Day 13: Perspective

It seems, sometimes, that life is unbearably, irrevocably difficult. Or that everything is falling apart with no hope of falling together again. Or that the mistake you made is unforgivable and enormous. Or the person you wronged will never let you make it right. Or that the weight of the world will pivot on a challenging decision you have to make.

At times like these, perspective helps.

For such perspective, I like to return time and again to Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

Said Sagan: “To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” I would add, to deal more kindly with ourselves. Just as the pale blue dot is the only home we’ve ever known, each of us is the only self we will ever be. Be kind to you, too.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

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The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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The Wholehearted Revolution

This week, I and thousands of other people around the world are finishing up Part 2 of Brené Brown’s online Art Journaling course (which is a very simplistic description of a very powerful program). The course ends by talking about a Wholehearted Revolution, and I’m here to say, I AM IN, and to invite you to be a part of the discussion, as well.

What is a Wholehearted Revolution?

Well, let’s back up a bit.

The first time I ever heard of Brené Brown was when something spurred me to click on a link to her first TED Talk, from the 2010 TEDx Houston conference. It was just a few weeks before I was about to publish my first book, and it had a profound impact on me, which I wrote about in one of my earliest blog posts, “Imperfection: a novel.”

Brené Brown’s first TED Talk

I’ve followed Brené’s work and career since then, voraciously devouring her videos and her books (see resources throughout and at the end of this post). The information Brené shares is life-changing.

Brené describes herself as a shame and vulnerability researcher, which at first blush sounds a bit intimidating and for some even unpleasant. But, as she says,

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

The bottom line, Brené says, is:

“If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.” (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

One thing I love about Brené is that she’s so honest about her own struggles. She talks very candidly about her story and her own journey to become a wholehearted person like those she discovered in her research. She doesn’t say, “I’ve got it all figured out, just do as I do and you’ll be wholehearted,” but rather, “This is what my research shows to be true, and I know it’s so hard, because I struggle too.” The fact that the woman who literally wrote the book on vulnerability and wholeheartedness still struggles is so reassuring to me, as I work my own way to the wholehearted path.

The other day, I thought about the part of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Harry and all the other kids have gathered to talk about all the sh*t that’s going down. Hermione’s all, “So, we need a Dark Arts teacher because the lady with the cats is not going to help us at all.” The other kids are all, “Yeah, but he-who-shall-not-be-named is totally not back.” Harry’s all, “He is. I swear.” Hermione’s all “Harry has done all this awesome stuff! He knows how to fight Voldemort!” And Harry’s all, “Look, I’m not special. I fought because I had to. I worked and I learned. This stuff is hard, but you can learn it, too. Together, we can fight the Dark Arts.” (Quite loosely paraphrased, but you get the point.)

I had this image of Brené as Harry, with Mashawn (her producer for the online ecourse) and Oprah standing strong by her sides, getting everyone ready to fight the Dark Arts.

In one of her talks, Brené said something about how if every woman suddenly decided she looks okay exactly as she is in her natural state (and therefore stopped using all the products that are designed to convince us otherwise), the economy would collapse. (That’s not the exact quote, so if you want to know the exact quote you should buy Brené’s 6-CD Power of Vulnerability audio book, and listen to the whole thing, because it’s awesome!)

Those messages that we are not beautiful as we are, that’s the Dark Arts. (In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené says: “Who benefits by my seeing these images and feeling bad about myself? Hint: This is ALWAYS about money and/or control.”) The pressure to be Cool and never Uncool, that’s the Dark Arts. The people who tell us our art and our creativity and we ourselves aren’t any good, that’s the Dark Arts. Our addictions, the things we do to numb and distance and distract ourselves from the pains and fears of our lives – and that’s not just drinking and drugs, but also overworking, overeating, overexercising, or even spending too much time on social media – those are instruments of the Dark Arts. The judgments and gremlins that get inside our heads and tell us we will never be Enough, those are the Dark Arts.

The Wholehearted Revolution is about arming ourselves to take on these Dark Arts and live wholehearted lives.

revolution
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

So. What then, really, is the Wholehearted Revolution?

I asked Brené that question in the ecourse, but she had about a million other questions to answer and couldn’t answer them all, including mine, so I’ll give it my best shot.

About sixteen years ago Brené Brown told her husband she wanted to start a global conversation about shame and vulnerability. This is the beginning of that conversation, the beginning of the Revolution. And I’m in it.

We are tired, aren’t we? We’re tired of all the masks and shields and armor and straight jackets and all the things that keep us from showing the world who we really are, that keep us from truly being seen. We are tired of being exhausted, and of wearing that exhaustion as a badge of honor. We are tired of being told we need to be fearful of the Latest Global Frightening Thing, and we are tired of always having to find someone to blame. We are tired of being tired.

In a world where people share ALL THE THINGS! ALL THE TIME!, the Wholehearted Revolution is about learning to set boundaries and share with the people who have earned the right to hear our stories; it’s learning to navigate the world with both boundaries and compassion. (Brené says the most compassionate people she’s met are also those with the firmest boundaries.)

It’s learning to let go of anxiety, and stay calm in a noisy world in which we don’t always have control.

It’s a willingness to be vulnerable and have difficult conversations with people who are important to us, in order to forge deeper, more meaningful relationships.

It’s understanding that courage changes the world, and committing to being brave, even when we are also afraid. (As Brené says, most of us are both afraid and brave at the same time, all day, every day.) And in being brave, we pave the way for others to do the same.

So, if we’re having a Wholehearted Revolution – and I’m telling you we are, if Brené and I have anything to do with it – then I’m all in. I’m in for a better world. I’m in for courage and compassion and connection. I’m in for opening up a discussion about vulnerability and shame and fear. I’m in for gratitude and joy; I’m in for creativity and meaningful work; I’m in for laughter, dance, song, and play. I’m in for being worthy without prerequisites, for being authentic and for being seen, and for being imperfect and enough exactly as I am.

If you’re interested in being a part of the global conversation, too, you don’t have to wait for an invitation: This is it. Check out Brené’s resources, share them, and start having these important, powerful, life-changing discussions with the people you love.

And a note to Brené: Thank you for starting the Revolution.

Resources:

(If you know of other great resources – I know there are so many! – let me know in the comments!)

Brené’s first TED Talk (see video above or this link)

Brené’s 2012 TED Talk, Listening to Shame

Brené’s 2014 talk in Seattle with Chase Jarvis

Brené’s 6-CD The Power of Vulnerability audio book. (I’ve given these to several friends, and every single one of those friends has listened and then shared them with someone else (and they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on…) – trust me, these are amazing and so valuable!)

Brené’s other books and CDs, including the fabulous Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, and more.

Brené’s website.

Brené on Twitter.

Brené on Facebook.

Join the global conversation. Commence the Wholehearted Revolution!

P.S. While you’re here, check out my books! 🙂 There’s the Wishing Rock series (wit, wisdom, and recipes), and the Pam on the Map travelogue series! Something for everyone.

 

Brene Brown gifts of imperfection quotes with border

Pre-Valentine’s Day Wisdom Rocks <3

Valentine’s Day – not just a day for lovers, but also the day in 2010 on which Letters from Wishing Rock (a novel with recipes) begins! Don’t forget, the third book in the Wishing Rock series is coming soon! Get caught up in the series now! See my home page for all the info, or download a free excerpt!

Wishing you all lots of love. <3

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Like music for chocolate

So, I know you’ve heard me mention Sephira before, but I have to mention them again.

Last night they performed in Shoreline, and once again, the audience was blown away. Once again, people who had heard of the show through emails from friends were saying “I’m so glad you told me about this! I can’t believe the show wasn’t sold out!”

The fact is, once you hear and experience Sephira, you get it. It’s like if you’d never had chocolate and someone was trying to sell you chocolate, you might not realize how much you were going to love chocolate. But once you had it you’d be all “OMG! THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER!” That’s Sephira.

Here’s a clip from their appearance on New Day Northwest last week. Give it a watch and then go to their website, www.sephira.ie, purchase their Christmas album – absolutely the best out there; yes, I’m biased but it’s still true – and then “like” their Facebook page and keep them on your radar. Ruth and Joyce are amazing, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me. They are going places, fast. Join the Sephira nation!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving, and a life full of friends, family, laughter, joy, love, and so much for which to be grateful.

Here’s Louie Schwartzberg’s TEDx talk on Gratitude. (Transcript below, via sweetspeeches.com)

LOUIE: Hi everybody. I feel like I’m at a revival. This is great.

It’s great to be back in my old stomping grounds of San Francisco. When I graduated UCLA I moved to Northern California and I lived in a little town called Elk on the Mendocino Coast. And I didn’t have a phone or TV but I had US mail. And, life was good back then if you could remember it. I’d go to the general store for a cup of coffee and a brownie, and I’d ship my film to San Francisco and lo and behold two days later it would end up on my front door, which was way better than having to fight the traffic of Hollywood. I didn’t have much money, but I had time and a sense of wonder so I started shooting time-lapse photography. It would take me a month to shoot a four-minute roll of film because that’s all I could afford.

I’ve been shooting time-lapse flowers continuously non-stop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over 30 years and to see them move is a dance I’ll never get tired of. Their beauty immerses us with color, taste and touch. It also provides a third of the food we eat.

Beauty and seduction are nature’s tools for survival because we protect what we fall in love with. It opens our hearts and makes us realize we are a part of nature and we’re not separate from it. When we see ourselves in nature it also connects us to everyone of us because it’s clear that it’s all connected and one. When people see my images a lot of times they’ll say “Oh My God.” Have you ever wondered what that meant? The “Oh” means it caught your attention – it makes you present, it makes you mindful. The “My” means it connects with something deep inside your soul. It creates a gateway for your inner-voice to rise-up and be heard. And “God” – “God” is that personal journey we all want to be on; to be inspired. To feel like we’re connected to a universe that celebrates life.

Did you know that eighty percent of the information we receive comes through our eyes, and if you compare light energy to musical scales it would only be one octave that the naked eye could see, which is right in the middle. And aren’t we grateful for our brains that can take this electrical impulse that comes from light energy to create images in order for us to explore our world. And aren’t we grateful that we have hearts that can feel these vibrations in order for us to allow ourselves to feel the pleasure and the beauty of nature. Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude. So I have a gift I want to share with you today – a project I’m working on called “Happiness Revealed”, and it will give us a glimpse into that perspective from the point of view of a child and an elderly man of that world.

CHILD: When I watch TV, it’s just some shows that just are pretend. And when you explore, you get more imagination than you already had. And um, when you get more imagination it makes you want to go deeper in, so you can get more, and see beautifuller things, like if it’s a path it could lead you to a beach or something and it could be beautiful.

OLD MAN: You think this is just another day in your life – it’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life, and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.

Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open, that incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for pure enjoyment. Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment with clouds coming and going. We just think of the weather, and even of the weather we don’t think of all the many nuances of weather. We just think of good weather and bad weather. This day right now has unique weather, maybe a kind that will never exactly in that form come again. The formation of clouds in the sky will never be the same that it is right now. Open your eyes. Look at that.

Look at the faces of people whom you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face, a story that you could never fully fathom, not only their own story, but the story of their ancestors. We all go back so far. And in this present moment on this day all the people you meet, all that life from generations and from so many places all over the world, flows together and meets you here like a life-giving water, if you only open your heart and drink.

Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch and there is electric light. You turn a faucet and there is warm water and cold water — and drinkable water. It’s a gift that millions and millions in the world will never experience.

So these are just a few of an enormous number of gifts to which you can open your heart. And so I wish for you that you would open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you, that everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you; just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch — just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you, and then it will really be a good day.

– Brother David Steindl-Rast

Sagan (unit of measure)

Many who know me well, know of my deep love for Carl Sagan.

You can imagine my delight, then, when today I learned of a new unit of measure which, due to my Sagan love, I must start using immediately. From Wikipedia:

Sagan units

As a humorous tribute to him, a sagan has been defined as a unit of measurement equal to at least four billion, since the smallest number that may be described as billions and billions must be two billion plus two billion.

I guess my question is, is the plural “sagan units” or “sagans”?

Run / Damian McGinty

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Damian McGinty, Irish singing and acting sensation, and his new solo single RUN (cover of the Snow Patrol hit)! Which you should RUN out and listen to, and then, if you have a dollar to spare and like great music, buy!

Damian has become a great friend over the last few years, and I am delighted to be able to support him in this, his first solo single effort. I know sometimes celebrities are one person in public and another person in private – and there may be complex reasons for that sometimes, so I’m not going to go into whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But Damian is the real deal. Who he is in the public eye is who he is in private: a fabulous, admirable, extraordinary young man. From his very core and all the way through, he is an amazing, kind, genuine, sincere, thoughtful, generous, wonderful person, with a solid character, exceptional integrity, outstanding (and ever-increasing, always-improving) talent, and ambitious dreams. I could not adore him more.

Because of that, I’m so excited to try to help Damian reach those dreams, wherever they may take him. This single is just the beginning.

If you like supporting the arts and brilliant young musicians, I hope you’ll check out his song! At only $.99, you can hardly go wrong!

You can buy it at iTunes in the US, at iTunes in the UK, or if you’re elsewhere in the world, search “Damian McGinty” on iTunes and it should be there.

RUN reached as high as #69 on the iTunes pop singles chart yesterday – which is a huge accomplishment. Because there’s so much competition, getting a single into the singles charts is exponentially harder than getting an album into the charts, and pop singles are, by my estimation, the hardest genre of singles to chart in. I’m not at all surprised that he made it, though: the song is fantastic.

So what are you waiting for? Go download it!

(While you’re at iTunes you can also buy my first and second books in the Wishing Rock series, Letters from Wishing Rock and The Wishing Rock Theory of Life!) 🙂

And, keep a watch for Damian’s new EP, coming out toward the end of October or beginning of November.

In the meantime, follow Damian on Twitter, “like” him on Facebook, and watch for his website, coming soon! (By the end of the year? Maybe?)

Thanks, peeps! Yay, art! Go, music! Go, Damian!

“AntiLamentation” by Dorianne Laux : Regret nothing.

“AntiLamentation” by Dorianne Laux (poetry reading)

Regret nothing.

Not the cruel novels you read to the end
just to find out who killed the cook.

Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.

Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.

Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.

You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.

You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.

You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation.

Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it.

Let’s stop here, under the lit sign on the corner,
and watch all the people walk by.

Dorianne Laux

An epic journey, taking risks, falling in love, and Carl Sagan

Some of you will know of my adoration of Carl Sagan; a long time ago I named him one of my “triumvirate of geeky men I love”: Carl Sagan, John Denver, Rick Steves. What they have in common is that they are/were intelligent people, living lives they are/were deeply passionate about, and sharing those passions and thoughts with the world in powerful ways. Which I love.

Today I came across this video. Despite one small comment in the video – five words – that I don’t think anyone who truly appreciated Carl Sagan would have included (I’ll let you see if you can find it), I love it. It’s absolutely beautiful.

The woman who made the video, “Penny Lane” on Vimeo, describes it as “A short film about two small spacecraft, an epic journey, taking risks and falling in love. Also Carl Sagan.”

She says:

ABOUT THE FILM //
In the summer of 1977, NASA sent Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 on an epic journey into interstellar space. Each spacecraft carries a golden record album, a massive compilation of images and sounds embodying the best of Planet Earth. According to Carl Sagan, “[t]he spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.” While working on the golden record, Sagan met and fell madly in love with his future wife Annie Druyan. The golden record became their love letter to humankind and to each other. In the summer of 2010, I began my own hopeful voyage into the unknown. This film is a love letter to my fellow traveler.

“Ultimately, you have to ask yourself how much you hope for, and how much risk you’re willing to take.”
 

 

The Voyagers from Penny Lane on Vimeo.