Great photo gallery over at The Atlantic on Diwali, the festival of lights. It's a time when people of many faiths get together to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Amazingly beautiful images.Read More
John Muir lived for the trees. He lived for the wild part of the US that made it unique. Giant canyons, beautiful waterfalls and large, wondrous redwoods. My family and I recently had the opportunity to visit Muir Woods in Northern California, and I truly believe every American should have to. The above image can only give you a small sense of the beauty and magnificence of these trees. They grow to above 300 feet and 20+ feet in diameter. Some of them have been alive for 1,000+ years. They are ancestors to trees that were here when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Muir was enraptured with the majesty of the trees and mountains and canyons and springs and all of it. He lobbied whomever would listen to him. Many times, areas such as this have been threatened by logging or development, but because of people like John Muir, we have these trees and most of our national parks. He never gave up.
As I revisit these images I am moved by the memories of the day. My son was fully immersed and fascinated by his surroundings. He connected with something bigger than his every day. He was 5 feet away from a fawn as it grazed. He helped me discover a banana slug on a water fountain. The whys and whats were so rapid fire that I can't even remember all of them.
My wife and I were silent for most of the walk because of how moved we were. When we were making sound, it was mostly wordless gasps or whispers. One section was called 'The Cathedral', and we approached with such reverence and gratitude that I truly felt close to God. Trees taller than my office building in downtown Chicago. Silence all around. Light coming to and fro, showing up for seconds at a time shaped by the giants. I looked around several times and thought how lucky I was to have this moment.
Because of Senator William Kent, his wife, and Teddy Roosevelt, we have this acreage of land bearing the name of John Muir. To them I say thank you. To you I say, 'Go.'
Athletes today are generally considered to be extremely selfish and materialistic. Here is a former athlete who is the antithesis of that sentiment. Curtis Martin played 10 years in the NFL, but it wasn’t for a love of the game. It was personal, as Curtis says in the beginning of the video:
I was never able to identify with the love and the passion that a lot of my colleagues and a lot of the other alumni of the Hall of Fame, that they have. Most of these guys have lived for the game of football…I was someone who was somewhat forced to play football.
He goes on to explain that his pastor, Leroy Joseph said, “…maybe football is just something that God’s giving you to do all those wonderful things you say you want to do for other people.” This was a turning point for Curtis.
But that’s not the end of the story. Curtis comes from a very tough situation. As he relays in the video:
- His mother was physically abused by his father in front of Curtis at the age of 5.
- Curtis’ grandmother was murdered and found by his mother when he was 9.
- Curtis’ aunt was murdered when he was 13.
- At age 15, Curtis had a gun held to his head with the trigger pulled 7 times but never firing, only to go off when it was pointed away from him.
His mother pushed him to do an afterschool activity, as the neighborhood they were in was tough and she was concerned he would fall into trouble. Curtis’ gym teacher guided him to football, and the rest is history. He’s become a man of strong faith and a solid work ethic. And now, he’s a member of the Football Hall of Fame. He didn’t fall into the trap of feeling like a victim. He forgave his father, convinced his mother to forgive his father, and is now happily married with a young daughter.
I’ve had tough experiences in my life, but none like Curtis, and yet, I feel like he’s never lost site of what’s important. He is focused on being the best person he can be.
Eloquent and moving portrayal of where we live by one of the greatest minds of our time, Carl Sagan. In 3+ minutes he succinctly sums up the frailty of who we are.
What you see above is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image and it is a snapshot into the past. It looks like a field of stars, but as you look at it and get closer, you see galaxy piled on top of galaxy. The distance from us? 13.7 billion light years. To give some perspective, a light year is comprised of the distance it takes light to travel in one year. That is 3.72 trillion miles. So, 3.72 trillion x 13.7 billion and baby, you got a stew going. These are the origins of our universe.
Here’s my point with all of this. Each one of those galaxies contains billions and billions of stars. Think about all that potential. Life is possible elsewhere. Think about what a gift it is for us to be here and observing this. Think about where we were 100 years ago. We thought our galaxy was all that existed. There were only stars and that was the end of it. They were a part of our galaxy. Edwin Hubble, whom the Hubble telescope is named after, first discovered other galaxies in 1925. That’s less than 100 years ago, and now, here we are looking at these galaxies 13.7 billion light years away.
How did we get to this point? There were thousands and thousands of people who believed in making something happen. They worked hard. They spent sleepless nights agonizing over millimeters of difference. They toiled. They argued. They fought. They lost and won and lost again. Some of them died before they even had a chance to experience what we see above, but they fought, possibly knowing they wouldn’t see it, so we could see it. All because they believed in something. Hubble’s name we know and we celebrate by naming a telescope after him. There are countless others we don’t know and will never know. We owe them thanks. This image would not have been possible without them believing. Believing in something is hard work.
So, what are you going to do today?
A few years back (2009, in fact), I was listening to Weekend Edition with Scott Simon and was struck by this piece. Rowan LeCompte is the man responsible for the beautiful light that filters throughout the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. This piece had a special place in my heart, as I’d lived across from the Cathedral in 2005 and enjoyed the colored light all over inside never knowing who to thank for it. Rowan LeCompte is whom. A link below to the original piece will take you to a gallery of his work. The image above was taken by me with my trusty Holga camera. I'm grateful to Scott Simon and his team for featuring this and helping me see the true beauty in these windows. To give you some insight into the character and insight of Rowan LeCompte, I offer this quote. Scott Simon asked him if he believed in God, and this was his response:
I believe in kindness and love, and there are those who say that those are God. I don't know, but I respect and love kindness and love and worship them. And if I'm worshipping God, I'm delighted.
I implore you to listen to the entire 10 minutes. Some very beautiful stuff.
UPDATE: I just found this Kickstarter project that is funded, but you can view the project video here.
This audio is copyrighted to NPR. I do not claim ownership or production credits.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of allnothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
One of my favorite poets of all time is ee cummings. He’s most famous for the structure of his poems. Rather than traditionally structuring them, he used structure as a tool to help express the weight, tempo, and shape of a poem. Of all his poems, ‘i thank you god for this most amazing’ is the one I read when I need to slow down and appreciate all that I have. This poem is from his book ‘XIAPE’, which roughly translates to ‘rejoice’ in Greek.
I dedicate this to all those who inspire me and offer beauty and grace to my everyday, especially Julia, Thomas and Ellis. Thank you for this life.
You can read more about one of the most innovative and thoughtful American poets below at the Poetry Foundation’s website.
‘Comptine d’un autre ete, l’pres-midi’ roughly translates to ‘Rhyme of another summer afternoon’. This song rolls along so effortlessly and can be overwhelming if it catches you just right. This entire soundtrack is a pleasure. If you like the band Beirut, you’ll love this soundtrack. The movie it’s from, ‘Amelie from Montmartre’, is also a visually stunning and expertly crafted story of a young woman searching for true love and beauty. As the piano plays, I can see the light through the trees as I ride my bicycle gently in the warm afternoon. Such beauty.
One of my favorite inspirational videos. I have this video bookmarked and watch it on a regular basis to remind myself of what’s important. You can see the director, Louis Schwartzberg, here at a TED Talk discussing the techniques, nature, and why he made this film. Also, you can help fund a feature length version of this film at this Kickstarter project.