No Endings

Sitting here with the calico cat on my lap – watching her ears twitch, feeling the breath going in and out of her warm body. She is 16. I’ve had her since she was a four-week old feral kitty – hissing and scratching and scared. I’ve shared almost all her life with her – from the beginning to today. She trusts me now – trusts me enough to jump into my lap and curl up there, and let herself be petted.

Now that she’s older I sometimes find myself thinking about that moment when my calico cat will no longer be with me. I think about death.

This year a lot of people I’ve known and cared for have died. November was especially challenging – a former student, a man who became my friend after he and his wife read one of my books, and a friend of mine from my walks in Bellingham all passed on.  Last week a dear woman in her 90’s with a kind heart, a stalwart faith, and a twinkle in her eyes – a woman who had been a member of our church most of her life – passed on. It’s all gotten me to thinking about the nature of death – what it is and what it isn’t.

The thought came to me the other day that death isn’t really an “event” – that there really aren’t any seams or borders or divisions separating one part of life from another – but that it’s forever flowing in an endless stream.  It’s true that I can’t see the friends that have passed on, but I can tell you there are times when I feel their love. Death can’t end the love we have for one another.

It probably seems weird to connect the insights I’ve had about death to the Superbowl – but that’s where my pointy little noggin went when I contemplated the end of the Seahawks season this morning. If only the game could have gone on a little longer, I thought, the Seahawks might still have been able to pull it off. “But it’s done. Over. Ended. It is what it is. And the magnificent catch by Kearse, the receptions by Matthews, the runs that Lynch made, the colossal efforts of Russell Wilson and his teammates – none of that matters now because they lost.”  Those were my initial thoughts. But when I stopped thinking about the Superbowl as an “Event” – when I started thinking of the game as just a step in an endless progression – a step towards progress – a character-builder – another life-lesson – my feeling about it changed.

I would like to think that all the lessons we’re learning here – the lessons about honesty, compassion, integrity, friendship, courage, perseverance, honor, selflessness, generosity, love – are lessons we can build on and carry with us as we ride the current down the stream. It doesn’t make sense to me that all of that learning can abruptly come to an end at the close of a Superbowl, or a life.

My calico cat is with me in this moment – alive and breathing – and this moment is forever.

??????????

Karen’s calico cat

The continual contemplation of existence as material and corporeal – as beginning and ending, and with birth, decay, and dissolution as its component  stages – hides the true and spiritual Life, and causes our standard to trail in the dust.
– Mary Baker Eddy

 

 

Leadership After Defeat

The greatest glory lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.
– JK Rowling

Our beloved Seahawks lost last night and in the most heart-breaking way. I stood there, mouth open, looking in disbelief at my TV screen. “What the…? Did that really just happen?!”

As anyone knows who was watching the game last night, the Seahawks last offensive play was a doozy. Who the heck called THAT one, we all wondered.

Pete Carroll, the head coach, took responsibility for it. And then Russell Wilson, the Seahawks quarterback said HE was to blame. And… it’s kind of refreshing to see the blame game being played out in this way – with two people competing to TAKE the blame, rather than rushing to find someone else to pin it on. That is leadership, isn’t it?

Far too often in my experience the “guys at the top” – the politicians, managers, bigwigs, and Grand Poobahs – are the first ones to try to find someone else to blame when things head south. That whole “buck stops here” thing seems to rarely happen anymore. So it warmed the cockles of my heart when I read this on profootballtalk.nbcsports.com:

“Wilson credited Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler for making a good play and said the (sic) he didn’t question the play call while also pointing the finger at himself for the way things played out.

“’I put the blame on me — I’m the one who threw it,’ Wilson said. ‘It’s something you learn from, it’s something you grow from. I’m proud of our guys about the way that we got down the field there in that situation. We had so many great plays, and we’re right there. We’ll just keep learning and keep growing.’”

Maybe losing the Superbowl when they were so close to winning it is the best thing, in the long-term, that could have happened to the Seahawks as a team last night. I mean, it would have been awesome if they’d won – duh! But the big thing that the Seahawks have always had going for them is their collective character, as a team. They are family. And when family members go through hard times together – support each other, take responsibility for each, encourage and inspire each other – they come out even stronger in the end.

(And we all know that neither Pete Carroll nor Russell Wilson was to blame for that doozy of a call. But aren’t we proud of them for being willing to “take the rap”?)

Winning is great, sure. but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.
– Wilma Rudolph

“Why not us?”

“We try to take care of the whole person and love these guys up and figure out what they can possibly become and then help them get there… you gotta create a vision for that kid… and then you coach them …until they become it… we treat everybody with great respect in that regard… everybody elevates…  you don’t even have to worry about the game … we’re just trying to do the best we can do… ” – Pete Carroll, Seahawks coach

“I told them a story my dad used to tell me… He always used to tell me… ‘Russ, why not you? Why can’t you be a world champion or whatever else you want to be?…  I had a lot of critics tell me, ‘He’s too short…’  and I wasn’t going to believe it. I wasn’t going to allow that to stop me from doing what God put me on this earth for.”” – Russell Wilson, Seahawks quarterback

“We kind of came together and said that we would commit ourselves to each other and the greater good of our team. It was Seahawks 24/7. Leave no doubt. Those were the type of things we had going and said amongst our group. We kind of just focused. We just decided that we were going to be committed to this, give 100 percent and see what happens. It turned out great for us. To be here, we’ve seen the effort that it takes to get to this point…”- Malcolm Smith , Seahawk and Superbowl MVP

“Our receivers were called pedestrian and appetizers, but I think if anybody took a bite out of them, they’d be pretty full,” – Richard Sherman, Seahawk cornerback

“I’m just a pedestrian trying to walk my way to the Superbowl.” – Jermaine Kearse

***

I love the way the Seattle Seahawks approach the game of football. There are some life lessons to be gained from listening to them, and watching them do their jobs on the field. They play as a team – sharing their success as a team – no one trying to take all the credit for their achievements. They work together towards a common goal and give everything of themselves to reach that goal. They work for each other, and with each other.  I watch them together – a family of talented, committed young men being led and directed by their coach, Pete Carroll, who treats his players as he would probably treat his sons – with respect, and with fatherly guidance. When Richard Sherman – caught in a moment of high emotion after a particularly fine play he’d made during the game with San Francisco – made headlines for his passionate outburst, Carroll was quoted as saying, “We aren’t perfect, and we all make mistakes… Things don’t always come out exactly as we planned… I look at it like this: What would I tell my son? I’m a dad. I speak from that perspective. Maybe [the players] don’t always want to hear it that way, but it’s the best way I can communicate. That has already taken place, and we’ve already talked about it.”  http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/10323124/2013-nfl-playoffs-seattle-seahawks-coach-pete-carroll-talks-richard-sherman-comments

I’m really proud of my team. And not because they won the Superbowl, but because of the way they’re able to work together, and support each other, as a team.

“Competition: Latin competītiō=competī-, variant s. of competere to meet, come together…” – http://www.thefreedictionary.com/competition