Noble Nature

“The presence of a noble nature, generous in its wishes, ardent in its charity, changes the lights for us: we begin to see things again in their larger, quieter masses, and to believe that we too can be seen and judged in the wholeness of our character.” ― George Eliot, Middlemarch

There is little in life more powerful, encouraging and compelling than being in the presence of someone possessed of a noble nature. The noble nature, like water, seeks its own level. It draws forth that which is consistent with it while repelling that which is not. When in the presence of a noble-natured man or woman, you are either lifted up by virtue of your agreement, or cast away with that which should rightly be driven out of you.

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A Stocked Pond

My sons’ recent fishing exploits in our farm pond and in nearby Lake Lanier have taught them a number of lessons about patience, luck, and persistence. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I’ve seen them experience in a number of ways is that of realizing that the fish don’t just magically attach themselves to your lure, even if you feel you have done everything right.

The hardest part about fishing is not catching anything. Such days, especially when there aren’t any bites either, challenge even the most dedicated fisherman’s enthusiasm. And dampened enthusiasm can easily lead to a lack of appreciation, if care is not taken to preserve the sense of wonder which should rightly attend any activity in life.

At any rate, my sons’ realizations (which are occasionally fueled by relatively long periods without a catch) have got me thinking about the fact that life is not a stocked pond. Whether one is born with a silver or a plastic spoon in one’s mouth, life must be carefully navigated. Even the richest man’s life can end in mental, emotional, or spiritual poverty if he does not handle his choices with great care, which begins incidentally with the constant maintenance of a spirit of appreciation, no matter what one is facing at any given time.

However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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Genuine Thankfulness

My eldest son earned a new fishing rod this weekend after fishing with a starter set for a number of months. His dedication to and interest in the sport made it obvious that the next level of rod and reel would do more than just add to the coffers of the local sporting goods store and the timing just seemed right.

When he first took the gift in his hands his face lit up with a genuine thankfulness for what he had received. It occurred to me in that moment, as it has many times before, that true appreciation is one of the most heartwarming arrows in the quiver of human emotion. He met love with love and recognition with gratitude.

Isn’t that how life should be? When you receive something at the hand or by the word of another today, look to express your sincere thanks for their consideration. Don’t take anything for granted. Appreciate and acknowledge all of it. Even if that wonderful thing is buried under fifty or a hundred things you don’t like about another person or disapprove of for one reason or another, meet it with thankfulness and don’t expect or require anything in return.

The world is in great need of purification and of being uplifted and you are just the person to do it, so get to work!

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“Flight”, a Haiku by Gregg Hake

Soaring through the air
Above the clamorous crowd—
Bird and man take wing.

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The Adulteration of You

Scientifically and spiritually speaking, adulteration is the process of corruption, debasement, or making impure by the admixture of baser materials. This process works out in your life whenever you choose to grant inferior substances – be they people, thoughts or things – access to your mind, heart or life.

In consumer goods, adulterants are often used to cheapen the manufacture of a product. This occurs with cutting agents in illicit drugs as well as with food additives in the food supply. In either case, the original thing is degraded by virtue of the adulterant.

Adulteration can occur at the level of spirit, feeling, and thought, just as easily as it does in form (e.g. in consumer goods). Whenever you let things in that are inferior to the highest and finest of which you are capable, you partake in the adulteration of you. You cheapen and yourself; you exchange the satisfaction of dignity for petty and fleeting pleasure.

You need not engage outwardly, that is, commit the act, for the simple matter of looking with your heart upon that which is beneath your dignity invariably furthers the adulteration of you.
Consider the perfect innocence and guilelessness granted to each and every person on earth at birth. That innocence is more often lost to self-adulteration than it is by virtue of the corruptive influence of another. As soon as a young man or woman starts being who he thinks he should be or who he thinks others think he should be instead of sincerely and unapologetically being who he is, the adulteration begins. And the sad result is the loss of innocence, the corruption of being.

You cannot mix that which is lower into your world, mind, or most especially your heart without suffering a loss of dignity. You may conceal it for a time, you may convince others and quite possibly even yourself that the adulteration is justified and reasonable, but at a certain point the compromises you make will jeopardize that which you love most. And at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

The good news is that the corruption can be stopped and in many cases the ill effects can be reversed. Innocence can be restored and guilelessness can be reestablished by a true and deep repentance: a rethinking of your approach and a reconsideration of the level of that which you entertain in your heart, your mind, and your world. Dignity can be restored, for dignity is simply the full expression of the real you.

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I was meditating on the nature of maturity recently and I recalled something that Saul Bellow once remarked. He said: “A man should be able to hear, and to bear, the worst that could be said of him.”

One sign of immaturity is an unwillingness to be responsible for one’s decisions, behaviors, and actions, be they good, bad, or ugly. A mature person, however, assumes full responsibility, never blames, and always makes the adjustments necessary to regain the high road.

The mature person readily admits impure intentions, poor decision-making, and myopia. The immature person, on the other hand, elects dissemblance over honesty and pretension over sincerity.

The mature person makes himself vulnerable, while the immature person camouflages his vulnerabilities. In any case, the former approach constrains to enlightenment and the restoration of innocence; the latter to encumbrance and greater shame, guilt, or both.

Were you to hear the worst that could be said about you today, in this moment, would you bear it and seek to improve upon it so that the greater you can find expression? Or would you leap to your own defense and seek to convince those who know you well that they should accept the lesser you?

The choice is always yours.

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