You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. — Woodrow Wilson
That is our challenge: To cultivate lives of reflection, love, and joy and still somehow manage to do our share for this beautiful broken planet of ours.– Mary Pipher
One of the chief privileges of man is to speak up for the universe.– Norman Maclean
We have to look deeply at things in order to see. When a swimmer enjoys the clear water of the river, he or she should also be able to be the river.– Thich Nhat Hahn
I very much enjoyed Mary Pipher’s book Writing to Change the World. Thoughtful, inspiring and practical, it’s been one of my favorite reads of this pandemic “down time” I’m having with the theatre being closed. I love her take on storytelling, and making a difference in the world
We had 1,440 minutes today. How’d you use them? We’re not getting them back, is why I ask. I want to remember this more often.
“I don’t know exactly what
a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass…
how to be idle and blessed…
how to stroll through the
fields, which is what I have
been doing all day…
Doesn’t everything die at last
and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan
to do with your one wild and
“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. it makes you eager. Stay eager.”
– Susan Sontag
“Relentlessly prune bullshit, don’t wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. That’s what you do when life is short. ”
– Paul Graham
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”― Ernest Hemingway
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – HARPER LEE
“Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.” – Barack Obama
“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” – Meryl Streep
Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.
True happiness is a verb. It’s the ongoing dynamic performance of worthy deeds. The flourishing life, whose foundation is virtuous intention, is something we continually improvise, and in doing so our souls mature. Our life has usefulness to ourselves and to the people we touch.
– Sharon Lebell, translating and adapting Epictetus, in her book “The Art of Living: The Classical Manual On Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness”
“Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it. Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.”
–Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations, as translated by Gregory Hays
I really like these 3 quotes – the way they fit together. The Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius quotes, in particular, are so similar, yet they approach the “Now is the only moment” philosophy from different angles. Heaven knows I’m no philosophy expert. I like the pairing of the three, though, and I’m not exactly sure why.
Maybe it’s because of Lebell’s final sentence “Our life has usefulness to ourselves and the people we touch.” That sentence rings out, for me, and connects in a way that makes me hope I can make that true. If we approach life as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius suggest – and embrace each moment as vital, and maybe all we get – then making those connections with the people around us, each moment, is key to living well, right? Practicing an “ongoing dynamic performance of worthy deeds”, as Lebell says, while taking care and effort to “caretake this moment” feels like a wonderful mix of how to try and tackle every day. Lord knows, it’s not an easy task by any stretch. I mean, on days when the bills are due and there are too many emails unanswered in the inbox, and you’ve had to skip lunch and really just need a nap, it’s hard to embrace a “feel good about NOW” mindset…
But then again, that’s probably when I most need to.
I believe that stories well told can accomplish a pretty magical feat: transporting us into the hearts and minds of others. Stories offers us the chance to flex the superpowers of empathy, understanding, connection across experience, and the amplification of often silenced voices. Stories also remind us of the power of joy, hope, and humor in the face of division and conflict. And stories can fire us up for the work of fighting the good fight. Theatre specifically requires us to show up and participate in the story and feel the particular power of congregation as well as catharsis. The communal embrace of theatre was always an ancient way of processing politics, society, and great change. I believe it still is.
Make them laugh, make them cry, and hack to laughter. What do people go to the theatre for? An emotional exercise. I am a servant of the people. I have never forgotten that.
– Mary Pickford
Remember how to breathe, how to live…please!!
You Reading This, Be Ready
Starting here, what do you want to remember? How sunlight creeps along a shining floor? What scent of old wood hovers, what softened sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now? Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts? When you turn around, starting here, lift this new glimpse that you found; carry into evening all that you want from this day.
This interval you spent reading or hearing this, keep it for life – What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
Miracles happen all the time.
We’re here, aren’t we?
-Marilyn Nelson (Abba Jacob and Miracles)
“If I’ve learned anything in my shaky life as an artist, it’s that you must stop talking and spinning and whining and start making your thing today. Pick up a camera. Pick up an easel. Open your laptop and turn off your Internet connection while you write. Find a starting point. Ignore the voices. Ignore the critics. Reward yourself for having ideas by valuing them enough to believe in them.”-Shane Nickerson
This. No one will do it unless we do. It’s our job, those of us who chose the arts, or were chosen by them. It’s our calling. So easy to get caught up, wasting time, worrying. Instead, how about we make things? Create – on our own, or in groups. Long term projects that require lots of planning, and short term spur of the moment things. You want to encourage some kind of social change? Go for it. You want to entertain, make people laugh or cry? Get it done. Do both. Do something more than that. But stop waiting. This is it – this is all the time we have, use it! Use it to connect people. We are in the arts to serve people: to make their time here, all our time here, better, deeper, richer. Make LIFE more than just the days on the calendar. Our world is shaped by our actions, and our connections to the people around us: make them count.