Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lessons of 9-11


Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.  - Mohandas Gandhi

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One of the lessons reinforced for me by the disasters of September 11th, 2001, is that anything can happen. You never can tell. 

No brilliance of imagination, no aptitude of logical reasoning, no foundation of history can guarantee that things will go well or go awry. I think we all really know this, even though many people act everyday as though bad things happen only to other people.

This is not to say that we need to cloister ourselves away from the world. We were reminded of that fact several years ago when a woman in Florida was killed by a plane that crashed into her house while she knelt praying at her private altar. Anything can happen.

The victims of 9-11 gave their lives while living life to the fullest. There are surely an infinite number of lessons, societal and personal, that have arisen and will continue to arise from their loss. Those lessons keep their deaths from being in vain. 

For me, however - who thankfully did not lose a loved one or friend on the same day that America collectively lost the illusion of impervious national security - following the shock and sadness, the lesson remained to forever expect the unexpected.

In that light, we must always remember that in the field of all possibility, unexpected good can happen as well. Just as so many believe that bad things happen to other people, many also believe that good things happen to other people. It's so important to understand that if something good can happen for one person, it can happen for any person.

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There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. - Albert Einstein
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When we remember the historical events of this date, we would do well to reinforce our commitment to live in the present and boldly experience each moment. Meld with the environment, whatever it is. Allow the sensation of all that is to fill you with feeling. And above all, act with compassion in all situations. That is what is singularly important when everything else is stripped away.

We owe it, to those whose lives were taken, to live valiantly and give love openly. For all those moments that they have lost, we can experience ours enthusiastically. For all the kindness they were denied the opportunity to bestow, we can give extra. For all the dreams that disappeared with their loss, we can dream larger and believe for them.

We owe it to them to do our best to make the world a better place.

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We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.  - Martin Luther King, Jr.


Sunday, September 4, 2011


If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. - Abraham Maslow

I tend to vocalize little everyday problems. Usually they don't mean much to me - a mosquito bite, a spot on my shirt, an appointment I don't want to keep. Most of those problems are tiny. Even my big problems are small, really, in the scope of the whole universe. I just keep forgetting to keep my little issues to myself.

There are three basic ways that people respond to the mention of a problem; they change the subject, they sympathize, or they suggest solutions. The first two responses are really the best and most sensible, in my humble opinion. If I am so foolish as to assume that I have a problem important enough to take up any "space" in someone else's thought waves, it is really best for all if that someone maintains sensibility and ignores me or just expresses some form of compassion and moves on.  

For the most part, I can handle the majority of my own problems, small or large. Unless I directly ask for assistance, in which case I acknowledge that I have no idea how to help myself, I don't generally need to be told what to do. Yet, so many times, in casually noting a small personal issue, I regret to find I have conjured a reluctant and agitated hero.
What are the signs?
An aggressive showering of overly pugnacious advice that starts to sound more like "Do as I say and shut up. Case closed."

I wish so much that I could remember only to say pleasant things or nothing at all. Why in the course of the day I would feel the need to tell anyone anything that doesn't concern them, I do not know. Perhaps it's only conversation. It might be just a case of carelessly thinking out loud. Why does anyone need to know that my head hurts, I have a hole in my sock, or my tea went cold?

Once, a long time ago, I expressed to a wise friend my desire to tell a certain person what I thought they should do to solve a problem, and my friend asked me something I have never forgotten.
"Who are you to try and take away somebody else's lesson?"

Many problems don't have much of a lesson, though. Remember to look at your socks in the light to see if they are black or blue. Laugh at yourself if you forget.

My father, whom I've been missing for four years now, once asked me to make him a business card. In the middle it had his name, beneath which was the title, "Professional Listener." In the corners it said, No Advice, No Opinion, No Judgement, No Response. It was a joke, of course, but it was inspired by how so many people, many of them strangers, would often choose him to receive their life stories. Being a good listener is a talent and it will get you a lot of business - even when you aren't charging!

We all need each other. There is no doubt about that. We help each other, we support each other, we validate each other. Sometimes we may even need a leg up. But, the most important thing we can do for each other is to just be there. I don't really need to be told to take an aspirin, change my socks, or put my tea in the microwave. I was only being human and imperfect, (and maybe annoying,) in mentioning such little insignificant problems. It's something to work on indeed.
In the mean time, I hope everyone will join me in the effort to replace all negativity with a response of compassion. No opinion, just sympathy. No judgement, just understanding. No advice, just friendship.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Holding On and Letting Go

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. - Henry Ellis

One thing I spend quite a bit of time contemplating is knowing when to hold on and when to let go. How funny it is that I just devoted an hour and a half to a post on this subject, with which I was very pleased and in the stage of conclusion, and then somehow deleted most of it.

No matter. My whole point was that the only way to deal with holding on and letting go is to give up fear of regret. There is a reason why my blog disappeared, just like everything else that happens in this world. To mourn the disappearance of all my carefully chosen words would just be to hold on to the past, to nothing.

There is a place for regret, however, if it is because one has retrogressed or might retrogress spiritually. Then it becomes the catalyst for a positive change. It may lead one to forgiveness or retribution or better yet, foresight. That, I think, is the real purpose of regret. To teach us.

So, how does one know when to hold on and when to let go in normal every day life? Listen to other people? Listen to your inner voice? Cling tightly without question or leap into the void without looking? All of the above, I think. It's mostly important just to live, to love, to make all decisions from a foundation of true compassion, and to move on in life without wasting time wondering what might have been. Imagination is magical when applied to the present, torture when applied to the past.

So, I guess I'll just hold on here as is for awhile and sooner or later I'll figure out when to let go. In the mean time, please pardon me if I sometimes, maybe, think about little things a little too much.

I think I'm meant to be working in the garden right now.