There is an amazing opportunity. Metaphorically, it is a unique business opportunity to climb Mount Everest. The cynic will argue that it is mission impossible. Deadlines are too short, expectations too high, and the gaps to be solved between now and then far too great for anyone to accomplish. The opportunist counters with the argument of unique opportunities; windows where one can contribute as significantly as this one are few and far between. Strictly speaking, most do not see even one in their lifetime!
A French author, Jean Giono, wrote a book first published in 1953, The Man Who Planted Trees. I first listened to the book accompanied by the music of Paul Winters. What struck me then and now is the strength of the lead character; a man who felt called to plant trees simply because they needed to be planted. There was no obligation. There was no monetary compensation. Reward and recognition were not the reasons for this man’s conviction and action.
I am struck by how powerful the words and characters remain after so many years. It has been decades since I first found the used CD is a store in Pasadena California. I had not planned to be there. If not for a friend’s notebook with a hard disk failure, I would have been attending a conference in downtown Los Angeles. As it was, we shared an afternoon and evening walking the street of Pasadena waiting for his notebook to be repaired.
There is a difference between knowing something with one’s head versus knowing it with one’s heart. Experience suggests it does not matter which comes first. If one is intentionally looking, discovery begins with the mind. Heart knowledge often happens first with recognition only following with the benefit of time.
As I listened to others discuss the topic of the moment, I was taken back to the time I was the age of one of the participants. I wish I could say I had the answers they were looking for. I realized that my insights are specific the context of the time, the priorities of everyone involved, and my values. I think they are meaningful. The but is this; in many ways, I do not think they automatically apply to anyone else. They are just one man’s story, one man’s memories of the experience of a time and place.
As I listened to the stress being expressed, an awareness alert seemed to be repeating itself. This is not the first time I have heard the lament. It has been a recurring theme. As I consider lost opportunities, I wonder how often I am listen first with my heart. Part of me knows the answer; the other is still in denial.
In context, almost everyone I know carries an aspiration within her/him. At times it may seem illusive, almost as if it has hidden itself so well that it is missing. As others tell their stories, I have come to appreciate the many different shapes and sizes aspiration can and take. A gift we can always share is one of receptivity and encouragement. Receptive to the time and place we encounter the Other. With our embrace of compassion and community, we bring Hope into the conversation. Embedded in the conversation that usually becomes a dialogue, is respect, empathy, and a willingness to walk together if only for a time.
I listened to a child recite her math table; it took me back to my childhood when I had addition, subtraction, multiplication and division cards for every combination between 1 and 12. At the time, friends had cards from 0 to 12. I never understood the need to feel good because you knew the obvious when it came to zero. I do know that it helped some, so I was happy to compete with them using their cards.
The child was good. She knew her tables! I realized as we played with this that there was no thinking on her part. She saw a pattern and knew the answer connected with the pattern. Bam bam, question answer. It words perfectly.
As I struggled to convey a fact, I realized my audience of one wanted to understand, was trying to understand, but, in a harsh statement of truth, did not understand. It felt hard, almost brutal. I thought I was clear, direct, and to the point. In hind-sight, I was all those things. I was confident that my words were easy to understand and my logic was simple and easy to follow. On careful examination, both points were true. I paused, knowing it was pointless to continue.
In my reflection, I found myself looking for missing pieces. Exhausting things within, I found myself where I should have been all along, looking through the eyes of another! As I did the obvious emerged. There was no context. I have offered nothing that he could relate to as a starting point. In short, I expected him to come to me instead of me to him.
I am in the middle of a recurring conversation with a friend. Simplifying a complex and personal story would lead to the following extract from our conversation that seems to repeat itself.
“How are you really doing my friend?”
“I need to make a change! Life is getting the best of me”
“What do you need to change?”
“I am not sure. I am forever stressed. I do not get more than 4-5 hours of sleep each night. No matter when I go to bed, I am up by 5.30, unable to sleep more. And, my health habits need to change! I need at least at least one dry month.”
My current fitness inspiration is my neighbor. He is not, to my knowledge, a member of a gym, fancy or otherwise. By all appearances, he does not spend a lot of money on fitness gear or athletic shoes. At all times, he appears relaxed in his approach to fitness – a smile on his face and quick and warm hello.
His gift of inspiration comes in several forms.
First, he is consistent. Three to four days a week he is doing stretching and movement exercises in the common area on the top floor of our apartment building. The open space between the four apartments on the floor with views and a breeze from and to the south and north is his primary base. The cardio portion is addressed by walking, fast and slow, up and down the 25 flights of stairs.
I continue to be surprised by the number of motorcycle passengers texting while riding. It seems that each time I ride, I witness an example of one or more individuals putting themselves at risk.
The good news is fewer and fewer motorcycle riders are talking with their mobiles jammed in their helmet. Perhaps the reality of traffic fines and accidents has hit home. Maybe it is the frightening reminders of near misses or accident photos that have deterred what used to be a regular occurrence.
The good news with riders does not apply to passengers. Just yesterday I role just behind a bike at speed, pushing his luck and the odds. He was, from my perspective, too close to danger’s edge. Moving between cars, especially ones that can change lanes at any time, often without notice, increases the danger that comes with riding. Doing this at speed, raises the risk exponentially! In this case, while the rider pushed the boundaries beyond safety’s edge, the passenger blissfully leaned back and focused both hands on her phone and the text dialogue at hand.
As I entered Sims Avenue the regular chaos of buses stopping, people jaywalking, and everyone changing lanes at random was more intense than usual. I always give credit to Singapore’s best durian stands on the left side of the road. The intense fruit smell pushes some away but to many it is a call they cannot resist! It is a recipe that always calls for careful and considerate driving.
Today the major activity was on the right. Given that most of the shops were closed this time of the evening, I found myself guessing on the source. Whatever my imagination came up with, life is always stranger.