Someone has said:
It’s good to enjoy the things money can buy but it’s also good to stay in touch with the things money can’t buy—like love, humility, honesty, peace, gentleness, kindness, courage, joy.
Now admittedly, just listing these “great invisibles” sounds so vague. What do we do about them? Do they have practical value in “the real world”, or are they just nice ideas to put on a plaque or embroider on a pillow?
Let me share a story.
In his later years, the great golfer, Byron Nelson, known as Mr. Golf, was also known for encouraging and advising young golfers who were coming up. After watching the young Tom Watson play, Nelson told him that there were problems with his swing and invited him to his Fairway Ranch in Texas to work on it.
Eventually, Tom took him up on the offer. Years later, he recalled:
“The minute you walked through the door, you could feel the love and humility of that house. Byron and Louise welcomed me like I was one of their own. She cooked great meals and Byron and I talked about the golf swing for hours…his honesty in analyzing my swing was very rewarding. As much as anything else, though, it was the way this man conducted his life that served to inspire me.”
Doesn’t this say something about the power of the great invisibles?
Love—the ability to care genuinely without conditions or expectations.
Humility—the ability to get over one’s self and get out of one’s own way.
Honesty—the ability to be truthful and sincere beyond games or the need to impress.
“Great invisibles” like these helped make a real difference in Byron Nelson’s life and home and impact on others. And these ideals are available to all.
Now, let me give a disclaimer: I’m not sure what grade I would get at things like love, humility, and honesty. I probably would hope this would be a non-graded course!
But here’s what I can do, what we all can do: No matter what our situation, we can rise each morning and reach up for the great invisibles. We are free to pursue them with all our hearts, to take them just as far as we are able to go!
Guest post by Landon Saunders
I like the story of the little boy who was so uneasy about a nursery rhyme he’d been told that, when a blackbird landed near him in his backyard, he just had to ask: “Are you afraid of getting baked in a pie?”
The blackbird laughed and said, “I think I know what you are asking about, but you should know that rhyme is not for children. That rhyme is actually for adults. You see, when people get older, they sometimes get so busy they tend to suffocate the ‘four and twenty blackbirds’—otherwise known as the twenty-four hours of the day. But if you are wise, then, first thing every morning, you should pull that old oven door open, set the birds free, and save your day.”
Those “birds” of the rhyme—the hours in our day—each one has its own song to sing. The bird of each hour sounds a different note of joy. Let each one free and listen.
Listening deeply, beneath all the noise, you can hear the song of joy in each hour of your day and be filled with courage. Then you will have to ask yourself, “I wonder if the world can handle the tremendous aliveness I’m going to unleash today?”
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“I know nothing!”
This was the standard reply of Schultz, the eccentric character on the old Hogan’s Heroes TV show. I’m guessing Schultz didn’t realize the profound implications of his words.
The older I’ve grown, the more I’ve realized how little I really know—about life, about many things.
I’ve come to see the truth of the old adage: “He who thinks he knows does not yet know as he ought to know.”
I’ve come to understand why the Biblical Job, when he finally comes to face to face with God, responds by saying: “I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken of things too wonderful for me.”
And I’ve come to appreciate the value of what the Buddhists call, “the beginner’s mind”—that ability to be open, questioning, eager to learn, not embarrassed by not knowing.
I see that in my grandchildren. They are not at all embarrassed by discovering things they don’t know or don’t know how to do. They are just excited to learn.
Today, it seems that everyone is supposed to have an informed opinion about everything. Everyone is supposed to be an expert.
I want to praise the benefits of ignorance, the value of being open and honest, the willingness to be wrong once in a while, the ability to say “I don’t really know” once in a while, the ability to see past the games and the BS and the ego-inflation, and the openness to learn, to change, to grow.
I want to speak about the benefits of getting over ourselves and getting out of our own way (a definition of humility) and loving life enough and loving the few things that really matter enough and loving truth enough to follow it wherever it leads.
As the first beatitude says:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit (another definition for humility) for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The celebrated actress Helen Hayes shared some advice she received from her mother:
My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that, “achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others, and that’s nice, too, but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.”
I think that’s a helpful distinction for work. It keeps the focus on what I can control.
But if we apply that same thought to life in general, it raises an interesting question worthy of quiet reflection:
What sort of human being would you be if there was no one to praise or criticize? No one to approve or disapprove? To put it another way, what sort of human being would you be if there were no rewards or punishments?
That’s a challenging question, isn’t it? But a helpful one, I think. It helps me remember that what I am, how I live, is finally, only up to me.
It reminds us again: You are the only expert there is on being you There is no one else to do it, no one else who can take your place, play your role. And if you don’t play your role, the stage of life will be missing something important.
And that raises another interesting question: What would it take for you to be the hero of your own story?
As Helen Hayes’s mother suggested: it probably has little to do with praise or criticism or outward success. It probably has more to do with trying with all your heart—with “doing the best that is in you.”
And that means that failure doesn’t disqualify you. Ever. Failure is human. It’s part of every story.
To paraphrase an old proverb:
The key to true success, the key to being the hero of your own story: fall seven times and get up eight.
Guest post by Landon Saunders
There has to be a way for a human being to go on fighting as a person in this world without ever giving up. I love the words of Paul Simon’s song entitled “The Boxer.” Part of the lyrics go like this:
“In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade, and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him till he cried out, in his anger and his shame, ‘I am leaving, I am leaving,’ but the fighter still remains.”
The boxer could take off his gloves, he could put them aside and leave the ring, but he could never escape being a fighter.
We have all experienced times in our lives when just facing the day felt impossible. In fact, many of us are experiencing this right now. You might be suffering emotional defeats, physical defeats, and professional defeats that just seem to keep raining down blow after blow until you ask yourself, “Will I be able to go on? Will I just have to throw in the towel?”
Life can be just so draining. That’s why you need a strong heart—the heart of a fighter. How do you have this kind of heart? How do you keep it strong? How do you keep it alive? I believe the first step is to live your life fighting for something that is worth fighting for—something that circumstances cannot destroy and death cannot defeat.
When you have a heart that is fighting for something like that, then you can go on fighting. With the heart of a fighter, it doesn’t make any difference how many defeats you may suffer, you can stay in fray of human life with strength and purpose.
I’ve mentioned before the ancient, middle-eastern stories of Nasruddin, the funny little character in a turban and goatee. Here’s another one I like:
Everyone was alarmed when they saw Nasruddin charging through the streets on his donkey.
“Where are you going in such a rush, Nasruddin?” they asked.
As Nasruddin whizzed by, he called back, “Can’t stop to talk. I’m searching for my donkey!”
Is it possible for a person to spend a life anxiously looking for happiness and not realize she was riding on happiness all along? Is it possible to spend a whole life going after joy and not realize joy was always there, underneath us and around us and in us?
Is this the human predicament—to be looking for joy and happiness in the “far” when it was right there in the “near” all along?
That’s a thought worth playing with. After all, little children know something about this: they are riding on joy every day. It just comes naturally.
When you approach a train track, the sign says: STOP, LOOK, LISTEN. That’s so you won’t get run over by the train.
Maybe we need a sign on our bathroom mirror so we see it every morning: TODAY: STOP, LOOK, LISTEN…FOR THE JOY.
STOP, LOOK, LISTEN…so you don’t get run over by an anxious, preoccupied, busy-busy-busy train of thought and miss the joy that’s possible today.
STOP, LOOK, LISTEN…to catch a more joyful train of thought.
As the poet Blake said:
He who kisses the joy as it flies,
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
Guest post by Landon Saunders
There was a man who, when his alarm would go off in the morning, would promptly start sneezing. Every day, as he opened his eyes, he would have sneezing fits. Finally, he discovered what the problem was—he was allergic to consciousness.
How in the world do you become allergic to consciousness? It happens when you don’t know how to carry time; you don’t know how to live your day.
For example, your day may have too many extraneous items in it. If it does, your day will feel burdensome, and you’ll hate to face it. Feeling burdened will, in turn, create tension in your relationships, which makes your day joyless. If burden and tension are what you face in your day, you may wake up sneezing!
Learning how to carry time means you begin to understand what a day really is and how to best use it. If you understand this and act on it, you will find it easier to get up in the morning.
You still may not like it. Most people don’t like the alarm going off in the morning, announcing that it’s time to get up. But knowing how to get a better grip on your day—knowing what to hold onto and what to let go of—makes all the difference in the world.
Let go of the extraneous items that are weighing down your day and hold on tight to what really matters. Then, when that alarm clock goes off, you can greet the day without a single sneeze.