Carl's voice was one of the strongest and powerful voices i have ever heard. On that day at the symphony, he had come back from the edge of death, which is what led to the diagnosis, and put his whole body into Oh Holy Night It was an incredulous performance, to say the least. He did not hold back, as is usually the case at a rehearsal so close to the main performance. But instead, the sweat and shaking that comes from a welling up and explosion of energy from deep in the soul--that place that carries the body beyond its normal performance level--was from where this song belted forth.
From what i could tell every time i saw Carl after that, this was where he lived his life. I don't know if Carl could hold back in anything, though i really didn't know him that well. What i did know is what i saw over the next year and a half as Carl battled strong and hard with cancer. The ebb and flow of his energy and health was a telling story of his determined will to spend the most and most valuable time with his beloved family.
His continued pursuit of excellence in the face of the impossible dream is what i know most of Carl.
As i sat in the audience of this year's Mother's Day symphony rehearsal performance, just days after Carl succumbed to the cancer, i listened teary-eyed to the conductor, John Parkinson, as he shared with us that Carl was rehearsing for this show and was to sing "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha. As the instrumental version followed, played by the orchestra, i reflected on how many people i have known that have died from cancer or were facing it presently. From my grandmother and father, to friends and acquaintances along the way, it is quite many. In fact, i hadn't known anyone that had "survived" cancer, really. They maybe only had come by a temporary reprieve.
As is my want, i play with the micro- and macro-cosmic levels of patterns. My mind wandered to the plight of the planet against some of humanity's incessant greedily consumption--that same consumption that is likened to a cancer to the planet. For those of us that are aware of this bigger picture of the planet being a living organism that has certain "cells" that have gone haywire and consume unabashedly and uncontrollably, we have begun a fight against this cancer and its impact on the planet. But, i wonder if we, too, are fighting an impossible dream?
In any case, i can use my friend Carl Stewart as a good example. It may have been an impossible dream to overcome the cancer that riddled his body, but who was he in response to that circumstance? A fighter, with dignity. A pursuer of excellence with great talent and diligence.
The tears that flowed on that day in Soper Reese Theatre during Carl's performance were in part for a stunning and powerful rendition that touched me to the bones. They were also knowing what lay ahead for Carl, inevitably, as does lay ahead for us all. But mostly, they were for how he was choosing to respond to it--with grace, robustness, and a sturdy and powerful presence. It is a model for me.
The question is, who are we in response to the knowledge that there is a cancer on the planet and it is us? Yes, inevitably, we will all die, including the planet--whether at our hand or through natural processes. In either case, who do we choose to be in response to that knowledge?
One colleague is doing his damnedest to alert the public that the planet is doomed and we need to get off--whilst struggling personally with MS. Me, i'm busy working on creating a healthier local food system and community and helping people into their heart, emotions and mindfulness. A lot of my friends are working on personal empowerment and awakening to the divine self. There is a lot of compassion in each of these responses to what presents itself at this time.
Whatever is on your path to overcome--be it a personal or global situation--the only impossible dream is to overcome the laws of existence. The possible dreams are those that we have power over--our responses. May you find the strength and vigor to face these obstacles with the grace, certainty and dignity that my friend Carl Stewart did. He was a beautiful site to behold and continues to inspire many.