This weekend I’m in Chicago, my hometown, which means I have the opportunity to visit the Art Institute of Chicago and see some of my favorite paintings, walk the city streets, and celebrate the Jewish new year with family members. This includes the gift of time spent with my 95-year-old aunt, a loving and philosophical person who always enriches me with discussions of our shared history and her insights about life and living.
These days, when we’re regularly confronted with leaders self-servingly exploiting their money and power to spread hatred and hostility, it can seem hard to find goodness and sources of inspiration. I suspect many of us may also find people in our personal sphere (or online) who fail to use their time on this earth to improve the lives of those they know—or worse, actively attempt to undermine them.
But I think it’s always valuable to reflect on what or who gives us inspiration. In so doing, we have the chance to expand the spaces that nourish. And in the sharing of these reflections—the paintings that move us, the songs or films or books that enrich us, the places that excite us, the people who touch and lift us—we have the ability to inspire others.
I am especially elevated by stories—sometimes it’s the story itself and sometimes it’s the talented storytelling—that help me make sense of things. But it may be the unfolding lives of purpose that I see in each of my daughters that particularly give me hope and inspiration. They motivate me to continue seeking to do my best, as do many students I interact with who are hungry to learn and make a positive contribution in the world.
Where do you turn for inspiration? Maybe it’s someone you know. Maybe it’s something you do or something you see or read or hear. Perhaps it’s somewhere you go. Epic or simple, I hope you’ll be inspired to share that source of inspiration here.
As always, I look forward to reading your reflections and the chance for this community to learn from each other.
Enjoy these Saturday prompts, including occasional breaks from the “sturm und drang” of the body politic? I hope you’ll consider becoming a paid subscriber, if you’re not already, to sustain these posts and all the other writing.
*Photo: Chicago in the clouds. By JIale Tan via Getty Images.
I always find my inspiration outside. Nature. A moment. A tree changing color. A mountain. A bug. A bird. A butterfly. A flower. An interesting rock. A potted plant inside. A pet.
Humans, not so much.
Let’s be clear - We all turn to Mr Beschloss for inspiration. Thank you!
When we lived in the US (although not in Chicago) we were members of the Art Institute. We often traveled to Chicago so membership made it easy to drop in to visit ‘friends’ in the permanent collection regardless how much time we had. Every visit, Caillebotte’s ´Paris Street Rainy Day’. It was gone once for a number of months, to be cleaned and restored. Once it was back, what a revelation! The emotional perspective of the painting was completely changed. No longer a dark, somber scene, but that moment when the sun starts to reappear with the last drops. I’ve found inspiration in this. Not just the painting, but in experiencing the power of change.
Great question. Enjoy your weekend with those you love and who inspire you. Nothing else matters.
While there are many ways I find inspiration, from my faith to talks in the woods I lately have been inspired by the memory of Mike Mansfield. That may seem odd but allow me to explain by placing the former Senate Majority Leader into a current context.
News reports about the chaos and bombast concerning yet another possible government shutdown looming underscore the continuing dysfunction in Washington. The idea that government should actually work and operate seems not to register with the loudest ones in Congress who have promised to ride a ‘poison pill’ so as to make personal headlines and tap into funding raising money ahead of the 2024 elections.
As this latest example of a malfunctioning Congress plays out on the front pages of the newspapers, I have found the exact opposite type of politician making for a most pleasant alternative while turning the pages of a book. Senator Mansfield: The Extraordinary Life of a Great American Statesman and Diplomat.
As a boy, I often heard the name Mike Mansfield on the radio. And for good reason, as I would learn when becoming more aware of our national politics. He was the longest-serving majority leader until earlier this year when Senator Mitch McConnell surpassed him, having also served 16 years in that position. But it was not the length of public service that holds and demands my attention, but rather the character of Mansfield that deeply resonates. He was, without doubt, part of an era that has passed us by.
While I love to read history books (friends laughingly tell me that the latest one is always the best in my estimation!) the story of the Montana Senator seriously connects due to the deep fissures within our body politic. There is no way to miss that he was, at every turn of his step, a gentleman, be it with a miner in Butte or a top White House official. The word that keeps coming to mind for me is not one that is used too often in the book but is inferred page after page. Decorum.
We do not talk as much as we should about the need for decorum in our politics. We certainly see and read the effect of far too little of it, but rarely have any national discussion about how to restore this quality to politics. Part of the way Mansfield demonstrated his resolve to foster decorum (and I was thrilled about this part of the book) was to sit down for breakfast every day with a member of the Republican Party, the folks from the other side of the aisle. He well understood that bomb-throwing was far too easy in politics but working on issues that were complicated and intertwined with other contentious matters required working coalitions of elected officials.
Too often those who are wedded to opposition about government and seek ways to stymie programs or undermine the very concept of governing will make spectacles of themselves. Such efforts are the way these ‘adults’ act out for their partisan base. It does not, however, assist in national governance. What they are now doing with zeal about being anti-government runs counter to a paragraph in the book about a young constituent who was studying snow in his class at school. Mansfield demonstrated with his response to the request from this kid a side of elected office that says a great deal about what is at the heart of governing. Being responsive to the needs of the folks back home. He told his staff to box up some snow and send it in a special box.
I suggest a chapter of this book a day (or a portion thereof) as a way to be inspired about how our politics not only once operated, but can and should, again.
At least twice a month I volunteer at the Heard Museum of Native American arts in Phoenix. I meet Native jewelers weavers potters who come into the shop to sell their wares. The full-time staff. Mostly Navajo -are extremely knowledgeable about Native art, and I meet people from all around the world. That is one source of inspiration. Another is hanging out with 4 yr old great grandson who never tires of night swimming-library- ice cream eating playground & museums!!
Easy. My bride of 46 years.
Hi! Thank you
Where do I turn for inspiration?
1. Gardening: It’s so awe inspiring to be able to see color, smell roses, and grow flowers and vegetables. I can’t help but notice how hard plants strive to grow and live in spite of hail, drought, wind! This includes weeds of course: they too have such spirit to survive.
2. Reading: After slogging through the political traumas and disaster dramas etc., there are always some lovely and touching stories that renew hope and evoke admiration.
3. The strength of my friends
Welcome home. My friends inspire me and the wonderful writers here on Substack, as well. Enjoy the Art Institute, as there are some amazing exhibits now.
When I'm asked where I get my inspiration, the answers are many and varied. At the center are my friends and family who continue to give me insight, love and support. The act of reading gives me comfort, while painting becomes a canvas for my feelings and perspectives.
Recently, I was deeply inspired by Lady Gaga during her concert at MGM Park in Las Vegas, my hometown. She embodies hard work, unwavering determination, and the courage to always stand up for her beliefs, even when opposed by others. Her passion and perseverance not only inspire me, but also fill my heart with happiness.
I've also been deeply impressed by President Biden and the transformative accomplishments his administration has achieved in just three years. His leadership and vision give me a firm belief in a better future.
Expressing my beliefs on platforms like Substack and Twitter has given me purpose and connection. E. Jean Carroll, especially on Substack, moves me deeply. Her personal trauma with the ex-president and her continued patience and perseverance are a testament to her strength. She shines brightly in the midst of darkness, embodying resilience and the essence of perseverance. She's a beacon of hope and a true inspiration, showing how to withstand the stormy winds of social media and remain steadfast in your pursuit of justice.
When I write my thoughts to my elected officials in Nevada and receive their sincere responses, it gives me a sense of recognition and appreciation. My community, teeming with good-hearted people, always reminds me of the strength that lies in unity.
Above all, my wife's innate goodness and kindness inspires me every day.
And in all of this is an unshakable faith in myself – a faith that regardless of the challenges ahead, I'll take the right path.
Walking anywhere with my dog is inspirational and spending quality time with my husband in or outdoors anywhere except cities. Nature is the cure for stress!
I grew up on the nw side of Chicago. I look to nature and music for inspiration, especially water. I love listening
to waves no matter how large or small. I love the whoosh of the wind through the eagle’s wings as they glide past my fishing boat. I love the rustle of leave in the wind. And all kinds of music-classical, rock, pop, Hawaiian.
My inspiration comes from a reconnection to my faith after the sudden death of my boyfriend, and many of the people where I attend. I also love to sit on the beach just watching the water. And...gardening, growing things and watching the little animals outside (snakes excluded). They all help to give me peace of mind and inspiration...or, a nice glass of wine on the lanai watching the palm trees swaying in the hot breeze.
My inspiration comes from the music I make at the piano or organ each week. The additional inspiration comes from the people who chose to make music in the choir each week. That dedication and shared joy of making music inspires me to move ahead in giant steps!
My inspiration comes from young people. Who I believe will save the world not only from climate change, but also from the under current of fascism.
I see them rejecting the 2 class society, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and hatred of anything not like them.
I see more women leading countries throughout the world. The best run countries all have women prime ministers or presidents.
Finally I see the disillusion with god and religion and people just caring about one another.
I'm inspired by people I follow here and on Twitter, including you, who are trying to make this a better world to live in. I also read books a lot, and find people there to admire and emulate. And finally, I am inspired by my son, who shares my anger about the way things are for young people now, and also my goals for changing things for the better. The young people of the country are our best hope for a good future.
By children, not only my grands but all of them. I want to do everything I can to hand over a saner planet.
If inspiration means raising my spirit, then I say I gain peace in wild unmanned nature. For spirit that is motivational, it has to be the ability to see the frames through which I am observing my thinking, feeling and doing (a framework). To see there is always something new trying to be born > < and resistance to that new entity/idea will strengthen and make it better, ^ reconciling the differences between the two ( >^< another framework). If inspiration/spirit means the emotional aspect of being, then I say it is love its self that inspires me... all I love.
Inspiration? hmmm... On walks with my dog ... along the river. Sitting on my front porch at night looking at the stars... stars always make me think BIG.
Sometimes reading - I will start reading a book - and it will get me to start thinking differently - and I come up with all kinds of ideas. One word or phrase can inspire me
Beautiful sentiments. Over the last few years we have gotten to know your aunt. She is a kind and remarkable woman. Very much an inspiration.
It may not be politically or socially correct; however, I am unabashed about my faith. Inspiration can be found in the teachings of Jesus who preached truth, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, non violence. Mohammad read Jesus, Ghandi emulated the teachings of Jesus. Inspiring indeed.
I so enjoy your essays. They are grounding for the most part. Thx.
For inspiration, I go out to my backyard and spend time on my hammock, which is artfully placed below an old, craggy silver maple tree.
Sorry about the weather today.
Thanks for sharing this, Steven, and best wishes for a happy holiday with your family. I am inspired by people like Anne Frank, who could still see the good in people, despite living through an unimaginable horror. Like Joan of Arc whose courage and faith overcame impossible odds and changed history. Winston Churchill whose indomitable courage helped to save Western civilization. And Abraham Lincoln and FDR who combined a strong desire to "do right as God gives us to see the right" and masterful cleverness to make it so.
Inspiration for me has always come free those who influenced me growing up. Obviously my grandparents, parents, great teachers, athletic coaches , college professors, mentors and historical figures all have provided wisdom and the knowledge on how they maneuvered the difficult times. Books have helped me understand the importance of perspective. 🤟✌️
These days it’s the second movement of Piano Sonata No. 21 in Bb, D.960, by Franz Schubert. https://youtu.be/cgv9efamu3s?si=RRQ5RNXizltU8n4_
Pittsburgh in the clouds inspires me.
There are many ways to be inspired for me; right at this moment I’m laying on our couch in the sunroom looking through the trees at the blue Carolina sky. I read, walk the beach, read a book, listen to music or watch a Favourite film. I’m new to Charleston area and not familiar with local museums but will visit the ones here like I did in Chicago when we lived there. Each visit to NYC involves at least one trip to MOMA, the Met, or Guggenheim. One never knows when the vision of a glorious work of art will hit one when looking at a real scene. There is Beauty all around us if you choose to look for it.
I find inspiration in stillness, which allows me to fully receive what is around me, be it the natural world or my lived ones.
L’shanah tovah. May you, your family, friends, and readers be inscribed in the Book of Life.
Music. Music feeds my imagination.
So Beautifully Written..... my very first trip out of Atlanta Ga (1986) was with my Church. I was an inexperienced Youth Leader😅😍. I had never been any where. So if you’ve ever read anything I comment on you know I am a long winded talker!!! So I am in the van with my group just talking, talking, talking and joking...y’all we go around this curve and and all I see is WATER..miles and miles of Water. I was awe struck and inspired by the beauty of all that water and in Downtown. I was told this is Lake Michigan. I ended up being one of the least talkative people during our Youth Convention that. The beauty of that sight coming from Georgia where there is no water (citywide) is a wonderful memory of Chicago I treasure.!!!! Thank you for your article 🙏❤️.
Quiet in nature
I’m an Army brat. Moving around A LOT! I had to make friends quickly because I’d only be there for 2-3 years (from 1960-64 once a year). Trading stories was the best way to accomplishthat. Often I ended up talking to someone who had been stationed with a friend from several years before!
All well and good; try that with someone without the same experience! When I lived off base I had the same approach with the natives. I was seen as nosy and too eager to be friends. No matter; I enjoy coaxing stories!
As soon as I read this, I thought immediately of Alex Noble. “On Sunday the 21st of October 2018,16 year old Alex Noble was doing what he loved best – playing rugby. As a rising sports star he was training with the Under-17 NSW Rugby Sevens youth selection squad. Tragically he was badly injured on the field, breaking his neck, and severely damaging his spinal cord.”
On Insta Gram Alex is "ifightyoufight". His story is compelling. although I feel a knot of grievous sorrow for him. Alex is full-on inspiring to everyone who learns his story. The Alex Noble Foundation was created in honor of Alex and in support of so much research and "repair". Alex's winning smile will capture the heart. His go-to spirit inspires by all-measure.
My inspiration comes from heroes such as Alex. They are heroes because they do not allow misfortune to drag them down; or, to cave into self-pity. They refuse to be the victim, ever the victor. I borrow a favorite from my old man: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving along.” Yes, I know that is not original to him, but it speaks volumes. Alex has the perfect surname: Noble. His fight is relentless. He will not be undone or out-done. Google him. Tell me that his story does not swell the heart and sweeten the Spirit.
I’m very inspired by the words, witness and work of Rev Dr William J Barber II and Rev Dr Liz Theoharis-- cochairs of the Poor People’s Campaign
I'm a painter but I primarily work outside, en Plein Air. Spending time in one place, experiencing the nuances of weather and light, birds and ground critters is a heavenly feeling. Each painting has a story, the grandfather who told me his mother liked to paint or the tree that fell, the squirrel that ran across my foot. Just plain inspired by outdoors.
My library friends.
2 places: Our past & their future
1- The courage of our late parents serves as my inspiration
My late fols went thru hell on earth as Holocaust survivors & my husbands has a classic American WWII story: He graduated college & immediately enlisted as a Marine in 1942-They got married, he left-she quit school & worked in a factory. He survived the Pacific theater came hoime then they had 5 kids in 10 yrs -Baby BOOM!
2- We are blessed with 6 grandkids ages 2-20. I will keep fighting for American decency & democracy so I leave them a better country & world
Eighty-some years ago I attended a country grade school for seven years with thirty-one children and one teacher, Pearl Anderson. I will never forget the things I learned from her: phonics, how to diagram a sentence, and so much more logical stuff that I have used all my life. As the years have gone by, my appreciation for her has only grown as I think and reason the way she taught me.
Art, art, art. Always— film & poetry, theater and life in the museum. But great writing has always been the key. Rilke, Arundati Roy.
I was in Chicago a couple of months ago; the first place I usually go downtown is the Art Institute. I go with my childhood friends to whatever exhibition and see our favorite Impressionists. We spent a lot our youth there. Art is my inspiration as well as music. Play me Beatles on repeat; play me 60’s and 70’s music on repeat and I’m a happy camper. I am inspired by heroes, fellow front-line health workers who somehow survived COVID.
No matter our age, we search for meaning and inspiration. We sold our home of 30 years and have temporarily moved to a house within walking distance of the beach and multiple restaurants. I take a 5 mile walk by the coast every day and have started watercolor classes. Everywhere I go I meet wonderful people of all ages I never would have met had we stayed in our other home. Sometimes you just need to shake up your life a bit to gain inspiration.
I look for inspiration in things larger than myself; art, nature, history and the stars. Strangely, I feel comfort when I look at the stars and planets and realize how insignificant we humans really are. This is especially helpful when I feel overwhelmed by the dysfunction and chaos of our current society and supposed leaders.
a new album by The Rolling Stones.
For inspiration I walk early in the morning, as soon s the sun rises. It is very quiet then. While I walk for the physical exercise, I probably don't walk fast enough for good cardio. However, the time outside, alone, with the sky above, and the sun starting to enter, and some days clouds and rain, some flowers my neighbors' gardens, neighbors who have the skill to get flowers to grow, is the perfect setting for me to reflect. I play some music I enjoy on my phone, usually Debbie Friedman, though sometimes I want to be revved up by Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops. This enables me to escape from the real world, especially the part of the real world that we often discuss in this forum. I am able to forget the lying 45 and his co-conspirators. I think about what I want to do with my retired life at this point in time. Sometimes my volunteerism is very focused on my synagogue. Now I am mostly focused on this state-of-the-art hospital in my area that is opening an even more state-of-the-art campus in April 2024. I had a hart hat tour yesterday. As much as has been discussed over the 1 1/2 years I have been involved with this hospital, though its Foundation and Auxiliary, at the meetings and luncheons and powerpoint presentations, to see right up close the amazing innovations that have been incorporated into this new healthcare campus, through years of consultations with the physicians and nurses and other healthcare professionals, who directed the architects to make the building not just modern and attractive and also designed to give the best healthcare possible, to make everything patient-focused and family focused, and taking all kinds of steps to reduce infection, to innovating to protect the environment. Yesterday was the most inspirational day I have had in a very long time. To all of the people more closely involved in creating this beyond-state-of-the-art healthcare campus for our community, I say thank you. You have inspired me to give all that I can in time and effort and resources to join you in your mission.
There is this place we have been going by foot or bicycle for decades now. A place we call The Wedding Spot, as married there standing on granite rocks next to a stream surrounded by oaks and pines in 1987. It is truly Eden, a place we discovered in the early 1980s where we go as often as we can to relax, play in the water, hold philosophical conversations with the friends who join us, enjoy a bottle of wine and a puff. It's where we go to "recharge our batteries," and observe the subtle ongoing shifts in the seasons of the high-desert mountains. After the winter snows melt and mud dries up, we love the approach of Spring with all its wonders. Blooming yucca, grape lupine, lilac trees, sage bursting with heavenly scents. When Summer comes, The Wedding Spot explodes with life - butterflies, dragonflies, song birds, hawks, and wild petite orchids surround the stream. Orange tiger lilies bloom for about three weeks. Now, as Autumn approaches, we notice white trumpet flowers called Datura - they are poisonous, our friend, Peter, told us as we pedaled past beds of them. A tall pine and ancient oak cast their wondrous shade upon us where we like to lounge with the sounds of spring water flowing. There is a massive boulder in the shape of a gorilla that we have dubbed "Magilla." We are in a sort of alcove hidden by a stand of cattails and scrub oak. On many occasions we have observed mountain bikers and hikers go by without glancing over to see us or discover the astounding beauty of The Wedding Spot. What wonders you can easily discover when you have an inquisitive spirit and are not in a big hurry.
I'm very fortunate.
I had fabulous parents who made every effort to ensure that I had a happy childhood and grew into a reasonably well adjusted adult. Thinking of them inspires me.
I'm in the 44th year of a fabulous marriage to an intelligent, caring, accomplished wife who spent a career educating children as a teacher and administrator. She inspires me.
We have two great kids who are into and good at their professions and who care deeply about others. They inspire me.
We live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. The Cascade Foothills are out my back window. The mighty Columbia River is 15 minutes away. The Pacific Ocean is an hour and a half away. Breathes there a soul so dead that it couldn't draw inspiration from this kind of beauty?
It's easy to find inspiration in music, particularly jazz, blues, Dixieland, and Classical.
The visual arts can be inspiring. The impressionists, in particular, can reach deep into my soul.
Good literature and cinema, including well crafted fiction, histories, and biographies can be inspirational, sometimes troubling enough to force critical thought, other times relaxing enough to allow thoughts and ideas to flow.
As a retired research scientist, I find particular inspiration in the foundational and current sciences.
Any time inspiration doesn't come, it's my fault, not the fault of my circumstances and surroundings. It's always there waiting to be tapped into.
Thanks for the work you do, Steven. You are a household name with longevity that always delivers! Inspiration can be found in all the overwhelming beauty of the world. Sometimes, best thing we can do is put down all our electronics and take a long walk in fresh air to realize this!
I have a poster I bought 40 years ago, it hangs in my home on a wall over a stairwell and I see it every day I am home. It says “Every person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” I have yet to stand in front of a tank in a square or simply say “have you no decency sir,” but these simple courageous acts inspire me to try, even in the smallest way.