Ruminations


(system) #1

The importance of little things is not to be underestimated.

“Not all of us can do great things,” said Mother Teresa, “but we can do small things with great love.”

Probably many of us (at least from my generation) remember this poem from early school days:

“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.

For want of a horse, the rider was lost.

For want of a rider, the battle was lost.

For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

As Ben Franklin observed, “A little neglect may breed great mischief.”

But one example: the cause of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster, resulting in the loss of the lives of seven astronauts as well as of the shuttle, was discovered to be failure of a simple O-ring seal on a rocket booster.

***

Only one letter separates LOVE, the single word which, to me, best characterizes God, from EVIL, the cause of our estrangement from Him: an “I”.

I think that significant, in that egocentricism was, in the beginning, the cause of sin. Lucifer, the finest angelic creation, said (after presumed cogitation): “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:13, 14). I count 5 “I”s in those texts. One might have been sufficient, but then it would have been out of character.

And it has been thus ever since. Most sins stem from a desire to please self. Whether it be the pursuit of wealth, status, pleasure or the like. And, although it may not seem so at first, life is often a zero-sum game. If we win, someone else loses. If we devote time and energy to a certain pursuit, that time and energy cannot be spent on a different, perhaps more worthy endeavor. And we have lost an opportunity that may never be regained, may not present itself again.

***

As a boy, I encountered a book by Charles Sheldon, In His Steps. First published in 1896, the fact that it sold over 30 million copies and remains in print today is a testament to the appeal of imitatio dei - the imitation of God. It posited an eastern U. S. town in which, before members of a particular church took an action, the person involved asked, “What would Jesus do?” and endeavored to act accordingly.

The consequences, while fictional, were illuminating and inspiring. I wonder how the lives of many of us would change were we to adopt such a mindful attitude.

And that is why I think I’m beginning to understand Christ’s injunction that, in order to find our life, we must lose it. It’s counterintuitive and even irrational, but I think, when I step outside myself and take a longer view, it valid.

***

I’ve suffered from a sleep disorder for a long time. If I consciously try to sleep, it eludes me. It is only by letting go that, mercifully, sleep sometimes comes. I’ve tried to commit to memory various texts, including many promises. To maintain some semblance of order, I start in the Old Testament and recite my way forward in time. I often find that, before I can reach Rev. 3:20, sleep has overtaken me. And I am overwhelmed by gratitude the next morning. Not only for sleeping better than I might have, but for the gift of another day of life, something so many are not granted.

King David, around 1000 B.C., noted that man’s years are threescore and ten. To my mind, anything beyond that should be considered a bonus and a cause for giving thanks.

***

I learned to ski by snowplowing. It seemed natural to turn the shoulders as one made a turn. It was only later that I was to learn that, in order to ski well, one needed to keep one’s shoulders straight and turn only below the waist. What felt initially counterintuitive and awkward eventually became second nature.

Operating a motorcycle was similar. When I first acquired one, and was learning to ride, my instinct, in turning, was to shift my weight in the opposite direction to that which was to be desired and optimal.

My motorcycling days are over, reason giving in to the recognition that my reflexes aren’t what they once were. Fate should be tempted only so much.

***

Claude Debussy, one of the finest French Impressionist composers, who wrote many exquisite pieces and knew whereof he spoke, observed, “Music is the space between the notes.”

I have a number of paintings by Christine Rosamund, a self taught artist who tragically drowned, trying to save her daughter near Carmel at age 46. She became world famous and was noted mainly for her portrayals of girls and women. What I find particularly evocative are the areas of canvas that she deliberately left blank, as if she wanted the viewer to complete the artwork with his/her own visual imagination.

***

And, with the passage of time and an increasing aversion to accretion (only more stuff/debris/detritus for my children to deal with upon my own passing), I resonate with what Christ observed a long time ago: “... a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).

In the author’s words: I am just a fellow pilgrim. I live not far from my daughter's family, including a pre-school grandson who reminds me of the little children for whom Christ had an affinity. I work part-time as a healthcare professional, play piano for cradle roll, and, among other interests, enjoy photography, tennis, and biking to the coast.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6192