There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn to live without judgement, so he sent them each on a quest to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest in the fall.After they had all gone and returned, he called them together to describe what they had seen.The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.The second son said it was covered with green buds and full of promise.The third son disagreed. He said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.The last son disagreed with all of them. He said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment. The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but one season in the tree’s life.
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth;
The glory of action;
The splendor of achievement;
For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday
a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
This past week I was in Ottawa visiting my daughter, Hayley, who is proudly starting her teaching career in a Montessori high school. She finished her dual degree in Education and Arts this past year and is a passionate, purpose-driven new teacher.
In our conversations I asked Hayley about her vision for herself as a new educator. She referred me to a scene in Peter Weir’s 1989 wonderful film, Dead Poets Society. Set in 1959 at the fictional elite conservative Vermont boarding school, Welton Academy, it tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. Hayley was inspired by the movie when we watched it many years ago. In one scene, John Keating (played by Robin Williams) teaches his pupils the reason for reading and writing poetry by quoting Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute,” explains the teacher. “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering; these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love; these are what we stay alive for.”
To paraphrase Whitman:
“O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring.
Of the endless trains of the faithless.
Of cities filled with the foolish…
What good amid these, O me! O life?
Answer: That you are here. That life exists and identity.
That the powerful play goes on, And you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play goes on, And you may contribute a verse.”
The teacher then stopped and asked his students to reflect upon a life-changing question: “What will your verse be?”
The scene has applicability not only for high achieving high school students but also for those who are committed to live authentically. Authenticity asks us to look within our heart and soul, and to stop long enough to ask the tough questions:
- What is it that you care most deeply about?
- What in your life is calling you – beyond what others expect from you?
- How aligned are you with the life you are meant to be living?
- What’s the difference between living in the midst of the tyranny of the urgent, and living with a sense of purpose?
- What do you most need to do in your life?
- How are you supporting others to find their voice?
What will your verse be?
- While I can influence and impact others, I believe that the only person I can change is me.
- I believe that maturity comes not with age but rather with acceptance of responsibility.
- I believe we are not just a product of our upbringing. We are also a product of our perceptions, our beliefs, and our choices.
- I believe that your life will change forever the day that you decide, once and for all, that all blame is a waste of time.
- I believe in taking the time to clarify, live, and preserve a sense of purpose – a reason for being. When your why gets stronger, the way gets easier.
- I believe in the power of a dream. The purpose of having a dream is not necessarily to achieve it, but rather to inspire yourself to become the kind of person it takes to achieve it.
- I believe that one of the most encouraging facts of life is that our weakness can become our greatest strength.
- I believe that every experience is a potential learning opportunity. Within our wounds lay our greatest gifts and our greatest opportunity for contribution.
- I believe in four fundamental laws:
- The Law of the Echo: Whatever we give will come back to us – ten fold.
- The Law of Focus: What you focus on is what grows. Focus on the problems and they will grow. Focus on the solutions and they will grow.
- The Law of Gratitude: A key to a good life is to always make your gratitude bigger than your circumstances.
- The Law of the Lens: Who we are determines how we see others. We don’t see people as they are; we see people as we are.