Get Up. Inhale. And don’t stop dancing.

Jeffrey_Vanhouette_05-dancer

Statistically, the probability of any one of us being here is so small that you’d think the mere fact of existing would keep us all in a contented dazzlement of surprise.  We are alive against the stupendous odds of genetics, infinitely outnumbered by all the alternatives who might, except for luck, be in our places…

We violate probability, by our nature. To be able to do this systematically, and in such wild varieties of form, from viruses to whales, is extremely unlikely; to have sustained the effort successfully for several billion years of our existence, without drifting back into randomness, was nearly a mathematical impossibility.

Add to this the biological improbability that makes each member of our own species unique. Everyone is one in 3 billion at the moment, which describes the odds. Each of us is a self contained, free-standing individual, labeled by specific protein configurations at the surfaces of cells, identifiable by whorls of fingertip skin, maybe even by special medleys of fragrance.  You’d think we’d never stop dancing.

~ Lewis Thomas, M.D., Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher


Notes: Quote Source: Thank you Whiskey River. Photography: Jeffrey Vanhouttes via Ignant.de

 

Driving I-95 S. With Small Gestures.

Katharina-Sieverding-face-eyes-close-up

He’s not there every day, but many days.
It’s a five-second human connection.
But like tree sap, the resin sticks, and it’s impossible to wash off.

I pull up to the security gate.
I swipe my card.
The gate lifts.
I glance to my left.

In winter, the door is shut, the glow of the lamp is a beacon in the pre-dawn hours. He’s there, head down, turning pages of the morning paper or a paperback. He’s approaching the end of his overnight shift.

It’s summer now, the door is open, he’s standing, motionless.

I used to offer a “Good Morning!
I gave up on him after a number of intermittent attempts.
He failed to reciprocate. I was left empty.  I refused to start my day in a ditch.

Now the morning contact is wordless.
One man’s eyes fixed on the other. A recognition. An acknowledgment.
But no more. A Cold War.
But Not. [Read more…]

Ripples outward and yokes circles of people in bonds of affection

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[…] Most people feel grateful some of the time — after someone saves you from a mistake or brings you food during an illness. But some people seem grateful dispositionally. They seem thankful practically all of the time.  These people may have big ambitions, but they have preserved small anticipations. As most people get on in life and earn more status, they often get used to more respect and nicer treatment. But people with dispositional gratitude take nothing for granted. They take a beginner’s thrill at a word of praise, at another’s good performance or at each sunny day. These people are present-minded and hyper responsive. This kind of dispositional gratitude is worth dissecting because it induces a mentality that stands in counterbalance to the mainstream threads of our culture.[…]

Gratitude is also a form of social glue. In the capitalist economy, debt is to be repaid to the lender. But a debt of gratitude is repaid forward, to another person who also doesn’t deserve it. In this way each gift ripples outward and yokes circles of people in bonds of affection. It reminds us that a society isn’t just a contract based on mutual benefit, but an organic connection based on natural sympathy — connections that are nurtured not by self-interest but by loyalty and service.

We live in a capitalist meritocracy. This meritocracy encourages people to be self-sufficient — masters of their own fate. But people with dispositional gratitude are hyperaware of their continual dependence on others. They treasure the way they have been fashioned by parents, friends and ancestors who were in some ways their superiors. They’re glad the ideal of individual autonomy is an illusion because if they were relying on themselves they’d be much worse off. […]

If you think that human nature is good and powerful, then you go around frustrated because the perfect society has not yet been achieved. But if you go through life believing that our reason is not that great, our individual skills are not that impressive, and our goodness is severely mottled, then you’re sort of amazed life has managed to be as sweet as it is. […]

~ David Brooks, The Structure of Gratitude


Photo Source: mennyfox55

Miracle? All of it. 

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I wish to raise my hand. Well, I raise it. But who raises it? Who is the “I” who raises my hand? Certainly it is not exclusively the “I” who is standing here talking, the “I” who signs the checks and has a history behind him, because I do not have the faintest idea how my hand was raised. All I know is that I expressed a wish for my hand to be raised, whereupon something within myself set to work, pulled the switches of a most elaborate nervous system, and made thirty or forty muscles — some of which contract and some of which relax at the same instant — function in perfect harmony so as to produce this extremely simple gesture. And of course, when we ask ourselves, how does my heart beat? how do we breathe? how do I digest my food? — we do not have the faintest idea.

~ Aldous Huxley, The Divine Within


Post title inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”


Notes: Photo – Maiyet. Quote: Brain Pickings

 

I am a man made of rain.

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I could grumble about the rain and the discomfort, but after all, rain affirms what this country is. Today I stand face to face with the maker of it all, the source of its beauty and abundance, and I love the rain as desert people love the sun. I remember that the human body is ninety-eight percent water, and so, more than anything else, rain is the source of my own existence. I imagine myself transformed back to the rain from which I came. My hair is a wispy, wind-torn cloud. My eyes are rainwater ponds, glistening with tears. My mind is sometimes a clear pool, sometimes an impenetrable bank of fog. My heart is a thunderstorm, shot through with lightning and noise, pumping the flood of rainwater that surges inside my veins. My breath is the misty wind, whispering and soft one moment, laughing and raucous another. I am a man made of rain.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within


Photo: Journal of a Nobody

Sunday Morning: Nothing more than a face in a raindrop.

black and white, raining, rain,

At this moment, there must be more raindrops falling on the surface of the island than there are humans on earth, perhaps more than all the humans who ever lived. I’ve thought of raindrops as tiny and insignificant things, but against the scale of earth itself, they’re scarcely smaller than I am. On what basis, then, can I consider myself more important? Koyukon elders say that each kind of weather, including rain, has its own spirit and consciousness. If this is true, there must be a spirit within every raindrop, as in all else that inhabits the earth. In this sense, we are two equal forms of being who stand in mutual regard. I bend down to look at a crystal droplet hanging from a hemlock needle and know my own image is trapped inside. It’s humbling to think of myself this way. In the broader perspective of earth, I am nothing more than a face in a raindrop.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within


Image: freefoto.com

Would I (could I) have done it? Hmmmmm. Inspiring? Absolutely.

homeless-subway

David Brooks: Building Spiritual Capital:

Lisa Miller is a professor of psychology and education at Columbia University. One day she entered a subway car and saw that half of it was crowded but the other half was empty, except for a homeless man who had some fast food on his lap and who was screaming at anybody who came close.

At one stop, a grandmother and granddaughter, about 8, entered the car. They were elegantly dressed, wearing pastel dresses and gloves with lace trim. The homeless man spotted them and screamed, “Hey! Do you want to sit with me?” They looked at each other, nodded and replied in unison, “Thank you” and, unlike everybody else, sat directly next to him.

The man offered them some chicken from his bag. They looked at each other and nodded and said, “No, thank you.” The homeless man offered several more times, and each time they nodded to each other and gave the same polite answer. Finally, the homeless man was calmed, and they all sat contentedly in their seats.

Don’t miss entire op-ed story by David Brooks: Building Spiritual Capital


Packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones

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Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us—a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain—it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I’m deep in my own. To say ‘going through the motions’—this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgment of the effort—the labor, the motions, the dance—of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind.

This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always arise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.

~ Leslie Jamison, “The Empathy Exams


Credits: Photo: Angelhead. Quote: Invisiblestories

Foot Soldiers

shoe-shine-hand

“Finding unexpected beauty in the hands of shoe shiners”

This hand: German Orellana, 55, Ecuador.
Photographs by Christopher Griffith.

Don’t miss photos of 15 other NYC shoe shiners in The New York Times Magazine: Shoe Shine Slideshow


Opia


opia – n. the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable–their pupils glittering, bottomless and opaque–as if you were peering through a hole in the door of a house, able to tell that there’s someone standing there, but unable to tell if you’re looking in or looking out.