Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 185, January 2015 )
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Happy New Year!!
We've lived through another year of horror, terror, sorrow, and loss—as well as birth, excitement, success, and celebration. The question for all of us is which mindset drives our days.
We live in a world of almost infinite beauty and splendor. A great deal of it we haven't even explored decently. The Marianas Trench in the Pacific is barely known and we've discovered life forms there which weren't though viable in any environment. Not all that long ago a new type of deer was discovered in the jungles of southeast Asia. We're not close to cataloging all the species of insects.
We inhabit a world which, in galactic terms, is a huge hunk of rock traveling at 67,000 miles an hour around an exploding star. We're fairly sure that another huge hunk of rock hit the Yucatan around the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago and obliterated the prevailing life forms—dinosaurs—which had been successful for about 150 million years. This kind of impact could happen again.
There is evil in the world, but throughout history it has been beaten back, albeit sometimes at great cost. We have built great cities, created triumphant art, cured diseases, and lengthened life spans. Despite nihilists and anarchists, monsters and madmen, we have formed great civilizations.
The way we arise each day and the attitude we have toward the day ahead of us reflects on our health and out contributions. Some people see a long, slow crawl through enemy territory. But some see opportunity and renewal. Some allow events to dictate their day, and some control their own fate.
It astounds me how many otherwise independent people cede control of their lives to others—peer pressure, media, rumor, conspiracy theories, myths, "authorities," advertising, and even employees. You wake up every day in control of your behavior and your initiatives, but can give them away in the blink of an eye if you're not careful or are frightened. Too many people have a default mechanism of surrendering control.
Empower yourself. The world around you is rich with opportunity and splendor. You can consume, so long as you also contribute. But doing either one without the other is foolish, and deprives you of power.
The human condition: Awards
Don't panic, I'm not talking about religion (God forbid—oops, I shouldn't have mentioned God, but it's already typed), I'm talking about a connection with nature and the world around us. I've become convinced that some people simply exist during their waking hours without wondering about or learning from the world around them.
I believe that everyone should awake in the morning with a sense of profound and radical amazement.
People who feel a connection with the world tend to examine issues and events and not merely accept them (or fail to see them). Spirituality, as the word suggests as a cognate, is consciousness that has to do with our spirit. You may call that joie de vivre or esprit de corps or even sentience, but it's not merely self-awareness, it's appreciation of the world around us.
Someone recently posted on that monument to high intellect, Facebook, that we should be careful because "our kids will become us." Yet we are not structured or organized like a redwood or a cheetah, wherein the life forms that are reproduced are identical. All of us have the capacity to surmount our origins (or fail to meet them). Thank goodness (I caught myself) we have the potential to change and grow and mature and become unique.
I recognize this because I'm fascinated by cheetahs (the fastest land animal and highly endangered) and redwoods (among the oldest living things in the world). I know what they contribute, and I know how important that contribution is, though it is different from each other and different from us. I've noticed today that the newly sodded portion of my lawn (after some construction) grows far better than seeded portions, and I'm wondering if it's better for individuals to change things in total rather than piecemeal.
But, I digress.
I can watch our ducks paddle toward the feeder whenever people are in front of the house in the hope they might be fed, and learn about persevering. (Cheetahs, by the way, make a kill one in ten times, about the same as the Tyrannosaurus Rex, average for predators, not an easy life.) I marvel at clouds that seem to be very still, yet move out of sight by the time I look up again. Are they analogies for our lives?
And it fascinates me that we all live in a universe that not one of us truly understands. But that's the glory. We don't need to understand, we merely need to acknowledge, explore, and celebrate.
That's the spirit!
I was in the King Alfonso XIII in Sevilla, one of the finest properties in all of Spain, in their largest suite. A bellman was due to take our larger luggage to FedEx to ship home while we remained for another day. Although tipping is not common (and somewhat confusing), I knew I had to give him a gratuity because of the weight of the bags and the favor of getting them to shipping for FedEx.
I had put some Euros on the counter near the door—one and two euro coins—in anticipation of his arrival. When the doorbell rang I gave him the luggage and swept all the coins into my hand to give to him—about the equivalent of $8 US I had figured. He looked at me and smiled.
I had included two very large coins, gold in color, which I first thought must have been ten euro pieces, unknown to me, and he was embarrassed by my largesse.
Then I realized they were round, gold-covered chocolates left around the suite by the maid...
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