Life Lessons From Dr. Seuss: Helping Horton Hatch the Egg

One of my favorite books is Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Suess. It is the story of Horton the Elephant who sits faithfully on a bird’s nest in a tree for fifty-one weeks after he promises the mother that he will babysit the egg. The egg, abandoned by its mother, eventually hatches into an “elephant bird” (read the book- I am not doing it justice!).

It is a book about the transformative power of love as well as loyalty and responsibility.
It is also a wish. After Horton hatches this amazing creature, the reader is told “and it should be, it should, it should be like that! Because Horton was faithful! He sat and he sat! He meant what he said…And he said what he meant…And they sent him home happy, One hundred per cent!”   We all want to believe that our hard work will be rewarded; That all the blood, sweat, and tears that we pour into our careers, our relationships, and our children will pay off and that we will be one hundred percent happy.

And perhaps it should be like that. But all too often it isn’t. Even the happiness from a great victory can be short lived. I often imagine that the elephant bird goes back home with Horton and is teased because he is different or that even if not teased by others, he himself feels isolated and alone. I imagine that Horton, the dedicated father he has become, stays up late at night worrying about his child’s future. I imagine that Horton’s happiness does not stay at 100% for very long.

What do we do when life does not reward us as we would like or even as we deserve? How do we rise to the next challenge? Part of the answer is actually the first part of Horton Hatches the Egg. Horton shows up. He takes on responsibilities and plugs away even when it is hard. As they say, 90% of success is just showing up.

But another part of the answer is sadly absent from Horton’s tale. Horton sits on the egg alone for 51 weeks. He never asks for help. Perhaps Horton fears that others will not be willing. Perhaps he feels that no one else could do it as well as he does. Perhaps he feels that he will not be living up to his word if he takes even a short break to stretch his legs and see his friends.

Horton makes the mistake that so many of us make- believing that there is only one right way to do things and that only he is capable of doing it. Sometimes the best way to show up is to know when you need a break. Sometimes it’s about delegating. Sometimes it’s about connecting with others who are dealing with similar issues and learning from them. Sometimes showing up means getting help to view things from a different perspective.

Through his love, devotion and dedication to being there, Horton helps to create something beautiful and special. We are all, in our own ways, capable of being Horton. But we shouldn’t have to do it alone.

On Finding Holy Spaces

In Jewish liturgy and writings, there are many names for God, several of which are considered too holy to say at all and some that are confined only to prayer. However, the name for the divine from the Jewish tradition that most inspires me is not one of those. It is the word Hamakom, translated as “the space” or “the place.”

What does this mean? For a religion that does not confine God to a physical form (the second commandment prohibits Jews from making a graven image of the lord), what does it mean that one name for the divine seems to tie god to a physical location? This is a name that’s seems to limit God.

But that translation is too literal in nature- for descriptions of God, in the Jewish tradition at least, are always metaphoric. What does it mean for God to be “the space”?

For me, this meaning is found in stillness- the stillness one encounters in prayer or meditation. It is the mental and heart space that is both entirely present and eternal at the same time. To be still so that one can hear the voice of the divine (or universe or whatever spiritual tradition in which you find yourself), is to tap into a power and energy that is contained within you and all around you in the universe.

The word, Hamakom comes from the Jewish tradition, but its meaning extends beyond the confines of the Jewish faith, or really any religion at all. Hamakom is about being present. It is about finding the space in yourself in which you can be one with something larger. It is spaciousness of spirit and mind.

How can we bring this space into our lives? For some the access road is prayer or meditation. For others it is exercise or quiet walks in nature and for others still it may be a generative space of creativity- music, dance or art. The key is that Hamakom can be found in each of us but is not contained solely within us. The access point must begin in the present moment but it simultaneously extends to the eternal. The point of entry is in the individual- the point of enlightenment is in connection.

Where do you find hamakom? How can you bring that space into your life?