
Where there is doubt…faith,
Where this is despair…hope,
Where there is darkness…light,
Where there is sadness…joy.”

Saint Francis of Assisi, plaque found in the lobby of Saint Francis Downtown hospital

“Blessed is he who expectedth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.”

“What you’re looking for is what you’re looking with.”

St. Francis of Assisi


My subject for this post is Saint Francis of Assisi. The hospital I was in is named “Saint Francis Downtown”, the hospital I got my alarming CT scan at is named “Saint Francis Eastside.” It’s all part of the Bon Secours (french for Good Heart) hospital system here in Upstate, South Carolina. It’s a Catholic health institution and it’s very common for me to overhear a Psalm or quick devotion read aloud over the PA system when I am in one of their facilities for an appointment or treatment. I thought it would be annoying but, surprisingly, it hasn’t been.


The only thing I knew about Saint Francis before this year was that he was the Dr. Doolittle of Catholic saints and that, for some reason, my class watched a 1961 live-action biography movie of him in 6th grade and we all laughed at his naked backside when he stepped out into nature sans clothes.

This year (before my hospitalization) I began to listen to podcasts with Fr. Richard Rohr as a guest. He is a Franciscan Friar in the Order of Friars Minor (OFM, Ordo Fratrum Minorum, or “Lesser Brothers”). I did not expect to be drawn to the teachings of an older, aged, Catholic leader but his emphasis on love over dogma immediately had me drawn to what he was saying and writing. In one of the podcasts he’s featured on, he mentioned that before he was even allowed to open the Bible for study he had to endure four years of philosophy teachings to ensure that he would be ready to read scriptures contextually. I could go on and on about him, and his books, but I also became very drawn to the namesake of his Order, Saint Francis, this lover of nature, champion of grace, and mercy. 


Once I got back from the hospital I started my mornings by preparing a breakfast of a plate full of fruit and would eat it outside, one blueberry at a time, under our covered patio, while listening to the biography of Saint Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton. 

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Deep Time

Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels

I want to talk about living in Deep Time. This is a term Richard Rohr uses a few times in his book Falling Upward. The idea of Deep Time is experiencing “the past, present, and future all at once.” It is the opposite of living in small time. As human beings living in the time we do, I would estimate that most of us look maybe 4-8 years into the future (possibly to do with election cycles?) and those of us that look back, look to a past that may or may not have existed 20-30 years ago.

But living in Deep Time encourages us to look out, at the very least, to the next generation and ideally much further than that. It also moves us to live in the exact present moment but to also live the past and future at the same time. It’s a paradox, yes, but learning (or unlearning) to be comfortable, even revel in, paradox is a crucial step toward finding our True Self (Rohr), Self 2 (Gallwey, more on this later), or enlightenment. I’m thinking about the time when I’m with my children and even when I’m very frustrated with them. I try to pause and consider this moment in the perspective of Deep Time.  It’s difficult. I want to be present with them, but I also want to experience this time in the context of everything that has come before and everything that will come after. Sometimes taking a deep breath and taking a mental picture is all we can do before moving on to the next order of business in the nightly bedtime routine. Deep Time brings me peace in the face of possible health setbacks and challenges. “All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again.” (Bonus points to anyone that can source that quote without google.) 

One of my favorite loving-kindness meditations is:

May you be loved,
May you be safe,
May you be healthy,
May you have peace.

I direct this meditation to Paige, Mina, and Will. I picture them in Deep Time. Part of it is a future I can only imagine, and part of it is a past that includes time before they were even born. This really helps my meditations feel like they are truly connecting to something.

“In deep time, everybody matters and has his or her influence, and is even somehow ‘present’ and not just past.”

Richard Rohr, Falling Upward