Leap day…and a leap of faith…and more.

Wouldn’t you know it!  Leap Day has its own Wikipedia entry. As does leap of faith…”the act of believing in or accepting something intangible or unprovable.”

Last night someone I know asked for leaping suggestions.

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Here are a few…they’re not my own. They come from others.

Since this is primary season, and we’re all reacting to last night’s news from the Arizona and Michigan Republican primaries, how about this advice from Otto von Bismarck?

“A statesman…must wait until he hears the steps of God sounding through events, then leap up and grasp the hem of His garment.”

Our statesmen this season have heard steps sounding through our current economic doldrums, our health care policies, our foreign policy and the conflicts of the Middle East. Judging from their rhetoric we can only surmise that God must have been walking on tiptoe through a succession of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters; the BP oil spill and other pollution episodes; and emerging shortfalls in worldwide supplies of food, water, and other vital resources.

But now…don’t you leave this to the statesmen today…this is not a spectator sport…ask yourself…what steps of God do you hear sounding through events? Hear them? If you don’t leap and grasp the hem of His garment…that opportunity is lost to all of humankind. Because it was only you who heard it. The rest of us? We heard something else.

Back to those political leaders. They’re free to choose their platforms…and those platforms usually reflect our concerns as a nation. But as we listen to them, we might do well to remember this admonition from Kevin Brady:

“There is a difficult leap between talking about balancing the budget and actually doing it.”

So maybe we should be asking ourselves…which of our leaders have made the leap?

Barbara Sher generalized this to :“Doing is a quantum leap from imagining.”

Let’s be honest. It’s not just the politicians…you and I are doing a lot more imagining than doing. What better day than today to turn that around? If you’re reading this early in the morning, pick an action you’ve been putting off, big or small. Resolve to do it! Today! [Imagine yourself completing that action, then giving yourself a pat on the back. Do that too – don’t just imagine that thrill of accomplishment – enjoy it fully when it comes around.]

Is yours a big dream? Do you have to surmount major hurdles, whether external, or in your own mind? Then step up from Barbara Sher’s advice to this bolder encouragement from Les Brown:

 “I advise you to say your dream is possible and then overcome all inconveniences, ignore all the hassles and take a running leap through the hoop, even if it is in flames.”  

But those individual leaps, however grand…are only the lowest level of life’s game. The bigger leaps, the ones that truly matter, especially for those of us living on the real world, are the ones we take together. Remember this quote?

“This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong.

He had it right, didn’t he? Think of the vision, the planning, the innovation, the teamwork, the determination, the cooperation for over a decade that made possible that last step onto the surface of the moon. We can recapture that spirit. We can address those food and water resource problems, by working together. We can protect the environment, and protect ourselves from the environment, by working together.

Jeremy Rifkin thinks we are up to the job:  “What I’m suggesting to you is that this could be a renaissance. We may be on the cusp of a future which could provide a tremendous leap forward for humanity. “

But forging a sustainable 21st century won’t be easy, and we’ll get only so far on logic and thought and planning. Eventually…in fact repeatedly…we’ll have to take risks.

Henry David Thoreau understood this:  “We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.”

And you and I most often think of Yo-Yo Ma as a gifted cello soloist, but he thinks in terms of the group: “Things can fall apart, or threaten to, for many reasons, and then there’s got to be a leap of faith. Ultimately, when you’re at the edge, you have to go forward or backward; if you go forward, you have to jump together.”

But before we can jump together, we have to realize that we’re all truly in it together. We shouldn’t blind ourselves to our differences, whether those differences are differences of language or color or gender or religious or political belief – or even differences in the way we view climate change and variability. But we should stop seeing those differences as making each other enemies. And…you guessed it…as Stanley Crouch observed,

“Getting to the point where the other is not the enemy is a big leap.”

So…all together now…leap!
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[with a tip of the hat to Brainy Quote.]

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6 Responses to Leap day…and a leap of faith…and more.

  1. Anteros says:

    A fascinating post.

    I agree that there is something important about taking a leap – of faith, into the unknown, and in the face of fear. But I think there are leaps that we need to take that are somewhat in a different direction from the ones you suggest.

    forging a sustainable 21st century won’t be easy

    This struck me because there seems to me to be a dissonance between the forging and the sustainability. I think much of the emotion behind the ubiquitous use of ‘sustainable’ in our current age is not the kind of emotion we use to make leaps. I think that if we understand nature and life and the way the Universe actually is, what we need courage to do is let go. I suspect that it is lack of courage that leads us to impose sustainability on our endeavours. Our most persistent fears are those concerning losing things, of things changing and passing away. We worry that ecosystems are “fragile” when in fact they are like water, or clouds which continuously change shape and barely have boundaries. They are never the same one day to the next, and it is surely our fear that makes us imagine them like bone china and our guilt and timidity that makes us worry about our footprints and our effect on the world.

    Surely the big leap is the letting go of our illusion that we’ll live forever if we can just join together to keep the world exactly like it was yesterday and the day before. We are not sustainable, neither are our works or our ideas – they will all pass away. But if we’re brave enough and take the leap of letting go of our illusions, we can exist more fully now

    Perhaps there’s only a subtle difference of emphasis, but I like the title of the book “Love is letting go of fear”. I think for most of us that fear is of change, and of ‘letting go’ itself – it is by accepting impermanence and change that allows us to be a genuine part of the ever-changing universe.

    I don’t think huddling together will make the fears go away, but if we let go of our fears, then there will be no need to huddle, or to act like a hive or a colony – we can meet and greet each other as fellow grown-ups living and letting live. Co-operation is a wonderful thing, but I think it only works well when there isn’t any coercion involved, which makes me somewhat sceptical of planet-wide ambitions. However, I applaud and support everybody’s endeavours to encourage co-operation in particular directions, but my personal endeavour would for myself and others to ‘let go’ of fear, to enable enjoyment of the ephemeral.

    • William Hooke says:

      Brilliant. Your insights deserve more visibility than they’ll get buried here. In hopes of increasing the readership, I’m going to try an experiment, and do a quick post linking more overtly to your comment…not sure how it’ll go…

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  4. I was tempted to leave a comment slanted in a similar manner, but abandoned it because it kept coming out too shrill. Am I ever glad I didn’t! A beautiful comment.

    But let me take up just one of the many threads in Anteros’ well-woven fabric. As implied, the desire for “sustainability” for far too many is essentially a negation – let’s avoid change, or at least not let change happen too quickly. The news this morning of tornadoes in IL and MO and … show us – yet again – how impossible that dream really is.

    So what if we set our goal in the opposite direction? Rather than avoiding change, we live our lives as if change is inevitable – our (me, my community, my nation) goal then becomes to develop the ability to cope, to adjust, to adapt. Since change is inevitable, this goal would demand that I must Hamlet-like understand what changes may come (“What dreams may come must give us pause”), and then be ready for them. That doesn’t mean I have to prevent them (even if I can), but it should mean that I have thought out how I will respond to those changes that will affect me (“The readiness is all.” – I’m feeling Shakespearean this AM.).

    Of course, this is resilience. In terms of the descriptions above, resilience is much more life-affirming, because it is consistent with the most basic fact of our existence: the inevitability of change.

  5. Anteros says:

    John Plodinec -

    Thanks for your kind words.
    I very much agree with you about resilience. Especially because of its connotations of courage and flexibility. Seeing as you’ve cornered Shakespeare, I’ll have to use the Taoist images of water – soft but indestructible. Not aggressive, but unbeatable…

    I suppose I would be slightly wary of the desire to know every coming change, or even the belief that we can know what we are about to face. I think of resilience as a kind of being prepared for change….whatever it may be.

    If we come back from our happy analogies :) I think resilience is what we have in our modern lives – if we are not too ashamed to say we are doing many things right. I tend not to see people in the world that are vulnerable to climate change per se but people who are simply vulnerable to climate. And of course, that vulnerability correlates almost perfectly with poverty. In my Goretex world I am waterproof, wind-proof, centrally heated, air-conditioned and whatever happens to the climate where I live, my local supermarket will be full to the brim with food – and I will have sufficient money to buy what I need. In a way, the developed world has become largely climate-invulnerable. Every year we even get better at predicting, tracking and preparing for hurricanes – more resilience as time goes by.

    If I have a fall and break a leg walking in the mountains of Wales, I can use my mobile phone to summon a helicopter – what is this but resilience! I think we forget just how far that resilience (in all its myriad forms) is from the lack-of-resilience endured by subsistence farmers in very many parts of the world. To me, the difference between the climate today and the likely climate of 50 years hence is nothing compared to the differences in resilience/vulnerability of people across the world today. And that difference we can change.

    I agree that it is in our nature to peer into the future -as best we can – but I think history tells us both that we’re not very good at it, and that we tend to use our imagination to conjure up the very worst that we can. We can look ahead – because we have time and security to do so – but I think it also important for us to look around. If we do, we’ll see things that are genuinely important.

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