a humble heart

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

St.Bernard

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(a humble snail near the Cliffs of Mohr / Country Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s hard balancing a humble spirit when one is living in the land of the free and home of the brave…
Whose fighting force boasts “the few, the proud, the marines”…
We are accustomed to being a world power, a superpower, a leader among nations…
When others run away, we rush in….
We are stivers, fighters, winners.
If we’re ever knocked down, we get back up.
We love those come from behind stories of triumph.
We are like the cream, always rising to the top.
We prefer being accomplished, polished, knowledgeable as well as rough, tough and scrappy…

That’s just how we are and we like it that way.

Yet at times we forget that we are not the be all to end all.
We forget that we have come to and by this rather lofty position of ours by hard work, toil, suffering, bruising and bleeding by digging our way out from under plight, oppression, depression, aggression…doing battle——battles we have considered as necessary, right and just within our purist of freedom for all.

We speak of unalienable (or inalienable depending on what you’re reading) rights given to us by the Creator–meaning that such “rights” cannot be taken away as they have been pre and hard wired within our being as human beings, granted to us at time of “creation” by the Creator. A Creator we now no longer have much time to listen to let alone give any sort or credit or credence to…

Some of us see that from time to time it can be hard to remain humble of heart and spirit when we’re accustomed to being large and in charge. Sometimes arrogance slips in along with haughtiness.
As we grow proud over and by our accomplishments and endeavors, we tend to gloat and boast more than we should. We pride ourselves in our self-efficiency, our knowledge and in our very “freedoms.”

Yet I fear we lose sight of our humble beginnings.
We begin to take things both tangible and intrinsic for granted.
We puff up our chests while resting on the laurels of our predecessors–forgetting that it could all be taken away tomorrow, or today…leaving us where we started, with little to nothing to call our own.

We assume perhaps more than we should.
Many of us have forgotten what it is to “go without”
We place our actors, sports figures, entertainers, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, slick talking religious leaders and leading officials in the limelight and up on pedestals, touting them as heroes–forgetting what a hero actually is and that these individuals are merely fallible human beings as we seem to sickly marvel and oddly enjoy watching them fall. Funny how that is with human beings.

Yet we continue to yearn and covet what it would be to “be like them” for we too want to be in the limelight and one of the “beautiful people” as we want the glitz, the glitter, the money the success—as we rationalize that we would handle all of the “pressure” of being famous far better, not allowing it to go to our heads while giving “x amount” to charity…

How many of us rationalize that if God would just let us when the lottery, we’d be so good with the winnings by giving a designated share to charity, we’d remain just a plain and simple are we are…yet deep down, we feel as if it would be the money, the abundance of which, which would make our lives so much easier and better…and perhaps for a while it would as we would set off in the pursuit of paying off only to obtain and to have…new cars, new homes, new vacations, new clothes…

We must be mindful that there are those around this planet of ours who don’t rationalize about winning a lottery…rather they dream of escaping their lot in life and fleeing to America because that is the land of freedom and of choice and of abundance and of safety…

It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose…

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(seagull rest on the head of a statue / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

And yet it is those voices of ancient wisdom and those voices of the past— those who were able to see through the haze of brilliance, pride and self efficacy–who understand that it is the humble heart which is the true attainable goal.

Being able to yield to the one who is always Greater–as we are the ones who are finite and it is He who is the infinite.

I fear we have lost sight of our own humility of being as we have forgotten that it was the king of Kings whose birth was predestined to take place in a lowly stable, of lowly parents in a small and lowly village of insignificance. . .seems this humility business is not an underlying theme by random chance.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 28-29

Often all it takes in order to knock one down a notch or two is for a bird to rest over or simply fly over ones head, doing what birds do– reminding one of one’s place in life…as the birds neither discern or discriminate as to whom is better than another–

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(a seagull surveys the city of Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

You have no idea. . .or maybe, perhaps you do

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ode to the backyard rabbit. . .

You have no idea just how much you truly mean to me. . .
Not that you know me or that I know you—
Yet we know of one another’s existence.
You are out there and I’m back here, usually up, looking outward at you, down there.
And I know you know, just as you know I know.

For you see, I need to know that you and your world remains, as always, the same.
I need to know that when I have fought through another day, another journey, another time of attending to duties I would prefer would disappear, I know you are out there, doing what it is that you do day in and day out.

When I turn on the television, only to see a world that I no longer recognize, I know you are the same, as in, you never changed.
When I see a country I no longer understand, I can thankfully understand you.
When I grow weary of the pettiness, the arrogance, the self-centeredness of man, I can look out at you, unencumbered, offering no pretense, no bravado. . . just being yourself. . .
and I can exhale–simply enjoying watching you, simply being you. . .

And as I ramble on about the small joys received in the simple act of sitting back and basking in the solitude of watching a wild rabbit, or two, going about its life–eating, running, jumping. . .appearing simply happy to be alive, I am struck by the very words I have used to offer up to a little rabbit—that in much the same vein, the words may be offered up as a simple prayer to God—

That He knows, before I know, just how much He means to me. . .
despite my inability to grasp or readily recognize that need.
That I can actually rest in the knowledge that He is who He is and has been since the beginning of time–That He is not merely the Creator of all that was, and all that is, and all that will be. . .
but that He is also a Father. . .my Father. . .
who loves,
who comforts,
who sees,
who knows,
who indeed does understand.
That He mourns just as I do when I look out over this world of ours.
As thankfully, He remains steadfast, always the same—
unmoved,
unchanged,
never transformed or moulded by mortals who are constantly changing and transforming our own world to fit our own selfish desires, perverse pleasures, and arrogant agendas.

He offers me the gift of Creation—as I find in that Creation a small creature, that offers me a glimpse of everlasting peace. . .

And whereas the rabbit and I merely recognize one another’s existence, I can rest in the fact that The God of all of Creation, does indeed know, and knows most personally, me. . .and that single thought alone is what allows me the ability to exhale at the end of each long and hard fought day. . .

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(backyard neighbor / Julie Cook / 2015)

the tale of the ever-present invisible gentleman

A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.
George Bernard Shaw

“Gentlemen, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color.”
― Louisa May Alcott

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(Rene Magritte /L’Ami de l’ordre 1963 / oil on canvas )

We are a fickle lot, you and I.
One moment we are as fresh as a downy feather loosed from a newly hatched chick, caught drifting along the tempestuous winds, bourn aloft without thought or care.
Other times we are cunning and conniving as we stealthily crouch in the shadows, hoping the darkness will hide our secrets.

When does the knowledge begin?
Early on I suspect, beginning more upon the surface and being of a rote nature.
The real knowledge, the real recognition, comes along say, around age 10 or so.
The time of life which is perched between single digits and the long litany of double digits, possibly pushing triple digits if one is so blessed. . . or cursed.

And when the knowledge actually does take hold, with the time of decisions and choices seeping into the cognizant away from the involuntary, the dance of life and death gingerly begins its most elegant and macabre promenade.

Yet in what seems to be the blink of an eye, a time arrives when we decide we’ve outgrown our need of the seemingly simple knowledge.
We relegate those thoughts of such assumed mediocrity to the recesses of the heart and mind, deeming it nothing more than that of a child’s fancy. We have moved on, growing sophisticated and worldly.
We come to take greater stock in our own puffed up sense of importance.
Our depth for and scope of knowledge now borders on self proclaimed greatness, pushing aside the old for the new and imagined.

Yet Time is no kind taskmaster, events and moments transpire together and against, leaving us lacking, wanting, needing.
We stand, simply staring, alone.
What has happened?
What was that?
What.
And just as quickly, rage fills in the gaps
We rile with fists raised.
We scream into the air.
Why?
How?
No!
We are helpless.
Nothing we can think,
nothing we can do,
nothing we can be or will be can change things,
fix things,
move things,
stop things.

The self importance, no longer remains important.
The money can’t change it.
The need of the money can’t change it.
The status can’t change it.
The success can’t change it.
The failings can’t change it.
The secrets can’t change it.
The new greater knowledge of self can’t change it.

The decisions were ours.
We had been taught otherwise yet we no longer cared for that simple early knowledge.
It was just that, too simple, and we were certainly no longer those simpletons–
we were important.

And yet this seemingly invisible, ever present, ever near gentleman has watched all of this unfold.
He was there in the early simple knowledge, happy to run and jump, frolic and play.
Nurturing and steadfast, always present.
Joyous alongside our gleefulness.
Brave in our fear.
Strong in our weakness.
Quiet and unassuming.

Yet as we grew in stature of both mind and body, we were no longer needful nor carefree
We were busy.
We were smart.
We knew far too much for the gentleman’s seemingly simplistic ways.
And yet he stood aside, allowing us to pass upon our very important way.
He watched us march off.
Some of us looked back, a bit wistful, a bit sorrowful, a bit hesitant.
Yet we went forward anyway.

Our gentleman friend was left to wait as if he had not choice. . .
and yet it was his choice to wait.
He chose to wait, to wait upon both you and I.

He busied himself with other matters.
He waited with patience and even, dare it be said, love.
Ever knowledgeable in that first simple knowledge, he waited.

He saw the choices, the mistakes, the miscues, the purposeful destruction.
He saw the self righteous new knowledge and the indignation of
pride
lust
greed
hypocrisy
and the notion of needing nothing other than ourselves.

But as a gentleman, he remains just that, a gentleman
One who is there when needed, stepping back when not.
Called upon, he drops everything.
The lone raised hand, the signal to go, he goes without a word.
Coming in and out of the circumstance of lives full of knowledge,
He comes and goes as gently as a downy feather on the tempestuous wind.

The mistake will be to continue the weaving dance with the ever present, invisible gentleman.
Summoning him in and out of our lives, all on the whims and needs of the
beating of hearts.
As a gentleman, he never balks or steps in before being asked.
He sees things that he could do,
could stop,
could fix,
could remedy–
but a gentleman never jumps in without being asked, requested, acknowledged as needed.

He waits off to the side, out of sight.
He waits until we realize that it really is as simple as it once was.
He waits with that knowledge of long ago.
The knowledge we grew too important to claim.

The knowledge didn’t change, we changed.
He didn’t leave.
We left.

And so it is, ever present, yet ever hidden, he continues to wait–
for both you and I.

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
Song of Solomon 5:16