life lessons, mindfulness, motivation

Basic Inspiration

“Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness.  If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most.  It is not complicated but it takes courage.  It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it.” – Pablo Casals

You can probably tell by now that Machiavelli and I wouldn’t get along.  I have a very firm belief in the fundamental goodness of people.  For the most part, I don’t believe people intend to be hurtful, mean spirited or relish opportunities to display their most unpleasant qualities.  This in no way runs counter to my earlier post about the abhorrent (and aberrant) bullying behavior that is evident in schoolyards and offices.  On the contrary, I believe that such aggressiveness is more environmental than innate, more learned than inherited (with a nod to the studies that support a heritability factor associated with aggressiveness).

What I love about Casals’ quote is the implication that honoring one’s goodness takes courage.  Doing the right thing isn’t easy.  Opening one’s eyes to the wonder that passes throughout the course of a single day requires a conscious shift in focus from all that we rarely notice – or worse still – all that we see that disappoints us.  So I introduce you now to one of my constant sources of inspiration – Archie.  This picture captures him in a moment of brief repose – or exhaustion – resulting from his relentless pursuit of happiness.  Archie approaches our driveway and yard as a constant source of amazement and surprise regardless of his thousands of explorations.  Today, the cherry blossoms are falling from the trees, and Archie pursues each falling blossom with limitless unbridled excitement and delight.  Of course, the wind blows them into multiple directions and he loses them before they hit the ground.  Nonetheless, he forgets any other reasons why he’s out there – he is on a mission fueled by sheer joy  (and a sizeable absence of grey matter, but none of our dogs have ever ranked high on the intelligence scale – except for Bubba the Wonder Dog – a story for another day).  Archie makes me pause and look around – I stop and notice that the buds on the Japanese maple are beginning to slowly swell under the warmth of the sun, hear the neighbors’ kids laughing hysterically as they try and double jump on their trampoline.  I sit on the porch realizing that I’ve been touched by more good karma than one person could ever take for granted.  I sip my tea and giggle as Archie is outpaced by his older, smaller and more dignified partner-in-crime Teddy (he didn’t want his picture taken today).  And in this moment, I am inspired to find the time in each day to pause and look around me.  To consider it an honor to be able to share my ideas with an increasing number of fantastically gifted people.  To make a conscious effort to make one person’s day a little better through word or deed (I have no illusions of heroics here –  just take the time to be slightly kinder than the day before).  Now Archie, Teddy and I are going to take a walk and see how many of their friends we can track down, kibbitz, sniff and play with, see how many blooms are opening on the magnolias and pause for a moment to experience the indescribable  inspiration that begins with gratitude.


14 thoughts on “Basic Inspiration”

  1. A perfect post for a perfect early-spring day. For a contrasting (slightly darker) note, you might want to take a look at David Brooks’s column today in the NYT.

  2. David Brooks provides much food for thought – though he is arguing that within all there is the capacity to do great good and perform unspeakable horror. However, the most egregious behavior which he references occur under circumstances and conditions which defy belief. It is one thing for a college student in the safety of academia to ponder homicide – another thing entirely to act upon it. I’m not saying that we are full of hearts and flowers – rather, it is easier to act consciously in goodness. Thanks Deb..

  3. you just made my day better as i read, paused to reflect on my surroundings and the sun..what a wonderful pause. thank you

  4. Mimi,

    You’re tugging at my heartstrings here. I absolutely love dogs. They are so full of joy and love. And they live in the present. They are great teachers. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I’m a total sucker for dogs too – and am always amazed at their capacity for joy and love. When I let go of all the other noise in my head, and focus on the moment, somehow it always includes a lick, a walk and a lot of hugs for my two guys.:-)

  5. Doing the right this is easy if you’re in touch with your values. As a coach who works with leaders, I’ll tell you the best leaders are the humble ones. They don’t have all the answers and they put their people first.

    I loved the part about your dog. My American Bulldog, Mack, graduated to heaven over three years ago. He was my best friend. My first dog. It’s time to think about getting a “new” best friend.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about Mack – I think of my dogs as my best buddies too, and each loss still reduces me to tears. I think you’re on to something though – a new dog doesn’t replace the friend you lost, but it brings a new dimension to your heart that is unique to that new relationship.

      And I agree with your perspective regarding strong leaders too – though I would submit that over time, one’s values can be obfuscated by whatever pressure du jour is clouding one’s thinking. Remaining conscious of one’s integrity, desire to support and grow your people and humble awareness that this is a shared learning process is critical. Thanks for your comments!

  6. Wonderful post. Dogs help us remember what life was like when it wasn’t so complicated, when we didn’t have all the adult responsibilities we tote on our backs, or the worry that has us agonizing over things that won’t matter in the near future.

    They don’t carry grudges, and they don’t remember you left them home alone all day last Saturday. All they want is your attention now. A little love, a little play time, and then just to lie down next to you makes them quite content. That’s the good life. They can teach us quite a bit about life and what’s important.

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