What are the things you know for sure?

change

What is it that we can hold fast and know for sure? So much changes. Earth isn’t flat and isn’t the center of the universe although generations came and went believing that to be true. Gravity kept the planets in orbit and people from floating off long before anyone noticed and named it. Atoms existed before anyone discovered they could be split.

What is it that may be discovered in the future that can make sense of the way we act and feel now? Is there a key to explaining human behavior? A force, perhaps, that pulls people apart despite a deep desire to connect? What if there is another sense more important than the five we rely on now?

One thing good about change is it keeps you humble. Or should. Knowing that what we know is a minuscule speck in the ocean of all that can be known helps us stay open and curious. Where would the adventure be if we ever knew it all anyway?

Don’t miss the joy.

penguinjoy

We generally find what we look for. We are good at it, and that skill helps us to recognize that one face in a sea of faces, to ferret out clues at a crime scene, to heed the landmarks that lead us home. But when we are trying to process a barrage of information coming at us all at once and trying to make sense of it without being overcome, we need to look for the unexpected things, the startling things, the beautiful things. We need to seek joy.

In his Book of Delights, Ross Gay goes on a mission to write about something delightful, everyday. And, while he initially thought he would have to scrounge for delights, after a bit of practice, he learned to find them everywhere. The delightful things were abundant and overflowing. More important, those delights made him realize how interconnected we are and that we are caretakers, each for the other. In a world that can seem cold and callous, we are generally good to each other:

I suppose I could spend time theorizing how it is that people are not bad to each other. But that’s really not the point. The point is that in almost every instance of our social lives, we are, if we pay attention, in the midst of an almost constant, if subtle, caretaking – holding doors open, offering elbows at crosswalks, letting someone else go first, helping with the heavy bags, reaching what’s too high or what’s been dropped, pulling someone back to their feet, stopping at the car wreck – at the struck dog, the alternating merge, also known as the zipper. This caretaking is our default mode, and it’s always a lie that convinces us to act or believe otherwise – always.

As we scrounge for our delights, we begin to see them all around us–the groceries grown and harvested for us to enjoy, the clothes crafted and sewn, the traffic signs to keep us safe, the laughter of children, birdsong, smiles from neighbors, our dog eager for her morning walk. As we notice those delights, we metaphorically feel the embrace of a larger community and feel the joy from being lucky enough to be right here, right now, plop in the middle of the mystery of it all.

Don’t end up simply having visited this world.

wild-and-precious

Today, we say goodbye to beloved poet, Mary Oliver, but her poems remain to inspire and awaken us, to uplift us and call us to task. She had a gift for seeing the holy in the mundane and for helping each of us open our eyes a bit wider, to see. Who among us doesn’t pause to consider deeply her question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

We are all on a one-way conveyor belt from birth to grave, but along the way we have opportunities to seize. Today, cherish these words from Mary and make sure to live:

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Tickling the funny bone.

dogs

They comfort us, love us, trust us, understand us and make us laugh.We chuckle when they scratch at the door only to steal our seat when we get up to let them out. Sometimes their funny little ways can brighten our days. But what can we do to make them laugh? How can we amuse them? In a blast from the past, very young comic Steve Martin answers this question in a way that is sure to brighten your day.

Joy is joy is joy.

joyis

We all are finding our way home. The people we think are the most different from us are really on the same journey. We share this emotional experience that is life–the frustration of setbacks, the joy in birth and creation, the anguish of loss, the delight in discovering a twin soul. If there were some way to view our journeys superimposed on top of each other, so that we could see all the connections we have with each other, that would be a cool eye-opening experience. In the mean time, consider this video of all the different types of creatures using the same foot bridge.

Joy is joy is joy.

A peek behind the veil.

earth's music

 

Often life doesn’t make sense. So many petty squabbles, too much injustice, difficulties, disagreements, struggle. Why? What for? What’s the point? And then something remarkable happens, and we can see behind the veil to the beauty of things, the mystery. For a moment we feel a communion with each other and with all living things. We can stand in awe of creation.

For just such a moment, take time to watch this surfer communing with dolphins. It’s beautiful.

 

Seize the day.

berries

Today is the day. Seize it, use it, enjoy it, fill it up with meaning and truth. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Now. Today. Here. This moment right here, right now, holds all your opportunities for action.

How to keep Christmas.

xmasheart

Love wins.

Isn’t that the bottom line of Christmas? Strip away all the decorations and gifts and songs and celebrations, and what remains is: love wins. It’s about love. God loves us, and we are to love each other. And even in a world divided by hate, blind to oneness, driven by greed, love will win. Because that’s the point of Christmas.

It’s about the love.

The anonymous gift.

angeldoor

There is something about an anonymous gift that brings special joy to both the giver and the receiver. For the person getting the gift, it makes you feel like the whole world cares, that around any corner is the person who cared enough to make your life special. And to the giver, it strips off all the status and pride and self-satisfaction you may get from a public gift and, with the lusciousness of a secret, fills you with love and gratitude that you are in a position to make a difference.

Consider this delightful story about a somewhat anonymous giver, call him George Walker, and his gift to a young boy in the Philippines.

“Dear Timothy, 
I want to be your new pen pal. 
I am an old man, 77 years old, but I love kids; and though we have not met I love you already.
I live in Texas – I will write you from time to time – Good Luck. G. Walker”

Now, after President Bush’s death, we have learned that he was George Walker, but look at how much joy is in his writing when it is semi-anonymous. He is embracing the true spirit of giving.

For more on anonymous giving, take a look at this feature I wrote on anonymous giving filled with inspiring stories.

What are some things you might do anonymously to spread your love?

 

Struggle.

struggle

Love isn’t a feeling we fall in and out of. It’s an action we choose to take even when it may be challenging. Sometimes it brings pain. When we think of love as an active noun, like, as Mr. Rogers suggests above, ‘struggle’, rather than as an emotion, it opens our eyes to the fact that we must work at it. It’s a struggle, a constant readjustment and tinkering, constantly expanding our own understanding and empathy. Love is not molding someone to our vision of what they should be, but accepting who they are and supporting them as they blossom. Thinking of love as something more akin to struggle encourages us to keep looking for new and better ways to show up for the people in our lives, to view the relationships as evolving rather than static, and to appreciate all the little successes and breakthroughs in those relationships along the way.