Posts tagged ‘meaning’

October 14, 2016

Just a dash, yet so much more

At a recent performance by the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in my town, orchestra conductor and artistic director Dr. Wes Janzen spoke these words:

On your grave marker, there will be a birth date and a death date. Then there is a dash. That dash is your life.

Wow. Those words drove home for me how short life really is — as short as the dash that sits between the birth and death dates on a gravestone.

Dr. Janzen’s words made me realize how little of “your life” others will see of you when you’re gone: that dash doesn’t communicate any of your joys, achievements or successes. It ignores the obstacles you overcame. It disregards how your smile lit up a room; how you taught kids to play the piano, baked drool-worthy goodies for friends, or fixed people’s cars for free. That dash doesn’t convey any of the depth of your experience. It doesn’t recognize your contribution to the world, to your family and friends, to your community.

This might all sound a bit depressing, but in another sense, it’s empowering. My life truly is my own to make of it what I want. No one cares about the outcome — the substance of that dash — except for me, and possibly some of the people around me. So the best thing to do is live my life according to my own principles and passions, and to share the results of that process with my friends, family and community.

True, my life might be a mere blip on the radar of the larger world, but it can leave a lasting and meaningful mark on the lives of the people around me. I can be a teacher, an inspiration, a confidante, a buddy to laugh with, a shoulder to lean on, a superstar volunteer, a person who always picks up the phone and says, “yes, that’s great, let’s do it!” The people on the receiving or collaborating ends of all this will share the depths of their experiences with the depth of mine, and maybe that is enough.

June 18, 2016

What matters in life, in three quotations

Sometimes we need a reminder of what really matters in life (and what doesn’t). Here are three quotations that drive the message home on three different levels:

From Dee Williams in The Big Tiny:

Whose idea was it that we should all get jobs, work faster, work better, race from place to place with our brains stewing on tweets, blogs and sound bites, on must-see movies, must-do experiences, must-have gadgets, when in the end, all any of us will have is our simple beating heart, reaching up for the connection to whoever might be in the room or leaning into our mattress as we draw our last breath.

From Peter Matthiessen in Indian Country:

[Our society’s] lunatic insistence on “progress,” on “growth,” on gross national product . . . is destroying the land and air and water, the wild animals and plants . . .  not to speak of quality and craftsmanship, birdsong, silence, night, and the very soul of man.

And from Henry Miller in The World of Sex:

Why are we so full of restraint? Why do we not give in all directions? Is it fear of losing ourselves? Until we do lose ourselves there is no hope of finding ourselves.

❤

 

May 7, 2015

A note about what’s most important

A great quote from Vickie M. Worsham:

Remember what is most important:

It’s not having everything go right;
it’s facing whatever goes wrong.
It’s not being without fear;
it’s having the determination to go on in spite of it.
It’s not where you stand,
but the direction you’re going in.

Remember to live this one day and not add tomorrow’s troubles to today’s load.
Remember that every day ends and brings a new tomorrow full of exciting new things.
Love what you do,
do the best you can,
and always remember how much you are loved.

January 5, 2015

This new year, discover what really matters

A perfect quote for the new year, courtesy of Robert Brault:

Life is about discovering things that do matter in the end.

May 2015 bring you closer to realizing (and acting on) what really matters in your own life.

November 4, 2014

The secret to a rich life? It’s in each individual thread

I recommend reading the book Outside, an enchanting and mystical collection of short stories by Barry Lopez. The anthology’s last story in particular expresses the idea of life as a tapestry composed of hundreds of exquisite threads, each deserving of our notice and care, and together forming a beauty that shimmers far beyond the reach of words.

In “Empira’s Tapestry,” the narrator Marlis stands in awe of a magnificent tapestry woven by her mysterious friend Empira. The tapestry depicts “a wilderness scene of bright sunlight over a canyon,” and it stuns Marlis with its intricacy and radiance, as she expresses in this passage:

When I first looked at [Empira’s tapestry] I thought it had to be a painting, so fine was her weave. Only with my glasses on could I distinguish the threads from one another or, more amazing, the boundaries between colors. A hundred spools of thread pegged on a board ran the spectrum from plum through saffron to ruby red, with dozens of shades of blue and green and hues of brown.

Marlis struggles for words to compliment Empira on the depth of her skill, but Empira has a simple explanation for her handiwork:

It’s each individual thread, Marlis. Tying off each single thread. Pulling them from the spools, holding them to the light, feeling their tension, like violin strings, before they become part of the pattern.

Empira then draws a lovely parallel between the care she has taken in weaving the tapestry and the care many of us fail to take with the threads in our own lives:

We suspect so little of what goes on in the world, of what is happening or has happened to us. We don’t gather the threads, Marlis. We let them go and then the wind weaves them. We let go and float. We eddy up along the river somewhere, most of us, and just wait out our time.

The threads of your life, if gathered and appreciated for their own unique qualities, create a rich and striking tapestry that is yours alone. The key, Lopez reminds us, is to discern the line and shape of each individual thread, to turn it over in your hands and appreciate what it has to offer, then to tie it with care and understanding into the bigger picture that is your life.

Only you can weave the tapestry of your life – but you have to dedicate yourself to the task first.

March 29, 2014

“I want something more!”

These lyrics from the song “More” by J. Englishman provide some pretty useful criteria against which to measure the activities, relationships and causes we choose to pursue in our lives:

Give me passion, give me feeling
Give me something to believe in.
Give me passion, give me feeling
Give me reasons to be breathing.

If what you’re doing with your life doesn’t light you up inside, then why are you doing it in the first place?