“It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.”

-Steve Young

Fiberglass backboards

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  1. Al says:

    Dispatch from the beautiful Hudson Valley, not yet ablaze in autumnal color:

    I think if you’re not on the road to self-improvement, then you stagnate, and a part of you dies. It’s like sharpening your axe (if you’ve got a woodpile, like me)—a never-ending process. The motivation to do it is irrelevant, is different for each person, but the process is necessary. And it is the prerequisite to do an even more important thing—improve the world, lest we become a self-improved lot of navel-gazers.

    I think it’s what you DO with self-improvement that matters, and, as I see it, the most valuable thing to do is contribute to the world in some small way, as often as you can. Whether that be by volunteering, raising children, making a contribution, doing a good deed, performing an act of kindness no one will ever know about.

    Working on ourselves is always a work in progress, till the end. Twas ever thus.

    For me, I have found motivation in other people, good books, inspirational quotes—those pearls of wisdom that provide spiritual sustenance. I’ve had such quotes posted around my house (and other places I’ve lived) ever since I can remember. I’ve stuffed them in my wallet, have them mixed in with stacks of papers and files in my study, sent them to friends, kept them under plexiglass on my desktop at work, recited them during times of stress or discouragement, taught them to my children. I love them, for they have been some of my guideposts, sort of like a worry stone, or religious prayer beads. A method to keep me on track; each one has been like a breath of fresh air on a January day—bracing and invigorating.

    Here are a few that are some of my re-posts from elsewhere on this website:

    *** “Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is “timing.” It waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.” (Fulton J. Sheen)

    *** “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
    (Henry David Thoreau)…………..(I often re-read this while raising my children.)

    *** “Whatever prepares you for death enhances life.”
    (Stephen Levine, who has done more research on death and dying than perhaps anyone else, including Elizabeth Kubler Ross)

    *** “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.” (an old Rabbinic saying)

    *** “There are really only two things we can give our children; the first is Roots, and the second—Wings.”
    (Hodding Carter)

    *** “If you aim to dispense with method, learn method. If you aim at facility, work hard. If you aim for simplicity, master complexity.”
    (The Way of Chinese Painting)

    “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
    (Ernest Hemingway)

    “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
    (Mahatma Gandhi)

    *** “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”
    Kenji Miyazawa)…..(A nugget I have often re-read for myself.)

    “…when I’m weary of considerations,
    and life is too much like a pathless wood
    Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
    Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
    From a twig’s having lashed across it open,
    I’d like to get away from earth awhile
    And then come back to it and begin over…”
    (Robert Frost, from Birches)

    One reason “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of my favorite movies, is the lesson it reminds us of, as conveyed through the words of one charming character named Clarence Oddbody, “Angel Second Class”:

    Clarence: “Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole doesn’t he? You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.”

    And, for those doubters of the strength of determination:

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    (Mahatma Gandhi)

    Here, a reflection that reminds us of our fleeting existence, and more importantly, that we are not so insignificant as we think, in this great Universe:

    The Big Blue Marble

    Sometimes, when I needed a fresh perspective, I have re-read the words of former astronaut Rusty Schweikart, and how he described looking out the tiny window of his space capsule, while floating out there in perpetually dark, cold, airless space, and looking at our beautiful blue orb—planet earth. His words are at once poetic and philosophical:

    “From the moon, the Earth is so small and so fragile, and such a precious little spot in that Universe, that you can block it out with your thumb. Then you realize that on that spot, that little blue and white thing, is everything that means anything to you – all of history and music and poetry and art and death and birth and love, tears, joy, games, all of it right there on that little spot that you can cover—with your thumb. And you realize from that perspective that you’ve changed forever, that there is something new there, that the relationship is no longer what it was.”
    (Rusty Schweickart, astronaut)


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