New Year’s Eve 2012: Full of Promise

31 12 2012

NYE 2012Here we stand, poised on the eve of the New Year.  A toast:

We have successfully navigated 2012, a year of challenges and triumphs.  We did more than simply hold on.  No, we moved forward and prevailed.  Gains and some losses.  Joys and sorrows.  But we are here and going into 2013, excited, eager, and brimming with faith and hope.  Fiscal Cliff does not deter us.  Our hope is not in Washington, D.C. and its power brokers.

This is your year:

To grow emotionally, mentally, vocationally, socially, financially, and spiritually.

To work for and acquire greater health and fitness.

To have many new, superior experiences.

To travel places internally and externally to which you’ve never been.

To experience life with no fear and anxiety.

To draw closer to Him who made you.

Have a blast.  Enjoy your friends and loved ones.  Celebrate responsibly.  Take a cab or a designated driver if you need.

Here’s to 2013.  “The best is yet to come.”  Enjoy and grow!

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Perspective: The View From Reality

29 12 2012

PerspectiveA dear friend of ours is laying to rest her husband of ten years today.  A woman without her man and two children without their daddy.  Today, I got a very expensive fuel bill to heat the house I own.

Twenty families in and around Newtown, CT, endured the holidays without their little sons and daughters, victims of a senseless act of murder and mayhem.  Other families as well are missing their teachers, who perished with them.  You are having your flight delayed or cancelled due to poor weather, leaving you stuck for a little while in a heated airport terminal.

A young Indian woman died last night from injuries she sustained in a brutal gang rape.  You are unable to go out and return Christmas gifts today for something better because you are snowed in and the roads are unsafe.

Perspective.  It’s all how you view things.

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The Spell of the Yukon

27 12 2012

Spell of the YukonThere is snow on all the trees in my hamlet this evening.  The ground is insulated with over a foot of new, white powder.  Winter has finally arrived.  There is something about the cold that is at once frightening and peaceful. There are few things that invigorate the soul like walking at night with the chill, Arctic air in your face.  You move forward, face to the wind, keeping the pace.

This poem by Robert Service describes both the pursuit of gold that drew men into the cold to seek their fortunes, and the rugged Yukon.  Somehow the seeking and struggle ended up being more valuable to these sturdy men than the precious metal.  Stillness, chill, perspective, and peace.

The Law of the Yukon

I wanted the gold, and I sought it,
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy — I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it –
Came out with a fortune last fall, –
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.

No! There’s the land. (Have you seen it?)
It’s the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it’s a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it
For no land on earth — and I’m one.

You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it’s been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.

I’ve stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I’ve watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o’ the world piled on top.

The summer — no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness –
O God! how I’m stuck on it all.

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I’ve bade ‘em good-by — but I can’t.

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will.

They’re making my money diminish;
I’m sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I’m skinned to a finish
I’ll pike to the Yukon again.
I’ll fight — and you bet it’s no sham-fight;
It’s hell! — but I’ve been there before;
And it’s better than this by a damsite –
So me for the Yukon once more.

There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

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Perseverance and Determination

26 12 2012

Perseverance and DeterminationI have been a student of biblical languages since 1981.  That year I fell in love with Hebrew.  I loved the look of the letters themselves, the guttural timbre of the words when spoken, the direction of the text–right to left–and the picturesque nature of this Semitic tongue.  Hebrew is a graphic vehicle of communication, the language of shepherds and farmers.  I learned the alphabet quickly and have been reading over for thirty years now.

In the wake of the Diaspora, Hebrew had ceased to be a spoken language.  It was, in effect, a dead language, confined to rabbinic and biblical studies.  And it remained that way until the 19th century.

And then Eliezer Ben-Yehuda stepped onto the scene.

Ben-Yehuda was a Lithuanian Jew, passionate for the return of Jews to their ancient homeland in Palestine.  He was also a language scholar and knew that a common language—other than Yiddish, a mishmash of Middle German and Hebrew—would unify his people.  In short, he was a fanatic.  A man with a mission.

So he set out to resurrect an essentially dead language.  He did this in an extreme way.  When he and his wife immigrated to Palestine, he determined that once they set foot on the Holy Land, they would only communicate in Hebrew.  A rigorous path indeed.

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was fiercely determined to revive Hebrew.  Modern Hebrew is based on biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew.  And this amazing man, working tirelessly, single-handedly brought spoken Hebrew back to life.  It is the national language of Israel.  And a miracle of linguistics.

I’m stunned by Ben-Yehuda’s example of perseverance and determination.  It shows me that the most remarkable things are possible if one has grit, laser-like focus and tenacity in pursuit of a very specific goal.

What “impossible” goals do you have before you?  How can you learn from the example of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda?

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