For one whole week, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I was without wifi. This is grim. I couldn’t even Google remedies for wifi withdrawal. I am not interested in TV, so was blissfully without the news. Except it’s like going to a detox facility. If you’re curious, after three days the twitching begins to dissipate.
But it made me wonder, as I flew back home this week. Why does the “news” frame the way I see the world? In other words, must I live reactive and internally combative? And a more somber question, in a cacophonous and discordant world, how can I make a difference at all?
On the flight home I watched The Rider. That helped. Once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, Brady Jandreau is warned that his competition days are over after a tragic riding accident. Now Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. Brady undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America. What is left after macho is gone?
We watch his daily routines, his attempts to fit into “normal” society, his late-night hangouts with his friends and his frustrations at having to figure out his second act. (Notice that “normal” is always code for what life “should” be.)
As Brady is transformed, we watch the power of his relationship with Lane, a rodeo friend and “big brother” who was left incapacitated after a rodeo accident. And the grounding that flourishes from Brady’s empathetic side. As it turns out, even tough guys can be healers.
Of course, we assume life proceeeds better when we’re in control. And then life happens. Go figure. And you get hurt. “You just don’t think you’ll get hurt like that,” Brady says.
These are moments that reset emotional and spiritual gravity. Everything we believe is up in the air. Because many of our beliefs are about things working smoothly, or in a particular way. And we wonder, is this who I want to be? Am I at the mercy of the way others see me?
Here’s the deal. We need these encounters. Necessary periods of catharsis and soul searching. Okay, maybe not to the extent of great pain. However, such moments do invite us to ask questions about things that truly matter. Giving up our dreams is not easy. But what if our dreams are not the only way to make the world a better place.
American poet, May Sarton was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“To be human,” she answered, simply.
To be human is about regaining what has been lost in the shuffle when life has been relegated to keeping score and making waves. Not every one of us wants to be famous; but every one of us wants to be human. To be at home in our own skin.
I return to David Orr’s wisdom. “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane.”
As long as success is measured by keeping score, or being macho, or acting normal, we lose track of most everything that makes us human and therefore, glad to be alive…
…small gestures of kindness
…acts of inclusion or community to someone left out, or someone on the fringes
…extending a hand of healing or acceptance to someone who hurts
…reveling in the gifts of the senses and being present
…resting in a moment of gratitude
…sharing laughter, a smile, camaraderie, dancing or joy
…four wheeling with your son in the back woods of upper Michigan.
When one younger friend told me about a life conundrum, I asked (the same question Brady asked himself), “So what’s next?” She replied, “I’m just waiting for God to show me what he wants from me.”
Okay. But in the meantime, you know, until you have your life and self figured out and straightened out, I have a suggestion: Live this day, with this self, without holding back. Today; savor, doubt, embrace, question, wrestle, give, risk, love, fall down, get up, accept your incomplete and fractured self, know that anything worth doing is worth doing badly, speak from your whole heart, and whenever you can, lavish excessive compassion and mercy and healing and hope and second chances and grace and restoration and kindness on anyone who crosses your path. Who knows, we may love one another into existence.
Instead of living reactively, we can say yes. Yes, to kindness, bigheartedness and the permission to spill benevolence. We can exhibit real strength with sensitivity, empathy and forbearance.
I’m sure God won’t mind.
Speaking of strength…
Senator John McCain died this week. His life a reminder that public service with character, courage, integrity, honor and dignity is still possible.
“Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did,” Barack Obama wrote. “But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.”
“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again.” Senator McCain reminds us. “Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again.”
After Aretha’s death last week, Michael Eric Dyson wrote that, “(her) church got larger, her congregation composed of millions of people in search of spiritual direction beyond sanctuary doors… The preacher in me believed that hers was the best way to tell our story to people who might never enter a church but who were sorely in need of a dose of the Spirit.” Amen.
“I never left the church,” Aretha said. “The church goes with me.”
I added Aretha singing amazing grace to the videos below. Lord have mercy, it takes me straight to heaven…
So, back to the original question; in the cacophony, how do we make a difference? And become a healer?
Here’s our invitation. “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” Thank you Kurt Vonnegut.
The late summer garden is vivid and enthusing. Black eyed Susan, English roses, Hydrangea, Sunflowers, Echinacea, Chrysanthemum and Anemone. I have wifi here, but I think I’ll forgo the news tonight and enjoy a good chat with the birds who wait for their turn at the bird bath and the feeder.
Quote for your week…
Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done. Paul Hawken
POEMS AND PRAYERS
This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment,
experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen,
speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent,
cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create,
confront, confound, walk back,
walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.
Terry Tempest Williams
I grew up in a northern town
Ground was flat for miles around
Everyone was Calvinist
Underwear was in a twist
Angry and obsessed with sin
Sunlight almost did us in
I was young and very pure
Until I was sweet sixteen
And then I read great literature
That said the world is sweet and green––
So live your life and seize the day
Before the flowers fade away.
And now I try to smell the roses
Which are God’s doing, one supposes.
A Blessing of Solitude
May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for you own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that
you have a special destiny here,
that behind the facade of your life there is something
beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride,
and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.