Thursday, July 21, 2011
Ongoing Persepctives on Being and Doing
George Robert Gissing (1857 – 1903) was an English novelist who published twenty-three novels. From his early naturalistic works, he developed into one of the most accomplished realists of the late-Victorian era.
A little background on The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, by George Gissing (from the preface):
"Ryecroft was a struggling man, beset by poverty and other circumstances very unpropitious to mental work. Many forms of literature had he tried; in none had he been conspicuously successful; yet now and then he had managed to earn a little more money than his actual needs demanded, Little by little Ryecroft had subdued himself to a modestly industrious routine. He did a great deal of mere hack-work; he reviewed, he translated, he wrote articles; at long intervals a volume appeared under his name. There were times, I have no doubt, when bitterness took hold upon him; not seldom he suffered in health, and probably as much from moral as from physical over- strain; but, on the whole, he earned his living very much as other men do, taking the day's toil as a matter of course, and rarely grumbling over it. Time went on; things happened; but Ryecroft was still laborious and poor. In moments of depression he spoke of his declining energies, and evidently suffered under a haunting fear of the future.
At the age of fifty, just when his health had begun to fail and his energies to show abatement, Ryecroft had the rare good fortune to find himself suddenly released from toil…On the death of an acquaintance, the wayworn man of letters learnt with astonishment that there was bequeathed to him a life annuity of three hundred pounds. He established himself in a cottage near Exeter, where he rambled in lanes and meadows, amid the stillness of the rural night. We hoped it would all last for many a year; it seemed, indeed, as though Ryecroft had only need of rest and calm to become a hale man. But already, though he did not know it, he was suffering from a disease of the heart, which cut short his life after little more than a lustrum of quiet contentment. It had always been his wish to die suddenly; he dreaded the thought of illness, chiefly because
of the trouble it gave to others. On a summer evening, after a long walk in very hot weather, he lay down upon the sofa in his study, and there—as his calm face declared--passed from slumber into the great silence.
Here was a man who, having his desire, and that a very modest one, not only felt satisfied, but enjoyed great
happiness. He talked of many different things, saying exactly what he thought; he spoke of himself, and told the truth as far as mortal can tell it."
Children know how to "be." Every moment is a new experience for them and they revel in exploring objects and circumstances that adults find mundane. The truth is, adults have cast aside the present without realizing the infinite potential of what can be learned from it. Everyday our busy-ness, like blinders, keeps us moving past perfect opportunities and moments of awe that lay, rich and full, waiting for our attention. Some of us don't even take all our vacation days. We watch TV and listen to radio or MP3 24/7. We run from one event to the next, from one goal to a new goal. Doing, doing, doing... and Sacred Life, God, Beauty are lost in the fray. We wonder why we are so short of time and bereft of Spirit.
"I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your error and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven." Matt 18:3
May the wise words of George Gissing, the simple story of Henry Ryecroft remind you that a contented heart will take you, as a sail, through winds of strife and change and lead you to calm waters of abundance. May you understand that a peaceful mind will hold fast the reigns of integrity in the most trying times. May you rest in the knowing that wisdom comes only through a life of mindful moments in which a presence of self can be realized and integrated into a reality of acceptance, and that the purest joy is found in the wondrous gift of the ever expanding Moment of Now. In the words of Robert Mulholland, "Let your 'being' determine your 'doing.'
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