Archive for December, 2009
Oh, you must watch this. It just gets better as the two minutes go on. What an amazing vision of “success” for our world — if we could base all of our relations, as individuals and nations, on the principle of compassion. Check out The Charter for Compassion, and add your name to the charter, too…
My dearest friend Amy came down from L.A. a few weekends ago and brought with her a stack of Oprah magazines she had saved for me (I swap her for my Body & Soul mags — also, our holiday presents to each other now consist of cutting out from catalogs things we would get each other if we had unlimited funds; it’s the best, try it with your bff!). Anyway, I digress.
So, I admit, I tossed the Oprahs into the basket in the downstairs powder room, with my barely opened Writer mags and Alex’s well-read Surfer mags (he tends to use “the office” before the kids wake up, so he can actually get some reading in). OK, sorry, TMI, I am punchy tonight. Anyway, Amy knows about my lack of reading time at the moment, so she put these adorable little post-it notes on pages and articles she thought I would like (is that a friend or what?). As I was flipping through one of my Cliff’s Notes Oprahs the other day, I was really struck by a quote Amy had marked for me. It was so me, and so my blog, and so right on, I have to type up the whole thing and share it here. It’s from a commencement address by writer David Foster Wallace, and it says:
“This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted: You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship… Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or The Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.”
Running in some academic-type circles as I do, I know lots of folks whose “worship” is in the intellectual realm, but I submit that the theories they immerse themselves in still serve a spiritual purpose — the education or cultural theorists, the psychologists and philosophers, they are still talking about a way of seeing life, of living a truth. What messages we connect with, what theories and prophecies stop us in our tracks and speak to our souls, say so much about who we are. And whether our actions are in line with those messages says even more.
This week our Parenting on Track class is focusing on defining values — one of my favorite topics and one I’ve written about here often. When I was a career coach, I always loved doing the values clarifying stuff with the grad students I worked with, and Alex and I talk about our own values as parents pretty often. So, this exercise wasn’t too difficult for us, though it was still very useful for two reasons: 1) we made a crazy connection that validated our direction as a family, and 2) we had a good reminder about the need to check ourselves often to be sure we are living by these values we espouse to hold, and are not just blowing smoke about them.
So, the connection was this: Alex and I made separate lists of the values we try to hold for ourselves and want for our kids. When we compared lists, there were about four of our top ones that obviously overlapped and were the ones we both could embrace wholeheartedly. Then, I realized that these four values were actually exactly the ones stated in the little prayer we say with our daughter each night before bed. It is a prayer I got randomly from this kids yoga book a while back, and it just hit me and I’ve used it with her every night since. Seeing this connection, and how these values consciously and perhaps subconsciously define what we want to share with our kids, was an amazing validation, and helped us recommit to living up to them. It’s a great exercise; I recommend it to anyone. Here is the prayer, BTW:
May I be safe and loved, May I be happy and healthy, May I be kind and caring, May I know that all is well.
The Foster Wallace quote also speaks to another lesson I’m learning lately from this parenting program, and that is the idea of focusing on the fact that we are always “at choice” in our lives, in every moment. As Americans, we are so much more “at choice” in our lives than many people in this world, and it’s a fact we often take for granted. Being “at choice” is such a powerful concept, about taking responsibility for our words and deeds. It means we are at choice to live a certain way, at choice to start again tomorrow, at choice to change, at choice to forgive, at choice to try again. One of the reasons I want my kids to have an education is that it will offer them the opportunity to be more “at choice” about their lives than they would be without it. It will also, I hope, help them make choices that make this world better when they leave it than when they got here.
That said, I’ve added one more line to the prayer we say each night, and I’m now using this prayer and our values exercise to start crafting our Family Mission Statement. Here’s the new version:
“May I be safe and loved, May I be happy and healthy, May I be kind and caring, May I be learning and growing, May I know that all is well.”
Your prayers may be different. Your family values may be different. But remember what Foster Wallace said about the power of choosing what you worship. The power of choosing your values. The power of choosing your actions in each and every moment. The most powerful stuff there is.