Travel | Mindfulness | Social Media | Inspiration
Words have always inspired me. As a small boy I collected quotes, sayings, phrases to brighten and illuminate the unhealthy and over-darkened ways made for my searching. Once I even made a mission statement full of my favorite quotes and pinned it to the wall near my door. Every time I left the carpeted, comforted, book-filled, beige walls and dark stained furniture I saw those words, and they gave me hope to enter that frightening world.
Lately I’ve adopted new quotes, and the following lines from Boston poet Henry Longfellow have imposed themselves on my mind:
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labor, and to wait.
It’s the final stanza of Longfellow’s Psalm of Life, a poem that serves as a kind of mantra to me. Just saying those words when I wake up nervous, or have a few minutes on the train, or watch the sun set the sky ablaze, slice through anxiety and fear and typically leaves them in tatters.
To me, these lines, and the poem as a whole, speaks about the power of action, no matter how small. The mere act of accomplishment–a brisk walk, a yoga session, connecting with a friend over coffee or tea–is something to be proud of besides the joy and happiness they bring.
It is also a reminder to be present, completely and utterly, in this very moment. To focus on the rhythm and cadence of the words themselves, to hear how they influence my breathing, to feel my legs, shoulders, and stomach relax at the deep knowledge that I am not perfect, and that I don’t need to be, so long as I continue to try, and have, as the poet says, “a heart for any fate.” It’s the last phrase, though, importuning us with patience, that completes the poem. Movement, action, and activity are vital, but without patience it is impossible to have a true heart for any fate.
Because fate is a funny thing. The last two years have been exceptionally difficult for me, my wife, and my family. Yet in those dark days, when the worms of despair ate away at me, with deserted fortune and circumstance seemingly forfeit, that’s when the greatest hope would arrive because I continued to pursue and continued to achieve victories, no matter how small or insignificant those they were to the rest of the world. And they eventually resulted in wondrous things: a paid trip to Istanbul; the birth of my wonderful son; the promise of great, new jobs in the face of depression and unemployment.
Its during those dark times that I repeat the words of Longfellow. And lately, another phrase, not connected with Longfellow at all, pops into my head: darkest nights can bring the most brilliant dawns.
About Eric Bland
Eric Bland is a science, health, and technology writer with national and international bylines. He grew up in northern Indiana, caught rattlesnakes in Idaho, tracked tortoises in Nevada, ran laps above an antimatter generator in Switzerland, and currently bikes, runs, kayaks, and walks around the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Charles River, and Boston Harbor with his wife and young son.