It’s like a great oak that rises up from the center of the human race and spreads its branches everywhere

Choral music is not one of life’s frills. It’s something that goes to the very heart of our humanity, our sense of community, and our souls. You express, when you sing, your soul in song. And when you get together with a group of other singers, it becomes more than the sum of the parts. All of those people are pouring out their hearts and souls in perfect harmony. Which is kind of an emblem for what we need in this world, when so much of the world is at odds with itself…that just to express, in symbolic terms, what it’s like when human beings are in harmony. That’s a lesson for our times and for all time. I profoundly believe that.And musical excellence is, of course, at the heart of it. But, even if a choir is not the greatest in the world, the fact that they are meeting together has a social value. It has a communal value. And I always say that a church or a school without a choir is like a body without a soul. We have to have a soul in our lives. And everybody tells me, who has sung in a choir, that they feel better for doing it. That whatever the cares of the day, if they maybe meet after a long day’s school or work, that somehow you leave your troubles at the door. And when you’re sitting there, making music for a couple hours at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters at that moment. And you walk away refreshed. You walk away renewed. And that’s a value that goes just beyond the music itself.

Of course, as a musician, I put the music at the heart of it, but all of these other values just stand out as a beacon. I think our politicians need to take note…my gosh do they ever! [laughs], and our educators, those who decide education budgets, church budgets, just need to remember it’s not a frill. It’s like a great oak that rises up from the center of the human race and spreads its branches everywhere. That’s what music does for us. And choral music must stand as one of the supreme examples of it.

John RutterThe Importance of Choir


Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels

All That We Share (Watch!)

It happened on Christmas Eve, 48 years ago.

earth

It happened on Christmas Eve, 48 years ago. Three men took turns reading from the first 10 verses of the Book of Genesis. They were nearly 250,000 miles away from Bethlehem, but since it was the night before Christmas, and there was no chimney from which to hang their stockings, the three astronauts inside the Apollo 8 capsule orbiting the moon thought it would be appropriate. So as Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders looked at the faraway Earth through the small window of the spacecraft, they read the verses: “In the beginning, God made the heavens and the Earth.”

Their distant-sounding voices from far beyond our atmosphere were broadcast live to the whole planet that night over radio and television. It was one of those moments that brought the world together, that helped us to see our common humanity…

~ Eric Metaxas, from Christmas Eve in Space and Communion on the Moon (wsj.com, Dec, 24, 2016)

 


Photo: Earth (Great Lakes). Canadian Space Agency/Chris Hadfield via Space.com

feed him for three days before asking who he is

rice-cilantro-food-meal

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.
Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.”

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Red Brocade” (1952)


Notes: Image Source: Rice Nice Recipes, Every Hour. Poem Source: “who are you really, wanderer?” (via Schonwieder)

 

Goose Bumps are Awe-some

goose bumps,portrait,woman

Why Do We Experience Awe?’ by Paul Piff and Dacher Kelner:

…We humans can get goose bumps when we experience awe, that often-positive feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world…Why do humans experience awe?

..awe imbues people with a different sense of themselves, one that is smaller, more humble and part of something larger…even brief experiences of awe, such as being amid beautiful tall trees, lead people to feel less narcissistic and entitled and more attuned to the common humanity people share with one another. In the great balancing act of our social lives, between the gratification of self-interest and a concern for others, fleeting experiences of awe redefine the self in terms of the collective, and orient our actions toward the needs of those around us.

You could make the case that our culture today is awe-deprived. Adults spend more and more time working and commuting and less time outdoors and with other people. Camping trips, picnics and midnight skies are forgone in favor of working weekends and late at night. Attendance at arts events — live music, theater, museums and galleries — has dropped over the years…

We believe that awe deprivation has had a hand in a broad societal shift that has been widely observed over the past 50 years: People have become more individualistic, more self-focused, more materialistic and less connected to others. To reverse this trend, we suggest that people insist on experiencing more everyday awe, to actively seek out what gives them goose bumps, be it in looking at trees, night skies, patterns of wind on water or the quotidian nobility of others — the teenage punk who gives up his seat on public transportation, the young child who explores the world in a state of wonder, the person who presses on against all odds. All of us will be better off for it.

Read entire op ed essay here: ‘Why Do We Experience Awe?’


Credits: Photo – Géraldine Hofmaier

Simple care and simple caring

cold weather and homeless

“I (Dr. Bob Flaherty) was involved with starting the medical clinic about 15 years ago to provide health care for Bozeman’s low-income individuals and families. It keeps a lot of people out of the ER and the hospital. Angels work there…

It is already below zero outside the converted machinery-rental shop that serves as Bozeman’s Warming Center for the homeless. A local nonprofit…opened the center a few years ago after a homeless man froze to death in a U-Haul truck…

I come to the center Wednesday evenings after seeing my last office patient. It is the practice of medicine at a basic level: I’m here to clean ears, trim toenails, drain abscesses, listen to worries and give advice; to fix small but important problems that will allow the people here to survive on the edge of society for another day or week. I bring a large toolbox with basic medical instruments and several over-the-counter medications…

Jerry thinks he’s going deaf; my otoscope reveals both ears packed with wax. Tiffany and I irrigate his ears with my portable kit. Success and gratitude…

…I don’t ask, but with familiarity and trust bits of their history bubble up. Divorce, lost jobs, disappearing husbands or wives, alcohol, drugs, mental illness. These homeless are often different from the homeless you read about in the New Yorker or hear about on NPR. Certainly, many have hit hard times, but just as many prefer to live off the grid. They want most of all to be left alone. They are not poster children for political assumptions.

My assistant, Tiffany, will soon enter the world of 21st-century medicine: electronic health records, quality metrics, diagnostic and treatment codes, performance-based reimbursement, insurance exchanges. Medicine as process where the patient can easily get lost. But on this cold evening she has seen a doctor helping one patient at a time, doing small things that can make a big difference. In perhaps one of the few places left in America to practice simple care and simple caring.’

Read the entire opinion piece by Dr. Flaherty here: Diagnosing the Many Routes to Homelessness


Image Credit: Oakridgenow.com

No stopping it now

black and white

I once read of a climber who, while clinging to the face of a climb thousands of feet above an alpine valley, said he could feel the earth turn under his hands. And I have read that a person with patience could move an aircraft carrier tied at a dock by leaning long enough against its side to get it started, knowing that once it began to move there’d be no bringing it back, and it came to me that the earth behaves like that, steadily moving out into time under the common pressure of billions of hands.

No stopping it now.

~ Ted Kooser, December. The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book


Credits: Photograph – boulderporn

 

Gate A-4

naomi_shihab_nye

Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning: Jonny + Xena. Moved.


There’s not much to say here except WATCH.

Thank you Julie.

Driving. To Exit 9.

man-face-mask-art

It’s Wednesday evening.
I’m on my commute home from work.
Traffic is flowing on I-95 North.
A school of fish gliding down a rapid current.

He drips into consciousness at Exit 5.
There are three words on a piece of tattered cardboard, written with a thick, black, felt pen.
The words are stacked.

Homeless.
Hungry.
Help.

My thoughts shift to a Netflix movie. I’m replaying scenes from 13 Conversations About One Thing as I’m chewing up highway. John Turturro: Life of predictability. Fullness of routine.

He stands at the same Exit. Exit 9. My Exit.
There’s a stop light at the end of the long exit ramp.
You can’t avoid him, unless you are at the back of the line in rush hour.
And then you pass him at 15 mph as you negotiate the corner.

White male. 35-40 years old. Clean shaven. Average weight and height. A coat a bit heavy and oversized for the season, but not unusually so. His eyes, those eyes, emit distress.

Addict? Alcohol? Prescription Drugs? Coke? Meth? 
Unemployed? Unemployable? Record?
Bad decisions? Bad luck?  
He doesn’t give much away.
[Read more…]

Foliage

tall-trees-canopy-forest

What’s with the mustache?
(Silence)
Have you ever shaved it off?
(Pause) No.
How long have you had it?
(Pause) It’s older than you are.
Really?
(Silence)
Why don’t you shave it off?
(Silence)
So. Why don’t you shave it off?
(Pause) It’s foliage.
(Pause.) What?
(Silence) (I catch the stare. Then the flash of understanding, of empathy. The eyes avert. The awkward step backward to create space.)
Smiling,
I turn my back and walk away.


Image Source: Thank you Carol


Red Balloons + Kindness =


Yes, it’s a commercial. But what is it with this time of the year, Red Balloons and a bit of kindness? You can’t help but be warmed by the faces in this ad…


I had to do something. I have no shame.


Moved. No words required.


Note from a Follower. And a Friend.

walkaway_crop380w

Most of you reading this post are WordPress followers. I’m sure that you, like me, often wonder who the human being is behind the curtain for certain members of your comment “community.” Sonia is one of those followers for me. Except she’s not a WordPress follower, but an email subscriber. I continue to shake my head in wonder at the wonderful network that is established in blogging. I reached out to Sonia following a comment interchange and I asked her to share a bit with me about her.

In April, 2012, ~ six months after this blog was launched, Sonia signed up to receive email posts. Sonia, 25, is a Muslim. She is from Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan and the third largest city in the world. (Pop: 23 million.) Sonia is pursuing an MBA in Human Resources and is two courses and a thesis away from graduation. She also works as a Corporate Coordinator at a major multinational Health Insurance Company.

I asked Sonia how she found my blog.  She said that she “was searching the internet for articles and ended up in the world of Blogs. Now among the millions of bloggers, why did I subscribe to your Blog? A million dollar question! I used to have (write) conversations with life (in a childish diary that I have) and I was surprised to find you having a conversation with your Mind in one of your posts. I was awestruck because in last 5 years of my conversations, I never came across a person who did that. So I subscribed to follow your blog.

(Note to self: Someone halfway across the world types “Bloggers Talking To Themselves” into the Google Search box and on Page 1 of the Google Search landing page they find me.  Oh Boy.) [Read more…]

Sunday Morning: You Have to Maintain What You Love


“The Horsemen: The traditional ‘Rounding of the Mares’ has been with the Almonte horsemen for generations. Over a thousand horses are driven across the plains and through the towns of rural Spain.  Being a horseman in Almonte is to live the tradition of our ancestors that has existed for over 500 years, to maintain the balance between nature and man.  It is something so rooted inside of us, in our blood, that we are born horsemen and our children are born horsemen.  The first thing they want to do is go to the marshlands with their fathers and grandfathers.  For us the marshlands, the field, the nature, is a religion, a way of life, an identity.  It’s a proud responsibility to because you have to maintain what you love.  We are horsemen, living in unity with nature and our values.  It is a community and a union, between animal and man.  I think for a man, where he has lived, what his elders have passed onto him, if he doesn’t preserve this then life has little meaning.”

10 Secrets of Science For Achieving Bliss (and my take)

photography, jump, bliss, joy

Lori, my Zen Master and a bubbling brook of knowledge and wisdom, shared this FastCompany article titled: 10 Simple Science Backed Ways to Be Happier Today. I reflected on it for a few days. Here’s my conclusions and scorecard:

  1. FC: EXERCISE MORE–7 MINUTES MIGHT BE ENOUGH. (DK: Yes, to Exercise more. No, to 7 minutes being enough. Come on. 7 minutes would imply lazy, quitter, lacking and absolutely nothing. Period. Full stop.)
  2. FC: SLEEP MORE–YOU’LL BE LESS SENSITIVE TO NEGATIVE EMOTIONS. (DK: Completely agree. Horrible in actual execution.)
  3. FC: MOVE CLOSER TO WORK–A SHORT COMMUTE IS WORTH MORE THAN A BIG HOUSE (DK: I’m all in on this one. A BUYER.)
  4. FC: SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY–DON’T REGRET IT ON YOUR DEATHBED (DK: Hmmmm. Introverts? Solitude? Thoreau? Let’s define what we mean by “time.”)
  5. FC: GO OUTSIDE–HAPPINESS IS MAXIMIZED AT 13.9°C (DK: Half way there. All-in on outdoors. Happiness cannot be maximized @ 57° F. Give me Heat. Implementation at 50%)

    [Read more…]

Get Closer


Source: VideoHall

What I regret most in my life are failures of…

George Saunders

READ THIS.  You will not be disappointed.  It started my day off on the right foot.


From George Saunders’ 2013 “Advice to Graduates” commencement speech @ Syracuse University:

“…Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret…What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.  Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet… [Read more…]

Good Morning Grumpy


I can’t say that I execute every day, but I do believe this.  Yes I do.

Good Morning!


Source: swiss-miss

How to be interesting

Jessica Hagy’s new book was published this month.  It is titled “How to Be Interesting. (In 10 Simple Steps).”  The Lady is genius.  Here are two examples:

charts, humanity, strangers, relationships, comments

And  here’s the second:

[Read more…]

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