Tuesday’s Quotes March 20, 2018 – Spring?

“One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of March thaw, is the spring.”  — Aldo Leopold

Well, we’ve got the murk, but definitely not the thaw. Another storm blowing by, and forecasted below normal temperatures through the end of the month. Fortunately, I’m heading south to visit family this coming weekend – hopefully things will look much better when I return.

The photo above was taken last week during the third storm in less than ten days blew through. I wish I could say all of the snow was gone, but all I can say is that there’s a lot less now than then. The relentless cold weather is keeping the snow around longer than March snows usually stay.

But that does remind me that the vernal equinox is only positional:


And on that note – we can always keep hoping…

“When the groundhog casts his shadow
And the small birds sing
And the pussywillows happen
And the sun shines warm
And when the peepers peep
Then it is Spring”
― Margaret Wise Brown

Happy first day of spring!


Thoughts on happiness, compassion and where we are

Originally posted March 20, 2016 for #1000Speak – recycling it for this month’s #1000Speak post.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
― Dalai Lama XIV

When my thoughts go to the subject of happiness within the context of compassion, it is perhaps not surprising that Buddhism is the first place I turn – and in particular, to the current Dalai Lama.

The key to being happy lies in recognizing, and truly coming to live with, the reality that happiness doesn’t come from things. Things are impermanent, and if they are what makes us happy, then we will no longer be happy when they are gone. Although certainly, being human, things, and people, and situations will bring us transitory happiness – and they should. Emotions – positive and negative – are part of what makes us who we are. And how we handle those emotions are another important part of our coping mechanisms and our ability to live with ourselves and with others.

But achieving a more general state of contentment comes from within ourselves. And like compassion itself, this is something we need to learn and develop for ourselves.

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

― Dalai Lama XIV

Somehow the world now seems an angry place – I know the US is not alone with that. I can see it in election results and campaign rhetoric around the globe. Our shrinking planet, and our ability to communicate instantly, everywhere, should have made it possible for us to see how we are all essentially alike, but instead it seems to have accentuated the differences, and stoked the fears. Perhaps the pace has been too quick for many. I’d always though that the world of my grandparents was the most astonishing time – horses and no refrigeration to moonwalks, technicolor and the Internet. And I’m awed that my own children seemed born with an innate understanding of technology. But I look at the strongest supporters of some of the most hateful rhetoric – not the fringe groups for they will always find someone to hate – and I see members of my own generation, and those that fall into the gap between my parents’ generation and my own, and I realize that the world has changed beyond recognition for them as well. This is certainly not the world we grew up in – the one that we think we remember (nostalgia is funny that way and the past was seldom what we remembered it as being), and as we age, we are railing against our own impending obsolescence. And the Internet has made it possible for conspiracy theories to spread farther faster, and to live on (and on). And the generation that advised itself never to trust anyone over 30, and to fear the government, has lived well past 30, and in many cases still cannot manage to believe anything that anyone in authority says. We have, in some ways, been victimized by our selves. We are acting out our own self-fulfilling prophesy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We all have a choice – in what we choose to believe, and how we choose to respond to what we disagree with. Although this piece has evolved into a darker piece than I’d intended, my overall thinking is actually positive. I do believe that each of us, in our own small way, has the capacity to positively impact our our corner of the universe – beginning with ourselves, and spreading out in ripples to our our families, friends, coworkers, and even strangers whose lives we touch on a daily basis. And that we as humans instinctively pay that positivity forward. As Gloria Steinem once noted “a movement is only people moving”. And that is how the momentum builds. Our positive momentum truly can act as a counterbalance to the negative momentum that is propelling some politicians forward. And that positive momentum has to start internally – once we find our own inner balance and related happiness, we are better able to radiate it outward.

“If we think only of ourselves, forget about other people, then our minds occupy very small area. Inside that small area, even tiny problem appears very big. But the moment you develop a sense of concern for others, you realize that, just like ourselves, they also want happiness; they also want satisfaction. When you have this sense of concern, your mind automatically widens. At this point, your own problems, even big problems, will not be so significant. The result? Big increase in peace of mind. So, if you think only of yourself, only your own happiness, the result is actually less happiness. You get more anxiety, more fear.”
― Dalai Lama XIV

In that spirit, I turn back to the Tao, and one of my favorite writings – and the reminder that it all starts within:

“If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.”
― Lao Tzu

And then I turn to the modern troubadour – Donovan – and leave you with “Happiness Runs.” Perhaps not so profound – but definitely in the right spirit.

“Happiness runs in a circular motion
Thought is like a little boat upon the sea
Everybody is a part of everything anyway
You can have everything if you let yourself be”

Another Friday Contemplation

I’m in a philosophical frame of mind today. That’s only natural since I have a lot of things that I should be doing instead of philosophizing. I sort of have an excuse – I was up well before dawn to drop my husband off at the airport for a trip to visit his father, which, of course, means I’m overtired & under focused. A poor excuse perhaps, but it’s the best one I’ve got at the moment.

And today, in my overtired state, I’ve let myself be bothered (again) by the way in which so many people are dismissing the Parkland students, and the students that have joined their movement, so casually. Not the conspiracy theorists. They aren’t worth discussing. But those that flatly dismiss them as tools of the left (not entirely sure what that means, either – it’s hard to be moderate this days – the target keeps moving).

My message to my baby boom compatriots is that history will not be kind to us for dismissing them, just as it was not especially kind to the generation that dismissed us, ridiculed us, and tried very hard to silence us. Any yes – accused us of being manipulated by the ‘left’ of the time. In the end, we did enable change. Now that we’ve gotten older, though, I fear we have ‘become our parents’ so to speak. We thinks ours is the only way, and that “kids these days’ are too stupid, too spoiled and too immature to have an opinion. On the contrary, these students have shown themselves to be intelligent, to be more coherent than many of the adults they’ve addressed, and to be respectful in their approach. They aren’t spewing hate, they are asking for – yes, demanding – change. And they will be voting. I suspect in large numbers. Just as we once did when we flipped the status quo. But the time has come for us to accept that the future belongs to them,  not to us. We should be helping them build their vision, not telling them that they have no right to speak, or to hold an opinion. Or to presume that they are incapable of thinking for themselves. Our intransigence does a disservice to them, and to ourselves as well if we’ve allowed the ideals of youth the be completely replaced by an attachment to the status quo and a knee-jerk resentment of any call for change that does not fit our own view. The sad reality is that our time is coming to an end – and it is for future generations to find out for themselves what works, what doesn’t, and how to make sense of it all.

I was reminded of an oft quoted line by George Orwell from a 1945 book review:

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. This is an illusion, and one should recognise it as such,…”

But that fragment is not the entire thought – the rest is meant to remind us to recognize that our own views are the product of our experiences, and are part of who we are. We should not abandon them.

“… but one ought also to stick to one’s own world-view, even at the price of seeming old-fashioned: for that world-view springs out of experiences that the younger generation has not had, and to abandon it is to kill one’s intellectual roots.”

The trick, I think, is learning to allow the younger generations to have their own experiences with losing ourselves at the same time. A difficult juggling act faced by every successive generation throughout time.

Something worth considering.

Image of the Hudson River looking north from the Walkway Over the Hudson, autumn 2015.

Happy Birthday, Albert Einstein

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity. … Don’t stop to marvel.”  — Albert Einstein, 1955

Albert Einstein was born March 14, 1879. In honor of the anniversary of his birth, I’m sharing two of my favorite Einstein quotes (along with the one in the image).

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.” — Albert EInstein, 1950



Tuesday’s Quotes March 13, 2018 – Sunshine Week

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”  — Patrick Henry, Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 1788

Sunshine Week, according to their website, “…was created by the American Society of News Editors and is now coordinated in partnership with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, but freedom of information isn’t just a press issue. It is a cornerstone of democracy, enlightening and empowering people to play an active role in their government at all levels. It helps keep public officials honest, makes government more efficient and provides a check against abuse of power.” The annual event was started in 2005, and more information – along with suggested ways to mark the week yourself – can be found on their website.

Regular readers, and those that know me outside of this blog, know that I share our Founding Fathers’ belief that, no matter how irritating the press can be to politicians, a free press is critical to the survival of our nation. I also share their belief in governmental transparency. I recognize that nations could not survive without secrets (there’s a reason why spying is considered the second oldest profession), but I also recognize that Patrick Henry had a point – our security, and our freedom, is threatened when we allow ourselves to be kept in the dark – unlike mushrooms, we need sunlight.

Sunshine Week is intended help us stay in the light by encouraging ‘we the people” to be aware and involved – and by carrying that into the remaining 51 weeks of the year, we can help reduce governmental abuses by making sure that we stay informed, and that our voices are heard all year long.

So let the sunshine in…