Meditation for Sunday of Week 50 in the season of Harvest and Celebration

Finding and Occupying Your Niche

  • . . . each of us can work to change a small portion of events. . . It is from numberless diverse acts of courage . . . that the belief that human history is thus shaped.  Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. [Robert F. Kennedy, “Ripple of Hope” address, June 6, 1966.]

No one can do everything but each of us can do something. We may not be able to save the world single-handed but we can make a difference. Our most sacred purpose is to find the place where we fit best, and then contribute in the way that is best suited to each of us, taking into account the needs of the whole.

In a theatre troupe, some people will be well-suited as actors, others as costume designers, others as light technicians or set designers. The troupe’s best light technician may be perfectly suited to certain roles on stage. Can we imagine “The Wizard of Oz” without the incomparable Bert Lahr?

If everyone was a master chef, we might enjoy delicious food but on the other hand, who would grow it, harvest it and market it? In a world still beset by the modern version of tribalism, and taking all misgivings into account, we need soldiers “on that wall.” Perhaps no one contributes more to society than the mothers and fathers all over the world who devote their time and attention to rearing competent, respectful and responsible children. We owe thanks to the research scientist, the honest political leader, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.

The saying that “there are no small parts, only small actors,” refers to the importance in each of us playing our part in our communities. This is the concept of finding our niche.


Technical and Analytical Readings

Dan Buettner, Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way (National Geographic, 2010).

Documentary and Educational Films

  • Clint Eastwood produced a documentary about Thelonious Monk called Straight, No Chaser, after one of Monk's greatest compositions.


Film and Stage

Music: Composers, artists, and major works

Every great artist – every “great” person in any field – has found his niche, but Thelonious Monk stands out in that way. We are all unique but Monk occupies a remarkably unique place in jazz, especially his striking of adjacent keys on the piano – it sounds like a beginner’s mistake, until you realize that this is part of what makes him the great Thelonious Monk.

Of Monk, John Coltrane observed that he "talks about music all the time, and he wants so much for you to understand that if, by chance, you ask him something, he'll spend hours if necessary to explain it to you." Idiosyncratic personally and professionally, and a founder of bebop, Monk is recognized among the top handful of jazz giants. Shortly after Monk's death, his family founded the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (now the Herbie Hancodk Institute of Jazz), devoted to the education of young jazz musicians.

Music composed and/or performed by Thelonius Monk:

Another example of someone who found and occupied his niche with great distinction, Michel Plasson conducted French music perhaps better than anyone else.


  • Tower, Strike Zones (because percussion instruments strike things)


Visual Arts


To this generation I would say:
Memorize some bit of verse of truth or beauty.
It may serve a turn in your life.
My husband had nothing to do
With the fall of the bank -- he was only cashier.
The wreck was due to the president, Thomas Rhodes,
And his vain, unscrupulous son.
Yet my husband was sent to prison,
And I was left with the children,
To feed and clothe and school them.
And I did it, and sent them forth
Into the world all clean and strong,
And all through the wisdom of Pope, the poet:
"Act well your part, there all the honor lies."

[Edgar Lee Masters, “ George Reece”]

Other poems:

This Is Our Story

A religion of values and Ethics, driven by love and compassion, informed by science and reason.


First ingredient: Distinctions. What is the core and essence of being human? What is contentment, or kindliness, or Love? What is gentleness, or service, or enthusiasm, or courage? If you follow the links, you see at a glance what these concepts mean.


This site would be incomplete without an analytical framework. After you have digested a few of the examples, feel free to explore the ideas behind the model. I would be remiss if I did not give credit to my inspiration for this work: the Human Faith Project of Calvin Chatlos, M.D. His demonstration of a model for Human Faith began my exploration of this subject matter.


A baby first begins to learn about the world by experiencing it. A room may be warm or cool. The baby learns that distinction. As a toddler, the child may strike her head with a rag doll, and see that it is soft; then strike her head with a wooden block, and see that it is hard. Love is a distinction: she loves me, or she doesn’t love me. This is true of every human value:

justice, humility, wisdom, courage . . . every single one of them.

This site is dedicated to exploring those distinctions. It is based on a model of values that you can read about on the “About” page. However, the best way to learn about what is in here is the same as the baby’s way of learning about the world: open the pages, and see what happens.

ants organic action machines

Octavio Ocampo, Forever Always

Jacek Yerka, House over the Waterfall

Norman Rockwell, Carefree Days Ahead


When you open, you will see a human value identified at the top of the page. The value changes daily. These values are designed to follow the seasons of the year.

You will also see an overview of the value, or subject for the day, and then two columns of materials.

The left-side column presents true narratives, which include biographies, memoirs, histories, documentary films and the like; and also technical and analytical writings.

The right-side columns presents the work of the human imagination: fictional novels and stories, music, visual art, poetry and fictional film.

Each entry is presented to help identify the value. Open some of the links and experience our human story, again. It belongs to us all, and each of us is a part of it.

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