Learning from Whoopi

If you want to live life free
Take your time. go slowly
If you want your dream to be
Take your time, go slowly.*
(Donovan Leitch)

Solving interesting problems is the best work we can do.
[…]
Seeing the world as it is, offering people dignity, choosing to make a difference… none of these are fast and easy paths, but we do them anyway.**
(Seth Godin)

There’ll always be interesting problems.

Living in a material universe guarantees this.  Materiality means everything is always changing.  Alan Lightman reflects:

“Nothing persists in the material world.  All of it changes and passes away.”^

Interesting is in the eye of the beholder.  That’s the amazing world of diversity.

Lightman has found a place to live and a way of living, things we each need to find.  As his body wears down and his life moves towards its end, Lightman speaks of finding wisdom:

“As the seconds tick by, I breathe one breath at a time. I inhale, I exhale.  These spruces and cedars I cherish and know, the wind, the sweet scent of moist and dark soil – these are my small sense of enlightenment, my past life and present life and future life all in one moment.”^

We meet the interesting problems with who we are becoming slowly, a slowness more disrupting than fastness.

Youngme Moon tells of a performance she attended of a then unknown and young Whoopi Goldberg:

‘I remember going to the show with a set of expectations – I expected it to be funny, perhaps even sidesplittingly funny – but as it turned out, the most memorable aspect of the show was not its humour but its poignancy; the show was streetwise and gritty, at times heartbreakingly so.’^^

My friend Alex McManus suggests we long for a life that is an immersive, interactive, integrated and impactful.  This deeper life is contained, it seems to me, in the words Moon uses for Whoopi’s performance: yes please to humour, but we also desire poignancy and grit, and even something to break our hearts.

Each of us is capable of such a performance.  Albert Camus spoke about how:

‘Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves.’*^

They are whispers to be listened for, so we must listen carefully:

‘Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear, amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope.’*^

Hope is to be found in the living of many lives slowly, persistently stepping out from the norm:

‘Some say that this hope lies in a nation; others, in a man.  I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished by millions of individuals whose deeds and work every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history.  As a result, there shines forth fleetingly the ever threatened truth that each and every man, on the foundation of his own sufferings and joys, builds for all.’*^

(*Donovan Leitch, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Speaking up about what could be better.)
(^Alan Lightman, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Alan Lightman on the Longing for Absolutes.)
(^^From Youngme Moon’s Different.)
(*^From Albert Camus’ Create Dangerously.)

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