Gifts & Curses

April 19, 2010

A few weeks ago, a friend reminded me about the notion of memes -units of cultural ideas- and the memes got me thinking. Memes are passed along from human to human through all forms of communication: figures of speech, signs, art, the TV, bumper stickers, and through the actions and inactions of the people we “let in” to our lives. The replication of memes are said to exhibit evolutionary characteristics. They are information life-forms.

Maybe I’m taking the idea too far, but it seems to me that memes must exist within the larger spectrum of cultural desirability: from the much sought after memes of love and wisdom, to the important memes of best-practices and technology,

cruising memes

These memes may help the Bruja get to Mexico

to the cursed memes of fear, disrespect, and cultural baggage.

Memes of all types drift in from all directions and from all adjacent human souls and cultural stimulus. They can be gifts, like the treasure trove of nautical memes graciously given to me recently by the previous owners of the Bruja Dulce, or they can be curses, like a verbal or situational insult or a limiting cultural paradigm.


A benevolent meme lives here.

Similar to more tangible life forms, some memes are easy to spot, like a redwood tree: “all you need is love“. Other memes are more insidious, and pushy, like a flu virus: “what were you thinking?”.

I’ve been seeing a lot of baggage circling the turnstiles of my mind lately, and for many years now you could catch me muttering such ill and viral phrases to myself, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the bad memes, the memes that propagate unreasonable doubt, self deprecation, habitual hope-tackling, and fear-based judgment. There must be hundreds of them sprouting, flowering, and reseeding themselves in my thoughts and actions on any given day. I have been wondering how to weed them out. I have been searching for a sustainable peace of mind.

I’ve also been picking dandelion blossoms in my neighbor’s yard, for work.

The idea is to get the flower before it goes to seed.

This simple act of artificial selection, which results in a satisfying and singular greenness at the end of the day, has literally and figuratively helped me to think clearly.

The first day, I picked 3 gallons of dandelions to clear the yard. A few days later, even more having blossomed, I picked 7 gallons to clear the yard. One week later, the yard was again ablaze in yellow piercings and I picked 10 gallons. It required persistence, but the act gave me strength in my back and in my legs and honed a worthy skill: quickly spotting and removing unwanted buds and blossoms.

It was good exercise. It was a good exercise. But everyone’s yard is different, and, as I’m not a professional weeder or a monk, I need to learn to do this in my “yard”, around people, and with my “weeds”.

There are no answers here, only an open search: questions, clues, and some video of me picking dandelions.

How does one find clarity without social withdrawal? Amidst a fence-less and fertile yard with love, dreams, art, family, friends, and wild exploration, the air full of ideas, memes, and information flowing like Spring, how does one select for trust over doubt, encouragement over skepticism, and hope over pain?

How does one deselect those memes that hinder, that bog-down, that crowd-out? Can I pluck them out before their little yellow angel faces go to seed? Is this done with meditation, or is it something more active?

How does one select for and protect those memes which we cherish? For instance, the words Nelson Mandela used in his 1994 inaugural address, which, as it turns out, originated in a book written by Marianne Williamson titled, “A Return to Love”. They begin, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…”. How do I keep that idea from being crowded out by the lesser fear of inadequacy?

went to seed

Nobody's perfect.

During certain seasons, the struggle becomes more intense. Some unwanted forms blossom on certain days of the year until, through ritual labor, their replication is “nipped in the bud”.

The bad memes take root without asking permission. They have evolved characteristics which make them more competitive. They are invasive. It could even be said that they are intrinsically selfish. This doesn’t mean they are evil. Even someone who has overtly disrespected you -showered you with memes you may struggle for years to purge- is not evil. They just need to do some serious weeding- or move to a different bioregion.

Regret doesn’t work- hitting yourself over the head, chastising yourself over past mistakes is analogous to smashing the dandelions with a sledgehammer. There’s something about regret that spreads it’s own family of bad memes.

The simple knowledge of this broader dynamic is a start; to know that your nature is distinct from your nurture, and that those memes which have taken root in you are not in fact, you, but are merely living in you- and you can weed them out.

Acceptance. I accept that my garden will always need to be weeded…somehow. This is the process by which life evolves- selection, and more recently, deselection- and rather than spraying myself down with a “round up” of numbing agents -chemical and psychological- it’s best, it’s more sustainable, to get good at weeding.

About the video,

Music: “Cannonball” by Damien Rice.
All film and photographs were taken on one of four days: 3 days picking dandelions, and one day driving over the Cascades to Wenatchee and back- picking up nautical memes and sign memes.


  1. I’m speechless! My mind is going in a million different directions right now. Where does all this come from? I’m so impressed and at the same time I want to cry and at the same time I want to hug you really, really tight. You are an amazing young man! Your posting and that video are really thought provoking and I’m again blown away. I just want you to know that you are a very special young man and

    I love you,

    • Funny, you’re speechless but I can clearly “hear” your voice when I read your comments. I love it!
      Thanks ūüôā
      I love you too.

  2. Yes, yo! to your description of ritual labor/meditation.

    I could watch the shots of the sky through the bucket for hours (the holding vessel alongside the outside world of foliage, color, your hands at work). You create beautiful filmic images with life and time.

    What shoes were you wearing?!


  3. Next Sunday you will be 34…how can that be? Just yesterday you, with your blonde curly hair were running around the backyard and pretty soon there you were at the back door with a bunch of “yellow-faced” dandelions for me. I have been sitting here for quite awhile now….remembering…loving you…loving the memories of that husky-voiced, shy, “old-soul”-little boy….thinking about the amazing young man you have turned into….just feeling the love! Meme or no meme…that’s really what it’s all about.

    Food for thought…..would we know what a positive meme looked like or felt like without a negative one? Would it feel the same?….or do we need the “dark” in order to fully experience the “light”? What would life look like if we took those things that we feel like we need to “get rid of”….regret, mistakes, guilt or—–(?) and we embraced them, not as part of who we are, but simply as teachers? What can I learn from the regret, the mistake – even the guilt? Maybe that’s what weeding is?? Or maybe…..that’s what Love, at it’s fullest, is…..acceptance – transformation – wholeness.

    Tonight, I’m feeling really sad and hurt and angry all at the same time. My friend Carolyn died and that wasn’t supposed to happen. She’s my age and, though she had breast cancer, she was winning the battle. An embolism took her early this morning and I’m pissed! It’s not fair..we didn’t get to sing the duet we were looking forward to when she got to feeling better….and just last week we were talking about how wonderful it was to laugh together….and how healing it was for her. As I sat in the sanctuary tonight crying for her and for her husband George…….and, selfishly, for me, I just couldn’t help but ask why? I came home feeling really empty. Then I read your blog….Thank you Tim for the amazing words and especially the video – it helped me remember the great friendship that had begun and that I will always cherish. Now I’m full up with the sweet memories of the little bit of time I had with Carolyn and how grateful I am to have known her. ~Acceptance…transformation…wholeness~

    • Mom, thank you for your words. I was truly touched knowing that something I felt, and expressed, helped you. I’m so sorry to hear about Carolyn..
      You are right about the importance of all that seems negative. It’s critical to have challenges, problems and pain. Yes, you can’t have one without the other.
      I appreciate and love you!!

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