Archive | July, 2013

Riding With Friends

30 Jul

Wonderful ideas come at the most unexpected times, don’t they?

For instance.

I decided this morning to go cycling, something I haven’t done for a couple of months. After I gathered all the gear, pumped up the tires, tossed the bike in the back of my pickup and drove to the bike path, the Arizona sun was already reminding me that late July is not the very best time to ride. But…I was there and so I did. Cycling often provides a time and space for me to really relax and let my mind wander, and, thus, this morning my mind clicked into “meditate” gear and off it went. Before long I was thinking of two close friends, men that I’ve known for a long time and who now, both of them, would probably give anything they possessed to ride along the river with me. But they can’t. Because of serious medical issues, both men have seen their lives turned upside down. It is enough to say that neither can be as active and free as he used to be. So, I took them on a ride with me this morning…at least in my imagination.

We rode along the river remembering the fun we have had together over the years, the travels together, the meals shared, the laughter at corny jokes. And I could hear their voices as clearly as ever. I know the sound of each one’s laugh. I know their facial expressions and their unique mannerisms. I know each one, and each was there with me, even though neither could do the peddling anymore. And then I thought…

I’m going to invite them along every time I ride, and I’m going to suggest to my friends that they issue a similar invitation to their friends, too. So here it is: when you wash dishes, or sew on a button, or go hiking, or take in a movie, or climb a ladder, or fix a leaky faucet…when you do anything and everything, invite someone you know to come along with you…even though she or he may not be physically able; especially if they aren’t physically able. Invite them and let them be there in your mind. Let them stand or sit or pedal beside you and allow your mind to interact with them. There are stories to share and memories to uncover and laughs to be had still.

It was a wonderful ride this morning. We enjoyed it. Maybe somehow they know that something special happened in the morning hours of today. Even if they don’t, though, I was blessed by their presence. They gave me a gift and didn’t even know it. Perhaps, though, they did. Perhaps they felt the soft breeze and heard the hum on the tires on the pavement and giggled at another corny joke.

My 3×5 Life

20 Jul

Maybe it’s as we get older that some of us begin to look back over life and think about meanings, special moments, and memorable friends. And then the thought comes: perhaps I should write down some of these things. Perhaps I should write a memoir, an autobiography of my experiences for the benefit of my grandchildren. And we put pen to paper, or, more likely, keyboard to word processing program.

My memoir, I confess, is approaching 50 pages and still growing. But I’m not dead yet, so I keep writing about fascinating people and favorite places. The problem, though, is that everyone I meet and every place I visit deserves top billing because they are fascinating and new favorites…how many pages will I have when the last key stroke is made? I’m thinking about this because of an obscure line in an old movie I saw recently. A shopkeeper, in the movie a florist, is reading the notes she has kept from those little cards that usually accompany a floral delivery. Apparently customers have ordered bouquets or plants by phone and the florist has made notes of their wishes and special messages. Each note expresses some very special thought or emotion. There is one seeking forgiveness, one sending love, one full of sadness, another expressing playful joy. And as the florist reads each one, perhaps remembering the person or the phone call that became the note, she says wistfully: “life on a 3×5 card”.

So, now I’m wondering what I would say about my own life if I had only a 3×5 card upon which to write. How hard would it be to condense everything into a few lines? What and who and where would become most important? I guess this is another way of asking “what’s really important in the end? What rises to the top of the list of experiences and encounters?”

What would you write on your 3×5 card?

Declining The Invitation

7 Jul

Has anyone mentioned to you lately that we live in a world filled with lots of different opinions about lots of different things?

We do.

Strongly held opinions and beliefs at the extreme ends of the political, religious or cultural scales sometimes go around looking for somebody to disagree with, debate, or destroy. “I’m right, your’re wrong and let’s fight about it!” Now I don’t mind a thoughtful conversation, maybe even a spirited swapping of ideas, but I try hard to avoid the war zones of emotionally charged opinions or assumed facts. Too many bodies left in that field. Too many casualties limping around.

But today I heard a story that offers me a kind response to the next guy who shouts in my face and questions my integrity or good sense. I’ll tell it to you. My friend’s son, a college professor, was speaking at a prominent university on a topic that had the potential to ruffle feathers and churn up emotional juices. The topic had to do with the environment, but it could just as easily have been religion, politics, social values, or anything else that comes under the heading “Hot Button”. At the conclusion of his talk, a man rushed to the front of the room, stood directly in front of the speaker’s stand, and shouted his disdain and complete disagreement. His words were colorful, which means I won’t repeat them here; his arms were waving in the air; his face was getting redder with each breath. So the speaker let him carry on for several minutes and waited patiently until the man’s temperature lowered a few degrees. Then, when the attacker had been silent for several seconds, the speaker calmly said: “You and I disagree. I understand that. And I think you are inviting me to go to war against you. Thank you, but I decline your invitation.” Having said that, the speaker turned and walked away.

Nothing changed because of that encounter. Neither man’s firmly held convictions shifted. Even though the invitation to conflict was delivered, the bait cast, there was no war, no explosions of invectives. It just all ended there. Some people might think the speaker weak or not committed enough in his beliefs or afraid of a good verbal fistfight. I call it civility.

Has anyone mentioned to you lately that we live in a world where civility is in short supply? We do.

Civility. We need more of it.

Beginnings and Endings

3 Jul

All the major religions of the world have their creation stories, the myths that try to answer unanswerable questions: Where did we come from? How did all of this begin? Who or what is responsible for the reality that I know?

The surprising and intriguing truth is that through many of those varied creation stories, there run similar threads. And these threads hint at several conclusions, one of which is that life, not just human life, but all of it, is linked in ways we cannot grasp. There seems to be a commonality that runs deep in our beings, something that links us back to a beginning. I find that, for instance, in the lovely stories of creation in our Native American heritage, particularly in the Zuni traditions.

The earth is our Mother, the sky our Father. Our Mother gives birth to us; our Father creates light in the dark recesses, hovers over the primordial waters, sets the stars in their places, and brings to being the seed-corn that sustains life. In the legend, Sky-Father says to Earth-Mother: “Even so. Yet I will be helpful to our children” and he spreads out his hand, palm downward. Then into the wrinkles of his hand he sets the semblance of shining yellow corn-grains. “See”, he declares, “our children shall be guided by these…guided by lights. So Sky-Father created the stars.”

I find it interesting that in one of the creation stories in the Christian faith, human kind is made from the earth. A handful of earth becomes a living being. Earth-Mother again. Earth giving life. The earth, from which we come, and to which we return in sacred burial ceremonies. The earth is our life…in more ways than one. Without the earth we do not exist.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us could realize the beautiful truths in the metaphors of our beginning? And wouldn’t it be wise if all of us could grasp the urgency of caring for our Mother, who even now tries to sustain her offspring as she suffers through the actions of her children?

It is a crime of arrogant brutality and unthinkable stupidity to murder our Mother.