I realize that I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for quite a while. That’s not entirely true. In efforts to refocus my blogging topic(s) and to relate a different portion of my life, I’ve started a new blog over on Squarespace. You can check it out here. Feel free to subscribe/read/tell all your friends/ignore it completely.
Here’s the link again: Finding Your Unicorn
I don’t know when my next post on here will be. Until then…see you on the new site!
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” — Kahlil Gibran
I’m sure by now most of you have heard of TOMS Shoes. If you haven’t, you’ve probably at least seen some of their shoes wandering the UGA campus or wherever you happen to reside.
Their allure is simple: well-made shoes created to support a very worthy cause.
The premise—“For every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we’re all about” (per the TOMS site).
And they’re doing a lot of work in a continent very dear to my heart, Africa. And besides, Dave Matthews himself endorses the cause and is lending his talents to a soundtrack of some sort.
So when one of my friends asked me to plug what TOMS is doing at UGA, of course I couldn’t resist the urge.
Basically, this Thursday (2 days from now) April 16th has been named “One Day Without Shoes.” Yeah, that’s right, kick off your shoes—or flip flops or high heels or Chacos or whatever—and romp around barefoot for a day.
I know being barefoot around Athens and UGA’s campus may not be the most appealing idea, but it’s just one day. And it’ll help turn your precious bare feet just a little more calloused. And maybe it’ll show you what a lot of the world has to deal with every day—not just a single day.But it’s not just a day of reflection and introspection. TOMS at UGA “will have live music, a moonwalk, a “Style Your Sole” party, show the “For Tomorrow” TOMS documentary and conclude with a barefoot march across campus. All of these are activities students can participate in without wearing shoes in honor of the 40 percent of the world that walks barefoot each day” (per my friend’s email—emphasis added).
A few links for your perusal:
I recently finished reading Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. Briefly, Rilke is a hugely prolific East European letter writer who was contacted by a young poet (go figure) named Franz Kappus. Kappus was on his way into the military after a few years at a military academy—also Rilke’s alma mater. The 10 letters comprising the book are Rilke’s musings, ideas, tips and cautions to Kappus, encompassing mostly his chosen career as a poet.
The version of the book that I have includes background context for the letters from a literary critic and historian. In the background for the second letter, Rilke finds himself thinking of how to reconcile your ambitions, your career and your heart:
“Everyone must find in his work the center of his life and thence be able to grow out radially as far as may be. And no one else may watch him in the process…for not even he himself may do that. [emphasis added]”
This concept—that what you do with your life would somehow be at the core of your being—can sound so alien to people in this time. Especially alien for college graduates.
As soon-to-be grads, we often hear a chorus of “Take whatever job you can get because you probably won’t get many other offers.” Or “You’ll have to put in your time before you actually get to enjoy your job…if you ever do.”
I believe Rilke would be absolutely appalled at this mindset. And I believe he would be well justified.
[tangent: Some would debate the differences between “life work” and “career,” that they can be completely separate efforts. My opinion is that they are both better served when they are one and the same. Feel free to disagree.]
And Rilke seems to divide the process of work/passion into two well-defined steps:
Find Your Own Center—The Lion
Plainly speaking, you can’t effectively influence/lead/create/what-have-you until you know where you’re coming from. This isn’t something you can rely on others to do for you—as Rilke points out in the second sentence of the quote—this is something you must work at and work hard at for yourself.
When I gave the presentation to the high schoolers earlier this semester, I likened this step to becoming like a lion.
When I was in Tanzania, the lions and lionesses were almost exclusively loners. They had no real reason to be herd animals. They are confident in their individual strengths to carry them through. So they spend their time alone, wandering the Earth in which they live.
And that’s the paradox to finding your own core being—the harder you force it, the more elusive it becomes. You have to spend time actively meandering and wandering to ever arrive at the place you intend.
That’s not to say you’re wandering completely aimlessly (there’s always some purpose in mind). Your purpose in your wandering should be discovery.
Observe yourself. Observe yourself objectively. And observe yourself in relation to others. Write things down. Remember as much as you can. Everything fits together somehow, and it’s up to you to figure out how that is.
It’s a weird concept this paradox, but I believe it wholeheartedly. Mostly because that’s exactly how life has come together for me.
It just happened.
Create Your Concentric Circles—The Elephant
Rilke says to then “grow out radially as far as may be.” I think that’s a beautiful phrase because it tells you not only what to do but how to do it as well. You should grow, he says, and when I picture “radial growth” I picture something of a fishing bob hitting the water.
You know, that DreamWorks sequence at the beginning of movies with the kid fishing off what’s supposed to be the moon? That’s the imagery. He’s also doing it alone, which could tie in to my first point, but I digress.
But once you establish yourself at your center, you should concentrate on growing around that center. And when you grow, grow in every direction outward—picture that ripple effect, but more 3-D—touching people, places and events along the way.
It may not be much of an actual explosion—ripples tend to be gradually increasing anyway—so be patient. Keep doing that discovering step mentioned above, and you’ll find that you can grow in ways and places that you never imagined.
Who knows, maybe your ambitious, cubicle-bound subconscious will decide it wants needs something more expansive…say, the Peace Corps (personal aside).
And this is where elephants come in. Elephants in Africa seemed much more drawn to each other. They were in lines, they were in masses, they were just there. Each one leading another, each one following another. They were completely dependent on the circles of family and friends for their livelihood.
This is where you step out. This is when you lead. This is when you create. This is fun.
And it all begins with you finding exactly where you are and what you can do there.
Since I don’t have the expertise/experience to speak for a very long time about the Bulldogs’ football history, I wrote a story about the ten most important games since I’ve been here.
They aren’t all wins, but they’re definitely not all losses. But each of them has a wider significance than just that Saturday’s result.
I also realized that I forgot to include the 2007 Vandy game that sparked our remarkable run through the end of that season…so it’s added as a +1 game.
Let me know what you think!
** Linking isn’t working for me, so here’s the copy/paste: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/147497-top-10-most-important-georgia-bulldogs-football-games-in-my-tenure
In continuing the (very) recent trend here of spiritual insight, I was listening to my new David Crowder Band CD Remedy Club Tour Edition today, and the opening song particularly caught my ears. The name of the song is “I’m Trying to Make You Sing,” and it embodies a lot of what my life perspective is—or should be—every day. Below are the complete lyrics to the song and an mp3 of it (turn up the volume):
And I’m trying to make you sing
From inside where you believe
Like it’s something that you need
Like it means everything
And I’m trying to make you feel that
This is for real, that life is happening
That it means everything
I’m just trying to make you sing
The part that struck me is this line from the second stanza:
This is for real, that life is happening
Because it is. This is the life we’re all living, and it’s the life that’s been graciously given to us. Whether you’re a Christian or not, you can’t deny that this beautiful life that we all get to live is a blessing. And it’s something we have all been designed to enjoy.
But the main idea that came to me was that every day of our lives—even every second—should be a song. Louie Giglio talks about God’s soundtrack, and I think that soundtrack is personalized to each individual person. And we should be spending our time trying to evoke that song out of everyone we meet, not trying to quell it and keep everyone silent.
Each person has the song of life in their lungs, but not everyone is comfortable enough to sing it.
No, it doesn’t have to literally be letting your vocal cords open, but your song is your life, it’s your calling and it’s your purpose. Whatever you do, do it as if there is a song guiding your every step, be it a worship song or something else. But music drives us and music defines us.
Let it define your actions, and take the time to bring it out of others. Because when our lives are in tune and singing along, the world is such a beautiful place to be.
Go ahead and press play on this one. It’s beautiful, and it’s the best soundtrack I can think of for this post.
This past week at Athens Church, Louie Giglio spoke about “songs in the key of life.” The key of life concept goes back to something Louie has emphasized for years—that life’s trials and tribulations are a megaphone for your beliefs, for your values and ultimately for God himself. It’s easy to keep God’s soundtrack playing when your life is playing in the key of Cmajor, cruising along with no hiccups. But what happens when you hit Dminor? Because you know they will. They always do.
In my own life, I’ve never once doubted the fact that God loves me and that he has blessed me beyond measure. I’ve never had to worry about any of the necessities of life. I have phenomenal friends who love me to death and whom I love to death as well. I have loving and nurturing parents, and an extended family that’s not too shabby either. I’ve been given great gifts and great talents, and I’ve begun discovering that these can be used to advance the kingdom of God. All I have to do is tune my radio into his soundtrack and become a part of the grand story.
And the epiphany came when Louie spoke of burdens. I think I finally put a major piece of this whole God puzzle together on Sunday.
We humans have our own burdens to weigh us down in this world. And we are easily wearied, easily beaten down. Now imagine if our personal burdens were literally the weight of the world on our shoulders. Imagine how heavily that would weigh on us. Needless to say it would crush us immediately. We’d lose the will to live and the ability to go on.
But that’s not what happened to Jesus. He took every burden we have ever had or ever will have—of everyone who has, is and will ever live—and placed them squarely on his shoulders. He took them all away from us so that we may soar.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah knows that life will bear down on us. He knows that everyone will stumble and crash sometimes. But he also knows that, because Jesus has taken care of all of our burdens already, we are able to soar like we are meant to.
Simply put, the Lord never meant for this beautiful life to beat us down constantly. When he designed us, he didn’t want us to hang our heads every day. He wants to see us soar. Succeed and find happiness. And he knows we can only do this if he takes off whatever holds us down and keeps us down.
So he sent Jesus. No one else could’ve borne the weight that he did. And that’s why he alone could do it.
So keep your head up! Spread your wings like those eagles. Soar.
For more religious inspiration, check out JungleJon’s thoughts here.