Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Musings

An Empty Space

An empty space graces the center
of the manager scene.
Yet a spot of trampled hay cannot contain
the unfathomed hope placed here;
as though a cosmic arrow points dramatically
from heaven reading
“watch this!”
to accentuate the absurd hope we place
on a moment, a place, a new born.

At millennial celebrations of crèches and caves
we bring a battered hope yearly to this moment
to be mended or rebuilt and believe that perhaps
this year the birth of one will move all
toward peace.

In film and word we expound
the transformative power of the season
when George Bailey realizes his good fortune,
Scrooge tears open his curtains,
and we long for the dawning of a new age.

Yet watching and waiting will not spark a change
and longing will leave millions unfed.
Hope that energizes voices and
desire that strengthens muscle
redeems this scene from a saccharine docility
and transforms dreaming and longing
into action.

New and ancient our collective journeys
draw us yearly past this manger scene.
Yet we receive the gift, we are reborn,
we journey onward renewed.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Stop What You Are Doing

Truisms are truisms mostly because they are true. For example "honesty is the best policy" applies to relationships, business, even medical checkups. And honesty is also a key to understanding what direction to take in pursuing greatness. People ask me all the time "how do I know where to focus my energies to pursue greatness?" Well, the first step is brutal honesty.

Yesterday I had the privilege to dine with and listen to Sydney Lea, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Sydney has been nominated and won more prizes for his poetry than I could ever imagine. He came to speak at our bookstore in Asbury Park. Sydney is one of the most self-effacing individuals I've met. But it is not false humility but a brutal honesty that has propelled him to be one of America's best poets.

The most telling part of the evening occurred when someone asked Sydney "why poetry?" Most of Sydney's poems are story-like; snippets of lives, moments and interactions that lend themselves to narrative. Sydney's explanation was amazingly honest. He described his doctoral dissertation as "ponderous" and his attempts at regional stories as "possibly appearing condescending." Conversely his use of poetry allows him to explore the dynamic in a human interaction, capture the regional flair, and briefly convey the meaning. In other words, he is honest about what he CAN'T do. That allows him to focus his energies on what he does well and continue to write better and better.

From boardrooms, to offices, to cubicles; from recording studios, to concerts; from practice to the court or the course, too many of us fail to find our greatness because we refuse to honestly admit what we don't do well and stop doing it. Because if we admit and cease what we don't do well, we can focus on our possibility for greatness. So, be honest, be brutally honest. It might help you find your greatness.