Daily Guide — July 2005

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Days 1-4 Life

This morning I was reading Benson’s final essay, Life, in his book Joyous Gard and for some reason was drawn to pick up another book in my library – one that I’d read many years ago: The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas. I immediately turned to a chapter called The Long Habit where Thomas talks of death.

It seems to me that he was saying we fear death primarily because we’ve grown so accustomed to the long habit of living — that the uncertainly of death and what actually happens to us when life cases naturally leaves us unsettled and fearful.

Listen now to what Benson says of death:

…we must not settle too close to the sweet and kindly earth, but be ready to unfurl our wings for the passage over sea; and to what new country of God, what unknown troops and societies of human spirits, what gracious reality of dwelling-place, of which our beloved fields and woods and streams are nothing but the gentle and sweet symbols, our flight may bear us, I cannot tell; but that we are all in the mind of God, and that we cannot wander beyond the reach of His hand or the love of His heart, of this I am more sure than I am of anything else in this world where familiarity and mystery are so strangely entwined.

Tell me, friend: of the two opinions on death, which makes you want to live the more?

Days 1-4 Guide

Begin this month with zest. Consider your life to be the start of an everlasting joy, one that yet survives death. Take care to use your time wisely, and enjoy the pleasures and the beauty of this world. Fear not the cessation of life, but fear instead never starting to live at all. Happy 4th.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Day 5 Ideas

I was eating lunch the other day and watched as a girl led by a seeing-eye dog made her way into the restaurant. She and a friend sat down at a small table; the obedient shepherd sat on the floor close by her owner. I noticed that the blind girl had her friend read aloud some of the menu choices, and it was then that the reality of her blindness hit me. In an instant, my entire world of thought changed, and whatever I was thinking about at the time was replaced by thoughts of this girl, her friend and that beautiful dog.

We cherish our independence, don’t we? We all want to think that we can make it just fine by ourselves — that we need help from no one. But in that, I think we’re sadly adrift. I think that now, more than ever, we need each other.

We need a touch, a kind word, a hug, or a smile. And at times, we need someone who can help us to our feet. We generally don’t like to consider ourselves a burden on other people. Yet our need for help will at times arise, and we will have to surrender ourselves to the strength of another.

As a people and a nation we should trust that our flight isn’t really a solo voyage after all and that along the way we may have to pick up a passenger or two. While the desire for independence is certainly understandable – even worthy of respect — I believe that we miss a great deal if we overlook the beauty of our mutual dependence.

Day 5 Guide

Think today about the beauty of our design as dependent people. Look around and identify those who are important in your life. Independence is sometimes a lonely place.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Day 6 Poetry

One of my favorite episodes of The Andy Griffith Show introduced the character of Malcolm Tucker, an uptight businessman who can’t understand why no one in Mayberry is willing to work on his car when it breaks down on the Sunday he’s passing through town. But Tucker’s agitation is no match for the gentle and peaceful spirits of Mayberry, who recognize Sunday as a day of rest. It’s a test of Tucker’s patience when the delightful characters of Mayberry all but force him to chill out.

As it turns out, slowing down is just what Tucker needs in order to restore the sense of beauty that he had once known. The chords of Andy’s guitar seem to strike a soft spot in the old man as we watch him quietly sing the words to an all-but-forgotten song. And by the end of the episode, the anxious businessman is sound asleep in a chair on Andy’s porch, a half-peeled apple resting in his lap.

How easy it is to forget the beauty, to be blinded by the noise and confusion of a full calendar. Sometimes it takes an abrupt change in gears, even one not of your own choosing, to restore the sense of beauty that is yours.

Day 6 Guide

Take care to give yourself time to rest, time away from the noise of business. Try turning off the television and skipping reading the newspaper for a few days.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Day 7 Poetry and Life

On a walk this morning I noticed a wooden sign hanging from what was left of an old tree. I know I’ve passed by this tree stump hundreds of times without ever really thinking about that sign, but this morning, for some reason, I was curious. So I stopped. And here is what it read:

Please do not cut down the remainder of this tree. For years little children have played on it. Hopefully, enough is left.

In an instant, my walk became a trip down the road of memory and imagination. “Which children had enjoyed that tree?” I thought. “How many, and for how long? Was there enough left of the tree to give more children pleasure?” And then my mind was taken back to my own childhood, to a time when I used to climb trees myself; I thought, too, of my son and the dogwood tree in our front yard that he’d so enjoyed as a little tyke.

For me, memories and thoughts of such simple pleasures have an awesome purity, with the power to cleanse even a mind laden with present concerns and fears. Mentally rummaging through the past and connecting the “dots of life” makes everything feel okay. And for a while, life is what it should be, a beautiful dance.

Day 7 Guide

Consider your experience and identify times when you’ve found yourself on the road to beauty. Think of the conditions necessary to arouse the thoughts of simplicity. The key here is to begin building the habit of consistently finding the beauty as you walk through life.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Days 8-10 Art

I believe that we all possess the same underlying spirit that propels the artist to create. The soul, collecting the important moments in life, informs the spirit and arouses in us the search for meaning that so inspires great art. And we can relate to art because we have within us that same integrative power that knows something greater.

Days 8-10 Guide

This weekend try to abstract the greater meaning from life’s collective moments.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Day 11 Art and Morality

When he’s driving, my friend Curt listens mostly to “public radio.” Like me, he enjoys some classical music but really doesn’t know that much about it. I think he just likes the way it sounds and the way it makes him feel.

As a salesman, Curt spends a lot of time on the road where there’s always the temptation to pick up fast food during the lunch hour. But more times than not, Curt will have packed his own lunch, and in the middle of the day he’ll look for a quiet spot to park his truck and eat as he listens to the pretty music on “public radio.” Most of time he’ll find an old church or a cemetery and park under a big shade tree. With the wind blowing and the music playing, my friend finds a bit of peace and restoration in the middle of a busy day.

Day 11 Guide

Where to you find peace? What is it that revitalizes your tired spirit during the day? Think about your typical day and draft a plan to give yourself thirty minutes of peace. Think of the listening to music, writing in a journal or taking a walk.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Day 12 Interpretation

You’ve heard it said before, haven’t you? “Life is what you make of it.”

And it’s true, I believe, that the experience of life is partly self-wrought – that what you do in life in part determines your experience of her. But it’s also true that the experience of life is a matter of interpretation. How do you view life? Nature? God? Do you believe that we live in a benevolent universe? Or one that inspires constant fear and watchfulness?

One of the founding principles of Joyous Gard, with her view of beauty, is that we live in a universe of meaning and purpose. It is to see the course of the universe as fulfilling some wonderfully important and heavenly desire – something beyond our own understanding. The mystery of life that so defines the spirit of Joyous Gard is one that anticipates the awesome integration and interconnection of events, which are themselves beyond predication. As in the advancing spirit of human invention, which anticipates success but cannot predict its particular course, we should see the world as one of immense possibility.

Day 12 Guide

Today, check your foundation. How do you view the universe? Look around. What do you see? Possibilities, or dead-ends? Look for evidence in nature that supports a view of purpose and meaning. Try not to unravel the particulars of life, but rather anticipate the mysterious and beautiful connection of events sewn by the hands of God.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Days 13-14 Education / Knowledge

It is true: “Knowledge is Power.” And, therefore, it would stand to reason that a people’s intelligence is largely responsible for the wealth and power of nations.

As individuals, we sense such power and are often times drawn to people with the capacity to create, to bring something into existence from the ashes of nothing. Men or women, who from the energy of their own thoughts have built or invented something or who have advanced an idea, a technology or made a discovery, are worthy of admiration and respect – even riches.

But the greater power – greater even than that of invention – is, I believe, the power to consistently find beauty and love and desire in a world that so often feels broken and twisted. To build in yourself the capacity to see beyond the clouds of difficulty and on to the greater frontiers of a life divinely planned: that, my friend, is power.

Days 13-14 Guide

Be rich in spirit. Do not become discouraged but resolute and determined in your effort to build the place of Joyous Gard.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Days 15-20 Emotion

But the spirit which one desires to see spring up is the Athenian spirit, which finds its satisfaction in ideas and thoughts and beautiful emotions, in mental exploration and artistic expression;and is so absorbed, so intent upon these things that it can afford to let prosperity flow past like a muddy stream.

— Benson, Joyous Gard, Emotion

Builders of Joyous Gard: Consider yourself to be in a community of like-minded individuals who desire a life that follows not the winds of prosperity but rather the stream of thoughts and ideas relating to beauty and love.

Days 15-19 Guide

Spend the next series of days thinking of your priorities. What is really important in your life? What do you wish to protect? What do you cherish? Significance often times hides behind the veil of activity and prosperity.

© 2005, Levi Hill

Joyous Gard: Daily Guide Archives and Text
July 2005 ~ Days 21-31 Memory

Memory feeds imagination.

— Amy Tan (Author of New York Times bestseller, The Joy Luck Club)

The walls of Joyous Gard are ornate with images of life’s most significant moments. Painted with the storied brush of yesterday, the murals of one’s life and circumstance feed the imagination and quicken one’s sense of the future. How quickly present times become memories, charged with the capacity to heal the wounded spirit and put one back on his feet.

Often times, the path that takes one back to yesterday leads also to tomorrow. So, my friend, forget not your troubles but remember them as times of triumph over difficulty. Remember them not in order to arouse fear but rather to inspire greatness.

Days 21-24 Guide

Discount not the highest or lowest times but consider them all to be part of your experience.

© 2005, Levi Hill

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