755. Beyond work

755. Juniper Berries.jpg

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I watched the 2016 film Paterson for the first time. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Paterson the film is about Paterson the man who lives in Paterson the village. Paterson the man, played by Adam Driver, is in his late 20s or early 30s and drives a city bus. He is married to Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani, who is passionate about many things, including home decorating, learning to play guitar, and baking and selling cupcakes at a weekend community market. Paterson does more than drive a bus; he also writes poems.

He writes poems in his head as he walks to work each morning. Before he drives his bus out of the garage, he writes down the lines that came to him during that morning’s walk in the notebook he always carries with him. At lunch, while he eats his sandwich and drinks coffee from his thermos, he again takes out his notebook and adds the lines that came to him while he drove. At home, he goes down to his basement office—a desk and some shelves in an unfinished basement—and adds a few more lines. His wife begs him to read some of his poems to her, and he keeps promising he will but never does. She begs him to send his work out to some magazines. Instead, he just keeps writing, line by line.

The world around him seems to give him signs that what he’s doing matters, although the signs are not profound or recognizable to anyone else. No readers show up cheering his work, and no agents or publishers suddenly appear. He has no social media account that magically gains followers. The signs are more along the lines of “I see you.”

As he writes line by line in his head and in his notebook, he has a steadiness about him and an inner drive, not toward success, which is usually how the word ‘drive’ is used today, but a drive to keep putting the words together until they fit, and the final click unlocks some inner release and the eyes widen and the soul opens.

I wish this film had been around while I was writing Finding Livelihood. It probably would have made its way into one of the chapters. While the film features a man writing poetry while he also drives a bus, the broader implication can be a fill-in-the-blank sort of prospect for any of the rest of us. What else are you about beside your work or alongside your work? In what ways do you seek the opening of eyes and soul to what is beyond your work?


[photo: taken of the juniper berries on the table at the American Swedish Institute while I drank my coffee last week.]

754. Fred Rogers and Repairing Creation

754. Fred Rogers and Repairing Creation.jpg

A little over a week ago I watched the new documentary about Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Have you seen it? I have fond memories of my sons calmly and happily watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on television when they were little, and while I have always been grateful for Fred Rogers, I was ever more so after watching the documentary.

I’ve been thinking since about how Fred Rogers became who he was and what he has to say to us, even us grown-ups, about who we become. From all that was shared in the documentary, two things, in particular, stand out.

The first is that he was a minister with a degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He worked in television before going to seminary and after he graduated from seminary. He knew that being a minister was not limited to standing behind a pulpit, as valuable as that definition of minister is. A man or woman who has prepared to serve God, or intends to serve God whether or not a degree is behind that intention, can do so in a multitude of ways.

The second is what he had to say to all of us, even and especially us grown-ups, about what we do with our lives. In a special television appearance after 9/11, he challenged his listeners to be about something big:

“No matter what our particular job, especially in our world today, we all are called to be tikkun olam, repairers of creation. Thank you for whatever you do, wherever you are, to bring joy and life and hope and faith and pardon and love to your neighbor and to yourself.”

Read that phrase again: Repairers of creation.

Today with the strong, and sometimes misguided, emphasis on finding one’s unique vocation or “call” and following only that perceived path, this reminder that each of us is to be about the mending of creation by bringing joy, life, hope, faith, pardon, and love to the world around us no matter our job—in any job, in every job—is so needed.

If you haven’t seen the documentary, maybe you can still catch it in a theater. If not, for about the cost of a hamburger or large latte you can watch it on iTunes or another online service. I do hope you will.


[photo: taken on a recent autumn walk]

753. Try anyway

753. Try Again.jpg

This past Sunday in church, our minister said something that I keep circling back to in my thoughts: "It is hard. We will fail. Try anyway." He wasn't talking about making your first million or running a marathon. He was talking about living righteously, following God through all of life, doing what is yours to do. On the surface, with those first beats of hard and fail, the lines strike as pessimistic. But read it again, this time with a clear and calm emphasis on the last line. Try anyway. Say it like a breath. Inhale; exhale. Say it with your eyes closed, then open them and say it again. Try anyway: an intention, an assurance, a hint. Say it with a smile, a wink.


[photo: taken of new fake dried flowers that look ever so real]