In 1995 Volkswagen ran an ad. The ad conjured up what it felt like to drive their car. Taking it around fast curves. Or over rocky desert roads. It felt liberating and precarious and unbound. What I do remember best are the words at the end of the ad. Simply this: “Drivers wanted.”
Perhaps it is age, perhaps life circumstance; either, for me it’s been a “come to Jesus” internal dialogue about what kind of life I choose to live. There have been too many times in my life when I haven’t trusted my yes.
“I no longer ask, ‘What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to hang on to?” Parker Palmer writes, “Instead I ask, “What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to give myself to?’”
Or maybe I can start slow, say an emotional Uber?
It is so easy to be buried by hurry, disappointment, antagonism, exhaustion from a deafening news cycle, apathy, excess of caution, or even the need to maintain a good reputation. And I know whatever is buried fuels fear, and blinds us to what is available inside. And fear, Hafiz reminds us, is always the smallest room in the house. I would like to see us in better living conditions.
Responsible for my life, it is time to step up. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux’s reminder that “everyone has to drink from his own well.”
So, where do I tether my identity? Where do I hydrate? A dehydrated soul or spirit takes a toll. How is my well replenished? Knowing that when I pause to drink deeply from this well, I am enriched and transformed.
“Why do we have all these feelings, dreams and hopes if we don’t ever use them? That’s where Shirley Valentine disappoints. She got lost in all this unused life. I’ve fallen in love with the idea of living.” (From the Movie, Shirley Valentine)
Here’s the deal: People who are at home in their own skin stand out. They live fully, gladly, and from a whole heart, unafraid of what may be precarious. And their light spills to the world around them.
I have an idea: Let’s not carry around an unused life, as if my life is a savings bond to be withdrawn only when mandatory.
Don Juan de Marco is a wonderful movie about a young man who believes he is Don Juan. Literally. A psychiatrist is given the job of curing him of his delusion, to bring him back to reality. But the psychiatrist is intrigued by the boy’s story and the boy’s infectious passion of life. The psychiatrist wonders about his own life, with its obligations, and a nagging sense of disenchantment. The boy senses this. One day he says to the doctor, “You need me for a transfusion. It is only in my world that you can breathe.”
Yes. Sign me up for some of that.
Especially in a world where we don’t breathe all that well.
This falling in love with the idea of living will not be comfortable to anyone risk-averse.
It reminds me of the man who has fallen off a cliff, but manages to grab onto a weak vine. He looks up and cries out for help. Suddenly, a deep, booming voice from the sky says gently to him. ‘It is alright, my son. I am here and will never let harm befall you. Just let go of the vine and fall into my arms. I will catch you.’ The surprised man thinks about this for a moment, looks down at the ground thousands of feet below, then up to the ledge above him, clears his throat, and asks, ‘Um… is there anybody else up there?'”
What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to give myself to?
Your invitation: Give yourself to practices that open the heart and rekindle the spirit (amazement, sanctuary, grace, simplicity, resilience, kindness, friendship). And remember, these are not plug-ins to add to our life, they are measures of the well from which we hydrate.
Theory is for people with too much time on their hands and a heavy dose of puritan guilt, leaving them with the notion that it is better to play the right notes than to hear the music.
We think of living a good life as some kind of western birthright. Such thinking becomes toxic when it is fueled by four thousand advertisements every single day telling us what to buy, or more realistically, what to feel guilty about, as if somehow, we missed the boat to success. It is a cultural full court press about what it means to be human, and we live in perpetual consternation over completing some list of expectations, always wondering if we measure up. In our fixation to find the remedies, we miss… the small gifts of life, the serendipitous gifts of grace, the presence of the holy, and the gentle doses of the sacred reflected in our everyday, and extraordinarily ordinary world.
These practices (sacred necessities) allow us to embrace this day, this life, in all its fullness, with its disparities, its quirkiness, its demands, its unfairness, and its wondrous serendipities. These necessities are sacred because they do not lodge themselves on the surface of life. They enter into it, giving the ordinary flavor, fullness, richness and power. And invite wholeheartedness in those around us.
It’s all about rewriting the codes. We’ve been wired this way for so long, it’s hard to stop. Just learning to say, “I’ve fallen in love with living,” without a grimace or need for further explanation takes fortitude and resolve usually not found in our species.
Either way, I say that it is time to give the judges and scorekeepers a day off.
The Seattle Viaduct (our north south corridor along the waterfront, opened in 1954) closed down Friday night. This is a big deal. To be replaced with a tunnel (under the city, already built). It’ll be a bit crazy here for a month. So, I decide to commute to a Seattle garden on Saturday. I’m on the pre-dawn ferry. Rainier commands the vista. It is arresting. Imperial. Majestic. With Rainier, adjectives always seem meager.
Regardless, this moment stops me. And invites me to fall in love with living. The sky begins its scroll of color. Blue gives way to bands of fire orange. Whatever else is on the mental worry plate can wait. But when it’s time, I’ll be ready.
Quote for your day…
If we want to be happy at all, I think, we have to acknowledge that the circumstances, which encourage us in our love of this existence, are essential. We are part of what is sacred. That is our main defense against craziness, our solace, the source of our best politics, and our only chance at paradise. William Kittredge
Poems and Prayers
To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
You Reading This, Be Ready
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
what can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
Whatever happens to me in life,
I must believe that somewhere,
In the mess or madness of it all
There is a sacred potential-
A possibility for wondrous redemption
In the embracing of all that is.
Edwina Gateley, A Mystical Heart