Thursday, August 09, 2018

Live Well Where You Live

Yesterday's blog post about Anne Frank felt incomplete and it finally occurred to me that I missed an important element. I was so focused on the freedom of writing (journaling, blogging, keeping a diary) that I overlooked another key lesson implied in her quote. Here's what helped me realize my oversight:

"Wherever a person can live, there one can also live well; life is also in the demands of court, there too one can live well." (Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.16)

The thought came to me that Anne lived where she lived. For two years she had no choice. She could never leave her hiding place in The Secret Annex except in her imagination or on paper. The only people she could talk with were others in hiding as well. If they got along, they got along--but when they didn't, they didn't. So who was left to talk to but her diary?

The point is this: "Wherever a person can live, there one can also live well." Do your part to love and respect those with whom you live and work "in the demands of the court". Make and keep the peace whenever and however possible. Humility is a necessary ingredient for harmony. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Patient Paper

Anne Frank wrote, "Paper has more patience than people."

The Dutch Government issued a call for exiles to keep journals of their experiences and some think that Anne Frank's famous diary was her response to that call. Whatever her reason for writing, it is clear that she found a friend in a block of paper.

Anne needed someone to talk to, simple as that. Sure, she lived in close quarters with others but those relationships could only go so far. She did not write every day, but when she did, Anne expressed what was on her mind: her stress, her thoughts, her need to work out matters. She worked it out with a pen.

Paper is patient.
Paper listens.
Paper does not judge.
Paper understands.

Can one write electronically? Sure. There's something to the sound of clacking keys.

But the dance of a pen on paper, the swoosh and swirl of thought flowing through the ink--captivating.

It need not be legible.
It need not make sense.

Be mesmerized and soothed with the gentle scratching sound of patient paper, listening.

You've got a friend.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

There's Always A Way

“Apply yourself to thinking through difficulties—hard times can be softened, tight squeezes widened, and heavy loads made lighter for those who can apply the right pressure.” (Seneca, on Tranquility of Mind, 10.4)

You know the song, "Pressure" as sung by David Bowie and Queen. The song plays a game that we should learn: it makes light of very difficult times. Listen to it. At the very beginning, there are no lyrics, just a sing-song 

Mm ba ba de
Um bum ba de
Um bu bu bum da de

Does that sound like someone under pressure? Singing a ditty? Take away the tune, read the lyrics as they stand and the song is quite dark--but the music reveals a change in perspective: there's another way to look at difficulties. The music is light! Apply a reverse-kind of pressure. The song says that love dares to make the change. 

Well over a thousand years ago, the Roman Senator Seneca wrote about being intentional to stop and think through difficulties. "Hard times can be softened." This makes me think of a new tool used by firefighters that uses water to cut through brick or metal. Water is patient and water is hard. Nothing stands in the way of water. 

So "be like water" because if we stop and think, we can face difficulty with a kind of boldness that can't the pressure. 

When it comes to tight spaces, I think of Samson. Blinded and in chains, Samson was brought out to be put on display by his captors at a massive party. You know the story: placing his hands on the pillars, he pushed and (in a manner of speaking), opened that tight space right up--bringing the whole house down. 

Feeling burdened? Someone once said, "if you're going through hell, keep moving." If you're carrying the weight, that's good. Tiresome, but good. But the load is manageable when shared. Call for help. Don't let that load stop you. 

Here's the thing: hard times come and go, like the tide. They come to stay. Apply yourself to think, "this too shall pass" then buckle down and do what it takes to soften it, open it up and carry it away. 

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