An act of Gravery

October 08, 2007

While visiting the port of Salem, Massachusetts, I discovered one of the nation’s oldest cemeteries. According to, “Old Burying Point or the Charter Street Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Salem, and the second oldest known cemetery in the country, started in 1637.” As visitors walk through the lush lawn and ancient trees, grave markers hide from time almost like tropical fish in a large aquarium. Some of the stones, worn from centuries of rain and weather, barely display the name of the decedent. Other headstones, lovingly set in place long ago, look out from beneath entangled roots of old trees gnarled above ground, capturing the stones in a giant sea creature-like grasp. Flat, surface stones risk complete coverage by years of leaves and encroaching edges, yet dare to speak out, all the same. Larger, almost coffin-sized above ground boxes, lay silently, ominously, under centuries of weather. Some tell long stories, some tell how death occurred and some are barely legible, but the meaning remains the same. Someone lived and died. The real significance lies underneath the surface – in the life stories buried in time.

Birth Certificate
Informing us of all pertinent information regarding human birth, this official document certifies and describes the instance of a person’s entry into the world. I never quite figured out the significance of birth weight and length. Perhaps these figures indicate a trend or propensity to something regarding future health, but as I stand at five feet three inches today, it doesn’t matter how long my body was the moment I was born, I’m not that person anymore.

Birth date, time, and location prove essential to numerologists and astrologists. Taking these coordinates seriously and deliberately, these aficionados sometimes pinpoint personalities and tendencies, albeit usually after maturity. With rare exception, astrological charts usually don’t accompany a child through their socialization process and thankfully, parenting skills thrive independently from the trends the interpretation suggests. Yet, astrologers and numerologists earn credence from the power we give them as adults when our anxiety over our future and resolution of our past haunts us and we turn to them for consultation.

In some cultures, naming conventions undergo scrutiny by the family. The first son may carry the name of his paternal grandfather, or the first daughter, her maternal grandmother and so on. Thus, we see many Juniors, IIs and IIIs in our rosters. Depending on the rigidity of the traditions, nuclear families hurt feelings and the pride of ancestors by breaking free of repeated name sequences and choosing something more modern or meaningful to name the child. And, striking an even more hurtful blow to the parents, a child may choose to legally change his or her name at some point. Whatever the name, it still gets carved into a gravestone, only to be washed away centuries later.

Our society loves labels. After our defining label, our name, we choose adjectives which we believe describe our personality or behavior or in some cases, our facts of birth. While “Shorty” surely applies in infancy, it holds ironic meaning for a tall person just as “Stretch” does for a shorter adult. How about other labels – those we give ourselves?

Married to the beliefs we hold about ourselves, we use a range of labels ranging from our abilities (or inabilities), to limitations, to our occupation and even to our preferences. Sadly we’re more likely to hear “I’m no good at computers,” rather than “I’m a bookworm.” Thinking that self-admonishment equals humility, the words we choose to describe ourselves weigh heavily on our subconscious mind, creating patterns of negativity continually reinforced by ourselves and the others who buy into our convincing argument.

The "I can’t" label, perhaps the most destructive and limiting self-assigned excuse doesn’t seem like a label, at first. Yes, I realize I’ll never be an astronaut or a wide end receiver for an NFL team and I’ll never grow to 5’10". More descriptive of attitudes than physical limitations, after years of self-talk, "I can’t" sets in like a red wine stain on a white linen tablecloth, as your truth. Lately, I’m teaching myself to eliminate these words from my vocabulary. I catch myself, stop, think and tell myself "is this the truth about me I want to accept? Am I right?" Nobody gives you "I can’t" except yourself. Your "I can’t" follows you through the duration of your lifetime – it rarely makes it as an epitaph.

Like buoys in a sea of life, the gravestones in thousands of cemeteries around the world, serve as place markers which remind us all we really own are our memories and our good name. Curiously, some people, born "ahead of their time," suffer as social outcasts during their lifetime, yet history elevates their memory and achievement posthumously. For example:

In the spring of 1633, Galileo Galilei, an Italian scientist, was delivered before the dreaded Roman Inquisition to be tried on charges of heresy. He was denounced, according to a formal statement, "for holding as true the false doctrine that the sun is the center of the world, and immovable, and that the earth moves! " The statement went on to read that "the proposition that the sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and heretical, because it is expressly contrary to the Holy Scripture! " Galileo was found guilty and forced to renounce his views. Ill and broken in spirit, he was sentenced to a life of perpetual imprisonment and penance.

While a visionary such as Galileo incarnates rarely, his pioneering spirit and courage to stand for his beliefs in spite of the times in which he lived, exemplifies that our greatness outlives us. History may or may not say much about you other than your name on a granite stone, but the true measure of your worth resides not in how the world receives you, rather in how you integrate your own truth into your life expression.

At the end of each day, with your head on the fluffy pillows, peaceful rest comes from a clear conscience and from knowing you acted out of your core values in the best possible way. When you reconcile that your nature and the Spirit are united, you hold your integrity in high regard and act according to the preservation of your self-worth. How the world remembers you doesn’t depend on what is written about you – it takes notes from the way you lived.

Sense of Self - Place in the World
Do you know who you are?
While birth certificates present us to the world, and gravestones commemorate us, what fills the years in between matters the most. Everything about you, regardless of your birth-body, radiates an expression of Spirit. Our bodies act as vehicles that carry around what’s important. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, the human body experiences a finite, temporary, existence. Your life consists of far more than DNA succession or wealth accumulation or even some measure of achievement.

Moving through the world, in the world and of the world, you experience your days with wonder and vitality when you understand your connection to the Infinite. As a smidgen of Source energy, you walk the earth with deliberate lessons to learn, goals to achieve and people to affect. When you realize that everything in your life expresses perfection, you begin to understand who you truly are.

God doesn’t do things to you as though on a vengeance-powered rage. God steps aside to let life flow over you and give you the opportunity to make strides toward the very being you were born to become. All the while, circumstances lay the bricks of perfection as you walk on the road to your evolvement.

Remember that everything is already perfect. Things appear exactly as they should and you contain within you, all the tools necessary to grow and leave the world a better place because you visited for awhile. And for those who carry on after us, our graves serve as solid reminders that while what’s beneath the surface may disintegrate, the manner in which we lived as expressions of God, fortifies the earth and provides a firm foundation for all who walk in the path we dared to create.

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