Life, Stories, Writing

What Is It to Have Succeeded?

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson #Quote #Success #Life

As I look back over my life, the questions haunt me, ‘have I succeeded?’ and ‘how do you define a successful life?’

Success by the worlds standards might include the following:

  • He who has the most toys wins!
  • Building wealth and showing it off!
  • Amassing a large social media following!
  • Having a perfect relationship and a trophy companion!
  • Launching a billion-dollar business that changes the world!

I am sure you can think of many others things that might apply as well.

If you don’t define success for your life, someone else will define it for you.

  • What mountain are you climbing?
  • How do you know if it is the right one at the right time?
  • When you reach the summit will you see your mountain off in the distance?

For me the idea of a successful life has shrunk over the years. Not in terms of impact but in terms of grandiosity and self-serving vanity. The Emerson quote has been a favorite of mine since the first time I read it.

To laugh often and much to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others to leave the world a little better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.

I have stood at the bedside as a last breath was taken and I have no doubt my presence made that breath a little easier. You can read about this in my memoir to be published in 2021 and an update in a previous post here. I pray that I have also helped others breathe a little easier in times of trouble, strife and pain. For what good is a life that offers nothing of value to other human beings, living things and the world around us?

It’s probably not surprising to paraphrase Emerson this is my definition of success >

Now tell me, what is your definition of success?

Photograph, Poetry, Writing

The Colors of the Spirit

Naturea blowing wind
swirls endlessly in perfect harmony
with the rhythm of our
repeated sins

an unrelenting rain
beats incessantly down into arid
and barren spaces of our
tattered minds

a freezing sleet
pelts our lives with no concern
carving scars across our
broken hearts

an incessant fog
shadows every move we make
the gloom hiding our
remembered shame

a bright sunshine
softens the ever hardened places
and gently forgives our
every mistake

an everlasting blue
so freely grants mercy’s gift
covering our spirits in
unending grace

~Mark Schutter ©2015

Art, Life, Writing

Do You Color Outside the Lines?

An artist is...In the beginning the lines we draw around our lives serve to define and differentiate us, and then over time they come to limit and isolate us. To experience the relationships we were meant to experience with God or other human beings we must hug those lines and even be willing to cross over and color outside those very same lines.
We often draw lines in our lives, setting boundaries all in the name of trying to keep ourselves from being hurt. In the end they keep us from experiencing all that life as to offer.  Free will allows us to be the artist of our lives and to create a life’s work that is uniquely us.  We only reach that place of breakthrough when we move past what is comfortable, what is known, what is expected and into the absurd.  We must allow the colors to run, to mingle and mix with the colors of others creating new hues and shades.
 
The community, the life we yearn for is only found in the anxiety of mystery.  We must choose to walk into the darkness of our hearts, search the undiscovered and shine a light into the dark corners revealing the beauty of color that resides there.  And by the grace of God find our true purpose to be a blessing of ripples impacting the lives of others.    ~M ©2014
To know one life
 
Adventure, Writing

My Manifesto of Insignificance

Knowing that my physical death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain;

Knowing that my life and work does matter, but also will not last;

  • I will seek to glorify and worship God in each act
  • I will slow down and live in the moments of today
  • I will love unceasingly; my family, friends and others
  • I will strive to create beauty within and without
  • I will acknowledge the wonder, live deliberately and laugh often
  • I will believe in the ripple effect that if I touch one life, I just may have touched the world
“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I challenge you to now write you own manifesto of insignificance, because it’s true none of us are going to get out of here alive.  So, what are you going to do in the meantime? ~M

(I owe a debt to Michael Bungay Stanier for the idea of writing my own manifesto.  Be sure to visit his website Box of Crayons and my previously published A Manifesto of Fatherhood.)