I needed to hear myself on this again on November 23,2020.
I will do my yearly duty this week and be thankful while consuming too much food while sitting around in an over-warm dining room, swapping surface stories and easily paid-for thoughts and prayers. And I am as thankful as anyone, truly I am, for all the people and stuff I have been given. But this year, I can’t help but feel the weight of that last thing I said, “given”. It is after all the season of Thanks – “giving”. The thing is, that most of us living in Entitlement, forget that all that we have to be thankful for, has been given to us. Many of us believe we have been given these things by a God. Most of us come to believe we have been given these things by our own hard work, smarts, dreaming and planning, and “gumption”. Far fewer of us, would admit that much of what we have is ours through pure luck, the luck of the draw, the luck of where and when and to whom we were born, the luck of our skin-color or gender or school-grades. After all, how can one be thankful for something one does not really deserve any more than the next guy or gal? And it is the next guy and gal that make me queasy and eating not just pumpkin but humble pie. It is the next human being, one seat over, that makes me determined to be a bit more un-thankful this year.
In my particular country, we may still have our sense of tribe and team left, but many of us no longer have any sense of community. Oh, we think we do, but most of us have chosen a community to shore up who we are and give us satisfaction without guilt in all we have. The causes of our lack of true community are many and I will leave you to find those among the sociologists, psychologists, and economists. I will also leave to others the stories that I, too, could share about all the things I did last week or yesterday to help out the homeless people on the street-corner by the Starbucks I pass as I drive my Prius to work; or the students’ notes I packed away, telling me how great I was for believing in them and teaching them; or I could mention my hauling of garbage at the charity I volunteer at, or the garbage I pick up from the gutters where people’s gardeners blow it with their leaf-blowers. I could mention the churches and sports teams I have cheered for. I could tell you how proud I am of my children and how grateful I feel to still have them and my husband around my table this Thanksgiving. And you and I would get a bit teary and feel such a sense of thankfulness about it all. But in the end, it is all about what I have, isn’t it? What I have done, haven’t I? Who I am blessed to be, aren’t I?
So, I have to ask myself, “Why me?”. Why do I have all this and as some might believe, have heaven besides? Why aren’t the bombs falling on my neighborhood? Why didn’t I get caught and put in prison for what I did? Why did my kid survive that drive, that illness, that boyfriend? Why did my health insurance pay for that or my house survive the earthquake or fire or tornado? Why is my tap-water drinkable and why do I have so much food that I need a refrigerator and garbage disposal? Why didn’t I get that? Why did I get that? Why? Why me? And more importantly, why not him? Why not her? Why not them?
Am I thankful? Yes, but with a caveat. I am thankful but I am also indebted. When someone or Someone gives you a gift, you are rightfully thankful, but if you are at all a good person, you also feel that you owe them something. A gift means at minimum you owe someone a thank-you note; at the most, you may owe someone your very life. Most gifts fall in the between note and life range. But always, a gift given, means a Thanks-given.
Sometimes you don’t like the feeling of owing someone for something they give you; it may make you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, like when one of my children gives me an extravagant gift of love, I feel overwhelmed with a sense of not just gratitude, but unworthiness – how could someone love me that much? There is a type of happiness in being thankful for something that makes some people not only grateful, but determined to be the person who deserves that someone or something.
Whether you believe in a Good God or Good Luck and Good Fortune, or you chalk up what you have to Good Genes and Good Heredity, or a Good Work-ethic and a Good Brain; who you are and what you have is because of something or someone outside of yourself, beyond your own capabilities, something or Someone that is “Good”. There is an old proverb that says, “to whom much is given, much is required”. Good things happen to good people, but they also happen to bad people. The reverse is true as well, bad things do happen to good people, and we can read all the books and think all the thoughts on the subject and never figure out why. The only thing we possibly can figure out, is how to stop being merely thankful, and start being liable, responsible, humbled.
I can not be truly thankful this year when I think about Carl, and Donny, and Gloria, and the two men whose names I confess I have forgotten, who sit on the bench next to their purloined shopping carts, full of things they are grateful to have. I worry about my own wonderful children but I wake up at night obsessed with helpless worry over the children in Syria and Guatemala and Ethiopia. I feel a righteous anger against the rulers and the makers and shakers of my own country who immoral-ize others in their quest to immortalize themselves, but I am new to this game of helpless inadequacy of fighting against the powers that be, and I wonder how people in other parts of the world can go on believing, hoping, praying that things might someday change. And I just can not be thankful, give thanks, feel gratitude, when I know I do not deserve any of the many things and people that I have been given. Gifts are not deserved. Awards may be deserved, salaries may be deserved, justice may be deserved – but then again, they may not. Sometimes I have been just as grateful for NOT getting what I deserve, as I am grateful for getting what I think I deserve.
Given. Given. Give-in. Yes, I give-in. I give-up. I am so helplessly thankful and grateful and so I give-up feeling I have to hoard it, keep it, own it, praise it, accept it all for the way it is. No, I am thanks-Giving. I refuse to accept myself as somehow owed all the gifts I have been given – randomly, luckily, blessedly, however you want to call it. I am thankful for one thing this year. I am humbly thankful that I have one more day left to not be thankful, but to pay what I owe. I confess that I am so weary of the god some people believe in – a god to whom I owe nothing. I want a God that I owe much to, a God that I owe everything I have, everything I am, everyone I love. I am weary of feeling that I do not owe anything to the rest of the people in my nation, my city, my neighborhood. There but for the grace of God. There but for the good luck and good genes I lucked out with. There but for my skin-color, or my birthplace, or my skill-set. I want to believe that I owe those with so much less, something it costs me to give. I owe those people who have no one, I owe them my neighborliness, my love, my remembering their name at the very least. And most of all, I owe it to myself to learn how to truly share and sincerely, pro-actively care.
I owe the world my prayers,
the Earth my care,
and those who might scare me, I owe it to dare
to give and to live as if all that I own,
is not mine alone, but is theirs.
I have worked hard to learn to let go of things that cause me to be out of alignment with gratitude. That is a lesson I will continue to teach myself. But this week, as we put a price and a time-limit on Thanksgiving, I will try to teach myself how not to be thankful. I will try to understand how I am part of a community that has so little, has lost so much, and has far fewer things and people in their lives to be thankful for than I do. I will learn not to feel thankful, but to feel a deeper sense of what I owe it to others to pay forward, to share, to give-back, to give-up, to give-in. I will not just thank my God, I will question, “Why?” “Why me? Why not them?” I will not just thank my lucky stars, I will look at the stars and see the same bright lights up there that a hungry child sees tonight, and ask “Why?” I will lock my house door, and pray on my knees for those who go to bed in terror tonight. I will hug my child, and cry for those whose children did not live to see this day. I will finish my pie and ask, “Why did I get such a big slice of Fortune’s pie-chart, when someone else got crumbs”? And I won’t find any answers to my questions of “Why”, but I might find not only a more heartfelt sense of thankfulness, but a profound paradigm-shifting realization of unworthiness. And while thankfulness can change your heart, knowing you are unworthy can change your soul
A person who doesn’t deserve a gift, but gets one any way, is a truly grateful, indebted human being. And that is what grace is. That is where hope is found. That is what makes humans just a little lower than angels. Being unworthy, and being alive one more day to know it and do something about it, to give more to others out of all that I have been given; that is what I am thankful for this season. I am trying to learn to not be thankful, but to be worthy.
I must begin with a BIG DISCLAIMER: I am not claiming in this post that I do this, can do this, or will do this in my relationships. I am merely setting out to teach myself a thing or two along with maybe a few of you. I can say, however, that the times I HAVE done this in either my most important relationships or my most trivial relationships, I have been much, much the better person for it, and I would hope the relationship has been the better for it too.
We are most of us, in several types of relationships. Whether spouse, partner, friend, family member, or co-worker, we are also most of us faced with times when the relationship goes off course or hits a bump or sometimes, threatens to implode or explode. When this happens, we have a choice to either ignore and let the situation flounder, fester, get worse, fall apart, slowly decay, or even die; or we can try to change the dynamics, fidget with the dance steps, and right the wrong. For this post, I use the metaphor of Righting the Ship — the RelationSHIP; and I would like to believe, that no matter where any particular relationSHIP ends, no matter what the port or destiny, it is very important to learn to make things right, at minimum for one’s own self, hopefully for both of the people in it, but ultimately because there is something BIGGER in a relationship between two people than either of the individuals by themselves. While no man is truly an island, some people do manage to go through life mostly in a little one-person dingy. And while my sailing through life alone in a dingy, can feel like freedom and can keep me from experiencing the rough waters of life that one is subjected to in any relationSHIP; in a little dingy by myself, I can never sail the “Seven Seas”, the great oceans, or ever reach the amazing shores that I can when I sail a relationSHIP with someone else. Sailing any relationSHIP with others is how we best learn to navigate our own lives.
But it isn’t easy to steer any course with someone else. Even just a little day-trip with a coworker can suddenly hit squalls. And those big relationSHIPS? — yowza! So many icebergs to avoid, big waves to bounce through, and irritating mates you have to bunk with! And so we need not only maps, compasses, oars, and life jackets — we need disaster plans, escape routes, and some flexibility amongst the crew. We also must have a huge dose of humility in the face of the unknown factors or uncontrollable elements. We must humble ourselves in any relationSHIP with the knowledge we have about the unfairness of the Fates, the unpredictability of the weather, or the hidden depths we can never truly know in both the world’s deep waters, and the unknowable deep depths of each human being.
By admitting at least to oneself, that one cares enough about both the relationship and one’s own inner peace and joy to do something about whatever happened to un-right or miss-steer the relationSHIP, we can at least keep ourselves from drowning in helplessness or hopelessness. And it is not always an admission of one’s personal responsibility, as much as it is an acceptance of one’s personal ability. In other words, I have the right and the responsibility and the ability to determine the importance of any relationship’s smooth sailing and my own smooth sailing with whomever I happen to be in a particular “relation — SHIP” with. And the longer and better we sail, or row, or steer any kind of relationships in this life, the more seaworthy we can become. It doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing, but it can help tremendously in keeping one from drowning or becoming sea-sick.
Imagine that a relationSHIP is just that — a ship. Ships come in all sizes and styles, and so do relationSHIPS. Think of your friend or co-worker as the other person in a rowboat. When that boat tips over or springs a hole and begins to fill with water, you are both going to be in a world of “wet” — tears and pain, or even a drowning if someone doesn’t do something. Don’t wait for the other person, but get to work on righting the boat. Of course, ultimately you hope that the other person will need and want to help you. No one should keep trying to fix a relationship that keeps breaking apart any more than someone should keep trying to patch holes in the bottom of a boat if your sailing partner keeps hammering holes into the hull. Swim for shore, friend, swim for shore! Abandon relationSHIP if there is no hope, and look for a new horizon. There will be a new person, whether life-mate or work-mate, to row or sail a relationSHIP with, all in good time. And just maybe the person you stopped trying to do everything for, trying to fix and right the sinking relationSHIP for, all by yourself, maybe he or she will stop knocking holes in relationSHIPS in the future, (maybe thanks in part to your own suffering self).
Some relationships are so special, meaningful, deep and large that they are like gigantic cruisers or warships. Don’t try to save the relationSHIP if you know for a fact it is the Titanic headed straight for the iceberg, or the big guns on the warship have started firing at the relationSHIP itself, instead of the enemy; but if the cruiser or the warship are basically seaworthy and your mate trustworthy, then you may have to be the one to be firm with your co-captain that the ship is badly sailing off-course, and take the time and energy to do whatever it takes — batten down the hatches, patch the hull’s holes, mend the sails, change course (sometimes drastically), or fight the pirates.
If the ship is basically water tight and usually sailing the right way to safe harbor, then during those times (and sometimes this may be daily), when the relationSHIP may hit some turbulence or even encounter a big iceberg up head, those should be seen as a time to call out a distress signal, and put all hands on deck, not to abandon the ship. And if you wake up to find you have somehow managed to go badly off course with someone you love, it only takes one person in a BIG relationSHIP to get out a trustworthy compass and to begin steering you both back to True North.
I love the music and lyrics of Joni Mitchel, but in her song, “A Case of You”, when she writes: “Just before our love got lost, you said “I am as constant as a northern star, “ and I said “Constantly in the darkness Where’s that at? If you want me, I’ll be in the bar” — Mitchel only gets it half right. She knows her own limitations in the relationship well, but she doesn’t have enough faith in her own abilities. Most of us don’t have enough faith in our abilities nor enough commitment to our responsibilities; and so we either look for a new relationship and abandon the current relationSHIP, or we stay on board, but we don’t row as hard, or care about how straight our direction, or we stop enjoying the view, and we just give up and just accept things the way they are in the current relationship. And sometimes, tragically, we let the whole “ship” sink without a fight. But any relationSHIP is worth some effort and some are worth a lot of effort.
So, let’s polish our oars and swab our decks and if necessary, learn to tread water a bit better and look at these suggestions on how to right a relationSHIP, for one day, one trip, a long cruise, a working season of fishing or tugboating, or a life-time of happier, more fulfilling, less “hole-y and more “holy”, more seaworthy sailing.
The R’s of Righting a Relationship
By Jane Tawel
1. RELEASE. If it’s a fight or argument or any situation with the other person that is getting out of control, apologize for what you are about to do and leave the person, the area, the conversation. Know that it is a bit of a power play, and do not do it until you absolutely must, but release the situation, and “walk away”. RELEASE the moment of conflict. RELEASE your need to have an immediate solution. RELEASE your power to bend the other person’s will or change their mind. Let go of a specific time frame to fix it. You want to fix it, but it doesn’t have to be right now. RELEASE yourself from your own immediate needs. RELEASE yourself and the other person from your feelings. Go away and on your own, alone, into the void of the universe, (not onto the other person) RELEASE your anger, hurt, fears, confusion, etc. RELEASE your grasp on your feelings and your justifications and your arguments. Let them go for however long it takes to find your center, your equilibrium, your mojo, your spirit, your peace, your words, your explanation, your questions, your identity, YOURSELF. When the relationSHIP has begun to speed out of control, HIT THE BRAKES, take down the sails that have inflated with too much windiness, and RELEASE the relationSHIP’s runaway energy that is steering your ship in a dangerous direction. Then take a:
2. REST. This is not always easy, but completely necessary, even if you are at odds with a boss or co-worker, and it isn’t your break-time. Sometimes we are in a relationSHIP in which we are chained like a slave to the underbelly of that relationSHIP at work or even in the family situation at home. At minimum, take a bathroom break (without a phone so you can’t call some one up to vent to), but if possible, take a walk outside. (Fresh air can clear our minds and rest our souls). After you have released yourself from the situation, REST EVERYTHING. Rest your emotions, your body, your mind, and your spirit. This means you can not do any work on any of them. Stop thinking about anything (use deep breathing or a mantra or hum some silly ditty). Stop feeling (recognize feelings as something you can now control now that you have walked away from their cause). Stop doing (whatever your body is doing it should be “play”, not work for it to feel rested). And Stop “spiritualizing” (if you pray, don’t — you can get help later after you have rested and usually prayer at this point will be about the problem you just RELEASED, so give yourself a REST). If you are stuck at a desk, or next to a sick bed, or with someone you must share space with, at least close your eyes, breathe deeply, and completely empty your mind and relax your body for as long as you can get away with it. If this is a home relationship conflict that you have just RELEASED yourself from, REST as long as you possibly can. Even if you need to read a book or watch a show, or take a walk (without your phone), or sit or lie down (even take a nap) in a private place, do it. The important thing is to DO NOTHING about the conflict, and do nothing that will just detour the stress onto something or someone else. Take an attitude of REST from the situation as long as you need to, even if you have to do it for a day or a week, (longer than that is usually not very helpful for either you or the other person), but REST for as long as you can or as long as you need to. Do not feel guilty; feel instead the toll the problem in the relationSHIP has taken on you, and the effects of the depletion or the added weight that your recent disagreement has had on your emotions and your inner strength, and REST. Regain your strength before heading from your berth back to being on-deck. Think of the recent conflict as if it were the last leg of a very hard race and you have rowed or manned the sails or the wheel, until your arms ache and you absolutely must take time to recuperate before heading back to the relationSHIP to do your part in steering, full-speed ahead. Relationships, no matter of what kind, take work and if yours just involved a lot of work without seeming to “get you anywhere”, then you need to take time before trying to recalibrate your direction and set sail again. You can re-navigate the course much better after you REST.
3. REJUVENATE. This is another way of saying RENEW. This can be either a time when I REJUVENATE my own thinking about the relationship, the problem or conflict, or renew some old thinking about myself; OR it can be a time when I RENEW my desire to see the other person with more kindness, more understanding, more desire, more acceptance, more adjustment, more humility, or just more need to make things right between us. REJUVENATING can not be forced however, and until there is a spark of this RENEWAL or perhaps sense of “wholeness” inside me, I can’t get the relationSHIP righted. Think of this idea of REJUVENATION like fixing the battery of a big boat. It may only take a spark, but eventually there have to be two jumper cables to attach in order to REJUVENATE the source of energy and life. There has to be a spark of energy to get the battery up and running again, but until you have let things cool down, you shouldn’t try to jump-start the RENEWAL process. Until there is that spark of desire or some idea about how to RENEW the energy needed to right the relationship, it is best not to force it. On the other hand, you can’t keep the ship going forward without some new and added energy and whether that is from a jump-start to the old battery, or some new wind in the sails, or some duct-tape on a broken oar, you will want to find the energy to REJUVENATE towards the future journey and up-ahead horizon. On the flip side, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bilge water or forget all the things you have already learned or shared in your time together in any particular relationSHIP. So — -
4. REMEMBER. One of the greatest ways to REJUVENATE the relationship besides giving it new life, is to REMEMBER. This can be something you do together as soon as you have RELEASED, RESTED, and REJUVENATED; remembering with the other person if you are feeling strong enough to do that, or you can REMEMBER just by yourself. REMEMBER the good times, recall the good things about them, pull up memories no matter how small about shared vision, accomplishments, or tears or laughter. But, you can also strengthen your ability to right the relationSHIP by REMEMBERing your own past accomplishments in your own life, in this relationship and in other relationships that may seem to have nothing to do with this one. Reminding yourself of your strengths, your abilities, your accomplishments, and your successful relationship moments can hone your skills and give you faith and hope in the one you are dealing with now. REMEMBERing the good things and good times in and with the other person specifically, and the strength and successes and good times generally in yourself and your own life, will take away some of the fears about your abilities to navigate these particular waves that may have buffeted or bashed up your relationship in the present. If possible, REMEMBER the fun, the joy, the mutual accomplishments (whether that is a project or a child), the strength you found in each other and together, and let the memories grab like strong arms and open hands, onto each side of your overturned relationSHIP and right it. Then when the boat is right-side up in your mind and hopefully in the other person’s because you have shared those memories — THEN you can begin to bail out the water that threatened to capsize the two of you. Bailing out the dirty water left over after you have righted the ship, means you —
5. REJECT. This doesn’t mean I REJECT the other person, or the other person’s feelings or ideas of how to solve our smaller immediate issue or our long-term bigger problems. What I REJECT is a need to go backwards and REGURGITATE the disagreement. Have you ever tried to row a boat backwards or back a ship into dock? It isn’t easy and it isn’t advisable. This doesn’t mean we will not have to REVISIT the problem in the relationSHIP, but we should first REJECT any notion of picking up the same broken oars or tattered sails or stubbornly sailing in the wrong direction toward a rocky, undock-able shore. Don’t let the Sirens’ song tempt you to prove you were right and he was wrong and lull you into a false sense of happiness or sense that you are “winning”. And do not let your feelings rise up like dead pirates from a watery grave to convince you that there is buried treasure in what you feel or imagine to be “out there”, rather than the true treasure in what you already have — right there in the relationSHIP.
6. RECOMMIT. This is when you begin to bail out the water, together. I can do this alone, and if I really value the other person, and have an understanding of him or her that lets me know they just can’t help bail us out right now, I may begin the hard work of bailing out alone and by myself. Eventually I have found, if I managed to RELEASE, REST, REJUVENATE, and REMEMBER, then I can RECOMMIT and give the other person some time or cut them slack. Maybe the next time they will be the one bailing me out of the mess we got our relationSHIP into, so I want to take the long view and see important relationships as worth bringing safely home to shore, even if the other person can’t “get on board” with that yet. I do hope though, that in any truly worthy relationship, the other person will want to join me in that commitment to the work of mending, recalibrating, fixing, redirecting, and righting the relationSHIP before it completely tips over and sinks. When she does, that is when I know the relationSHIP is worth the hard work it takes to keep sailing forward. When both of us commit to figuring out how to navigate the present and future journeys together, then we RECOMMIT to something bigger than either of us — the relationSHIP. Somehow, then we are not just two deckhands, or two captains of our fate, left to the whims of weather or the world, but there is a THIRD identity that we make together — we are the relationSHIP. This has an almost mythical quality, when we remember that ships have long been personified by sailors, captains and crews. Ships and boats and seas and all that go with them, are symbolic of those eternal ideas and ideals, and crossing all cultures and people-groups throughout time.
In terms of relationSHIPS, I want to mention here, briefly that we are usually most concerned with those we have between the sexes or with those who identify as a different gender than ourselves (our spouse or partner), or in families, perhaps even with those who are the same gender we are but manifest it differently due to age, or power structure, or understanding of identity. But if we maybe step back, and think that in deep, important relationships especially, we can be more aware of both the feminine and masculine attributes each of us has, we can understand the yin and yang, or the push and pull of our individual and mutual needs, desires, and understanding of our destination. For now, can we all just try to channel our inner “feminine” spirits. Think of the mastheads on ships, which are always female. Thinking of my own part in righting relationSHIPS as more feminine in spirit, as opposed to a more masculine understanding of my psyche, can not only help me find the right kind of strength, but can help me look at the other person as more complicated, more mysterious, but also more understandable than I might otherwise do. He or she is just like me, both feminine and masculine — and also completely mysterious to me, depending on my own current balance or imbalance between the two sides of myself. I think, reaching down into our inner “female-strength”, can tell us a lot and help us a lot, if we are willing, (for both those of us who are male or female in gender or character). To right a relationship that has been attacked by the sirens of our need for power or fear of vulnerability or just our plain mistakes or wrongness in what we have done as part of the “crew”; we might all do well to meditate on that “feminine” quality we all have (or should?), that part of us that wants to be both cared for and taken care of, that “nurturing” side that is in all of us. If you can’t do this, perhaps you can at least see your important relationSHIPs as the old sailors saw their real ships. The relationSHIP has its own type of feminine power and its own ability to nurture, just like sailors once thought the ship had its own goddess or mother power to protect and nurture and care for those sailing her.
7. REACH-OUT. Seriously, this is perhaps the most obvious but also the hardest. Don’t let the other person drown. REACH OUT a hand to save them. We all do love to be needed and it is easy to watch a little too long as our partner flails around in the watery depths, not knowing how to get back to the safety of a healthy relationSHIP, while watching us with-hold our hand or refuse to throw our mate a life-jacket. Don’t watch too long, or the person really might decide it’s better to risk drowning or to wait for another relationSHIP to come along so they can board that one instead of yours. But if you are the one that seems to be drowning and you can’t seem to get back on board or find the desire to grab onto the side of the relationSHIP and get back to work on the relationSHIP, at least tread water until you can find your strokes. If you can’t yet imagine wanting to mend the tears in the sails or the breaks in the hull, at least just grab the hand your partner is reaching out to you. Don’t reject that helping hand because it isn’t being reached out in the way YOU would do it, or the life-jacket looks a bit flimsy or dirty, or you want her to jump in the water and risk your pulling her down with you. Just do it, grab on, seaweed and all, and get back on the boat. Don’t float around in the flotsam and jetsam waiting for a better way to stop drowning — REACH OUT. Get back on the boat however you manage to scramble up there. There is time then to — -
8. REASSESS. In a relationship, whether with a friend, a spouse, a child, a parent, or a coworker, we all have to eventually REASSESS. REASSESS your capabilities, your desire, your options, and the seaworthiness of the relationSHIP at that particular place and time. It may be that the crew has changed, and it’s time to let your mate or the once children now grown, have more responsibility in the steering department. It may be that you have had a successful run, and now it is time to retire and take up fishing from the shore. It may not be worth your working so hard or taking the time for this journey you have recently embarked on, but you may want to take a trip with it later. At the same time, the relationSHIP may not be something you want to continue to crew. This may involve looking at the relationSHIP as ultimately unseaworthy, and you need to jump ship before you go down with it. But usually, you have just hit a bad wave, or you have fallen overboard but you can get back on, or you have had some really, really, really bad weather, but you still want to keep rowing ahead with the person who has had the other oar all this time.
The end of a relationship is usually not because the craft has suddenly hit bad weather, or suddenly one of you changes your rowing style. No, usually your relationSHIP has been gradually inching its way off-course. But most relationSHIPS are worth at least some fixing, some help, some learning and growth, even if the crew changes. It is usually, in the end, more a matter of REASSESSing the situation not REASSESSing the relationship.
Before I let a situation irrevocably change my relationship, I should ask: Is it a deal breaker that will eventually cause the relationSHIP to steer into an iceberg of irredeemable consequences? Or is it something that I and the other person can both steer around and recalibrate the speed at which we were going? Is this situation salvageable, with a little elbow grease maybe, but perhaps better equipped and seaworthy in the long run? Is it a matter that will take some hard work together, but can ultimately lead the relationSHIP to a better shore, a brighter vista, a home where even a Crusoe or a family of Swiss Robinsons can live happily ever after? Or is the glitch in the smooth sailing of the relationSHIP really, as so often it is, something so small and inconsequential, something like a pigeon pooping on the deck, but which got all out of proportion, and was blown- up into a “sh*&%$#t storm”? In that case, we just need to say, “well, that was a bunch of pigeon poop! Let’s swab the deck and get back to the sailing ahead, my Matey.”
If we are honest, most of the time, no matter what type of relationship we are talking about, when we hit a snag, we tend to see icebergs when there really are none. The mirage of dangers ahead when we have a disagreement with someone can persuade us to actually steer toward a real danger that we don’t see or imagine. This is the opposite of the tragedy of the Titanic. I call this the Robert Peary- RelationSHIP Conundrum. Seeing something that isn’t there can cause the relationSHIP to go just as far adrift and off -course as not seeing something that is there.
The joy of relationship with my child.
9. Finally, to right a relationSHIP — RESTORE. This last step is the hardest, but also the most beautiful. If one of you ends up with a broken oar, you need to fix it or get another. Don’t make the other person row without one. If you have worn off the paint on one side of the boat by coming in too fast to dock at the pier, you will need to take some time to RESTORE the luster and beauty of that boat. It may be something you don’t want to do, but this is a lot easier than buying a whole new boat. True, it will not be the same as when the relationSHIP was brand new, but working on a RESTORATION together, can even end up making the boat more seaworthy and more beautiful. Even if the relationSHIP however, has truly crashed into the shoals, and there is no saving it, you can still work on some RESTORATION. At first, this might mean you can not bail on the other person and jump on board right away to another relationSHIP. Eventually, you may not both end up on the same ship, but you can still do some RESTORATION. Alone or together.
You may need to restore your own equilibrium, maybe take some courses in how to be better at whatever your last “job” was in a personal or professional relationship, maybe get some therapy to get over the traumas that caused this particular relationSHIP to crash and bust apart. Eventually you may even find you can RESTORE at least the peace between you and the other person. This may involve a long, long wait and it may involve a willingness for both of you to “investigate” the real cause of the shipwreck of your relationship. It will involve forgiveness of yourself and the other person but also at least a RESTORATION to communicating your hopes that both of you will have smoother sailing in your separate futures and hopefully, that your time on the deck of your relationSHIP together has made you both better at crewing and captaining your own relationSHIPS now.
The very best RESTORATION, though, comes when you and the other person RESTORE the relationSHIP together. This should be our goal in all the things and people who matter. Neither I nor the other person can ever really restore ourselves to some idea of our “original -self”, but we can RESTORE the things — the essences — that make up the original intent and purpose and greater good and higher meaning of the US. When we RESTORE, we understand that the relationship is so much more important than either of us on our own.
There is a “holiness”, an “eternity”, a “sacredness” that may exist in each one alone, but to know what is truly all that a human being was created to be, we must accept that true wholeness is when one is with some one other than just one’s self. Relationships no matter the importance, the length, or the circumstances are what keep the true horizons of life and keep us focused on the safe shores and the ultimate goal in view as we steer our own small crafts through life. Being with another person, whether partner, friend, boss, or family member gives me a vision of other vast seas, unimaginable depths, and glorious vistas; and allows me to live into the mysteries that surpass my presumptions. As Emily Dickinson wrote:
“As if the Sea should part And show a further Sea — And that — a further — and the Three But a presumption be — Of Periods of Seas — Unvisited of Shores — Themselves the Verge of Seas to be — Eternity — is Those — “
If you have given up on a relationship or your relationship is truly and permanently busted apart, never to set sail again, I would recommend you at least not give up on other people or on yourself. For a while, you may need to see yourself as a lonely sailor, who will, like a relational Odysseus, have to Right the Relationship of yourself to others, even if it is scary and lonely and you aren’t very sure you have the heroism it will take. And if you are in a relationship that you are afraid has hit a pretty bad shoal, or you seem to have misplaced your oars, don’t give up. Don’t give up hope and don’t give up on the other person and don’t give up on yourself.
Be that which makes each of us the very best person one can be — a sailor who knows she can not sail for long alone. We will only see the highest stars, and set the firmest course, and only reach our most sacred shores, when we keep our relationSHIPS righted and right.
My great teachers about relationships
In closing, I would like to look at this idea of Restoration from another difficult endeavor and point of view — the restoration of a work of art. It is interesting, if you have ever had the privilege, to watch an art restorer work on a valuable painting. The restorer can not of course restore something to its original — that “ship has sailed” for good, passed away into the history of different materials and the original artist long gone. No one can step into the same place in a stream twice, not even a brilliant art restorer. But the art restorer will do his or her very best, using all the skills and knowledge and imagination, history, and creativity possible to restore the beauty and integrity of the original painting, before it was damaged or allowed to decay.
This is our job in any relationship, to use every possible means to restore beauty and integrity to our own life and to the lives of those who choose to share life with us. We can not try to do the impossible and go back in time to an original idea of what a relationship was, and if we can not fix the damage, we need learn to live with the damage, heart-breaking as it may be. We may not be able to restore a relationship and with sorrow but more wisdom, we may need to move on to something we can work on, and restore. The new some thing won’t make the old damaged painting any less special, but will add a new layer of paint to our pallet, and bring a new sense of our own and others’ beauty, and allow us to embark on a different but no less artistic and beautiful endeavor. We should feel sad if we can not restore a relationship, but it can still hang in the halls of our memories and make us better at restoring the art of our lives and those of others in the future.
Our task at present, may be a restoration of the classic art we already have, or it may not. The old can not be made the same but it can be restored. And even if I must paint something new, by that I can restore something within my own artistic, relational soul. Either way, we must RESTORE our faith in our own artistic vision and our abilities to live and love, work and play, and imagine and create.
I hope that by doing the work and these suggested practices to right a relationship, we can set sail with new direction and greater joy in our relationSHIPS.
Welcome aboard, land lubbers. Avast, mateys! Ships Ahoy! — Jane
By John Masefield
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
How to Sleep Better and Maybe Live Your Days Better Too
By Jane Tawel
September 17, 2020
And God said: “Let all creatures on earth have a great need to rest, just as God needs to rest”. And so, God created humans with an overwhelming need each day to turn off their minds and to pause all bodily functions except for breathing and heart beating. And God said, “Let all women, men, and children need to sleep for at least eight hours a night”. And behold, it was so! As God commanded — all humans needed to sleep. And God saw that it was good, and very good. (And then God probably took a nap).
You may stop reading here if you have always had a good night’s sleep every night of your life. And I must make a disclaimer here: I apologize beforehand for this very first-world problem that I am going to address. I know there are far too many people in war-torn or impoverished countries who can’t imagine the luxury of thinking they were able to somehow sleep soundly at night. But it is a problem that has been on my mind recently as my adult children talk about their sleep-problems and I recognize in so much of what they say my own history with sleep issues. Also, let’s face it, many of us are having more sleepless nights lately as we see the onslaught of world-problems come to a head.
Not everyone has as much trouble sleeping as perhaps I have had through-out my life. But because most of us have had, there is a plethora of helpful tips and natural remedies we can all find to personalize our “doctoring” ourselves to get a good night’s sleep. There is of course Melatonin or Valerian supplements for jump-starting a better sleep pattern. Some of us have found we need to wear mouth-guards or retainers at night in order not to grind our teeth. Some of us have found we need white-noise machines necessary for tuning out sounds, or deep-breathing in a pleasant relaxing aroma as a necessity for relaxing and sleeping well. I am someone who has found I need to do all of the above. But I wanted to share a few things that are maybe outside some people’s wheel-house that have been complete game-changers to my sleeping better at night and waking more rested the following day.
There are five things I want to share with any fellow seekers about what is such an important part of our day — our nights! We tend to think of sleep as a negotiable part of being human. But of course, it isn’t. This is why sleeping poorly disproportionately effects living well. It is also why bad people figured out early in mankind’s history that depriving someone of sleep could make them do just about anything. Getting a good night’s sleep is actually an ethical matter.
We have all given up some amount of sleep, willingly at times, to care for a baby or sick family member; or to meet a deadline, or even to celebrate an occasion (think bachelorette party or travel to another time-zone). And we all know that even when we don’t get a good night’s sleep for good reasons, we will pay for it the next day (and often, the next, and the next, and the next — sometimes for weeks or months afterward).
I have put into practice, in some ways almost accidentally, some habits that have truly changed my sleeping restfully and fully through the night. We all know how important sleep is, for our physical and mental well-being, as well as our health in our own spirits or soul and in our relationships. We also all know how impossible it is sometimes to achieve a good sleep. I know there is a lot of information out there, and you should find anything that can help you sleep well — sleep is truly just that important. But here are five things I have personally found to be life-changing in terms of sleeping at night. They are however, also things that should you be one of the lucky ones who sleeps well each night, can be used to good and helpful benefit during your day as well. I use all of them in various ways throughout my day when I can; but at night, they are now a necessity for me, and thankfully, mostly habitual. They have been real gifts to me to discover, and I hope one or two of them will be gifts to you as well.
1.Create a ritual that ends your relationship(s) with your Day, and begins a new relationship with your Night. Think of “Sleep” as a friend just waiting for you to join him or her. Say good-bye to your work and your relationships. Literally — say it and mean it. What very often keeps us awake is “staying” at work, or “staying” in an argument or problem with someone we love or even someone we don’t; someone, we have encountered that day (or last year, or when we were ten, or that we are imagining an encounter with….. you get it).
First, recognize that nothing can be done about any problem, whether at work or with family or friends while you are sleeping. That is your friend, Sleep’s, great gift to you — the gift of doing nothing because you can do nothing but be there — sleeping. So before you think about going to your bedroom to sleep, think of sleeping as a “new job or task” or a “new time together in a real relationship”; and each night say “Hello, Sleep. Glad to see you again”.
Of course we all know by now to make sure nothing work related is in the bedroom, if at all possible. That includes computers and phones, but it also should include thoughts. Make a ritual of entering your bedroom. Before you enter your bedroom, touch the door-frame and leave all your worries or concerns at the door. Say, “Goodbye, Day.” (This is one of the practices that can also be an excellent habit to form, if you are able, before you enter your home each day after a stressful day at work. Touch a tree in your front yard or your front door itself, and leave your Day worries and Day life, and Work relationships behind, and say, “Hello, Home. Hello, Family.” And then let your home as you enter it, be the special place it is meant to be, even if later on you have do a bit more work from some where in it.) Each Night — Think of your bedroom as a sanctuary and your good night’s sleep as a reward for all the things you have done that day. Enter your place of rest with a worshipful or spiritual attitude and let it assume the importance to your life that it is meant to have.
2. Before falling asleep, do something to relax that involves anything other than a machine. Something with paper and a pencil is very good. You might do a cross-word or Sudoku puzzle but not on a device, one on paper with a real pencil that you hold in your hand. You can read a real book, that involves turning pages. Instead of listening to music, you could sing or just hum. (I have written before about the great healing quality of humming, especially in terms of the vagus nerve. But humming is also a great “mindless” practice that can help turn off any thoughts keeping you from relaxing.)
We are discovering the toll devices take on our bodies, everything from our necks to our eyes to our skin are adversely affected. But devices also subconsciously represent the stresses of our day, or the worries of the world, even when we think we are doing something relaxing or fun on them, the subconscious reality takes a toll. Devices involve work and relationships for us, and you want to let those go so you can do the important thing you need to do at night — sleep. Things like relaxing with something that needs paper or pencils are also excellent because they involve a more natural tactile experience; something more in tune with our senses or nature if you will; and that makes our bodies more in tune with the natural rhythm of things. If you go to bed later than the person you share a bed with and can not turn on a light, you can do this step before entering your bedroom, but definitely after you have put all devices and work-related things (even things like doing dishes or laundry) to bed first.
3. Sleep on your back. Period. Doctors and chiropractors had told me for years to do this to help with shoulder and neck pain issues, and I just could not give up sleeping curled up on one side or another. After an illness, in which I literally could not sleep on my side due to the excruciating pain, I had to train myself to sleep on my back. It has made so much difference in my ability to sleep through the night that I have to say — it is the way every human being who is lucky enough to have a bed should sleep. It helps if you can afford a really good pillow; mine is a Tempur-Pedic one which does not elevate my neck but firmly supports it. I also put a pillow under my knees, a soft but king-sized one. This does two things. One, it gently supports my lower back by raising my knees slightly, thereby, “pushing” the lower back down into the bed, level with my upper back. Two, it prevents me during the night from easily turning over onto my side. Because the pillow extends out from both sides of my legs, I can’t quite as easily roll onto my side.
I could go on and on about what a huge difference sleeping all night on my back has made both to my sleep and to how my body feels when I wake up in the morning. My neck and shoulders really are much less adversely effected since I have been sleeping on my back, (although if I could quit bending over a computer or sink or pen all day, they would be even better.)
I will warn you — it was psychologically hard to get over that need to “protect” myself by sleeping on my side, curled up, and if you are sleeping with someone, it can be hard to get used to not “spooning” with them, but believe me, if I can recommend one thing to do to physically help yourself sleep better, and to make your muscles feel better in the morning it would be this — sleep on your back all night.
(NOTE: IF YOU ARE PREGNANT YOU SHOULD SLEEP ON YOUR SIDE PREFERABLY LEFT SIDE, AND NOT ON YOUR BACK.)
4. Have several meditative or relaxing things memorized. There will always be times when it is hard to fall asleep because you can’t turn your brain-off, or when you wake up in the middle of the night and your brain is already munching on your problems from yesterday or trying to gobble up your problems waiting for you tomorrow. Rather than think about them or get up to do something else, I have found it incredibly helpful to have memorized things that I can easily bring to mind and mentally recite.
Memorizing things has a host of benefits for the brain, whether your brain is young or old, and we have ignored doing it to the detriment of many things, but for this topic, I am merely recommending it as super helpful in terms of helping you have a restful sleep.
When your day has some down time, like you are in a waiting room, or manning a telephone at work that isn’t ringing, or on your break, or the kids are napping — memorize some thing that brings you peace, joy, or is just interesting. I am not that great at memorizing, but I have found that writing something out by hand on a piece of paper helps with memorization. Then I keep those papers in a binder or purse to pull out when I have some “free time”. This can be a quite relaxing practice during the day, too, since it is mostly far removed from what most of us do with our work days. Make sure it is something that either uplifts you or entertains you, though, if you plan on using it for night-time stress-reduction. It doesn’t have to be spiritual, but most of us find that at least something we consider good for our hearts and souls can be helpful. I like to have something sort of “mindless” or non-spiritual as well, though.
For instance, I decided I was interested in memorizing the actual NATO Phonetic Alphabet. This has been helpful when giving information on the phone during the days, because now instead of making up my own “M as in Mom” phonetic cues, I can use the correct universal ones, like “T as in Tango”; and I feel a sense of pride when I do that. BUT — it is also super relaxing to recite in the wee hours of the night, so rather than trying to count sheep at night, I simply go through the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. Sometimes I will think of my loved ones and use the NATO Alphabet to spell their names, and that is nice too, as it brings those loved ones to mind without really “thinking” or more importantly, worrying about them.
I also, of course, have some “serious” stuff I have memorized; things that not only relax me at night, but also feed my spirit and soul. I have about ten psalms and prayers memorized. These include ones like the Serenity Prayer in its entirety and Psalm 23. I also have memorized poems such as “Hope is the Thing With Feathers” by Emily Dickinson. I am now working on finally memorizing the poem I had read at my wedding, “Us Two” by AA Milne.
Poems and prayers that I can call to mind in the alone hours, help me especially when I am worried about someone I love, upset with God or someone I love or work with, scared about the news or a diagnosis or just reality in general, or just can’t let go of either something I need to forgive or something I need to forget. I think, also, that it is kinda cool to think that I can work on the most important parts of who I am and who I want to be, by NOT working, but by letting meditative words roll through my spirit like water and then to let sleep rock my spirit like a baby, ready to be reborn with the morning. Memorizing spiritual things helps me in that spiritual practice / belief.
5. Each morning, put an intentional and thoughtful end to your “work” of sleeping, just as you intentionally put an end to your work-day the night before. This doesn’t at first seem like something that would help you sleep, but I have found it helpful to make a ritual of waking, just as I do with going to sleep. So, whether rushed or not, I take at least a few moments each morning, no matter how early the alarm rings, or how often I have pushed the sleep button, to make a ritual of leaving behind what we might call, my “Night-Job” or my relational friend, Sleep, my “sleep partner” or my “lover, Miss Sleep” — letting go, giving leave to that part of Time — and making the new part of my day, the “not night/ sleeping part” something I am purposefully and mindfully transitioning to. This not only makes me feel that my waking again this morning is a bit of a lovely thing, but it has, strangely perhaps, helped me sleep better. It also just starts the day as being reckoned with as something different than the night. It becomes something I can look forward to, like I have trained myself to look forward to sleeping at night.
My own ritual in the morning, is to first, mentally greet my friend, the Morning, as I have greeted my friend, Sleep, the night before. “Good morning, Day. I am super glad I made it through another night without being eaten by wolves or forgetting to breathe. I am happy to be alive. Thank you, new Day, and Friend, Morning, for showing up with all your possibilities ready to work together with my own possibilities. We make a great team.”
Then I stretch. Since I am waking-up on my back, like I slept all night on my back, this is easy to do. If you end up not on your back, take a moment to really relax your whole back-side into your bed. Since I sleep with my husband, I stretch quietly and calmly and gently so as not to wake him. But gentle stretching is key to get the benefits, and it is one of those things we should be doing throughout our days for better health, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Starting the day connecting to the miracle of my body’s accomplished feat in keeping itself going through the night without any help at all from me, and caring for the body that will now get me through the day is an act both of productive care for my body as well as productive care for my soul.
This is what I do, and it can take as long or as short a time as I have without stressing about how long I “should stretch” on that particular day. It is also a great thing to do, when you turn out the light at night and prepare your body to care for you during the night.
Starting the stretches for my own body’s needs, I gently stretch my neck to one side and elongate my shoulder and arm on the opposite side by gently pulling down with my fingertips, and then do the other side. I stretch my chest gently up and down all the while taking deep breaths in and out. I stretch each one of my legs by elongating from the hip to my toes, reaching them long, down towards the end of the bed. I flex and stretch each foot and maybe circle it and then I do the same for each hand. It takes all of a few minutes on a busy day and can be a bit longer on days I am not “rarin’ to go”.
Then, to bid farewell to my friend, Night-time Sleep, and to get on better with the tasks I plan to do with my friend, Day-time Work, because of my own worldview, I greet God, and say a quick thank-you for another day and for protecting me through the night; and a quick “help me today” prayer. I mentally pray for my day, my family members, and any thing else that I might want some God-help with and I end with a word of gratitude for another chance at life and perhaps a chance to do a bit better at being a human being.
If prayer is not your thing, then any kind of spiritual meditation on Otherness, or some kind of affirmation, something that makes you feel that you are not all alone as you are going into your day, would be helpful.
I recently read a lovely idea in an essay on Grace Paley that she in turn learned from her father. In Paley’s essay, “Upstaging Time”, she writes about each morning “taking your heart in your hands” — literally taking it in your hands by cupping under your chest where your heart might sit. Then, Paley’s father told her to each morning do something like: “Then you must talk to your heart. Say anything, but be respectful. Say — maybe say, Heart, little heart, beat softly but never forget your job, the blood. You can whisper also, Remember, remember.” I have recently started trying to incorporate this in my mornings, and you can read this beautiful essay in Paley’s collection of essays, Just As I Thought, especially recommended if you are growing older and not sure how to deal with all the feelings, both body and soul, that that involves.
Because that is the Big Idea, the thing I want to end with here– no matter who we are, what we do, what we believe, or where we find ourselves in place, time, and life — we can feel awfully alone and lonely on the best of days. And when we can’t sleep at night, we can start to think we really are alone. Because each of us, no matter how many may be snuggling next to you in your family bed, is in some ways, truly going it alone. The nights that are sleepless can make us feel that that is the only reality. And after a sleepless, lonesome night, we can feel awfully alone and lonely when we charge out to fight the dragons waiting for us on the other side of the dark nights. Some of us even give up the fight.
It isn’t the only answer, but I have found it is a very important answer to fixing the problems of the day — to treat getting good, restful, all night-long sleep as the critical health issue that it is — for physical and more importantly, emotional, mental, and if you will, spiritual health. If we can see sleep as a friend, we can greet it each night as someone we want to be with. If we can see a new day, as better, filled with possibility and hope, because we had a good night with our good friend, Sleep, then we can find the strength to, as the Serenity prayer reminds us, “live one day at a time; and enjoy one moment at a time.”.
And maybe we can also learn, with some good habits formed and renewed love with our relationship to rest, to “sleep one night at a time; and enjoy one restful moment after another.”
And God saw that the creature needed a friend, and God caused the human being to sleep, and took from him a rib, and God created woman so that each human-being might always know, that they would never have to feel alone. And it was good.
And the storms rose with a frightening vengeance, and the followers awoke as if in a nightmare, and they screamed in fright, and The Good Man slept soundly, waking only to calm the storms with a word, knowing that even in sleep, he was safe and that all would be well, because by sleeping, He was doing what he was born to do, just as with the morning dawning, he would rise to do what he was born to do. And it was good.
Sleep, and find hope that all will be well.
Rise, knowing that you are ready, and you are not alone.
I was asked to write something wise about children, or rather something wise from children. And I thought, well, my own children are all grown now, off exploring the world with all the grace and aplomb that well-fed, well-loved children can muster as adults. I am proud of the wisdom they gave me when they were young, that they now carry out into the world, spreading it intentionally and randomly, like the dandelion fluff and seeds, they used to spread as they blew on the seeded-dandelions’ fluffy grey heads. My adulting children often call or come to see me and their father, and they manage to always blow out some of the fluff from our grey heads and it is good. So very good. My children converse with me now to teach me a thing or two, or just to share their lives, accomplishments, ideas — sometimes even to ask a bit of advice, as they would from a friend — and I feel that a person really can sometimes grow from the seed of parenthood into a flowering friendship. When my children are able to talk to me both as mother and friend, I feel something of me blown out and gone, like fluff, ready to grow something new, somewhere else inside me, or perhaps, something new out in the world; but I also feel something of me grow even deeper roots; learning from my own children makes something take root inside my life as a human being, a thing that is permanent, eternal, never-changing-always-changing, as the love of a parent, or the love of a child, always is.
Imparted wisdom is like a seed, after all; you share it, plant it, but it only grows if the soil is fertile and well-tended and nurtured. Parenting is a bit hit or miss, in terms of imparting wisdom and tending the soil of our children, but most of us try to do our best and then pray or wish on a star or a wishbone or a ladybug or a wish-flower, that somehow the good of our parenting will stick and that the bad will wash away from our children like dirt down a bathtub drain, after a day of hard play. We also have to hope and pray that even some of our mistakes or bad stuff, will grow into something our children don’t nurture as weeds, but will turn into something beautiful like dandelions.
I have written recently of “my” little wee birds at the bird feeder, and how much my time with them teaches me. And this morning, I was meditating on the birds again, and how much I love just sitting and looking at them and listening to them coo and sing and squawk, and I looked over at the array of pictures I keep on a little table, to one side of the big, front-room window I gaze out of. I looked at pictures of my children and the faces and bodies, and hair and clothes styles, from various ages of those dear children once mine; once my chicks, but flown the coop and nesting and soaring elsewhere. I remembered how privileged I was back when they were young to be at home with them. I remembered my four children when we were young, and their loud squawking games outside, and their quiet, cooing games inside in the hallways and on stair landings, and their songs and stories sung or made-up together in the labyrinths of their play-times, and prayers and songs and stories before dream-time at night, and the family road-trips with squabbling and singing in the back of the minivan, and trips to the library and nursing home, and grocery and toy store, and the dinners around the big table and the picnics in parks, and the bedtimes as we snuggled in a big pile, reading or singing, falling asleep like a floating pod of sea otters, drifting off to sleep in our big family bed. And I love to remember all the things we did together, but also all the things I didn’t do but was just able to be.
And I remembered how much I once loved, sitting somewhere in the next room, or nearby but off to one side, maybe doing “parent-stuff”, or guarding over them like the mother hen I was, and being there but slightly removed from their circle of activity, and yet, aware of them, watchful, observant, in tune with their tuneful voices, in my silent acquiescence, and oh, so very present and sometimes needed as referee or boo-boo fixer or to hear something “cool” or funny one of them just said or to see something amazing one had just discovered or to sometimes dry some tears because something incredible they had just made got broken. But mostly, as I thought about children and wisdom, I was reliving some memories of just being with them, doing nothing and being — Just me, with just them, just me alone but not at all alone, listening to and watching my children.
I remembered how almost excruciatingly delightful my whole being felt just to be in the same space as them. I remembered how my heart felt full to overflowing, just to watch over them, and to observe not just their accomplishments in crayon or creative imaginative role playing or the structures they built out of sticks and paper and leaves and tin foil and boxes and a huge belief in their own abilities to create; but I also remembered how incredible it felt to me to just look at a little arm covered in small-person peach- fuzz and often a good bit of dirt or mud; how lovely to see a tangled mass of hair fall over a face bent over a picture book, how awe-inspiring to watch tiny toes wiggle, or mouths open wide with cookie crumbs and laughter spilling out, or the absolute heavy stillness of a child who falls asleep in one’s arms. How glorious it was to hear the small shrieks of delight or giggles of shared “secrets” that of course no adults no matter how close could hear. How awesome even the arguments of dissent over what to play or how to play it were, as they began to navigate how to discuss and how to stand up for what they believed in or how to learn the art of compromise (“Okay, you can go first THIS time, but next time…”); and how I might even over-hear them apologize, and say “I’m sorry”, and how happy I was if they did, because it is so much harder to learn how to say you are sorry when you become an adult. Coos and squawks, laughter and imagination, boo-boos easy to fix, and tears that quickly dry, and the play and hard work of children growing-up, and I, having the best seat in the house — an audience of one mom, listening, watching, loving, learning, becoming more wise.
I think about all the things I loved not about “doing a mom” but about being a mom. Yes, I remember sadly all the things I messed up horribly and did wrong and can apologize for now, but can’t undo. And I wish I could have do-overs on it all, to live more fully all the good, and to at least get a bit of a better score on all the tests I failed. But the bottom line as I sit and remember? — -
I am privileged beyond belief to have within my memory, and within the depths of my heart and soul and mind, the visions and sounds and feels and feelings of all of it — all the fun, all the tears, all the laughter, all the fears, all of those days and nights of living with and loving with children. But the truth is, no one has to be a parent to learn from the wisdom of children — we just have to observe and listen to them and try to be more like them.
What my children taught me, among so many, many other things, but which seems so pertinent to our lives today in 2020, perhaps as never before since we were young because of, well, just because of everything; one very wise thing my children taught me was how full and amazing life can be if we only learn to look and to listen — to everything around us and to each other.
To become like a child, is to believe that love can turn weeds into wish flowers. To find the wisdom of children is to know that being is always more important and fulfilling than doing.
And as we all grow up and hopefully want to become better adults, maybe we all need to see ourselves as imperfect, but loving parents and to learn to delight in how beautiful the world and the people in it are, and then we can choose to take care of the world by truly listening to its needs and when it is at play and by watching-over each other.
We don’t have to be parents to be taught the wisdom of children, because we were all once children ourselves. Our child-like selves have much to teach us, if we will look at the world and each other with the eyes of the children we once all were. But today as I get ready to go play and splash in the soapy water of dirty dishes, and as I zoom around the house pretending to be a superhero, or I imagine what it would be like to fly like a bird as I walk to the grocery, and as I prepare tea for my silver-headed husband and listen — really listen — to him because there is so much to learn when adults talk; and as I cry hard with big tears and an ugly mouth screwed-up, over the unfairness of the games of cheaters and the meanness of bullies and over my own failings because life’s not fair and it hurts to get something wrong; and as I laugh loud and long at a joke I once heard; and as I keep a secret in my heart that I won’t tell anyone cross-my-fingers-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye; and maybe as I take a nap after reading a good book, or as I just sit and stare at stuff cuz there’s nothing to do; or I just listen to the tick-tock of the clock of time gone-by and memories of lives shared — as I do my day, and live my life, I will try harder and let go more easily in order to let the wisdom of my childhood rise up in my soul and I will just be with me. I will wish on stars, and ladybugs, and wish-flowers, that the world and I and my husband and of course, my best teachers of all who were and are now my very own children, will keep growing like seeds, learning like children, and loving like good parents. I will wish on the wish-flowers of my very best hopes that my children will take more, have more time to just be — listening, observing, and loving what is right there in the same space they are, things that are not them but are with them and that they will know, as every child of the world should know, that they are never alone and they are dearly loved.
I will send seeds of wishes into the world with the hope and prayer that we will all know that we are all beloved children with much to learn, and much to teach, and much to love.
Today’s Wise Lesson from my children, Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon –
Listen and be filled. Observe and be at peace. Take in to your true self, that which is not you, but is still a part of you, and take care of it and tend it with hope and joy. And let the seeds of love and wisdom, planted in the hearts and souls and minds of all children, just as the seeds of the wish-flower do, go out from you and into the world so that all may flourish and grow and be beautiful.
Since I have put a bird feeder outside my “reading window”, I can now spend my early mornings looking down at my book, looking up at the birds — down, up; down, up; down, up. Come to think of it, I look a bit like a bird, with a head full of grey feathery hair atop my long scrawny neck, bobbing up and down as if pecking among the philosophies and fictions strewn across my table; and looking up at the birds — down, up, down up. I am like the scout-bird who is often a part of a small group of birds; the one that sits not at the trough of seeds but up on the top of the post, or in a nearby tree branch, the guard-dog of the others, (to mix animal metaphors). I sit with my pack of people imagined and real in books and pictures and thoughts and memories, and my own life-flock is with me in spirit, if not in truth. And I guard them, both in my memories of feeding them, and their continual feeding of me.
I like to see the little red-breasted, red-throated birds, who might be robins or finches but might be neither since, even though my daughter, Verity and my dear friend Heather, have tried to teach me and help me, I remain blissfully ignorant of types and names. The birds in the air swoop in and peck in their persnickety ways among the feeder’s offerings. I love the cool, grey pigeons — so seemingly unremarkable compared to the others. The pigeons are the sheep of birds, quietly feeding on the seed that has fallen to the ground. They may not be flashy or particularly bright, perhaps being two feathers short of a quiver, but they calm me and I feel my divine pathos rise up to surround them with thoughts of hope for their protection and delight in their innocence.
There is often one little sparrow — at least I think it’s the same one. I least I think it’s a sparrow. I watch the birds — I am not a bird watcher, a birder. I actually mostly don’t want to know anything about them — their names or anything like that. I just want to observe them. To be with them, apart, but a part, similar in cellular makeup, but oh! So very different! If there is anything that can assure me in the dark hours before the Sun rises, that there is a Loving Creator who somehow spoke into being, our planet Earth and all of the awe-some-ly unique creatures that roam it — for me, a belief in a Creative God is stronger, now that it has happened to be that I have time to sit and quietly watch the curious qualities of “birdness”.
So back to this one little sparrow. The minute he comes he pushes or scares the other birds away. He is a horrible bully and I feel so sad for the little birds that he scares from their places at the bird feeder as they fly away in fear and shame, while the bully bird takes their place. Notice I assume a male dominance factor going on here, but the bird could easily be female. Remember, I don’t want to know. It is unimportant to me. With the birds, I am able to do what I seldom can with people. I can judge the behavior without judging the character.
This sparrow, let’s call him / her a non-gendered name, shall we? This sparrow I will call “Jody” is a true bully. There isn’t a morning when Jody does not feel that no matter how much room there is, no matter how peacefully all the other little birds are getting along with each other, no matter what side of the nest Jody woke up on that morning — there is not one single morning when Jody does not immediately swoop in to bully the other birdies. He doesn’t stop to assess the situation. He doesn’t offer a deal or make some small talk. Jody doesn’t wait for the other birds to strike first or snap at him with some unpleasantry. She just hops on the feeder, flaps her quite normal-sized and frankly, rather drab colored wings, and chases away whoever got there before her that day. And if one of the others tries to sneak back on the other side of the feeder to finish its breakfast, Jody leaves her spot and chases the interloper off again. Don’t try to make excuses for Jody. This has nothing to do with being a “leader” or a “chosen and favored one” (Jody is nothing special, being a bird just like other birds). Her behavior must not be excused with some silly idea about it being evolution or natural selection. I am sorry, but it must simply be accepted — Jody is just a bully.
And I feel like sneaking up one morning on Jody when he’s at the bird feeder, his attention somewhere over his birdy shoulder looking for perceived enemy/victims; and I feel like grabbing Jody up in my gigantic godlike paw and holding Jody powerfully in my right hand and saying,
“Jody, my birdy-pal, my darling, I, the God Who Peers Through the Window, She who observes the Sun rising, and the deeds of all birds; I, Who have watched you each morning of your miserable little birdy-life; I, the Goddess who gives the birdseed to nourish the good and the evil birdies — and who cares for even the naughty, cheeky squirrels, for Heaven’s sake! I forbid you, small wee Jody, to keep bullying the other birds. Fly now, away with you — you are forgiven but Sin No More!”
And then, because I can’t kiss Jody on his little beak or hold her little foot as I would a naughty child’s small hand, I will stroke Jody on the head and assure her, and assure the whole little flock that now has come to see me deal with Jody– a flock of all kinds and colors, genders and abilities of birds — a multitude of birds that has by now gathered at my Godlike feet, stunned into birdy awe at my great supernatural appearance, and who are all bobbing their little birdy heads as they listen to my righteous message. And I will say to the flock that, foolish though they be, are my own, and are all those whom I have come to love and care for, even Jody:
“There is plenty. There will always be plenty for all in My Kingdom. Do you not know, that I can take these small seeds that I hold now in my hand, and I can turn them into a Costco sized bag of food to feed you? There is room at the bird feeder for all, for the pigeons and sparrows, for the meek and the red-breasted, for the shy and the brave, for the protectors and the children and for those who sing like angels, and yes –there is even room for the Jodies. There is scattered seed on the ground for those who must scratch in the earth to get their daily meal. And there is seed in the feeder for all that I watch over from my own perch, behind the window.
Do not worry, little flock of beloved birds. Do you think by worrying you can add one feather to your head? Do not worry, Bully Jody. Do you think by bullying you can add one hour to your life? Be peaceful in your bird-brains, and at peace with each other. If God can care and provide for both the good and also the naughty humans, how much more will He care and provide for you, the birds? Yea, even for the Jodies.”
I think Jesus observed birds often and knew them well. He used them as illustration and metaphor quite often, along with ones about seeds and grain. Maybe every morning, he woke up and read the Torah and had some pita bread, maybe throwing the crumbs out onto the ground to share with the birds. I like to picture him quiet before the world woke up, meditating prayerfully, reading and learning from the words on the scroll, and then looking up at the sparrows eating his crumbs and the grey pigeons pecking at the seeds in the fields. I imagine The Great Teacher and Miracle Worker in the early hours of the mornings before the hungry, needy multitudes gathered and the crowds and his friends and followers, who would swoop in, full of need, full of chatter, full of fears and hopes, and with broken wings and bent tail feathers they wanted fixing. A flock of followers who just as I do, just as you do, keep searching for something to feed us body, mind and soul, but miss the common, ordinary miracles of life and our planet and the miracles of other humans. We miss the miracle of seeds. And so we have rarely seen, that we too can fly.
The miracle that real food and spiritual food are always available is what Jesus tried to show the people; the reality that there is plenty and that no one needs to take more seed than what they need that day, because tomorrow, there will be more seed. That is the miracle of the seed.
Good birds will share space and seed; but even bullies could have much more than they could ever dream of, if only they would just ask. If we would only look around, and scoot over to give more room to others, and enjoy the seed set before us in just this moment, why then — those everyday miracles would become common place. Most people came to Jesus looking for a handout, anxious to fill their stomachs. But Jesus offered them what he knew they really wanted, which was the bread, the manna of his life that gives us life, and the “living water that will make us thirst no more”. Many came to the one they called Messiah, Rabbi, Lord, looking for an edge, a way to rise above the hungry, dirty masses and be better than their neighbors, richer than their enemies, more favored than those who were different than they; and to have Jesus do the heavy lifting but grant them a ticket cheaply bought to a better, far off heavenly place, a new, select feeder made just for them and not for the crows and ravens, those they considered scavengers, or the weak and meek, those they considered worthy only of what we in our pride and greed, had made of this filthy, untended, sinful world. But what they were really looking for was the beauty that had been forgotten, an earth full of possibility and hope, joy in the journey, and fullness in every moment. What they longed for was not someplace out there, but to finally be truly right here; in a new Garden, a better Kingdom to live in, a world that is this one, but reborn, renewed, recreated, in every glorious breath we take.
Since the beginning, some humans have struggled with the fearful reality that tomorrow the feeder will be empty, and others have hoarded and stored up more than they need, with the despairing anxiety that The Feeder will desert us for good. We are all afraid that that which has held the world together, and The One Who has cared to create us, will leave us on our own, leave the fools and the bullies that we are, in the shadows, in the burnt out husks, in the arid, drought-deadened fields, in the wilderness without Him. So since First Woman and First Man bullied each other into eating from the forbidden fruits of greed and need; and since the manna in the desert wilderness rotted in the storehouses of both the greedy and needy alike, we seekers of seeds and soulfulness, have tried to bully God. We pray without listening, look without observing, take without trusting, and we try to force God into understanding us, rather than the other way around. We whine that our hearts feel empty even when our stomachs are full. And we refuse to believe that we might be able, — even now, even all these years, after the beginning, after the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us — we refuse to believe we might be able to fly.
Many start their mornings and end their evenings at the feeder of thoughts and prayers, yearnings offered up to a God that in truth, we doubt can really care that much for us. After all, if there was a God who loved us, wouldn’t He give us more seeds and crumbs? So some of us bully the weak, and hoard the grain that rots in our storehouses, and we convince ourselves that it is our own power that provides the food in our feeders, and our own abilities that keep us aloft. Some of us choose to believe that there is a God who is as weak as we have let ourselves become, and so we convince ourselves that we need to do nothing but assent to the idea of the existence of a Bird Feeder, and we can let the world turn as it has always done, being only as weak as the God we have fashioned in our image. We worship a God whom we have made in our likeness and so She is either a bully or a weakling, or some days one and some days the other. We keep chirping and squawking, “Why? Why do we have to keep coming daily to the feeder for our sustenance? Why don’t You bless us with something more than manna or crumbs? Why must I share?”.
People came to Jesus and some of them learned that he loved them and that he believed in a Greater Good that also loved them just as any wonderful Mommy and Daddy always love their children, even when those children might be very naughty or unable to fly because of a broken wing. Jesus showed people that there really was Someone behind the window, and that even though the window was so foggy and scratched up and cloudy, you couldn’t really see Who was sitting there, you could sometimes see movement; and you knew that it was The God Behind the Window who each day, provided the seeds for us.
People came to Jesus because they were hungry and wanted to be fed, just as my birds come each morning to my yard to be fed. The people came to The Christ in their foolishness and pride and neediness, and they drained him of power and fought over who got the best and biggest crumbs of divine knowledge and holy interference. We are all people who never quite trust there will be enough of God’s good gifts. But there are seeds strewn throughout the world, freely given, gratefully received, enough for all, created by The Feeder’s righteous hands and shared by those of us who scoot over to make room for more hungry beaks. I think of these people who came to The Christ, people who depleted the Giver, like the hungry birds deplete my feeder full of seeds. I like to think after a long tough day, that Jesus returned to sit by himself, or maybe with one or two other bird-watchers, sharing a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread but not talking much, just sitting together, listening to each other’s breathing, and relaxing, and observing, and very glad to be alive.
I, too, want to follow in the footsteps of those who have left us evidence that they were Masters of Life and Living. I want to rise each morning to learn my lessons and share seeds with the birds, and to let the Great Gurus and the small birds teach me as I look up and down, up and down, up and down. I want to sit in the cool of the evenings somewhere quiet and alone or with those who also watch and wait, and we will end as we begin, by watching the birds.
When I sit watching Jody bully his neighbors, or the pigeons meekly graze, or even those cheeky, naughty squirrels catapulting through the branches or skittering across the yard in their games of tag, I imagine the mornings before the Father’s Sun rose, when Jesus sat alone, but never felt alone. I think of The Man as that one who would suffer all we do and more, much more, and yet who was able to care for the birds; a man perfectly content, happy, mindfully watching and waiting, just a human being, like me, reading, observing, smiling or shaking his head at the foolishness of birds and of men; someone who saw everything for what it truly is, but deeply loved and cared for it all. And I imagine that those were the times that he understood most truly that he had fulfilled his mission for living among us, as he sat with his head bobbing — up and down, up and down, up and down.
I understand a bit more now about my own task in this world and my own joy in the journey of a moment, now that I too, have made the time I always needed but seldom took, to sit and study, and watch and observe, and just be — just be with the goings on about me on this planet, and to be with the birds. I know more about why Jesus, The Teacher, told us the Parable of the Sparrows, because knowing birds a bit better, I am learning that we are all so much less important than we think we are, and we are also so much more loved than we believe we are.
Whether today, you are a struggling pigeon of a person, pecking and hunting for your sustenance. Or you are a Jody — a bully who thinks he has to overpower and overcome others to get ahead, to get more, to get what he deserves, to have the best perch, the most seeds, the top spot, or whatever it is you think you must have. No matter what kind of bird or being you are, remember that there is One Who Makes the Seed; One Who creates and plants and tends; One Who gives each day the Sun and Rain to grow the seeds; and One Who cares as much for you as for the sparrows. Meditate today on The God Who is a Feeding, Watching, Caring Being that even when you can’t see Her, loves you and has provided plenty of food and room at the feeder.
Then we must all try to understand, that the final instructions that Jesus gave before he flew off, were:
“Feed them. In the same way you feed others, you will be fed. Trust in Goodness, and that there is enough for all. In the same way you share seed and give place with others, I will give to you. Now go — and you must not just feed the birds you like, but you must also feed your enemies, the Jodies. I say, unto you, love The Watcher in the Window, and love your neighbors and your enemies just as much as you love yourself. Know that by doing so, you are like Your Heavenly Feeder and Father, whose feeder is full to overflowing, available and free for all of us.”
Remember to look around at the world, to observe the birds of the air, and the beasts of fields, and as you peck and scratch, or you hop and flit from here to there today, be assured —
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the unbelieving and faithless who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.~~Jesus as recorded in The Book of Matthew by one of his followers.
(Time Magazine: 9/11 The Photographs That Moved Them Most)
The 9/11 of The Year 2020
By Jane Tawel
August 15, 2020
As of August, at least 168,000 American citizens have died from Covid-19. This does not include any people that we do not know of, who may have died from the virus or from complications from the virus, nor does it include the many thousands that will continue to die while “Nero fiddles and Rome burns”. Our Congress can’t work together so it goes on holiday and our President continues to lie to the people and golf, and we the citizens are left asking those in charge, “Do you really not understand the seriousness of this current domestic terrorism called Covid-19? Or do you just not care?”
This Pandemic on American soil, is our generation’s Pearl Harbor, our D-Day, our Boston Tea Party, our 9/11.
In one of the most horrific events in modern American history, a day forever known as 9/11, 2,977 people died. Our national response to 9/11 was swift, immediate, sweeping, and although in many ways, it has been shown to be wrong-headed, and short-sighted, at the time it was something that every single patriotic citizen of America saw as something our government did for the protection and well-being of our citizenry. The 20/20 of our hindsight about the consequences of America’s reactions to 9/11 should not blind us to the brave and absolutely necessary reaction of our leaders at the time this unprecedented horror happened.
The federal government led by people who had never experienced anything like 9/11 before sprung into action and worked together, President and Congress making the best of their responses to an unprecedented and tragic situation, in order to devise national and necessary changes for increased safety measures, protections from danger for its citizens, and the rebuilding of our trust in our government and in each other. Slightly less than two short decades ago, Americans, having seen the worst that could be thrown at us, rose to the challenge of trying to be the best that we could be – the best we have ever been – by working together, rebuilding literally and figuratively from the ground up. Governments both federal and state-wide enacted historical sweeping measures in security and protection on a national scale. The attack on American soil was nothing compared to the attack on the American psyche and in fact to this day we are fighting two unending wars because we took so seriously this unimaginable thing that happened on September 11, 2001.
Today another unimaginable thing is happening on American soil. Today we are also living in unprecedented times. Today we have the choice humans so often have: Shall we learn from history, and do our best, or shall we ignore history, and make mistakes?
Today, we look back, at the mistakes the government made in its response to 9/11, and we should do this, because by looking at yesterday’s mistakes, we can do better today. But we must also continue to cherish and hold-fast to what our nation did right, and especially to what individuals did heroically and sometimes, miraculously. We should read and reread, tell and re-tell, the true stories about the heroes of 9/11 who from Day One waded into danger to save strangers, and those named and unnamed heroes who continued year after year to work to make this country safer for everyone, and better for every citizen. The moral of the Story of 9/11 was at heart – our hearts! – and the amazing character of the average American who rose to that challenge of the moment.
The federal response (and the responses to 9/11 of New York City, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia) are overshadowed, as they should be, by the rising up of the often forgotten, often unnamed, unsung, and sometimes even unknown heroes of the average American who waded bravely and literally into the danger, and then the ashes and destruction, and figuratively into the gaping wounds of need that many citizens experienced after 9/11. No one asked, “Why should I?”. Everyone asked, “What can I do?”
What we as a nation did in the shock-waves reverberating from the falling of the Twin Towers and the attack on our nation – what we did, not just in one or two places, but across the plains, from ocean to ocean, and from individual American to individual American, was not perfect, but it was perfectly what we said we wanted to be when we became a nation – “one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”. And leading the way, not trailing behind or excusing itself for not knowing what to do, or hoping that everything was going to be okay in time, was our federal government. This was their responsibility and therefore, their duty to respond to an act of terrorism.
I have seen great things in this United States of America and I have read of many more amazing, miraculous, phenomenal things that both government and individuals have done in the history of this “Sweet Land of Liberty”. And, yet, people are still telling me, in August 2020, that we, this country, this “shining city on a hill”, can not hold our current federal government accountable for a response to a pandemic that is killing Americans on our soil? People are still telling me that our President and our Senate are doing everything they can? What about everything they SHOULD?
People are telling me we can not hold our neighbor accountable? People are still telling me that every citizen is free to do whatever they want no matter what the consequences to other citizens; that we can not be expected to give up our politics in order to all work together? People are telling the essential and emergency workers that what they are doing is pointless because many citizens are still unwilling to give up a little here, and share a little there, and build back our safety and health from the ground up? And I have to ask, What country is this? Surely it isn’t the same country that responded to 9/11?
People are telling me it’s only a “small percentage” of people dying, or getting sick, and I have to ask, “Is that how you responded to the 2, 977 people who died in 9/11? Did you comfort yourself with the fact that only a very small percentage of Americans had died?
People are telling me we can’t make voting by mail safer in same way we made flying safer? Or that we can’t all wear masks in public for a while in the same way we all learned to take off our shoes at the airport? That we can’t give up a trip or two, or a bar party or two, or a church service or two in the same way people gave up their families and homes to fight the war on terror? People are telling me we can’t possibly require some people to make a little less money out of the millions and billions they make so that other people can have a place to live, and some electricity, and their children can have enough food today because the idea of unfettered capitalism is more important than human life? People are telling me their weapons of terror are more important as a freedom than the freedom to walk safe streets? People are telling me that America is no longer the nation of “Yes, we can” but a nation of “No, we won’t”?
And I just can not, for the life of me, understand. Because I woke up the morning of 9/11 not knowing, not understanding as I watched the same horror that every American citizen watched that day, a horror we could never have imagined, a thing incomprehensible even as we saw it happen before our very eyes. And none of us knew what to do. And then, as a nation, we did it.
I don’t understand so many leaders and people today in America; I can not get my head around their hard hearts and illogical, uncaring, foolish behaviors. Because I once saw this nation simply pull up its sleeves, and say, “We aren’t sure how, and we aren’t sure we will do it all right, (we most certainly won’t) but we are sure we will try our best. Because if we aren’t in this together to succeed “one for all and all for one”, to rise from these ashes like a phoenix; then we will certainly be in it together to fail and fall.” Divided we will fall, and united we will stand. That is who we were after 9/11, and as much as we mourn those who suffered and continue to suffer because of some of our bad decisions made in the wake of 9/11, and as much as those in charge then regret now some of the things we did because of 9/11, we did not shirk our duty to all that is ethical and true and right about our responsibilities to our ideals and to each other. I love the America that we were on 9/12/2001. And I find myself wondering, what happened to that America?
People keep telling me that Americans don’t have to do anything anyone tells us to do because that is our right. And I just keep thinking – have we become our own worst terrorists? Will the 9/11 of the Corona Virus be the thing that finally defeats the great American Dream?
All I can say is, Oh dear God, I hope not.
Today in 2020, we are guardians of a great legacy, the legacy of our forefathers and foremothers, the legacy of our brave warriors who fought not just for our own freedoms but for the freedoms of countless nations in countless wars, on countless shores. We are guardians of the legacy of those on our own soil who insisted that all have civil liberties, and of the legacy of September 11, 2001. Will that legacy die at the hands of our own unwillingness to fight this new enemy of the American people? Will a virus be the one seemingly small thing that defeats this great, big nation?
No, it will not be a virus that defeats America. It will be our own selfishness, pride, greed, and ignorance. It will not be our inability to change, it will be our unwillingness to change.
If the Corona Virus is the thing we as a people can not rise up to defeat, then even if only a “small percentage” die from it, it will be the thing that kills the very soul of our nation.
Aren’t we bigger than that, Americans? Aren’t we braver, and truer, and kinder than that? Aren’t we more alike than we are different, because we are Americans, after all? Aren’t we able to rise above this new challenge? Together? United? Can’t we, together, envision the legacy we want to leave in the wake of this new terror and trial?
I want to believe we can. If you’re with me: “Let’s roll!”
There is an ancient Book. It began as one life, The Tree of Life, the Tree of Jesse, and it has sent seeds throughout the world, which have taken deep roots, growing into a mighty, world-reaching forest of life-giving beliefs.
Some people have taken the Book Tree’s branches and turned them into tentacles to ensnare. Some have taken the Book Tree’s roots and poisoned them in their desire to destroy the Life that the Book Tree offers. Some have worshipped the Book, and forgotten that a Book is just a book; and that it is always about something that is more real than any words on a page can hope to convey. And some have used the Book Tree for personal gain and profit, cutting away the branches so the fruit can not be easily gleaned by those in need, but only gorged on by those hogging the sectioned-off branches.
There are many people who have taught me about The Book, some because they understood its meaning and some because they refused to. A person can learn from those who get it right and from those who get it wrong, and that is the wonderful thing about this Book; it is full of stories of people who got the messages in it right and those who got it wrong. I have learned that the Book has stories about people who from the beginning of Time have been just like me – full of pride, full of brokenness, full of a desire to give in to the temptations of self-centeredness, full of fear, and full of need. I have also learned from the stories that people have always been just like the best of humans that I know – full of courage in the face of danger, full of love in the face of hate, full of determination in the face of injustice, full of faith in the deepest darkness, full of hope in what we can not see yet, and full of something that can always be a little, better, a little higher than the beasts but always still a little lacking, a little yearning, a little lower than the angels.
I have learned in the Book that people have mostly gotten it wrong, but that as long as there is breath, there is the possibility of finally getting some things right. In the Book the only thing that counts is that you admit when you get it wrong and that you keep trying to get it right and that in the end, if you get it right, you’ll be okay. The Book calls this “forgiveness”.
I have learned that if you are my friend, that does not mean I should make your enemy my enemy. The Book teaches that there is only one “team” that matters and that I should try to play for it; and that team is not in competition with any other team, but it is the one sharing with everyone else. I have learned instead of keeping my heart hardened toward an enemy, that if I try to understand and have compassion for everyone, then I will have no enemies, but only brothers and sisters. The Book calls this “love”.
The Book has taught me that I, like all before and after me, have many choices of what to believe, but that if I want to believe what The Book teaches, then there is One Being that I should worship whose name no one knows but Who nonetheless, “IS”. “I AM” is the sole consolation of The Book; there is no other prize, no other meaning than relationship with Holy Otherness. The Book is clear, and yet not comforting about this God. The stories teach that there is a Creator of this world and of me (and of you); that there is a Parent who is Love; that there is a Conscience Reality that judges between Good and Evil; and that there is a Giver who loves to give what is truly Right and Good for the Created Planet and for the Creatures we are. That’s it. That’s all we get to trust in about what we long to know. Trusting in this and acting on it, believing against all odds, and despite our lack of knowledge and assurance, is what The Book calls “faith”.
The Book has taught me that there were many humans that lived Good Lives, lives lived all in CAPS with exclamation points behind them; GOOD PEOPLE!!!! and that every single one of them sacrificed and suffered a lot to do the right things. The Book has taught me that it is these suffering servants who really get what this life on earth has to offer that is best of all; and that the people who think this life is about getting more, earning more, hoarding more, of anything, including wealth or power, never really live as we were created to live. We should feel sorry for these people, not envy them, at least that is what The Book teaches.
The Book has taught me there were many people who were saviors of their people, and that there was one person who lived a perfectly Good Life and he is The Savior of all. He was also the most suffering servant of all, so it is astounding that so many people since he lived on earth claim they want to live like he did. Of course, it is hard to come up with actual examples of any of us who have lived like The Good Man lived, but the point is, so many people keep trying to, and that has made all the difference ever since.
The Book has taught me to follow the example of all of the Good People in the World, even if they never have read the Book or know anything about the God in it. The very best person to follow in life is the One Perfect Human, but this person is a very, very, very hard person to follow. He is a hard act to follow and at the same time, he is also exactly like me. And so, the Book teaches that I have great responsibilities, great need of forgiveness, and great hope of rebirth into the kind of Life that this particular Savior who is part of the Story of The Book, taught us about. This Man is what The Book calls “Son of God”.
The Book teaches me that every human comes into the world with a sense of right and wrong called a conscience, but that our conscience is a part of us like our hands or our lungs or our livers, and we can either care for and nurture our conscience or we can abuse and starve it, so that it becomes weak and sickly. The Book teaches that there are universal laws that will lead to being the best sort of human our species can offer and that everyone knows these laws but also that everyone always wants to make new laws that aren’t good for everyone or to apply the laws to others to follow but not follow themselves. The Book teaches that unless we follow the laws of caring for the planet and for all who live in it, then we are lost. This is why the Book teaches that the one thing most hated by the God of The Book and by our own best natures, is our ability to turn Truth into Lies. The Book teaches that from The Beginning, when First Man and First Woman lied to The God and lied to each other, that that is when they began to die. Lies are the roots of Death. The Book teaches us that we can kill our conscience, that we can kill that very thing that makes us “like gods”. This thing that is in all of us that we are to care for above everything else is what The Book calls “the soul”.
The Book teaches that though we may not see it clearly, there is beyond the mist and fog and in the darkest of darknesses, a Light of Truth that has no end. This Truth can only exist as a Co-Creator with Love. And Love as a powerful force of Goodness and Truthfulness and Joy is that which will remain long after The Book is no longer needed, on earth as it is EveryWhere THE IAM of LOVE lives.
I learn from The Book about Life and what the stories in The Book do in my own life and my own relationships and my own Relationship, is a matter of how I live each day in The Garden. Like seeds planted, each moment, it matters on an unfathomable scale, how I choose to nurture those seeds, how I protect them from weeds and drought, how I nourish them, how I grow them, and how I trust in The Sun to freely give them Life. The Book teaches that to whom much is given, much is required of her to give back, to give others, to give forth, to give freely. Because The Book teaches me that there is nothing to fear if I keep my hand to the plow and the other hand outstretched to my neighbor and that I can live boldly and joyfully, like the other people whose stories are told in The Book. I can be at peace in this world with a “peace that passes understanding”. The Book calls this “wholeness” or “shalom”.
I am so grateful to have found the Book, so many years ago now. It is a compass that always points to True North, it is a map and a guide on The Way; it is a consolation in times of trial, a rod and staff when I err and need redirected; it is a wealth of good tales with stirring events and teaching moments, with characters that I can relate to, admire, and either cheer or boo; it is a source of eternal proverbs and excellent poetry; and it is an eternal clarion call to live justly and righteously in a world of naysayers. And greatest of all, The Book is a hint – a small little hint—that there is Someone who wants to know me and be known by me and that That Otherness called simply “I Am” is as real as the Perfect Love that I have always imagined truly exists.
The Book is a Tree, and we are the branches. Let me reach forth my own small branch so that even the small birds of the field may find shelter there. Let me be secure in the Truth that The Tree produces enough fruit for all and let me share the fruits of my own small labors and my life so that all may live in the shade of Love. Let the leaves of The Book be like leaves of a mighty forest bringing Life to the whole world. May it be so for you and for me in this very moment ~~ Jane
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. (Psalm 52:8)
“The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.” (The Book of Daniel 4:10-12)
(Image by Dave Cutler for The Boston Globe, March 2020)
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Heaven Scorned
By Jane Tawel
August 3, 2020
Introduction: Reading C.S. Lewis and what some call the “Old” Testament (actually the Torah and Tanakh) is not for the faint of worldview. They aren’t for the faint of heart, either, but it is especially our worldviews that seem to have brought us to where and who we are in this particular moment on Planet Earth. Perhaps if it had been our hearts instead that were leading us, we would not have arrived at this Foucault’s Pendulum swing that may, like a Giant Finger on the World’s Balance, forever still the rotations of our world as we have known it. And still, those who can, fly off to space for a joyride, or build an empire for king but not kingdom, or insist on being the naked emperor, unmasked but unhumbled; while we let our children die and the wars rage and the planet burn and dry up into a husk of the Eden it was meant to be. If only we would all stand on the same side of that swinging pendulum and push and pull together to right the balance of this lopsided world. The discouraging beginning of this essay will hopefully resolve itself in the end. But this is our task, is it not? To look honestly and truthfully within and without at what is wrong, and then do our very best to right the wrongs, become upright ourselves, and then right the off-course ship of this great world?
Image credit: Yuri_Arcurs | Getty Images
I no longer fear the hell of Mythologies and Scripture. That hell is reserved only for those who choose it in this very present “now”; and if we are honest, we can see them choose hell for their souls and whatever souls they may desire to pull down with them. There is a “special place” reserved for those who would hurt others for their own gain, and we can see it in the world we live in; we do not have to believe that somehow, some God will either “send” people to that hell or that some God will not send any one to that hell because of some kind of supernatural love. While love is always a supernatural power, so are hate and greed, and those who choose hell have every right to live in it, just as those who choose to live in the perfect “heaven” of love have the right to hope for it in Eternity. We see the choices people make and we turn from the knowledge because it is too horrible to see any human being choose to live as a hellish creature, but also it can be too fearful to see the power and might of those who truly choose to live as heavenly ones. So we often turn from the knowledge that we can choose to live in a “heaven on earth”, an existence without the outcomes and consequences of our fear or anger or hatred or wrongs; we just do not really want to.
C.S. Lewis writes much about this choice between living into what I might humorously call, the now of Nirvana or the presence of Purgatory. In The Great Divorce, a fictional exploration of this idea of our choices in the view of Eternity, Lewis writes:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
But it is Lewis’ book of essays in The Weight of Glory, that stun us into contemplation on this idea of heaven or hell as our ever present daily choice: In it, Lewis writes:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. … Next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” (The Weight of Glory, Lewis)
Besides my current “on steroids” fears of super-viruses and super-villains, there are other things to fear in one’s soul in the here and now. Instead of fearing a future hell, that lake of fire and pit of despair and place of torment, I fear instead that I will continue to exist in the now as nothing more than sinew and bones. I fear a death of becoming nothingness if I have lived a life that is full of the nothingness of the lies of selfish striving, and not the fullness of everything in truly bountiful, beautiful, generous being.
I fear that I will continue to think of my life and this world as stuck irrevocably in our human plight since Genesis, and that if I allow it and accept it without a fight, that “since from dust I was created, so to dust I will return” (Genesis 3;19) Oh, to me is there anything more fearful than to contemplate that I am soul-less by choice and that from molecules I was created to live as nothing more than hungry molecules, finally dying to the dust of molecules in death? I fear to continue living as I far too often have, and far too frequently do. Hell is the idea that I will die and be punished to live in something worse. But is it not more awful, more tragic, to never choose to live into the idea of being something better? Should we not more truly fear never knowing Heaven now, on this lovely, lovely Earth that we have been given to share with each other?
I fear death, but it is more and more a fear of never truly embracing the mindfulness of living, a kind of living that I have too seldom fully grasped and too seldom fully practiced. How can I fear a permanent end to my mind’s existence, if I have never truly been mindful while alive? How can I fear the stilling of my beating heart if I have never completely listened to the miraculous beat of that feeling organ, that organ that represents all that which we feel as humans, that life-force pumping away in our bloodstreams and symbolizing all that poets and prophets write of, that lovers dream about, and that mothers teach their babies to accept and expect? How can I be afraid of no longer seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling if I have never enjoyed the heavenly sensuousness of my God-given senses? As the Good Teacher said, Oh, what does it profit me if I gain the world but I lose my soul in the process?
I do as all others, fear the cessation of what I may call “my soul” and the separation of myself from that “Otherness” which I may call My God. What has often kept me safe from despair and evil, that “Other Hope”, that Otherness as an “Eternally Existing Life-Force”, is only as real as I make it. It may finally ebb and never again flow back to the shores of that which I call myself. And yet, while I fear the cessation, how often as I live– how often do I choose– to stand on the shore and merely watch my life, rather than fling my life into the ebb and flow of this present ocean of existence as Goodness and joy in the journey? How often have I chosen as Lewis warns us against, to see my neighbor as “mere mortal” and not to see my neighbor as the “holiest of objects ever presented to my senses”?
But above, all I often forget all the love. I so easily remember the hurts done to me and the shame in the hurting I have done; harm done to me, and the harm I have participated in, to others and self; the painful silences of loneliness and my own pain-producing silences in the face of wrong and evil. I fear that one day, when my body dies, and everyone’s will, I fear that I will no longer love, nor have love. If Love is the strongest belief of all; the most real thing that exists anywhere in the Universe; the most unerring righteousness of all law and ethical philosophy; the greatest gift as well as The Giver; and if Love is the one thing that will remain forever, being real in an unknowable, mysterious Eternity, even if all else fades away; then all I truly need fear is the end of Love. And since that can never be; my fears are always at the mercy of Love. My fears can be conquered each day by the grace of my loving actions, by the very real presence of my loving others as I would love myself, and by the faith of my acceptance of a Love that has the power to defeat even the evils of death, and to live forever.
Today I can have Heaven on Earth. Today I can live an eternity in this moment in the destination of my choice. Will it be Heaven? Or Hell? Or will it be mostly the drudgery and soul-less-ness of dust? We are taught by The Master, to pray that we may have life today “on earth, as it is in a World of Perfection”. As another favorite guru of mine, Kathryn Schulz wrote, “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t” (Being Wrong, Schulz).
All of my fears of the afterlife can be resolved when I put away my fears of tomorrow and live only for this day. But I also must continue to live for the future; not a future that is focused on myself, and the continuation of what I want, but focused on the future of that which is more than me and at the same time, makes me so much more than just a continuation of who I am and what I have today. I must choose today, between heaven and hell, but I also must make this day a “heaven on earth”, by not just enjoying for myself what I have, and not just “being all that I can be”, but by living with the knowledge and purpose and desire to create that world we were meant to live in as One. I must imagine a heaven on earth where all have what each needs, and the earth is returned to beauty, cared for as a child cares for an aging parent, with tenderness and love; and a world in which each child is my child, and where there is more than enough to share, and especially enough Love to share. Until every human on earth can live in the freedom and joy of that heavenly vision, then no one will ever truly live in it.
My soul is secure in The Presence of Goodness that is here and that is now. My soul is at peace in the hope that is alive even in the darkest moments, because hope is not a trophy earned, but a gift freely given. My soul is “in love” with the life that I have today and being “in love” with life makes me full of love to share freely with all others. My faith is an ocean flowing backwards and forwards in the Time I am allotted, but when I immerse myself in the flow, I am able to get a small, faint glimpse of the Heaven that lies on the Far Shore. It is my choice of where I shall live today, will it be that which is Good and causes good or that which is Suffering and causes suffering?
Today I will baptize myself in that river of healing – in that ocean of Love— and from the depths of almost drowning myself in the reality of my fears and hatreds, my hurts and harms, I will arise to that Reality which has no end, on earth, in heaven, or in that which I call my soul.
We are taught to pray for a world here and now “as it is everywhere else in the Cosmos – The Heavens” where Love and Light and Holy Joy exist as Reality Eternal. Heaven is Love and Love is available to all Life. Now. Here. Love is as small as the teardrop on someone’s face that I can wipe away. Love is as vast as an ocean which may obscure the Vision of The Other Shore, but is full of life and life-giving. And because Love is not a feeling, but an action, and an action that has the power to change even the worst feelings we humans may have – anger, hatred, and even fear –then Love is Heaven Come Down to us. As long as I can choose to act in the Love of this Moment, then I need have no fear. Love is Eternal, and if I love, so am I.
C.S Lewis had much to teach about the Judeo-Christian ideas and the imagined reality of heaven and hell. In his story about people having one last shot at choosing where to spend eternity, he has a prophet say to a seeker,
“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.” (The Great Divorce)
When fear has us quaking or anger has us shaking, we must remember that it can be a God-send – a Heaven-sent, if you will—opportunity to let all that is wrong or broken inside of us, all that is untrue and un-straight, all that is hurting and hurtful – all of that “hell” to be shaken loose to fall away like so much sand in the mighty waves of the ocean. The Ocean of Love is unshakeable, and it is that which will remain in us and in our world and in our creations and from any of our meager accomplishments and that which will remain forever in those we love, including our very own selves. It is what will remain in earth, and in the heavens. And the reality of the heaven we seek is that heaven that we bring to this day.
If hell hath no fury like a heaven it scorns, then it is also true that heaven mocks our fears of death with the strength of Love. That Heaven which is among us, scorns the lies of hell, and scoffs at the weakness of hate. That Heaven is the most powerful thing in existence – Love.
All this will pass away, but Love – unshakeable, unerring, unfearful Love – that will forever remain. May our hearts lead our worldview and our love lead the world.
May your Love, and The Love that can be yours today, dispel all your fears of living in the Heaven of this very moment. Together let us have faith in Love and faith in each other to bring heaven to earth. ~~ Jane
“There is no fear in Love, for Perfect Love, casts out all fear”. ~~From the Book of I John 4:18
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
~~ From the Book of Zephaniah 3:17
“The Kingdom of Heaven is closer than the brow above the eye, but man does not see it.”
Let your love flow outward through the universe. To its height, its depth, its broad extent, a limitless love, without hatred or enmity. Then as you stand or walk, sit or lie down, as long as you are awake, Strive for this with a one-pointed mind; your life will bring heaven to earth.” ~~ Gautama Buddha
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” ~~ Jesus
I was commenting on a friend’s post today. She is someone of great heart and intelligence, who is struggling with the current conundrum of a Super Villain Virus and the push to reopen schools; a problem of “pandemic-proportions” foisted on her as a teacher and a parent. Anyone who has ever been both a teacher and a parent, (and I have long been both), will know the difficulty when one is asked to choose between those “two sides of our hearts”, and we don’t always make the right decision. But then we shouldn’t have to choose between “our children” — it’s an unfair “Sophie’s Choice”. And we wouldn’t have to so often choose between our love of our students and our love of our children if things were different here, at least in the good ‘ole U.S. of A.
My friend questioned whether she is being asked to be a “martyr” for her students if classrooms are reopened during this pandemic. She feels she is being asked to count the cost for her students for staying out of the classroom without considering the cost for her own family of going back in. My thoughts are included below as it might prove interesting for some of my other teacher and parent friends. But even if you are neither, wouldn’t you like to be part of the Big Picture Solutions that are so desperately needed now? The old chalkboard lessons have been erased or at least smeared due to a very bad thing happening around the world, but that merely means we can start anew and learn better lessons for ourselves and teach all the children that we care enough to do the hard work of Real Change.
Dear Shaneka: The difficulty is that what we are seeing is that the problems are so, so deep and much bigger than just these critical decisions we must make for the upcoming school year. The long-standing issues in America are all coming to a head in this pandemic issue in terms of educational resources, health resources, paid time off for sick time and for sick child health care for everyone, (no matter your 401k status), and livable wages for all. We need more schools, more and better paid teachers, smaller classrooms, more money in public education especially in areas of the country where there are not huge tax dollars (this includes poorer regions throughout the country along with those parts of the country that bear the brunt of systemic racist policies). We need to re-consider the overwhelming costs of getting a decent education from the early years to the college years and then truly weigh that against the costs of NOT providing educational resources for all our citizens and the overwhelming costs that has had to the whole nation because of our laxness in addressing the problem.
We are still always trying to foist the tough decisions onto parents and teachers but the tough decisions must be made by those with the power and resources to change what is wrong that makes dealing with a pandemic so overwhelming. We know as teachers that the problems have been overwhelming long before now. We know as parents that the tough decisions must always be made for the good of all of our children; because it is only if all of our children are safe, and healthy, and able to thrive, will any child really have the future and the dreams that he or she deserves.
We keep looking for band-aides but what we need is “open-heart” surgery on a national and state level. Oh, teachers have martyrs’ hearts, for sure, Shaneka, but going into dangerous situations for false or foolish reasons won’t make any one a true martyr, it will simply be one more finger in a dam that has already broken. The flood of problems we face has already begun lapping at the edges of all of our towns and communities. We have to fix the dam. And quickly. (Analogy to Hans Brinker story intentional.😊)
C’mon folks, we can do this. If the flood of fears and problems has begun seeping into our very homes and our children’s playgrounds, then it is long past time to fix the broken structures that have opened those floodgates. We can do it no matter what our lot in life or our calling. We can all take a page from the mothers and fathers and teachers, and with the ingenuity and creativeness and care and love that lets a teacher walk into a classroom every day or a parent love and dream big dreams for her child each night, we can “be the change the world needs to see”. Let’s take this opportunity to rebuild the broken parts not just put band aides on them. And beginning with rebuilding our schools and re-imagining our children’s education and our children’s future seems a very, very good place to start.
There is nothing more foolish than continuing to try to change the mind of a fool or the heart of a hater. Better to go ahead and change the world and let all benefit from it. The fools and haters will never thank you for it, but you won’t need their thanks. Heroes don’t need the praise of fools any more than the Sun needs the earth in order to shine its light. World-changers don’t need the haters to love them, any more than the weeds and stones need to love the Sun in order for it to warm them. As the Good Ones say, “The Sun shines on the good and the evil”. The Light illuminates The Path for those who will walk it and for those who will stand on the sidelines and look for any excuse to sit in the dark. Just as the Sun does, we must let the light of truth and the warmth of love touch all, even those who will continue to prefer darkness and coldness.
Let your light shine and let your love warm. Do not fight or worry about those who refuse to step into the light or embrace the warmth. World-changers don’t waste time trying to get fools and haters to believe that the world doesn’t revolve around them, any more than the Sun needs to convince us that She doesn’t revolve around the Earth. Each day, the Sun shines, whether a person believes in it or not.
The Sun will shine because it is created to shine. You are created to shine.
The Sun will warm because it is created to warm. You are created to warm.
And the Earth will continue to exist to revolve around the Light and Love of the Sun as long as there are Good people willing to keep their lamps full of the sacred oil of love and their lights burning bright, conspicuous and bold with the power of truth.
Be a Sun in the world today. Be the unsung, un-thanked Hero of this moment in the sun.
Be the light and even the fools will feel your power.
Be the warmth and you will find that even the haters will feel less cold.
Be the Light and do not let darkness delay you in your quest for a better world. And when you leave the fools and haters behind, you will find that there are many more heroes in our world than you ever dreamed there could be.
And the unsung heroes are the ones that will one day, receive the only thanks that truly matter in a better world where all will live in The Light of the Sun; the heroes of today will receive the thanks of the children of tomorrow.
Be of good cheer; have hope even in the darkness; shine your light; find joy in your journey; and rise to your very own task of being a light on The Way and a hero to others today – Jane (P.S. And remember that all real superheroes wear masks. 🙂 )