But the time is not a strong prison either.
A little scraping of the walls of dishonest contractor’s concrete
Through a shower of chips and sand makes freedom.
Shake the dust from your hair.
This mountain sea-coast is real
For it reaches out far into the past and future;
It is part of the great and timeless excellence of things.
From the poem ‘A Little Scraping’ by Robinson Jeffers
When I read a poem like this, it helps me to ground myself, centre myself in the reality of the ‘great and timeless excellence of things’.
When all seems insane around me, poetry, and Nature, and good friends, all help. There are certain ideas that help me too, and today I’d like to share one with you, and then let’s ground the idea in a meditation. It comes from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Succesful People. If you only ever read one ‘Pop Psych’ book that’s the one to read. In it he suggests we understand that we have a Circle of Concern: encompassing all the things we care about, from our personal concerns (health, career, relationships, etc.) to our global concerns (global warming, war, etc.) And that we have a Circle of Influence, which is of course much smaller. That’s where we should focus our energies. Not being clear about these two circles can create a sense of being overwhelmed by the troubles of the world.
If we take a proactive stance within our Circle Influence, that circle gradually enlarges. If we take a reactive stance, it tends to shrink.
We need to be careful not to underestimate our capacity to influence life, effectively placing issues in our Circle of Concern rather than in our Circle of Influence. As it suggests in this downloadable pdf on the subject: “because we can’t (most likely) solve global warming individually, we may abdicate the power we do have saying, “That’s too big of a problem. I’m just one person. I can’t change it.” The truth, however, is that we can take action that does affect global warming, even if it doesn’t eliminate it. Notice where you’re unconsciously giving up your power to affect change by lumping issues into that place “out there” where you think you have no control. Then choose to take whatever actions you can to use your power as effectively as possible.”
If you want lots more ideas, have a look at this essay I wrote a while back, entitled ‘In the Eye of the Storm: How to Stay Sane in an Insane World.’
And a final note, the source of the Starfish story is “The Star Thrower” (or “starfish story”) – part of a 16-page essay of the same name by Loren Eiseley (1907–1977), published in 1969 in The Unexpected Universe. See more about this here.