Sunday, October 11, 2009

on the value of showing up

Last night my wife and I went for a walk in town and as always we had a few things to pick up and drop off at the library on the way home. Jean is digging through 100 years of records so that the history of our library can be written in celebration of its centennial year. Thirty percent of those years were her own, notes and records gathered from her own watch, written or typed in her hand and reflecting some of her own thoughts and aspirations.

There are those who shake up history in dramatic action and those who shape culture through their day to day relentless vision and effort. On the internet today, human consciousness is reduced to utter brevity. Today's news is yesterday's recycled electrons and what comes up on your screen in this moment is but a click away from oblivion. It is interesting to visit the library today. Years ago, while it was just a building with dusty books, it was a quiet place. But under Jean's 30 year watch, our Carnegie Library has blossomed. And while she would be the first to credit others, her effects are profound.

We have been relentlessly driven by the media toward short range thinking and short range goals, and I have been told that kids attention spans have been severely shrunk. Actually scientists have measured over the years and the evidence is clear. And so, I want to celebrate what has been called the "Cal Ripkin Effect", named after the baseball player who played years without missing a game. It is the value of showing up and it is actually the major player in the construction of human culture.

And so, I show up here each day to write, and some faithful readers show up each day to share my journey... but what are my goals? One is plastered on the banner at top... to put hands-on learning within reach of every child. But I have a broader goal as well that stems from the belief that I share with Anaxagoras, that the hands are the source of all human wisdom. It will be though our hands-on engagement that our culture will become more humane, compassionate, responsible. Cook, clean, make, plant, harvest, create, nurture, care, respond, teach, love. Pick something worthy. Show up. Relentlessly. In 30 years you will have left an important mark and you (and others) will be very glad you did.


  1. did an exercise recently in naming verbs to encapsulate what you tried to achieve each day (I refuse to call it a 'mission statement'!)

    yours is eerily close to mine, which reads,

    'serve,nurture,listen,water,plant, cook, wash,rejoice.'

    Must add 'show up'!

  2. Anonymous2:20 PM

    Thanks for helping me find my way. Stopping here is a daily meditation. It has also inspired me to take on the teaching of children. I work with the cub scouts and other youths who come into my store and want to learn to carve or turn on a lathe even build bird houses. . Heck they come in and buy viener to laminate and make small skateboards out of. I have the most fun with kids. It's adults who are the problem. When parents see me ralating to the kids they are often perplexed by the way I talk and instruct them. The line that gets them the most is, "when your hands work your brain works so much better, then grabbing my butt i say, "when this works the brain doesn't work so good. Happiness and freedom are helped along when you can do things for yourself. In touch
    Scrap Wood

  3. along with the showing up is the "being present" but I think you really covered that in your list when you mentioned serve, nurture, listen and rejoice.