In 1689 in Japan, a kind farmer gave the lost poet Basho a horse that knew the way. And in 1910 when Ted Shawn was paralyzed, before he knew he was a dancer, a dear friend left crutches just out of reach and breakfast on the table. And in 1938 in Paris, Django Reinhardt’s brother left a guitar at the foot of his hospital bed because he knew the badly burned genius would no longer be able to play the banjo. And when Claude Monet at 82 was suffering from double cataracts, he somehow knew to keep painting what he saw, which led him to retrieve his masterful “Waterlilies.” Even leafcutter ants in Costa Rica will carry another ant for miles. These examples are evidence that there is an eternal impulse at the core of all living things that compels us to bridge what is with what can be. And this ounce of care—that skips from living thing to living thing, from generation to generation—keeps life going. This ounce of care connects us all throughout the ages. And so, the care in the farmer’s hand giving the reins of his horse to Basho continues in the dancer’s friend as he leaves crutches just out of reach and on into Django’s brother placing that guitar at the foot of his brother’s bed. These acts of care are all parts of one unending gesture that waits in each of us to bring living things together. All of this makes you cry out “Stop!” when we pass a turtle in the middle of the road. And you feel compelled with an urge that rises in you from centuries to get out of the car and place the turtle on the other side of the road.

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, discuss a moment of ordinary care that you recently witnessed.

This excerpt is from my new book in progress, The Signature of Being.

The Life of Expression: Finding Your Voice, Mark Nepo’s new 3-session webinar starting June 13, will center on the lifelong process of listening, reflecting, and expressing, and on how bearing witness to the truth of living reveals the mysteries of life. For more information or to register, visit:

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