Chirp.

chirp

There is something so uplifting about spring. Everything is busting into life with a combination of ferocity and hopefulness. We’ve been here before– the starting anew, the rebirth, the refusal to surrender to winter. And yet each time is the first time.

We breathe in.

We smile.

The birds are chirping.

We begin again.

Be kind.

kind

As we bump and bustle our way through life, we often don’t notice other people much, maybe never pause to wonder what they may be going through in life. Usually they are just the person in the way, or the one in front of us in line, or the one who is doing a dismally poor job of getting our order right. But if we could step back and see their interior lives, we may get a whole lot of patience in a hurry. Everybody is carrying a load of some kind. Everybody hurts.

Or, as Jon Pavlovitz says in this insightful article, everybody grieves:

If we could keep this reality in the forefront of our mind as we make our way through the hustle and bustle, we would be gentler, kinder, more patient. And that would do a world of good for our weary world.

Dust you are

dust

The world existed before us and will go on after us. That’s a hard thing to wrap our minds around because we see things from our point of view. It’s hard to picture a scenario without ourselves in it. And yet, that day will come. Our chance to make our mark will end. While it seems at first like a very sobering thought, it can be uplifting because it reminds us that we are here now; this is our time to dance, to love, to give, to celebrate, to reach out to the other dust particles like ourselves and do our bit. This is our moment. Let’s make the most of it.

What lies between you and me?

attentiveness

Loneliness is an epidemic. That heart to heart connection with others, our world, our communities is lost as we race from one To Do to the next. Superficial greetings take the place of deep conversation, and we substitute more for better.

When was the last time you felt truly heard by another person–not heard so they could diagnose you or give you instructions for how to do better–but heard as though someone paused to notice the real you, the deep down you?

When was the last time you paused to consider another person, not as a means to an end on your own journey, but as a person with their own dreams and heart desires, their own wants and needs, their own untold story hoping to be heard?

When was the last time you paused to consider the world around you, from the beauty of nature to the miracle of your own next breath?

Perhaps our loneliness epidemic would be eased if we all were to slow down and notice each other, pause to realize we are here for each other,  and be vulnerable enough to allow ourselves to see and be seen.

Mary Oliver’s poems open us in so many ways– to nature, to each other, to our own hidden places. Perhaps this one on loneliness will speak to you today:

Loneliness

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or not.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

~ Mary Oliver ~

 

 

 

Hope.

hope

Sunrise defeats night. The darkness will be driven away. When in the midst of the darkness, it may feel unending, but as day follows night, this, too, shall pass. The beauty of a sunrise is a lovely image to keep in mind when going through a problem. As sunrise defeats night, so hope conquers a problem. In times of great difficulty, we must hold on to hope that things will improve and that we can help.

Jane Goodall speaks to her hope for our future and, specifically, her hope in our youth in this moving speech.

She is right: if we don’t have hope, we give up, we do nothing. She says, “In this world of violence and fear, we must have hope for a better future.” That hope will sustain us and give us strength to solve the problems we face, as surely as day will follow night if we hold on.

To give without remembering.

give

How many gifts come with strings? The anonymous giver is a rarity. People want attention for doing good things, sometimes more than just attention. Sometimes they want people to feel indebted….forever.

The humble taker is as rare a unicorn as the anonymous giver. The myth of the self-made man is much more palatable than the humility of a man who realizes that all he has, is, and will ever be is founded on the generosity of others, many others, who have helped.

And yet generosity without self-interest and abundant gratitude are two qualities that lead to happiness, to community, to joy. We would do well to remember these things.

For more on Anonymous Giving by this author, go here.

 

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.

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.

 

Mistake inventory=growth inventory.

mistake

Who among us can make it from birth to grave without a mistake? Mistakes are such an inevitable part of trying something new, of learning, of growing that it would be impossible. And yet we don’t like to admit that we make mistakes. Constantly. But perhaps the real harm is in not learning from our mistakes, not stretching our view of the world to admit a new insight, not bending our routine to reflect a better way of doing something, not opening up to a perspective we hadn’t considered. As we take stock of ourselves today, let’s consider all the ways we’ve grown in our beliefs, our behaviors, and  insights. We used to believe the world was flat, but now we see it is round, and that makes a world of difference.

Taking responsibility.

buck

President Truman kept a plaque on his desk with the phrase ‘The buck stops here,” meaning it was his job to make decisions and to accept responsibility for those decisions. President Jimmy Carter pulled that plaque out of storage to keep the reminder in front of him as well.

But what does it mean? A quick Wikipedia search comes up with two possible etymologies:

The expression is said to have originated from poker, in which a marker or counter (such as a knife with a buckhorn handle during the American Frontier era) was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal. If the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the “buck”, as the counter came to be called, to the next player.

Another less common but arguably less fanciful attribution is to the French expression bouc émissaire, meaning “scapegoat”, whereby passing the bouc is equivalent to passing the blame or onus.[3] The terms bouc émissaire and scapegoat both originate from an Old Testament (Lev. 16:6–10) reference to an animal that was ritually made to carry the burden of sins, after which the “buck” was sent or “passed”into the wilderness to expiate them.

So, either a refusal to take responsibility and kick the can down the road, or an intentional decision to blame someone else for your own actions. In either event, passing the buck is a refusal to take responsibility and act on it.

It can be difficult to discern what is our responsibility. One could argue we have a responsibility to fix harm we’ve caused, to prevent harm within our power to prevent, and to accept blame and credit when due. But these aren’t bright lines, and often decisions are complex and complicated by the actions and responsibilities of other players. That’s where the Serenity Prayer comes in:

 

For those things within your control, have the courage to change what you can and to do your part.