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  • Writer's pictureJOE WOODWARD


Updated: Jan 15, 2021

BE - Image by John Hain

We say things without really comprehending any meaning.

Wishing people "Happy New Year" has a positive ring. Yet with all the sound and fury that overtakes the cluttered world in which we inhabit, I wonder if "happy" is the right term; the right endearing outcome for a new year.

My good friend Foley suggested to me some years ago that being "grateful" was perhaps the most powerful existential form of being. We "be" most when grateful for things that become us; even in the most trying of times.

GRATITUDE - Image by John Hain

Foley's words have come to ring truer as time flies by. As vanity and ego are set aside, one can realize the power of surrender to some larger power that dwarf's all we might pretend to be.

The current fad of extolling the power of "goals" in our life masks the reality of the ride that takes us in multiple directions at once. The goals assume we are only an avatar of our own making; someone being controlled by the superiority of our minds and mastery. The "presentation of self in everyday life" is a product of this avatar that conceals and fools us into imagining an importance that really doesn't exist. Or so it seems! Much of the sociological thinking from a postmodern perspective advocates this dramaturgy.

Milan Kundera coined the phrase "the incredible lightness of being" to title his novel set in 1968. Perhaps the phrase itself is more significant than the sum of the writing in the book. The suggestion in the title is most inspiring. The idea of lightness as opposed to being weighed down is advocated by a simple focus on "BEING".

I work with a colleague who has this incredible lightness that she shares where-ever she roams and inhabits. It is a lightness of being that is felt by colleagues and students alike. Her humility is something that exudes a power to embrace and enable growth. It isn't tied to goal setting or techniques for instilling some set of supposed essential knowledge. The smile isn't that of an avatar; but an expression of genuine Being!

I have known others who exhibited this lightness even though they rarely smiled and were cautious in complementing. I refer primarily to the late Ralph Wilson, after whom The Ralph Wilson Theatre at Gorman House is named; Ralph had such a strong presence of Being that infected the spaces and people around him. He inspired people to trust their own potential. If we look at the above image of "Gratitude" by John Hain, we sum up Ralph Wilson's Being as encountered by me those decades ago.

So I suggest that a powerful and engaging Being has nothing to do with simply presenting a positive, smiling, goal setting and happy exterior. It is about a depth of engagement. It isn't about chasing happiness or satisfactions of any kind. I suggest it is more about being grateful for whatever it is that might be us/me!

Only in such a discovery can a truly powerful being emerge. And so to Shakespeare's most famous speech. I doubt there is any better description of the choice and dilemmas of finding one's very being ...

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?

BE - Image 2 by John Hain from Pixabay



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