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Posts Tagged ‘soul’

Henry David Thoreau, Image by WikipediaEpitaph on the World by Henry David Thoreau

Here lies the body of this world,
Whose soul alas to hell is hurled.
This golden youth long since was past,
Its silver manhood went as fast,
An iron age drew on at last;
‘Tis vain its character to tell,
The several fates which it befell,
What year it died, when ’twill arise,
We only know that here it lies.

Are we really powerless in relation to those things in our communities, in our country and in the world that cause despair, disgust and woe? Or do we yet have a voice? Thoreau declared the death of the soul of the world we inhabit, yet I have to believe that deep in the heart of man is a glowing ember of conviction that life can, and should be better.

I’m often astonished by how quickly change occurs in the human experience. What was hardly imaginable just months ago can become the new normal in the blink of an eye, even without cataclysmic change!

The human being is an extremely adaptable creature. At the same time, we human beings are creatures of habit. The status quo is malleable concept, not one that is set in stone. What is new, especially in American culture, can become the new norm with little ado.

Warren G. Harding, Image by WikipediaWarren G. Harding‘s campaign promise when he ran for President in 1920 was for “a return to normalcy” (i.e. a return to life the way it was before World War I). I’ve wondered throughout my life what “normal” really is. Is there an original “normal” from which we’ve strayed in the course of human history?

We like to think that we’ve evolved form our humble beginnings as primates, yet I have to hold out for the possibility, at least, that the theory (and it is just that) could be faulty. I would be remiss from a scientific standpoint were I to fail to leave room for other explanations, until the matter is resolved conclusively. There is evidence scattered about the earth – things that make you say “hmmmm?” – that doesn’t fit within the tidy theories that have their roots in another theory, that of uniformitarianism.

Solon, Image by WikipediaSignificant evidence suggests that there were mighty and advanced civilizations on earth that were lost due to cataclysmic events. According to Plato’s dialogues “Timaeus and Critias, the Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet, Solon (638-558 B.C.), visited Neith’s temple at Sais and received from the resident priests an account of a forgotten ancient civilization.

Then there are massive structures around the earth, the Great Pyramid in Egypt, for instance, that has been described by modern architects and builders as being impossible to build using today’s technology. Built to exacting standards that far surpass and building parameters we use today, it is hard to imagine how a bunch of slaves could have managed their construction so long ago. Part of me has to wonder if there is more to the story…

At any rate, Thoreau laments the loss of the “soul” of our world in his poem. I too feel a certain sadness when I stop to consider the general condition of our world, of humanity and of the future. I cannot help but ask myself, “is this the best that we as human beings can do?”

No matter how far we think we’ve come, I hesitate to resign myself to the explanations that are so far given in both religious and scientific circles for who we are, why we’re here and from whence we’ve come.

What about you? Have you stopped to consider whether you have deliberately or perhaps just by default given up on the world? Say it isn’t so!

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William Hazlitt, self-portrait

Envy is a littleness of soul, which cannot see beyond a certain point, and if it does not occupy the whole space feels itself excluded.  -William Hazlitt, Characteristics, 1823  

You were born to reveal greatness. Not in some distant time, but here and now. Your greatness is unique to you. You cannot mimic another’s revelation of greatness and achieve your life’s purpose. For no matter how great the works of another may be or have been, you are called to do the greater works.    

Henry Ward Beecher offered sage counsel on this matter when he said: “Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.” Your strength is not made possible by the weakness of others. In fact, your strength is enhanced by the strengths of others, just as a strand of rope is fortified by the other strands into which it is entwined.  

Complementation is always preferred over comparison, for comparison inevitably leads to envy, wishing you had what you don’t. No matter what brand of envy you buy (and it comes in many flavors, e.g. thinner, taller, richer, happier, friendlier, better known, less well-known, more powerful, less responsibilites, etc.), you are likely failing to bring to the table what you can, typically at a critical time. It was once said that envy “shoots at others and wounds itself.” Why compare yourself to others? The wonderful thing about people is that no two are alike. We each bring something special and vital to the table.     

Roman Senator and historian Cornelius Tacitus wrote: “When men are full of envy, they disparage everything, whether it be good or bad.” Isn’t that true? Envy constrains to bitterness. Bitterness smothers joy. No one can take joy away from you, but you can choose to give it away by swallowing the bitter pill of envy.  

Every moment spent in envy is time lost. According to Honore de Balzac, French novelist and playwright, “Envy is the most stupid of vices, for there is no single advantage to be gained from it.” What you lose while caught up in envy is irreplaceable: time that you could have used to express greatness through what was available to you or perhaps time that you could have spent complementing and thereby adding value to the lives of those around you. Your greatness depends on your ability to help others to express their greatness.   

If you do not “occupy the whole space,” as William Hazlitt noted, then keep your chin high and patiently do what can be done so that a larger vision can develop in and through you. Don’t resort to comparison, complaint or envy. Littleness of soul is not your destiny, greatness of soul is.     

Fill your day with greatness today, my friends! 

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Bobby McFerrin, of “Don’t Worry be Happy” fame, leads an audience using the pentatonic scale, showing the power of music as a universal language in this delightful clip:

Plato once wrote that “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”  Have you experienced that before?  Perhaps during this clip?  Music is a universal language.  It inspires, it evokes deep feeling, it can help set the mood or at times even, gives voice to your feelings.  It binds to memories, good, bad or indifferent and it is more memorable and instantly recallable than just about any other experience, save perhaps memories linked to our sense of smell.   

I remember the first time I heard someone say that they didn’t really like music.  I was secretly flabbergasted!  How could you not like, rather, LOVE music?  The endless variety, the historical and cultural context and messages, the harmony, the dissonance, it is all so amazing and enriching!

I recall seeing a recording of Oprah’s 24th season opener where a crowd of 20,000 people surprised Oprah with a choreographed performance of a live concert presented by The Black Eyed Peas.  If you haven’t seen the clip, it’s worth watching:

Let your soul be refreshed with music today.  It orders consciousness in a way that no other stimulus can.  Have you ever found it necessary to listen to music on the way home from work or after a frustrating time?  Music helps to make sense of the world we live in.

A friend of mine once told me that he sometimes listens to a complex piece of classical music 10 or 15 times before he has enough of the “strings” to make it all the way through without being distracted.  Isn’t that a wonderful way to put it?  I certainly thought so.  Music tells a story, whether in actual words or simply in feeling content, and the stories help to condition our understanding of the world around us.  In fact, it helps us to understand ourselves. 

I hope that you have the opportunity to listen to something new today or perhaps hear something you’ve heard many times in a new way.  Enjoy the rhythms of life that come your way today.  Be willing to move with them, rather than forcing your way through the day with neither care nor reverance for the music of living!

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