Three Points on Optimism – Part One: It’s About the Heart

On May 18, 2015, I had one of my most memorable experiences. You may or may not be aware that my favorite band is a quaint little Canadian trio that goes by the name of Rush. Now, I am not one of these crazy, rabid fans that see them multiple times on every tour. That would be awesome, but I recognize that I have a thing called “a life”. Tickets are not cheap, and I need both of my kidneys, and don’t want to promise my first born as an offering. But I splurged and bought two tickets, for myself and good friend Chad Cooke, to Rush’s R-40 tour. This particular tour was also rumored to be their farewell tour, so it was kind of a moral imperative that I attend this event.

I was not disappointed. In fact, at the risk of sounding pagan, it was a religious experience. I had seen them 6 times previously. The first concert I ever attended was Rush, on their Power Windows tour in January of my junior year, 1986. I, along with my best friends Dwight and Rich and Monte, had 2nd row seats. We were spoiled from the beginning. Never again did a concert live up to this one. Well, almost never…

R-40 setlist began with Rush’s most recent album, Clockwork Angels, and ended with Rush’s eponymous album. This made for an interesting flow. After the 20 minute intermission, they started with Tom Sawyer, and honestly, from here on out was my favorite part of the show. In a way, this concert was a kind of worship for me. I know, borderline idolatry you are accusing me of right now, and I wholeheartedly agree. My heart was swollen in my chest, and my eyes were teary. Lump in my throat. The only thing I can think of that would justify this feeling, which some would condemn in me as sinful, is that this is just but a taste of what God has in store for me, for us, when we enter our final home. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” If I can watch a Rock and Roll band of the world, and have feelings of ecstasy and transcendence, just think of what God has in store for us!

There is one song that holds some special significance for me. On their fifth studio album, A Farewell to Kings, the third track. Closer to the Heart. A fan favorite that brings out the cigarette lighters and cell phone screens. Here are the lyrics:

“Closer to the Heart” by Neil Peart

And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart
The blacksmith and the artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart

Philosophers and ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the heart
Closer to the heart
You can be the captain
I will draw the chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the heart

 

Listen to Closer to the Heart by Rush on @AppleMusic.

https://itun.es/us/tHDwM?i=643423150

 

When I hear these lyrics, I think of a kind of unity, a kind of harmony amongst men and women of all stripes. The lowly and the lofty. The simple and the learned. All people living together, working toward good purposes. Together. “Molding a new reality.” A life lived closer to the heart. The heart is known to be the seat of the soul. It is where our mind, will, and emotions reside. It is our inner life. I could go on and on with spiritual allegories, and someday I will write about this at length. But for now, to set up the next post in this series, I just want to highlight the idea that society has for era after era attempted to create societies that reflect this kind of Utopia, many with disastrous results. But Rush hits on something that many philosophers and those in high places miss. It begins with the heart.

Keep that in mind when reading the next posts in this series. The next one will be about a “recent” (18 months) movie that closes with a scene that brought this idea to my mind. Until then….Pax.

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Changes begin with Choices

How to change somebody….well, you can’t. Not really. As I mentioned in a previous post, the only way to change somebody is through coercion, which doesn’t work long term, in fact, it is exceptionally short term. The other way to change somebody is through consistent influence based on trust, respect, and love. And that takes some emotional capital and effort on the part of the one wanting to change the other, (as well as effort of the other.)

But here’s a thought….rather than trying to change someone else, how about trying to change yourself? You’ve heard that before, again, it’s almost cliché. Gandhi said it. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You are at the center of your circle of influence. You might be able to influence those closest to you, even those not as close. But you are the one you can influence most.

This will be one in a series of posts on change. Steven Covey, in his prolific book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, organized his habits into two camps, Private Victory, and Public Victory. Private victory is primarily about self leadership; taking responsibility for your life, having a vision for your life, and prioritizing your life. It would be necessary to get a few wins under you belt in this arena/camp before you would be able to make any real progress in the Public Victory camp. Character does indeed count. So before affecting real change in this world, it begins with changes in your life first.

The first habit, Be Proactive, or said in another way, Take Responsibility for Your Life, is a keystone habit. In fact, I believe it is THE keystone habit. It mirrors Andy Andrews’ first decision of seven, The Responsible Decision: The Buck Stops Here. You have the Ability to choose your response. Response Ability. Rather than reacting to everything that happens to you, respond. To react means to act again. You are acting out the same patterns time and time again. Theese patterns have been hard wired into you. (Literally, residual neural pathways forming the fight or flight responses from bygone eras. Your annoying kids are not sabertooth tigers wanting to eat you. Really, they’re not.) Be proactive, not reactive.

You’d rather sleep in on a cold morning rather than wake up at 6:00 am and run a lap at the park? That’s a reaction….you’ve done that day after day after day. You have good intentions, and intentions are fundamental to change, but I takes more. Choose your response. The alarm goes off….choose to swing your legs over the side of the bed, sit up, touch your feet to the floor, push….and your up. Choose to do this. Fight the inertia. It is possible. I did it this morning. Yesterday too. And traditionally, I am NOT a morning person.

Staring at a blank page, or knowing that a perpetual blank page awaits you? Choose that first word, and then a second, third and fourth. Repeat. Honestly, I had know idea how this post would form itself until I just started with my first idea. You can edit later. But choose to write.

The double fudge chocolate chip brownie calling your name? Make a choice. Target weight or the temporary satiation of your taste buds or numbing a pain that you haven’t tackled head on yet. Your choice.

I know, sometimes it much more complicated than that. But regardless, however you decide to make a change in your life, it requires a choice to begin. A choice to stop making excuses. A choice to face a fear. A choice to get help, if needed. But choose a response.

Or don’t make a choice. That in itself is a choice. My favorite band, Rush, says it well.
“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
Freewill from Permanent Waves, 1980

But not choosing is not a choice that will push you out of the rut to nowhere. Or out of the rut to where you do not want to be.

Your change begins with your choices. You have the ability to choose your response.

Choose wisely.