About a year ago a friend gave me a beautiful gift, a book called Before I Go: Letters to Our Children about What Really Matters. The book, by Peter Kreeft, is a gift from a father to his four grown children detailing 162 important things he’s learned in life — unfailing nuggets of wisdom; non-negotiables as he sees it. This past summer, I listened to a book on tape of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, a similar gift intended for Pausch’s young children prior to his death from cancer this past summer. Both of these books began as the need of a parent to give their children the best they had, messages from the heart, transformative words to infuse their children’s lives with love and wisdom gained through their own hard-earned lessons. “If I had just one shot at telling you the best of what I’ve learned, here it is.” In the end, both works went further than their intended purpose by being made available to the general public. Through the giving of these men, we all have a chance to learn the lessons and, thereby, receive those gifts.
A few months back I’d taken a break from Kreeft’s book, which has more of a spiritual leaning than Pausch’s, to read other works. Lately I’ve been back at it, and this morning I read the following from a very short excerpt titled Minds and Mouths (Letter #117):
“The less open your mind is, the more open your mouth usually is. You gotta vent your soul somehow. Open minds inhale; open mouths exhale. You can smell the difference between the two kinds of air.”
I read it, several times, and thought, how true it is, and how guilty I might be at times of doing more exhaling than inhaling; especially as a writer who loves exploring ideas and sharing them with others. That said, I think Kreeft, a philosopher, author and wordsmith himself, has it right. We can become too impassioned, too insistent, too loud in our sharing. And when we do, the impact of our words lessens. And so I commit to you, dear readers, that as I go through my days tending to my little familial garden, I will remember to inhale first, to take in all that I see and experience and feel, and then, when something beautiful and/or true happens in the midst of it, that is when I will share with you, when I will take time to exhale. And I hope that the exhaled air has a nice scent — the scent of a rose, perhaps, or a lily. If it, instead, smells closer to a mum (I still remember my mother’s allergic reactions to them), please let me know, and I will retreat into inhaling mode once again to regain my bearings.