Let me begin by telling you a little story. It starts back when I was a buck-toothed, stringy-haired, eager-to-please eleven year old in 6th grade. (Not much has changed!) My sister, Elaine was making her Confirmation. One of the presents she received was a book mark. For some reason, the message caught my attention with its wisdom deeper than my own:
I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.
Soon I found myself borrowing that bookmark from Elaine’s nightstand. It never seemed to make its way back.
Okay, really? I just kinda’ stole it.
For me, its message held a resonance that has remained all my life. I‘ve turned to it again and again, for it has become like a set of guideposts for how to live.
It’s similar to the golden rule that every faith tradition has a version of, isn’t it? (e.g. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Matthew 7:12 NCV). But this message seems to me less general, and more urgent. There is a time component to it. The time is NOW. You won’t be in this exact place, with these people, or in this circumstance ever, ever again. It seems to invite or require or even demand something of us, doesn’t it?
But sometimes I forget. Sometimes we forget.I sure wish there was time travel so we could have do-overs, don’t you? There is a house in Kennebunk whose owner displays signs on his lawn. He calls himself the sidewalk prophet. One of his recent messages: “Interested in time travel? Meet me here last Wednesday at 7PM.”
Barring any time travel, what do we do when we forget? I have found it helpful at these times to return to Chemistry Lab. Yep. That’s right. Chem Lab from High School. Remember? When we mixed hydrochloric acid with sodium hydroxide and watched it go POOUUURRHHH in all its heated exothermic reactivity? We were learning the scientific principles – of curiosity, experimentation, and observation.
Applying the principle of observation, at times is necessary. We must become observers of our own lives. Then, we can notice, on a moment by moment basis — what enlivens or erodes the potentiality for is happening RIGHT NOW.
Equally important, perhaps, is to remember that we are created by a Divine Intelligence; it matters not if you prefer to use God, Source, The Creator, or The Man Upstairs. And we’ve heard it before: WE have the Divine within us. WE are Creators too, imbued with the God-Spark of limitless love and compassion.
And Jesus was a Creator, as were other Divine souls, like Buddha. I’ve gotten curious to imagine, as we all might, how did Jesus “pass through this world”? When wandering along a dusty pathway or through a village lined with ancient olive trees, how did Jesus approach each moment? I wonder: did he spend time wringing his hands and worrying obsessively over the disastrous state of affairs of the world? Did he spend time plugging into the fear-mongering that some in his day ranted about or intoned?
Or rather, did he cultivate a fierce sort of discernment, so that the focus of his energies, his thoughts and attentions were ONLY on what he wanted to create in the world?
Jarrad Hewett, author of Love, Life, God: The Journey of Creation, asserts something I’ve found to be a helpful tool. He says, “The moment you notice you are REACTING, you are not CREATING.”
So when I observe myself reacting – like becoming irritated at a driver who is on my tail, or when I observe myself reacting – like when I begin to yell at the TV during a debate or a football game, AND –when am awake enough to remember – I choose to lighten up, and pull over so the driver behind me can pass with my blessings; I choose to shut off the TV in lieu of an activity that enlivens me instead.
But there is such an allure to the drama that our culture perpetuates. Violent movies, sensational news, reality TV shows with families shouting at each other – we are like sleepwalkers in a mind-altering vortex that we feel both repelled by and yet attracted to.
And because it is the water we are swimming in, I fear we are not even aware how toxic it is. But surely Jesus and Buddha, Mohammed and Gandhi were aware. Do we, perhaps like them, need to cultivate a fierce sort of discernment in each moment of our lives?
These are the questions I’ve been holding for a while because all I know is that the more I observe myself, the more I realize how much this mindless reactivity erodes my soul.
Borrowing for a moment from the part during our recent slate of political ads when a candidate appears on screen and says, “My name is so and so, and I approve this message” – one day, I began to seek an antidote to the negativity I and all of us are bombarded with.
I tweaked it, changing the word “message” to the word, “moment”. And then I began to ask myself, “Right here, right now, am I able to say, ‘My name is Jennifer Comeau and I approve this moment?’” My friends and I started posting pictures of moments we approved of on facebook, with the hashtag #approvethismoment. (Hey, maybe you can help that hashtag go viral!)
Do I approve this moment? When I’ve asked myself that question and realized the answer was NO, an uncomfortable tension lingered. In contrast, when I found the answer was YES, I felt uplifted, empowered, and eager to create more of the same.
How about a little experiment (back to Chem Lab!) To feel the power in the words, I invite you to insert your own name. See how it feels.
Ready? (Go ahead – no one’s watching. Sit back and say it like you mean it).
My name is ______ and I approve this moment!
Did you feel it? The power that comes from the conscious intention to enliven rather than to erode WHAT IS NOW?
**Click here to watch a 2-minute video snippet of my latest speech — Approve This Moment**
Well, I suspect that only HIGH FLYERS read my blog; I suspect many of you are already creating MOMENTS you approve of. Lots of them. Like my friends Carol and Bob, for instance, who decided, rather than a lavish purchase, they would celebrate their 50 years of wedded bliss with a Capital-M-Moment each and every month for the twelve months of their 50th year. Each an experience with people whom they love — from venturing with friends to New York to see a play, to flying to Texas to attend a grandchild’s special event, I imagine Carol and Bob are creating moments they approve of.
Then there are what I’d call Ordinary Moments suffused with connection to Mother Earth and her beauty, like when friend Heather carefully places stone atop stone to create a Cairn that honors her landscape. Moments like listening to my mom at Christmas, as she tells amusing and poignant stories of growing up the only girl surrounded by four brothers in their crowded South Buffalo home; her father – Himself – breaking into an Irish ballad at just about any moment.
Or moments infused with magical artistry, like when singer-pianist Michelle Currie performs a song from her soul that touches our listening ears and hearts.
Then there are moments associated with what my friend, Fran, might call a Mighty Purpose. Like when Eve finds the energy and effort to organize a monthly meal for the homeless, and has been doing so for 15 years! Or when Caryn walks with sore feet mile after mile on behalf of her desire to end breast cancer; or when Anita tirelessly attends board meetings and strategy discussions, because all she longs for, is to rid the world of its cruel treatment of non-human beings.
And in spite of ourselves, amidst these moments worth approving, again– there are times we forget. Poet and writer, John Forssen, wrote a poem called, Sometimes We Forget, and I am delighted he gave his permission to share it with you.
Sometimes We Forget
Creation….such a beautiful idea,
but sometimes, in its midst,
we forget who we are.
life is simply too big,
and again and again
Despair can set in
where there should be sunshine
or, perhaps, we’re only a little grumpy.
The car won’t start,
the kids are bickering,
the news is always bad,
war and starvation everywhere,
late for work, bills to pay…
life simply overflows.
Seems like there’s no place
to stand, no time to rest.
So, of course, and who could blame us,
sometimes we forget.
As far as we know
or, at least, it’s what we’ve been told
we are the objects of God’s love,
the center of his attention,
the masterpiece of his creation.
Is that something we could forget?
Could anyone forget
something that stretches that far
beyond the imagination?
Or, could it be
that we simply haven’t looked
Fashioned in God’s image,
we are more than a passive creation.
We, too, are creators.
Like the God we call our father or mother,
we, too, have the power to love,
to be compassionate,
to offer peace to the world and,
at the bottom of it all.
to make a joyful
noise. Let us never
forget who we
Okay, let me slow down, and invite you to come in close here as I conclude, because, as I sit writing this, I have just read my friend Heather’s facebook post marking the 5th anniversary of her husband, Alec’s death at the age of 35 from prostate cancer. The one where she writes, “…As I think about the last 5 years, my heart overflows with gratitude… I am thankful for the love and light that enter my life each and every day. I am so, so lucky. So lucky …to know what really matters.”
And so, in the end, what I want to say is that each and every moment is precious, because it will never to be returned to us; and each and every moment is of our own creation. As Annie Dillard writes, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
My wish for us all is to pass through this world remembering what the oak tree and the eagle know; what the river and the wind reveal: the only time there is, is now. The power each of has is NOW. May we, with God’s grace, awaken, rise, and create only moments worthy of God’s approval; only moments worthy of our own.