My one word for 2021 is “Presence.” Selecting a word for this new year was a challenge. I reflected upon exiting 2020 and entering 2021 to contemplate what word inspires me. I also considered where I am in my life and how can I continue to make a difference. By definition, presence is the state of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. I see great meaning in two synonyms for the word – consciousness and dignity.
Why is “Presence” important for me in 2021? The restrictions created by this pandemic have established somewhat of a ‘Groundhog Day’ scenario. Each workday plays out the same. It can create a mental rut where I go through the motions. Presence is required to maintain focus, to ward off distractions and to show compassion for others around me who are dealing with their own pandemic related concerns.
Presence is understanding and appreciating where I am on my journey; sitting on a backyard swing looking at the stars on a warm December evening; watching my wife from across the room; listening to my adult daughters share the high points and frustrations of their working careers. I continue to be challenged recognizing my new and different role as an elder statesman (might be because it makes me feel old?). However, as I am in my final third, I am often the one in the room with the most life experience. I need to be conscious of that fact and the influence I can have with that role. Years ago, when I was coaching high school football, I realized most of the other coaches were half my age. That presented me the opportunity to have the presence of a mentor. With my current company, although I am the newest employee, I do believe I am the oldest. Again, a position where my presence can have an impact.
Aristotle outlined the five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch – some two thousand years ago. These senses are the biological and natural foundations of the human body. They create our perception of what is real and drive physical presence. However, we need far more than physical presence to cope in today’s world. We must be “rooted within ourselves” and mindful. We must come out of the mind chatter that we often find ourselves living in. We need to be where our feet are and not settle for anything less than our full existence in the moment.
Presence is an essence, a state of being. That is not to be confused with charisma, which is a skill that can be used, sometimes for less-than-ideal intent. Presence strips labels. We realize there is no “mine” or “ours” in presence. Presence is seeing all aspects for what they are. It is an openness, an acute awareness of our surroundings. We are not distracted by reflections on the past or worries about the future but centered in the here and now. Presence generates dignity. I noted in an earlier blog post that peace is presence, presence of justice.
Eckhart Tolle said about presence, “You can’t think about presence, and the mind can’t understand it. Understanding presence is being present.” In other words, that to grasp what presence is, we must be fully present, fully conscious.
My fathering responsibilities can be summed up in a quote that I saw in a daily calendar, by Reverend Lowell Streiker, “Great fathering requires three things: being there, being aware, and being real.” While spending thirty plus years in business development on a national level, I made a significant effort to be home and around for the important moments in my daughters’ lives, as well as the small meaningful moments. I challenged myself to be present over the phone when calling from the road and not be distracted by the hotel room television in the background. I can relate to the song by Country band, Lonestar, “I’m Already There” written by their lead singer about being there in spirit when he couldn’t be physically present while on tour.
I mentioned once before in a blog that I still have the note my College Coach gave me before the Lafayette – Lehigh game in 1981 that was titled “Carpe Diem.” He knew this was the biggest game we would play that year and maybe in our college career. Although he was concerned with focus and understanding the significance of the game, he was in fact asking us to have presence. To me Carpe Diem is living with presence. It was the Roman poet Horace’s intent of the term. The original translation read: “Pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the next one.” Horace’s view was life is short so take (or pluck) the opportunity to enjoy it, appreciate it. Carpe diem is an intentional attitude of living with dignity and finding peace and acceptance every moment of everyday.
St. Paul prayed for Christians in Thessalonica, “May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Paul is not offering a study of humankind. It is not that we have a spirit, soul, and body, but that we are spirit, soul, and body as different dimensions of our holistic person. Our presence as a Christian.
The Upper Room in Jerusalem is the most important room in the Christian world. It is the place where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his apostles and established His presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is where He washed the apostles’ feet. It is where the risen Christ appeared to the apostles and disciples. At Pentecost, Jesus’ frightened followers were huddled in that room and then emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit to open the doors and go forth to spread Christ’s good news. The living presence of God and his church, even in this day, is an Upper Room experience.
The song ‘Presence of The Lord’ by the super group, Blind Faith, was written by Eric Clapton. Clapton called this a song of gratitude to God and a testimony of faith.
Everybody knows the secret,
Everybody knows the score
I have finally found a place to live, oh
In the presence of the Lord
In the presence of the Lord
In a podcast I listen to, The Lanky Guys, one of the co-hosts, Father Peter Mussett said, “Morality is the adherence to the presence of God.” Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin noted that “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” In Psalm 16:11 “You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.”
God’s presence fills us. Our presence needs to be an extension of His presence. We are not left alone to accomplish our role in His mission. Life is an indivisible whole where the presence of God and the Holy Spirit exists in everything, woven within the fabric of life.
So, in 2021 I will be conscious of being in the moment with full presence, awareness, and dignity.