Curtis Peter van Gorder is a writer and pantomime artist and facilitator, living in Germany. See Elixir Mime website.
Walking through a botanical garden in Kolkata, India, I was enthralled by the vibrant and vivid colors of the flowers. For a few hours, I felt like I’d been transported away from the hustle of the city and into a world of beauty. On my way out, I popped into the office to compliment the staff on the good job they do in arranging and caring for the plants.
The month of January, when the new year is celebrated in most of the world, is named after the Roman god Janus. Because he had two faces, he could look back on the past year and forward into the next. He was the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors.
A while back I read some tips on how to get along with people:
A city where I used to live is dotted with deserted public telephone booths. Obsolete and derelict, they stand silent and empty, eerie reminders of their former usefulness, now simply taking up sidewalk space, useless to all but a few spiders that are ever quick to spin their webs in out-of-the-way corners. Ten or twenty years ago, these booths were a vital means of communication. Long replaced by cell phones that are more convenient and capable, these relics are no longer worth the trouble, either to keep up or to tear down.
Knowing that I am actively involved in several charitable projects here in India,an acquaintance introduced me to some of his friends from the business community at a party we all attended. They happened to be discussing The Giving Pledge, an initiative headed by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Those three had challenged 400 American billionaires to commit to donating at least 50% of their net worth to charity and social causes in their lifetimes.
While visiting my dad for his 85th birthday, we watched some of our old family movies. It was funny to see my brother as a one-year-old, crawling around, playing with the puppies, and eating from the dog’s food dish. To think that this cute little baby would grow up to be a distinguished college professor and international lecturer! It got me thinking about how God makes special people out of nobodies. We come into this world naked and helpless, and God transforms us into the unique people we each are through our experiences and choices.
It’s been said that God delights in making something out of nothing, and I believe it. In fact, I believe that God made everything out of nothing.
Having been born “BI” (Before Internet), I see people frantically texting away and sometimes wonder how they would have survived “back in the day,” when “texting” involved a 30-pound typewriter, messy correction fluid or an eraser, a trip to the post office, standing in line to buy a stamp, waiting a week or two for the letter to get to its destination, and waiting another week or two for a reply.
I once visited a monastery that was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman fortress, set high atop a rocky crag in a Syrian desert.So steep was a series of 300 steps near the summit that supplies had to be hoisted the rest of the way using a cable system. Three stone archways at the top announced to my fellow pilgrims and me that we were nearing a sanctuary.
In my high school literature class we studied the Jean-Paul Sartre play No Exit, in which hell’s occupants are confined to a room and have nothing to do but engage in fruitless, pointless discussions.
In David Brandt Berg’s article“The Green Door,” hell is a polished hospital-like facility with rooms full of people involved in much the same work they did on earth, but without any hope of achieving anything worthwhile: scientists engage in endless experiments that bear no results, soldiers fight battles that never end, trains never reach their destinations, and rockets don’t make it off the ground. Nothing ever gets done. In Inferno, the first part of Dante’s epic poem A Divine Comedy, part of hell is pictured as an endless mountain range that one must keep climbing, one peak after another.
Every so often we read or hear about some happening that so completely defies explanation that the people involved are convinced they have been part of a miracle.
For the rest of us, it takes faith to believe those accounts—faith that miracles are possible, as well as faith in those giving the accounts. But faith has its rewards. If we can believe that “impossible” things have happened to others, then perhaps we can believe that they can happen to us too. The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) called miracles the “lightning strokes of God.” There’s no “perhaps” about a lightning strike, especially to one who is standing on the spot where it hits! Lightning is powerful, and it happens often—about 100 times per second in as many locations around the world. I’m sure that if every miracle were recorded they would far outnumber lightning strikes. What makes me so sure? I’ve yet to be struck by actual lightning, but I’ve experienced many “strokes of God.”