I have a big birthday coming up, which naturally leads to all kinds of reflection. It’s great to think of the long arc of endeavor in life, of all that’s been tried and some that’s been accomplished.
But it’s even more wonderful to consider the long arc of luck.
This passage by John O’Donohue steered me away from counting milestones and towards counting blessings.”Things our effort could never earn.”
Dear Honeybees, what is gloriously un-earned in our lives? A fiery autumn maple tree, a laughing child, a beautiful concerto, a steadfast friend?
Whatever these lucky blessings may be, let’s try to free our hearts. Awaken to the wonder of our lives.
It’s true, mysteries are not necessarily miracles. Sometimes a heart-shaped cloud is just a cloud, not a message from beyond. A gorgeous flower growing in an unexpected place might have been transported by squirrels and not angels.
But the reverse is true too. Have you ever really looked at a pine cone, or considered the circulation of air through your lungs, or seen one small child comfort another? There’s some awfulness in our world. But it is full of miracles too.
The leaves are turning in New England, and I have know that this is a perfectly explainable scientific phenomenon. But that does not detract one scintilla from the miracle. In fact, it amplifies.
Dear Honeybees, let’s look for spots where science reinforces spirit, and vice versa. Miracles need not be mysteries.
One of my favorite little books is All My Friends are Superheroes, a quirky story where, indeed, everyone has a curious ability. Invisibility, hypnotism, bat-like hearing… all are not only possible, but present.
There’s so much to be done in our world, from folding laundry to analyzing data to fighting for justice. It can seem overwhelming, especially when a little extra noise and trauma are thrown in. So ask yourself this:
Whatever comes to you first, it is probably not an answer, but a clue. If it’s having endless cups of tea with friends, maybe your superpower is human connection. If it’s building giant spreadsheets, maybe your superpower is linking numbers to truth. If it’s flying through the air to stop cruelty, well, okay, maybe that’s it.
Once we know our superpowers, everything else becomes clear. We can decide how best to use our time and energy. We can decide what does not need our attention. We can serve causes greater than ourselves without feeling like we’re drowning.
Dear Honeybees, I hope your superpowers are not tricks like invisibility or hypnotism. In fact I know for sure that some of you have boundless courage, or intense loyalty, or deep and abiding faith. Some of you have all three.
Whatever your superpower is, cherish it. And share it. Use it.
It will not wear out; it will strengthen.
And it’s needed.
When I was studying biomimicry and natural systems, we’d do a neat and simple exercise for observation: zoom out, and zoom in. Take a moment and scan a whole forest, and from a plain swath of green some amazing patterns start to emerge. You might see a clump of trees near a stream that’s different from all the others. You might notice exactly where the trees start to give way to rock on a mountaintop.
Then zoom smaller. Choose a square foot, or a square inch, and sit still. It might look like blank space at first, but in a forest, nothing is blank. You might see a tiny mite crawling across a leaf, or a minuscule scrap of moss, astounding in its beauty.
This same exercise works for life. Zoom out, try to consider the last year or five or fifty in its grander sweep. What can you see?
And zoom in, to this moment. This one. Right here. Isn’t it wonderful? Wonder. Full.
Dear honeybees, as you zoom back and forth, I wish you the grand sweeps and the tiny miracles both.
I met a new friend this week, and we were trading thoughts on what we’ve learned as we’ve gotten older. She noted,
“I no longer endure.”
My first thought was, oh dear! Are you tired, or weak, or incapable? My second thought was, ohhhhh, that’s exactly what you mean.
We are so trained to think that endurance is a virtue, but sometimes stopping or quitting or leaving is by far the best – and most courageous – thing to do. We could cancel the meeting that is neither necessary nor informative. We could skip sweeping the floor that is perfectly clean already. We could stop smiling and nodding at the boorish conversation that deserves neither approval nor agreement.
Dear Honeybees, what is worthy of your endurance?