The Beautiful Question | Unbounded

by Scott Lenox, via his blog, The Beautiful Question,

Just Now, In the Face of Madness
Nestled above the rainforest canopy, where neither the jaguar nor her prey will ever see them, orchids dance in the slightest breeze as they greet the sun, their faces resplendent in the morning’s first rays.
Gliding low above the river, soundless and unhurried, wings wide and still, its crimson beak afire, a black swan in priestly robes slips through the mist, rising, rising.
Holding fast to a stem that nods and nods and nods again above her nest, a meadowlark rides a wind-formed wave in the endless sea of prairie grass and lifts her voice to pierce the afternoon with song.
Beside the creek that runs along the southern edge of a sunlit pasture, the mare’s dappled colt, scarcely two-months old, leaps and pirouettes, then leaps again in the exuberance of an equine ballet.
Weaving his way between the protestors, their fisted rancor rising, an old man, head high and smiling, takes his daily walk to the mission to offer the homeless a meal and the gift of his peaceful, open heart.
– from Uncollected Poems, by Scott Lennox

As the new year begins, I am asking myself a few pointed questions about shedding the artificial restrictions that bind our authenticity.

“What happens to us (and perhaps to the world) when we think and behave in ways that are spontaneous and genuine, regardless of what is taking place around us?”

“What will happen when networks of people think and behave with that kind of authenticity?”

“Is it actually necessary for me to know what caused me to put away parts of my authenticity in order to return to it?”

“As I begin such change, what will I put into action first?”

See if you can envision this black and white photograph from our family album, taken almost seventy years ago. I am standing it the small front yard of our Quonset hut on a military base on the island of Guam. Shirtless and holding a garden hose with both hands, I am spraying water into the air and laughing in a state of pure and joyful abandon.

My behavior is unfiltered. I am following no imposed set of rules. I have no inhibitions, and am not yet bound by social constraints. I am harming no one. And I am completely happy and completely free.

Though I have no conscious memory of that day, my body and my deeper memory know the feeling. I keep the photograph on the wall of my office to remind me of who I really am beneath this seemingly grown up and culturally well-adapted professional exterior.

Considering the difference, I suppose it might be easy to contrast then and now, pointing out how much has happened to change me between that Guam afternoon when I was not yet three, and where I am today at seventy. I could argue that it’s natural to put off that childhood freedom because so much of what has happened in my life has been painful, traumatic, or difficult. “After all,” I could say, “every life is punctuated with hardship or struggle, with grief or loss, and mine has been no different.”

But following that logic makes it too easy to overlook the fact that underneath everything else, and forever built into me, I’m still that happy little kid, with all of the joy and wonder and curiosity and spontaneity that came with being born. Though I denied it for years, I’m now more than certain that the joyful and spontaneous self is always more than ready to express himself any time I am willing to step out of the way.

When I look back, I can see that when I’m writing or painting well, or when a conversation is particularly lively or engaging, or when I’m playing on the floor with my dog, Cowboy, or when I’m making music or cooking or sitting in meditation or watching the full moon rising, that is to say, when I am fully in the present, the unfettered part of me has much more room to breathe and move around.

My barometer for it is that each time I experience it, I feel better.

We can’t possibly know in what ways orchids or black swans, or meadowlarks, or leaping colts are aware of themselves, or if they can do anything other than to act spontaneously. But we can know that they continue to be naturally beautiful, even when there are things taking place in the world that are anything but beautiful. And how powerful a thing it is when we consciously choose to act from that spontaneous and genuine part of us.

I remember watching the older man I wrote about in my poem as he walked through the crowd that had gathered that morning at the bottom of the courthouse steps. The look on his face was arresting. Though he walked through the middle of a crowd of angry protestors, his countenance remained focused and unchanged, making his the only serene face there. Certainly, he was aware of what was taking place around him, but he seemed to refuse to needlessly throw away any of the peace that he carried. I have seen other men and women like him, streetwise people who have obviously struggled, yet who have found ways of living in full possession of who and what they are. I’ve also seen some of those same people volunteering or acting in the service of others, being genuinely kind and fully present wherever they are.

That there is strife or suffering in the world does not require the putting away of what is most beautiful and fine in us. In fact, it is in such challenging or difficult times that the need for what is gracious and beautiful and generative in us becomes even greater. While I don’t make so-called “resolutions,” this year, my guiding word will be “unbounded” in the sense of being genuine and sincere, and throwing off the artificial restrictions that have been holding me back.

If you’d like to join me, let’s revisit those four Beautiful Questions again:

“What happens to us (and perhaps to the world) when we choose to think and behave in ways that are spontaneous and genuine, regardless of what is taking place around us?”

“What will happen when networks of people think and behave with that kind of authenticity?”

“Is it really necessary for you to know what caused me to put away parts of your authenticity in order to return to it?”

“As you begin such change, what will you put into action first?”

 

About the Author

“My personal mission is to work collaboratively with others in ways that will help transform and heal the planet and all life on it.”

Scott Lennox is a writer and poet, painter, musician, counselor, consultant, and public speaker. His history of early childhood trauma, service as a combat medic in Vietnam, and surviving cancer led him to develop the program, Compassion In Action, through which, he has helped thousands of medical professionals and others to identify and put into motion what he calls “the measurable aspects of compassion.” His podcasts, The Beautiful Question, can be found on iTunes and SoundCloud.

 

The Beautiful Question  is a free weekly newsletter dedicated to inspiring others to ask deeper questions that lead to happier and more effective lives, and the developing of deep collaboration as we move forward on this amazing planet.

If there are questions that are particularly intriguing to you, I would like to hear about them. Feel free to write me at esslennox@gmail.com