Staying Open, Choosing Life

Today I was thinking about all the different perspectives people bring to the world. Some people are happy and optimistic. Some are always negative. Some believe if they work hard they will eventually succeed. Others believe in fate — that life is already laid out for them and there’s nothing they can do to change it. I could go on and on, but I realized that ultimately there are really only two ways of being in the world. You are either open, or you are closed.

Open people, first and foremost, have shunned fear. Open  people have decided not to allow fear to be a factor in the way they live. When an open person is angry at someone, she has already decided to stop blaming other people for her emotions and for her life, and instead starts working on letting go of anger. When an open person experiences loss, she does not just immediately suck it up and move on. She allows it to be what it is. She is open to what it can teach her. (Of course she does not just descend into chronic self-pity either — this is actually a way of closing up to experience and getting stuck.) When an open person experiences joy, he does not allow himself to sink into depression because it cannot last forever, but remains in the moment and appreciates what is there. And perhaps most important, open people do not look to other people to norm their behavior for them. They do not say, “I think most people would be angry in my situation,” or “You’d have done the same thing if you were me” (notice how both of those statements focus on others instead of one’s own responsibility). Open people have decided who and how they want to be, and set out to become that person, whatever the challenges. As they continue on this journey, they learn there is really nothing to fear, no one to blame, and no reason to despair.

Closed people, of course, are the opposite. Closed people allow the majority to determine what is acceptable and what is not. If they are offended, they will say that since most people would be offended in their situation, it therefore does not need to be examined. They accept that their negativity and brokenness are “the norm” and fully expect to just continue being negative and broken.

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Prayer of Tecumseh. And me.

prayer of tecumseh

This prayer published below is one of the most strikingly beautiful, and true, things I have ever read. It completely sums up the goal of my life. I do not claim to have arrived, but from what I’ve heard, Tecumseh arrived, and we know that others have arrived. Can a single one of us, of any religion — or no religion at all — deny that this piece contains all that is highest and best about both living and dying?

Prayer of Tecumseh Native American/ Shawnee Chief

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, Perfect your life, Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the Great Divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a Friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the Joy of Living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the Spirit of its Vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death Song and die like a Hero going Home.

All I can say to this is Amen — which literally means “So be it,” or “Let it be so.”

For Sandi

sandi

Sandi — far right, with Beth, Tammy, and Kay

I moved to Davison from Lapeer in the summer, just before starting 5th grade.

The transition was rough.

I was in an awkward stage, to say the least.  I  had bucked teeth and giant freckles on my cheeks.

My dad taught at Gates — the same school where I was enrolled, just across the hall, and was kind of the discipline guy for the school.

And oh yeah – my last name was Flowers.

All of this, plus being the new kid, put me in a prime position to be the butt of a lot of jokes that year, and for several years afterwards.

Sandi Alt was in my class that year.

Sandi was not only not mean to me, Sandi was sweet.

Sandi always treated me kindly and with respect.

I cannot say Sandi and I became best friends that year, but I can say that I felt safe around her.  I trusted her.

She and a small handful of people (Kim VanSlyke, Daryl Berryman, a few others) were people I knew I could be around without being made fun of.

Jr. high was even worse.

Not only was I still being picked on, but I was starting to believe the things that were being said to me.  They were becoming my self-concept.

Sandi was a musical person and joined choir, as did I.  She was also in band, as was I.

Our paths seemed to cross constantly and I came to develop deep affection for her.  I loved her spirit.

What’s more, I knew Sandi loved me.

When I was around Sandi, there were never harsh words.  Sandi saw me, and in doing so, helped me keep a hold on a proper view of myself.  

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