Someone has said that Columbus didn’t know where he was going, didn’t know where he was when he got there, and didn’t know where he’d been when he got back.
Well, about the time Columbus thought he’d found India, far away in the real India there lived a poor weaver who made rugs by day and scratched out poems by night.
His name was Kabir and today he’s one of India’s best-loved poets. Here’s a sample:
I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty.
You don’t grasp the fact that what is most alive of all is inside your own house;
and so you walk from one holy city to the next with a confused look!
Kabir will tell you the truth: go wherever you like, to Calcutta or Tibet;
if you can’t find where your soul is hidden,
for you the world will never be real.
I think maybe Kabir is onto something.
Just think of the civilization we’ve built in the last century—the wealth, the comfort, the inventions, the possibilities. It would blow the minds of any other century.
You would think we would all be ecstatically happy! You would think that loneliness, depression, addictions, lack of fulfillment and other social ills would be at a minimum.
It is a little like being fish in the water and still being thirsty, isn’t it?
I like Kabir’s prescription. He says we may need to grasp a little more deeply the truth that “what is most alive is inside your own house.”
That line stopped me. First, I thought, “That’s good, because that’s where we are!”
Yes, it’s easy to feel that life, aliveness, joy, meaning, the pursuit of happiness is all “out there”. And, of course, we’d all love to be “out there.” And someday we will.
But meanwhile, Kabir is reminding us to look again at what we have “in here”—in our homes, in relationships, in ourselves, in the cultivation of our souls.
In a way, Kabir is calling us to be the Columbus of our own lives, to quietly go in search of new worlds inside ourselves—new inner resources, new, more satisfying and more “alive” ways of thinking and living and working and relating.
Today more than ever, I believe many are making that journey of discovery and that we’ll come back with our boats loaded with the riches money can’t buy.
I see signs of that in the outpouring of compassion, in a deeper concern for each other, in a quieter, more thoughtful approach to things, in a greater sense of personal presence, and more.
The world is becoming more real.
Who knows, maybe it’s a time for the rediscovery of America—an America where more of us really do know where we’re going.
Here’s another guest post from Landon Saunders:
By Landon Saunders
You may have seen the story of the five-year-old boy who took the family car, three dollars from his savings jar, and headed out from Utah towards Los Angeles to buy a Lamborghini! A policeman saw the car weaving a bit, pulled it over, and, to his astonishment, found the little boy under the wheel, perched on the front edge of the seat with both feet on the brake.
Such imagination! Maybe a good measure of spunk! And at least a bit of lust for adventure! Will he ever again experience a day like that one? Let’s hope he never loses his capacity to dream even as he learns it was not a good thing at five years old to set off driving the family car! His parents made that clear to him, very clear!
One of the things I take away from this story is to begin each day with great intention. This little kid didn’t just have a dream. He grabbed up his three dollars and set out to attain it. Our young Don Quixote dreamed his wildly improbable dream of riding in the car of his dreams.
And, it turned out that his dream wasn’t so impossible after all. A nearby Lamborghini owner read the story and showed up at the little boy’s house to take him, as well as other members of his family, for a ride around the neighborhood in his loud, throaty Lamborghini.
I identify with the little Lamborghini boy’s excitement. For years, on my personal notecards, I had written the line: “In pursuit of a dream. . .” The ellipsis is an important part of the line because the dream has continued for me all the way to this good day. And I’m over 60. Well, 70. Okay, over 80.
The point we must never reach is a dead-stop period, the place where dreams and the creation of new dreams die.
So, here’s wishing you a Lamborghini of a day.
Does history teach us anything that can help us today?
Film maker Ken Burns, who has spent a lot of time thinking about history, reminds us that what we’re experiencing today isn’t really all that new. And the challenge of living through it isn’t all that new. He writes:
“I go back to Ecclesiastes in the Bible, and it says, ‘What has been, will be again. What has been done, will be done again.’ That suggests to me that human nature doesn’t change—good and bad…With human beings, if you believe Ecclesiastes, there’s nothing new under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes, originally part of the Hebrew Bible, is an interesting little book—less than ten pages. Scholars believe it was written in the Axial Age (700-400 B.C.E), a time of tremendous social upheaval.
During this time, the nation of Israel was being invaded by foreign powers. Jerusalem and their great temple was destroyed and the people were carried off into slavery far from their home—a quarantine if there ever was one!
So it’s not surprising that the book takes what sounds like a dark view of the world. It says that there’s something broken in the world that can’t be fixed; that in the place of justice you’ll find injustice; that most people are “chasing after the wind” and life seems meaningless and, oh, by the way, everyone dies.
Is the author pessimistic? Or is he just telling it like it is?
Here’s what’s interesting. Over against these realities, the writer puts up joy—our ability as human beings to find and create joy in the simplest everyday things—even in dark times.
For example, he writes:
“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God…God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”
He repeats this type of refrain nine times in this short book! From 2500 years ago, he’s reminding us to slow down and take a breath; to appreciate more and savor our food and drink more; to enjoy the work and the phone conversations more and be more present.
He’s helping us think about how important joy is to our lives—especially in a time like this.
In today’s guest post, Landon Saunders comments on a remarkable, uplifting excerpt from writer Nora Zeal Hurston…
I’ve just finished reading a book of essays by Zora Neale Hurston entitled “Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick.” The title itself stopped me in my tracks! She explained it this way: it means “making a way out of no-way.” Or, she added, “winning the jack pot with no other stake but a laugh.”
Somehow it made me think of where we are now. “Making a way out of no-way.” And, somehow, through great difficulty, we are “making a way.” It’s a pretty great commentary on our resilience and flexibility.
My heart brightened as I read the following lines from one of her short stories found in this book. She contrasts the little brook with the great river. Of the first she writes,
“The brook laughed and sang. When it encountered hard places in its bed, it hurled its water in sparkling dance figures up into the moonlight. It sang louder, louder; danced faster, faster, with a coquettish splash! at the vegetation on its banks. At last it danced boisterously into the bosom of the St. John’s….”
(I read these words aloud. Then I read them again. And yet again. And the words buoyed my heart.)
The great river complained to the brook, how it had disturbed its sleep. But, the brook spoke of the “flowers that bloom, the trees and wind say beautiful things to me,” and continued to speak of the lovers she had seen on her banks.
I loved Zora’s use of language, her imaginative way of viewing life, even though she lived a life of great hardship and was buried in a pauper’s cemetery in Fort Pierce, Florida. Today, she shines as one of America’s greatest writers.
We need a bit of sparkle, a moment of joyousness, a time to remember we are greater than anything that can happen to us. I will endure. You will endure. We may still “win the jackpot with no other stake but a laugh.” So, with Zora’s brook, I will take a moment and laugh and sing and dance. It makes hunkering down again a bit better. Thank you, Zora.
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Staying Strong in the time of the Coronavirus
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