Before I had even laced up my sneakers on Saturday for a happy turtle-paced jog, Eliud Kipchoge had run an entire marathon in less than two hours. Afterward, he noted, “Together, when we run, we can make this world a beautiful world.”
The achievement is clearly stunning, and Kipchoge is rightly heralded as the hero of the tale. If you look at the image as he crosses the finish line, though, what is striking is the huge group of teammates springing along behind him, cheering and waving. Forty-one pacers took turns surrounding Kipchoge through the race, along with a host of coaches and planners and spectators.
Our narratives easily veer towards the heroic, and it’s inspiring when they do. But look around the heroes, and there’s always a huge supporting team. The rows of engineers at Mission Control, the staffers on the campaign bus, the orchestra members behind the soloist… world-class on their own merits, yet not the headliners.
It’s easy to want to be a hero, and it’s also easy to want to be a modest contributor. But to give your all, to be one of the greatest on the planet in your chosen endeavor, and to still be willing to be in a supporting role… that is tougher. It is the difference between glory and honor.
Dear ones, this is the question. Regardless of glory, what is worthy of our honor?
Anything may be possible.
Together we can make this world a beautiful world.
I attended a glorious wedding this weekend in a glorious location, where the priest quoted The Princess Bride and the church was full of joy. (Congratulations, cousins!)
We went to visit a gigantic duck-shaped building after the ceremony, because whenever you get the chance to see something shaped like something else – a car shaped like a hot dog, a building shaped like a duck – you should totally do it.
I knew the wedding would be amazing — and the duck did not disappoint either.
Dear ones, if we are lucky, life is full. There are trains to catch and dishes to wash and seemingly endless paperwork. If we don’t watch out, it can be all chores and no entertainment. All deadlines and no joy.
Friends, no matter how high your stack of paperwork, it will still be there in an hour, or tomorrow, or next year.
Let’s go find a giant duck today.
I’m at the amazing Omega Institute this weekend, at the amazing Women and Power gathering, where the amazing Elizabeth Lesser helped to open the conversation. She called upon the stories of Eve and Cassandra, and upon the wisdom of Toni Morrison, who advised,
Dear friends, we all hold positions of trust and power – as family members, as citizens, as workers, as friends, as humans. And we all have so much to DO – the errands and projects, the bills and meetings, the mundane chores and the noble strategic plans.
Just for a moment.
Recall, why do you hold this position of trust and power in the first place?
Trust and power, these are precious things – especially where they coexist.
Don’t tell me what you will do.
Don’t even tell me how you will help.
what is your dream?
* Some of you may be receiving our Sunday Best after a hiatus, as our email system had encountered some gremlins. If you want to catch up on past posts, you can always find them here.
This week brought the joy of being with family, and the satisfaction of some worthy work being done, and then some sharp sorrowful news from far away.
It can be a terribly helpless feeling, caring from a distance – but in the midst of the floaty useless anxiety, I got to be near this amazing falcon, who was trained but not tamed.
It helped a whole lot.
Dear ones, beyond us, the day-blind stars are always waiting with their light. We cannot un-do our sorrows, but we can steer them towards the worthy work of mending our graceful, wild world.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
– The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry
I was lucky – and honored – to attend some meetings at the United Nations this week, a place I’d never visited despite hundreds of trips to New York and a deeply idealistic temperament.
Like many sacred places these days, its importance is reinforced by intense security measures. No food, no bottles, no backpacks, nothing sharper than a pen. Multiple screenings, ID’s with barcodes, supervisors who scold if you take a wrong turn or, heaven forbid, move a chair. We met in an underground, windowless conference room. The operational anxiety seemed designed at every turn to compete with the glorious mission of the organization: peace.
Our meetings were terrific, deep and important and soulful and human, and this was heavy too (though in a good way). Between the content and the setting, by day two I was exhausted and a little overwhelmed. I’d heard there was “some neat art” and so during our coffee break (no coffee allowed in the meeting rooms), I wandered back up to the main lobby.
I turned down a hall that seemed to lead nowhere, and stopped in my tracks. There was Chagall’s blue angel, shining forth, taking my breath away.
Friends, we all have parts of our lives that appear to be dreary conference rooms. We all have the anxious equivalent of security conveyor belts, rolling round and round. We also all have a glorious blue angel. Maybe she’s forgotten in a corner, maybe you’re not sure how to get to her, maybe it’s a cloudy day and she’s not blazing so brightly. But she’s there.
This week, when the lists of noble and important things to do are never-ending, and the powerpoints of vital and thoughtful initiatives are blurring before our eyes, and the awesome productive bureaucracy of human-ness feels heavy, let’s talk a little walk.
Let’s find our blue angels.