13 February 2018      

Welcome to today!  It's the newest day in all of our lives,
and we're all very fortunate to have reached this day and
received the ability to experience it for all that it's worth.
Just what are you going to do with your new today?

A Way of Life (an excerpt)
Rachel Naomi Remen

The "I of I"
Leo Buscaglia

The Houdini Syndrome
Bob Welch

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Every day I live I am more convinced that the waste of life lies in the love we have not given, the powers we have not used, the selfish prudence that will risk nothing and which, shirking pain, misses happiness as well.

Mary Cholmondeley

The most noble charity is to prevent our neighbor from having the need to accept charity, and the best gift is to teach and assist our neighbors in giving freely.

Sina M. Reid

The purpose of life is not to be happy.  The purpose of life is to matter, to be productive, to have it make some difference that you live at all.

Leo Rosten


A Way of Life (an excerpt)
Rachel Naomi Remen

We are a nation of communicators, but communication is not always connection.  I remember a scene in a Woody Allen movie where a group of lonely New York men sit around a table with beers, frantically talking to each other to ease their loneliness.  Everyone talks at once.  Gradually they raise their voices and interrupt each other trying to be heard.  Finally they become so desperate that they are actually spitting on each other in their efforts to connect to each other, but they never do.  This scene usually gets a laugh.  I think more and more that life has become like this.

These days, disconnection is a habit, a way of life.  I had not really felt how isolated I was until I spent a week in Fiji.  Arriving at night and unpacking, I idly picked up the reading material left in my room by the hotel management.  Under "Cultural Differences" I was surprised to find that it is considered good manners in Fiji to acknowledge total strangers on the street.  The brochure was quite specific, telling me not to be alarmed if I found myself greeted by strangers, and indeed, people would think it rude if I did not respond in kind.  The proper form was to make eye contact and acknowledge each other either by nodding and smiling or by saying, "Bu-la."  In the place where I was raised, New York City, such a thing would be extremely unwise.  Amused, I decided to try it.

What this means in practice is this:  You walk down the street to the post office to buy a stamp for a postcard.  On the way you might pass three or four people, greeting each one of them with a nod or a "Bu-la" and receiving their greeting.  You buy your stamp, a transaction which takes only a moment.  Walking back, you pass the very same people and it is expected that you greet them again even though you passed by only moments ago.  Annoying at first, but by the end of the week it had become second nature.

Then I returned to the States.  Rushing out to fill an empty refrigerator, I found myself on a busy street in California.  All alone.  No one made eye contact.  No one greeted me.  No one smiled.  In some very profound way I felt both invisible and diminished.  Yet the street was totally familiar.  It was my home.

The Fijians are aware of a basic human law.  We all influence one another.  We are a part of each other's reality.  There is no such thing as passing someone and not acknowledging your moment of connection, not letting others know their effect on you and seeing yours on them.  For Fijians, connection is natural, just the way the world is made.  Here, we pass each other with our lights out as ships in the night. 

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The "I of I"
Leo Buscaglia

Several years ago I went away to Cornwell, and I bought all the holy books that I could get my hands on to take with me.  I spent months reading them all to try to find commonalities, and this was the commonality of them all:  if you look only at the externals of life and humans, you are missing what is essential.  Again, let me define:  when I am talking about a teacher, I'm not just talking about somebody who has a diploma that says he or she has taken so many boring courses.  I'm talking about parents, I'm talking about custodians, I'm talking about the person who sells ice cream on the corner.  Everybody teaches all of the time, and, therefore, it is imperative that we all know as teachers what is essential because only when we know collectively what is essential, can we know what is possible.  And the wonder of it all is that what is essential is so vast and so marvelous and what is visible to the eye is so limited and so small.

One of my heroes is Buckminster Fuller, and this little old man was at our university recently.  He's just spectacular!  He wears big, heavy lenses, and he has hearing aids behind each ear, but he is so vital that with a piece of chalk and a blackboard, he can keep everybody mesmerized for three solid hours.  You wonder how he can do it.  Just recently he, too, was asking the question along with so many other great individuals:  what is essential about the human person?  Is it our body?  Is it our mind?  Is it our arms?  Our legs?  Our fingers?  What is truly essential.  Who am I?  Who is the "I of I"?

He wrote a wonderful article that appeared in the Saturday Review/World.  It is so typical of Buckminster Fuller, who even at seventy-eight is still so vitally interested in what makes the human being unique and wondrous.  He wonders why we are all so magical, why it is that when we really begin to know humans, we can't help but love them because they are so unique and so different.  If you deny even one person entrance in your life, you'll never get that person's uniqueness from anyone else.  I, for instance, want you in my life because without you, my life will never be complete.  But only when you find the you of you, will you have anything to give me, just as I must find the me of me.  Why do I read?  Why do I travel?  Why do I listen?  Why do I care?  So that I can get more and more and more and share it with you--that's the only purpose for having it.

In this article, Buckminster Fuller, his eyes still dancing (seventy-eight years of dancing eyes, what a wonder!) wrote something in his own little whimsical way.  He wrote,

I am seventy-eight, and at my age I find that I have now taken in more than 1,000 tons of water, food, and air, the chemistry of which is temporarily employed for different lengths of time as hair, skin, flesh, bone, blood, etc., then progressively discarded.  I weighed in at 7 pounds, and I went on to 70, then 170, and even 207 pounds.  Then I lost seventy pounds, and I said, "Who was that seventy pounds?--because here I am."  The seventy pounds I got rid of was ten times the flesh-and-bone inventory at which I had weighed in, in 1895.

I am certain that I am not the avoirdupois [our system of weights based on the 16-ounce pound] of the most recent meals I have eaten, some of which will become my hair, only to be cut off twice a month.  This lost seventy pounds of organic chemistry obviously wasn't "me," nor are any of the remaining presently associated atoms "me."  We have been making a great error in identifying "me" and "you" as these truly transient and, ergo, sensorially detectable chemistries. . . There have been quite a number of weighings of people as they died.  Many cancer-doomed paupers have been willing to have their beds places on scales.  The only difference manifest between weight before and after death is that caused by air exhaled from the lungs or urine that has been passed.  Whatever life is, it doesn't weigh anything.

And then he goes on to talk about our minds.  He says our ideas are constantly changing.  The mind of a child is not the mind of an adult.  The mind you have tonight won't be the mind you have next week or the week following, so obviously it isn't your changing mind that is essential.  What is the you of you?  What is this wondrous, nebulous something that he calls eternal?. . . .

Those of us who work with children should be bound and determined that we're not only going to find in ourselves the "I of I" so that we can share it with these kids, but we're also going to help them and set them free so they can find the "I of I" in themselves, develop it, revel in the wonder of it, and then share it with others.

When you have come to grips, for example, with what is essential about yourself, only then will you be able to decide what is essential about your children.  And the truth of it is that so often we professionals tend to see children as their externally manifested bits and pieces.  We tend to divide them up.  We tend to see each other, also, as our bits and pieces, instead of our external whole.


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It does not always help to analyze and think about problems with your rational mind.
Sometimes it is far more effective to turn to your inner self, to ask the universe for
help.  Simply sit quietly.  Take a few deep breaths and focus your awareness within.
Ask your wise inner self, either silently or aloud, for guidance or help in understanding
the message.  As you get a sense of what feels right, act on this feeling.

Shakti Gawain


The Houdini Syndrome
Bob Welch

I am the poster boy for overcommitment.  And I'm not particularly proud of that.  We all have our weaknesses, and if I look at my life in the last decade, running too fast has been mine.  Oh, I could justify that it's nearly all good stuff that I run toward--I'm not the guy blowing two hours watching trash TV or playing two rounds of golf a week while my sons wonder why Dad never shows up for their games.

I could match my attendance at kids' games with nearly any parent and come out on top.  I could rationalize that I've never had a nervous breakdown or resorted to any sort of illicit drug--pop isn't illegal, is it?--to keep myself going.

Still, I have to face the reality that I'm far busier than I should be.

The good news is, I'm changing; the bad news is, that's like a 400-pound man saying he's going on a diet.

At times, my weeks have this Houdini quality about them:  I bind myself in handcuffs and crawl into a trunk.  The trunk is wrapped with chains.  Then the trunk is dropped to the bottom of the East River to see if I can break free and swim to the surface without drowning.

Thus far, I've gotten out of the jam every time, broken the surface of the water just before my lungs are about to burst.

But though that might equate to success in the world's eyes, it does not in God's eyes.  Because enslaving ourselves like that asks a price, though we're often so desperately trying to unshackle ourselves that we don't take time to notice.

For me, that price has been a number of things:

A subtle, but real, loss of patience:  When you're tired, anger more easily gains a foothold on you.  It may not be a four-letter-word, dog-kicking, fist-slamming barrage of anger, but I know it's there.  And I know it sometimes gets used against the people I love the most.

A subtle, but real, loss of creativity:  When you're tired, you're more apt to settle for the ordinary when, somewhere deep inside, you might find the extraordinary.

A subtle, but real, loss of control over the more mundane aspects of life:  checking accounts that need more consistent pruning, financial matters that need more plowing and planting, closets and dressers that need more consistent weeding.

But the more serious price has come in the areas that I'm called to make my priorities:  my relationship with God and my relationship with others, in particular my wife.

I've given time to both, but it hasn't been the quantity, or quality, they deserve.  Again, I look good on paper:  I'm an elder at our church, I teach Sunday school, I occasionally preach a sermon, I speak to men's groups.  But I know, deep down, that God doesn't want a resume from me; He wants a relationship with me.  And when you wedge God into your daily planner as if He were just another line on the To-Do List, that relationship suffers.

Likewise, I could point out trips I've taken with my wife, presents I've given her, dinners out we've shared.  But I know, deep down, that she'd trade such things for more consistent "ordinary" time with me, time that might be nothing more than a walk around the block but which is given with my full attention, not as some sort of parenthetical phrase in the midst of a more significant sentence. . . .

I've come to learn that you can't have it all.  So you have to decide what you want and what you're willing to give up.  Some people decide what they want more than anything is to be successful in business and thus are willing to sacrifice their family to get there.  I'm not among them. . . .

I believe we're called to give our best to God; our work should be done with gusto and quality.  But we're also called to lives of balance, and when we get out of balance, our work becomes a legalistic going-through-the-motions, not something filled with heart.  Our work becomes more important than the people who it's intended for.  Our lives are guided by our heads and not our hearts.

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To awaken each morning with a smile brightening my face; to greet the day with reverence for the opportunities it contains; to approach my work with a clean mind; to hold ever before me, even in the doing of little things, the Ultimate Purpose toward which I am working; to meet men and women with laughter on my lips and love in my heart; to be gentle, kind and courteous through all the hours; to approach the night with weariness that ever woos sleep and the joy that comes from work well done--this is how I desire to waste wisely my days.

Thomas Dekker (c. 1570-c. 1641)

No, "The Extremes" are not a singing group.  They are the choices we have to make.  Now, you may say you want everything in moderation and don't like to be extreme in anything you choose.  But without extremes, there is no depth or challenge in your life.

What do you believe in?  What are you here to do?  You have to make some choices when you see life and nature being destroyed.  The truth is we all have to take extreme measures at times.  It is not a question of whether you will be extreme, but a question of what you will be extreme about.

What is important to you?  Or is nothing important to you, so you take the extreme position of never speaking up for a worthy cause or person?

I find that extremely upsetting.

Bernie Siegel
365 Prescriptions for the Soul


If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside
over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to
each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that
it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the
boredom and disenchantments of later years, and the sterile
preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation
from the sources of our strength.

Rachel Carson
The Sense of Wonder




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