The Pale Blue Dot

In the “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space“, we read Carl Sagan musing after gazing at the famous “Pale Blue Dot”  — a photograph of the Earth, from about 6 billion kms away, taken by the Voyager I space probe sometime in 1990.

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on the mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.”

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are,” Carl observes, “challenged” when we consider our pixel-status in a vast cosmos.

Coimbatore skies — the Bibliophile

The first line of “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion”, a book chronicling the remarkable compassion-journey of Father Gregory Boyle, cautions us against fanaticism, and a narrowness of outlook that causes the heart to harden:

God can get tiny, if we’re not careful.

Peace 🙂

Love “heals, liberates,” and “alters”

In the Prologue to “Mom and Me and Mom”, the remarkable Maya Angelou writes that she is “Frequently….asked how I got to be this way.” How did she, in the face of formidable circumstances, “get to be Maya Angelou?” — an acclaimed poet, writer, a thinker who, despite having no formal college-education, ended up with over 50 honorary degrees.

Maya tells us that she became “the woman I am because of the grandmother I loved, and the mother I came to adore.” “Their love,” she writes, “informed, educated, and liberated me.” And then we read lines that blaze from the page:

Love heals. Heals and liberates. I use the word love, not meaning sentimentality, but a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins.

Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

In “Almost Everything: Notes on Hope”, Anne Lamott writes: “I have known hell, and I have also known love. Love was bigger.” Elsewhere in the book, she tells us: “Love is why we have hope.” 

Father Gregory Boyle writes in “Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship” that “A loving heart doesn’t color your world like rose-colored glasses; it alters it.”

Peace 🙂

Hope and Faith

Yesterday, the indefatigable songwriter for America (indeed, for the world),  the 71 year-old Bruce Springsteen sang at the Biden-Harris inauguration (“Land of Hopes and Dreams”):

“This train carries saints and sinners

This train carries losers and winners


This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted

This train thieves and sweet souls departed

This train carries fools and kings

This train, all aboard

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted

This train, faith will be rewarded….” 

Photo by Nick Dunlapon Unsplash

In “Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities”, Rebecca Solnit writes that “hope is not the belief that everything was, is or will be fine.” She continues: “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty there is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists.”

In “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness”, Erich Fromm agrees with Rebecca. he writes: “Optimism is an alienated form of faith, pessimism an alienated form of despair.” He then takes a position that what we need is “rational faith in man’s capacity to extricate himself from what seems the fatal web of circumstances that he has created. It is the position of neither “optimists” nor “pessimists” but radicals who have rational faith….” This “faith”, the basis of what Erich calls “humanistic radicalism”, is not a dreamy all-is-well view of the future — rather it “seeks to liberate man from the chains of illusions” by making fundamental changes that are “necessary” in “political and economic structure….our values….our aims…and in our personal conduct.”

And what is “personal conduct” here? The remarkable Father Gregory Boyle (the source of hope and faith for many many) teaches us with the simple profoundness that we see in the truly wise (“Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship”):

Personally, I don’t think he [Jesus Christ] wants so much for us to wave palm fronds at his authority, but rather….to live as he would.

Peace 🙂

Generosity must become like breathing

In an OnBeing conversation on 26th February 2013, with Krista Tippett, Father Gregory Boyle (whose life has been a message of hope for many many young people) makes the astonishing observation that

I’ve learned everything of value, really, in the last 25 years, from precisely the people who you think are on the receiving end of my gifts and talent and wisdom….

Seneca begins a Letter (“Moral letters to Lucilius” translated by Richard M. Gummere) that was probably written a year or two before he passed on in 65 AD: “You complain that you have met with an ungrateful person.” As he elaborates on this, he writes that “the wise man….enjoys the giving more than the recipient enjoys the receiving.” And why is this so? Seneca answers: “There is not a man who, when he has benefited his neighbour, has not benefited himself….”

In an essay published in the July 1896 edition of “Prabuddha Bharata”, we read Swami Vivekananda: “No beggar ever owed a single cent to us, we owe everything to him, because he has allowed us to exercise our power of pity and charity on him.”

the bibliophile — Sunset, Coimbatore, India

In a 18th December 2018 Lions Roar compilation titled “Joyful Giving”, the Zen Teacher who founded (and runs) one of the largest centers in the USA that helps abused children,  Jan Chozen Bays, writes:

We are not self-made. We are made of the raw ingredients of sunlight, soil, and water, shaped into the flesh of plants and animals, shaped into our life. Our life is one big gift, given by countless beings.

She goes on to observe that “When we truly see this”, our life becomes an answer to the question “How can I repay the many beings who are continually giving to me?”, and we realize that generosity, in our lives, must become like breathing.

Peace 🙂

Teach by example

In “Swami Premananda: Teachings and Reminiscences”, we read this disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa emphatically asking that each of us would do well to “let your character speak” and “Teach others by the example of your lives, not by mere words.”

In the first chapter of “The Compassionate Classroom: Relationship Based Teaching and Learning”, Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson write of Marshall Rosenberg, telling

the story of a school principal he visited who was looking out at the school playground from his office window. The principal saw a big boy and hit a smaller boy. He ran from his office, swatted the bigger boy, and gave him a lecture. When he got back to his office, the principal said, “I taught that fellow not to hit people who are smaller than he is.” Dr. Rosenberg said: “I’m not so sure that’s what you did. I think that you taught him not to do it while you’re looking.” The principal did not see that he was modeling the very behavior that he was trying to stop.

By Pooja Bhatt — Maartiste

In “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion”, Father Gregory Boyle writes of his first day teaching at Loyola High School in Los Angeles in 1979.

This gentle, remarkable person whose life has been solace, and hope to many many, writes: “I was scared poopless about the prospect….I walk to my first class. I stop at the doorway of a veteran teacher, Donna Wanland….”It’s my first day of teaching,” I say to her. “Give me some advice.””

One of the two pieces of advice Donna gave Father Boyle was:

It’s more important that they know you than that they know what ya know.

If we are to stand firm as the worst traits of humanity slowly, in subtle ways, strengthen their forces today, it is imperative that each of us uncompromisingly lives the ideals. The worst in us can only be quelled by the highest in us….one of the lessons of history is that this is not as dreamy as it may sound.

H. Jackson Brown Jr.  puts it memorably in “The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book”: “Remember that a good example is the best sermon.”

Peace 🙂