Wipe the dust off your soul.

soulwash

It is so easy to get discouraged when living a creative life. Your words are criticized; your paintings don’t sell. “They” don’t believe you have any promise. Sometimes the struggle to be commercially successful in a creative field can be so daunting that you abandon the art. But then you remember that art isn’t about “them” or “success” or “critical acclaim” at all. It’s about bringing your truths into the light, being creative, pushing yourself, being you.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the case of Henri Rousseau, a forty year old toll collector who wanted to paint. His work was derided, and yet he continued. He found joy in the painting. Not until the end of his life did anyone take his work seriously. As summarized by Maria Popova:

Long before history came to celebrate him as one of the greatest artists of his era, long before he was honored by major retrospectives by such iconic institutions as the MoMA and the Tate Museum, long before Sylvia Plath began weaving homages to him into her poetry, he spent a lifetime being not merely dismissed but ridiculed. And yet Rousseau — who was born into poverty, began working alongside his plumber father as a young boy, still worked as a toll collector by the age of forty, and was entirely self-taught in painting — withstood the unending barrage of harsh criticism with which his art was met during his entire life, and continued to paint from a deep place of creative conviction, with an irrepressible impulse to make art anyway…. [Rousseau’s life is] an emboldening real-life story, and a stunningly illustrated one, of remarkable resilience and optimism in the face of public criticism, of cultivating a center so solid and a creative vision so unflinching that no outside attack can demolish it and obstruct its transmutation into greatness.

The message from Rousseau’s life speaks to all of us: he was a success all along. He persevered with a remarkable resilience to produce work that spoke to him and pursued a passion that made him happy. That, the pursuit of great art, rather than the financial success was what gave his journey depth and meaning and lifted up his soul.

 

 

Going counter-culture.

dalai

Is kindness passé? Patience out of date? Love revolutionary? In today’s world, these virtues seem counter-culture. People are quick to be mean, impatient for their own way, and blinded by hate. The loudest rant dominates over the considered opinion.

In this commencement speech, Jake Tapper urges the graduates to be kind, to shy away from meanness, the easy and lazy option:

How can we go that extra distance to show up in this world as kind and patient, to refuse to meet meanness with meanness, but instead with the loving response?

The littlest heroes

burdens

There are the larger than life heroes who accomplish monumental things, and then there are the everyday unknown heroes who may be even more inspiring if only we knew their stories. They are just like us, regular folks, without a forum or bankroll, doing their best to make the world a better place for all people.

Consider 4 year old Austin Perine. He has made it his mission to feed the homeless. (And inspired Burger King to offer him $1000 to do it!) He does it because ‘It’s just the right thing to do.”

His motto is simple: Show Love.

 

That’s a mission we can all get behind: Show Love.

 

 

You are not alone.

everybodyhurts

You are not alone. This will pass. Hold on.

Please take a moment to watch Father Ray Kelly sing Everybody Hurts and remember that we need to reach out to each other. We are each other’s comfort and hope.

 

Lyrics
When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes
Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone (hold on)
(Hold on) if you feel like letting go (hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life
Well, hang on
‘Cause everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don’t throw your hand
Oh, no
Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you’re not alone
If you’re on your own
In this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much
Of this life
To hang on
Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes
So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts
You are not alone
Songwriters: Bill Berry / Michael Stipe / Peter Buck / Michael Mills
Everybody Hurts lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

SaveSave

Why is everything so beautiful?

attention

Have you ever wondered why everything is so beautiful? Have you stood rapt in the brilliant colors of a sunset, or listening to birdsong in the morning, or watching the way a caterpillar humps along with all its little feet working together? Perhaps there are logical, book smart reasons, like flowers are beautiful to attract bees, or animals are beautiful to attract mates or to warn predators they’re toxic, or some such thing, but don’t those answers beg the question really? Why is beauty? Could the answer be that it is to inspire awe in us? And our job is to notice.

A master violinist can play Bach on a precious instrument, and most people will just walk by:

 

We are living in a place filled with beauty if we only stop to notice. For inspiration, consider Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

What a gift we have been given to have the chance to notice the beauty all around us today!

 

 

SaveSave

Love is…

ownway

In his letter to the early church at Corinth, Paul sets out how love shows up in the world in his effort to help them get along. It is a frequent text for weddings:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.

To those about to marry, an interesting exercise is to substitute the name of your beloved each time the word ‘Love’ appears. And an even more interesting exercise, for all of us, is to substitute our own names instead of the word ‘love’:

I am patient and kind; I do not envy or boast; I am not arrogant or rude. I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable or resentful….

How did you do? For many of us, this simple recitation shows us the exact ways and times we are being less than loving and calls us to consider those actions. Must we insist on our own way? How do we know what is right? Isn’t it possible that someone else may be right, too? Are we becoming impatient with others? Can we take a minute to rein ourselves in, breathe deeply, and begin again? Are we holding grudges? Can we let the past go and try to make our present the best possible? And so on.

These checks we can do to measure our progress and monitor our moods against the ideal of love can be very helpful to keep us on track showing up in this world as close to lovingly as we can get.

 

SaveSave

Look at your world from a larger perspective.

roots

Remember Admiral Stockdale’s opening in the 1992 vice-presidential debate? No? Here it is:

 

Who am I? Why am I here? Important questions we can each ask ourselves everyday. What is our purpose for being?

Sometimes we can be so caught up in the day to day, we forget the big picture: that what we do today affects future generations, that our actions have ripples that spread ever outward and touch people we will never know, that everyone here on this planet has as much purpose and reason for existing as we do.

We are both trapped in time and timeless. Now is our canvas. But the past has brought us to where we are, and the future will see our masterpiece. How will we choose to paint it?

 

 

 

 

SaveSave

Your imperfect offering.

 

offeringPerfection can be the enemy of progress. When we need to move forward, we often wait until we come up with a perfect solution, sometimes so long that the opportunity to make our contribution passes. It is not only ok to be fallible, it is all we’ve got to work with: Our imperfect, fallible, often short-sighted selves doing our best to make the world a better place right here, right now, with what is right in front of us.

Take a minute to watch this lovely video of Leonard Cohen singing a reminder that perfection isn’t an option; we must do our best now.

Thank your teachers.

onepen

We are each born helpless. How we got from there to where we are now depended on the generosity of many people. Among those are our teachers, those people who devoted their time to making sure we understood the world around us and how to negotiate the ups and downs of the road ahead. Those teachers who went beyond the lesson plan to help us learn not just facts, but how to think and analyze, how to care and feel, and how to reach out to others deserve our unending gratitude.

Keep on.

ringbells

Maybe you’re older, or weaker, or not quite as sharp as you used to be. Maybe your energy is fading, or you’ve gotten depressed and overwhelmed. Maybe all your ducks aren’t in a row, and all your bells don’t ring. Maybe you don’t think you can make a difference.

It is in just such times that you must press on. Your gifts are needed. The world doesn’t need you to be perfect; it needs you to show up.

Ring your bell.