Archive for December, 2007

I can’t figure out where I leave off
and everyone else begins.
George McCabee

The connections are evident at every turn, in even the most mundane of events.

We walk down the street and approach a scrap of litter.

We can ignore it and walk on, leaving behind us a world where pollution is accepted. After all, we’re not the one who dropped it there.We know it looks ugly, but we didn’t create the problem and therefore we have no responsibility here. We walk on.

We can take the time and effort to bend over and remove the offending litter, proving through our actions that we prefer a world of order. We didn’t drop it here, but it offends us, so we pick it up. We can’t stop the litter from appearing, but we can remove it when it does. We walk on.

Or there’s the other option we often choose. We mutter to ourselves, that ‘Someone should do something about that!’ We walk on.

Which raises the difficult question of who is this someone who should do something, if it is not ourselves?

Is there someone more responsible for the state of the world than the person closest to the problem at hand?

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I’m heading into my mid-fifties and nobody ever warned me about this period of life. It’s blindingly obvious when you think about it: if I’m older, then those who came before me are even more so.

But the truth is, even if I’d thought it through intellectually, I’d have missed the emotional impact. My elders are dying.

This isn’t a mid-life crisis, I have no desire to tie my graying hair into a pony-tail and ride a Harley into the sunset. Nor is it a growing awareness of my own mortality, I’ve faced death in various forms and the cowl and scythe act didn’t impress me. Dying is as much a part of the deal as anything else in life. It’s a package, and even in the age of unbundling, the grim reaper is there waiting for all of us. Such is life.

For the last few years, each month has seen the passing of one elder, sometimes more, in my extended family and circle of friends. Phone calls in the middle of the night have a new meaning.

Some of these deaths were expected, and in the end, finally embraced with relief.

Others came suddenly and the mind and emotions reel in shock. One moment the world is one way, and in the next it’s gone awry. The impact is mind numbingly deep – it all loses focus – even who we are. Our place in the world shifts and skitters within the new context. As survivors we are diminished by the death of everyone with whom we once shared time and laughter.

How to cope? Live as if each meeting is the last. Not in a morbid sense, but in extracting each instant of enjoyment from each gathering of friends or family. Yesterday is gone, Tomorrow never arrives, all there is now. This moment. Revel in it. Remember the hug, cherish the handshake.

Enjoy the day.

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Nothing great in the world
has ever been accomplished
without passion.
George Wilhelm Hegel

A desire to achieve something great will fail, if not fueled by an emotional, goal directed, single minded passion. Accomplishing anything of note is an uphill battle against the way things are. If it were easy, it would already have been accomplished. The difficulty of achievement becomes the measure of greatness.

Passion is a gentle private insanity. It allows us to ignore every obstacle, nay sayer, and hurdle. None of this is a guarantee of success, any more than being right grants us victory, but if we succeed, then passion is what wears the crown.

Passion isn’t always admired. It has a way of highlighting and focusing attention on what is sometimes lacking in others. Expect no praise for your passion, as it often generates guilt in others.

Passion is sometimes envied. Many of us live lives of ambiguity, searching for purpose. It is not unusual to experience a sense of incompleteness when comparing ourselves to those with crystal clarity of vision.

Passion is a choice. We hold back from passion, we fear a loss of self. When passion takes control, it pushes everything else, including ego, aside.

Dancing in the furnace of life, comes with its own dangers. Passion is both exhausting and exhilarating. Unchecked passion, especially without final victory, is all consuming.

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Be not afraid of growing slowly,
be afraid only of standing still.
Chinese proverb

One step a day towards a goal, no matter how distant, is progress. It’s not much, but it’s progress.

Want to write a book? Okay… one word a day. A sentence if you wish. All right then, a paragraph if you must. But not more than a chapter…

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We are judged by what we finish,
not what we start.

Hectic days infect us with amnesia of action. Despite our certain knowledge of constant and diligent effort, we have the sense we’ve fallen further behind.

The determination to achieve is fueled by the knowledge that we can. Without believing we make a difference, even the strongest get run down. Both sprints and marathons require bright ribbons to mark the end of the race.

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