740. An ordinary day on repeat

740. An Ordinary Day on Repeat.jpg

Over the last couple weeks I read The Turquoise Ledge by poet and Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon Silko. I may not have finished it had it not been a book group reading. The reason I nearly stopped reading several times in the first 100 or so pages is that while the book is about Silko’s life outside of Tucson, Arizona, it is primarily about her morning walks, during which she often finds pieces of turquoise, and the care of her home and yard, replete with rattlesnakes (so many!) and sometimes scorpions. The book goes on repeat of these daily activities and discoveries. Over and over again. Here’s another piece of turquoise. There’s another rattlesnake. But a curious thing happened at about page 125; I got in the rhythm of her walks and her watering of her plants and her care of her pet parrots and her noticing of rattlers, and my interest in her routine and her observations piqued.

The book reminded me that this is what we do in life: one’s daily stuff, but please oh please do it with eyes open and ready to see the extraordinariness of what is around us. Numerous times Silko describes a walk in which then and there, right in front of her in the center of the path, is a piece of turquoise that wasn’t there when she walked the same path yesterday. Or was it? Had it just unearthed itself or had she missed it the day before?

I wanted to post about this book as an encouragement in getting up each morning and doing whatever it is you do over again tomorrow while keeping your eyes open for what you might see or discover that takes on new shape or meaning when you see it, really see it, for the third or fourth or 340th time. Maybe that’s one of the things I was trying to do in Finding Livelihood, challenging myself and you, dear reader, to see again and again, yet anew, what there is to discover in whatever place each of us calls work.

The book made me think about how it takes attending to something over and over again, closely and with reverence, before hidden beauty emerges, understanding emerges, and appreciation for small things becomes large.

~~~

[Picture: taken during our recent Florida trip of a grand dolphin artfully carved in the sand by an unidentified beach artist; in the top left corner is a pelican.]

730. What to think about today

Fall Sky.jpg

This past Sunday our minister's sermon was on this text from Philippians, which gives a gentle push to thoughts of a higher order.

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

I needed this reminder and perhaps you do too. These words are a touchstone that serve as not only wise guidance, but permission, yes permission, to at least occasionally turn thoughts away from the evening news, away from fears, away from sorrow, away from grievances, away from social media trivialities, away from [fill in the blank], and toward what is noble and right and pure and lovely and excellent and praiseworthy.

This morning I'm blowing the dust off something I wrote long ago. In Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul, I launched from this verse in Philippians to write a bulleted list of reasons to stock one's mind well. Here are some of the bullets in that list:

  • To be catalyzed, expanded, and ignited. Those of use who have battled a blah spirit and lifeless mind on one or more occasions won't find it difficult to draw a link between the state of our spirit and the state of our mind.
  • To stay optimistic and not lose hope or vibrancy. The world is full of wonderful things.
  • To link reason and imagination. To see the chasm between what is and what could be. To see possibility. To see opportunities for greatness.
  • To know the richness, vastness, and beauty of that which has been divinely created.
  • To form a solid foundation from which to launch action
  • To provide sufficient mental content of beauty and joy so that we are less likely to gravitate toward content of despair or fear.
  • To be equipped for creativity.

It's always OK to be a student of what you've already learned long ago and have needed to learn again and again. May your day be one of joy and hope. The world is full of wonderful things.

~~~

[Photo: taken this week of fall trees and sky.]

721. On finding the way

On finding the way.jpg

I first read To Resist or To Surrender by Paul Tournier, a Swiss physician, decades ago when I was in my late 20s at the recommendation of a friend. The book came to my mind again this past November, and I wrote the title in my journal. I found it long abandoned in a basement bookcase, a coupon for Centrum vitamins, dated November 1984, as an old bookmark in its very marked-up pages.

The book is about how we decide what to do in a given circumstance, particularly when choices are hard or even difficult to identify. It begins by presenting the dilemma of churches in Nazi Germany deciding whether to oppose the regime or to try to coexist with the hope of influencing it in more subtle ways. Tournier then expanded the discussion to show that the question of “resist or surrender” is basic for all points of conflict, whether in times of war between countries or in times of workplace conflict or in battles between parents and child or a husband and wife. Our natural impulse is to frame our choice as between striving to get our way or giving in, but the book is written for those who want to move beyond this impulse of a dichotomous choice when considering life problems that require something more.

Tournier offered two processes that go beyond the limited power of reason when finding our way. The first is the seeking of divine guidance by Bible reading, prayer, and meditation. Unfortunately, God often is silent in response. “We fail to see,” wrote Tournier, “that by our thus asking God questions, even in the reverence of prayer, we are still attempting to remain in charge of our meditation rather than let God direct us.”

The second is the responsive process of personal transformation. Tournier calls this process “an act of God’s grace.”

“At the very time that we are asking questions of God, questions which remain unanswered, he is ever asking other questions which we fail to heed…. Men throw out questions to God which remain unanswered. But they change and find unexpected solutions when they begin to listen to the questions God asks of them, and to answer him.”

Like all books that stand the test of time, this book written in the early 1960s and hiding in my basement has something to say today. Tournier wrote of Job who in the Old Testament did not receive an intellectual reply to his barrage of “Why’s,” but instead he received "an experience of God" and was changed.

~~~

[Photo: taken of a favorite scarf]