To listen to this post, please click here:A Bulb Of Meaning

An old friend and I spoke of meaning yesterday.

An event like the one in Boston begets questions: Why? What does it mean? Is there even such a thing as meaning anymore? Did those responsible grow up without a sense of meaning? Did they hope for meaning by this act? Meaning seems to disappear at such a time. But ultimately, I believe meaning appears in response to our attempt to grasp it.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I am still glad to be human, even after this event. The worst in people can bring out the best in people.

Acts of caring and meaning and beauty blossomed all over Boston: runners who kept on running to the Red Cross to donate blood; courageous workers who responded medically and strategically; people offering beds for runners stranded in the city; others buying strangers coffee as a random act of kindness, or handing out granola bars. And not just Boston—today there are people running all over the country in a Run For Boston started by some marathoners in Texas.


Like the squill in the bulb, meaning may not always be evident. But cultivated by the power of our intention and the warmth of our attention, it will appear. Different in every garden, to be sure. But rise it will.

Many early readers of Glad To Be Human asked me for copies of it to read aloud at Thanksgiving, to give to friends who need a lift, or even share with their Mom on Mother’s Day, since without mothers, none of us would be human.  I am happy to announce that this Pushcart-Prize-winning essay is now available for eReaders of every stripe. Regular followers of this blog know that I had a writer’s dream come true when Jay Hartman, my publisher at Untreed Reads, bought it on the spot at the Book Expo last year, and as of today it is available in more than 51 countries. (This just in: before I could even post this, Jay emailed me that we have a bunch of sales from all over the world!)

In a way, this essay is a short, distilled and bottled version of my outlook on life–Irene’s über-blogpost, if you will. (Though at 5 pages, it runs a bit longer.) Click here to see what Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray Love and other works) had to say on her Facebook page.

Here’s a taste of the essay:

(To listen, please click here:GTBH excerpt)

Glad to be human in the 21st century, survival licked; glad not to be selling my blood anymore or using rolled-up toilet paper for sanitary napkins. But even in those dollar-few days, I’d find a bunch of roses abandoned on the street; or once, walking up Eighth Avenue to meet my date, the strap to my only pair of shoes disintegrated, and I went into a hotel after three barefoot blocks and asked, “Do you have any shoes?” And they did, a pair of Dr. Scholl’s that someone left that fit just right. Glad to be human; glad to be provided for; glad to provide for myself in faith and effort. Fun to find shoes, fun to buy them, too. 

Glad to be human—for solitude and to be able to be a stranger—a gift of the 21st century, like speed and music anytime and feast upon feast of stories anytime. Glad to be human for late nights, talk and art and sex and loving and all different languages; glad to be human for words themselves, peculiar to us as paper to the wasp, as leaf to tree or song to bird—words as human as a measured square. 

I’m taking an interesting online course called The Enlightened Brain, by Rick Hanson, PhD. In it he says our brain evolved to pay closer attention to bad news than to good, because survival was at stake. (That’s the Darwinian take, anyway. I may have more to say about this in future.) But he says we can actually rewire our brain as we learn to pay more attention to the good. It’s always  been my intuitive bent, and it wanted wording.

I hope you’ll buy my wording and feel your brain refresh as you read it, and I hope you buy a copy for someone you love. It’s a feeling worth spreading. (At the New Release discount price of 69c, it’s cheaper than a greeting card.)

You can buy Glad To Be Human here .

And I am personally offering a money-back guarantee:  Buy Glad To Be Human. If  you don’t feel better after reading it, I’ll refund your money! If you  want to share a reason you are Glad To Be Human, click here. The best responses will be considered for an GTBH anthology from Untreed Reads. Thank you for your patience and support, one and all–

Purple World and text c 2012 Irene O'Garden


I had finished writing my weekly post when I received news of a resourceful California girl. So I offer the following instead. It’s a story you’ll enjoy.

When ten-year-old Lauren learned that, due to a budget shortfall, the Education Fund Committee of her elementary school had decided to eliminate the entire art program, she was extremely upset. Though she moves to middle school next year, the idea of the elementary students missing art disturbed her. Rather than stew, however, she created a campaign she called One Wall, One Week.

With her teacher’s permission, Lauren visited twenty-five other classrooms at her school. She encouraged her fellow students to ask their parents to remove the art from one wall of their home for one week, and to notice how they felt without it. She asked the teachers to do this in their classrooms as well.  She then collected 387 student signatures on a petition to save the art program.

Last Tuesday night Lauren met with the Education Fund Committee where she presented both the petition and numerous examples of student art. (You can see her presentation in this 3 minute video. ) I am happy to report that thanks to her efforts, the Committee decided to restore the art program in full.

I admire Lauren. First, she spoke up, which takes courage. She took a creative, not a belligerent, approach, which takes imagination. Then she followed through, which takes commitment. (You try giving the same speech twenty-five times.)

Credit is certainly due her school, which allowed her to campaign, and the committee which saw the value in listening to such a concerned child. But one so young doing such heavy lifting offers us all hope for the future and inspiration in the present. May we all take the time to preserve what inspires us.

(Full disclosure: Lauren is my grandniece. Should you wish to leave her a comment, I will see it gets to her.)

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