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Category Archives: Leadership

when the animals

Gary Lawless suggests that the world, as a living being, and its inhabitants speak to us, asking for help. Do we listen?

I told the boys, as they grew up, that listening and hearing are different. We hear, but, without listening, what we hear disappears immediately. In the busyness and rush of daily living, it is hard and sometimes impossible to be mindful and attentive.

When we sense the world, other humans, animals, and plants come alive for us and give the world continuously new meaning.

In yesterday’s post, Every Movement, I wrote about creating never being completed. It becomes an infinite event that  continuously occurs and calls for us to be wakeful even in our dreams. Creation sings in a delicate, beautiful language that we share with the world and its inhabitants.

When we recognize Creation as a continuous event, our hearts open up and we become one with the rest of Creation, able to help.

When the animals come to us

     asking for our help,

     will we know what they are saying?

When the plants speak to us

     in their delicate, beautiful language,

     will we be able to answer them?

When the planet herself

     sings to us in our dreams,

     will we be able to wake ourselves, and act?

Every Movement

The philosopher and Talmudic scholar Emmanuel Levinas proposed that events are ongoing and remain incomplete, including creation as an event. In a sense, God’s creating is never completed.

Hafiz suggests something similar when it comes to understanding God’s work. It is a movement, an event. I find it easy to say no without pausing and being attentive. What does this mean? Am I able to understand its meaning at this time?

There is little patience in waiting for the luminous movement of existence. Quite often, we want something and set forward in a singular way captivated by the thoughts of that might mean as if living is done in moments. When we are patient, mindful, and attentive, the luminous movements appear at the most unexpected times that cannot be measured and described in any complete way.

I rarely let the word “No” escape
From my mouth
Because it is plain to my soul
That God has shouted “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
To every luminous movement in existence.

One Hundred and Eighty Degrees

As I read the opening lines to this poem, I realized I often hold on to thoughts as if they are real. They give me a false sense of certainty that the world and others are  controllable and manageable. I wed myself to my thoughts. They become lonely and serve as my reality.

What if I turned 180 degrees and understood what I believe is not right? In that sense, I become another person who, if he continues to turn, experiences the world differently and anew at each turn.

Frederico Moramarco challenges me to think in different terms and treat thoughts as phantoms that drift in and out of my mind. They are not real and really there as they float away like wisps of smoke on a breeze.

When I am mindful and attentive to the world and others, I take steps and my thoughts do not control me, my words, and actions. I become comfortable with the uncertainty and unpredictability always surrounding me.

Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?
If you’ve done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.
If you’ve not done this, you probably don’t understand this poem,
or think it’s not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day’s time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.
But if you’ve arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you’re open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.
How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.

The Way of Art

There is a Taoist quality to this poem by Albert Huffstickler. The art of writing is not a given path, but that can only be seen in the moment, much like living.

We make plans, but they are tentative. Who knows what will happen in the very next instance? Or, who will appear at our door?

There is a need to be mindful, attentive, and sensitive as we each walk our path and create our art, including living. As well, there is a need to rest along the journey and take in the world as we sit quietly in our meditative moments. In those moments, we learn from the world and others as they teach and lead each of us.

It seems to me that
paralleling the paths of action, devotion, etc.,
there is a path called art
and that the sages of the East would recognize
Faulkner, Edward Hopper, Beethoven, William Carlos Williams
and address them as equals.
It’s a matter of attention and discipline, isn’t it?—
combined with a certain God-given ability.
It’s what you’re willing to go through, willing to give, isn’t it?
It’s the willingness to be a window
through which others can see
all the way out to infinity
and all the way back to themselves.

A Prayer Among Friends

We live in a world populated by others and surrounded by things. Often, we take the communal nature of living for granted. John Daniel suggests we walk together “in the light of this unlikely world that isn’t ours for long.” He counsels that we spend our time with each other and the world generously.

Being present, mindful, and attentive to others and the world lifts our relationships from the taken-for-granted to the meaningful. We elevate the ordinary to the status of extraordinary, finding beauty in the smallest details that are easily overlooked in the busyness of our living.

Sam Intrator wrote about the etymology of companion, which is breaking and sharing bread on one’s journey. As a teacher, eating lunch with students became an important feature of my relationships with them. I got to them and they me during those more informal moments, adding depth to the pedagogic relationships.

I often feel eating lunch with students added to “gift of good work” that pedagogy calls teachers and others to be part of. Taking time with each other over meals is similar to a prayer spoken from the heart and the listening for responses.

Among other wonders of our lives, we are alive
with one another, we walk here
in the light of this unlikely world
that isn’t ours for long.
May we spend generously
the time we are given.
May we enact our responsibilities
as thoroughly as we enjoy
our pleasures. May we see with clarity,
may we seek a vision
that serves all beings, may we honor
the mystery surpassing our sight,
and may we hold in our hands
the gift of good work
and bear it forth whole, as we
were borne forth by a power we praise
to this one Earth, this homeland of all we love.

 

talisman

When we pray, the words are an amulet for someone to wear. Suheir Hammad suggested the words remind us there is a divine space in each of us, waiting to be brought out as we write and speak. Inside each of us, there is a space of strength and courage we can offer to others as we write and repeat the poetic words.

In silence that endures within each of us, we discover the gestures and words of prayer and poetry another has written and spoken. A prayer reaches out to the other and adds strength to their living in moments of hardship, reminding them they are not alone. It is in those moments that something stirs gently and unexpectedly in us, reminding us we are not alone and perhaps a smile appears similar to the sun and moon’s warmth.

During those moments, we find the words written and spoken in silence. It is essential we set aside the busyness of daily living and listen attentively for those words to bring the god out in each of us.

it is written
the act of writing is
holy words are
sacred and your breath
brings out the
god in them
i write these words
quickly repeat them
softly to myself
this talisman for you
fold this prayer
around your neck fortify
your back with these
whispers
may you walk ever
loved and in love
know the sun
for warmth the moon
for direction
may these words always
remind you your breath
is sacred words
bring out the god
in you

April 15, 1947 – The Day Jackie Robinson Came to Bat

Sixty nine years ago today the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color line at Ebbets Field when Jackie Robinson took the field, playing first base.  The door was opened and it was the beginning of the en…

Source: April 15, 1947 – The Day Jackie Robinson Came to Bat

When I taught, I used a social justice activity. Most of the junior high students knew about Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa, but few had heard about Jackie Robinson. He was important for some students who did not connect until they understood athletes were part of social change.

Jackie Robinson had a Canadian connection. He played his AAA baseball for the Montreal Royals. This point led to talking about Willie O’Ree who broke the colour barrier in hockey. He may not have seemed as impactful Jackie Robinson, but many black NHL players refer to Willie O’Ree as a role model and he remains an ambassador for the game.

Furthermore, it is not enough that those who want to break through a barrier do so alone. For Jackie Robinson and Willie O’Ree, white players gradually (perhaps it was glacial) realized how good these guys were. In Montreal, fans cheered Jackie Robinson because he was a great ball player. Colour seemed overlooked in that environment. I admire Jackie Robinson, Willie O’Ree, Rosa Parks, etc. for their contributions, but community becomes important in sustaining real change and seeing beyond colour, gender, religious, etc.  If we could do that, what a difference it would make in the world.

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