Archive for November, 2012

November 29, 2012

Respect is a seven letter word

Here are three quotes on respect to ponder today:

Always treat people as ends in themselves, never as means to an end.  
~ Immanuel Kant

The truest form of love is how you behave toward someone, not how you feel about them.  
~ Steve Hall

Never take a person’s dignity:  it is worth everything to them, and nothing to you.
~ Frank X Barron

Every person you encounter is as worthy of respect and consideration as you are. Actions speak louder than words, they say. Be sure your actions speak well.

November 27, 2012

Observed on the street: Community pride in action

There is a major construction project going on in my neighbourhood, and residents along one street — their homes formerly facing a stretch of grass and a row of leafy shade trees — now gaze at a stark plywood barricade blocking mounds of upturned earth and noisy construction equipment.  Gone are the trees, the birds and the lazy quiet of the street they once knew.

I’m sure this change must be very disheartening for the folks who live here, but I am inspired to see that they haven’t lost hope.  In fact, they’re giving hope.  The residents are in the process of beautifying that plywood fence with an array of colourful murals.  They are painting trees, forest creatures, fantasy landscapes and abstract images to replace the beauty they lost.  When I walked down the street the other day, children and adults alike were out there with buckets of paint and imaginations gone wild.

It’s good to see that in a world where corporate and economic gain regularly trump the “little guys,” some little guys refuse to lose heart.  Instead of lamenting what was taken away, these people have taken ownership of what they have left, creating a conspicuous and uplifting statement about community esteem and community resilience.  These people possess the true spark of community spirit.  Neighbourhood pride most certainly lives here.

Here’s a sample of what’s on display…

Wall mural - trees and landscape

Homage to the trees that were, plus a new pastel landscape.


Wall mural - forest creatures

A family of forest creatures takes up residence.


Submarine mural with words "Love conquers hate."

“Love conquers hate.”


Wall mural - abstract images

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


Mural on a construction barricade

Castles and forests built on community pride.


Public art on a construction barrier

Where trees and grass once grew, public art springs up.


Public art on a construction barrier

Residents check out murals in progress.


Blank boards awaiting mural painting.

The plywood wall further down the street, with the “mural bus” on its way.

November 25, 2012

Kuleana: where talent and trajectory (responsibly) meet

I’m always interested in notions about personal destiny and life purpose, and recently I came across a new (to me) branch in this tree of ideas:  the Hawaiian concept of kuleana.  Broadly defined as “responsibility,” kuleana is understood to include a deep accountability to several interconnected realms:  self, family, community, earth, etc.

I discovered the concept in the pages of Terrie M. Williams’ book The Odyssey of KP2:  An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species.  She writes:

Kuleana is a Hawaiian word that has no direct translation into English.  It describes the sense of ancestral-based responsibility that often comes with a unique undertaking or experience.  It is destiny with a DNA underpinning coupled with a realization that you are doing what you were meant to do in this life, the harmonization of talent and trajectory.

In my experience, the happiest individuals are those who have discovered their kuleana.  Such individuals weather hardships, challenges and sacrifices not as obstacles or excuses for failure but as a natural part of life’s adventures.  The entire odyssey called life is a joy.

A beautiful concept — and one that gently encourages us to think and act beyond our own small spheres of perceived influence.  There is so much more out there, all around us, and we are accountable to it (all of it) by simple virtue of the fact that we are, at root, a creation of it.

I also find it noteworthy that kuleana has no direct translation into English.  The concept — with its interconnectedness and wide-ranging responsibility — certainly exists within other indigenous cultures, but it is much less prevalent within “modern” white societies, which tend to be driven more by personal gain than by personal responsibility.  If there were words in English to describe kuleana, would our motivations be different? How can we create the words to fill that gap?

I hope you find your kuleana.  May your life’s journey be an odyssey of joy.

November 24, 2012

This is your life: Live it

A little inspiration on this late-November Saturday, courtesy of Louise Carey:

This is your life.  Find a passion and pursue it.  Fall in love.  Dream big.
Drink wine, eat great food and spend quality time with good friends.
Laugh every day.  Believe in magic.  Tell stories.
Reminisce about the good old days, but look with optimism to the future.
Travel often.  Learn more.  Be creative.
Spend time with people you admire.
Seize opportunities when they reveal themselves.
Love with all your heart.  Never give up.
Do what you love.  Be true to who you are.
Make time to enjoy the simple things in life.
Spend time with family.  Forgive, even when it’s hard.  Smile often.
Be grateful.  Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Follow your dreams.  Try new things.  Work hard.
Don’t count the minutes, count the laughs.
Embrace change.  Trust in yourself.
Be thankful.  Be nice to everyone.  Be happy.
Live for today.  And above all, make every moment count.

November 19, 2012

The strength of a woman

A woman is like a tea bag.  You never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.

This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt reminds me of several women I know — many of whom had no idea of their own strength of character, mind, body or resolve until challenging circumstances were upon them.  Today, let’s celebrate the strong women in our lives.  They deserve our unfettered applause.

November 17, 2012

Laugh of the day – A castle on the corner

Observed on the street:

A young girl to her mother as she points enthusiastically to a building on a street corner in my neighbourhood:  “Look Mommy — a castle!”

Mother, patiently:  “That’s not a castle, that’s Starbucks.”

November 16, 2012

Let kindness be your guide

Today I happened upon a selection of quotes from the book Live Learn and Pass It On:  People Ages 5 to 95 Share What They’ve Discovered About Life, Love and Other Good Stuff by H. Jackson Browne Jr.

This “life lesson” from a 66-year-old jumped right out at me:

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision.

A wonderful guidepost for life’s more delicate decisions, I’d say.

November 15, 2012

The evanescence of childhood

I love this passage from the short story “Quality Time” by Barbara Kingsolver in her collection Homeland.  The passage comes after Miriam, a single mother, has just answered a string of questions about death from her five-year-old daughter Rennie as they drive home from day care.  Rennie has ruminatively decided that she would rather live with her aunt than her father if something were to happen to Miriam, and Miriam has looped around the block a few times in order to let the conversation run its course.  Now the subject turns to dinner.  Rennie wants pot pies — even after her mother suggests a stop at Ice Cream Heaven — and declares that, yes, she’ll be able to wait the half hour for dinner to cook in the oven once they get home.

In the overtones of her voice and the way she pushes her blond hair over her shoulder there is a startling maturity, and Miriam is frozen for a moment with a vision of a much older Rennie.  All the different Rennies — the teenager, the adult — are already contained in her hands and her voice, her confidence.  From moments like these, parents can find the courage to believe in the resilience of their children’s lives.  They will barrel forward like engines, armoured by their own momentum, more indestructible than love.

To me, this passage captures the fleetingness of both childhood and parenthood.  It also catches that moment in a parent’s life when you realize that, no matter what you do, your child is a person unto him- or herself.  One day, you will have to simply step back, let go, and stand on the riverbank as the current of who your child is flows by you, cutting its own special course through the unseen landscapes ahead.


November 11, 2012

Become the person inside you

I am reading a life/travel memoir about a woman who, 48 years old and recently divorced, unbinds herself from her material possessions and takes off to travel the world — indefinitely.  Her book, Tales of a Female Nomad:  Living at Large in the World, tells the story of a woman reborn.  Disillusioned with her previous way of living and open, for the first time, to the dreams and desires within her, Rita Golden Gelman shuns the conventionality of a “home base” and instead spends months or years living in different locations around the globe, plugging herself into local communities and absorbing the cultures that surround her.

But Gelman’s new way of life is unconventional, and three years into her nomadic existence, her American friends continue to ask her when she’ll finally end her wandering ways and return to the “real world.”  Her response is confident and wonderful:

No matter how often I ask myself if I’m running away from something, I always get the same answer. No, I’m not running away.  On the contrary, I’ve discovered a new way to live.

My life is endlessly fascinating, filled with learning, adventure, interesting people, new and enlightening experiences.  I laugh, sing and dance more than I ever have.  I am becoming the person inside me.

Becoming the person inside you.  Isn’t that what life is all about, ultimately?  And does it really matter which path — direct or circuitous, conventional or unconventional — you take to get there?  As long as you are walking a path that makes your eyes shine and your heart beat with anticipation, keep going.  Follow that path — your path — the one that takes you to the person inside you.

You don’t have to travel the world as Gelman did to live a life that excites you.  We’re all different people with different dreams.  But one day you may have to make a decision or choose a direction that takes you outside the box of what others expect.  Do this with confidence and conviction, as Gelman did.  It’s your path, after all.  Your path deserves to be walked.

November 11, 2012

A little piece of a big universe

I just watched the amazingly creative, almost mythical film “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (directed by Benh Zeitlin and based on a stage play by Lucy Alibar).

I love this quote from the main character, Hushpuppy, at the end of the film:

When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces. . . .  I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.