Sunday Best – May 26, 2024

 

When a measure becomes a target,

it ceases to be a good measure.  

     – Goodhart’s Law (paraphrased by Marilyn Strathern)

 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between measures and metrics. 

A measure is a clue; a metric is a fact. A measure is an arrow; a metric is a point. A measure is a puzzle piece; a metric is all straight edges. A measure is in motion; a metric is a freeze frame. Both can be helpful, but they serve different purposes.

Friends, here we are, on the verge of a new season. The garden is mulched. The eagle is circling overhead. The marshmallows are procured. 

What will be the measures of a splendid summer? Legs sore from hiking. Blueberries filling jam jars.  Corn husks topping off the compost pile. Books piled by the reading nook. Sunsets blurring into starlight.

We could chart each mile and berry and page.

We could keep a checklist of done’s and more’s. 

Or we could savor each birdsong, each bonfire, each bloom.

No counting – or accounting – required.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Best – May 19, 2024

 

Last month, I went out to check on my bees. As I approached the yard, an ominous silence greeted me. Where just a week before there had been lively signs of stirring in the early season sunshine, we’d since had a bitter cold reversion, with lots of wind and rain. Sure enough, the bees had not made it through. A silent beehive is one of the saddest sights around.

Gosh, we were so close to spring!

Almost.

If only.

Maybe.

What if.

Friends, sometimes things don’t go so well.

Sometimes it’s far worse than a springtime cold snap.

We might have to be sad for a while.

Or mad. Or quiet. Or loud.

We might have to retreat and recoup.

It could be a moment.

It could be a very long while indeed.

Then if we are lucky,

if we are ready,

we might have the chance to try again.

Sunday Best – May 12, 2024

 

The Waking, Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close behind me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lonely worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air;
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

 

On this day especially, one possible waking is to reflect on all who have nurtured us. Mother’s Day is complicated and painful for many, and at the same time we have all been mothered – by family and friends and teachers and communities and forests and lakes and pets and books and songs and selves. I am one of the very lucky ones who has been supported by all of the above – and most of all, luckiest of all, by my own dear mom, with the most steadfast love I will ever know. If you have ever cared for a person or place or idea with even a tiny fraction of this kind of devotion, thank you. You have made our world a better place.

 

Sunday Best – May 5, 2025

Boy oh boy, I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep the other day…. but this ginormous turkey had other ideas. As the sunrise gobbles beneath my window persisted – insisted – I finally looked out and beheld this glorious sight.

Who can resist a puffed-up bird looking just like the cartoons we had to draw in first grade? The lady turkeys were totally unimpressed and just kept eating bugs from the lawn, but I was mesmerized. 

Friends, at the end of a long hard week, I wish you rest.

But if rest is elusive,

I wish you an enthusiastic turkey,

greeting the dawn with style.

 

 

Sunday Best – April 28, 2024

“Yes we have a soul but it’s made of lots of tiny robots.”

 

I’ve been reading a lot of the provocative and illuminating work of Dan Dennett lately, and in continuing the comment above, he expanded –  

…I thought that’s exactly right. Yes we have a soul, but it’s mechanical. But it’s still a soul, it still does the work that the soul was supposed to do. It is the seat of reason. It is the seat of moral responsibility. It’s why we are appropriate objects of punishment when we do evil things, why we deserve the praise when we do good things. It’s just not a mysterious lump of wonder stuff that will outlive us.

It’s the sign of a great philosopher that their work can push us to refine our own conviction, to be clearer and crisper in our own thinking. For example, I do not agree that my soul is made up of tiny robots, but I DO believe that the soul is the seat of moral responsibility.

Hmmm. This is a different – and better – set of ideas to consider than I had before.

Dear ones, if an idea is worthy of our disagreement, it is worthy of our earnest exploration.

In a world of snarky sound bites and divisive declarations, let’s muster up our inner philosophers, to reflect and converse and refine, together. 

 

** Dan’s last major publication, the memoir I’ve Been Thinking, is a delightful tour of his extraordinary life and work. And one of many Dennett essays that helped to improve my own thinking in recent years is his Atlantic piece The Problem with Counterfeit People

 

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