Directing our efforts to achieve what we aspire to

by | Jun 26, 2023 | Faith, Nature, Writing and Reading | 6 comments |

I aspire to be a good gardener, growing herbs, vegetables, trees, shrubs, and flowers—but often fall short. Plants die or out-compete others, are overtaken by weeds, and suffer from heat, cold, lack of rain or too much. Although the forces of nature are out of our control, directing our efforts has a lot to do with achieving what we aspire to.

To aspire to be a tree

“I’d like to be a tree,” said actress Katharine Hepburn during her 1981 interview on the TV program 20/20.

“What kind of tree?” Barbara Walters asked as a follow up.

“An oak because they are strong and pretty.” She didn’t mention that oak tree leaves and acorns are toxic to most livestock due to large amounts of tannic acid. They also tend to suck up water and sun, thus killing off much of what might want to grow underneath.

Perhaps an oak tree provides a good metaphor for Hollywood.

Katharine Hepburn was outspoken, a woman of strong opinions, at times demanding and acerbic. According to Walters, Hepburn said careers and marriage don’t mix, although Hepburn was married for a few years in her twenties. Outside of marriage, she enjoyed other relationships with men including Spencer Tracy, an affair that lasted a quarter-century and ended with his death in 1967. Hepburn also asserted that careers and children were out of the question.

“I would have been a terrible mother,” she’s been quoted as saying, “because I’m basically a very selfish human being.” She was indeed a knotty soul.

To aspire to be a parent

Family relationships bring both blessings and challenges, especially being a parent. As beloved NPR commentator Marion Winik wrote in The Lunch-Box Chronicles, “To be a parent is a form of ongoing aspiration.” 

Yup. I aspired to be a good mother, too, but as with gardening often fell short of expectations. Even today, when I think back at those failures, I can fall into punishing myself with guilt.

Winik: “While our kids are growing up, we are growing, too, building individual parenting styles from the disparate messages received from experts, friends, relatives, our own instincts and our kids themselves. And we are only human. Unrealistic expectations are self-defeating; becoming obsessed with guilt when things go awry, as they are bound to in such a difficult and long-term project, doesn’t help anybody. You can’t very well move on and act the way you’d like to while mired in unworthiness and hopelessness. And all the time you spend brooding and punishing yourself is more time when your best self is not there for your kids.” Or for anyone else, for that matter.

To aspire to be a person of faith

Yesterday at church, I had the honor to read scripture, play flute with the Worship Team, and sing with the Women’s Chorale. In all endeavors, we did pretty well. But that’s not always the case.

From an essay-lecture written by Jorge Luis Borges titled “Blindness.” “Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all have been given like clay, like material for one’s art. One must accept it. For this reason I speak in a poem of the ancient food of heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.”

Aspire, Middle English from French and Latin, meaning to breathe.

When the Spirit breathes life into us, we receive gifts to use for a purpose. To plant and weed, to cultivate relationships, to suffer humiliating failures and grow from them, to aspire for the eternal.

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  1. E. Adams Wright

    Beautifully written and inspired reflection. Appreciated the quotes you wove into the blog post.

    • Carole Duff

      Thank you – glad to know you enjoyed the post. -C.D.

  2. aschmeisser

    All that my heart did desire
    was that the world let me be me,
    for I saw the lost require
    a cold and vicious mercenary
    who would fight to death for pay
    when the UN washed their hands,
    and who would stand fast the day
    when Hell invaded gentle lands.
    And so we fought, and my friends died
    (I buried parts that I could find).
    In those left there is a pride,
    perhaps a sin, but we don’t mind,
    that when we are the Lord to meet,
    He’ll throw flowers ‘fore our feet.

    I lived with heroes, and buried the best.

    The bell rings, cancer or no, I’m going out again.

    • Carole Duff

      God bless you!

  3. bigskybuckeye

    As I reading about Katharine Hepburn’s words, I thought about one of the most blessed assignments God ever gave me . . . being a father to three wonderful daughters.

    • Carole Duff

      Amen, Richard, Amen!


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