Quiet Is as Quiet Does

The title for this newsletter was inspired by that famous line from Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as Stupid does.”  I think that says it all, but I’ll go on.

I started writing this newsletter sitting quietly in the morning cool ocean breezes of our time-share on Hilton Head overlooking the ocean.  I was gazing at the surf and thinking about a dog that I saw the day before just sitting there in the surf.  I wondered if he experienced, with his God-given senses, what I experienced walking in that same surf or gazing into the distant sea. I suspect so.

I must say I do like just sitting around.  When we are on a beach vacation I do more of that than walking and biking on the beach, which I also enjoy.  I must have a basic “sitting gene” which allows me to sit for hours.

Now many of you know that my profession involves hours of daily sitting and listening, conversing, observing, and reflecting on how to relate. Having said all this, I had an arthritic foot problem requiring day surgery last week. When I return to the office this coming week I’ll be sitting like I always do, but with my foot elevated doing what seems to come naturally to me.

One of my other “quiet” pastimes since I’ve had my foot elevated is to sit and read all sorts of “must read someday” articles and magazines.  They seem to cling to me over time since, I must confess, I don’t have the “get rid of it” gene.  Amazingly, I’m not bored and have thoroughly enjoyed my reading, solitude and sitting time.  I’m not really any different now in this regard than when I was a child who would periodically get some winter sickness and have to stay home from school.   Then I just read my Grolier’s Book of Knowledge, which introduced me to a world way beyond the Chicago neighborhood I grew up in.  The quiet sitting, lying around gene was present very early and probably was one important ingredient for my professional choice.   Have you ever wondered about continuities in your own life?  This knowing centers me.

As my Mommy always said when learning something surprisingly new, “Who knew!”  I wasn’t looking forward to having a bum foot that would have to be elevated for days after my operation, but it gave me opportunities to just sit around, read eclectically in a manner I rarely have time for, and experience the full caring of family and friends.  Opportunities to learn something new that we can appreciate about ourselves and those we love can be rare indeed.  So while I’ll soon sadly end my sitting around for days on end I do look forward to activating my  “busy beaver” gene.  It’s strange how opposites combine.

I sit finishing the writing of this newsletter back in Illinois on my living room couch, overlooking our neighborhood park and the river that runs through it. Instead of observing the dog in the surf I observe the people walking, biking down our street or simply looking at the tree leaves in the breeze. Sitting, gazing, and observing the passing scene or my own internal experience is spiritual for me.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

In my 20’s I read a book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” by James Agee. It was about workers and farmers whose lives were forever changed by the Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. I’ve never forgotten that title and when dad, Barney Isenberg, died I regarded him as a “famous” man.

Barney Isenberg would not have wanted anyone to make too much of a fuss about him, even in death. He needed no memorials nor did he leave material possessions to remember him by. He often referred to himself as just an “average Joe” who left no big footprints in the sands of time. He required little for himself and lived a simple life. He never even had a credit card. Somehow, though, this simple guy had a huge positive impact on our lives. He asked little for himself and rarely complained. Others enjoyed his simplicity, loving kindness, humility, lack of a deceiving nature, and quiet sense of humor and smile. His core was a goodness that never asked of people what they wouldn’t give willingly themselves.

Shortly before my Dad died, Raye and I took a workshop called “Everyday Holiness” dealing with those character traits that make for simple holiness. I realized that much of what I was seeking in soul growth had already been in my life, in this “average Joe” who liked a cigar and worked in a factory. My father couldn’t have guessed that he was holy. He had no way of teaching me with words because words eluded him. He just lived his life as best he could, was a kind, gentle man and I, late in life, found holiness in him just as there was in my grandpa before him. If my father could read these words he would say I was talking crazy again, but I know he would love me for my love of him. He had a lot of gratitude for what people gave him. That, my friends, is holiness.