This morning, when I raised the window shade in our bedroom, the daylight almost leaped into the room, something light seems to like to do. When I turn on a lamp in a dark room, the light instantly does away with the darkness, and headlights switched on can immediately transform a nighttime road with their brightness. I think, too, of the light a bright thought can instantly spread around my life. The sun can make my days shine, but what about the light of a single positive thought? What about the daylight a little confident thinking can quickly let into my life?
I often feel weighted-down by life, as if I’m carrying heavy piles of worries and duties and fears, as if life itself is a load that I have to lift up again each morning. Today, however, I hope I can feel, once again, the absolute buoyancy of life, as though my heart is an easygoing feather floating freely along in a universe that sincerely loves it. I’m sure I will, as usual, have problems to deal with and worries to work around, but my hope is that I can treat them like playful friends rather than cumbersome burdens. It probably seems strange than I can speak of problems as being playful, but when I approach them in an almost jovial way – as in “Hey, here’s a brand-new problem, another opportunity to see an amazing solution work itself out!” – the winds of patience and open-mindedness do eventually float the problems away. I guess ‘easygoing’ is another way I might describe this approach to life, not because life is always easy – far from it – but because walking with life and all of its problems in a relaxed and even-tempered way can often make the burdens slowly become almost like feathers.
Today, I hope I can let my life float free, the way it always wants to, and then I can just do my small but important part in the lighthearted – though sometimes strenuous – dance of all of life.
(Note: This is a paragraph I wrote back in 2012, at the beginning of my final year of a 45-year career teaching English to teenagers.)
One definition for “levity” mentions “lightness of manner or speech, especially when inappropriate”, which is definitely not the kind of levity I want to promote in my classroom. This is the levity of the playground and after-school shenanigans, when kids are being their light-hearted selves, but it will never have a place in my classroom. In my classes I expect the spoken words of the students to be heavy with meaning instead of light with nonsense. On the other hand, another definition used the words “inconstancy and changeableness”, which made me think more positively about levity as a classroom ambiance. Changeableness is vital in an English classroom, because nothing is more changeable or inconstant than our subject matter – language and literature. We English teachers deal mainly with thoughts and words, two of the most unsettled and unpredictable entities in the universe, and so it should be natural for an English teacher to foster in his students an appreciation of uncertainty and unpredictability. I like to have order in my classroom, but the students must realize that it’s a somewhat superficial order, hidden beneath which is the ever-varying world of ideas and words. Finally, a third definition for levity describes “the state or quality of being light or buoyant”, a description I love because it refers to a quality that is indispensable in my classroom. My students and I both need to work on taking life more lightly than seriously. In the really big picture, putting commas in the right place is not terribly important. When people are dying by the millions from starvation, it’s not all that serious that one of my lesson plans flops. The kids and I need to be buoyant enough to rise above our little academic dramas and realize that the universe is way, way bigger than Room 2. A little of that kind of levity in my classroom wouldn’t hurt at all.
Look carefully at the word 'levity',
and you'll see little wings
that lift the word up when you say it.
You can let this thoughtful word
live inside you some days,
and the days will dance with you
and dare you to be
just who you are.
Jump up and down with joy,
and the word 'levity'
will walk along the distant hills,
calling you to come.
'Looseness' is this word's nickname,
and all who say it
can sing songs no one's ever heard.
Let this limber word lift you,
and new ways to live
will light up in the distance.
Below, two scenes of early spring from our walk yesterday at the Coogan Denison Preserve …
This morning I’m thinking of the wise men of the Christmas story, who saw a special star in the sky and decided to study it and follow its movements, which led to an astonishing discovery for them in a barn in the small town of Bethlehem. In a sense, I see stars every day, all day long. These stars are the thoughts that endlessly rise and shine inside me, and then set and disappear. I’m like a traveler in a vast universe of thoughts that shimmer marvelously as they come and go in the boundless sky of life. What’s truly astounding is that I don’t have to do any ‘work’ in order to enjoy these star-like thoughts. All I have to do is carefully observe the thought-filled sky inside me, and choose and follow the brightest and the best thoughts, and let the others – the less reliable ones springing from fears and worries and self-centeredness – slip away into the darkness. Like the wise men of the Christmas story, I must trust, each moment, something besides my own small and separate mind. I must get the wider, higher view, see the limitless vastness of existence itself , and then simply follow, each moment, the brightest star, the thought that shines with the most inspiring brilliance. There’s always a lit-up barn in Bethlehem waiting for me, if I just yield to the light and follow.
(about Philip M., 89, Blessings, CT, USA)
Philip seeks harmony
by setting his sight on starry thoughts
and then studying and following them,
and sometimes he finds himself
standing in places of powerful light,
and just looking and listening in wonder,
and he always names the places 'Wonderful'
and rejoices with exceeding joy,
and sets gifts down in these special places,
and worships them,
and knows they are everywhere.
Here’s a sunrise scene on the Mystic River during our morning walk today …
… and here’s my best-of-all friends reading the essays of the classic American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson …