Thursday, August 28, 2008
As meaningful as the Individual part of Larry’s lesson to me was … it was, in truth, the second aspect of the message that I received. The first, and immediate, lesson was (as I watched him employ all of the might and strength developed by his upper body in its accommodation of his lower body’s needs) … (and Yes!! This is literally the exact thought spoken to my awareness in that very moment) … “If I suggested, to Larry, the idea of amputating his legs in order to make his swim less of an effort … he would tell me, ‘You go to hell ! These are my legs … a part of my total Self … and I am fully capable of taking care of and looking after their needs. Because they are a part of Me. And I love them just as I am lovable.'”
And I … right then … and right there … as I stood in the swelteringly humid and overwhelmingly loud swimming facility at The University of South Florida … I understood the responsibility of the total Body … to the less functional … even “handicapped” … part of that Body. I saw … heard … sensed … and knew that the all of the parts of the total Body, known as Humanity, have a natural and completely appropriate right, to be loved, and cared for, as members of that Body ... though they may be crippled by circumstance. I understood … in the midst of all of those cheers for Larry and his beautifully determined commitment to the success of his Entirety … that we, as The Body of Humanity, become stronger and more wonderfully balanced … as we care for, provide for, tend to, and nurture every aspect of who we are. That is what that room full of people were cheering for. Character! Commitment! Determination! Those were the values that spoke to us all as we watched Larry’s determined focus and purposeful struggles. We all had an awareness stirred within us in that moment.
And I knew, then, and have been repeatedly convinced, over the course of the nearly thirty years since, that we, as a Society … as a Global Body … have a daily opportunity to tend to the needs of the Entirety of our Self … as One. And the more care we give the members of our Body that are limited in some way … the stronger and better developed the rest of 'Us' becomes. This is what motivates me to seek out and respond to the Hurting and Disadvantaged. They are members of this Body that is Me. And I do not see amputation of them as a healthy remedy to their conditions or circumstances. No, indeed! I see the gentle, loving, and nurturing care of them as an opportunity to develop and make stronger the totality of the Body, of which I am but a small, but valuable, part.
This is what Life whispered to me in that long-ago moment. The Truth that lies in the balance of all that is intimately an aspect of Me … in my Individual Self … and just as importantly, in my universal Self. I am part of You. You are a member of this Body of which I am a part. We are healthy and functional when and as we accept, respect, nurture, and care for the Totality of who we are. In this way we become worthy of the cheers and applause of all of Eternity. To that end, I extend my encouragement and loving efforts … to You.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I know not what perceived “Burden” you carry today, My Friend. I have no knowledge of the “Impediments,” to your freedom, that are yours to bear. I do not speak to specific or even suspected challenges or frustrations that keep you from following your heart’s dream. Nor can I conjure any imagery of the Shadow of “if onlies” that accompany your daily walk. Your personal set of “unfair” circumstances is known only to you. And you are, most likely, disinclined to speak of them to even your most intimate of Friends … for fear of being seen as self-absorbed, selfish, self-centered, or some other label of “inappropriate” person.
But I could readily see and know the limitations that kept Larry from being all that even his fellow competitors were capable of being. And I was caught up in my own individual frustrations and dissatisfactions with the “unfairness” of his competition. He was the only person in that race who had a physical element of handicap limiting his ability to compete. All of the others were able to summon up the use of their legs. He was not. His legs just hung there. Dead weight. Useless appendages that served only to create drag and burden to his swim. It was patently unfair! And though I knew (at the intellectual and academic level) that he might not have a cognitive awareness (subject to his particular level of mental impairment) of the scope of the unfairness foisted upon him in placing him in direct competition with the others … I was frustrated and angry with the Organizers of the event, for what I decided was their corporate insensitivity to his individual circumstance. In the abstract, metaphorical sense … my Spirit was angry with Life for visiting an “unfair” set of circumstances on this vulnerable and helpless Creature. Thus, my Soul was primed for the Lessons.
First of those lessons was simply this “Larry is complete.” That’s all! Just that. Larry, and You, Dear Reader … and I … we all are complete. We have all … we are all … we are living all that is appropriate to balancing each of our individual formulae of living. His Yen was in perfect balance with his Yang. Our Ugly is in perfect proportion to our Beauty. His dead and uncooperative legs were in direct proportion to the strength of his upper body. Our Character has strength, in its depth and breadth of scope, which is in perfect balance to all of our life-impediments. His life experience was perfectly portrayed in all of its handicaps in balance with all of its joys … in That Moment. Yes! In that Moment, Larry was (to my awareness and with the interpretive whisper of Life’s loving and caring “still, small Voice” speaking to my Soul) a picture of what acceptance and celebration are all about. Larry was not mindful of his limitations in that Moment. He did not struggle with those frustrations and irritations that vexed him in his daily walk … as he compared himself (for I know, through my many years of walking with my Matthew, the realities of all of those plaguing questions and anxieties that accompany daily living as a person with handicaps) to the world around him. But in that moment … the purity of Life’s equation in balance was evident. And, in that moment … Larry was content … happy … jubilant … unfettered … and quite complete. “Live in the moment, John-Michael” was Life’s first lesson to me. “You are in balance … your life reflects the natural consequences of your choices, combined with your circumstances … all resting in the cradle of Life’s beautiful provision of eternal balance in Nature. It is all OK!”
Now! I ask that you please pay heed here, Darling Reader. For, you see, the lesson is not a stagnant one of finality and/or conclusion. Oh, no! For life is a dynamic, and ever-changing thing. Being Complete and in balance in The Moment does not, in any way or form, equate with being Finished. Larry was not a finished product. His life is not defined by what was Complete in that brief moment. Nor is ours. For, Dear One, we continually alter the “equation” of life with each breath that we take. And the unequivocal balancing and equalizing nature of life itself is constantly changing both sides of our individual life formulae. All governed by, and directly responsive to, our free-will choices. So, you see, in any instant … we are a Complete Package … and reflect the sum-total of our individual sets of “Causes and Effects” as they are played out in out ever-dynamic circumstances and choice-consequences. And, just as was true of Larry’s life-less and supposedly useless legs … all that is part of who we are in any moment … is a precious and valuable part of the totality of our Self. And is worthy of respect, honor, and acceptance. For, whatever it may look like in the eyes of others … in an instant of critical appraisal (or to our own critical eyes … in moment of private and secret reflection) each element of who we are … right now … is a rich and sacred aspect of that totality that is who we are. In that moment … and as we continue to evolve. We are, therefore, not a “Finished Product” until someone closes the lid on that box of this-life finality. Until that day … we are a perfectly balanced “Work in Progress.”
That is the first part of the Lesson taught to me, by Larry, that day. The "Individual" part. I will share the "Community" part in my next submission.
I thank You, Dear Friend, for your patient forbearance in my slow presentation of this work.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Matthew neither needed nor wanted his Dad hanging around. He was basking in the delights of an all-encompassing cocoon of adoring attention, provided by two beautiful teen-age girls, who were serving as Volunteers, at the Special Olympics. They had Matt’s schedule of events. They knew when and where he was to compete. Hence, having a Parent hanging about would be nothing but a impediment to their enjoyment of all of the peripheral events provided for the enjoyment and entertainment of the attendees to this annual event. Food, fun, and games abounded. And none of those required my presence. So, I made my Self scarce. I took this opportunity to meander through the grounds and see what there was to see.
In the course of said meandering, I happened upon the swimming venue. The room enclosing the pool was packed to capacity with Friends, Families, and Fans of the Participants in the swimming events. It was loud, humid, and heavy with enthusiastic energy. So, I found myself a place out of the way and watched. The athletes were entering the pool for the next competition. All walked to the pool’s edge and eased themselves into the waters. All … save one. This exception to the group did not have the use of his legs. Consequently, he was lowered into the pool by attending hands. I wondered at this obviously unfair situation. But knowing how difficult it is to group contestants into homogeneous classes of capabilities … when you are, by definition, working with a population of all-handicapped individuals … I accepted the obvious inequity as something that was probably unavoidable. Then … the starting gun.
There was a mad flurry of churned waters as all of the swimmers struck out for the opposite end of the pool … where they were to touch the wall, and return to the Finish point … where they had begun. Away they went. They crowded facility was made nearly-unbearable by the cheering voices of all in attendance. The coaches screamed. The Volunteers exhorted their Charges. The Swimmers who awaited their events, all yelled and hollered. It was an electric environment. And in the midst of it all … was Larry. How do I know that his name is Larry? Because, Dear Friend, after the group of contestants touched the far wall … as they in mass struck out for the point of origins that constituted the race’s finish line … they passed the lone swimmer who was not-even half-way across the pool. They had all … save the One … reached the finish, whilst he was yet struggling toward the far wall. They, each and all, had removed themselves from the waters … and he had not yet brought himself t the turn-around point. “Take him from the pool when he reaches that first wall. Save him any further embarrassment and frustrated anguish!” I thought to myself. But … No! This single Swimmer did no less than touch the far wall … and turned for the opposite wall. Slowly … inexorably … ploddingly he began his lone trip across what (in that moment) looked like an immeasurable expanse of water. Then it was that I learned his name.
“Laaar -Ree, Laaar -Ree, Laaar -Ree,” chanted the crowd. Every eye was on this single individual. Unfettered good-will and enthusiastic encouragement was on every face in that place. “Laaar -Ree, Laaar -Ree, Laaar -Ree,” they went on … louder and with increasing vigor they cheered. And Larry ploughed through the interminable length of that pool to a chorus of his name … on everyone’s lips … over and over. Until, at long last, he completed the swim … and was removed, from the waters, by the same caring hands totally, completely, and absolutely spent … and smiling the smile of a victor! It was Larry’s moment. He was … at that time and in that place … the most significant and loved person in the whole world. And Lady Muse whispered to me.
I knew, in that moment, to the accompaniment of those cheering voices, and Larry’s glowing countenance, a lesson of timeless value. For, you see, Life had presented a demonstration of an eternal Truth in this experience that I had been privileged to be enveloped in. I will tell you about it … in following installments. I look forward to sharing it with you.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
He was, arguably, the most powerful man in the world. Yet, when I saw his face, on the televised newscast, I saw a man beset with unresolved conflict and uncertainty. I saw pain. Although I was not a registered member of his political party, and did not subscribe to the core mantra of his politics … he was, in that moment, a Fellow Human Being … and he was hurting. And Lady Muse whispered “Help him!” So, from this tiny one-room cottage that constitutes one end of an old garage, I took out my trusty Waterman fountain pen … and I wrote a letter to him … the President of The United States.
I related a story that I knew would illustrate the simple message that would erase all of the consternation and doubt shown on in his eyes in that brief newscast. I told him of driving down a local avenue in an old Volkswagen with my son next to me in the front seat … and my daughter leaning up, between her brother and her Dad, as she delivered a message from her heart to mine. “I am proud of you Dad.” she said. “Why, Darling?” I asked, incredulously. “Because you haven’t given up. Since the divorce, you don’t have anything. You don’t have a home, or a career, or anything that you did have … but you keep trying and haven’t quit. And you haven’t committed suicide. So I am proud of you.”
Now, if you, Dear Reader, are amazed at such a statement from the mind of an eleven year old girl … I can guarantee you that I, as her Daddy, was completely blown away! And it is the power of this affirmation by my child that I communicated to the President of these United States in my letter of encouragement. I urged him to put aside the voices of Advisors, Political Influencers, Staff and Administrative Colleagues … and weigh his decisions and choices on the scales of the esteem and honour of his family. For, I offered, after the passing of all of those transient and altogether-temporary circumstances that constitute Office and Position, what his family knew him to be, would be the singular Standard, that overshadowed all other considerations, in eternal merit and worth.
I pointed out the fact that I was, of all possible people, the very least in influential status, social and/or community position, economic worth, or political power. But, I made clear, in the eyes of one eleven year-old girl, I was worthy of pride and satisfaction. And that, above all considerations, was the very best of lasting rewards.
Now, I know what you are thinking, Dear friend. For I too had known a previous experience in trying to communicate with the “Powerful and Influential.” On that occasion, I wrote a letter to a sitting President. And all that was accomplished was my receipt of a letter soliciting a cash contribution to that President’s political party. But, you see, on this occasion, I was writing in response to the direction of that certain, quiet, but altogether insistent whisper of my Lady Muse’s speaking to my Inner Self. So, I made a copy of the letter to the President … attached it to a very short note that said something on the order of:
“My Dear Mrs Barbara Bush,
I just sent the attached letter to your husband. Because I am simultaneously aware of the massive deluge of mail he receives; a sense of personal urgency and conviction in the worth and timeliness of my message; and lastly, your intimate and committed influence on him; I am hoping that you find enough merit in the message to feel it worthy of mentioning to him personally. I leave it in your trust.”
And I sent that cover note with the copy of the letter to the President of The United States, to the White House in our nations Capitol. Surely enough, I did receive (a couple of weeks later) a form letter from one of the President’s vast network of Underlings with its expected and altogether predictable collection of “Yada, Yada, Yada.” Then, to my complete surprise, (a short while later) I received a hardboard-reinforced, letter sized envelope with admonishments to “Do Not Fold” from the White House. Upon opening it I found a smaller sized note on elegant, personalized, and embossed note paper, a short note from the First Lady. She thanked me for my concern, my interest, and my commitment to the best interests of her husband.
She told me that she had discussed the content of my letter with “George,” … and that they both appreciated my efforts and kindness. And THEN! (if all of that was not enough) I received a note card from The First Lady’s Personal Assistant some days later. She asked that I mail a note to her with telephone numbers that would allow Mrs. Bush to get in touch with me … for she wanted to express her appreciation “in person.” And, yes, I did receive a telephone call, at my office, during work. (Our receptionist was completely blown away! You should have heard her voice on the intercom when she told me that I had a call from the White House, on hold. [grin] And, no, I didn‘t tell her that I was too busy to take the call. [smile])
I took the call, and had a short conversation, with The First Lady’s Personal Assistant, who expressed apologies, from Mrs. Bush, for her inability to call, due to a very hectic schedule “on the campaign trail with The President.” But, I was told, they did not want to fail to follow up my letter with a prompt and sincere effort. I received expressions of gratitude, once again, and best wishes from The First Lady.
I cannot share direct quotations from either my letter, or the note from The First Lady, for those are now the property of my daughter … the One whose encouragement and stirring words provided the core of my message to The President. I gave them to her … custom-framed in an elegant frame appropriate to the significance of and accommodating to the prestigiously embossed Seal of The White House … on her attaining her eighteenth birthday (her age of becoming a voter and participant in the processes of governance of our nation.) I pointed out, to her, the Truth that lies in the power of the very Least of us … when we elect to follow, with committed and diligent effort, the leading of our individual Inner Voice of conviction. I told her that the Note from the Greatest … sent to One of the Least … would remind her of what Life can do with any Individual’s efforts when those efforts are motivated and directed by the noblest of unselfish intentions.
And that is the Message that I would use this Story … to illustrate, and make real … for You, my Darling Reader. I whole-heartedly encourage your following of your own personal convictions and yearnings. That you may know the ultimate satisfaction of Being all that you have a core desire to Be. I have no reservation in telling You, that You, and You alone, have a special and unique place in this life … that can not be satisfied by any other Being. This I am certain of. I can assure You that your fearless response to that inner Leading, will result in a rewarding sense of completeness and satisfaction. How can I be so sure, you ask. Because I know how I am touched and moved by your individual influence on me. And I am so very blessed … and grateful … by, and for, You.
As I remain … as always … your most loving of Friends, and (though the Least of the most Insignificant), your most happily devoted of Servants.
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