“Have a good day” is the common cliché. But what does that mean now?
When Thoreau went into a kind of “quarantine” at Walden Pond for two years, he turned “having a good day” into an art. He wrote:
“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor…To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
The virus has taken much from us. But we still have today. And that is a great deal! As someone has said…
A day is the only package that the gift of life comes wrapped in.
Life is only given to us one day at a time. That’s the way it works.
We can either hunker down like a toad on mowing day and wait for the days to be over…or we can use this time to practice the art of enhancing the day.
And you already have tools for doing that: your courage, your ability to take problems as challenges, your joy, your empathy, your flexibility, your ability to listen well, your patience and persistence—and, yes, your ability to laugh and weep.
Every day you can mix colors like these to create a one-of-a-kind work of art: a day.
I believe we can emerge from this difficult time with an enhanced ability to live a day, to be more present and deliberate in a day, to bring more of ourselves to each day.
We can emerge more skilled at the fine art of “having a good day.”
And we’ll probably find that’s a key to having a good life.
NOTE: Today’s reflection is from Landon Saunders. If you would like to sign up for his weekly email, there’s a place to click at the end.
I greet you today with consideration, quietness, understanding, confidence, and love.
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “No matter how many roads you travel, you can never reach the end of the soul.” Today is a time for discovery of new places in our souls.
In many ways we are all in a new place. Days, weeks, months, and years of routine, experience, and expectations are now disrupted. Some are alone, isolated. Some are with family in unexpected ways which can be challenging, even in the presence of great love.
Some face financial pressures that couldn’t have been imagined even days ago. Health officials, people in government, companies, citizens are on high alert and working day and night to address this crisis. Yet, all of us appear left to our own resourcefulness in so many ways. Most of us have not faced such a time as this.
Heraclitus reminds us we have areas of our souls we’ve never discovered. Maybe we are on such a journey in this crisis.
First, this means that in the midst of all we’re dealing with…you have you. You are an inexhaustible source of resiliency, wisdom, endurance, and yes, humor. You have depth and will travel to new places in your soul. So, right now, take a moment…and accept that…embrace the moment fully, and you’ll be on your way!
Second, this focuses concern on others in ways that may be unusual for us. We notice others. We’re careful about physical contact. But that concern goes beyond protection from the virus; it connects us to one of our greatest strengths and to one of our world’s greatest needs—our concern and care for others.
Among all the things we have to do to get through this time, if we emerge with a deeper understanding of ourselves and with a greater concern for others, we will all be stronger and of more use to the world in the unfolding future.
I believe that I will, that you will, and that alone and together, we will. Blessings on all for this journey.
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Henry David Thoreau knew something about isolation. For two years, he lived alone in a cabin on Walden pond.
In a famous passage in Walden, he explained why he went and what he hoped to learn:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life; living is so dear…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
If Thoreau is right, isolation has some rich things to teach us.
How to “live deliberately”. This is a good time to tell ourselves: “I am not going to let the tyranny of circumstances or fears dominate me. And I am not going to resign myself to living what is not life. I am going to choose how I will live…how I will respond…how I will be!”
How to “front the essential facts of life.” Maybe it’s a time to explore more deeply: What is most essential? What are the most basic elements of the well-lived, well-loved, well-enjoyed life?
Learning what life has to teach. What is my life trying to tell me? Our life has rich things to teach us if we listen long enough and hard enough. It’s a good time to be quiet and listen.
Learning to “live deep”. We go through life so quickly, skimming across the surface. This is a time go slower and deeper. We need some depth. We need to get down to life’s juicy marrow every day. And we can.
The ancients had a word for this kind of isolation: solitude. Thoreau wrote:
“In my cabin I had three chairs, one for solitude, one for friendship, one for society.”
Here’s what I believe: the more we learn to sit comfortably in that first chair—so that we let our solitude become a more warm, friendly, thoughtful place—the better we’ll be equipped to sit comfortably in the chair of friendship and the chair of society.
Maybe this is a time for transforming isolation into solitude.
One of the things we need now is help and perspective for processing all that’s happening around us and in us.
I think Kitty O’Meara’s words are worth chewing on.
And the people stayed home.
And they read books, and listened, and rested,
and exercised, and made art, and played games,
and learned new ways of being, and were still.
And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed,
some danced. Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And in the absence of people living
in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless ways,
the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses, and made new choices,
and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live
and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
Here’s what struck me.
To be still…to listen more deeply…to begin to think differently…to learn new ways of being…to heal…to even be patiently and lovingly aware of some of the ignorant ways of living that are in me, alongside the good things in me…to create new ways to live.
Isn’t this always the core task of a human being? I believe it is.
And maybe never needed more than now.
And maybe never more deeply realized than now.
With all the discouraging news, I plan to use this blog to pass along any genuinely encouraging words I find.
The following is by Laura Kelly Fanucci and it’s from ProjectForgive.org:
When this is over…
May we never again take for granted:
a handshake with a stranger, full shelves at the
store, conversations with neighbors, a crowded
theatre, Friday night out, the taste of communion,
a routine checkup, the school rush each morning,
coffee with friends, the stadium roaring, each
deep breath, a boring Tuesday, life itself. When
this ends, may we find that we have become more
like the people we want to be, we were called to
be, we hoped to be, and may we stay that way –
better for each other because of the worst.
In the darkest, most uncertain, most frightening days of World War II when bombs were falling all over London every night, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was called on to make a speech which would be broadcast to the nation over radio.
Churchill stood up and, in his trademark rumbling, passionate voice, said:
“Never. Never. Never. Never. Never. Never give up!”
Then he sat down. He may have gotten the idea from British poet Martin Tupper who wrote:
Never give up! If adversity presses,
Providence wisely has mingled the cup;
And the best counsel in all your distresses
Is the stout watchword: Never give up!
Friends, neighbors, in these uncertain times, let us inscribe this stout watchword on our souls.
And pass it on.
The headlines are pretty dark and grim these days. But what do we do with that?
In other words, how do we respond to the tragic nature of life?
We know it doesn’t help to simply live in denial…or to be paralyzed by fear and anxiety. But there is another approach.
The story is told that Mohammed hired a man to show up each morning at his study and tell him, “Today could be your last!” This was Mohammed’s way of reminding himself of the brevity of life; reminding himself to live and pay attention to what truly matters. After several days of this, Mohammed told the man, “You don’t need to come any more. I’ve learned the lesson.” To which the man replied, “Oh, please let me keep performing this task every day. You see, I need it.”
In other words, I can use the knowledge of tragedy and death to enhance my ability to live fully and compassionately and joyfully each day.
I wake up, go to the mirror. If I can fog the mirror, it’s a good day. A day to live!
Zorba captures that attitude in Zorba the Greek:
“I’ve stopped thinking about yesterday and I don’t think about tomorrow. I say to myself, ‘Zorba, what are you doing right now?’ ‘I’m eating.’ “Well then, eat well Zorba!’ ‘Zorba, what are you doing right now?’ ‘I’m working.’ “Work well, Zorba.’ ‘Zorba, what are you doing now?’ ‘I’m kissing a woman.’ ‘Then kiss her well, Zorba. Don’t think about anything else. Just get on with it!’”
In bad times, it’s tempting to hunker down and postpone life until good times return.
But we weather bad times better if we remember to drink from the wellspring of the joy of living each day. If we find and create joy in daily things—in spite of circumstances.
This is not about living in denial, or ignoring facts. We should keep our eyes and ears open and prepare wisely.
But it’s also important to keep our spirits up. Remembering joy, remembering to live each day will help us do that. And it will help us be an encouraging presence to others.
Fortunately, joy is as infectious as any virus. So in times like this, we can fight back by carrying the joy virus and infecting as many as possible.
One way to start: share this message!
When the power goes out in your home at night, one of the first things you do is light a candle.
I like to think that what we’re doing in The Living Conversation is holding up some candles that help us find our way through the world.
One candle I’ve been carrying around in my mind lately is this brief line from the late Mary Oliver, the best-selling poet of our times.
“It is a serious thing to be alive on this fresh morning in the broken world.”
You may take something else, but here’s what I take from this.
It’s important to just remember that we live in a broken world. There is brokenness in all our institutions, and it’s always been that way. There is brokenness in you, in me, in everyone we meet. There is brokenness in every family.
And it does little good to only be a big, loud critic of all the things that are wrong. As someone has said:
“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
So what do you have to put against all that brokenness? Two things.
First, you have the freshness of the morning—and everything it represents. That sense of renewal and hopefulness and aliveness and joy that comes with the rising of the sun.
Morning is the time of waking up—of awakening our whole humanity, awakening to the unique moments and challenges of the day ahead.
This is no small thing. Thoreau said that all great work is done in a morning atmosphere. The task of staying awake is an important one.
The second thing you have to put against the brokenness…is you. You are here, you are alive, you are unique, you play a part in this world no one else can play.
Oliver is saying: don’t take your life for granted. You matter. And you matter more than you think you do—right where you are.
When the world seems dark and broken, and we’re tempted to think, why doesn’t someone do something? We can say:
“I’m someone. I can do something.”