Is That All?

Is That All?

The experience at the Cloisters in upper Manhattan was transcendent. Thomas Tallis’ motet from the sixteenth century was played on 40 speakers representing each of the voices, perfectly balanced in the ancient chapel there. It was an epiphany, it was “architectonic.” We were surrounded by glorious singing, immersed in a choral cathedral without walls, caught in a majestic whirlpool of music. It lasted 11 minutes. Listeners stood motionless with their eyes closed.
People from all over the city had come to experience this piece, meticulously set up by the artist Janet Cardiff. For us the intricate composition, the stunning surroundings–it all produced an artistic response. We could speak about it aesthetically. We were in a museum, after all.
But this was my thought as I listened. I looked at the medieval paintings of Jesus on the walls with his archaic kindness, healing the blind and raising the dead. I saw the face on the crucifix hanging from the ceiling of the chapel. For the most part, I imagined, the people who made these paintings and composed this music really believed. On the other hand, for many of us in our time, it was all generally an artistic perception, an appreciation of craftsmanship.
I couldn’t find the quote on the internet, but I remember reading these words by Aldous Huxley thirty years ago. I am quoting from memory, so forgive me if I am mistaken. “There comes a time, even with Mozart, even with Shakespeare, when one asks, is that all?” The wondrous music may set us free, but then again, maybe not.
Susan and I went to one of our favorite places close by–New Leaf Restaurant. We took some time to think about the difference between the aesthetic person and the religious person. The java was mediocre but the surroundings were wonderful. I took a picture of my cup of coffee there. Susan’s hand is blurred but I like the shot because an old man’s cane is propped up in the window in the background. The cane is a reminder that things pass. Even art.

Taylor Field
Upside Down Freedom

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Published in: on December 5, 2013 at 2:11 am  Comments (2)  

Look Thy Last on All Things Lovely

Look Thy Last on All Things Lovely

Several weeks ago I went to the new Stumptown Cafe in Lower Manhattan with a friend. We were fortunate–we had a chance to do some cupping. Along the counter were a variety of coffees brewed in different ways: Chemex, V60, Beehive, French Press, and Vacuum Pot. We tried them all, but wanted to have some coffee brewed by the vacuum pot method.
You can see from the picture why we chose that method. It is an older method, which requires more attention and care, but the process is spectacular. It is a light show. We were dazzled.
The coffee was from Guatemala–rich with a chocolate aftertaste. I told the barista that my friend and I loved the magic that happened between milk and coffee. She was not impressed, after working so hard for us. She asked, “do you add milk to a fine wine?”
The delight at the brewing exists only in my head now, and in this picture. Sometimes we think freedom means holding on to something, the key to the lock, the ship to the sea, the wings for the air. But even those things are going to pass. The coffee my friend and I delighted in is gone. Someday the memory will be gone too.
In the last three weeks, three people who were dear to me passed away. Conversations we had, significant moments, now exist in this world only between the walls of my skull. Albert Schweitzer once said that if people would only take three minutes at a funeral to really think, the world would be a different place. At death, one feels a deep, heart-breaking wonder. Each of us also remembers that one day our bodies will be a bag of bones in a coffin, our hands cold and dry and motionless.
The poet Walter de la Mare once said, “Look thy last on all things lovely, /Every hour.” Beauty, I think, is not really savored unless we realize how quickly it passes. With all the grieving, this fall season has been the most beautiful ever. Outside my window are some Honey Locust trees. In October, the leaves become a buttery abundant gold and fill our windows with waving generosity. Now, in November, only a few leaves remain at the end of the branches. Those few leaves sparkle in the sunlight this morning. They are exquisite.

Taylor Field
Upside Down Freedom

Published in: on November 20, 2013 at 2:46 am  Leave a Comment  

How About Never–Is Never Good For You?

How About Never--Is Never Good For You?

This is my favorite coffee mug when I am on vacation. It’s a New Yorker cartoon–if you can’t read it on the photo, it has a picture of a business man saying, “No, Thursday’s out–how about never, is never good for you?” That is my dream when I am on vacation–to get out of sequential time, to move away from appointments and lists of things to do, and if anyone asks for something, just to say, “Never.”
But the dream doesn’t last for long. About a million years ago, I read Thomas Merton’s autobiography, and I remember that he had a summer in Italy when he didn’t have to worry about money or anything. However, a boil on his arm plagued him, and a toothache, and other various little troubles. He concludes that if you try to avoid suffering, it will not work. Instead, less and less significant things cause you suffering.
In the same way, you may try to avoid commitments, but it doesn’t really work. Instead, we get all flustered by less and less significant commitments. A lot of times, getting freedom is like that–we do the inverse of what we think will bring freedom, and freedom comes. Vacation is over for me. Bring on the freedom.

Taylor Field
Upside Down Freedom

Published in: on August 28, 2013 at 2:56 am  Comments (2)  

You See the Most of Life Through the Smallest Window

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I remember hearing this quote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I can’t find it.  It is probably second in my list of favorite quotes.  The window in the picture is about six inches wide.  The Bubba mug is the best insulator for travel coffee I have ever found.  The new book in the picture is about freedom and was just published.  All I can see through the window is a few trees in the distance, but I have enjoyed that little view of the world better than a panorama.

A lot of things are like that.  You aim for the vast panorama and when you get it, you don’t really enjoy it as much as you thought you would.  You start looking through one tiny tiny window and you start to see the universe.  People go for the vast freedoms and find themselves oppressed.  They start appreciating their finite limitations and they find this strange freedom.  That is what the book is about.  It is upside down.

Incidentally, today I had a Chemex Sumatra coffee, hand ground, roasted at a local coffee shop.  It is as good a roast as anything I have found in Manhattan or Brooklyn.  I put real cream in it and that is the secret.  There is a magic that happens between Sumatra and cream.  I am holed up in the mountains but if I told you where it was I would have to kill you.

Taylor Field

Upside Down Freedom

Published in: on August 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Only Dead Fish Swim with the Stream

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     The quote in the card in the picture comes from Ernest Hemingway.  I received the card as a birthday gift from a good friend over an excellent cup of coffee.  I remember reading about how Ernest Hemingway boarded up his window in order to write.  He needed time to think on the inside, without distractions.
    Coffee can be a way to stop, to think, perchance to write, but not necessarily.  For the last few days, I have been thinking about a hero of mine.  I never hear anyone talk about him these days–Malcolm Muggeridge.  For most of his life he was a heavy drinker, womanizer, and maintained a sardonic view of life in his journalism.  He came late in his life to God.  In his later life, he took some stands about materialism and sexuality that weren’t too popular.  He is the one that said, “Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.”
      He said he felt like a piano player in a brothel,  every now and then playing a Christian hymn in hopes of edifying the clients and inmates.  He wasn’t the most popular person in some quarters.
       Sitting and drinking coffee is a way to stop and think about the barrage of culture invading our thoughts.  In graduate school, I had a professor who said, “Treat every book as a potential insult to your intelligence.” We need to do that about all the waves of cultural palaver.  If we don’t stand against the current some time, we may begin to smell like dead fish.

Taylor Field
Upside Down Leader
http://www.newhopedigital.com/index.php/2012/04/editors-column-waiting-for-upside-down-leadership/

Published in: on July 30, 2012 at 1:38 am  Leave a Comment  

The Best Cup of Coffee in 10,000 Miles

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      My heart goes back to Portland for coffee.  For me, their attention to the details took things to another level.  This is the Stumptown cafe in downtown Portland.  Yes, I have mentioned it before.  It was the best.  The coffee was sharp as a saber and velvet as night.  It brought alacrity to the brain like a diamond bullet through the forehead.  Still, the feeling on the street where we sat at a table was mellow and relaxed.  You could rest and watch people with the assurance of a black restorative in your mug.
     A wise man once said that hospitality is paying attention to the guest.  Stumptown paid careful attention to the guest and I am humbled.  Even though the original cafe gets second place, the downtown cafe wins the award as the best.

Taylor Field
Upside Down Leader
http://www.newhopedigital.com/index.php/2012/04/editors-column-waiting-for-upside-down-leadership/

Published in: on July 17, 2012 at 2:41 am  Leave a Comment  

The Second Best Cup of Coffee on Our Trip

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     Stumptown, Stumptown, Stumptown.  The second best cup of coffee I had was on the original coffee shop for Stumptown in Portland. Keep your eye open for it.  In Manhattan, coffee shops put little signs out saying they serve Stumptown.  I predict these signs will grow.
     I had a Chemex pour there.  The woman who prepared it was so precise.  She had two mechanisms timing and monitoring the water and her pours.  I asked her why.  She said, “This is almost a five dollar cup of coffee.  We want everything to be perfect.” She gave me a packet of instructions on preparing Chemex coffee, which she said was the result of thousands of personal tests.  The coffee was a jazz concert, and every tone was in the zone.
     Adapting a quote from Benjamin Franklin, which itself is often misquoted–coffee is a kind of proof that God loves us and wishes us well.   It makes us stop and remember why we are here.  It is a cure for amnesia.

Taylor Field
Upside Down Leader
http://www.newhopedigital.com/index.php/2012/04/editors-column-waiting-for-upside-down-leadership/

Published in: on July 9, 2012 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Third Best Cup of Coffee on Our Ten Thousand Mile Trip

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    I heard someone say that coffee is “poor man’s gold.” In reality, even a really good cup of coffee only costs a few pennies, yet it makes a person experience the joy of life.  A cup of coffee sitting at a small table, and one feels a wave of well being.
    So here was the third best cup of coffee I had on the entire 10,000 mile trip–Seattle Coffee Works in downtown Seattle.  Coffee from a chemex–rich, deep, in a large tub of a cup, like a black sea.  The barista took his time making it and told me a bit of his life story as we waited.  As I sat at the sidewalk table, a man with a whole raccoon as a cap walked by.  Seattle had a little different flavor than Manhattan.
    It was a glorious moment with Susan and Pepper, our dog.  Here is the verse I am thinking about tonight–“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Sometimes I don’t think we take the “all” words seriously enough in the Bible, like when it says God will unite all things in Christ.  I hope the “all” includes drinking a cup of coffee.

Taylor Field
Upside Down Leader
http://www.newhopedigital.com/index.php/2012/04/editors-column-waiting-for-upside-down-leadership/

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 1:31 am  Leave a Comment  

The Two Books of God

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     Yes, I know that there are more than two books in the picture.  We are getting ready to return to NYC.  We have gone from sea to shining sea, and will have traveled almost 11,000 miles.  I am glad we have seen the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play.  We have seen towering waterfalls and mountains with sides as sharp as razors.  We have walked all alone on Pacific beaches and gone along the shores of glacial lakes.  It is time to take a drink of coffee and to think.
      I’ve been told that ancient Christian tradition talks about the two books of God.  One book is the Bible, and on our travels earlier I piled the translations I carried with me next to my coffee.  The second book, according to this view, is nature.  God’s “invisible attributes…have been clearly seen…in the things that have been made,” according to Paul.  I want to know both books well.
     Well, after almost 11,000 miles, I have drunk a lot of coffee, some bad, and some remarkable.  In the next few days, I will share the top three best cups of coffee on the trip.

Taylor Field
Upside Down Leader
http://www.newhopedigital.com/index.php/2012/04/editors-column-waiting-for-upside-down-leadership/

Published in: on June 29, 2012 at 1:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Putting the Bad Back into the Badlands

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I have always wanted to go to the Badlands.  We loved it.  You can’t help but think about time when you look at those strange sand castle mountains, seeing the different layers of sediment.  Scientists say that some of the layers are over 50 million years old.  Regardless of the correctness of the dates, one begins to think about the fact that we all have such a brief time here, that eventually our earthly molecules will reform into other things.  It can make one sad or lighthearted, I suppose.  The thought makes me lighthearted; many of the concerns in my brief life won’t matter hereafter.  “Serve your Maker, and be merry, and give not for this life a cherry,” an old poet said.  I heard that someone wanted to give the Badlands a different name–Wonderland.  He reasoned that no one would want to go to a place called Badlands. But now language has changed.  Badlands are “bad” in the best sense of the word.

It is worth it to drink a cup of coffee and look at this land.  I may have mentioned before my favorite quote for this leg of the journey.  I have been reading Abraham Joshua Heschel.  He states that beauty and grandeur are not anonymous.  Looking at this kind of beauty makes you think about something,  or Someone else.

Such reflection points me back to leadership.  Tennyson somewhere says something like this–“Our little systems have their day, they have their day and cease to be, they are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O Lord, art more than they.” The leader that focuses on systems rather than God may only be temporarily effective.  Let’s see what it all looks like in 50 million years.

Taylor Field

Upside Down Leadership

 

Published in: on June 25, 2012 at 12:55 am  Leave a Comment