Sunday, April 13, 2008

Aspiring to Inspire

Are you waiting for it? Inspiration? Do you look for it all around you or has it only landed in your lap a few times over the course of a lifetime? Where does it come from? How do you get it? What do you do with it?

I spent several years of my life feeling very uninspired. I wanted that passion-driven excitement but it eluded me. I thought I was open to it and even sought after it, but I grabbed onto anything that caught my eye (not necessarily my heart). The result was—well there were really no results, at least none of any value.

Inspiration is a key ingredient to meaning. We can attain success by doing. Just sell the same product in greater number, write a song that sells many copies or solve an equation that wins a Pulitzer. These can all be done without inspiration by going through the known motions of what we’ve been doing and possibly working a little harder or staying a little longer. But without inspiration, the success lacks the depth of significance.

When a woman becomes an oncologist because her mother battled cancer and is driven by her loss and desire to help others; that’s inspiration. When a man writes a beautiful song after looking into his newborn’s face; that’s inspiration.

But just as we can achieve great things without inspiration, the reverse is also true. Inspiration can be boldly presenting itself to us and we don’t accept the offer. It moves us momentarily, but we don’t embrace it and act upon it. We miss the opportunity to create something wonderful, run a little faster, make a bigger difference under the dramatic influence of a muse. Then the inspiration is gone again and so is the wind in our sail.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,” writes Lewis Carroll. Inspiration can provide direction and help determine our path. Being directionally challenged (I get lost easily if I don’t have landmarks or a compass) I need a clearly marked trail. I also need a reason to lace up my hiking boots in the first place. I’ve seen a sunrise, but I’d never seen one in Zimbabwe, so I was inspired to get up really early and hike a mountain in the dark when presented with this choice. As I witnessed this spectacle I was further inspired—not to accomplish anything, just to sit and admire it and be grateful to the One who gave it to me. That kind of inspiration enhances faith, which is a catalyst for great things we can’t do on our own.

Inspiration is abundant. It surrounds us in the form of nature, art, tragedy and simple kindnesses. Are you waiting for someone to put a sign on it and notify you that this is it: your daily inspiration? Or are you filled to capacity with it but not using it as fuel to inspire others? Either scenario is uninspired.
Diane Markins

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