Breaking records is a relatively modern phenomenon. I don't mean the kind that my children break when they discover my collection of Frank Sinatra discs, but the achievement kind. Those that tell us how far behind the four minute mile is, what a sound barrier used to be, and those that tell us that gold was once worth a more $35 an ounce.
Almost everyday my children read that someone has thrown, lifted, driven, sailed, hit, run, jumped, leaped and flown something further, heavier, faster, farther, harder, and higher than ever before. My children want in, and to be part of the act.
It started out in the most innocent way. It was just another gray winter morning. The stove had not yet reached the glow of warmth intended, and breakfast either had to be made, or was in the process of being so. Sharon descended upon my gray morning with a kiss on the cheek and the announcement, "Do you realize that this is the first time I have kissed you, on the cheek, while you are sitting on the sofa, on the 9th of November?" Before I could challenge this assault upon my early morning reverie, she shot back, "It's a new world record."
Since then, new world records have become ten a penny. One member of the family is trying to eleven a penny -- another new world record. Kate is reaching for the new record of how many ways she can cycle to the library. I am hoping that the record does not include neighbors' back yards.Sharon is aiming at being the first to wear a dog out before she is worn out. I hope she makes it. That truly will be a first. The whole process has set me thinking. Wouldn't it be really something if we could set records for loving and helping? Couldn't present records for kindness and compassion do with a little breaking?
A friend said to me: "Try to do just one good thing each day, and you'd be surprised how it would make your day." Well, it workeD. It did indeed make my day, but why stop there? I, like my children, decided to set a few world records of my own. I'd like to be able to make an entire day one wholly good deed. Alas, like all attempts at record breaking, there's a lot of training and a lot of perseverance to be accomplished. Mental record breaking is a hard as its physical counterpart.
What my children were showing me was that records and achievement also lie in the real of the spirit. We too often think of breaking limits only in the physical world, yet we also exist in our heart and mind. These too can become limited and stilted if we do not set higher levels for their accomplishments.
Talking about Englishmen at the height of the British empire, E. M. Forster said, "They go forth into it with well-developed bodies, fairly developed minds, and undeveloped hearts." He said an undeveloped heart, not a cold one.
Our senses are overqualified for their intended use. We pay very little attention to the subtle forms of expression all around us. We hear but do not listen. We look but do not see. We invent the most complex machinery to relieve us of these tiresome tasks, and it tells us nothing except that it is only a piece of machinery.
Our senses are biologically and mechanically advanced and spiritually underemployed.
There is all around us, a luminous and sonorous world. It is full of sights and sounds that have nothing to do with physical structures; it is limitless, full of records waiting to be broken.
All of us are potential heirs to this world. No one has a monopoly on goodness of the heart, or the ability to see further than at present. To elevate our spirit by conscious endeavour is achievement indeed. And the present record can be broken!
Nicky has just scratched at the door, and she comes in bright eyed, with tail wagging. Sharon staggers in soon afterward, breathless. This particular record will have to wait. But Sharon asks me what I am writing about. I pause for a moment, then tell her that I would like to tell people something good about themselves that they have never realized before. "Wow," she exclaims, "that'll be a new world record!"
Setting records for our lighter tendencies can go a long way to eliminating humanity's taste for cruelty and indifference. The beautiful thing about a record is that it can always be broken, but never eliminated. There can be no limit on morality or humaneness. The records we set for ourselves will always be there.