Posts Tagged ‘Life

01
Aug
10

Last weekend, I traded my fresh cut suburban paradise for a moonlit forest high up in the mountains. When I arrived at the campsite my family had set up, it was dark and all I was aware of was moonlight and a crowd of very concerned loved ones (we spent two hours lost in the forest on the way). Morning unveiled a spectacular view of rocky peaks jutting up over the treeline and reflecting in the lake below. It unveiled something else, too, something unexpected.

Freedom.

After years of wondering why anyone would leave the security of paved roads, stoplights, and Target just to get dirty in the woods and sleep on the ground, understanding settled around me like Superman’s cape. Up here, there were no cellular towers (something we rued the night before as we wandered over miles of backroads). I didn’t wear a watch. I didn’t bring any make up, and in the interest of keeping warm, my clothes were mismatched. My dog was off a leash and my children were exploring the wilds of the forest. There were no child molesters to worry about, no schedules to keep, and, in the greatest paradigm shift I have experienced, there were no social standards to maintain – nobody to impress. For these moments, I had no persona to maintain, but plenty of time to ponder the person I wished to be.

Looking over the quiet of the morning lake, I fantasized about building a cabin with all the beetlekill pine. By hand. I would piece business suits and cocktail dresses into quilts and curtains. I would start a small garden, then grow it into something bigger until we had gourmet meals cooked on the open fire. The children would learn all they needed right by my side. I would never be beholden to anyone or anything. This only lasted until the coffee kicked in. I wonder how many regrettable decisions were made pre-coffee?

I hate it when people say that we don’t actually live in a free country anymore. Americans enjoy freedoms that others don’t even have the privilege to fathom. However, there is truth to the statement. Free will was bestowed upon us by our Creator. For just one moment, contemplate the implications of this. It is this very will that gives us the power to doubt, that drives us to find our own answers, that pulls us away from faith and strips our need for trust.

Yet, it is this gift of the will that completes the Creation as we become ourselves. We choose our beliefs, our ideals, and our priorities. Then we guide our lives accordingly. But with what compromise? That is when priorities become the issue. By the time I finished that contemplative cup of coffee, I was not just willing, but anxious to apply make-up, put on uncomfortable shoes, shove my lower half into pantyhose, and and run under the crack of a gun just to have running water complete with privacy.

Free will, properly regarded, is that which makes us great. It separates us from the animals and even from the angels. But we often fail to regard. We were given a perfect, Godly gift, but we are human and The Gift was brought down to us. While the human spirit is great, humanity is not. Humanity is guided by the physical and the physical bears limitation. In the years since the founding of this nation, we have seen the human spirit thrive. In a mere 500 years, this land has gone from savage to productive and wildly developed because of the spirit of greatness. We can travel the globe in a matter of hours and can have the world at our fingertips in a matter of seconds. Untold fortunes are made and lost each day from ingenuity, hard work, or greed. Is the great fortune our great failing? This is where spirit meets physical. An ability to do the great things of our imagination shrouded in responsibility and stewardship. What is the cost for amassing such fortune? How many compromises are struck each day as a man says the end justifies the means? Every compromise erodes greatness and yet, because of this society we have built, success is not possible without compromise. We have compromised greatness for that which we already know and in so doing, we have redefined success to fit a media mold. We forget to follow the pursuits of imagination because we believe we know what is beautiful and we have disguised success as such.

Today, we reap the rewards of all that has been sown. Every plan is laid with a plan B close behind as we anticipate failure along the way. Athletes, once national heroes, are in no way great. World leaders fail us daily, constantly. Business men are not moral pillars. We accept this and account for it in our daily lives, making our own plan B. Then we forget the failure and compromise the standard, which lowers yet again. We compromise for comfort, for success, for a future that grows more bleak.

We know what is great. Instinctively, looking over that lake, I momentarily glimpsed the true freedom that bore such enterprise, the very enterprise that has shackled us since. The time has come to stop settling. We can no longer excuse those who force us to compromise for their agenda. We must strive for greatness and forget Plan B.

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29
Jul
09

Life is Steadfast

My daughters make me miss my grandma. She was an amazing woman who always had time to share something sweet with me. In those moments she told me what it was like to live through the depression, how she felt when her husband built her a house in town – away from the farm, and how she cared for four children by herself after he passed. Then she would tell stories about life on a Minnesota farm and she’d even pass on the stories her parents told of their journey from Norway to that very Minnesota farm. Nobody could accuse my grandma of being rich, yet anyone who spent an afternoon with her came away knowing something about the richness that life holds. My grandma understood, above all, about the twists and turns of life and how to make the most of the few things that remain constant. Like children. She would have been just “tickled” to see my girls.

Even as a little girl, I understood the wisdom my grandma had earned. She shared what I was ready for and I appreciated what I could. My mom looked to her grandma the same way. She was quick to dispense with great advice and engaging stories and the small tidbits that made my mom think things out for herself. I remember being hesitant to say too much to my great grandma because she always knew what motivated me and that scared me just a little. Now I think she would be a much needed mirror for my soul.

Many cultures recognize this. They revere their elderly and are honored to care for them with respect and adoration; but Americans seem to have a somewhat different view. We weigh the value of a life against the cost of sustaining it. We consider whether it is worth caring for the elderly and if their quality of life justifies such care. Then, as we pursue our busy lives, we consider where to put them so they will be out of the way.

With the elderly neatly tucked away, we are forced to find counsel in sources we consider relevant to our lives. We have turned our backs on Grandma’s years of life experience for the more appealing package of Tyra Banks, which begs the question, when did we begin to equate beauty with wisdom? We hang on Madonna’s every word, wait with bated breath for Brad Pitt to speak, and take Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental advice as law. We call their voices relevant in a world foreign to our grandmothers. We are so wrapped up in the image that we shut our grandmothers out, refusing to look at the soul-mirrors they hold.

That soul-mirror just may tell us we are faltering, reinforcing the voice calling out from the backs of our minds. I know that the only thing that would impress my departed grandparents and great-grandparents is my character. There is nothing material that can impress someone who survived the Great Depression. There is no vacation or even party that would impress a woman whose fingers bled from her chores on the farm, the chores she did before her children woke up and she made them breakfast. And I can just imagine how these departed people would shake their heads at my morning road rage, which reminds us just how easily we forget our character as we carry on with the busyness of “keeping up.”

As we fear the opinions of generations refined by hardship, it is not hard to imagine that we can find comfort accepting “non-advice.” That is, the pleasure that comes from watching Jerry Springer and his guests, knowing that we are not that bad yet. We ourselves have turned our worlds upside down with this thinking. We say that we cannot get away from the trappings of the world, yet we consistently invite these trappings into our living rooms, bed rooms, and even our children’s rooms. TV has given us the visual entertainment that we crave, with none of the admonition we fear. Programmers are certain to avoid anything that may convict or cause discomfort, so we watch beautiful people living lives we covet and slowly but surely, our priorities turn inside-out. Grandma is sent away to a nursing home and we are free from burden, not the burden of care, but the burden of introspection. With Grandma away, we are free to pursue these lives of the rich and famous regardless of cost. Unfortunately, worldly pursuits will always leave us wanting, for as vast as they are, they are finite so somebody keeps changing the goal, just to keep us interested. It is defeating. To find fulfillment, we must remain steadfast in character and priority, following the legacy of the generations before us.




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