Address: Comfort Zone

Address: Comfort Zone

2019.08.12-13

 

I attended this past week what was billed as a community forum to eradicate hate. What I discovered upon arriving was a group of people who believe very similar ideologies, who come from similar economic levels, who listened to a panel, two of which spent a great deal of time speaking negatively about one specific segment of society. Surprised not to see a more community reflective group of people, I was told that when it was suggested to include people of other belief systems, the organizer declined saying “People would not be comfortable with that”.

 

The term “comfort zone” is simply a collection of behaviors that we continue to repeat. It is not a location nor should it be our destination. For most of us, our “comfort zone” is where we live, where we feel most comfortable. It is what we do and continue to do… over and over again. Our comfort zone is made up of those things that are common to us, familiar in their repetition.

 

None of us are born with a comfort zone, by the way. We come into this world making the biggest leap of faith possible. We leave a safe and protected environment and are immediately thrust into a world in which we must fend for ourselves. We also suddenly are dependent upon others for everything. We have no chance to develop a comfort zone because we are too busy learning and developing, acquiring new skills and trying new things. It is called growing, surviving and thriving.

 

At some point, though, we do cultivate a comfort zone and it is often without even realizing it. We settle in and get cozy in our comfort zone and then suddenly – BAM! An insult comes along and shatters our sense of security we have found within that comfort zone home. You can find a survey about most anything and Facebook is certainly proof about that. Several years ago I came across a survey on the social media platform entitled simply “Your Best Insult”. Most of us try to avoid insults so why on earth, I thought to myself, would some create a survey entitled “Your best insult”, especially in an article about bettering one’s self?

 

The survey questions numbered twenty and I am not going to list them all here. A few did catch my attention, however, so let’s discuss those. First, what insult was said to you that you actually consider a compliment? I remember once having my name mentioned as being the chairperson of an upcoming event. Another stood up and said: “Not her! She thinks life is just a collection of learning opportunities.” The statement was said in a room of almost one hundred people and two hundred eyes instantly turned and looked at me to see how I was reacting. A few close friends began to say something but I stood up and replied: “I was going to protest but you know what? She is absolutely right. Thank you for noticing.” I had never really thought of myself or life in that connotation but the statement was absolutely correct. It not only became a compliment, it helped me define my approach to life.

 

More recently I received another such “insult”. It would certainly answer the above insult survey question as well as this next one: What so-called “insult” will you adopt as a life mantra? It is no secret that I attend a church and, like many churches, this one has educational and self-growth opportunities. One such retreat was being discussed when one of those talking suddenly turned to me and asked why I was not contributing to the conversation. I replied I had not ever been to the retreat. Her response was immediate: “Oh, of course not. You wouldn’t fit in!” She then continued to try to talk the woman sitting right next to me into attending. Even more recently I was told to stop my “monkey mind” and I when I asked what was being implied, I was told most emphatically I should stop thinking. While I sat there in my instant “OUCH!” reaction, which is how most of us first respond to insults, I suddenly realized just what a great compliment I had been given.

 

The meeting I attended was held at a house of worship and I expected a great deal of discussion about ways to show love and respect. Instead I heard a great deal of the opposite. Let’s ignore that the purpose of a church is to share the “good news” of the faith. Let’s ignore the fact that one of the admonitions given to those that believe is kindness and charity to all. It is my fervent and constant belief that any faith-based group that is exclusive is more a social club than a faith-based group. Whether they are called synagogues or churches, temples or shrines, they have doors and those doors are supposedly open to all who wish to believe. Please reread that last sentence. I did not say the doors were open to a select few, or those who shopped at certain stores. They are not open only to those who know everything. The doors are an opening through which all who wish to learn and believe can pass.

 

We can either let insults grow ourselves in being better people and then be proud of that better person or we can let them be a pesticide that sucks the life out of us. The survey concluded with some very intense questions: At the last event you attended that included people you consider friends. Who approached you and shared a handshake or hug? Who asked about how you were doing? Who just talked about themselves without inquiring about you? How do you define friendship? How do you define yourself?

 

We often let insults define us. We give into the pain they generally cause and let them motivate us into crawling deeper into our comfort zone. Recently there was an event I attended in which I knew almost everyone present. Less than one tenth said hello to me, two approached me but none offered a hug or handshake and no one asked how I was. The paragraph at the end of the Best Insult Survey advised that we need to survey our situations, not just ourselves. At this event, people congregated in clichés, staying within their own comfort zone. Two joined my group that only vaguely knew the others. As one said, “My eyes know you because I have seen you around.”

 

Surveying the situation led me to realize that my group at this event was not a cliché and people felt comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone and joining such a group. During the exercise, the group of strangers became a group of acquaintances, realizing those things held in common and supporting each other in those things that made them different. A group that began with people who did not seemingly “fit in” became a group of believers and sharing, a group practicing their faith instead of just talking about it.

 

Certainly if people shy away from us we need to take stock and ask if we are subconsciously sabotaging ourselves. Sometimes, though, maybe we need to look at the situation and not just ourselves. We can all recognize an insult when one is given or acted out. However, maybe we need to do a quick survey of said insult and ask ourselves if it is really painful or something for which to be thankful. Sometimes that insult might just be the best compliment you have ever received. After all, the only real comfort zone any of us has is found within – at that moment in time in which we are comfortable with ourselves.

Love in Action

Love Philosophy in Action

Easter 36

 

Mothers Day in countries like US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Turkey, New Zealand celebrated yesterday, May 12th, 2019.  Saudi Arabia, Oman, South America, Bahrain, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar,  and the United Arab Emirates celebrated on the 10th of May, 2019.  In Ireland and the United Kingdom, it was celebrated on the fourth Sunday during the Lenten season.  Despite their history of animosity, Ireland and the United Kingdom today are one in celebrating that which we all have in common – being born from the body of a female.

 

I fervently hope that you had a loving and involved mother.  I hope that she taught you that you have value and that the world is a better place because you were born.  I hope that you felt brave enough to live and worthy enough to defeat your challenges in life.  Sadly, though, many do not grow up with their birth mother.  Countries have policies that deny a mother the right to raise all of her children.  Factions exist that see children as tools which denies both the mother and child basic human rights.  Children are seen as threats for the future and as pawns for someone’s personal delights and perversions.   Infant mortality is very much a problem in all countries, not just those with limited health care.

 

We should truly honor our mothers and their necessary part in the continuance of mankind when we honor the love and life that they represent.  We cannot live in a divisive society and honor our mothers.  We cannot tolerate terrorism and honor life.  We cannot hate our neighbor without hating their mother and that definitely is dishonoring all mothers.  I hope that yesterday you honored your own mother and the life she gave to you.  Whether you live in a nation that is celebrating today or whether you ever even knew your mother, please take time to give thanks and show respect. The question is not how good a mother we had.  The fact remains that without a mother, we would not exist.  A mother is philosophy in action.  To be a mother is love in action.  

 

We often forget, however, that we are all mothers – even those considered male.  You see, we all give birth to our thoughts and our actions.  We are, in short, the mother of our own lives.  Those lives are love in action – love for ourselves, our world, our neighbors.  Ask yourself these three questions.  How do I know what it is I think I know?  How do I live that knowledge and how is it evident in my every action?  Am I open to new knowledge?

 

“Philosophy begins in wonder.”  Plato’s words may not seem like a very good definition of philosophy but they actually are the core of what philosophy is.  The science of philosophy began the first time someone asked “Why?”  By asking such a question they were giving birth to the possibility of a better future.  In 1628 Rembrandt painted “The Two Philosophers”.  It is a rather simple painting with two men sitting and conversing.  One is holding a book while the other is pointing to something on a page of the book.  It is a visual definition of philosophy.  Discourse, questioning, and debating are the core of philosophy.  Unlike other sciences which need a consensus to arrive at an answer, philosophy thrives on the difference of opinion. 

 

When someone asks “What is justice?” or “What is freedom?” they are not just wanting someone to read words in a dictionary.  They are seeking an in-depth understanding.  The most important aspects of our lives need not only definition but context.  How do these concepts function in our being and living?  How can they be used?  Are there any dangers associated with them?  What other concepts are they related to and what are the implications of those connections?

 

The sculptor Auguste Rodin carved a man without clothing in 1880.  The man is seated on a rock and appears to be thinking.  Rodin’s sculpture, known as “The Thinker” is also a visual definition of philosophy.  IN the search to know what we know and to be able to verify what we know, we must first strip away all preconceived thoughts.  We must start our search for knowledge bare.  Philosophy demands that we have good reason for believing.

 

The artist uses basic facts and then intuition to present his/her vision in a new and novel presentation.  The theologian also uses known facts but then combines them with faith which cannot be proven; hence, the name.  The philosopher seeks perhaps through intuition and certainly using faith to not only discover and believe but to know why we believe.  “The business of philosophy is not to give rules but to analyze the private judgements of common reason,” stated philosopher Immanuel Kant. 

 

Aristotle believed “All men by nature desire to know.”  In our hurried, busy world, that may not still be the case.  It would seem that many are content to follow and to do so without knowing, without thinking.  Once thought to be a hallmark of adolescence, peer pressure has now extended to the masses of adults as well.  Anything trending is considered to be good.  This is why young people join terrorist groups.  They are seeking community but also acceptance.  It is also why people shy away from their own personal preferences and instead “go with the flow” in fashion trends, popular car models, etc.

 

What if the world of advertising suddenly took on a new client?  What if every advertisement had to include something humanitarian, something of benefit to all mankind?  Nepal was the victim of another earthquake within the past twenty-four hours.  What if all advertisements for fast food restaurants today included ways to help these victims?  What if every magazine advertisement for make-up included a self-affirmation to be happy in one’s unique image?

 

 

Philosopher Thomas Hobbes might very well have been the man to whom we can place the blame on materialism.  “The value or worth of a man is, as of all things, his price.”  Hobbes believed that physical matter is all there is and explained everything using matter in motion.  “Words are wise men’s counters, but they are the money of fools.”  Hobbes mechanistic philosophy was not completely accurate but it served great purpose in future developments.  He saw mental processes as movements of matter inside a person’s skull.  Though incorrect, this set the stage for new ways of thinking.  Hobbes introduced the theory of a physical basis for mental thought which is accurate.  Thinking is not just an abstract; physical connections occur.

 

Considered a genius, the writer, art critic, and editor Denis Diderot once said: “The first step towards philosophy is incredulity.”  I would add the first step towards living a full life is incredulity as well.   When we allow ourselves to consider new thoughts, we give birth to new opportunities.  We become the mother of our own future.   Philosophy on paper is interesting but, as Hobbes said, they count for little until they become action. 

 

Today, as you go through your busy life, take a moment to recognize the incredulity in your steps.  Just as you honored the physicality of your birth and the woman who made it possible yesterday, honor your own future today.  Enjoy the philosophy of being alive, of living, of knowing you are present in the moment.  Even a small pebble can hold a world of mysteries if we but look and wonder.

 

Kindness in the Moment

Kindness in the Moment

2019.01.14

Mindfulness – The Human Spirit

 

I sincerely believe mindfulness comes naturally to the soul,  There are hundreds of videos on the Internet that display animals showing kindness to other animals, often from different species and breeds.  It is the mindfulness of those animals that makes their kindness a natural thing.  So we aren’t more humans doing it?

 

Jason Mraz asks the same question in the lyrics of his song “Living in the Moment”.  If this life is one act

Why do we lay all these traps

We put them right in our path

When we just wanna be free

I will not waste my days

Making up all kinds of ways

To worry about some things

That will not happen to me

So I just let go of what I know I don’t know

And I know I’ll only do this by

Living in the moment

Living our life

Easy and breezy

With peace in my mind

With peace in my heart

Peace in my soul.

 

 

Being kind to another might just be the easiest thing we could ever do and it certainly it the best gift to give ourselves.  Take a walk in your neighborhood or on a downtown street and share a smile with someone.  Shopping local markets and small businesses will help your fellow neighbors.  Offering to give someone a ride if you know you are both attending the same event is not only kind, it helps the environment and saves money.  Many offices and organizations have a coupon bowl where people can place unused coupons and retrieve one they might need.  Donating old clothes that are still in great shape always helps the community as does the offer to be a foster parent.  Many animal shelters need dog walkers and cat petters and pet fostering is always in high demand. 

 

 

We all should live in the moment but we need to make the best of each moment and that includes being the best we can be as people.  Spend a few minutes imagining what kindness looks like to you and then offer than to someone else.

 

Open

Open

2019.01.03

12 Days of Kindness

 

The teacher read the message reluctantly.    The sender’s name was not familiar and yet…  There was something familiar about it.  While his life history wasn’t a secret, the message did reference a position he’d held for only one year.  Hesitantly, he responded and the answer he received confirmed that the message was indeed from a former student, a student at a school he’d been at for only one year.  The former student just wanted to say thank you, thank you for believing in his class, in opening their minds to the world outside their own small town and rural countryside.

 

The student had traveled the world, a bit unexpected for someone who had grown up in a rural sparsely-populated area in the middle of the country.  The student had limited access to television and radio and a night out for the student in high school was spent behind the barn throwing bottle caps at a homemade target.  The teacher had never traveled outside their home country but had lived in large cities, seen Broadway plays, opera, and live concerts and loved his cable tv.  The student thanked the teacher for showing him life was about taking risks while the teacher was considered a planner, non-spontaneous in his living.  This irony was not lost on the teacher.  He had received a beautiful thank you note for teaching the student lessons that were not evident in his own life.  He had no regrets, though, and was glad the student had surpassed the teacher. 

 

Life is about a great many things but perhaps the best summation is that life about being open.  Sometimes that means being open to going where life takes us and sometimes it simply means being open to what is in front of us.  Every day asks us to be open to the goodness in people, even when such goodness is very well hidden.    Each day also offers us a chance to be open to a positive perspective.  My challenge to you today is to be open, to choose to see the positive.  After all, we awake each morning with a choice. 

 

Shannon Adler’s poem is directed toward female empowerment but applies to both men and women:  “You chose.  You chose to give away your love.  You chose to have a broken heart.  You chose to give up.  You chose to hang on.  You chose to react.  You chose to feel insecure.  You chose to feel anger.  You chose to fight back.  You chose to have hope.  You chose to be naïve.   You chose to ignore your intuition.  You chose to ignore advice.  You chose to look the other way.   You chose to not listen.   You chose to be stuck in the past.  You chose your perspective.   You chose to blame.  You chose to be right.  You chose your pride.  You chose your games. You chose your ego. You chose your paranoia.   You chose to compete.  You chose your enemies.  You chose your consequences.”  Adler concludes:  “Choose to let go.  Choose dignity.   Choose to forgive yourself.  Choose to forgive others.  Choose to see your value.  Choose to show the world you’re not a victim.  Choose to make us proud.”

 

We cannot control everything we encounter in life but we can control how we choose to react.  Be open today to the positive choice, the lesson contained within the openness of living.  Leonardo da Vinci is reported to have said, “Pity the student who does not surpass his master.”  The student who cannot surpass the teacher is a student who has never been shown how to be open, the value of being open to life’s choices, the advantage of what being open can bring. 

 

American statesman Benjamin Franklin understood the challenge of being open to living.  “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”  Be open top being involved in life.  “It’s opener, out there, in the wide, open air.” Even the children’s book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Suess recognizes the value of being open.  Try it today and you’ll give yourself a gift of kindness.

Holiday Spirit Goes Both Ways

Holiday Spirit Goes Both Ways

2018.12.13-15

Everyday Miracles

Advent 2018

 

As is my custom with this blog, whenever the world has lost souls due to terrorism and hearts cease to beat, I have been silent as a way to honor those whose lives have been lost.  Such was the case the last several days but I believe it is now time to change that habit.  We need to honor those lives taken and irreparably changed forever by such heinous acts but we should not be silent.  We need to speak out against such depravity of conviction, religion, and peace and let our voices ne heard.  It is perhaps the best way we can honor those who have been killed senselessly.  The taking of one or more lives will never make the world a better place for others.  It is only through positive energy that can happen.

 

Today we are discussing holiday spirit and if you are like me, you have received social media posts from people lamenting over the loss of their own holiday spirit.  Yes there is an element of commercialism involved but we have the choice of making the holidays what we want them to be.  Read back through my posts over the last two years and you will find many ways to “pay it forward” which is a great way to find some holiday spirit.  However, in case you still need some assistance, please read on.

 

Holiday anxiety is nothing new and is experienced by most people.  For many, though, it is a bit more than just feeling overwhelmed by social engagements, Christmas shopping, and an influx of family.  Over fifteen million people in the United States alone suffer from social anxiety disorder and this does not improve during the holidays.  “Social anxiety disorder is characterized by the presence of fear or anxiety about social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others,” explained Dr. Kalina Michalska, a research fellow in the Section on Developmental and Affective Neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  “The individual overestimates their likelihood of being rejected and frequently fears that he or she will act in a way that will be embarrassing and humiliating.”

 

There is also seasonal affective disorder.  Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.  For many sufferers of SAD, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping energy and making them feel moody. However, SAD can also cause depression in the spring or early summer.  In some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summer can bring on symptoms of mania or a less intense form of mania (hypomania), and fall and winter can be a time of depression.

 

The holidays offer plenty of reasons to be stressed out and anxious — the gifts you haven’t wrapped, the pile of cookie exchange invites, the office parties. But for many, the biggest source of holiday stress is family — the family dinner, the obligations, and the burden of family tradition. And if you’re fighting clinical depression, or have had depression in the past, the holiday stress can be a trigger for more serious problems.  “There’s this idea that holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be joyful and stress-free,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “That’s not the case. Family relationships are complicated.”

 

All of this means that if you are feeling less like Tiny Tim and more like Scrooge, there may be valid reasons.  We still need to get through this time, though, and hopefully, find a way to enjoy the holidays, even if you celebrate none of them.  Escaping the scent of pine in the air, the red and green decorations that are abundant everywhere, the stockings, the lightly colored trees is not for the faint of heart.  If you do celebrate, the stress may be even greater.  Finding your holiday spirit might be accomplished of you find a way to survive the season with less stress.  The best way to do that might be to take a cue from the jolly symbol of the season, Santa Claus himself.

 

One web site offered several tips to surviving Christmas with such prosaic advice as “Invite your in-laws; just don’t let them in!”  Obviously I am not advocating you do that but the humor might help you through the afternoon.  Chances are, they are having some stress as well.  Keeping your sense of humor is really the best advice there is for getting through this time of the year.  Traffic jams are more common so try keeping a bag of mints in your console to enjoy when stuck in traffic.  As you stand in line at the check-out, do some leg exercises by rolling up to your toes and back on your heels (Your calf muscles will really appreciate this!) or even do assisted knee squats using the handle bar of your shopping cart.  You might get a few strange looks but odds are no one will notice because they are caught up in their own stress-filled moment.

 

Suzanne Kane wrote an excellent piece online for Psych Central about this topic.  Here are some of her tips for not just surviving the season byt thriving during it.  “Think ahead.  Whatever it is about the holidays that’s got you out of sorts, imagine whether that same concern will be bothering you down the road. No matter what it is, you probably won’t even recall the gut-wrenching emotions in one or 10 years’ time. This helps you build a cushion against mounting anxiety and creates a little space you can use to safely navigate the holidays this year.

 

“Celebrate on a different day.  Where is it written that you have to celebrate Christmas on December 25? If you’re intent on entertaining folks, especially family or out-of-town guests, scheduling the event for a day other than the actual holiday might relieve some of the pressure. Two days later, two days before, the weekend after — whatever works will do the trick.  With adult children, this suggestion is one we really take to heart.  Doing Christmas a day or two ahead of time or after the fact does not change the joy at all and allows people to not feel torn between family commitments. 

 

“Stop feeling you have to be perfect.  It doesn’t have to be the party of the year. You don’t need to be the host whose event is talked about for months to come. If you can make yourself believe that you don’t have to be perfect, you’ll alleviate a lot of stress and accumulated tension. Your digestion will likely benefit as well, since your stomach won’t be tied up in knots over trying to insist on perfection.

 

“Go away.  This isn’t a recommendation to tell people to leave you alone. It is, however, a suggestion to incorporate something new into the holiday schedule this year. Instead of going whole-hog decorating the house, going to and hosting nonstop parties and get-togethers, why not consider going out of town for the celebration?  A family ski trip would be a wonderful memory and offer a much-needed change of scenery for all involved. Even an out-of-town trip to a national park or to visit friends or relatives will get you in the frame of mind of going after something new, something different, a place that’s away. Perhaps going away is just what the doctor ordered in order to thrive this holiday season.

 

“Create something lasting.  If you’ve lost a loved one and the holidays are too painful, consider creating something lasting for the remaining family members and loved ones in your life. This could be a family scrapbook, a handwritten letter you put in a “time capsule” of sorts, volunteering to bring joy to the elderly, shut-ins or sick children, or surprising your invalid neighbor with a home-cooked meal.  Remember that it’s the thought that counts. If you give something of yourself with love, it will be remembered and appreciated. You’ll also have a warm spot in your heart knowing you’ve helped bring a little joy to others who need it at this time of the year.

 

“Forgive yourself.  Everyone has regrets. You likely have some as well. If you’re beating yourself up for being inconsiderate, not living up to your word, being rude or impatient or mean to others, spending too much money, neglecting your responsibilities, or drinking too much, now is the time for a little self-forgiveness. Your desire to make positive changes actually begins with forgiving yourself. There’s no better time of the year to start than right now.

 

“Watch your diet.  Overindulging in food or drink during the holidays is a surefire way to suffer repercussions later. Not only will you feel remorse, you may have other consequences as a result. By paying mindful attention to what you put into your mouth, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor, now and later. To thrive during the holiday season, exercise discretion and make wise choices in food and drink.

 

“Be grateful.  Finally, this is the season to be thankful. And you’ve got a lot to be grateful for, regardless of how much you’ve thought about it. You’re alive, for one thing. Life is precious indeed.  Every day you are on this earth is another opportunity to make a difference, to celebrate life and the deliciousness of living. It won’t come by this way again, so make the most of today. Adopt an attitude of gratitude and you’ll really begin to thrive this holiday season.

 

“Go small.  Instead of fixating on bigger and larger quantities, make a conscious effort to downsize. This goes for the number of gifts you buy, the number and types of social engagements you accept or invite others to attend, trying to get the very best deal on a much-wanted item and so much more. After all, it isn’t — or shouldn’t be — how expensive or exclusive something is. Concentrate on giving from the heart.”  I would add that giving a gift that keeps on giving is also great.  Donors.org and St Jude’s Children Hospital are two such websites that will help you share the joy and continue the meaning of giving the entire year.  No donation is too small nor unnecessary.

 

We had a rule in our family that family presents had to include homemade gifts.  It could be something as simple as copying a favorite verse from a poem, hymn, or pop song that can be framed, a coupon book for chores or hugs, a jar of spice tea or cider/wassail mix, a kissing ball made of real or fake mistletoe, cloves stuck in an orange as a great scented ornament… the possibilities really can be endless.  These gifts help balance the budget and also tell the recipient that they were worth the time and effort it took on the sender’s part.  That really is the best gift of all, knowing someone cares.

 

While it is emphasized during the holiday season, every day we are alive is a chance to make a difference and share the spirit of living with someone else.  Life is precious and if you are reading this, then chances are, you are alive.  That is one thing you have for which to be grateful.  I am pretty sure there are others and an attitude of gratitude is the first step on the path of holiday and joyous life spirit.

 

 

 

 

A Dove and an Anchor

A Dove and an Anchor

2018.12.04-05

Everyday Miracles

Advent 2018

 

After announcing the topic for this Advent series, I was asked:  “How can a miracle be an everyday thing?  Sounds like a contradiction in terms!”  I think the answer lies in one’s expectation of living.  If you are expecting misery, then you will not see the miracles that are present in your life each day.  If you are more of an optimist, then you will appreciate a sudden smile, a parking spot by the front door, or even an unexpected revenue source.  These may not seem like miracles but at the right time, they just might be.

 

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.  It is said that life is ten percent of what actually occurs and ninety percent of how we react.  Many life coaches and therapists encourage people to act, not react.  Hope is an integral part of experiencing everyday miracles.  Bill Keane once said that “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.”

 

Doves and anchors are both symbols for hope and we are discussing hope because if you do not have hope, you will never experience an everyday miracle.  You will simply conclude that a wonderful unexpected phenomenon has occurred and miss out on the joy of it all.

 

In his book “The Alchemist”, Paulo Coelho wrote “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” This also speaks to the importance of being an optimist if you want to experience a miracle. 

 

The dove was supposedly sent out to find if the waters had receded in the Biblical flood mythology of Noah and his ark.  The dove went out several times but finally returned with a branch from a tree.  This may not seem like much of a miracle but the tree would not have been reachable to the dove if it was underwater.  After forty days and forty nights of seeing nothing but flood waters, the sight of something else had to seem like an everyday miracle.

 

Anchors are also used to denote hope because they are a symbol of steadfastness and faith.  “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die… Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”  Langston Hughes was not a man who lived a life of privilege.  Born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, he died less than three years after his right to vote in all fifty states was insured by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.    He knew the importance of having faith and dreams, in believing in one’s self and in having hope.  AN acclaimed writer in various genres and social activist, Langston Hughes accomplished everyday miracles through his words and actions by sending out his beliefs and staying true to them.

 

As always I think my readers and followers for their comments.  It is an everyday miracle to me that you do read my writing.  I think, though, that everyday miracles are not an oxymoron but the consequence of a life lived in hope with faith.  When we open our hearts our eyes become able to see the unexpected joy that we encounter.  Children live this every day and find joy in each moment.  Children’s author Shel Silverstein explained it this way:   “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

We Are the Village

We Are the Village

2018.11.29-30

Growing Community

 

Several years ago Jacob Devaney penned:  “No matter how old we are, we are children of ‘the village’, the community that raised us and supported us helped to shape the way we see the world.”  Many of us had nurturing families in which we lived but many others did not.  Regardless of the family unit or lack thereof, the community around us was our village.  Pam Leo explains that How we treat the child, the child will grow up to treat the world.”

 

This is not a new concept.  What we know of ancient civilizations is based upon the archaeological finds of their communities.  The shards of pottery tell us how and what they ate.  Pieces of ancient tools help understand how they lived and in what types of abodes.  The community is as much a vital part of our living as the air we breathe. 

 

“It takes a village to raise a child” is an Igbo and Yoruba proverb that exists in many different African languages. It reflects the emphasis African cultures place on family and community and may have its origins in a biblical worldview.  This proverb is so widely used in Africa that there are equivalent statements in most African languages, including “One knee does not bring up a child” in Sukuma and “One hand does not nurse a child” in Swahili.  The widespread use of this proverb by cultures around the world shows its timelessness and relevancy.  The saying is used in America to evoke feelings of community on the small scale as well as on the national and even global scale.

 

Some believe the proverb may have its origins in the Bible, since it reflects a worldview regarding unity and self-sacrifice expressed in several passages of the Bible, such as Ecclesiastes 4:9,12 and Isaiah 49:15-16.  This worldview is commonly seen in African cultures today. In many African communities it is common for a child to be raised by its extended family, in many cases spending extended periods of time living with grandparents, aunts and uncles. Even the wider community sometimes gets involved, as children are seen as a blessing from God upon the entire community.  We could debate for hours which came first – the Biblical scriptures or the African communities.  One thing is certain – We need community.

 

Robin Grille is an Australian psychologist and writer who has authored “Parenting for a Peaceful World”.  He encourages parents and the community to consider how our daily lives are influencing our children.  A fractured society cannot be an effective community.  We must work together and be supportive in order for the future generations to understand how to form, grow, and continue the concept of community. 

 

Health and fitness coach Jen Waak believes there are six vital reasons for us to grow community.  First there is the concept of Collective wisdom. No one person ever has all of the answers, consulting with experts is always going to give you better information.  Secondly, life pushes our limits. When working alone, it’s oftentimes too easy to give up when things get hard. By surrounding yourself with others working toward a similar goal or objective, you’ll get motivation, support, and friendly competition to push yourself just a bit further than you would have done on your own.

 

Support and belief are the third reason for developing community. Some days those big goals just seem impossible. On those days when you most want to give up, you need to lean on your community the most. They believe in you—probably more than you belief in yourself.  Next, there is the need for new ideas.   When you are working within a community of like-minded people, the wisdom of crowds is considerably greater than any one person working alone. Our divergent world views and lenses mean that we all approach the exact same problem slightly differently. 

 

Fifth, communities offer borrowed motivation. Even on those days when your belief in yourself isn’t waning, doing what needs to get done can often seem overwhelming. Look around your community and be inspired!  Lastly, we need community because there is the need for accountability.  If you’re an uber-responsible person, you may not want to admit to people you care about who are pulling for you that something didn’t get done. There’s nothing like having to be accountable to others to up your game.  Allowing others to help is hard, but it ultimately raises everyone’s game.

 

Khalil Gibran spoke of this concept of community and children, the need for the village to be a sustainable community in this poem.

“Your children are not your children.

They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you.

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”

 

An old African folksong asks “Who is watching the children?…It Takes a whole village to raise a child.”  It takes a community to grow a world.  Hopefully this month we have all realized the need to be communal and in community with each other.  I will let Idowu Koyenikan on this month’s topic of Growing community:  “There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.”