It is often said that if you want to make the Almighty laugh, you should share with him your plans.
Monuments in the Dom Platzl [Cathedral Square] in Salzburg pictured from left: top of the world and the void of death
There are many sayings, clichés, and words of wisdom about leaving the past behind, not dwelling too much on the future, and concentrating on the present. If that’s the right approach, the words attributed to Marcus Aurelius (120–180 A.D.), “Do every act of your life as if it were your last” (The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations, [New York: Scribner, 2002]), make a lot of sense. We don’t always see it, but it does hit home when, for example, our friends cross off items on their bucket list as they brace themselves for the great beyond.
Life is not what circumstances dish out to us; it is what we make of it. One morning, a few months ago, I woke up to a heartwarming post from a cousin on Facebook: “It is early morning, and two out of three [toddlers and a baby] are already up. They do not know that today is a public holiday!”
I can just visualize the half smile on her face as she typed it, ready for what the day and these bundles of joy had to offer. In such circumstances, Tecumseh, a Native American leader, says it all with these words: “When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living” (Joel D. Beversluis, A Sourcebook for Earth’s Community of Religions [New York: Global Education Associates, 1995]).
In the words immortalized by Keating (as read in N. H. Kleinbaum’s Dead Poets Society: A Novel [New York: Kingswell, 2006]), “Make your lives extraordinary.”
This does not necessarily mean making extraordinary things. It simply means that in our daily lives, we can do the simplest chores in an extraordinary manner. How do we do this? Simply by putting the interests of others before ours, living life one day at a time, and crossing each bridge as we come to them.
My wife and I recently purchased a lovely painting (see picture below) from a local (Maltese) artist.To me the three interesting features of this painting are:
|1. The theme—the self—is captured in the silhouette, and the emphasis is on the color around it. Life is not all about us; it is what is outside of us that gives meaning to our life.
2. The self is walking toward its audience, not away from it, which is analogical to life: we move forward, not backward; we walk through life, not away from it.
3. There is very little light, and yet “the lamp to your feet and light to our path” is probably all that we really need. We live the here and now.
The Journey Called Marriage
In the first piece of this four-part series, I started my reflections by looking back at 2014 as a precursor to 2015 and to where we are now. With reference to 2014, I also mentioned our silver wedding anniversary.
December 8, 2014, was a special day for our family as my wife and I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary (we got married on December 8, 1989). I say this with both pride and humility—pride in all that we have achieved over (now) the past twenty-seven years, and humility in knowing that we don’t walk alone.
Marriage is all about constant here and now: yesterday is a resource we no longer have, and tomorrow is largely speculative.
Marriage is also about love; more so if we define love as a conscious act of our will.
Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.” This is very true. But the words of Francis of Assisi are equally true: “For it is in giving that we receive.” This is what we have been taught by our parents and what we practice within our family and in our daily lives; this is what we hope to pass on through teaching and example to our children, as they are the Almighty’s and the humanity’s vote of confidence in the future.
I’d like to end this series with a profound verse from Dead Poets Society: “The powerful play (life) goes on and you (and I) may contribute a verse” (ibid.). This is our here and now. What will your verse be?