Thursday, November 29, 2012

Love and that awful word called "Abundance"

There is a word in the English language that has come into form in the last few years, and more people are using it than ever before. I used to like this word, but now I find that its expression has fallen into a different vernacular, one that has now become unctuous. It is hard to listen to, and much harder to say. The meaning of this word is opposite of what I learned when I was young, and the meaning is now so odious that it is even hard to say. The word is “abundance.” When I was young, the word was defined as “overflowing” but it implied benevolence. Its concept and application was in the context of sharing. “Abbondanza”, the Italian equivalent, is precisely that, mostly expressed around a feast that is passed around for the benefit of all to take part. Abundance was viewed as a gift but only to be shared with others or the character of this gift was diminished. In farming country, the word “abundance” was often associated with “an abundant harvest.” It is customary that these harvests were shared with the other farmers in the area which resulted in celebration. Each farmer offered their abundant stores to another: Wheat was shared with corn farmers, corn was shared with soy farmers, and so on. This practice reflected the essence and intention of the word “abundance.” But now I see that this expression has become defined as riches, wealth and prosperity. I read that people are “praying for abundance” and relating it to cars, homes, and money. They are visualizing “abundance” in purely and completely the material application with no mention of a shared harvest or gathering in joined celebration. It is merely an expression of what you want, how much you want, and when you want it. It is supposed to have some loose spiritual assignment to it, as you are asking the Universe to fulfill your needs, when in reality it is a poor disguise for the screamingly selfish sentiment of “I want it all. I want it now. And I want it to be mine, mine, mine.” Abundance is, at its very basic understanding, expressing that “we are all in this together” not “every man for himself.” But the word is being turned to match the increasing sentiment of “I, me, mine” instead of “we, us, them.” We have turned this beautiful word on its head. From now on, I hope that you all understand the power of your verbiage and the intent of your expression when you raise the word “abundance” to your lips. Ask not for your selfish intent but for your highest expression of good and kindness. Ask not for what you can receive but what you can offer. Ask that your needs be met, of course, but ask for the meeting of another’s needs as well. Choose this beautiful word in the fulfillment of need not just for yourself but for the needs of many. We truly are all in this life together. May we travel the essence of that abundant path, together

Monday, August 27, 2012

Love and Disappointment

Love and Disappointment I think if there is any common emotion that incorporates acute sadness with the feeling that all your oxygen has just been sucked out of your lungs, it is disappointment. It is the kick in the guts response to an expectation fallen short, bad news, and a crisis in your routine that bring your life to its knees. Think of the times that you have been let down in your life. Think of the time when your hopes have been broken and what you thought what was supposed to happen didn’t. It is the check that never arrives in the mail or the phone that never rings. It is the C on the paper that you thought you had an A. It is interview that went great but that job that never called back. It is the girl or boy that said sorry, I just want to be friends. It is the time in our lives when just when we think that all signs point to “yes”, what we receive instead is, “No.” And the worse kind of disappointment is the disappointment in yourself. The feeling that you could’ve done, should’ve done, or wish you’d done something better, something more, something else than what you had. The decisions you wish you’d made differently, the paths that you wish you’d taken or wish you passed by. The holes in your life you wish you filled with more time doing the things that meant something instead of yielding to the things that just felt right at the time. Disappointment is the emotion of crippling measure. It can knock us down and keep us from getting up. But getting up we must. With every disappointment, there is always a way to stand up again, to look forward, and to bring ourselves back from that feeling of despair. We begin with looking at what we have around us right now. We are here. We are present. We are in this life. And this life is very, very good. Breathe in. That is the first thing to regaining your balance. Breathe in again. Now look at all that exists around you right now. See everything that is in your immediate vision and yards beyond. Look at this world that you have been given. Count this as a blessing, then count one more. You are here. You are present. You are among the living. And with every time that you are knocked down you decide to get back up, you begin to matter again. You are not your past. You are not the things that have caused you pain. You are a living, breathing child of the Universe. You matter. You mean something, And from this moment forward, you can make your life into everything you believe you can. We all have lived in the grips of disappointment. But disappointment can never dominate the feelings of Faith, Hope and Love. And the last one, Love, will soften all hurts, will heal all wounds, and will let us live our lives with resiliency and strength, gentleness and forgiveness, particularly of ourselves. In this life, let Love be your guide. Your disappointments do not define you. Only your ability to forgive, to embrace and to Love will guide you back to your true self, and give you the strength you need to look forward to another day. Love will keep you in motion. Love will keep you alive.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Love and The Golden Rule

Love and the Golden Rule I think that it’s not a big stretch to be considerate of one another. My belief is that we all should be as kind as possible to somebody in order for them to feel better, maybe even for them to like us. I want to be kind to somebody because, in part, I want them to be kind back. I try to set the tone of the encounter in order for the two of us to get along. I don’t like conflict. Most of us don’t, and we’re not very good at it anyway. Our basic, most fundamental urge is to withdraw from it. Very few, if any of us, lean in when a conflict ensues. It goes against our nature to fight. Conversely, it is well within our natural instincts to love one another and get along. I believe it is our nature to extend our feelings of goodness to each other, in every context imaginable. We say “good morning” to people as they pass by not because we truly care that they have a good morning, even though on some level we do; It’s just a natural, normal thing to do. We do it because it makes us feel good to offer somebody that kind of a pleasantry. It takes very little effort and it allows us to speak from our heart. I submit that our natural selves are compassionate human beings that extend courtesy and kindness to others because it’s nice, it’s reflexive, and it feels really good for us to do that. And one step away from these reasons is another form of motivation: It is something that, on some level, we wish would be done to us. I want people to be nice to me. I want them to like me and say “good morning” to me as I say the same to them. I would like somebody to hold the door, wave me into traffic, and smile at me for no good reason because I would do, and have done, the same to them. I am, in part, nice to people because I want them to be nice to me. And that is the foundation of the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as they would do unto you.” I will be kind to you because I want you to be kind to me. I will be friendly to you because I wish the same kind of treatment. This is so fundamental. It really is who we are and how we feel most able to treat one another. I wish this was on the wall of every school, every board room, and every courthouse in the country. I wish that we as a people would take this one principle and spread it all over, embodying this guideline in everything we do, in every encounter we have with each other. By following the Golden Rule, we would reclaim a sense of peace, decency and fairness. We are all in this thing together, folks. May we live together by thinking of how we should treat one another, regardless of any predisposed notion of who they are, what they do, or where they come from. Treat one another as you would like to be treated and watch the world change right in front of you. We need only be motivated by how we wish to be treated, and treat another the same way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Baseball and Ernie Banks

I grew up idolizing Ernie Banks. In the basement of my three-story apartment building on the North Side of Chicago, I would practice his stance, his swing, his stoop at the shoulder. I would imagine how the number 14 would look on my back, how his cleats would feel on my feet. I would stand in the batter’s box, gripping the bat with the barrel pointed straight to the sky, fingering the neck with a loose flutter of anticipation while the pitcher looks in for the sign. I would stand there, practicing my stance, gazing at the imaginary hurler, waiting on the fastball. I would adjust my uniform (usually my pajamas, but they did the trick), hunch my back and crane my neck out slightly, just like Ernie. “The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.” , “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame, let’s play two.” His demeanor was so embracing and warm; he was the only player I have looked up to as a human being, not merely as a ballplayer. A few years ago, I saw him interviewed on a talk show. The interviewer asked him what his most memorable experience was in baseball. Ernie told him that in July, I think 1967, he had hurt himself and been pulled out of the lineup for a couple of days. On this particular day, he was invited to watch the game from the press box, and he accepted. The Cubs had been last, perennially, throughout the years. They had been proclaimed “the doormat of the National League,” and every year, the Cubs lived up to their reputation. They were competitive, but never winners, and had not been in first place in years (I own a shirt says, “World Champion Chicago Cubs, 1908.” It’s my favorite shirt, but that gives you an idea…). Well, during this stretch in that July, the Cubs had been tied for first place. Their best pitcher, Ferguson Jenkins, a Hall of Famer, was on the mound. If the Cubs won, and the team they were tied with lost, the Cubs—the embattled, always lousy Chicago Cubs—would be in first place for the first time since God made dirt. Fergie pitched beautifully, and the Cubs won handily. For the first time in years, the Cubs were in first place. The Cubs’ flag, finally, was hoisted to the top of the pole over the scoreboard, signifying their climb into first place in the National League. Ernie said that he stood in the press box and watched the fans in the stadium. He noted that they all had stayed. They stayed to watch that flag go up the pole, to watch something that hadn’t been done in decades. The fans watched as their team ascended the mountaintop, and they all let out a thunderous roar when the Cub pennant finally took its place above the rest. Ernie told the interviewer how proud he was, and how he became so filled with emotion, sharing this moment with the rest of the stadium. Right then it occurred to me, as also noticed by the interviewer, that the Great Ernie Banks had just described his greatest moment in professional baseball. And he didn’t play in the game. His greatest moment in baseball came during a game that he merely watched but shared with the thousands of spectators in the ballpark. How wonderful that Ernie, a Hall of Famer himself, in reflecting on the finest moment of his career, chose as his greatest experience seeing his teammates and the fans in the park share this unforgettable moment together. In the absence of ego, great joy is born. The heart of this game is embodied within him, and this spirit is held within my love of baseball, and the Chicago Cubs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What to do with a Tattoo

I have a tattoo. I got it for the mother of my children. The tattoo is her name and it’s on my hip. When I showed it to her shortly after I got it her first response was “What did you do that for?” And ever since it has made me think: What did I do that for? For that matter, what does anybody get a tattoo? I’ve been told that people get a tattoo for love. Sometimes they get it to honor or remember somebody. In many cases, the pictures or symbols within a tattoo carry pointed and deep significance. Well, I don’t mean to minimize the sentiment behind a tattoo, and I don’t mean to come off like an insensitive jerk, but isn’t there a place you could put somebody’s name other than someplace on your body? How about a wall? Or in a nice frame? Or maybe in a locket around your neck?
And the worst ones are the ones put on your back, particularly in languages even the person getting tattoo’d doesn’t understand! First of all, to see it you need a mirror and you need a slinky for a neck to look backwards at it. Secondly, when you look at something in a mirror, you see it in the reverse image of what’s really there. So you’re not actually seeing what the tattoo looks like, you’re seeing the reverse of what the tattoo looks like. And if this tattoo is in Japanese, Chinese... well, let me put it this way: if you can read the Japanese symbols for “peace and be well” backwards and in Japanese, you’re a better man than I. I can barely read English that’s written on the page let alone if it was backwards on my back.
But if you’re absolutely set on getting a tattoo, I have a couple of ideas that will keep the tattoo noticed and appreciated every day, a set of tattoos that will really make you stand out of the crowd. First, make sure you put the tattoo on your wrist. If you wear a watch, put the tattoo on your other wrist. Then, choose one of the following tattoos for display:
First: Your anniversary date. Right there where you can see it, in permanent form. “My anniversary is” followed by the date. This way, you’ll never forget it. It will be right there, everyday, for you and everybody else to see, too. You could actually help save another’s relationship by helping them remember, too. “Holy Cow, my anniversary! I forgot! Gee, that guy’s got it tattoo’d on his arm! How astute of him!” “Thank you, Mr. Anniversary-Tatto’d-On-Your-Arm-Man!”
Secondly, where you put your car keys. How many of us have lost your car keys? What if you put a common location in a tattoo right where you can see it, in big blue letters: “I think your keys might be in the bathroom. You always seem to leave them there.” Saves time in the search the next time you misplace them.
And lastly, try this: Your mother’s telephone number. Every time you look at your wrist, call her and say “Hi.” Think of that. “Hi, Mom, I just thought I’d call.” She’ll love it.
Try all these the next time the urge hits to ink up your body. And when you stop reading this, go call your mother. Tell her you’re going to tattoo her number on your wrist. When you really do it, send her a picture. She’ll never be happier….

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Real Beauty

My work places me in contact with those who have lived a lot of years. The last chapter of their life waiting to be experienced. Many refer to these folks as “elderly.”

I recently met one of these elderly persons. A woman, ninety three years old. Sitting upright in her chair, staring into the TV, she turned to look at me. I caught a bit of the sun on her face, sparking the blue in her still electric eyes. Her breathing was halted; she wore an oxygen tube around her nose to help guide each breath into her lungs.

We got to talking a little. I was there to ask her questions about herself, get a little history of her past, that sort of thing. She told me where she was from, what her life was like. She shared with me some pictures and spoke a little of her husband, gone eight years: what they did together, what she missed, and how she hopes to see him again after she’s gone.

As we paged through the rest of the photographs, she came upon one when she was younger, maybe sixty. She was holding her first grandchild in her arms, her eyes resting on the face of that baby, she said “Isn’t she beautiful?” A strong and proud smile creased her lips, and she looked back at me.

I took this opportunity to interject the following statement: “You mean the baby or the woman holding her?” She giggled a little bit, and her laugh trailed off. “No, no…I mean my granddaughter. I used to be not too bad looking.” She stopped, looked away and said “Beauty fades as you get older. I’m not very pretty these days.” Her smiled weakened and she set the pictures down on her lap.

I said “I think you’re beautiful. I saw how your eyes exploded with blue when I walked through the door. I was so taken with your smile as you looked at the picture of your grandchild, and I just watched in wonder how the expression of happiness brought such light to your face. You are beautiful, without question.”

She thought for a minute. In almost a stoic seriousness, she said “Do you not see the wrinkles on this face?” and those blue eyes looked right into me. I said “Actually, if you really want to know, I did but they didn’t really catch my eye. Your eyes and your expression overtook my focus. When I looked at you, I think I saw you as the person, the feelings moving from your heart captured in your smile. When I saw you, I saw who you are and maybe a little of where you’ve been. That’s all that mattered. And what I saw was beautiful to me.”

She looked at me, nodded, and thanked me. I made another time for us to meet. As I was leaving I heard her whisper “Thank you” over the hum of her oxygen. And as I reached for my keys as I was heading out the door, I said “The pleasure was all mine, blue eyes. See you next week.”

Friday, January 27, 2012

Romance in the Ordinary

Valentine’s Day is here again, and I think it’s a wonderful celebration of Love. I’m glad somebody decided, however many years ago, to make this time an annual time of Romantic remembrance. It is how love happens. We are all a result of that Romance, on some level, and a celebration should be in order for that, if nothing else. Valentine’s Day is a little reminder of how we all began.

We begin to love one another through Romance. Romance gives love its lift. It brings love out into the open. It gives Love room to grow, it lets it breathe, it brings in the light. Romance helps Love get noticed.

But Romance is not limited to a person or a relationship. Romance is about every part of life, in every fashion. I am a lucky man. I have experienced Romance with another person and it is an unforgettable, indelible experience. But some of our most romantic moments can be experienced in the midst of the mundane. Sudden shards of energy break through the blandness and you realize, often unexpectedly, how the magic of Romance surrounds you.

It is always in that you find beautiful. The birds, a sunset, an incredible sky full of color first thing in the morning. Clouds that surround you, rain that chants to you its magical presence. To find Romance in your world is easy: look up and around you. Nature, if nothing else, is Romantic. You are welcomed with a symphony of explosive beauty. Your sense are in love again. If that’s not Romance, I don’t know what is.

But I see Romance in things that set me apart from my normal routine. Romance is in the different spaces of Love. The excitement and energy, to be sure, but Romance lives in the in- between glimpses of life.

Finding ten dollars in a coat pocket, getting a hard to find parking space, standing on your bathroom scale in the morning and find that you’ve lost another pound…these events are encased in Romance. The unexpected gift within the air of gratitude is a clearly, profoundly romantic event, and it happens all the time. Being asked to be a “friend” on facebook, finding that perfect pizza place or getting great seats at a movie. These are all infused with such delight that the feeling of Romance is infused in each moment of every event.

There are so many points of romance within the landscape of every single day. Be prepared to embrace it, to respond with gratitude. It’s not limited to lines within the cards given to one another every February. It’s more than that. A little piece of it of it exists in every one of life’s moments. Take time to notice, OK? Romance is all around you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Just Giving

I bought a total stranger a cup of coffee this morning. I want to tell you what happened. .

Most mornings I stop by the coffee shop on my way to the office. This morning there was a man sitting at an inside table looking old, tired, dejected, poor.

I tried to make eye contact when I walked by, but his head didn’t move. I got in line, fished a five out of my pocket, and ordered two coffees. One for me, one for him.

I looked again to see if there was anything sitting on the table in front of this man. No coffee, nothing else. I paid for the coffees and went to put some cream in mine.

Turning around to make sure he was still there, I saw that the chairs and tables had been set up and he’d moved there—outdoors in the morning cold.

I picked up both coffees and headed out the door. I felt my hands warm as I held the cups.

As I exited, the man stood up. He was reaching in his pocket. As I left, I gave him his cup of coffee and said “Hey, man, this should warm you up.”

“Sure will. Thank you” was his response. He put the coffee down and pulled a cigarette and matches out of his pocket. As I drove away, I saw him take the first draw from his cigarette, and first sip of his coffee.

Right then, for about a second, I thought I’d been had.

He had cigarettes. And I instantly concluded that if he’d had enough money to buy cigarettes, he should’ve ordered his priorities better. Had he done that, he would’ve had money for coffee.

I immediately felt ashamed.

Years ago, I made a decision. Give without judgment; it frees the heart. And for a split second, I did exactly the opposite.

I saw a man sitting by himself, alone in a coffee shop, at 5:30 in the morning. His clothes were old, worn, and dirty. His face was the same. His head was down, his hands pushed in his pockets. No coffee.

I didn’t ask his age, his background, or his country of origin. I didn’t inquire about his income or his employment. Didn’t ask about his history, his family, or his level of education. And I didn’t ask about the circumstances, the events, or the decisions that lead him to this moment, cold and alone in a coffee shop.

I gave him a cup of coffee because my heart felt his fear, his loneliness, and his chill. I hoped the coffee gave him a little warmth. I made the decision the second I saw him.

This year, and for years to come, give without pause or discrimination. Allow your gift to go forth as unfettered and unencumbered as possible. Let your heart light your offerings, and share with one another the blessings of your spirit.

I’m going to get another cup of coffee….