Category Archives: Saving the world

THE POWER OF WORDS — PART 3

April 4, 2018

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

The more you sense the rareness and value of your own life, the more you realize that how you use it, how you manifest it, is all your responsibility. We face such a big task, so naturally we sit down for awhile. — Kobun Chino Ottawa Roshi 

Recently I watched the movies The Shape of Water and A Wrinkle in Time.

Guillermo del Toro, the director of The Shape of Water, describes the film as “a Fairytale for our troubled times.” He says, “The shape of water is the shape of love. Love and water are the most malleable, powerful things in the Universe.” Sally Hawkins (who plays Eliza) said, “The film is about the transformative power of love. …we need this film in the world today. ”

Similarly, the primary message I took away from A Wrinkle in Time was the power of love to overcome fear, to overcome evil, to call us back to ourselves when we are lost in the pain of our own dark places.

I have been thinking a great deal about the power of love…of courage… and about the ripple effect of our choices. Sometimes it is one small, seemingly insignificant act or word on someone’s part that opens a door in someone’s life — or slams it shut.

In an interview, author Elizabeth Gilbert once described that she regards her ability to write as a sacred trust… she’s been given a gift that is meant to be shared. What happens to what she writes isn’t her problem, she said. Only that she makes the time to write and does her best. I may never meet her. She may never know of my existence. But her comment, recorded in an interview… changed my life. It is why I keep hanging in there with my writing, even if sometimes I abandon it for months at a time. I come back. Because of Elizabeth and her sacred trust.

What if Harry Potter had said, “Hey, I’m just a kid… I can’t deal with this.”

What if Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings) had said, “This ain’t my ring… ain’t my problem.”

What if Meg Murry (A Wrinkle in Time) had been unwilling to gather her courage, remaining frozen in fear, unwilling to act ?

I realize these are characters in a story, but like all great stories, they accurately portray the choices we all struggle with. No superheroes here, no easy answers. The hero’s journey is not an easy road. So why do we bother?

Frodo : I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam : I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo : What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

Yes, our world is worth fighting for. My grandchildren, your children, all the children — they’re worth fighting for. But most of us won’t be packing our bags and heading out on a quest. We won’t be marching in the streets or laying down in front of the bulldozers. We won’t be arrested for refusing to stand up or stand down when ordered to by those who abusively use their power.

Most of us will be minding the store, minding the children, doing what needs to be done to keep the world going.

The opening quote by Kobun Roshi was my pardon for sitting down — which I seem to often need to do. It was also what helped me get back up. I agree that every day I am responsible for how I use my life, for the energy that I radiate into the world through my thoughts, my beliefs, my emotions, my actions; for what I create around me. There is no one to blame, no one else responsible for my choices, neither my presence nor absence negates that I am making an impact in the world around me. Because I am.

When I remember this, when I allow it fully into my being, I realize that I am changing the world every day — for better, or worse. I am radiating energy into the world that is either aligned with the energy of love, or the energy of fear. This energy attracts like energy… and so it grows, it multiplies, it merges with like energy and makes stuff happen.  And it ripples out… through time, through space…

 

 

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THE LIGHTHOUSE

ON BEING A LIGHTHOUSE, A STREET LAMP, A CANDLE IN THE NIGHT

June 28, 2015

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.”  – Anne Lamott –

I read this quote this morning, and the following commentary: “So, you want to save the world but don’t know what to do or whom to serve or where to start? Breathe deeply. Feel your own vitality. Connect with the essence of who you are, what you love, what has broken your heart open, and what gives you strength. Be fully who you are–no resistance, no shame, no blame–and shine.”

Doing Restorative Circles with juvenile offenders is heart-breaking and joyous work. Once a young girl who found our Circle to be the first safe haven she’d known in a long time, began to crack open the hard veneer she hid inside and share her stories, her fears, her dreams. One night after an especially intense Circle, I went on a long walk along the Lakewalk. My heart was heavy with the weight of a burden I had no way to resolve. I knew that this girl, as well as most of the young people who came to our Circles, had to return to homes and classrooms that would be unchanged, even while they struggled to change themselves in the midst of these environments that had tangled up their lives in the first place.

The Lakewalk cut through a park, and as I passed beneath a streetlamp, the light went out. Strange. As I moved across the dark path toward the next pool of light, the streetlamp behind me blinked back on. As I approached the next streetlamp, it happened again. Very strange indeed; was there a lesson here? Heading toward the next streetlamp, it remained on and I came into the pool of light, passed through it, back into the darkness, heading toward the next pool of light up ahead. And so I moved through the park, light by light.

I looked back at the streetlamps winding along the pathway through the park. I realized that I, and others like me, were like these lights in the darkness of the lives of the young people we worked with. Each one of us providing a pool of light, of safety, of comfort for as long as that young person was in our care, or our classroom, or our program, or our home. And then, they had to make their own way again. But I saw that there would be other lights along their path. It wasn’t up to me to provide light all the way down their road to the end. It was only my job to make sure my light was shining in my own little space.

The world gets changed one person at a time. The Darkness is vanquished one light at a time. No, lighhouses don’t run around looking for boats to save. They simply stand there–shining. It is enough.