“…I don’t believe
only to the edge
of what my eyes actually see
in the kindness of the morning,
And my life,
which is my body surely,
is also something more—
– Mary Oliver, from The Pinewoods
Reading this, I thought of the familiar analogy of a stone dropped in a still pond and the ripples it creates. We aren’t our bodies but a sum of the actions and interactions we have with it over our time in it. The more we learn, the more we offer to the world, the bigger our ripple. I think of people in my own life who offer a pretty large ripple, and I hope I’m doing the same. Mary Oliver offered an example of a tsunami with her work, and this excerpt from The Pinewoods demonstrates her keen awareness of her own something more.
I think of living a larger life as well. Something more involves more, and more meaningful, contribution over time. Acquired skills and knowledge enable a greater contribution. Something more also means showing up and doing work that matters. It’s the unseen, uncredited things you do for your family, friends or complete strangers that make a small or sometimes significant difference. And it’s sacrificing the immediate gratification for the long term vision in daily actions. What is your contribution? What are you offering the world in this moment? And how can you improve today? I ask myself these questions every day, and sometimes I have the answer readily at hand. Other days it’s more evasive. But I do believe being present is a large part of the answer.
My life, which is my body surely, is also something more – isn’t yours? I’m watching people I care about age in different ways. The body aging is a natural, if not always welcome, condition of being alive longer. Something more when your older seems to be either left in your legacy of previous contributions or in your ongoing contribution. As long as the mind is sharp, there’s no reason for contribution to stop. If Stephen Hawking can leave such an incredible wave across the pond for centuries after learning he had a slow moving form of Lou Gehrig’s disease, then why shouldn’t someone who has full speech and much better, if slower than it once was, mobility not contribute as well? I’m not elderly yet, but I’ll be damned if I just sit in the corner watching Wheel of Fortune when I get there. I’ll be moving at a modified version of full speed as long as the mind and body allow, and if the body doesn’t allow, then my writing might accelerate even more.
Don’t believe only to the edge of what your eyes actually see.