Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

8.06.2010

Longing and Tranquility

I was reading through the new picture books last week as I always do, looking for new storytime material and staying familiar with the collection, when one really stood out to me. The "dog" could be a metaphor for so many things in so many different contexts, and I really like the way it captures that sense of longing and yearning. I know the feeling the book describes in some way almost every day.

But I can't present the book in isolation, because it's only half the story. I've posted before it's more important to embrace contradiction and paradox than to try to make logical sense of everything, and longing will drive you crazy without an ability to tune it out and be in the moment. So I value both. I enjoy the drive and energy I get from longing but I also enjoy the contradictory ability to find joy and tranquility in fully experiencing the everyday mundane.

And I think it's important to have both. Often when I'm unhappy it's because those two competing veins are out of balance. With too small a dose of constant drive to seek something more I feel stagnant and life loses its zest, with no purpose or goal or reason to exist. With too much obsession about what I don't have, I can't focus on savoring what I do have and giving myself to who and what is right in front of me. You might think you can't pursue the ideas in both of the books that follow at the same time, but that's what works for me.

Nothing But a Dog
by Bobbi Katz
illustrated by Jane Manning

Once it starts
--the longing for a dog--
there is no cure for it.

Not an impy squirrel,
Or a parakeet that sings,
Not a fat bunny called Floyd,
Or a kitten that cuddles close and purrs.
Nothing really stops it for very long.

When you are playing checkers and
clump, clump, clump,
You jump doubles!
When you are skating and making a perfect figure eight
with no wobbles!
When the wind catches your kite just right
and you feel the wind in your hand--
it starts up--
that kind of sad, achy feeling of if you only had a dog.

There is no thing that stops the longing for a dog.
Not satellite shoes that you can wear to
jump, jump, jump
to the ceiling!
Or boots with zippers and all soft fur inside.
Or your very own workbench with real tools,
Not even a grown-up bike
that you can ride everywhere!
No thing can stop the longing for a dog because . . .
A thing, no matter how special, is still a thing.
A dog is something else.

Once it starts--the longing for a dog--there is no real cure for it.
Not learning to play the trumpet.
Or being vice president of the Tree Climbers Club.
Not going to a monster movie with your best friend
and sharing popcorn, the butter kind,
Not even a whole day at Howe's pond
can stop the longing for a dog.

You know, for absolutely sure,
exactly how it would be--
if only you had a dog.
Waking up with a cold, wet nose,
pressing against your face,
Coming home from school to your dog
wagging his tail, kissing your nose, and saying
"I LOVE YOU!" in dog language,
Going out in piles of deep snow, white snow
with your dog leaping and bounding
and celebrating all that whiteness!
Going to sleep with your dog tucked
right in your bed and dreaming
happy things every night.

But all that knowing is not having,
and nothing can stop
the longing for a dog--
but a DOG!

The Three Questions
by Jon Muth
based on a story by Leo Tolstoy

There once was a boy named Nikolai who sometimes felt uncertain about the right way to act. “I want to be a good person,” he told his friends. “But I don’t always know the best way to do that.”

Nikolai’s friends understood and they wanted to help him.

“If only I could find the answers to my three questions,” Nikolai continued, “then I would always know what to do.”

When is the best time to do things?

Who is the most important one?

What is the right thing to do?

[Too much story to transcribe, but it concludes as follows]

Nikolai felt great peace within himself. He had wonderful friends. And he had saved the panda and her child. But he also felt disappointed. He still had not found the answers to his three questions. So he asked Leo one more time.

The old turtle looked at the boy.

“But your questions have been answered!” he said.

“They have?” asked the boy.

“Yesterday, if you had not stayed to help me dig my garden, you wouldn’t have heard the panda’s cries for help in the storm. Therefore, the most important time was the time you spent digging the garden. The most important one at that moment was me, and the most important thing to do was to help me with my garden.

“Later, when you found the injured panda, the most important time was the time you spent mending her leg and saving her child. The most important ones were the panda and her baby. And the most important thing to do was to take care of them and make them safe.

“Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in the world.

“This is why we are here.”

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