There are one or two new projects in the works here at From the Heart and I’m excited to share the first one with you! Some time ago, a friend shared with me something called “An Eschatological Laundry List: A Partial Register of the 927 (or was it 928?) Eternal Truths.” This is a list created by author and psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp, and is printed as an epilogue in his book, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him. Shortly afterwards, my husband taped a copy of this list, which has 43 items, onto our refrigerator.
I ignored it, partly because I did not know what “eschatological” meant, partly because it’s in tiny little print, and partly because one or two Eternal Truths feel like enough for me, let alone 43 of them. Then I started to see the list in various places on the web. The items on it are things like, “Love is not enough, but it sure helps,” and “We may have only ourselves, and one another. That may not be much, but that’s all there is,” and “How strange, that so often, it all seems worth it.”
But I noticed that no one really talked about the list when they posted it in different places, they just put it out there like, “Hey, isn’t this cool?” And seeing it stuck on my refrigerator between the Champaign-Danville Overhead Doors magnet and an orange Post-It note warning from Gabe that says, “No bad dinos in the house,” made me wonder, what is one supposed to do with something like this list? It seems cool and enlightened, but what does it actually mean? How does it help you live your life better? Are these Eternal Truths really true?
In my research on Sheldon Kopp and his laundry list, I’ve learned two useful things so far: 1) “eschatological” means “concerned with the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the future state, etc.” 2) Sheldon Kopp seems to have had a sense of humor. Here is how he described the list: “The subject of this particular letter was the foolishness of our professional pontificating….This was to be a zany private spoof, a way of tenderly making fun of myself. Instead, what emerged was a fragment of a cosmic joke, a visionary list of the truths which, at best, shape my life, provide answers to unasked questions, and give insights too powerfully simple to be grasped finally and forever.”
I love this attitude. It is very un-list like, in fact, because lists typically do not show you the connections between things; lists contain discrete, potentially unrelated items, and don’t lend themselves to deeper understanding. I love the playfulness of combining a word like “eschatological,” so weighty and doomsday-sounding, with the words “laundry list,” so mundane, everyday-ish, and non-threatening.
All this is to say that this has inspired me to take these 43 Eternal Truths one by one and see what they have to tell us. So our poetic Lenten journey of 40 Days in the Wilderness will continue on with an exploration of these 43 Eternal Truths (incorporating poetry whenever possible, of course!). The first ET is simply, “This is it!” On the surface this sounds like a call for presence in the here and now, which is good and important. But it’s not that simple; from a Christian perspective, for example, “this” is not really “it.” One’s perspective on how one lives their life now is profoundly shaped by how one understands, relates to, believes in the idea of everlasting life.
It feels a little scary to me to go down this road, but I’m going to give it a try. I hope you’ll be here too, and I hope you’ll write in with your thoughts along the way because I know they’ll be fabulous. So stay tuned because coming up next is: “Is this IT?”
What do you think?
Wonderful! Count me in!
OMG, I’m looking forward to this!! Eschatological or scatological, it ought to be very insightful
Gabe’s right–no bad dinos in the house [this house?].
Sounds like a Toastmasters Table Topic or an impromptu speech assignment, both wonderful exercises to stimulate one’s creativity and imagination. I admire you for taking up the challenge.
It reminds me that I have my own list of Russy-isms that must be written down… someday. It’s a source of great pride whenever I run into a former student and we talk about how music lessons impacted their lives. Typically, none of them are involved in music careers. Even more interesting is that nowhere in our conversation do we ever talk about ‘music’.
Then why am I so proud? Well I knew early on in my teaching career that 99.9% of my students would NEVER go on to do anything in music; same as karate teachers, ballet teachers, art teachers, etc. Does that make us failures?
You see, unlike regular school teachers who change from year to year, my students may stay with me sometimes as long as ten years! (My turnover rate averages a very healthy five years).
During that time I’m so much more than a ‘music teacher’; I’m a coach, a mentor, a confidant, a second parent… oh, there really is so much more. Actually, I prefer to think of myself as a ‘teacher of lifeskills’ who just happens to use music lessons as his pulpit.
I know the role I play in my students’ lives is HUGE. Often, I students tell me things that no one else on the planet will ever know. I take my responsibility very seriously.
So when former students remind me of the day we ‘talked’, and how the things I said help them even today in their daily lives, I’m truly and deeply humbled.
Like Sheldon, I think I’ve always wanted to write down my memoirs and present it as a humorous collection, poking fun at myself as I stumbled through my ‘teaching’ career – me, the one who LEARNED the most from every experience.
But time has proven that I’ve had worth to many people; that they are grateful they had a chance to walk at least a little ways along my path.
It’s realizing that you lived a good life and fulfilled a purpose.
Is this IT?
Indeed! You’ve gotta Love That Feeling! 🙂
Russ, I strongly encourage you to check out Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make” on YouTube. Sounds like you will totally relate!
I did. And I do!
In fact, when my wife Maggie and I first met nearly five years ago, she was enrolling her daughter (now my 13 year old step-daughter) for private music classes. She was absolutely horrified at my answer to what she thought was an innocent question, a variation on the ‘What Do You Make’ theme:
“So, how many students do you teach here?”
This, after I told her that I studied music from the age of six, held a Bachelor of Music Education Degree, taught private music lessons exclusively since January, 1972 (not some part-time pin-money hobby), and I’m here to help your child get more out of herself than anyone else ever expected of her.
My answer to her question by the way, “How many students I have is my personal business.”
See, many new parents, once they know how much I charge, are anxious to do the math, “Is this guy getting RICH off me?”
I continued, “I’m more than qualified to do the job you’re paying me to do.” I walked her over to the bulletin board in my waiting room where I had posted stories of many of my students. I asked her to pick any five and I would give her their phone numbers and she could call them for references.
Balls? Some people might say so.
I prefer to call it posture. I’m good at what I do and I can help you accomplish what you set your mind to. What else do you need to know… and WHY?
Maggie would later tell me that, although I initially floored her with my seemingly ‘arrogant’ response, she ‘felt’ a sincerity, strength of purpose and conviction that no other teacher/school she interviewed could deliver.
In fact, I impressed her enough to get her to marry me! 🙂 You gotta Love That Feeling!
I forgot what eschatological meant. Thank you.
I think this project sounds very exciting. Thank you, again! Colleen
If there is an “it”, then there” was” one and there is just coming up a “will be” one “it”
This is fabulous, Leslie! What a great idea…from a great writer. Can’t wait to read your entries.
“This is it” could lend itself to settling and not trying to reach for something better – different.
Hello. I’m Shelly Kopp’s son. I think he would have been delighted to see you take this list, and use each item as a meditation, making it your own, sucking the juice from it or spitting it out if it doesn’t fit for you.
Did you continue your journey with it?