And then it was my first day back to work. I started the day stretching and writing, and I packed a lunch, and I got to the train on time, and I got to work on time, and one of my favorite co-workers returned to work from maternity leave, and I had 750 emails to catch up on and lots of urgent things to respond to and before I knew it, it was 1:30 PM and I hadn't gotten up from my desk and I hadn't eaten that lunch I'd packed. I went outside, just to see what would happen. I figured I could find something to do on a 30-minute break that might bring me selfish joy. I headed toward Central Park, still unclear on a plan, and on the way I remembered that there's an exhibit the Natural History Museum that I've been wanting to see. It's all about bioluminescent creatures. I remember the first time I saw bioluminescence. It was 1986, and I was picking up credits to graduate college by taking a summer course in Ecological Agriculture at Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington. A friend took me down to the Puget Sound at night, and I have never doubted the planet's ability to wow me since.
I knew I couldn't stay long at the museum, but I also knew how delightful it would be to slip into an exhibit about bioluminescence for even 20 minutes. But when I got to the admission counter, I discovered it cost $25 to get in, and I only had $20 in my pocket. I showed the guy my $20, and he shrugged. I told him I only had $20, and he told me entrance wasn't based on donation. I even tried again -- and asked if he'd let me in for $20. It wasn't going to happen. So I walked away, and I looked up, and I remembered how much I love the Roosevelt quotes engraved high onto the walls of the entry room. I decided to take some time with each of the quotes, and really let them sink in. Usually I focus on the quotes about children and nature, but this time the one that spoke to me loudest was about being a human in this world.
I'll type it here as he said it, but maybe when you read the words MAN and HE and HIS you could translate that into something that makes room for everyone. Also, the punctuation is as engraved:
A MANS USEFULNESS DEPENDS
UPON HIS LIVING UP TO HIS IDEALS
INSOFAR AS HE CAN
IT IS HARD TO FAIL BUT IT
IS WORSE NEVER TO HAVE TRIED
ALL DARING AND COURAGE
ALL IRON ENDURANCE OF MISFORTUNE
MAKE FOR A FINER NOBLER TYPE
ONLY THOSE ARE FIT TO LIVE
WHO DO NOT FEAR TO DIE AND NONE
ARE FIT TO DIE WHO WOULD HAVE SHRUNK
FROM THE JOY OF LIFE AND THE
DUTY OF LIFE.
The joy of life and the duty of life. Intertwined. I'm going to try to remember that. And I'm going to go back to the museum as soon as I can, with $25 in my pocket. Well, maybe $30. Shake Shack is on the way.