"Now, before we get too excited, I want to pause for a moment and ask you to consider all the negative conclusions that I could have drawn about this incident, had I been in the mood to ruin my life."
We all might want to read that again. That wonderful sentence is from Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic." It made me instantly want to write to you, and myself. It made me want to explore this further. What is this thing we do to ourselves all too frequently?
What story have you told yourself in your head lately about events that have happened to you? How quickly do you think the worst and make yourself miserable? How fast do you project a poor outcome into the future? How much does your own negativity and the stories you tell yourself in your head spoil the good things you have going on?
At first look, it is not our fault. We are hard wired in our actual brains to be very aware of the bad things that might happen or could happen or possibly will happen. We look for the most negative. We look to see the disaster before it comes, and we prepare ourselves for the worst possible outcome. It is as if thinking the worst ahead of time- keeping our guard up and our fists clenched- will keep us safe. We are wired that way because in more primitive times we needed to be on alert to survive. We needed to constantly be on our guard so that we would not get jumped on from behind by an animal with huge claws. We needed to mistrust other tribes, anyone different from us. We needed to sleep lightly and close to the campfire and wake up on high alert at the smallest sound, hearts pounding, ready to fight or run.
None of us live that dangerously now.
And yet the caution persists. We are often so frazzled we do not take the time to think about it. We have not been taught to question it. We are so busy doing it about tiny little things and also the big giant huge scary things that we do not have the time to even start the wondering about it.
There are many lovely reasons to take the time to start the wondering.
I am asking you to question how you think.
I am asking you to wonder what questioning your thoughts might look like.
Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, was waiting in a long line at the Post Office. Stamps had changed and so everyone needed penny stamps for accurate postage. I can imagine the dialogue each mind was having, they did not have time for this, why do stamp rates go up, why is the Post Office so.... you get it.
When it was Seligman's turn, he bought dollars worth of stamps. Then he stood in the post office and called out, "Who needs penny stamps?" Within a few minutes a grumpy line became a festive circle of happy people being gifted the stamps they needed.
So simple, but so magic.
Can you shift your thoughts about something today?
Take a day to be thoughtful. The rest of your life is here.
I know something we can all agree on. We could be doing better as a country. We could be doing better. Does our better come from fear, walls, limiting our tolerance, and buying more killing equipment? Freedom for us but not for others who love differently, worship differently? Who are we, here?
Who are we, here.
I found some old greatness in America that inspired me.
Who doesn’t love the forefathers? All of us, right? We argue about so much and at the same time we all claim the forefathers. The forefathers gave us The Constitution; but they also gave us a gift we see so often we have ceased to see it. Gather your children around. Get ready to talk about this over dinner or at the water cooler. Pull your wallet out. I bet you a dollar you will feel even better about those men when you remember this.
We have a symbol of America’s greatness right at hand maybe every day of the year. It grounds us to who we might be as citizens and reminds us of what our country’s visionaries wanted us to be. We hand it over in exchange for a Starbucks coffee and a Dunkin Donut… you know, American things.
Our One Dollar Bill features the front and back of the Great Seal of the United States. Patriots we still honor today, including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, were in on designing and approving of this seal, along with other brilliant talents of the time. Congress adopted it in 1782, six years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Their design embodies guiding principles that were chosen to represent the people of the United States of America. This was a living, breathing, newborn America choosing symbols to guide the new country in to the future.
According to Joseph Campbell in “The Power of Myth," an interview with Bill Moyers, the United States was a model for how the whole world could be.
"Here we had 13 different little colony nations that decided to act in a way that mutually benefitted the interests of all, without disregarding the individual interests of any one of them," Campbell said. Hopefully you have rushed to pull a dollar bill out of your piggy bank. On the back are both sides of the Great Seal. Start to notice everything that is here. Look at the left, the pyramid. How many layers do you see in the pyramid? Thirteen layers, representing the thirteen colonies, which together make up one pyramid for one nation.
Think about this pyramid as a symbol for our birth, labeled with 1776 on the bottom. A pyramid has four sides. I love how Campbell explores the idea of this pyramid; the four sides are the four directions; North, South, East, and West. These are the four points of the compass. There is someone at each point. “When you are down on the lower levels of this pyramid, you will be either on one side or the other. But when you get up to the top, the points all come together, and there the eye of God opens.” Look at that amazing eye at the top, representing reason. The forefathers were not talking of a particular God, but rather a God of Reason, accessible to all. They believed that all men were competent to know the mind of God; that there was no revelation specific to any people.
(If you are not a God believer, do not feel you are lost to the magic of the seal. Maybe see if you can find your own magic, for Campbell claims that in the basic theme of all mythology throughout the history of man “there is an invisible plane supporting the visible one.” Be open to finding your invisible plane.)
At the top of the pyramid there are no sides, there is the eye, the vision, the ability to see in all directions at once. The eye is surrounded by what they called in art, “glory,” which were beams of light radiating in all directions, also known as “divine lustre.” Glory itself is a beautiful word, defined as resplendent beauty or magnificence; a state of absolute happiness, gratification or contentment; or very great praise, honor or distinction bestowed by common consent. The beams of glory are on our seal.
The words Annuit Coeptis can be translated as “favor our undertakings” or “(he) smiles upon our endeavors” and in truth George Washington himself spoke about the many times he felt that providence had intervened to help them achieve independence from Britain.
On the other side of The Great Seal of the United States: an Eagle. The bald eagle, wings out, known for its six to seven foot wingspan; bald coming from the old English word “balde” meaning white headed. This magnificent bird who can see another eagle in flight 50 miles away, the bird who is estimated to dive at 75 mph, the bird that can literally swim with its wings, the bird that mates for life and raises its young in a huge sturdy nest it repairs each year, raises them to be independent and fly away when self sufficient, the bird who can soar effortlessly at 100,000 feet. We are given the gift of this bird on our seal. In one talon it carries arrows. In the other talon is an olive branch representing peaceful conversation. How many arrows are there? How many olive leaves are on the branch? In heraldry, or the making of coats of arms, the most important idea was placed on the right side as you hold your shield; your own right side. Look at the eagles right side, what is in the talon on its right? Which “side” is the eagle looking toward? The choice of item to put on the right, and the eagle looking toward that side is meant to be intentionally directive.
Around its neck is the banner, E PLURIBUS UNUM; out of many, one.
Out of many, one. A model for today.
This seal represents us even now. The “Eagle” side is used to ratify peace, cooperation and trade agreements we make with other nations.
I ponder these details as I prepare to vote next month. Who are the visionaries, who can see in all directions and unite all our peoples? Who speaks of unification? Education? Health protections? Who has Earth wisdom- for this is where we live- air, water, soil quality, temperature, and the study of these vast storms. I am going to take responsibility for improving the planet, not burdening it. Imagine the burden on our children if we do not take care.
I take care of my house because this is where I live and my house stands on a planet that I care for because this is where I live. You?
for spacious skies
for amber waves of grain
for purple mountain majesties
above the fruited plain
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good
from sea to shining sea
I continue to contemplate how I can be the best I can be in this great land of ours.
I am voting for brotherhood, it comes to me. Sisterhood. Motherhood. Parenthood. Selfhood. Childhood. I want opportunity for all to reign from sea to shining sea. For it represents us all, this Great Seal of the United States. Let us stand tall, together. E Pluribus Unum.
We are really, all of us, as loving and good and honest and true as we always were. Let’s vote for that.