Category Archives: metaphor
All around us: hungry mouths, people without affordable housing, victims of physical or sexual abuse, ill people suffering from diseases we could help cure, war casualties, crimes against humanity, child soldiers, gender bias, and the list goes on . . .
In the past, news of events in far-flung lands took days, weeks or months to filter its way around the world. By the time information travelled half a globe, the need for action had passed. And why do something for people so far away anyway?
These days, high-tech global communications systems convey news to us instantly. High-definition videos show us the creases of pain in human faces. Twitter feeds us first-person accounts of injustices. We see things, we know things, and we learn about them in time to do something.
A pointing finger jabs us in the chest. Do something. Do something. Do something. How can YOU live with this injustice?
Why aren’t YOU fixing this RIGHT NOW?
Guilt, guilt, guilt.
Hold on. Back up. Even if we split ourselves into a million pieces we could never fix all the problems. It’s overwhelming. In the face of it, we suffer “problem paralysis.” We think, “I can’t fix it all, so why even bother doing anything?
“Bloom where you are planted,” the floral metaphor suggests. I would add: “Bloom how you are planted.”
Grow fully where you are, and don’t try to be a lily if you’re really chicory.
Sometimes, lilies think everyone should bloom with the same regal beauty they do; they expect all “flowers” to share their same passions. What a boring and out-of-balance field of wildflowers that would be, without the nodding blue heads of chicory, the innocent white daisies, or the blushing pink wild roses.
One of the gifts of age is the gift of self-knowledge. I have come to accept my strengths and weakness. I have learned about my own passions, and I have learned what work I need to leave to others because their passion serves those purposes better.
I’m not here to do it all. I’m not supposed to do it all; I only have to do my part of it. I might not grow with the height or the potent fragrance of a Tiger Lily, but maybe I add something like the healing blue presence of nodding chicory.
The cure for problem paralysis is clear discernment of passions. Figure out what fires you up, and do that. Figure out which things make you say, “Meh” and leave that work to others. Don’t feel guilty about not sharing someone else’s passion and don’t pressure anyone to share yours.
Act on your own passions and support others in theirs and between us all, what a beautiful field of wildflowers we will be.
Last summer, Marie-Danielle Smith reported in the Ottawa Citizen that our Corktown bridge would not collapse under the weight of love. Phew.
The Corktown Bridge is our Ottawa, Canada version of a “love bridge.” Hundreds of people symbolically lock up their love and thrown away the key there. So far our sturdy bridge is holding steady, unlike the Pont des Arts in Paris that caved under the expectations of so much sworn love.
What do you think when you see these locks? Do you think, “Oh, how lovely.” And do you also wonder, “How many of those loves are still locked?”
I’m an optimistic person, and I’m into my 26th year of a strong marriage, so you might not expect me to be cynical about this, but I can’t help thinking, “How many of those loves are still “locked”?
Locking love is a lovely gesture, but lovely gestures alone do not make solid foundations for long-term relationships. Like Valentine’s Day, love locks inject a “one-time-only” dose of good medicine into partnerships that need a daily vitamin and mineral regimen.
This weekend, enjoy a dose of chocolates, flowers, champagne or romantic dinners, but don’t forget to return to the daily regimen of respect, patience, acceptance and compassionate words.
Who are your sticky people? Who are the people who glue your life together when it might otherwise blow apart?
For many of us, our first “sticky” people are parents: mothers or fathers, or both. A father who hugs away hurts, a mother who coaches a team, or parents who hold together a brokenhearted teen after that first shattering break-up.
Sticky people also act in community organizations. Volunteers are hard to come by in this “I’m so crazy busy I can’t breathe” world, so a very few carry the load that many used to. They stick with it so that festivals run, mouths get fed, or refugees get settled into safe situations.
Sticky people don’t bail when times get hard; they work even harder. They take on extra duties when those with less adhesive peel away. Sticky people have fortitude in times of adversity and loyalty when disloyalty might be easier.
They don’t say, “It’s just too hard.” They say, “It’s hard, but good will come of it if I stick it out.”
Sticky people are happy. They blossom. They know that if they were to avoid suffering or difficult challenges, they would take away their growth opportunities. They are proud of themselves because of the hardships they overcome. They grow. They evolve.
They glow because they haven’t left anyone hanging. They haven’t been the ones to disappoint.
We find joy in unexpected places, and sometimes, paradoxically, we find a healthy dose of it awakening in our steps along the hard road. Sticky people know this well.
At this time of year, many people for many different reasons contemplate God or the God-ness in our world. These two poems by Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master, reminded my that, more than anything, for whatever reason, this time of year is good for dancing. And better dancing than fussing about details or interpretations.
The God Who Only Knows Four Words
Has known God.
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come dance with Me.”
What Should We Do About That Moon?
A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.
That night one hundred beetles and all their cousins
And did some serious binge drinking.
They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.
Then the “night candle” rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument,
Said to his friend—for no apparent
“What should we do about that moon?”
Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music
Tackling such profoundly useless
I 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:
“When is the best time to do things?”
“Who is the most important one?”
“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.
“There is only one important time, and that time is now.”
“The most important one is always the one you are with.”
“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.
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.
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 . . .