Meditation for Tuesday of Week 24 in the season of Ripening

Honoring Uniqueness

You may think that someone does not have anything to offer. If you look closely, you will see that virtually everyone does. The simplest person can make a contribution though an observation or a quality that no one else knows or thinks to express. For example, sometimes the person whose honesty has not been suppressed is the one who will remind that community of a shared value. The act or comment is not always valuable or welcome but sometimes it is.

Human societies thrive on diversity. That is why each person’s unique contribution is important.

Real

True Narratives

I cannot describe hands under any class or type; there is no democracy of hands. Some hands tell me that they do everything with the maximum of bustle and noise. Other hands are fidgety and unadvised, with nervous, fussy fingers which indicate a nature sensitive to the little pricks of daily life. Sometimes I recognize with foreboding the kindly but stupid hand of one who tells with many words news that is no news. I have met a bishop with a jocose hand, a humourist with a hand of leaden gravity, a man of pretentious valour with a timorous hand, and a quiet, apologetic man with a fist of iron. When I was a little girl I was taken to see a woman who was blind and paralysed. I shall never forget how she held out her small, trembling hand and pressed sympathy into mine. My eyes fill with tears as I think of her. The weariness, pain, darkness, and sweet patience were all to be felt in her thin, wasted, groping, loving hand. [Helen Keller, The World I Live In (1907), chapter II, “The Hands of Others.”]

Imaginary

Music: Composers, artists, and major works

Berio, Sequenzas: A series of fourteen musical monologues, each for a solo instrument. Similar to each other in style and theme, these distinctly twentieth-century musical vignettes (you won’t be humming any tunes) demonstrate the unique voice and character of each featured instrument.

Other compositions:

Every artist is unique, as is every person. Many people can identify their favorite popular singer in a few notes, and classical aficionados can identify performers who sound alike to most people. Billie Holliday’s voice was not merely unique; it was distinctive. Her early performances illustrate the idea of honoring uniqueness. Here is the complete Billie Holliday on Columbia, 1933-1944.

Music: songs and other short pieces

Poetry

It was the twilight of the iguana:
From a rainbowing battlement, / a tongue like a javelin / lunging in verdure; / an ant heap treading the jungle, / monastic, on musical feet; / the guanaco, oxygen-fine / in the high places swarthed with distances, / cobbling his feet into gold; / the llama of scrupulous eye / the widens his gaze on the dews / of a delicate world.
A monkey is weaving / a thread of insatiable lusts / on the margins of morning: / he topples a pollen-fall, / startles the violet-flght / of the butterfly, wings on the Muzo.
It was the night of the alligator: / snouts moving out of the slime, / in original darkness, the pullulations, / a clatter of armour, opaque / in the sleep of the bog, / turning back to the chalk of the sources.
The jaguar touches the leaves / with his phosphorous absence, / the puma speeds to his covert / in the blaze of his hungers, / his eyeballs, a jungle of alcohol, / burn in his head.

[Pablo Neruda, “Some Beasts”]

I marvel how Nature could ever find space
For so many strange contrasts in one human face:
There's thought and no thought, and there's paleness and bloom
And bustle and sluggishness, pleasure and gloom.

There's weakness, and strength both redundant and vain;
Such strength as, if ever affliction and pain
Could pierce through a temper that's soft to disease,
Would be rational peace--a philosopher's ease.

There's indifference, alike when he fails or succeeds,
And attention full ten times as much as there needs;
Pride where there's no envy, there's so much of joy;
And mildness, and spirit both forward and coy.

There's freedom, and sometimes a diffident stare
Of shame scarcely seeming to know that she's there,
There's virtue, the title it surely may claim,
Yet wants heaven knows what to be worthy the name.

This picture from nature may seem to depart,
Yet the Man would at once run away with your heart;
And I for five centuries right gladly would be
Such an odd such a kind happy creature as he.

[William Wordsworth, “A Character”]

Fictional Narratives

Sister Simplice was white, with a waxen pallor. Beside Sister Perpétue, she was the taper beside the candle. Vincent de Paul has divinely traced the features of the Sister of Charity in these admirable words, in which he mingles as much freedom as servitude: "They shall have for their convent only the house of the sick; for cell only a hired room; for chapel only their parish church; for cloister only the streets of the town and the wards of the hospitals; for enclosure only obedience; for gratings only the fear of God; for veil only modesty." This ideal was realized in the living person of Sister Simplice: she had never been young, and it seemed as though she would never grow old. No one could have told Sister Simplice's age. She was a person--we dare not say a woman--who was gentle, austere, well-bred, cold, and who had never lied. She was so gentle that she appeared fragile; but she was more solid than granite. She touched the unhappy with fingers that were charmingly pure and fine. There was, so to speak, silence in her speech; she said just what was necessary, and she possessed a tone of voice which would have equally edified a confessional or enchanted a drawing-room. This delicacy accommodated itself to the serge gown, finding in this harsh contact a continual reminder of heaven and of God. Let us emphasize one detail. Never to have lied, never to have said, for any interest whatever, even in indifference, any single thing which was not the truth, the sacred truth, was Sister Simplice's distinctive trait; it was the accent of her virtue. She was almost renowned in the congregation for this imperturbable veracity. The Abbé Sicard speaks of Sister Simplice in a letter to the deaf-mute Massieu. However pure and sincere we may be, we all bear upon our candor the crack of the little, innocent lie. She did not. Little lie, innocent lie--does such a thing exist? To lie is the absolute form of evil. To lie a little is not possible: he who lies, lies the whole lie. To lie is the very face of the demon. Satan has two names; he is called Satan and Lying. That is what she thought; and as she thought, so she did. The result was the whiteness which we have mentioned--a whiteness which covered even her lips and her eyes with radiance. Her smile was white, her glance was white. There was not a single spider's web, not a grain of dust, on the glass window of that conscience. On entering the order of Saint Vincent de Paul, she had taken the name of Simplice by special choice. Simplice of Sicily, as we know, is the saint who preferred to allow both her breasts to be torn off rather than to say that she had been born at Segesta when she had been born at Syracuse--a lie which would have saved her. This patron saint suited this soul. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume I – Fantine; Book Seventh – The Champnathieu Affair, Chapter I, Sister Semplice.]

This Is Our Story

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

PART ONE: OUR STORY

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.

PART TWO: ANALYSIS

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 RELIGION OF VALUES

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

WHAT YOU WILL SEE HERE

When you open www.thisisourstory.net, 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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