I’ve heard this story in several places, most notably as told by Dan Millman, Derek Sivers, and others. I feel it’s a nice cautionary tale about celebrating too early, before we know how the whole story is going to turn out, or getting down because we think we’re losing in the game. Either way, wait & see.
What do you think, dear heart?
An old man and his son worked a small farm, with only one horse to pull the plow. One day, the horse ran away.
“How terrible,” sympathized the neighbors. “What bad luck.”
“Who knows whether it is bad luck or good luck?” the farmer replied.
A week later, the horse returned from the mountains, leading five wild mares into the barn.
“What wonderful luck!” said the neighbors.
“Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?” answered the old man.
The next day, the son, trying to tame one of the horses, fell and broke his leg.
“How terrible. What bad luck!”
“Bad luck? Good luck?”
The army came to all the farms to take the young men for war, but the farmer’s son was of no use to them, so he was spared.
One of the greatest & most motivating things is to know, deep inside, that each of us can make great things happen. Even better, we don’t have to do it all at once…it’s a step by step journey, and each step, not matter how small, is part of what gets us there.
Sharing starts here. Healing starts here.
Let’s do this together.
– Brother Ian
We Were Made for These Times
My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here.
The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.
I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Hearing the bell,
I am able to let go all my afflictions,
My heart is calm, my sorrows ended,
I am not longer boound to anything.
I learn to listen to my suffering and the suffering of another person.
When understanding is born in me, compassion is also born. Thich Nhat Hanh
I think this is a little nutshell sharing of how you think you’re doing one thing – in this case, doing a portrait photo shoot – and getting different results, because different people, different stories, and different perspectives are involved.
Back in the days when I taught language arts, the kids & I would read the story of Icarus.
You know the story (in a nutshell):
Often depicted in art, Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus’s father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea’s dampness would not clog his wings or the sun’s heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father’s instructions not to fly too close to the sun, whereupon the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.
Usually, there would be at least one student who would say, “Yep, sounds like my dad, too – don’t be too lazy, and don’t have too much fun.” After we all laughed, it was nice that we all agreed Icarus was just a frisky puppy who was looking for the edges of how much fun he could have. Instead of the discussion that we had in my college classroom that centred on how big-headed Icarus was, because he didn’t listen to his papa, and how that hubris led to his downfall, ours went another direction.
What if Icarus was a free spirit, looking to go as high as his wings wold take him? Looking for the thrill of going higher? Enjoying the freedom of both flight and powering himself, with his own strength & arms, to just glow, just because, just because.
You remember John Gillespie Magee’s High Flight – you gotta smile when you read it, and nearly every pilot I know loves the joy & feeling of exhilaration of Magee’s words :
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air… Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark or even eagle flew — And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Isn’t that what Icarus wanted to do? And isn’t that what we all want to do?
So one morning, in January 1986, my grade nines in my school in Oregon City, Oregon and I had just wrapped up our Greek mythology session with Icarus, when my friend Mary from the class next door told me what had happened. My kids & I quietly went to her room (she had a TV), and watched the news of the Challenger explosion. It especially moved the other teachers & I, because one of the astronauts, the first civilian astronaut, was a teacher named Christa. Like us.
The kids left the room silently to go to the midday break, and Jennifer, from my class, whispered to me, “Just like Icarus. Trying to fly higher…”
The news people & the President & pretty much everyone spoke of the Challenger Seven as brave & wonderful.
Magee spoke of the joy of flying & taking the chance to say he had “done a hundred things/You have not dreamed of.”
And my students explored the idea that pushing the envelope, looking for something beyond the edge, was the morale of the story.
Because you might just find joy.
As always, they teach me way more than I could ever teach them.
First time I heard this, I thought, “Well, that’s dumb. You wouldn’t think it if it wasn’t real to you. Besides blah blah blah….” If you’ve ever been inside my noisy head, you know I just went on. And on.
Then I looked at what I had just thought (or said in my head) and asked myself if it really was dumb. Maybe not. Maybe there’s another way to look at it….
And I realized I didn’t actually believe that thing I had just thought.
That reminded me of a story.
I’m seven years old, in early third grade. It’s the weekend, and my mom is in the back, hanging clothes on the line. My slightly younger sister got a lighter from somewhere, lit a candle, and crawled under a bed to play. The candle caught the bed afire, and smoke started to collect in the house.
Because I went to school, where they trained you in the ways of the world & suggested ways to think, I knew exactly what to do. And I did it, unprompted and unguided, all on my own.
I went quietly and quickly, without talking to anyone, outside to the front yard and stood in the front yard. I remember, even now, hoping my sister was ok, but knew I wasn’t supposed to go back inside until they told me to.
And that’s what I learned from fire drills at school.
(Luckily, my mom was handy with a fire extinguisher, my sister came out of it OK, and when my mom asked, “What are you doing out there?” to the kid standing in the front yard (me), I didn’t say anything, because you’re not supposed to say anything to anyone during a fire drill.)
Interestingly, I don’t recall ever reviewing this with my folks, which meant I had to reflect on it on my own. Naturally, I came to realize that my sister had been in danger, and everything I was instructed to do didn’t help at all. And being afraid of being caught doing the wrong thing really didn’t help the situation. This all started to crystallize in my seven-year-old brain that sometimes you have to do what you’re told, but keep your eyes open, and options open, and your mind open. Shoot, while you’re at it, keep your heart open, too.
Then maybe you can help put out fires, little as you are.
A day after, I remember asked my sister, who had a certain grounded wisdom then, as now, why did she have a lighted candle under the bed. She said, “It was dark under there.”
And I would say, now, it was no darker under there than in my beclouded brain that was full of the thoughts of others that I had made into mine, and rendered me pretty useless in a real emergency.
You ever been in this kind of situation? and head space, and heart space?
Kinda cool to shake free, wasn’t it?
It’s more fun this way – challenging not just what others think but what we think – and I like the look on your face when you do.
Sunny days to you and sunny smiles, because you get it, hey.
All things in this creation exist within you,
and all things in you exist in creation;
there is no border between you and the closest things,
and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things,
from the lowest to the loftiest,
from the smallest to the greatest,
are within you as equal things.
In one atom are found all the elements of the earth;
in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence;
in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans;
in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence.
“If we can learn to listen, maybe life will tell us how it needs to regenerate. In the ancient ways, the leader was not the one who told people what to do, the leader was the one who listened, watched the signs, was attentive to the inner world.
Sufis talk about the ‘ear of the heart.’ This is something you learn in the relationship with the teacher. I spent 20 years sitting at the feet of my teacher listening. You learn through listening. You learn how to listen to what is between the words. You learn to listen to the heart, to the soul. You listen to people’s dreams, the signs in their lives. And similarly one can listen and watch the signs in the world around us.
The earth is calling to us, sending us signs of the extremity of its imbalance through earthquakes and tsunamis, floods and storms, drought, and unprecedented heat. These are what Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ‘Bells of Mindfulness,’ awakening our awareness to where it is needed at this moment in time.”
Jeff Foster studied Astrophysics at Cambridge University. In his mid-twenties, after a long period of depression and illness, he became addicted to the idea of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ and embarked on an intensive spiritual quest for the ultimate truth of existence.
The spiritual search came crashing down with the clear recognition of the non-dual nature of everything, and the discovery of the extraordinary in the ordinary. In the clarity of this seeing, life became what it always was: intimate, open, loving and spontaneous, and Jeff was left with a deep understanding of the root illusion behind all human suffering, and a love of the present moment.
When I was kid, I used to take my shoes off when I had to walk to the bus stop when it was raining, so my socks & shoes wouldn’t be wet all day at school. I found that I really liked walking in the rain, sloshing in the mud with the inter-toe mud & squishiness of it all, and the feeling of freedom it gave me. Of course, I never told my parents, even now. So the picture of me, walking under my little umbrella (yes, in grade four I had an umbrella!), with my shoes tied by the laces & hanging from my shoulder, taking twice as long to get there, because it was fun…it’s a picture I have in my scrapbook of a head.
That’s why I like the little video above. Especially the English accents (when I was a kid, I was bi-dialectic – I spoke with a Southern gentleman-in-training’s drawl, and my thoughts were in a British accent)…I sure like it. See what you think.
Just another way to take a shower…
The video below reminds me of university – I was at the University of Alabama, walking home from work at the dining hall, when the rains came, warm & hard & wet, with home too far away to even walk fast or run. It was wonderful, walking in the Alabama rain.
Years later, I went on a hike with my sister’s pal Hilda in an thunderstorm in north Alabama, where we walked up the side of a hill to near the top, where the lightning was, and it was a week after I had first heard the song below. Summertime rain washes you clean, so I wanted to share that with you today!
Thanks for listening, and singing along, my friend.
One of my favorite quotes from the Buddha is: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
Gratitude is one of the fruits of living from genuine happiness; at the same time, it arises from an inherent seed in our being, a seed that requires cultivation. There’s a quote from Meister Eckhart, the Christian mystic, that illustrates how important this quality is: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” If we truly understood the depth of this teaching it would be all we’d need to know.
Unfortunately, we can’t just tell ourselves to be grateful and expect it to happen, yet it’s a quality that certainly can be nurtured.