June 30, 2011 § 7 Comments
How do I connect these two points: the anxious, iron door handle between my family and I and this little, candle-lit school desk in the misty mountains of Kenya? On one end, summer blooming on driveways and summer hideaways, and on the other, this winter hallway, chilling the echoes of children preparing for school. I can’t. I can only smile and say that I could never have imagined this reality, and as surreal as this continental shift began, it’s amazing how something once so strange can feel so natural in time. It is true that beauty dances in inspiring feathers on all sides and that we are in fact connected by our hardship and search for meaning, not separated by it. While I could have spent many more weeks at home, soaking in familiar wonder and peaceful introspective, my return to Kenya was a return to the heart call; the current place of greatest purpose. For this, I am humbled and grateful. To those of you who carved out time to share your love on either side of the journey with me – your book recommendations, spiced cooking, and tremendous warmth – I am deeply beholden for the gift that you are.
My hope in this post is to sweep you; sweep you from your routine, in pattern of thought and action, as it is our nature to breathe easiest in the capture of new degrees of perspective. We all hunt deeper meaning and connection to one another and the purpose of this life, whether we are open enough to admit it or not. And it’s this very attribute of searching that binds us, inextricably, from Kenya to Kansas; Haiti to Hiroshima. Why, otherwise, would you be reading this? The problem is that we slip in and out of this togetherness, simply because of the sheer amount of divisive non-truth pervading our shared humanness and all the meaningless stuff and demands we break our spine ‘needing.’ Long story short, we can transcend it and wash clean in real, lasting fulfillment. We just need to make a more intentional, daily practice of compassion and search for meaning. And by this, I invite you to join me on a challenge; a exercise for the strong and hopeful heart! But before we embark on the details of this experiment, I would be remiss to glaze over one, very vivid, full-circle monument in the life of Flying Kites; one that I hold as closely to my heart as any: International Day of the African Child. This is the substance of dreams. Let your eyes reach accordingly.
Credit for this brilliance goes first to my brother and my dear friend, Mr. Michael Behan, the lead coordinator for this year’s event. Mike, I am so proud of you, and I will speak for a village when I say that we are blessed for the profound joy you inspire in our lives, the hunger and fire that drives you, and the steady hand you steer your ship with. You are a great gift to our living children’s story; someone I am blessed to learn new depths of sacrifice from. Credit flows next to my seasoned sister, Ms. Julianna Morrall. Juli, your selflessness, your clarity in the face of raining corkscrews, and your dedication to this cause is as versatile as it is unbendable. We have been and will forever be blessed for the ocean of benevolence you embody. From Juli, the most gargantuan of our combined thanks goes to the ‘bombastic’ committee of Njabini volunteers, who have once again built something that will open doors for our children and our community in ways we will never fully realize. To all of you, know that your sacrifice is our world’s greatest currency. Mr. Jimmie Gait, Ms. Ann Karima, Mr. Joseph Kaguthi, Seneca Security Group, KCB bank, local administrators, teachers, students, and all of our colorful guests, we are honored to have hosted your magnetic energy and your wish of love for a better future. Children deserve education with substance and quality, in both method and relevance. In binding beneath this call, we are indeed able to sculpt our greatest weakness into our greatest strength.
Okay. Now to our creation of a practice! The challenge has never been recognizing the importance of the questions that we ache from asking; let’s face it, we will never fully master compassion or capture the meaning of life on a sheet of paper, and yet we love the thought of this! A quick fix. A single key that will wake us up from this rolling slumber. But, there isn’t one key, there are many, and it’s not a quick fix, it’s a lifelong conquest, but one that can and must be made in incremental steps. In fact, it’s not an option to pursue this, it’s our responsibility. No matter your religious beliefs, no matter your culture, no matter your stage or depth of fullness, the steps climb ever higher and the reach extends ever further. We wish to transcend this tension and blow like a yogi in the wind, but tension is the very force that drives us, connects us, and guides us to clarity on exactly what has been achieved, and with equal importance, what ought next to be triumphed. It’s exercise! It’s living yoga; living marathon, butterfly stroke, pole vault, cycling, sweat, mind and body conditioning. And like all passions, mastery comes through knowledge and application… training, training, training. It’s a matter of commitment, where the slip becomes the steady. I found a starting place, for myself, and instead of wandering off alone, I thought it wise to call for fellow students; fellow meaning-seekers in search of a routine to more intentionally push the bounds of compassion and depth of purpose; a routine that I hope might prove that through small steps, not fickle fixes, we can actualize a higher self and actualize a more connected and loving humanity.
The challenge is this:
Fourteen Weeks To a More Meaningful and Compassionate Life
Sounds awesome, right?! It’s going to be.
I attended a wedding I had no idea I would attend; a wedding of two very beautiful books, which will serve as the starting ground, guides for our shared learning. The bride is Karen Armstrong and the groom, Dr. Viktor Frankl. The works in focus are “Man’s Search for Meaning” (Frankl) and “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life” (Armstrong). I encourage you to pick up a copy.
This is how it’s going to work. Each week, every Sunday, we’ll focus on one tool, one dedicated practice for the week ahead. And while each tool could easily comprise a lifetime’s dedication, we’ll build upon each week. But let’s be clear, this is not Fourteen Weeks to A Completely Meaningful and Compassionate Life, it’s just a start toward the sea, where wild new continents of the mind await us.
The first week will focus on the self, our core search for meaning, and the elements required to make me a better me and you a better you, so we can more wholly serve the world. We have to better receive love before we can give love. So if you pick up the books, start into Frankl. It’s short and you won’t be the same after reading it. The twelve weeks to follow will trail Karen Armstrong’s twelve steps toward bringing forth the healing force of compassion, weaving Frankl’s wisdom throughout. A sweater for the cold! New clothes!
But, here’s where we’ll see what you’re really made of. “You cannot learn to drive by reading the car manual,” trumpets Armstrong, and in close relation Frankl stresses that we are to be “discovered in the world” rather than in our psyche. “The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or a person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.” Basically, we can’t think about exercising for a marathon, we have to stretch our love legs! This is fourteen weeks of mindful ACTION and application. Every conversation, every relationship, every stranger, every twist is grounds for your mindful application. Every tool has capacities we have yet to know. And it is my hope we’ll SHARE these experiences with either our loved one’s or one another through the forum! Comments, facebook, email, whatever you call through! And in the end, we should have a handful of success stories that inspire fuel for deeper stretching. Which leads me to the fourteenth week, the combined ACT.
Week fourteen will be a substantive ACT of compassion, one comprised and created by you and I and all who participate, together. It will be a translation of our learning into proof that we can alter the course of life for a person in need through small achievable steps. It will be proof that we can bring relief to unimaginable, totally avoidable suffering. But just as bettering the self is a test of commitment, so too is bettering the life of another; a commitment to sacrifice. Incremental sacrifice.
With each week, each tool gained, we trade at least one dollar to the collective push. This includes me, and I live on less than $150 dollars a month, so your excuses are a rug pulled out. Let the betterment of yourself, your world, and the life of another be your drive to shed a dollar a week. I’ve made it as easy as I can, so we may succeed. Before or after you read each post, you just click the “Fourteen Weeks” button on the sidebar of the blog. It will take you to a special fundraising page, specifically for this effort. Here you can make your donation of one dollar or more, even pay all fourteen dollars up front. For three and half months, that’s how easy it can be.
Posts in the past have netted near three thousand readers in a week. If everyone gave just one dollar, we could have saved an orphaned child from loveless suffering and given them everything you would give your own child. In one week. But that didn’t happen, simply because our practice is fractured and the goals are not reached incrementally. The method is upon us, and it is my hope that we will not change ourselves and lives of our loved ones, but that our compassion will extend beyond these walls and change the course of life for a total stranger, as proof we are connected. The number of lives effected depends purely on how many join us and how many commit to a more intentional pursuit of self-improvement and restored connectedness in our world.
If you’re in, make yourself present. Comment. Share. Put down a dollar. Get pumped.
We start Sunday, July 10th. I hope you’ll join me.
Deepest Stretching Love,
“There are two races of men in this world, but only two – the “race” of the decent man and the “race” of the indecent man. … Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary” rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must be and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning.”
~Dr. Viktor Frankl
“I told myself if I made it to the top of the mountain, I could conquer anything. And I made it. And now I know there is nothing I cannot do.”
Flying Kites oldest boy, upon successful summit of Mount Kilimanjaro