The Power of Devoting Ourselves to Something Larger Than Ourselves

As we are fortunate enough to be seeing signs of spring here on the West Coast, we may find ourselves reveling in the beauty of nature. And whenever I think of our beautiful planet Earth, I often visualize some of the amazing images of American photographer Ansel Adams, who specialized in powerful depictions of our natural world. Watching a PBS documentary on his life and work a few years ago, I was intrigued to learn that, according to someone who knew him well, he probably would have vehemently disdained any term suggesting the religious or spiritual to describe his work.  He did, however, see his art as reflecting something that was larger than himself — a “giving and taking” of beauty.

Anyone who has ever looked at an Ansel Adams photograph and who is comfortable using spiritual terminology would no doubt categorize Adams’s work as being intensely evocative of Spirit. Yet one doesn’t need to have a belief in anything other than the reality of one’s existence in the here and now to know that indeed, artwork such as this does point to something larger and more timeless than the course of a human life. In the end, as the example of Adams suggests, terminology and beliefs become secondary to the commitment of devoting one’s life to something larger than oneself, for the purpose of contributing to the larger good. In the words of Black Elk, “A vision without a task is a dream. A task without a dream is drudgery, but a vision with a task can change the world.”

May we commit to devoting our lives to something larger than ourselves — the life of a child, a church, a cause, the earth itself. May our visions be aligned with our tasks, and may our contributions help to change the world.