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Tag Archives: Leo Tolstoy

My Ojibwa prayer.

via My Ojibwa prayer.

John shares a beautiful prayer and a wonderful segue into a New Year. Many Indigenous peoples, like the Ojibwa (Anishinaabe and Saulteaux) cherished Mother Earth in their spirituality. Also in his post, there is a cover of John Lennon‘s Imagine.

When I read the prayer, I consider what questions arise from the various words and lines John shares. What if each human being prayed for peace? What would this mean? What if we questioned how much an acre of land is worth in human life, lives of other creatures, and destruction to land ? What if we each reflected on sacred places we seek refuge in, whether they are in some remote spot, a city park, or our backyard garden? What do those places mean to each of us? What is the cost to us if they disappear?

John’s words remind me of a story Leo Tolstoy wrote, How Much Land Does a Man Need? The main character Pahom consumed with greed makes a bargain with the devil to acquire as much land by walking around and returning to the starting point by the time the sun sets. As it turns out, Pahom’s greed gets in the way and he fails, giving up his soul and life in exchange for a grave that constitutes the amount of land he needs in his life.

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Kathy took this picture from the one of the overviews on the Road to the Sun in Glacier National Park.

There is not a flower that opens, not a seed that falls into the ground, and not an ear of
wheat that nods on the end of its stalk in the wind that does not preach and proclaim the
greatness and the mercy of God to the whole world. There is not an act of kindness or
generosity, not an act of sacrifice done, or a word of peace and gentleness spoken . . .
that does not sing hymns to God.

Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948)

Sand Castles

Children live in each moment. Their inexperience allows them to be in a world that seems novel. They build sand castles in those moments. As adults we think we lose that ability to build our sand castles.

Being mindful and present to the world and others is a way of building sand castles, perhaps in some metaphoric way. How can I think about this person and that thing differently? How do I bring less suffering and pain to the world in understanding “differences make a difference?” Unlike children, adults often understand differences as threats.

It reminds me of Tolstoy‘s quote: “if you want to be happy, be.”

A child, playing in sand,

Building sand castles,

Absorbed in that moment.

The world is immediate,

Demanding one be present,

To embedded in this very moment.

As a child,

We know nothing different,

Our castles are real and momentous.

To outgrow our castles,

That is a tragedy,

To lose being mind(ful).

Let me return to that world,

To build castles in the sand,

As only a child can.

When I taught, the Grade 7 students built chairs for Science class. A criterion was they had to use recycled materials. They always built terrific chairs with little help from adults.

I think ; therefore I am & Je pense, donc je suis & Penso dunque sono & Ich denke, also bin ich & Pienso, luego existo & Düşünüyorum, öyleyse varım !!

I think ; therefore I am & Je pense, donc je suis & Penso dunque sono & Ich denke, also bin ich & Pienso, luego existo & Düşünüyorum, öyleyse varım !!.

The link included quotes from Rumi and Tolstoy. We begin changing the world as an internal project, one that changes who we are first. The ripple effect is only possible, not certain. I say possible, because there is no certainty in life’s project. They take time, patience, and compassion to encounter who we are in an honest way. Living is hard work and it is not easily completed.

The change in self is possibly easier when we are older and take time living. It is also harder. Are we able to move the same way we did as a younger person? We can be more mindful and attentive perhaps. We can only hope the ripple reaches those close and they are able to use those ripples in meaningful ways.

Whatever we do, we should only expect the change to be our change. We can only till the soil closest and most meaningful to us.

 

How to Own Land

It has been a hectic week and I finished the first week of being a full-time student. My body and mind know this and are telling me it is time to have Sabbath.

I enjoyed the classes this week and they are an eclectic mix: The Tao of Leadership, Eco Ethics and Leadership, and Leadership, Language , and Culture.

In the Eco Ethics class. we talked about challenges faced by humans as we deal with environmental issues from largely a human driven perspective and agenda. It is about ownership and domination in large part and our thinking has to shift. As my figurative dad, Albert Einstein (wild hair, facial foliage, and eccentric behaviour according to students) said, “We cannot solve problems with the same thinking that got us into those problems.”

I came across this poem that shifted the perspective from humans being outside nature to being part of nature. I used a short story with students written by Leo Tolstoy called How Much Land Does a Man Need? Tolstoy challenged the notion of ownership as we understand it in the ‘advanced world’. Morgan Farley’s message is gentler and takes on the perspective of others living in the world with us, not separate from us.

Find a spot and sit there

until the grass begins

to nose between your thighs.

Climb to the top

of a pine and drink

the wind’s green breath.

Track the stream through alder and scrub,

trade speech

for that cold sweet babble.

Gather sticks and spin them into fire.

Watch the smoke spiral into darkness.

Dream that animals find you.

They weave your hair into warm cloth,

string your teeth on necklaces,

wrap your skin soft around their feet.

Wake to the silence

of your own scattered bones.

Watch them whiten in the sun.

When they have fallen to powder

and blown away,

the land will be yours.

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