Friday, September 30, 2011

Looking for The Good Life - Making Some Choices

Friend Tom Rink posted a couple of intriguing quotes today.

In Hodgepodge of Advice? Tom provides us with some phraseology that connects with something I've been thinking about for a few days now.

First, Tom quotes an unknown author:

"Live life and take chances.
Believe that everything happens for a reason and don't regret.
Love to the fullest and you will find true happiness in life.
Realize that things go wrong and people change, but things do go on.
Sometimes things weren't meant to be.
What is supposed to happen will work its way out."

Then there's a quote from Marilyn Monroe:

"I believe everything happens for a reason,
people change so that you can learn to let go,
things go wrong so that you can appreciate them when they are right,
you believe lies so that eventually you learn to trust no one but yourself,
and sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall together!"

Tom's quotes seem to fit with one I came across the other day. I appreciate both (although I do veer a little away from Marilyn's suggestion that we learn to "trust no one but yourself" - sorry, Marilyn. Trust is all, and when we stop trusting we become - in my opinion - somewhat less - for lack of a better word - than we can be).

Despite my digression, I appreciate - as I say - both of the quotes Tom's shares with us, and taken with the quote I found, there's a useful message for us.

In New York, one of our prominent citizens, Frank Forrester Church IV, died a couple of years ago. I knew him slightly, and always felt very privileged when we shared a brief conversation or two. When Forrester died, he had been for a number of years Senior Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church on the Upped East Side of Manhattan. While I wasn't a worshiper at his church or even much of a believer, I was always impressed with the man's kindness and with his ability to listen. These splendid attributes came through clearly in any conversation.

Recently I ran across a memorial essay about Forrester, in a publication of an organization we both belonged to, and I was reminded of one of the most fascinating things he said. The essay's author referred to the statement as Forrester's "mantra," and perhaps it was (not being part of his regular community, I had not heard him say it but once, perhaps twice).

But he did share it with me, in one of our conversations when we were speaking together on some subject about how people move forward with their lives. We were talking about how people feel better about themselves if they can find time to care a little about others and, if they can, move a little away from being as self centered as many of us tend to be.

In our conversation, Church said something about a phrase he tried to live by (that "mantra" the memorial essayist was referring to):

"Want what you have, do what you can, be who you are." 

It seems to sum up everything that unknown author of Tom's and Marilyn Monroe were saying, doesn't it?

If we accept who we are, if we don't allow negative experiences to turn into set-backs, if we have the confidence just to keep looking to the future and stop focusing on things that are not really important to our own definition of the "good life," it's not that hard to be comfortable with what life throws our way.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"...preaching the gospel of information - the knowledge-driven community...."

Take a look at an inspiring new video report about Africa's Arid Lands Information Network.

Read about ALIN here and find out how knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) is happening in places where it's needed most.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

The New York Philharmonic seemed to set the stage for me.

Like most New Yorkers, I was approaching this anniversary with a slight sense of trepidation. After 9/11, people throughout the world had been greatly sympathetic and supportive to the citizens of New York, Washington, and that tiny community in Pennsylvania where the fourth airplane fell. And ten years ago - as we learned how much people cared and wanted to help - we soon became aware that people could not have been kinder or more concerned.

It was an awe-inspiring time in our society, and for those of us directly cannected to the tragedy we all knew and greatly appreciated the many efforts made to help us through those difficult days.

Yet ten years later, as the anniversary of 9/11 approached, most of us had moved on. We are living in a different world now and, yes, one greatly changed by the actions of that horrible day. But we had - nevertheless - moved on.

So I worried a little about what my personal observance of the day would be. In other years, I simply stayed home, going on with my work or daily activities as I could, pausing now and then to remember and reflect, and - solaced by the appropriate music offered by our local classical station (WQXR) - just not making too much of the day. And, I learned, that seemed to be the approach taken by many of the friends with whom I interact on a regular basis. It seemed just right thing, not to make too big a "thing" of 9/11, to simply go on with my life but in doing so to be aware of the day and all that it stood for.

So this 10th anniversary approached, and it was the New York Philharmonic Orchestra that came up with the perfect solution for Mr. Guy: "A Concert for New York," offered free to those who wanted to come to Avery Fisher Hall (or sit in the Lincoln Center Plaza outdoors and watch and listen through the state-of-the-art technology that was available), with a recorded performance tonight on public television and on the Philharmonic's own site.

The work chosen for our observance was Gustav Mahler's 2nd Symphony, our beloved "Resurrection Symphony." It could not have been a more perfect selection. With a visiting friend from Berlin, we got to the hall in time to get tickets for inside, and it was a performance never to be forgotten. We are - many thousands of us - extremely grateful to the New York Philharmonic.

Is there anything more to say? I think not, considering all that has been said by so many. I'm not confident that anything I could say would add much, so I'll share what I wrote to my friends and colleagues in 2001 as we were living through the awful days of that autumn:

"William Faulkner said this is his Address Upon Receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature on December 10, 1950:

"'It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.'

"Is love included in this list? I think so, for it is love for humankind that enables that soul to rise to compassion and sacrifice and endurance, and it is that love that brings us together in the roughest and most difficult of times. Through these times, we will endure. And we will prevail. It won't be easy, and it will require - no, demand - of us sacrifices that we haven't even begun to think of yet. But through it all, we will endure and we will prevail... because we love.

"Let us never forget those we've lost... those who have been left behind to love us... those whose love made us who we are...."