People who think of it for the first time.
First time I heard Marianne Williamson speak, she stood at a podium in front of about 1000 people who wanted to commemorate what was said to be the birth of a new era. 2012 was about to end. Excitement about the new-ness of so many things was everywhere. Awareness of the potential for so much more awareness was unspoken but almost palpable. And we applauded speaker after speaker with hope and faith.
Then Marianne was introduced. About two minutes later, everyone present was on their feet, not just applauding, but loudly, emphatically, intently roaring in passionate agreement with what she had to say.
Marianne’s message strikes a chord with people who are living and leading a revolution in consciousness that’s undeniably taking place and growing fast. She’s a beacon of light in that awakening as she stands at microphones and reminds us what we already instinctively know: that, worldwide, peace and prosperity are within reach, and that there’s no doubt people can now create it together.
When she finished, as the standing audience was bringing down the roof with applause and shouts of support, I stepped into the lobby. A moment later, I unexpectedly found myself standing next to her, and had the enormous pleasure of expressing to her my heartfelt thanks, respect, and praise. She humbly, and genuinely, asked “Did that come off all right?”
Second time I heard her speak she was running for U.S. Congress. Her presence there – or anywhere — will be like a rising tide that lifts all the boats, or the transition from black and white to full living color, or a gentle rain on a parched garden.
Marianne Williamson is speaking the truth of ideas whose time has come. As Victor Hugo said, that is something all the armies of the world cannot stop.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” —Marianne Williamson in her book A Return to Love.
You step into another world at Small Wonders, the amazing educational toy store on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Rolling Hills, California. The place is a work of art that’s a world of toys, as unique and spirit-lifting as its owner and creator, Bernice Baird-Browning, who researches and discovers fun treasures from merchants all over the world.
Every inch of every shelf of her store is brimming with uniqueness and quality. Up near the ceiling, a colorful miniature train chugs along on a wooden railroad that somehow winds around or tunnels through every item in the store’s densely-stocked alcoves. Puppets and marionettes from faraway places smile at you as you pass by. You see boxes full of wooden trains and miniature construction sets from Scandinavia. And from Germany, kits for building colorful fire engines and taxis, or grand cathedrals and skyscrapers. Musical instruments and finely carved pull toys come from Poland, Italy, and Czechoslovakia. Delicate French dolls beg to be pampered and primped, but they’re tomboyish enough to be bathed in a washing machine!
Bernie married a doctor before the age of 20, and raised two brilliant kids who’ve launched successful careers of their own. So she’s also a grandmother-made-in-heaven! (Can you imagine dashing over the meadow and through the woods to such an enchanting place?)
And just as in a fairy-tale, Bernie met—or rather re-met—her current husband Ralph Browning at a high-school reunion in the late 1990s, and they’re living, traveling, and prospering happily ever after!
The source of Bernie’s passion for joy and fun and letting kids learn as they play might come from having started school in first grade. She longed for kindergarten ever since, so maybe skipping it was the twist of fate that led to the blessing Small Wonders is to the world. There, where everything has been so carefully searched, selected, and displayed by a mother, grandmother, businesswoman, and grownup kindergartener, you’ll find yourself warmly embraced in quality, charm, and just plain fun.
Fun, in fact, sums up Bernie Baird-Browning in a word.
Have you ever been loved? I bet you have been loved so much and so deeply that you have become jaded about the enormity of the grace it confers. So let me remind you: To be loved is a privilege and prize equivalent to being born. If you’re smart, you pause regularly to bask in the astonishing knowledge that there are many people out there who care for you and want you to thrive and hold you in their thoughts with fondness.
Animals, too: You have been the recipient of their boundless affection. The spirits of allies who’ve left this world continue to send their tender regards, as well. Do you “believe” in angels and other divine beings? Whether or not you do, I can assure you that there are hordes of them beaming their uncanny consecrations your way. You are awash in torrents of love.
As tremendous a gift it is to get love, giving love is an equal boon. Many scientific studies demonstrate that whenever you bestow blessings on other people, you bless yourself. Expressing practical compassion not only strengthens your immune system and bolsters your health, but also promotes self-esteem, enhances longevity, and stimulates tranquility and even euphoria. As the scientists say, we humans are hardwired to benefit from altruism.
What’s your position on making love? Do you regard it as one of the nicer fringe benefits of being alive? Or are you more inclined to see it as a central proof of the primal magnanimity of the universe? I’m more aligned with the latter view.
Imagine yourself in the fluidic blaze of that intimate spectacle right now. Savor the fantasy of entwining bodies and hearts and minds with an appealing partner who has the power to enchant you. What better way do you know of to dwell in sacred space while immersed in your body’s delight? To commune with the Divine Wow while having fun? To tap into your own deeper knowing while at the same time gazing into the mysterious light of a fellow creature?
A lot of us are lucky enough to get hit with occasional strokes of genius. Not too many of us follow through and put a brilliant idea into form. And almost nobody:
- ceaselessly sees truths that habit and culture make most of us wholly blind to,
- leads revolutions in thought and lifestyle that (if we’re lucky) actually have the credible potential to transform us all into a species of happy beings,
- magnetizes an entire community of like-minded truth- (and beauty-) (and joy-) seekers who, like little lost lambs from a scattered herd, have been wandering, nameless and leaderless, for years,
- commands superior talent not just in literature but also in music,
- and prolifically — every single day — churns out art and philosophy of the highest quality.
But Rob Brezsny does.
It’s true, too, that genuinely unique beams of original light have been known to be overlooked by most of their contemporaries, praised by some, and scorned by others (maybe people who have either never attempted to do anything difficult, or have tried, given up, and, whining all the way, settled for the mediocrity Brezsny’s genius inspires us all to free ourselves from).
Rob Brezsny is one of the most talented, far-sighted, creative people of our day, and we wouldn’t be surprised if what he’s doing proves him to be one of the most creative, admirable, joy-inspiring people ever.
More power to you!
Immortality Made Easy
Even though it was only two months away, no one thought Jack Kamen would live to see his 85th birthday. His son, Rick, found himself wondering, “Why would Dad want to stick around? He’s not having fun.”
Which gave him an idea. Maybe, somehow, that’s exactly what he could give his father for an early birthday present. Fun.
But what’s fun for elders? Rick figured gerontologists, caregivers, and loving children of aging parents must ask themselves that question a few times every day. It’s easy to create fun for kids. Give them toys and teach them games, and they have fun playing. Adults keep right on playing, albeit with toys and games that cost a lot more.
And elders? What do they do for fun?
Rick mulled over that puzzle for about a week. He watched elders, and thought about what it’s like to be 80 or more years old, searching for clues. And then one day, he saw a wise old soul smiling. What do you think that elder was doing?
Rick got it. That’s how people who’ve lived a while and seen a lot have fun. They reflect on the beauty of their pasts, and they tell their stories.
It’s also how they help people who haven’t racked up as much life experience. Not by lecturing and teaching and instructing and demanding, but by anecdote and fable. By gentle example that lets the listener infer the moral of the story and do with it what they may.
Rick remembered that elders naturally tell stories, and that in the culture and custom of many societies, storytelling and storylistening happen naturally. Was there a venue for this in modern U.S. culture? Rick didn’t think so.
He did know his understanding of what fun is — for all people, at all ages — had changed forever. Fun, Rick realized, is that good feeling people get when they’re engaged in certain behaviors that are programmed into human beings for a very good reason: to help the entire species.
Fun, Rick proposes, might be what motivates us to do the things we do that help humanity.
Kids help humanity by learning, so play is fun.
Adults help humanity by being productive, as well as reproductive. So those behaviors are fun for them.
Elders help humanity when they distribute wisdom – especially to kids. So that’s fun for elders.
Not to mention that exquisite silver lining around the cloud of growing older, namely that even though we lose many abilities as we age, storytelling is one that improves as the years go by. And who doesn’t love to do things they’re good at?
So that’s how Rick gave his father the gift of fun. Storytelling. It was the perfect early birthday present.
Rick called his dad up, as he often did. But this time he steered the usual conversation about the usual stuff in a new direction. “I know you grew up in a world that can’t happen anymore. Why don’t you tell me some stories from those days? I’ll write them up for the grandkids.”
Without even saying, “Okay,” Jack launched right into a story.
The story was wonderful, Rick recalls, but even more wonderful for him and his family was seeing the the joyful impact storytelling had on their beloved patriarch’s mood. His voice and spirit sounded ten years younger. As he shared the highlights of his life, Jack was having fun again for the first time in a long time.
That first story led to another, and then another… and eventually a book called Heirloom Stories from the Harnessmaker’s Son.
Jack lived another seven years. Seven precious years that let him leave a legacy of written stories that will entertain and educate his descendants for centuries. They would have carried his genes into the future, of course. But thanks to Rick’s gift of fun, Jack’s descendants will also carry with them Jack’s own thoughts and images of the life he led. That’s as close to immortality as you can get.
When he died in 2005, Jack didn’t know that, even more than the priceless stories, Rick cherished the additional years some genuine fun had given his father. The health benefits of storytelling were profound.
So Rick didn’t stop there. He gives the gift of fun to English-speaking elders anywhere in the world by interviewing them by phone, putting slices of their lives in writing, and preserving some Heirloom Stories® for their descendants.
Learn more about Heirloom Stories® at http://HeirloomStories.com or call Rick at (858) 273-1111.