Jack Borden's motto was "Look up."
Jack, a retired WBZ weatherman who died late last year, was founder of "For Spacious Skies," an educational organization that worked to inspire an appreciation of the magnificent, omnipresent yet often forgotten canopy above all of us.
I wrote several articles about Jack, whose enthusiasm for such a pivotal part of our world that so many of us take for granted, became someone I admired because his outlook and his commitment to getting people made so much sense to me.
Part of my meditation practice involves a call to "know the vastness of the sky" as a reminder that of the vastness within myself, so that I can bring that expansiveness to my heart when I'm feeling constricted. There's something about nature, about its openness, abundance and diversity that I find so restorative, especially at a time when we're constantly reminded of how insignificant we are in the grandeur of manmade constructs. Life for many of us has become a spectator sport, rarely one where we're encouraged to truly be creative participants.
The sky, and so much of nature, can inspire the kind of wonder that's essential for me. I gave up long ago trying to understand all of the twist-and-turn mechanics around me in favor of giving myself over to the magic of everyday spectacle. That's where I can begin to feel the grace and connections that guide me. And the wonder of the sky helps me remember to try to be more patient in my life, something I also mediate on trying to become better at.
A Julie Gold song that became popular -- maybe too popular -- in the mid-1980s, made a very profound idea seem so very clear:
"From a distance the world looks blue and green, and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream, and the eagle takes to flight.
From a distance, there is harmony,, and it echoes through the land.
It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace, it's the voice of every man.
From a distance we all have enough, and no one is in need.
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,, no hungry mouths to feed.
From a distance we are instruments, marching in a common band.
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace. They're the songs of every man."
But, lest I lose my focus here, this isn't about that particular song. And yet, losing focus is relevant, because there seems a gentle balance between staying focused on wonder itself, and being open to all that the sense of spaciousness moves in our hearts.
"We can never sneer at the stars, mock the dawn or scoff at the totality of being," wrote the great mystic theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel. "Away fro the immense, cloistered in our own concepts, we may scorn and revile everything. But Standing between earth and sky, we are silenced by the sight."
My own sense is that our societal malaise is a world that's been speeding up on us so that we're rarely left free to wonder anymore, kids aren't allowed to play anymore, before the onslaught of messaging for which we've been targeted in our 24/7, constant-contact, "gotta-check-my-messages" dystopia. But even if our (un-)thinking brain tells us otherwise, we really can get off that endless treadmill where we've been led to believe we need to make every minute count. Close eyes. Inhale slowly. Exhale slowly. Look skyward.
Opening to the immensities, which seems analogous to becoming more patient in a temporal sense, lets me see that what I think is a confrontation, a conflict, an anxiety-provoking pressure, an aversion ..... may not actually be so, if I'm seeing it from a distance, more holistically. Ahhhhh! Taking in the spaciousness certainly doesn't mean we need to take up more space. If anything, it may help to put us in our place, maybe knowing even better just what that place is. Maybe even feeling grander for it.
So the adage, "Remember to breathe" may serve as my reminder to stop and, quite literally, look up.
Intead of responding abruptly to my email or social-message post, or even my real-life seeming provocation .... and rather than checking my phone for this moment's latest update, it might be far better to breathe, close my eyes, turn off my technology and my nagging brain ... and breathe. And treat myself, diving into inner space and the grace that's already there ... waiting.