FROM BEFORE THE TIME we could walk, we began to feel it. Be extraordinary. Start walking. Crawling is not enough. Hurry along with it or something’s wrong.
And so we stood, wobbled then walked. They worshiped through cameras. We walked to the tune of ohh’s and ahh’s, to approval, a sure testament of our success. We were then on our way to extraordinary.
Now that we were walking, we’d better start talking. Chop, chop. The sooner the better.
It was there before we were, birthed in our conception. Back then before the glory of walking, we were crawling and rolling and being passed around greeted by smiles of wonder and glee. Maybe those looks were really a warm envy, a quiet wish to somehow return to simplicity. The kind of simplicity where most of what matters is right there with you in the moment, not teasing you onward from the distant horizon.
Oh, to be a child at heart again.
To chase dreams as fireflies aglow in the warm dusk twilight. And to be fully alive and valuable now independent of whatever lies ahead.
Mostly, not to take oneself so seriously.
The world isn’t waiting.
Not long ago, while away traveling with my wife, I stood underneath a banner stretched across the main entrance to the Denver Art Museum. “Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.”* It’s message found me at a peculiar time in my life as a young artist. I was still crawling and rolling around. In drawn out dramatic fashion, my shoulders took the position of sadness, drooped over as if weighted. They were, of course. In less than a handful of years, I leapt from being a pastor to a writer. I’d authored a memoir, was already well into my second book, growing as a storyteller and mentoring other writers. Now walking, but that activity wasn’t enough. At least not in my heart. Rather than reveling in the glory of just walking, of chasing my dream as a writer, I was bothered by all that hadn’t yet been done.
C'mon, I was only walking? Why not running?
My second book should be done and picked up by a doting publisher. I should be more regular with my blog. People should be talking more about my writing, about me as a writer. Maybe it was a fluke? I’m a sad little casualty of a compelling life story. Without grief, I wouldn’t even be a writer. Me. Me. Me. Sad little me pulled down by the weight of trying to be more than I am. More than I even should be. Perhaps more than I ever will be.
What if extraordinary really has nothing to do with us as much as it has to do with everything else? Rather than my life revolving around my value, what if my life was only a droplet added to the cumulative whole? As an artist, what would happen if I diverted my thinking from primarily myself to the world around me – to beauty waiting to be discovered, to the broken in need of love, the marginalized and dejected in need of acceptance and a hug, to others like me wrapped tightly in the safety of low self worth and narcissism?
I could tell you that thinking of myself lightly awakens me to the vastness of life unfolding all around me and echoes a similar inversion to that which is introduced in the Gospels. Those poor, disappointed, content, peace hungry, kindhearted, harassed folks, what’s the world going to do with them? Jesus called them blessed, extraordinary. Their reward doesn’t translate in the currency of extraordinary as valued by culture in the individual self. No, the blessedness does not hinge on all that can be scraped together and accumulated on their own but all freely given as one who belongs to God’s Kingdom. That is extraordinary.
My, how the world would look so beautifully strange if we turned our gaze to what’s all around rather than the small within ourselves.
*Dokkodo, Miyamoto Musashi
image: baby steps