Friday, April 6, 2012

Altering Events

Chasing Daylight, Forgiveness, and Presence

These three very thoughtful books came my way last year (2011), each inspirational and thought - provoking in its own way, each pointing the way to Here and Now.

For the past year or so, I have been compiling a list of occasions from as far back as I can remember when, for want of a better description, "time stood still." Therefore, I particularly appreciated the coincidence of Kelly's observation that in his Perfect Moments "time came close to standing still." Kelly sought to fill the remainder of his life with these moments, knowing that death was near. For me, it's more of a nostalgic exercise, looking back, trying to pinpoint the closest, realest moments. Miller's brief study of forgiveness boils life down to its essence: "healing, the only worthwhile work in the world." And Angelou reminds us that

" . . . years of
Sleepless nights and months of uneasy
Days will be rolled into
An altering event called the
'Good old days.' And you will not
Be able to visit them even with an invitation
Since that is so you must face your presence"

These books are about altering events, perfect moments, presence, forgiveness and courage. And all three are succinct. A good return for a small investment of time.

Chasing Daylight:
How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life

by Eugene O'Kelly
"There were no fireworks involved in our conversation. No amazing chocolate cake or vistas overlooking the Grand Canyon. Yet it felt like a Perfect Moment nonetheless. . . .

"In a Perfect Moment, time came close to standing still. A Perfect Moment could be an intense five - minute phone conversation. It could be a leisurely, four - hour meal with good wine and great conversation. It could conceivably go on and on and on because it wasn't the bounded moment you created; it was the proper atmosphere in which it could blossom.

"The more I experienced Perfect Moments, the more I entertained the possibility of a Perfect Day, which was merely Perfect Moments strung together. In a perfect world, a Perfect Moment could last the duration of a waking day, maybe longer. Maybe the rest of one's life. I marveled at how many Perfect Moments I was having now. I was getting better at it. It was beautiful."
(113, 115 - 16)

A Little Book of Forgiveness:
Challenges and Meditations for
Anyone with Something to Forgive

by D. Patrick Miller
"Can we begin to imagine a politics of forgiveness? We've had the politics of one - upmanship, deception, and belligerence for so long that we may mistake this way of doing things for "human nature." If we believe that we must fight against our own nature to change our politics, then peace, justice, and human equality become romantic ideals that can never be practically achieved -- although they can always be used as excuses for more war and sacrifice, to keep the enormous wheels of global misery grinding along.

"The extent to which we think 'world peace' is possible is exactly the extent to which we think our own minds can someday be peaceful through and through. If we cannot understand why distant waring nations fight over territories, national pride, or religious beliefs, then we need look for insight no further than our fight for a parking space, the struggle to procure a prestigious position over our competitors, or the aggressive ministry to convert one more soul to our church.

"But human nature encompasses more than our destructive habits; it also has within it the potential for surrender. If we think of surrender as raising the white flag before our enemies, nothing within us will change. The surrender that matters is giving up the belief that we have any enemies. It doesn't matter whether humanity achieves that surrender tomorrow or a hundred years from now; simply remembering to make the attempt whenever possible is what will eventually undo the world as we know it.

"How could our politics begin to express forgiveness? Imagine politicians debating publicly in order to learn from each other and educate the public, striving to outdo each other only on the attempt to make sure all parties have been fairly heard. Imagine the media hesitating in its rush to judgment of people and events -- hesitating in order to place their reporting in the context of the most profound questions of human consciousness and moral evolution. Imagine our country's diplomatic envoys arguing for peace in international conferences by admitting our warring history and tendencies first.

"Are these radical departures from politics - as - usual really beyond human nature? Not if they are within our imagining -- and if we can couple our imagination with an intense desire to end the human habit of alienation."

Letter to My Daughter
by Maya Angelou
"Of all your attributes, youth,
Beauty, wit, kindness, mercy,
Courage is your greatest
For you, without it, can practice no other
Virtue with consistency."


For additional passages from Angelou's book:
"Dagmar's Birthday"
"A Noble Country"


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