Where do suppose you would find It? How old do you have to be to understand it? Could it turn up a a sporting event? How about while you are sleeping? And what do you think it would cost? It can happen at any time, at any place, day or night. It may come from reading a book, seeing a picture, hearing a sound, or any number of other sources. I'm talking about inspiration.
Inspiration: "Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity".
The truth is that there is no set place. No age barrier. Nothing at all stands in the way of discovering the sudden and often unexpected jolt that one feels when it hits you. Inspiration can be found anywhere on the planet. It could be a golden sunset on a majestic mountain that casts shadows and mystery across the landscape. it could be seeing the awesome power of nature that carved the Grand Canyon, or formed the deserts of the world. It may be the soft touch of a newborn child and the innocence in their eyes. There have been movies, books, plays, music that have spawned the belief in many individuals that they too could overcome their darkest moments of despair and loneliness. Throughout history, humans have sought inspiration to make the world a more peaceful place to live. Inspiration comes in many unexpected forms. A casual remark can spark a flame of understanding and turn even the most devastating moment in to a time of hope. Seeing a rainbow appear in the sky following a summer shower, gives us a sense of wonder. The undeniable simple beauty of a flower or the magnificent strength and poser of a man made bridge can give us reason to pause and appreciate.
In my lifetime, I found inspiration, first and foremost, from my mother. She had an uncanny way of seeing things from another perspective. Each time I thought that I had reached a dead end, she assured me, all was not lost. "There are unlimited possibilities", she would tell me. "You just have to have an open mind and heart". Many times I just couldn't see it. Perhaps due to my youth and inexperience with worldly ways. Or perhaps, just because I didn't believe what she was telling me. It sounded so preposterous. "But nevertheless", she said, "that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.
As I grew older, I derived insight from teachers, friends and seemingly insignificant occurrences. I began to realize that the only thing standing in my way of finding hope or new horizons, was my own inability to see the forest for the trees. That V-8 commercial where the person slaps their head and says, "I could have had a V-8". Not so much that it was inspiring, but that one had overlooked the obvious. Just because one does not see another path for them to travel, doesn't mean that it isn't there. And no matter how much one may not believe or understand the sudden flash of light that can almost blind them, the same situation occurring to someone else could be viewed in a softer glow of recognition. It is up to each individual to figure out how to go about finding answers to what they thought was an impossible or devastating event.
In the eighth grade, my teacher Mrs. Twombly, drew a straight line on the blackboard. She asked the class what they saw. Every hand went up frantically waving in the air to give their answer. Every kid said the same thing. "It's a straight line". Mrs. Twombly looked around the room to see if anyone else had any ideas. No one did. The line was straight. What else could it be? Then Mrs. T said, "It's a circle. We all laughed and giggled and thought this old lady has lost it. Then she took a large coffee can and held it above her head. Slowly she lowered the can so that eventually it was at eye level and all you could see was the leading edge of the can. It did indeed look like a straight line, even though we all could see that the can was round. Then came the words that left an indelible impression on my young brain. "It all depends on where you stand in life, boys and girls, and that is all you will ever see". Each time we return to Jamaica and I stand at the shoreline and gaze out at the far distant horizon, I see what appears to be a straight line. Mrs. Twombly's words have echoed in my head from that moment on.
Later on, as I gained knowledge and began to see that there were in fact other answers to just about any situation, that classroom demonstration that I received in the summer of 1953, was now firmly embedded in my thought process. So when Syl and I had our daughter Sydney Erica, and she turned to be a person with special needs, my approach to this devastating and painful recognition was diametrically opposite to what Syl was feeling. I hardly ever focused on what Syd could not do, or on what she didn't have. I saw a beautiful child with "different" ways that she could achieve. For every tear that Syl and I shed because we thought that what the doctors and therapists and many others were telling us was, "the way it had to be". I found inspiration in ways that even surprised me. And in time, so did Syl. We never settled for the answers that the "learned" people told us. We always saw her glass as half full. Never half empty.
Not so long ago, those of us that read the MB found overwhelming inspiration from a young girl suffering with cancer. Each word that her mother Lisa wrote, was filled with undeniable pain that any parent would feel. But looking at it from Jana's perspective, we go a different slant on what she thought was going on. She showed us that through her eyes,things were not hopeless. Jana continued to amaze all of us. While she had to live with what she had, her positive attitude and youthful exuberance, made many of us stop and take notice. Yes, it was unfair, unwanted and unquestionably cruel that anyone so young should have to suffer with. But each time I clicked on the went to 'Jana updates', I knew deep down in my heart that she was going to be okay. She, and the rest of us, were able to see the soft glow of confidence and determination that would carry Jana and the rest of her family to a more positive end to the saga.
In the sixteen years that we have been going to Jamaica, I have drawn much inspiration from the Jamaican people. In a country full of difficulties and hardships, a place that doesn't have all the modern facilities and ever gadget that many of us have come to thing of as 'necessary' in order to be happy and lead productive lives, I see a people with strong religious beliefs and a determination to live with dignity and respect. In spite of what they may not have, I see what they do have. I see smiles on just about every face. I hear laughter instead of crying. I have watched as most days begin with sunshine and warm island breezes. The people go about their lives working with what they have. making daily life bright and filled with hope for all future generations.
So as you go about the day to day activities that often bog us down with despair or hopelessness, stop and think for just a minute. Look around you. Would you really want what your neighbor has just because they look happier? Do you really think that more money or a bigger home or an electronic thingamajig would bring more fulfillment and contentment? I'm sure that many would say that more money would definitely make things better. Is that all it really takes? Is that what's missing? Or is it just a Madison Avenue creation. They dream it up and we buy in to it.
The other day, I received the following e-mail that I think illustrates this point. It's rather long but I think that there are wonderful discoveries waiting to happen.
To many people put off something that brings them joy just because they haven't thought about it, don't have it on their schedule, didn't know it was coming or are to rigid to depart from routine. I got to thinking one day about all those people on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night, in an effort to cut back. From then on, I have tried To be a little more flesible. How often have your kids dropped in to talk and sat in silence while you watched Jeopardy on TCV? I cannot count the times I called my sister and said, "How about gong to lunch in a half hour"? She would stammer and tell me, "I can't. I ;have clothes on the line. My hair is dirty. I ;wish I had known yesterday, I had a late breakfast, It looks like rain. And my personal favorite, "It's Monday". We never did have lunch together. She died a few years ago. We never did have lunch together. People,world wide, cram so much into their lives. We tend to schedule our headaches. We live on a sparse diet of promises we make to ourselves when all the conditions are perfect. We'll go back and visit the grandparents when we get little Stevie toilet-trained. We'll entertain when we replace the living room carpet. We'll go on a second honeymoon when we get two more kids out of college. Life has a way of accelerating as we get older. The days get shorter and the list of promises to ourselves gets longer. One morning, we awaken and all we have to show for our lives is a litany of 'I'm going to, I plan on, and Someday, when things are settled down a bit. My lips have not touched ice cream for 10 years. I love ice cream. It's just that I might as well apply it directly to my stomach with a spatula and eliminate the digestive process. The other day, I stopped the car and bought a triple-decker. If my car had fit an iceberg on the way home, I would have died happy. Do something you want to...not something on your should do list. If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are waiting? Have you ever watched kids playing on a merry-go-round or listened to the rain lapping on the ground? Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight or gazed at the sun as it fades in to night? Do you run through each day on the fly? When you ask, "How are you"? Do you hear the replay? When the day is done, do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through your head? have you ever told your child, "We'' do it tomorrow" And in your haste, not see their sorrow? Ever lost touch? Let a good friendship did? Or just called to say 'Hi"? When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift...thrown away. Life is ;not a race. Take it a little slower. Hear the music before the song is over. "Life may not be the party we hoped for...but while we are here we might as well dance".
I don't know who wrote that piece, but my hat is off to them.