Our willingness to reimagine

Published by Lori Pickert on June 29, 2009 at 01:16 PM

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world. -- Paul Hawken’s commencement address, University of Portland, May 3, 2009

14 comments

Comment by Cristina on June 29, 2009 at 03:57 PM

I love that rabbinical teaching. It must be because I plant a lot of trees. ;o)

The quote is so true! If I had listened to the negative opinions in my life, I would never have come to this point in my life. Not just with homeschooling, but with living life. It's amazing how many things you are told you can't do when you grow up with a chronic condition like asthma!

Comment by Lori Pickert on June 29, 2009 at 04:21 PM

you know, when i read this, it hit me on many levels —

one, the doom and gloom in the news, in the internet community, and among many of my friends. historically, there has always been doom and gloom, yet we are still here. not that i want to deny the serious issues plaguing us, but — what *really* helps? not just sitting around moaning. plant a tree — do something. invest in the future you want.

two, homeschooling/unschooling — so often we are moving against society’s tide. there are voices shouting advice (bad or otherwise ;^) and, in the end, we have to listen to our own head and heart and do what’s right for us. enough people thinking the same way, and maybe we can form our own tide.

three, the litanies truly are NOT inspiring — what is inspiring? someone who is living their authentic life. a community garden. an artist. a family. some people who desire change seem to think they can bring it about by bludgeoning us over and over with ever-worse news about what we’ve done to the environment, the economy, our educational system. but we *can* be inspired by someone who has done one small thing to make the world a better place.

same as you, if i’d listened to the negative opinions, i would never have ended up here! don’t pick that major, don’t start your own business, don’t open a school!! there is never any shortage of people who are willing to tell you what you cannot do.

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are there to stop people who don’t want it badly enough. — Randy Pausch

Comment by Helen H on June 29, 2009 at 08:04 PM

I have been reading your blog for a while but felt moved to write tonight.

Really thought provoking stuff. As I get older I realize how many (mostly) well intentioned but negative voices have blocked the path I really wanted to follow. My life now seems to be baby steps back to the true me and a big effort not to inflict the same on my kids or allow anyone else to either. I think it goes back to the ideas of following your passions in life and allowing children to shine at what they want to do, not what a conforming environment seems to require of them.

Do you know which Mary Oliver poem the quote came from? I'd love to read the whole of it.

Comment by Lori Pickert on June 29, 2009 at 08:17 PM

i agree, helen, that it goes back to those same ideas — and if we have followed our own passions, then wouldn’t we understand and be more willing to support our children to do the same? whereas if we sacrificed our dreams and our authentic selves to follow a more traditional path — because family or society wanted us to — then maybe we are more likely to inflict that same well-meaning pressure on our children. it’s inherited — we just need to choose the right inheritance.

the mary oliver poem is "the journey":

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Comment by Tracy on June 30, 2009 at 12:03 AM

Thank you so much for introducing me to the work of Mary Oliver with this post. I don't know how I've missed her, but I'm delighted to have the chance to read her now.

And thank you for all the wonderful, thought-provoking posts--you have helped me find and protect my center when I needed it most...

Comment by Lori Pickert on June 30, 2009 at 02:13 AM

thank you so much, tracy.

Comment by Barbara in NC on June 30, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Oh, Mary Oliver, she's so amazing.

It makes me realize that one of the cornerstones of my life is my little imperfect homeschooling community, which is filled with voices of support and encouragement. Of validation of these unconventional choices I'm making--whether it's homeschooling or bypassing a "career" despite lots of education or nursing my 4 year old. In fact, these are now the dominant voices in my life, so that sometimes I forget how out in left field our life really is. Which means I can spend my energy living my life instead of defending it.

Comment by Ellen on June 30, 2009 at 03:51 PM

There could be a way to push further through the meaning of that quote, that idea, even the poem. I don't think they could really mean when terrible things are happening in the world that we turn away from those things, focus only on the positive, and tend only to our own little plot. I think they point to action and away from those naysaying action, whatever your chosen action may be ... rather than away from those who point to problems.

When I think of inspiring people, who comes to my mind? Definitely people who have confronted the world with things that should be changed, and who were willing to say it and stand up for it whether it annoyed some people or not. Gandhi, MLK, or to be more modern, Gino Strada and Greg Mortensen. They are people who said, or say, these injustices are taking place which we human beings should care about, and we will show the way by doing something ourselves.

Comment by abbie on June 30, 2009 at 06:05 PM

Hi Lori!
Great to see your comment on our blog & a great reminder to me to check out the recent posts on your wonderful blog...such rich content & I haven't stopped by in a while! (very busy lately!) Now I'm off to browse through your recent entries....

Hope you & yours are having a great summer!

Comment by Lori Pickert on June 30, 2009 at 09:47 PM

barbara, it is wonderful that you have that community!

ellen, yes, i think that truth-tellers who state their strong opinions and their message with optimism and hope and direction is different from the doomsayers who leave you feeling limp and woebegone.

there are too many people grousing and speaking depressing prophecies and not enough people taking positive action, imho!

abbie, thank you so much — and you & yours, too! :^)

Comment by Alison Kerr on July 1, 2009 at 03:15 AM

Great inspirational thoughts as usual Lori.

I really see that there are so many solutions available to us. Much, if not all, of the problem is our ability to cling to the status quo. There's this terrible kind of inertia which we can only overcome if we take each day as a new day and make the small changes which make sense to us. And the small changes can make up a LARGE change.

I'm really not a decisive person, but when I decided to homeschool I knew it was the right thing. Most of my big decisions have been like this. It still surprises me.

When you know in your heart that something is right, and for you, you are unstoppable :-)

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 1, 2009 at 04:53 PM

thank you, alison ;^)

so true about inertia — and about small changes added up to *big* change.

Comment by Alice on July 6, 2009 at 08:12 AM

I was hoping that I would find an answer to my current problem when I opened your blog today - and I did:) Thanks Lori.
Alice

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 7, 2009 at 11:30 PM

i’m glad :^)

thank *you*!

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