December 25th was designated the day for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ by Pope Julius I in the mid-300s.  Since Christmas is a birthday, I thought I’d share with you a beautiful birthday story I read recently in Krista Tippett’s book, Becoming Wise:  An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.

The book summarizes the lessons Tippett learned from the wise men and women she has interviewed over the years for her program On Being.  It is perhaps fitting that the birthday story related here has Jewish roots.  It was told by Rachel Naomi Remen, a physician, who was given the story on her fourth birthday by her rabbi grandfather.  I am copying it here:


The Birthday of the World

“In the beginning there was only holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life.  In the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light.  And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke.  The wholeness of the world, the light of the world, was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light.  And they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident.  We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world.  It’s a very important story for our times.  This task is called tikkum olan in Hebrew.  It’s the restoration of the world.

And this is, of course, a collective task.  It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born.  We are all healers of the world.  That story opens a sense of possibility.  It’s not about healing the world by making a huge difference.  It’s about healing the world the touches you, that’s around you.”


So here’s the wise lesson:  Be the light you want to see in the world.  It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but do even one thing.

Merry Christmas!

Tree Watching and Birthdays

January 18, 2012

“Trees are incredibly consistent, programmed to respond more to unalterable patterns of daylight hours and night length than they are to fluctuations in weather.  So again, with some exceptions, the tree events you view on your birthday one year are likely to be the same ones observable on the next.  How much more useful, in terms of grounding them in the world, would it be to tell children that instead of being a Scorpio, a Capricorn, or a Taurus, they are a ripening acorn, a budding buckeye, or a blooming maple!”
— Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

Winter, resting buds of horse chestnut tree

When I read the above passage in Seeing Trees, it tickled my fancy.  What new imaginative label could I give to my birthday, or to those of my friends and family?  I have eight siblings, and this year, in honor of their birthdays, I will make an attempt to name their special day in honor of their birth and a natural phenomena. . . and paint a watercolor sketch on their birthday cards.

Today is my youngest sister’s birthday.  No longer just a Capricorn, but a “Winter Bud,” holding another annual flowering in a programmed package, ready to burst into bloom at the proper time.

Here’s a picture of her birthday card this year:

Watercolor sketch of winter buds