Waiting and Listening

Mark was wise beyond his 33 years. Since he was killed in January, I’ve often reflected on his wisdom—where he gathered it from—and maybe more important, his ongoing commitment to cultivate it.

He reminded me time and time again of the efficacy of stepping back from something that I lacked perspective on. Often, this “thing” would be (at the time) a source of dissonance and more often than not, causing me to get tangled up in anger, frustration, and anxiety.

I believe that Mark’s daily discipline of meditation was teaching him the need (and importance) of creating space from those things that create emotional “white noise” in our lives. Sadly, I no longer get to bounce things his way. Maybe that’s why I’ve been finding myself getting “stuck” in spaces that I should know intellectually are not worth occupying.

Last week, I spent far too much of my time fixated on a moneymaking proposition that I recognize (now) isn’t a good fit. Not a get-rich-quick scheme—but a career maneuver that had me twisting towards something that I’m probably not really invested in. Instead of trusting my instincts, I rushed foolishly ahead and ran into a wall. After a couple of days given to beating myself up about it, I am now able to see some humor in it. I’m also reminded of the scene in Animal House, the one where Stork (played by Douglas Kenney) knocks down the drum major and leads the marching band off the parade route and down a dead-end alley. Continue reading

Making Time to Slow Down

My mother, Saint Helen of Immaculata, had a saying that I heard ad infinitum growing up—that saying was, “haste makes waste.” I’m not sure where she picked that one up and I’m guessing it wasn’t one I imagined I’d come back to—but I did, especially after acquiring some life experience.

Quality takes time. There are other idioms like, “anything worth doing is worth doing well.” I remember that one being part of St. Helen’s repertoire, also.

I’m finding that the things that have acquired staying power in my own life are things that haven’t happened overnight. Writing, health awareness, cultivating skills that never go out of season, these things take time.

I’ve written about Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hour rule. It’s about putting the time in and recognizing there’s a commitment to the long haul.

Unfortunately, much of our culture runs contrary to that. We want fast. We demand convenience. We’re impatient when we don’t win $1,000,000.00 in the lottery.

Success sometimes runs contrary to convenience.

Success sometimes runs contrary to convenience.

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Wisdom for my day

I think I mentioned that my mom, now dubbed St. Helen of Immaculata by my sister, often offered tidbits of wisdom in the form of sayings and even poems to the young JBE.

One in particular has stayed with me all these years. It’s authorship is unknown and I might argue that it’s loosely based on a poem by Rudyard Kipling. The wisdom expressed is something I can really understand now, 40+ years later.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

This second passage comes from none other than Confucius, arguably one of the greatest thinkers of all time.

The illustrious ancients, when they wished to make clear and to propagate the highest virtues to the world, put their states in proper order. Before putting their states in proper order, they regulated their families. Before regulating their families, they cultivated their own selves. Before cultivating their own selves, they perfected their souls. Before perfecting their souls, they tried to be sincere in their thoughts. Before trying to be sincere in their thoughts, they extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such investigation of knowledge lay in the investigation of things, and in seeing them as they really are. When things were thus investigated, knowledge became complete. When knowledge was complete, their thoughts became sincere. When their thoughts were sincere, their souls became perfect. When their souls were perfect, their own selves became cultivated. When their selves were cultivated, their families became regulated. When their families were regulated, their states came to be put into proper order. When their states were in proper order, then the whole world became peaceful and happy.

When all else fails us, I say look to the past to find your way forward.