Category Archives: How do you define success?

3 important answers to 3 important questions: Tolstoy

three-questionsI shared the book The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth with my Sunday school class on Sunday. Muth took an original short story written by Leo Tolstoy and reworked it with animal characters to appeal to children.

In the book, a boy named Nikolai goes on a journey to seek answers to three BIG LIFE questions:

  1. “When is the best time to do things?”

  2. “Who is the most important one?”

  3. “What is the right thing to do?”

His steps lead him to encounters with a heron, a monkey and a dog. Each of these characters answers the questions in a way that reflects personal biases. The heron suggests the best time to do things arrives only after everything has been planned in advance. The dog believes the most important one is the one who makes the rules, and the monkey knows the right thing to do is to have fun all the time.

Not satisfied, Nikolai climbs a high mountain to seek the answers to his questions from a wise old turtle. When he reaches the top of the mountain, he finds the wise, old turtle with a shovel in his hands digging a garden. Knowing that a young boy digs much faster than an old turtle, Nikolai takes the shovel and finishes turning over the hard soil. When he is leaning on his shovel after the last shovel full of dirt, he hears a cry for help coming to him out of the windblown forest. He follows the sound and finds a panda knocked out by a fallen tree. Nikolai rescues her and takes her to the turtle’s house to get warm. When the panda wakes up, she asks, “Where is my child?” Alarmed, Nikolai runs back to the forest where he finds the baby panda, shivering and alone.

Before Nikolai departs, he and the wise old turtle reflect on the answers the boy has found to his three questions.

  1. “There is only one important time, and that time is now.”

  2. “The most important one is always the one you are with.”

  3. “The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”

Muth concludes: “For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in the world.”

Tolstoy sure was one wise old turtle.

Learning from our shame: Brené Brown Part II

If you watched the video from my Friday post, this follow-up talk gives a more complete picture of the effects of vulnerability on even the most high-profile “experts.” Brené Brown talks about the repercussions of the first TED talk, and how becoming the “Vulnerability TED action figure”changed her life.

Even she, author of Daring Greatly, had not realized how she had been engineering her life to stay small.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” —Brené Brown

Click here to see her talk:

 

Why you need deep roots

shallow-roots

I took this picture on our Canadian Thanksgiving walk at Shaw Woods. It’s difficult to grasp this picture at a glance, so I’ll walk you through it. The sheer rock face to the left used to be the surface on which the tree grew. The clump of brownish tangle forming a V shape opposite it are the roots of the tree. We know the tree sustained itself for many years on that precarious and not-very-nourishing place because it grew to a substantial size. You can see the circumference of the trunk above the heads of my mother and my son. Their size gives you some perspective on the size of the tree.

The roots of the tree could not penetrate the solid rock to grow deeply, so root tendrils reached out horizontally over the slanting rock in their search for sustenance.

Such a precarious state could not endure. At some point, a storm-driven gust of wind exerted such pressure on the tree that its roots peeled away from the impenetrable stone and it toppled. Without deep roots solidly anchoring it into the ground it could not survive a storm.

We can learn lessons from this tree.

Metaphorically speaking, to survive life’s storms, people need roots entrenched deeply into solid, anchoring sustenance: faith, nurturing friendships, loving family. Sure, some can survive for a while by spreading themselves thinly over precarious and not-very-nurturing surfaces, reaching out for sustenance through such things as jobs, money or alcohol and drugs. Like the tree in the photo, some people last surprisingly long that way. But eventually a storm comes with a wind too strong to withstand: the job disappears, the money dries up or the alcohol and drugs destroy ability to function effectively. Then the shallow roots peel away and everything topples.

Are you deeply rooted and ready for a storm? 

I took this picture - looking through the thin roots -  from the place where my mother and son were standing before. It is easy to see how shallow the roots were.

I took this picture – looking through the thin roots – from the place where my mother and son were standing before. It is easy to see how shallow the roots were.

In #MyOttawa, Peace Towers above all

“The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

The gunman who shot Nathan Cirillo this week here in Ottawa was not thinking clearly. The irony of the place of his death was lost on him, I am sure. He died creating chaos in the shadow of the Peace Tower. His angry rampage and his death show us one thing:

Peace Towers above all.

I read the quote at the top of this post in the book Made for Goodness And Why This Makes All the Difference by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu. Martin Luther King Jr. gifted me with the most faith-sustaining quote I have found thus far, and my wish for my city, and for the people of Montreal who also saw one of their own die this week, is that we turn to it now.

It will help us if we remember that every evil act unleashes a search for the good. It will help us if we remember that every act of evil advances us further along the arc of the universe toward justice. It will help us to remember that the arc is long.

Here’s a fact about our city: almost every resident knows someone who works in downtown Ottawa. The federal government employs a large percentage of our population, and most of them work near where the shooting took place. When anything occurs in downtown Ottawa, almost every resident immediately thinks of how it is affecting someone they know—a spouse, a child, a neighbour or someone from their bridge club.

You have to know that a shooting in the downtown core on a workday in Ottawa paralyzed this city in a way it would not in most other places. The news rippled out for miles in every direction, and within that radius, virtually every person had a spouse, a child, a neighbour or a member of their bridge club—someone they knew and loved dearly—in mind.

We are more than a city; we are an interconnected community.

We have not had a high profile on the world stage. Here is a version of a conversation I have had often when travelling in other countries:

PERSON FROM THE OTHER COUNTRY (PFTOC): Where are you from?

ME: Ottawa

(awkward pause while the person tries to politely figure out how to tell me he has no idea where that is)

ME: . . .  Canada

PFTOC: Ah, yes. Canada.

(visions of polar bears and RCMP officers dance in his head)

ME: It’s the capital city, you know.

PFTOC: Really? I thought Toronto was the capital.

ME: Oh, sigh.

Often I wonder, why do people not know about the capital city of Canada? Perhaps more do now; this week international media have their cameras and their news feeds focused on us. The writings cover many different angles of the story: the words of love whispered to Nathan Cirillo as he lay dying [if you read nothing else, read this], the Canadian national anthem played at the Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers game [thanks for that], the rivals in the House of Commons embracing [rivalries are vapours, really] , the long, hard day of devastated Muslims in our city [please read that one too], and the inevitable security concerns.

The events this week in Montreal and Ottawa started international conversations, and when we discuss acts of terror or evil, what we’re really doing is asking: How can we create good from this? Desmond Tutu suggests that we are made for goodness, and I believe these conversations, unleashed by an act of terror, help us search for the good. They show us that any action taken out of hatred, revenge or anger fails in the long run.

Because Peace Towers above all.

Appearances: Hiding our shabby underwear

back-wallOn our walking tour of Bath, England, our tour guide took us first to the back alleys of the ancient city.

He pointed out the squat walls, the irregular bricks, and the ordinary doorway the servants would have used to come and go. We noted the patchwork stonework and the unremarkable nature of the architecture.

Then we walked around to the spectacular front of “The Circus.”

Here three curved terraces surround a circular centre park. Here the architecture is not irregular, ordinary or patchwork. The ornate façades have carefully ordered and beautifully maintained design.

bath-circus

It was all about appearances, you know.

The people of the Georgian period cared little about the comfort or welfare of their servants, but they cared very much about appearances and protocol. If their homes, their clothing and their activities met societal expectations of the time, they spared little thought for what happened in the back alleys.

We know now that their habit of hiding misery behind ornate façades is as productive as plastering over a mildewed bathroom wall and as unsatisfactory as wearing your favourite outfit over uncomfortable underwear. Why do you think our parents always told us to wear clean underwear in case we end up in hospital? We never know when at turn of events might reveal our hidden secrets.  

But who am I to point fingers? When I work in my gardens, I take care of the ones in front of my house first—the ones that people see. My back gardens have been sadly neglected for years. “Who sees them?” I ask myself.

I do. And it has always bothered me that those poor backyard gardens get short shrift. “Oh, what lovely gardens you have,” people say when they pass my house. They don’t see the shabbier, neglected ones out back, but, like a pair of uncomfortable underwear, their presence niggles at me.

The high society 18th Century residents of The Circus, Bath probably never dreamed that several hundred years later a group of tourists would tramp through their back alleys and judge their shabby “underwear.”

You never know when a turn of events might reveal your hidden secrets, do you? 

It’s a sunny day. Maybe I’ll head out and work in my back garden . . .

 

 

 

 

Re-growth after pruning: A matter of faith

prunedWhen my husband and I strolled through St. James’ Park during our recent vacation to London, England, we passed this tree. Its harshly pruned branches made a sorry silhouette against the dusky skies of London.

We slowed our steps and looked up at the denuded tree. “Maybe it will come back,” my husband said, sardonically.

Then we looked more closely. One determined twig of new growth sprouted from the side of an upper branch. This tree, that to our eyes appeared cruelly pruned past the point of rejuvenation, prevailed.

new-growth

We continued our walk feeling a little lighter.

Even when life prunes us down to bare essentials, new growth and rebirth is possible. It’s a matter of faith.

 

Ethereal Nature

The interface of the metaphysical, the physical, and the cultural

JUMP FOR JOY! Photo Project

Capturing the beauty of the human spirit -- in mid-air -- around the world

Storiform.com

Writing Popular Fiction

Matthew Toffolo's Daily Movie and Sports Summary

Daily summary of the sports/movie world.

WILDsound Writing and Film Festival Review

Feature Screenplay, TV Screenplay, Short Screenplay, Novel, Stage Play, Short Story, Poem, Film, Festival and Contest Reviews

Mytwosentences

Thoughts and Observations from Edward Roads

catinanoble

A place to write about my adventures in writing, art and photography....come join me!

truthionary

a guidebook of getting happier

Storytime with John

pull up and listen...I've got a funny one for ya...

Dream, Play, Write!

Today, make a commitment to your writing.

Charlotte Cuevas, Author

Current writing projects: 52 Flashes of Fiction & The 365 Poetry Project: Year 2

Ottawa Writes

A podcast that dives into the art & business of writing.

The Wild Pomegranate

“Be Wild. That is how you clear the River.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés,

Reading Through the BS

a little blog about the books I read - the good and the bad and everything inbetween

bdhesse

A writing WordPress.com site

Tuesdays with Laurie

"Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing." — Laurie Buchanan

The Savvy Reader

Looking for Savvy Readers to talk books with!

Quillfyre

Aspiring to poet

jmgoyder

wings and things

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 697 other followers

%d bloggers like this: