What lies within?

lieswithin

What defines us? Is it our achievements or failures in either the past or future, or is it something infinitely more?

Perhaps it is the power we have within ourselves to persevere, to make the best of a bad situation, to look to comfort others even as we stumble. Perhaps it is our ability to learn in the midst of failure, to hope in the midst of defeat, and to love when surrounded by hate. Perhaps this, the indefatigable human spirit, is our greatest strength.

Finding home.

lights

Are you broken? Lost?

Lights will guide you home.

Consider the story of The Tenth Goose told by Richard R. Powell in his book Wabi Sabi for Writers:

Nine Canada geese lift off a clear mountain lake; droplets from their wings cast lines of rings behind them on the glassy surface as they rise. Light gray feathers reflect amber light from the early morning sun, a clean glow off each curved body. You watch their broad wings grip air, watch nine bodies rise and fall in rhythm against the dark forest behind them. Each bird’s neck kinks in counter-time to its wing beats so that all nine heads remain level and each set of eyes gazes steadily out at the cool dawn, bright mystery of sight amid the shiny black head feathers. Closer now, you make out the expressionless curve of their beaks, see one goose’s thin moist tongue as she honks; hear the whistle of air across wing feathers as they pass over your head. Then you notice that there is a tenth goose far back, low to the water, working hard to catch up, honking softly, as if each wing beat hurts. This goose loses a feather as she passes close over you and you watch the feather spiral and glide to the ground. You pick it up and it looks perfect, each barbule lying neatly against its neighbor, the tiny whorl of fluff near the calamus soft to the touch. Then you see that the shaft is not perfect; it is cracked open from the middle to the tip.

You keep that feather, tuck it under the strap around your car’s sun visor, look at it every day you drive to work and remember the tenth goose. Remember your own efforts to keep up. And somehow, that tenth goose gives you courage. You wonder if she will find enough food or if winter will separate her from the rest, separate her from life. She speaks to you in a dream one night. In the distracted moments of the day she speaks to you, in the elevator or while you wait in traffic. Then one night she is there in your dream again, as silent as her feather in your car. She tips her head at you and that beak, with its lumpy prominence like a Roman nose, bobs up and down and you realize she is giving you permission to speak. In the dream you speak and she turns her head to hear you and you tell her your fear of dying and your hopes while living and she comes and rattles her beak between your fingers.

There is beauty and strength in the broken places, a beauty that continues on even when everything is a struggle, that faces setbacks with determination. Sometimes we are one of the nine geese, sure and strong, in sync, but sometimes we are the tenth goose struggling to keep up. And there is beauty in that, too:

It is a kind of beauty on the edge of defeat, a beauty tenacious and brave, and it is the beauty left behind when the warm, honking goose is gone. And not just flown away–but dead and gone. That feather remains as a testament to the beauty in living; and even when the feather dries and cracks and is eventually eaten by insects or the drab extension of time, it will live on in the imaginations of those who hear the story of the tenth goose.

Remember the Story of the Tenth Goose and take heart.

And, for a treat, here is Coldplay.

 

What’s your problem?

problem

Who are your heroes? Were they people who stuck their necks out on behalf of others, worked to make the world a better place, gave freely and generously of themselves? These kind of heroes make the world a better place because they are in it.

You can be a hero. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing; it can be as small as seeing someone suffering and doing something to help.

The first step, though, is the seeing.

Why hold back?

afternoon

Does anything keep you from plunging into life? Whether you savor it, delight in it, enjoy it, or not, time will keep moving. You will get older; opportunities will pass. Perhaps it is time to say: I will savor this day; I will delight in these people; I will enjoy my time here while I can.

Advice to your younger self.

advise

What can you tell us? With all of your experiences to date, what have you learned that you can pass on to help others? How would you advise your younger self?

For many of us, that advice would be: don’t be afraid. In this delightful video, elders counsel their juniors with some gems on how to negotiate this crazy world.

 

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Embrace each other and fly.

onewing

We need each other–our friends, our families, our communities. We would be lost alone. Consider this remarkable video of a seal who turned to a group of boaters for help when it was in dire need. (Be prepared–it’s intense!)

Sometimes we’re the seal; sometimes we’re the people in the boat providing safe harbor. With each other, we are capable of so much more than any of us is alone.

Keep your momentum.

 

momentum

Have you ever taken a break from an exercise regime only to come back a few days later and realize you had lost ground? Your times were slower; your exhaustion quicker. Perhaps it was a break from keeping the house clean, just a few days, and then a seemingly insurmountable mess of stacked dirty dishes and heaps of dirty clothes. Or any habit, really, that takes day in and day out attention can feel like it is easily lost—like pushing forward on your dreams.

Keeping forward momentum in life is important. It is so easy to slide back, to lose ground, to let tasks build up until they are a mountain you no longer want to climb. But pushing yourself, each day, little by little, isn’t nearly as overwhelming.

Hold your ground. And then keep going. You can do this.

Creating sacred space.

sacredspace

If you were to design a sacred space, what would it look like? Would it have four walls and a roof, or would it be open to the elements–more like an amphitheater? Would your design welcome strangers or be more intimate and walled to shelter those already within the circle?

The notion of building a place for God to come and commune with his people, and them with each other, is as old as the world itself. And, for this test or how to design a sacred space, there are probably no wrong answers. But consider this solution:

In this delightful TED talk, architect Saimek Hariri focused on luminosity, the movement of light across the space as day progressed, and the glow emitted by the temple to the outside world. He says,

You know, you aspire for beauty, for sensuousness, for atmosphere, the emotional response. That’s the realm of the ineffable and the immeasurable. And that’s what you live for: a chance to try.

Hariri’s task was challenging, and his answer novel:

And the brief was deceptively simple and unique in the annals of religion: a circular room, nine sides, nine entrances, nine paths, allowing you to come to the temple from all directions, nine symbolizing completeness, perfection. No pulpit, no sermons, as there are no clergy in the Bahá’í faith. And in a world which is putting up walls, the design needed to express in form the very opposite. It had to be open, welcoming to people of all faiths, walks of life, backgrounds, or no faith at all; a new form of sacred spacewith no pattern or models to draw from. It was like designing one of the first churches for Christianity or one of the first mosques for Islam.

hariri-pontarini-architects-bahai-temple-of-south-america-santiago-chile-designboom-1800

How do we as created beings hope to craft a building that sufficiently honors the creator? Any such attempt is but a feeble effort to manifest our gratitude and awe at the miracle of creation all around us because, in our core, we remember that we meet our creator wherever we go, wherever we are, and wherever we will ever be.

Miracles everywhere.

miracle

Miracles are everywhere, really. You just have to notice them. Consider the people you love and all the circumstances that must have happened in just a particular way to bring you into each other’s life. Consider all the moments that have led you to right where you are today. All the twists and turns, and forks in the roads. Survival, alone, is a bit of a miracle when you think about it.

Consider this wedding dress:

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It was handmade by the bride out of the parachute that saved her husband during WWII. As stated by the curators at the Smithsonian where the dress is now housed:

This wedding dress was made from a nylon parachute that saved Maj. Claude Hensinger during World War II.

In August 1944, Hensinger, a B-29 pilot, and his crew were returning from a bombing raid over Yowata, Japan, when their engine caught fire. The crew was forced to bail out. Suffering from only minor injuries, Hensinger used the parachute as a pillow and blanket as he waited to be rescued. He kept the parachute that had saved his life. He later proposed to his girlfriend Ruth in 1947, offering her the material for a gown.

Ruth wanted to create a dress similar to one in the movie Gone with the Wind. She hired a local seamstress, Hilda Buck, to make the bodice and veil. Ruth made the skirt herself; she pulled up the strings on the parachute so that the dress would be shorter in the front and have a train in the back. The couple married July 19, 1947. The dress was also worn by the their daughter and by their son’s bride before being gifted to the Smithsonian.

To Walt Whitman, everything was a miracle. You just needed the right eyes to see it that way. Consider his Poem of Perfect Miracles:

REALISM is mine, my miracles,
Take all of the rest—take freely—I keep
but my own—I give only of them,
I offer them without end—I offer them to you
wherever your feet can carry you, or your
eyes reach.

 

Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward
the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in
the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love—or sleep in
the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at the table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of an
August forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,


Or birds—or the wonderfulness of insects in the
air,

Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down—or of
stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new-
moon in May,
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that
like me best—mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
Or among the savans—or to the soiree—or to
the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements
of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or
the perfect old woman,
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to
burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass,
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me
miracles,
The whole referring—yet each distinct and in its
place.

 

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a
miracle,
Every inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is
spread with the same,


Every cubic foot of the interior swarms with the
same;

Every spear of grass—the frames, limbs, organs,
of men and women, and all that concerns
them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

 

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion
of the waves—the ships, with men in them
—what stranger miracles are there?
What are your miracles?