Putin has invaded Ukraine and we’ll be lucky if things don’t get out of hand. Especially scary if you’re a Vet and it’s “Been there, done that!” At least COVID seems to be declining in some states. But even without a surge, hospitals are full and the staff is exhausted.
Divisiveness still flourishes and the news, in general, is not very cheerful. We all need comfort and want to feel special – and not just to be told “Well, you’re special.” I’m not an exception. I sometimes have to work hard at seeing the blessings that are laid out in front of my eyes.
I started this essay back in January – a good time to take stock. But it’s always a good time for reflection and if one’s brave, to ask yourself where you’re going. But first, it’s important to make an inventory of what you have. And for that, we have to “look and listen.” Funny, I’m not a vet but I’m guessing that advice – look and listen – would be equally appropriate before you were sent out on patrol.
I tend not to be introspective. It’s not fun looking in the mirror with your eyes wide open. Yeh, really, none of us are perfect or God’s great gift to whomever. So when I first thought about “look & listen” I considered writing about the happy places I’ve been or was planning (post-COVID) to visit. Even invite others to think about their favorite place to visit in the state where they now live, e.g., the Bois Brule River in northern Wisconsin – great white water and watercress growing at the first put-in. Makes me happy. Just thinking of a summer run on a river when it was single-digit temps outside when I started writing this.
We all to work harder and dig deeper. No pain – no gain. Deeper looking and deeper listening surrounded by the four walls where I’m sitting. What do I have and what am I missing? And as in the Coltrane essay – what are some of my favorite things? I’m sure you can come up with similar questions.
Four walls are a start. And there is a ceiling. Some cold wind comes in through the window frame – but I’m in an old house. No missile has knocked a hole in the roof or walls. My clothes are reasonably fresh and there’s a sweatshirt and scarf on the back of my chair should I get cold. There’s also a fancy water bottle on the table so I can stay hydrated. Enough food in my belly so I’m not hungry and I know there are snacks in the kitchen.
Pretty good inventory of good stuff off the top. Probably that way for most of you. Just saying – we tend to forget the obvious that we have.
No doubt that there are things that can bring a person down. None of us are getting younger. I’ve my aches and pains – even go for physical therapy. But I can go for the PT and that’s a BIG plus.
The big downer for me is the increasing divisiveness of our society – the name-calling and animosity coming from all sides of the political spectrum. Little I can do to stop the war in the Ukraine and Heaven forbid that something like that happens here. Saving thought is that our military has taken an oath of loyalty to the Constitution, one that they take seriously.
I guess I could be as glum as I want about the future. But I remembered part of the Serenity Prayer of the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and found it in an article in Wikipedia. I’m tweaking an earlier version: Give me the courage to change what must be changed and the ability to accept what I can’t alter and the wisdom to know the one from the other.
Seems important now more than ever. Please recall that it’s the small things that we can do that will make a difference – those random acts of kindness and consideration. By myself, perhaps not much, but if we all did just a little?
I’m going to go with that prayer. I’ll keep it in mind as I look and listen.
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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