Three dreams, three realities, one invitation

#Trust30 Prompt: Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write down your top three dreams. Now write down what’s holding you back from them.

My top three dreams:

1. To hike the length of Hadrian’s Wall.

2. To be a major league baseball player.

3. To enjoy leisurely and significant conversations on multiple occasions with plenty of time, plenty of good food, and plenty of love with the people who are dearest to me.

What’s holding me back, in order:

1. Companions, arrival of the funds, and being in shape to walk seventy miles.

2. Lack of talent, my advanced age, and no agent gutsy enough to believe in me.

3. Nothing earthly that I can conceive of; will you join me?

Invent Whirled Peas?

#Trust30 Prompt: “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My favorite quote of all time is Alan Kay: “In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.” I am all about inventing the future. Decide what you want the future to be and make it happen. Because you can. Write about your future now.

Kay is not the first to want to invent the future. As an historian I have to tell you I am relieved that many of those who aggressively wanted to invent the future didn’t get their way. Others had noble dreams of the future and became disillusioned–and didn’t get their way either. Do I have to be so powerful that I think I can get my way about the future? Do I have to be so potent for my life to be considered meaningful? Is this delusion about inventing the future a mere hyperbole that manipulates artist types into a rah-rah experience?

I don’t feel bad about thinking it is ridiculous to get excited about inventing the future. I am not knocking Alan Kay here because I don’t know the context of what he was trying to say when he wrote this memorable aphorism. Out of context prima facie it has a certain ring of truth, but no, I think I must reject it. Plenty of us were told we could do anything we put our mind to by well-meaning parents. I fear in many cases that this was a cheap substitute for what a child desperately needs: Presence. By being present with, spending time with, looking carefully at, their children parents have the opportunity to identify individual passions and the privilege of being the most significant nurturers of the Call. This privilege is as much the crucible of parents to grow up as it is their kids, because the flip side of remaining in presence with our children is realizing they have minds of their own and could choose to ignore their gifts. Growth for parents is learning not to harangue, but to view their children’s lives as longue durée, enjoying the process of unearthing fervor and self-discovery.

So I really cannot do anything I might put my mind to. The future is not my oyster. But that does not mean I cannot discover, explore, and pursue my passions in what those wise old theologians called “subduing the earth,” which amounted to doing what I was put here to do and loving it, thereby demonstrating mine is an indispensible story within the greater Story–yes, pomo friends, I am saying there is a grand narrative. This thought moves me far more than the idea that all this joy and crap we go through is mere accident. No accidents means a big, heaping helping of wonder and awe. It means I am part of something bigger than myself. For my money, this is way better than believing I can invent the future. No, thanks.

Besides, inventing the future was not what Emerson was talking about at all. He was talking about the issue of dismissing the power of my thoughts because they are mine. He is alluding to the awful internal editor that refuses to believe that I can see well. The fulgurations of my mind is part of the wonder of living in the Story I find myself in.

So Emerson offers the greater advice to trust that as the voice that is in concert with who I was created to be. Dismissing what I see is a handmaiden of denial. If dismissing the gleam becomes my habit I will not only deprive the world of what only I can offer, I will diminish my humanness.

Ad Astra Per Aspera

#Trust30 Prompt: “When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;—— the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can you remember a moment in your life when you had life in yourself and it was wholly strange and new? Can you remember the moment when you stopped walking a path of someone else, and started cutting your own?

Write about that moment. And if you haven’t experienced it yet, let the miracle play out in your mind’s eye and write about that moment in your future.

Thirty-three years ago, on a cloudless July night in Nebraska, I was walking along the Platte River. It was the night before I was married and the wedding party had just broken up. It was late and my groomsmen had seemed half-asleep already as we said our good night. Tonight, however, was my night and I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts raced. I thought about my own father and what a night like this might have been like for him. I thought about my life’s role as a youngest son and kid brother and how I felt that my birth order had something to do with not being taken seriously. I thought about my courtship and how much it had been a time when I became truly alive. The last year had started with such promise, but fear and uncertainty had entered when my fiancée was diagnosed with a serious, debilitating illness that required six months of hospitalization and emergency surgery. It was an awful experience, but she had made it through and now we were to be married. She had nearly died on several occasions. She had suffered and so I had suffered with her.

I was here along the river more than ten miles from the nearest town of any size. As thought about the juxtaposition of suffering and feeling misunderstood I prayed. I prayed that I would be a faithful and loving husband, and I thanked God that we were privileged to suffer in a small way so that we could perhaps be present and available to others who suffered. These last words surprised me because I had never really thought about suffering except as something to be strictly avoided. It now occurred to me that it was a vital refining ingredient in the crucible of growing up, of becoming truly human. My fun-loving adolescent self seemed to rise up at this moment as well, unwilling to let go quite so easily: “Hey buddy! Get a grip.”

I opened my eyes and looked at the sky. I had consciously expected for a fraction of a second that I would be encountering the blackness of a midnight sky observed from a remote rural place. But I was wrong. The sky seemed so ablaze with sharply-defined constellations it was as if I had never looked at the sky before. I was incredulous that there could be so many stars and galaxies hovering above that I had never beheld. I laid down and stared in wonder until I fell asleep, and slept until the chill of dew on my bare arms awoke me in the dark, illumined morning.

As I made my way back to shelter and my bed I realized that for me the wedding later that day would be the commencement of leaving my parents and cleaving to my wife, but that a differentiation–from my parents, my childhood, and my adolescent self–had already taken place. For the first time I had an inkling of what love was; I was filled with anticipation of growing in it and sharing it. She was one who would be a faithful witness to my life.

I was grateful for those stars and for the suffering. A generation has passed since that starry morning, and suffering has made all the difference. Ad Astra per Aspera.