Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Sun Also Rises

I am reposting this article originally published 7/12/2009.  Someone had Googled the phrase which brought up my article on the list of responses.  When I reviewed it I felt it applied to the way I feel now.  With all the political turmoil friends, families and others are discussing--sometimes with civility and sometimes not--the various sides of the issues.  This often results in frustration, anger, disappointment and even disillusionmnet.  Maybe this article will help each of us remember that all things change and we can be a positive part of that change, or not.

I borrowed this title from Ernest Hemingway, who wrote of the undercurrents of suppressed emotions and buried values of the weary and aimless expatriates after World War I. The characters serve as metaphors for society’s lost optimism and innocence after the war. Hemingway borrowed the title from Ecclesiastes 1:5, which I’ll get to in a moment.
As with many of the articles I write , this one came to mind as I began a meditation. I was feeling quietly upbeat and excited about a noticeable change of direction in my life. I was experiencing my own new sunrise. I thought about a series of challenges that I had been working to resolve. I realized, almost without knowing it, that I had broken through. It was nothing singularly dramatic. Rather, it was the accumulation of small things, much the same as the feather that finally tipped the scales in my favor. Old friends visited. New opportunities came about. A new sense of direction emerged.
In my meditation the framework was first a brilliant, golden-red sunset over the deep blue ocean waters (a personal favorite and often photographed vista). Even as I saw the sunset, I knew the sun was, at the same time, rising triumphantly for those beyond my horizon. Of course, that led to knowing that the sun would also be rising for me within a matter of hours. That is the point where I realized it already had, and that was why I felt jubilant and free.
Those familiar with the book of Ecclesiastes will probably remember the verses that contained the term, “. . . the sun also rises.” Let me share the context with you.
The words of the speaker, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Emptiness, emptiness, says the Speaker, emptiness, all is empty. What does man gain from all his labour and his toil here under the sun? Generations come and generations go, while the earth endures for ever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down; back it returns to its place and rises there again. . . . All streams run into the sea, yet the sea never overflows; back to the place from which the streams ran they return to run again.
–Eccl. 5:1-7, NEB

Life is full of cycles as indicated in the text above. Sometimes we forget that the sun will rise again. The life-sustaining rivers running to the sea and returning as rain to the mountains go on endlessly. Even though we feel ourselves in the darkest of the night, it is at that very moment the dawn begins to break. If we can just remember this and maintain our faith in the outworking of good in our lives, the sunrise will shed new light that reveals ways to meet whatever challenge is before us. Even if it takes more than one sunrise, we can count on it rising over and over again.
My life is really not different from anyone else’s life. If I have any advantage at all, it may also be my greatest disadvantage. Strangely, the more you know, the more you are responsible for. If you know the principles of electricity, but fail to properly apply them, you are in danger of harm. If you know that a treating others with respect is the right thing to do, but then disparage them behind their back, it is likely to eventually come back to haunt you. If you know there are sharks in the water but you go swimming anyway, you have no one to blame but yourself for any harm done. Of course, ignorance is no excuse either, but somehow our problems are compounded when we clearly act in a way that is out of harmony with principles of living.
We may feel depressed at times. We may feel we are wandering aimlessly in a world of discontent and negativity. Conditions all around you may seem hopeless. In times like these it is important to draw upon your deepest convictions and faith in the restorative cycles of life. The fresh rains will nourish the rivers that in turn nourish the land as they return to the sea to begin the cycle yet again. This same rejuvenating, healing power is within you. You have a source of wisdom to draw upon that unfailingly will guide you through the darkest hours of your life. The sun of new hope will rise again to enlighten your path. I find this to be true for me. I believe it is true for you.
Comes The Dawn

After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't always mean security.

And you begin to learn
That kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman
Not the grief of a child

And you learn
To build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is
Too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way
Of falling down in mid flight

After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers

And you learn
That you really can endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
With every good bye you learn.

Veronica A. Shoffstall

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Books Just Won’t Go Away!

Every time I muster the energy to start going through my 1500 book plus library thinking about which ones I can start getting rid of I seem to run into a book I just am not ready to let go of.  Usually it is one I had forgotten was on the shelf.  Today, that happened to me.  I reached toward the top shelf where a number of paperback “character development” books were located and the first one I pulled off was, The Book of Qualities, by J Ruth Gendler (Perennial Library).

As I opened the book to peruse the contents I was struck by the fact that it was given to me in 1988 by a good friend and associate at Unity Church of Bellevue, Shirley Starr.  It was shortly after my stepfather had died in an automobile accident and it was Shirley’s way of providing comfort, insight and peace.

It is amazing to me how these serendipitous moments occur in my life.   There is ALWAYS something that shows up at just the right moment!  Sometimes I do not know it is the RIGHT moment until after it happens.  But this was definitely one of those special moments.

I immediately contacted the Unity Church and asked them to please forward my request to contact her.  I wanted to let her know that her gift renewed itself for me today and I am so grateful. 

Now I am wondering all over again if I should just give up on trying to let go of my books!  I have boxes that I started sorting books into months ago.  The last time I looked in those boxes there were clumps of dust in them.  This will give you some idea of how urgent this process is.

*  *  *

Returning to the bookshelf the next book I took down was, Today I Will Nourish My Inner Martyr, by Ann Thornbill & Sara Wells, (Prima Publishing).  I don’t know what to tell you.  Of course, this is a totally different type of book that provides a different kind of comfort.  It is the comfort that comes of feeling like a Martyr.  Just quickly looking at it I thought of a number of different reasons for keeping this book too.  (See how difficult I can make getting rid of books?)
Here is just one quick example:

My self-doubts are actually perceptive insights, not the baseless worries that my therapist tries to trick me into believing.

Then there is this one:

Today, Instead of taking a nap I will lie in bed and make a mental list of all my shortcomings.

Okay, neither of these quotes reflects my true thoughts, but that is the point, I think, about why they exist.  I cannot read these and not be reminded about the power of our thoughts.  I think you will see me quoting more of these from time to time.  Now I think I’ll take a nap!