525,600 Minutes, But What’s the Word Count?

If you ask ten people what the musical “Rent” is about, you’ll get fifteen answers. It’s about artists, La Boehme, struggling, succeeding, love, AIDS, death, life, giving up, trying again, moving in, moving out, and Idina Menzel before she sang “Let it Go” – but mostly, it’s about a year – and the many ways we can measure it. Here’s a flashback (since the title made you start singing the song anyway):

Minutes may be the way we measure time, but each of us has our own way to measure life. Some measure through the growth chart of their children (then grandchildren) scratched on a wall, others measure it in billable hours. Music lovers remember the year with songs (Shake it off!) and readers mark life with the New York Times Bestseller List (Gone Girl). T.S. Eliot famously measured his life in coffee spoons.

That's a lot of life!

That’s a lot of life!

I measure my year, in fact – my life – in words.  Happy words, holy words, healing words, hopeful words. When I die, I want a memorial that looks like an old school McDonald’s sign – only with a writing quill instead of a heart-clogging M, and the tagline: “Over 1 million words said.”   In my world there is the best word, the right word, and the first word I come up with. I am frequently guilty of accidentally blurting the latter before the former can be found. Sorry about that.

As we pack up 2014 and set up 2015 (Maybe that’s why I don’t like New Year’s very much – it’s a lot like moving) – let’s invest in a few good words.

 Courage – Jump, both feet, into the things that scare you the most. Take apart the roadblocks in your life – even if it requires the same care as defusing a bomb. Stand up to the things that bully our world – be they people, systems, powers or simply stupid thoughts.

 Justice – Defend the innocent, find the guilty accountable, uphold the rights and responsibilities of citizens, law enforcement, banks, leaders, followers and lovers. Stop howling for blood, start working for good.

 Peace – Start with yourself. Start with your heart. Peace isn’t a thing we achieve, like a diploma. It is way that we live, that we see, that we breathe. Take peace out of the “pretty concept” aisle of your internal grocery store and place it in the hardware section – it’s a tool. Own it. Use it. Maintain it. Daily.

 Hope – Have hope that is active, not a dream.  When you plant a seed in the ground, you can’t dig it up every day to see if it’s growing. You must acknowledge it is currently covered in dirt and hope someday it will grow. You do things – water, nutrients, sunlight – because those are part of hope, too. In time, it will sprout. Don’t just look our dirt encrusted world and shrug. Do the work of hope – water it with generosity, nurture it with wisdom, shine light on what needs to change, and transform it.

 Love – Do it.

What is 2015 going to be about?  It’s about artists, La Boehme, struggling, succeeding, love, AIDS, death, life, giving up, trying again, moving in, moving out, and Idina Menzel singing “Let it Go”  (sorry about that, too).  It’s about a year. And a chance for more seasons of love.

Leave the mistakes, the grudges, the late night rallies, the fails, and the past in 2014. Take with you the love, the lessons, and the words.

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Season of Wonder, Star of Light

It is a lazy, rainy December 24th here in my Virginia woods. My Jewish friends are lighting the last light of Hanukkah tonight, and my Christian pals are planning to read the story of Jesus, a baby in a manger who is the reason for their celebration. Buddhist mentors are meditating the gratitude of this day, like every day, and atheists are eagerly anticipating family, friends, presents, candy and laughs. Even those grouchy folks who mutter “I hate Christmas” are starting to soften a bit. By this time of the year we’ve figured out that we are not as different as we are the same in mid-winter – we all celebrate the light.

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Well, maybe not cats.

The message in this season – whatever season it may be – is one of definite clarity. In the midst of darkness light still shines. The miraculous light in the temple, the light of the Christ, the lightness of being or the light of loved ones. Light shines. This year I know of no better message for all of us.

For my two dear friends who each lost a spouse to death this year – the light of their love is still with you.

For my friends who grieve loved ones long lost who still haunt and call their name – the light of your love is still with them.

For artists and writers looking for doors to open, work to do, people to reach – the light inspiration beckons you to keep going.

For prisoners and captives, slaves and sufferers who are chained to dark situations – we remember you; we are seeking ways to free you – in body or in mind. Keep hope. Keep light. It’s shining. I promise.

For happy people who embrace their blessings and love their lives – you are the beneficiary and also a source. Keep sharing the light.

For New York, Ferguson, Florida, Wisconsin and every place struggling with injustice, malice, racism, anger and loss – there IS light  – we must work together, we must find it – because it’s there, and we all need it.

For a world ravaged with hunger and disease, violence that dares to call itself “religion”, economic fear, and military presence – There are people in every one of those places who have the potential to be helpers, healers, and hopeful carriers of light. Let’s support them; let’s empower them. Let’s rekindle their light.

For a world filled with the most wonderful things, scientific discovery, amazing cuisine, beautiful lands, lovers, poets, dreamers and children – shine, shine, shine, shine. We call on you to shine.

This spring we will experience another group of celebrations all competing in the same space – Passover, Easter, Spring Rebirth, Ohigan (a Buddhist ceremony celebrating the spirits of the dead reaching Nirvana), and Bahai New Year – and they all have one message too.  The death angel passing over, the resurrection of Christ, the rebirth of the earth, spirits receiving bliss or a new start – it all tells us – “Death is NOT an end.”

But that is for another time – for now – let us look to the light.

light2