Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

When poet Donald Hall met with sculptor Henry Moore, he dared to ask if Moore believed that there was a secret to life. The response astonishes: “The secret of life,” Moore answered without flinching, “is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is- it must be something you cannot possibly do.”

Imagine the courage behind these tasks. By what sacred story are you living? What task have you set for yourself? Can you tell your life story, accomplish your task, from where you are?

If you’re uncertain, turn over in you mind philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s reflection that “religion is what we do with our solitude.” Where your heart wanders during those chambered moments will show you the direction of your true longing. We speak of God and geniuses and heroes and sacred sites, but these are only names for the ineffable mystery of the force behind something our souls long to be in touch with. No practical philosophy explains this urge. It is a force from the mysterious shadow world that may in turn long for us.

~ Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred


Source: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Portrait via Phil Cousineau

Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018

Things don’t have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What’s the function of a galaxy? I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels. Photo: Scientific American

Sunday Morning: Perhaps, that is enough.

While not a believer himself, Mr. Ruse harbors a great deal of sympathy for those who find ultimate meaning in the universe and their lives through worship. Taking his cue from his own Quaker upbringing, he argues that three things remain deeply satisfying in life, even if philosophically one ends up on the side of Epicurus and his denial of design: family; a life of service to others; and, not surprisingly for a philosopher, the life of the mind. For many people, there is indeed purpose in each of these, and perhaps, Mr. Ruse suggests, that is enough.

~ John Farrell, from his “Review: To What End is All This?” where Farrell reviews ‘On Purpose’ by Michael Ruse


 

Photo of Dr. Michael Ruse via Strange Notions

(My) Ordinary Life is Good

…Mr. Landau dismantles common myths and offers strategies to help people find greater purpose in their own lives. Systematically, he refutes the usual arguments as to why life is pointless: Since the universe is so vast and we’re so tiny, nothing that we do matters … no one will remember us; everything we do and treasure will one day perish from the earth. None of these deters Mr. Landau from his rational, philosophical argument for why each individual’s life is meaningful…

Mr. Landau notes that all such concerns are animated by the same mistaken belief: that a valuable life must necessarily be a perfect one. “According to this presupposition,” he writes, “meaningful lives must include some perfection or excellence or some rare and difficult achievements.” Those who despair of life’s meaning can’t see the value in the ordinary; only lives of greatness such as Michelangelo’s or Lincoln’s can be worthwhile.

As Mr. Landau observes, such perfectionism sets a standard for meaningfulness that is nearly impossible to attain. He mentions a talented biologist he knows who considers her life wasted because she didn’t reach the very top of her field. Perfectionism’s other, more odious, problem is its elitism: It assumes that some lives have more worth than others. Though clearly wrong, a version of this idea is deeply embedded in our secular culture. A meaningful life, we’re constantly told, lies in worldly success: going to certain colleges, landing certain jobs and living in certain communities. Mr. Landau doesn’t spell it out, but he seems to understand where this flawed assumption leads. Does the life of a child with Down syndrome have less value than the life of a healthy child? Is a retail clerk leading a less meaningful life than, say, Elon Musk? A perfectionist would have to say yes and yes. But Mr. Landau wisely points out that it’s cruel and misguided to hold ourselves or others to this standard for meaning, because it neglects each life’s inherent worth. […]

In “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World,” Mr. Landau presents a much-needed lesson in humanity and compassion. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to achieve your lofty goals, he urges; instead, celebrate the value of an ordinary life well lived. In the same way you don’t have to become a monk or nun to be a good Christian, you don’t have to be a Shakespeare or Rockefeller to lead a good life. Holding your child’s hand, volunteering in your community, doing your job, appreciating the beauty around you—these are the wellsprings of meaning all of us can tap.

~ Emily Esfahani Smith, in her book review titled “Review: Redefining a Well-Lived Life” of “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World” by Iddo Landau (August 1, 2017)


Photo: Hard Rock Hotel in Pattaya, Thailand via Eclecticitylight. Thank you Doug.

 

It’s been a long day

wind

I don’t know. Things don’t have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What’s the function of a galaxy? I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven: A Novel


Notes:

Miracle. All of it.


If someone set fire
To the whole night sky,
Would you ask “how?”
Or would you ask “why?”

~ the-real-void


Notes:

Why?

harry-belafonte

“I often look at the journey, and I don’t get it…I really don’t. I have lasted longer than I understand why. I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do… This is not modesty. This is part of a bigger search for me. What was all this about? Why?”

~ Harry Belafonte, Harry Belafonte Knows a Thing or Two About New York. The city native, about to turn 90, looks back at a glorious past and wonders what his next act will be. He was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr., and dropped out of school in ninth grade, frustrated by what was later recognized as dyslexia. He was working as a janitor’s assistant when a customer gave him tickets to an American Negro Theater production, and when he volunteered to help as a handyman, he soon found himself onstage with Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Mr. Poitier.


Photo of Belafonte from Kate Wolf Music Festival

Every morning, even before I open my eyes

simone-de-beauvoir

Every morning, even before I open my eyes, I know I am in my bedroom and my bed. But if I go to sleep after lunch in the room where I work, sometimes I wake up with a feeling of childish amazement — why am I myself? What astonishes me, just as it astonishes a child when he becomes aware of his own identity, is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other. What stroke of chance has brought this about? What astonishes me, just as it astonishes a child when he becomes aware of his own identity, is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other.

~ Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) in her autobiography, All Said and Done 

 


Source: Brainpickings – Simone de Beauvoir on the Constellation of Chance and Choice That Makes Us Who We Are

 

There is a hole inside of you (Part III – The Grand Finale)

Dr. Craig Barnes

This is Part III of The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes sermon at Wake Forest University’s Baccalaureate service on May 15, 2016.  Part I can be found here: There’s a Hole in You (Part I) and Part II here: There’s a Hole in You (Part II).


And over against that temptation, stand pastors in churches all around the world, right in front of the altar, holding up the sacrament.  And one after another, their parishioners come forward to them with lives that are far from whole and complete.  And there is an extraordinary moment when a pastor and a parishioner meet at the altar. The pastor is holding the broken body of Christ, the parishioners come up one after another, and then there is this moment of spiritual intimacy when the Pastor looks the parishioner in the eye.  We remember the job that was lost.  Or the diagnosis of cancer. Or the prodigal son. Or the dream that is never going to come true. Or the cherished old lover who was left behind in the grave.

[…]

A Savior who commissions us…who gives us not what we were itching for, something far better.  A glorious mission and purpose to lives, lives that can make a world of difference. There is a glorious mission for your life. You weren’t brought here by accident…Don’t try to get your life just right before taking up that mission.

In the words of John Calvin, All Rise.

Leave the garden better than you found it.

That’s your mission.

To leave our society better than you found it.

But you’re not going to be able to do that unless you know how to steward that thing that is missing. This is what gives you freedom actually that thing that’s missing. You’ve got choices as to how you respond to it.

One of the beloved members of my family is a hairy sheep dog. His name is Esau. Religion majors will get that. Esau is not just beloved, he is a good dog. He is obedient.  He is well trained. But if you were to show up on our front porch with a hot dog, he will follow you anywhere.  The beast that he is, he is driven by his appetites. Part of what it means to be made in the image in God, is to have the capacity to rise above your appetite, to make choices that are worthy of you. To use your life to for something that will make a difference even if doesn’t feel good along the way.

[…] [Read more…]

There is a hole inside of you (Part II)

Dr. Craig Barnes

This is Part II of The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes sermon at Wake Forest University’s Baccalaureate service on May 15, 2016.  Part I can be found here: There’s a Hole in You (Part I)

When my daughter graduated from college, I was amazed to hear the commencement speaker peddle the exact same drivel when I graduated from college. He looked out over 5,000 graduates and said to them: you are among the brightest and best we have ever seen. Set your goals high, dream your own dreams, chase your own star, and you can be anything that you want to be.

Really?

He might of well have said: I’m sorry we have nothing for you. It’s all out there, go put it together the best you can. 

And that’s really the assumption that we have that life is something we self-construct, not something we inherit. Not something that comes upon us with glorious mission, but self-construct. And the way we think we self-construct our own life is through our choices.

Anyone who has done parenting in the last generation knows that all good parenting advice has been about helping Johnny make good choices. So when Johnny throws a rock through the window, you’re not supposed to go out and spank him.  You bring Johnny in, you show him the glass on the floor and the rock and ask Johnny: was this a good choice? Johnny’s who a smart young man says: I’m thinking no. Right. Good choice. Good choice. [Read more…]

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