Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Gift of Inspiration

“Inspiration” by Bernie S. Siegel from “365 Prescriptions for the Soul”

When I speak to respiratory therapists the words inspiration and inspire relate to the act of breathing, mechanical movements of the chest and diaphragm which pull air into our lungs. Yet these words carry a much more significant meaning as well.

In many languages the word for breath or inspiration relates to our spirit and spark of life. I do not think it is an accident that this meaning is shared. After all, God breathed life into Adam through his nostrils. That first inspiration brought life into a piece of clay. Dust became alive.

We are all dust and clay until we find inspiration in our lives. When we are inspired, we change the world, not by changing others, but by changing ourselves. If everyone on this planet felt inspired and breathed life into each other, we would have a world of companionship and love."

...Inspiring words me thinks...

The other Saturday was a rare gift for me. I got to spend the day with my brother. I had rung him the weekend before to wish him a Happy Birthday and during the chat he asked me what I was doing the Saturday afterwards. I checked my diary and said I am free from about 11am onwards. He then asked if I lived near Cheadle Hulme, which of course I do. He then proceeded to tell me that his daughter Scarlet and he would travelling up to Cheadle Hulme School as she was competing in the national under 11 girl’s chess championship. When I heard this news I instantly said “I will be there,” cheering her on. (I realised a little later that cheering someone on while playing chess might not be entirely appropriate...Tee, hee, hee...)

I rarely get the chance to spend time with my brother, one of the few people who have known me and who I have known all my life, so it was a real treat. It was a proud moment for him too. His daughter was captaining her county team Hertfordshire, on the top table and at eight years old in an under 11 tournament. My only concern was whether she would be competing against someone from Yorkshire, in which case my loyalties would be split. Thankfully this did not happen as Yorkshire do not compete in this competition. Apparently they like to do things their own way…something’s never change in the “Great County”.

My brother had a love and talent for chess as a child too, so I know how excited he was for his daughter and how her love for chess and her talent had reawakened a passion in him. He recounted how he had taught me as a child, but I had no real interest. I also remembering him telling me how he himself had been taught by our older step brother, “Our Allen”, who had sadly died a couple of years ago. The gift and inspiration Al passed on to him is living on.

It was a lovely day spending time with family, sharing in something that they loved. It was also a real blessing, a beautiful gift to witness these young people applying and enjoying themselves through the gift of a game that I have no understanding of. Chess is not a game for me. I know how to play, how the pieces work etc but I have no understanding of the game at all, my mind is just not wired up and tuned in that way. My mind, my heart and my soul work in very different ways. That said it was a beautiful gift, to witness them making use of what they have been given. I left inspired by these young people.

We all have our gifts, our different abilities. No two people are exactly alike. We are all born with certain aptitudes and innate ability. We all have something to offer the world, to share with life, but they are not all the same. Thank God. I myself have always been a communicator, but never an athlete. My mum often tells me I could talk long before I could walk. That you could hold a conversation with me as toddler long before I took my first steps. There were two reasons for this. My mind is wired for communication and also because I was born with underdeveloped nerve endings in the base of my spine. This made physical activities difficult as a child. There was even a time when I was not allowed to engage in sport during childhood, something I hated as I watched the other children run and play. I have been re-feeling these memories in recent weeks as I have been attempting to get fit and work with a personal trainer. The old problems are still there, only I’m much older now. That said the shame is no longer there and I am determined to make the most of my body, despite its limitations. While never being athletic and never being wired up for chess I have always been a determined person. I do try to make the most of what I have been given, no matter how limited and not only for myself, but for the good of all. Whatever we have been given, what life has been gifted to us is not for ourselves alone, but to share and for the good of all.

2016 has been a strange year so. One phenomenon I have noticed has been the high rate of “celebrity” deaths. Many icons of my age and my parents age have died this year, an unprecedented number in fact. From David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Terry Wogan in January to Victoria Wood and Prince in the last week and many many more. The Daily Telegraph, who maintain a gallery of famous people’s deaths, have recorded more famous deaths already in 2016 (75) than 2014 (38) and 2015 (30) combined.

Now this could just be put down as a one off, an unfortunate year, but it seems that actually this is a trend that is likely to continue. According to Nick Serpell the BBC’s obituary editor this is because “People who started becoming famous in the 1960s are now entering their 70s and are starting to die.” He also suggested that it will continue to rise because of the increasing phenomenon of celebrity. Stating that: “There are also more famous people than there used to be…In my father or grandfather’s generation, the only famous people really were from cinema – there was no television.”

Many of these celebrities, who have died this year, are from the baby boom generation, meaning that they were the first generation to experience fame in the era of TV. This is when the cult of celebrity began to take off, when people first began to be swept up by it and it has continued to grow ever since, even more so in this mass social media age. The trend will continue, we will lose more and more. This is because as Nick Serpell has explained: “Over the next 10 years, these people will get into their 80s and it is going to continue at this level…And that doesn’t count the surprise deaths, when people die that shouldn’t.”

It seems it’s something that we are all going to have to get used to.

Now of course this not something we should get too sad about. People like Bowie, Prince, Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman shone and inspired us in their own unique ways, making the most of their gifts and sharing them with us, bringing us joy and excitement along the way. Just as the people closer to us, ordinary people, have done so by sharing their lives and their loves with us. Just as we do when we do the same. There are many people who we have known in our lives who have no doubt inspired us to be all that we can be, as we have inspired others to be all that they can be.

Just think of the lives that you have touched and the lives that have touched yours…so many moments…Far too many to mention…

By making best use of the gifts we have been given we can inspire others to do the very same.

Inspire is one of those words, like so many in common usage, that has been reduced in meaning as time as gone by. We have reduced its power as our lives have become secularised. It originally meant “immediate influence of God”, especially with reference to the writing of a Holy book. Coming from the French “inspiracion meaning “inhaling, breathing in inspiration”, coming from the Latin “inspirare” meaning to breath in, to inflame. To inspire means to breath upon, to blow into, to excite, to inflame, to affect, to arouse, but do so through spirit or soul, it is a Divine activity. Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that when we inspire others we are engaging in Divine activity. To inspire others is to engage in one of the highest form of love, as it is Divine love in human action.

Now such figures such as David Bowie and Prince have been called geniuses. It is often an overused word but I think it is fair to apply it to those greats who have inspired us. For it has been through their ability to inspire that their genius came alive; their genius breathed its life into the lives of others.

They are not the only ones though. We all have the genius seed within us. We are all born, we are all graced, with certain gifts. The real genius of course is the one who can give birth to theirs and inspire others to do the same with theirs.

Now throughout human history this genius within us has been understood in different ways. Many, beginning with Plato, talked of each of us being born with a companion, what some might describe as a spirit that remembers our true nature and therefore "calling" and which can guide us back to our greatest animation. It is this that truly brings us alive, that animates our very being that enthuses us. This inner spirit animates our soul, this is the genius within each and every one of us. It has been called by many names such as muse, inner voice, still small voice, higher self, guardian angel or what the ancient Greeks referred to as Daemon. It breathes its life into us and inspires us and through acting from it we too inspire others.

The gifts life has bestowed upon us, our genii are not meant to be kept or selfishly horded. They are meant to be given away, they are meant to be shared with others. Our task is to make the most of these gifts, to enjoy them and to share them with others, thus inspiring them to make the most of what life has given them. This I believe is the point the epistle Paul was making in is first letter to the Corinthians chapter twelve.

Paul wrote the letter because each member of the congregation, in their struggle to be the perfect congregational leader, was getting in the way of the others. Each one of them wanted to possess all the good qualities that make up a good leader, to become the perfect leader and to leave the others in their shadow. Each one was an actor trying to play the director and run the whole show. How often in life does this occur?

Paul taught that the spirit does not allow even the possibility that one person can possess all the talents. That said if people come together in love, live interdependently and inspire one another with their gifts they will create a community for the good of all.

We all have gifts, talents that have been bestowed upon us and I believe we have a responsibility to learn to use these gifts well and to recognise that the same spirit that gave us these gifts requires us to use them cooperatively with those who have different gifts to us. They are not to be used lightly and selfishly, neither are they to be despised or loathed. In so doing we will inspire others to do the same, to make the most of what they have been freely given.

Let us be grateful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon us. Let us make the most of these aspects of our humanity that have been given us. Let us learn to share them with one another. Let us be inspired by one another’s gifts and create a true kin-ship of love right here, right now.

Let’s breathe our inspiration into one another.


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