Category Archives: Reflections

Half Empty or Half Full?

Is the glass half empty or half full? That’s the classic question posed by a sculpture in the reading garden at Winnipeg’s Millenium Library. It’s a giant beaker, like the sort you’d find in a science lab.  Created by architect Bill Pechet of Vancouver the sculpture is made from 22,000 kilograms of steel. It is called emptyful. Pechet has his own interpretation of the artwork something to do with the empty boundless spaces of the prairies around Winnipeg and the richness and fullness of our province’s seasons, people and heritage. I like to think emptyful is in the shape of a beaker because life is really just one big experiment and we are never sure what is going to happen.

The sculpture also makes me think about why some people tend to be optimistic looking at life through rosy lenses with a glass half full kind of perspective, while others always think first about what could go wrong, rather than what could right. They have a glass half empty approach to life. 
Winston Churchill once mused For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else. It reminds me of something Democratic candidate for American President Elizabeth Warren said in a recent debate when she chided a fellow candidate asking him why in the world he would run for office if he wasn’t optimistic that positive changes could be made.  

I think I’m a glass-half-full kind of person most of the time, but not always and not in all areas of my life.  I do know that being optimistic is far better for both my mental and physical health.

I wonder if we inherit optimism?  I suspect that while biology and nurture can influence how optimistic we are, life events and experiences can also alter our degree of optimism. 

Charles Carver of the University of Miami suggests it is best to have a balance of optimism and pessimism if we want to have safe and happy lives. You need to have a certain amount of optimism in order to make decisions about things like marriage, parenthood, travel or a career change.  Optimism can help us keep going even when our lives are tough. A little pessimism though can help us assess situations and choices more realistically and can inspire us to try to fill the half empty glass by taking actions that will improve our lives or the life of society.

On a CBC Ideas program, a panel discussion participant talked about the importance of cultivating optimism for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Our optimism will encourage our kids to have hope for the future and confidence in their ability to achieve things even if they don’t succeed right away. Cultivating an optomistic next generation is essential to the preservation of society and culture. Just look at Greta Thunberg the sixteen year old girl from Sweden whose campaign to save the environment has already garnered her a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Are you a glass half empty or glass half full kind of person? 

Other posts………

600 Million Moments

Must We Live in Fear? 

An Attitude of Gratitude

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Filed under Art, Reflections, Winnipeg

Thin Places

What is a thin place?  I first heard about thin places in a sermon at my church. A quick look online and I realized the term has been adopted by all kinds of folks in the spiritual, travel and literary world to talk about special places where one feels closer to the divine, the universe, to creation. According to Eric Weiner a travel writer for the New York Times it is a place where the distance between heaven and earth collapses. Here are a couple of my thin places. This is a bridge in a park in Steinbach Manitoba where I lived for nearly four decades.  For many, many years I did a long morning walk and this bridge was included in my route.  It is here I would stop for a few minutes to think about the important people in my life and to say a prayer for each one of them. This is Tao Fong Shan the Lutheran Church we attended during the six years we lived in Hong Kong.  It was a peaceful lovely place and I so appreciated the liturgy of the Sunday evening services that settled my soul and prepared me for the week ahead.  For two years we lived nearby and early Sunday morning I would hike up to Tao Fong Shan which stood on the top of the Mountain of the Christ Wind. There was a beautiful underground crypt where I would go to pray.   During the year we lived in Arizona on the Hopi First Nation our family did lots of hiking but our favorite place to explore and climb was Coal Mine Canyon, a spot of breath-taking natural beauty not too far from our home.  Often we were the only people there.  We’d see so many colorful birds and watch legions of little brightly-hued lizards.  We’d shout out to each other just to hear the lovely echoes. The rock formations were stunning, the sky so blue, the sun so warm. It was a place to feel close to the people I loved and to the wonders of creation. And as I have written many times before our family’s cottage at Moose Lake has always been a place of beauty, peace, and solace for me.  I visit it annually and hope I can do so for the rest of my life. 

What are your thin places?  Are they places close to home or did you discover them on a trip?  Where does the distance between heaven and earth collapse for you?

Other posts……….

The View From the Church

Swimming in a Cenote

A Peaceful Mind and Heart

 

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Filed under Nature, Reflections, Religion

Six Things That Help Me Stay Positive About Our World

It is easy to become despondent when one spends too much time reading all the troubling stories in the media. I am trying hard to look for the positive and make myself think about the positive instead. Here are six things I’m doing to help me maintain an optimistic outlook. 1. I have started a new series of posts on my blog where I draw a graphic and share some good news about our world.  I have found there is actually plenty of positive news to share.

Michelle Obama visits with children at a Child Development Centre in North Carolina

2. On my Twitter newsfeed I have decided to follow politicians and columnists and opinion writers whose policies and plans give me hope that humanity is headed towards becoming a more compassionate place where we take care of each other and the natural world. People like Alexandra Ocasio- Cortez and Elizabeth Warren, Melinda Gates and Michelle Obama and Canada’s Arlene Dickinson and  Elizabeth May 

3. I have tried to write blog posts that highlight positive things happening in our world.

4. I get a newsletter in my inbox each week called The Optimist a perk of my Washington Post subscription.  It highlights positive hopeful stories the paper has run in the last week.

5. I continue to pray hopefully each night for an end to violence and poverty in our world. I donate time and money to organizations that promote those causes in a variety of ways. 

Visiting a daycare  in Runaway Bay Jamaica

6. I spend as much time as I can around children- observing them, talking with them and trying to help them, my own grandchildren, the children I give tours to at the art gallery, the children in the classrooms I visit in my job as a university supervisor, the children at my church, the children at the library, the children in my neighborhood, the children I encounter on my travels. Knowing we need to make our world a better place for them, seeing their hopefulness and trust makes me want to be more positive. 

What do you do to try and stay positive? 

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Are You A Streaker, A Stroller or a Scholar?

Visiting the Lucy Maud Montgomery House in Prince Edward Island many years ago.

I was reading a CBC story about the new interpretative center opening in July at the site of Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s home in Prince Edward Island. Montgomery has gained international fame for her classic novel Anne of Green Gables. The new center which tells the story of Montgomery’s life has been designed to meet the needs of three different kinds of visitors- the streaker, the stroller and the scholar. I hadn’t heard of those designations before but they intrigued me. I discovered the terms had been coined by an Australian museum director named George McDonald.

My husband walks briskly through an outdoor art display in Merida Mexico.  

A streaker is someone who walks briskly through a museum or art gallery or special event. They pay little attention to details, gather general impressions and may finish their visit to an exhibit without really being impacted by it at all. They are there to check the visit off their list, to say “I’ve been there” or “I’ve done that.” These kinds of visitors are also sometimes called fish because they just glide through the exhibit. 

Dave and I were in stroller mode when we visited a history museum in Quebec City.

A stroller moves more slowly and pays more attention.  They will probably stop at various places to learn more. They will absorb more than a streaker and pick up more details particularly about certain parts of an exhibit that catch their interest. They are there to have a good time but not necessarily to do a whole lot of learning. These kinds of visitors are also sometimes called butterflies because they flutter through a museum or art gallery or interpretive center alighting here and there to enjoy something that attracts their attention. 

My husband Dave was definitely in scholar mode when we visited the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan.

A scholar is someone who is very interested in learning and reflecting.  They will move slowly through an exhibition looking at almost everything and reading all of the textual material.  You will see them lingering at certain points for extended periods of time. They are conscientious and diligent about having the full experience. They want to discover all the intimate details of an exhibit and ask questions. These kinds of visitors are sometimes called ants because they move very slowly and methodically and purposefully. 

Posing with Russian author Pushkin at the Wax Museum in Odessa Ukraine

Learning about streakers, strollers and scholars got me thinking that those terms might describe more than just museum visitors.  As we move through life are we streakers? Do we just rush through our busy days gliding mechanically from one obligation to another? Are we strollers? Do we take time to stop periodically to relish and enjoy experiences and events?  Are we scholars?  Are we thoughtful and purposeful? Do we read and think and reflect and question? 

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York posing with Van Gogh’s Starry Night

I think at various times and in various situations, I tend to be all three kinds of people or a combination of them. I know I don’t want to just streak through life never stopping to stroll or savor, reflect and enjoy.  But I also don’t want to spend so much time being the scholar that I accomplish little and never have time for fun. 

Are you a streaker, a stroller or a scholar? 

Other posts………

Visiting the MOMA

Feeling Sad About Odessa

Hiroshima

 

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Filed under Reflections, Travel

Pilgrim or Tourist?

I am giving a sermon this morning on the difference between being a pilgrim and a tourist.  A tourist goes through life just seeing sights, avoiding personal commitments and remaining untouched by their experiences. Pilgrims, on the other hand, invest time, talk and interest in the people they meet and allow themselves to be changed by their experiences.  I am going to offer my listeners four suggestions for how they can be pilgrims rather than tourists.

My husband dave consults a map before we start hiking around Pompei

  1. Plan ahead.  In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell says when on the threshold of a new adventure, we should consult allies like maps, music, artwork, books or people that point us in the right direction. We can plan ahead by learning about new places we will visit. We can plan ahead for the birth of a grandchild, a visit from friends or even for the journey of our own death.

    Cycling with family around Lake Konstanz

  2. Enjoy the journey as much as your arrival at your destination. Gregory the Great, said, “do not avoid the journey, hastening to the arrival point, for the journey itself can be an occasion for growth.” I am trying to get a children’s book published. It is a long journey but I am enjoying the new people I am meeting and the things I am learning. It will have been a good experience whether I ever publish a book or not. One year we went on a bicycle trip around Lake Konstanz in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  The journey was the whole point, not arriving at our final destination.

    With a school principal in Cambodia, I got to know

  3. Make friends. Keenan Kelsey an American Presbyterian minister says, “Living participation is what separates the pilgrim from the tourist. The tourist remains an aloof observer as if they were at the theatre. They are never a part of the show.” Pilgrims make a point of interacting with people. They talk to those sitting next to them on a city bus, partnered with them on the golf course, or beside them on a tour. Many years ago I began to do this very deliberately and it has been transforming.

    Sometimes I reflect on my experiences with sketches

  4. Reflect on your experience. Niebuhr wrote that pilgrims are poets who create after taking a journey. We aren’t all poets but as we journey through life some of us reflect on our experiences by writing songs or stories. Some people sketch or paint or get together to talk with others who have made similar journeys.  One thing that helps me reflect on my life journey is keeping this blog.

    With my Advanced Composition class in Hong Kong-Living and Working in China was a transformative experience for me

    Walter R. Rossi says “tourists evaluate the success of a trip by how many different souvenirs they bring home and the number of places they can list as having visited. On life’s journey do some of us determine our success by how many things we accumulate and how many accomplishments we can list? Rossi says pilgrims deem a journey a success by the way it has transformed them as a person.

    On the journey of life will you be a pilgrim or a tourist? 

Other posts………

Crossing Abbey Road

Do Not Become Alarmed

Does She Have A Chance

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Filed under Reflections, Travel

Good News- Part 2

 It’s true. 

Other good news……..

Ozone Hole

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Filed under cartoons, good news, Reflections

Just A Tiny Thing Makes All the Difference

I am at the gym doing my stretches. There’s one where I stand like a crane on one foot holding the other up to my rear and trying to balance on just one leg. At my age, it’s not always easy. But………if I put even a fingertip against a wall or some other support I can keep my balance for as long as I like. Just a tiny fingertip makes all the difference.

 

When I used to present peacemaking workshops I often told the parable of the snowflake. Snowflakes were falling on a pine branch and even as the 999,999th flake landed the branch still remained on the tree. However, when the one-millionth snowflake was added the branch broke and fell to the ground.  Just one tiny snowflake that weighed practically nothing made all the difference. 

I recently read an article that said taking a single deep breath can improve your overall well being in five different ways! It increases awareness of your surroundings, reduces anxiety, gives your mind focus, relieves pain and provides healing. Just one tiny breath makes all the difference. 

The Dalai Lama once reminded us that if we think tiny things don’t make a difference we should remember what a difference it makes to try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.  

Other posts……….

A Smile Makes A Difference

What A Difference

 

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