April’s Call

Spring has a magical quality, probably the reason we invest it with almost supernatural
powers. The grey and soggy grass (or in the case of Minnesota, blackened snowbanks) yield to light green shoots. April’s showers invite forth flowers, including tulips, which rather naively (for there are certainly thunderstorms to come) bob their happy yellow, red, or orange heads in the warm breeze. And at the first suggestion of a true thaw, schoolchildren everywhere stuff their winter jackets at the bottom of the hall closet, thinking they are outsmarting mom—who just might decide it’s not quite time to wear only shorts and t-shirts. (Little do they know that she has done the same, except she’s wondering if she can wear her college miniskirts.) The birth of new life brings out the child in each of us and we look around, musing about what the wonders that should now spring into our lives.

The energy of spring says, It’s time to start anew. It’s not only off with the scarves and mittens, but also our cold-weather lackluster, hunker-down attitudes, and outdated thoughts. Face it. In the spring we—like the birds, bees, and all God’s creatures—want new love, or at least an updated version of the one we’re in. We want new life. We want a new world. Where is one place we turn for inspiration and guidance—but the bookstore?

Ha- I bet you didn’t think I would go literary. You expected maybe a flashlight shining to the stars or a soliloquy on “going with the flow?” If we were to actually turn to nature for guideposts, spring might actually be a spectacular season. We might each emerge from it enthused, joyful, and in love. Unfortunately, most of us ascribe to the human maxim of believing what the human culture has to say about life, rather than what the natural world and our own intuition might reflect.

What better place to assess humanity’s expectations of—and limits for—the individual than by reading the titles of the New York Times bestselling list. This list references not only what publishers, in their ability to mete out and measure popular culture, want us to understand but what we ourselves are currently willing to understand—and become.

Take my hand; we’re going book shopping.

By far the most outstanding commentary on current philosophy are the shelves and shelves of wine-colored books inscribed in gold lettering: “The Secret.” Here we are. The keys to the universe. The book is small, which is reassuring, as none of us are too interested in complicated formulas or detailed action plans. A quick paging-through reinforces the initial impression that “Yes, Virginia,” life really is simple. You get what you think you should get. Life is a wishing well, the Universe at our personal disposal.

Only a few of us might wonder at the logic. If we’re all supposed to get what we desire, what happens when one, two, or maybe a few other of the over-six billion other people in the world want what we want—as in, we’re all fighting for the same table scraps? Our disappointment in the Universe, others, or ourselves leads to the same place. Disillusionment, a very “unspring” like attitude. Well there’s a solution. It’s covered in, “Liberal Fascism.” Sure, everyone else can get what they want—as long as our dictates come first.

Okay, so maybe we should move on. We’re ruining that “in love” feeling.

Well, here we have an interesting title: “Obsession,” which reports as mass-market fiction, closely followed by “Naughty Neighbor,” of the same ilk and genre. Now if there’s one thing we’ve learned in life it’s that we’re all obsessed with what our neighbors are doing and that most of what we read in books about the subject can’t even begin to compare with the non-fictionalized accountings rendered by everyday life. The message? If we can’t keep up with the Jones (or Smiths or Andersons) then let’s try— “Eat, Pray, Love.”

Life just can’t get better than that, especially since the most controllable part of the quotient is to eat. (We can pray but that doesn’t guarantee anyone is listening—and loving usually requires a responding party, questionable since many of the book titles, like “The Audacity of Hope” and “I Heard that Song Before” imply that we’re not having much luck in that area.) So eating we do, with authors urging us on with books like, “In Defense of Food” and “Martha Stewart’s Cookies” and simultaneously shaming us into regret with other titles including “Losing It” and “Skinny Bitch.”

In short, book titles alone seem to imply that we’re a nation fairly eager for “more” with little idea of how to get it—except, perhaps, via daydreaming and eating. And here comes spring beckoning us forward—to dream, to reach out, to laugh, to notice the joy within others and ourselves.

Maybe there is an answer on the book tables, or at least a starting place. Two books by Eckhart Tolle, one about living in present time and the other about creating a new earth, echo the true omens of spring. No matter where we’ve come from—what winter chills and dead past lays in yesteryear, today is a new day. Today there are spring blossoms. Today there is hope. Today there are more and different tomorrows. Today there is love, if we choose to see and share it.

Today the world is waking up. The trees, which have forgotten how to breathe during the course of the winter, are taking in big, vast gulps of excitement. They are remembering that yes, they are alive—and that it’s time to thrive. Their return to life is mirrored by the activities of the birds, animals, and plants around them.

Nature conspires to renew us. Are we willing to wake up to a new life? To leave winter behind with gratefulness for the sleep—and spring forward? To write a new chapter in our personal book of wisdom? That is the call of April.