Thursday, May 3, 2012


Last Saturday was about the best day I had had since the fire. We did not sift and we did not lament. We had a little bit of fun. We started out by going back to Rocky Top to meet with the Fire Marshall and some county officials. We had expected to hear that due to required road improvements, we would need to spend some insane amount of money to improve our jeep trail and make it into a super highway. Instead, we heard, "You folks have been through enough. We are not requiring anything but we will make recommendations." They are also going to try and simplify the permitting process, etc. Talk about relief... I don't know if it was political or media pressure and I don't really care. Someone finally stepped up and did the right thing.

In the process, Kristen got to take a ride in a fire truck. On the way down to our "house" (I will call it a lot from now on) she spotted smoke. And the fireman got out, located an underground fire, dug it up, and let Kristen hose it down. Folks, this is a MONTH later and there are still spot fires burning up there. I am not sure what anyone was thinking doing a controlled burn that was consuming 6" logs (masticated fuel) and expecting to be able to control that. But I digress...

So, today, I do not have a pit in my stomach and the world is not that dark a place. If that is just today, I will take that and I will be right here in this place today. When tragedy strikes, there is something physical that happens to us. I don't mean tragedy like, our favorite frozen yogurt flavor was discontinued. I mean tragedy like your neighborhood burns down and 3 people are killed. The physical stuff has to be dealt with. It gets into the wiring and needs to be dislodged. The rest is what WE bring to it, which brings me to the point of this post.

I have heard it said that "context is decisive." And that we create the context for our lives whether we are aware of, or responsible for that or not. It is a choice. So, what the hell am I going on about? Well, let me give you a little context.

There are many things that we hold dear and many things that simply hold us. Now that our "things" are in very short supply I have discovered something interesting. It was in the pursuit of the things that I mostly found the excitement. The pursuit of stuff and the pursuit of the life we built. When that is gone it is interesting to notice what is left. I did not cease to exist. I am not less of a person. I am not a lesser version of me. But what I thought was important and what matters has fundamentally altered.

I feel like I am staring at a puzzle. And the background picture is still there. But when I try to put the pieces together they no longer fit. In other words, the context in which my life has occurred up until now, has been shattered and what I am left with is this...

I no longer find all of the things important that I used to. And I no longer wish to waste time on things that I say are not important. I am also not interested in "pussy-footing" around with people that act with disregard to the community that surrounds them. I am creating for myself a new life framework or model for how the world works. Instead of throwing out data that does not fit my model of the world, it is time to create a new model to explain the data I have received.

Now, this implies that the data I receive is in some way "pure" and objective, which is impossible because I am a human being and EVERYTHING is already being filtered to some extent by an existing model, context or belief system. So, let's look at that first.

Belief Systems


I was talking with someone the other day and I mentioned that I felt compelled to be angry. It was like an emotional magnet that kept drawing me back to that. I was aware that I was doing it and that it was taking a toll on me physically but I kept going back to it. Here is what I discovered.

First of all, I was looping like a tape recorder (for those of us old enough to get that analogy). Every time I told the story again, I replayed the tape, got all worked up and had all the same physical reactions that I did when all this went down - adrenaline, tightness in my chest and throat and feeling like I was going be sick. And every time I did that, it made the mental path back to that stuff a little easier to get to.

Now, I am not advocating for denial, but it does not do any good for me to continually relive the experience. It actually makes it a lot harder to move past it. "But I don't want to move past it and I don't want to stop being angry." Therein lies the betrayal of the belief system. The context was one of victimization.

I discovered that I really believe that if I am not angry then the people who did this will have won and that I will be letting them off the hook. And if I let them off the hook it will minimize what has happened to all of my community and dishonor the people who died. Just that simple. I even have some rational attachment to that idea but now that I see IT I have to decide what I am going to do with IT. For me, it is unhealthy and is eating me alive. I am eating the poison hoping the rats will die. Not very productive.

So, my mission is to let go of that belief and create a new "context" for how I am going to move forward. I am not going to tell the story over and over again. I was talking with someone yesterday who I had not spoken with since the fire. He asked me how I was doing and what had happened. I said I was doing well and that I was not interested in telling the story one more time because it was causing a lot of unneeded distress every time I did. He shared with me something positive that has come out of this and what a great job Hickenlooper was doing.

This was my queue! I was on and it was time to lay waste to the Governor, the State and everyone attached to this event. But I didn't. I took a couple of deep breaths. In that couple of seconds I became aware of profound disappointment, sadness and some disgust. However, I did not need to become angry and go on a rant.

I said to him how glad I was that something positive had arisen and, in so many words, respectfully disagreed with his point on the Governor. 


  1. Awesome David! A true graduate! What you say really does create reality for yourself and others!

  2. Your awareness and growth are inspiring. Thank you for being willing to create an empowering context, not only for yourself, but for others. It's funny that in our language, aware (and thus empowered) action often comes after re-action. It is also interesting that the path to this transformation was in recognizing bodily sensations.

    You are loved!

  3. Oh, David! We have come such a L-O-N-G way from our first day in the Forum! :-) Your words bring a huge smile to my face, and your heart is shining through all of this turmoil. Keep up the good work! Much love and admiration - Your friend always, Phyllis