Joy

Make someone happy.  Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life.  In our day to day lives, we are bombarded with messages, overt and subliminal, about the importance of being happy.  Live your life to maximize your happy moments.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  And yet.

In the height of happiness, everything seems possible.  The world is at your feet.  The view can be intoxicating – everything around you is orbiting a central sun.  The central sun that is you.  And yet.

Moments of happiness never last.  They are not illusory, but they are transitory.  A lifetime lived pursuing happiness is a life lived in selfishness, self centeredness.  A life that put’s one’s self in the center of everything is a life that means nothing.  A life that constantly searches for affirmation, for the next big conquest, the next big raise, the next mountain to climb – is that really a life worth living?  A life where the self is the centerpiece of existence will experience moments of happiness.  And it will experience moments of sorrow.  Moments of pain.  Moments of great accomplishments mesh with moments of great disappointments.  A life that centers on the self and the self alone leaves the soul barren.  And the heart empty.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we need to understand that true existence must be centered not on one’s self, but on what one can do for those around us.  Selflessness instead of selfishness.  A soul exist within the body and outside its confines.  An existence that seeks to give, instead of take.  Not the material things that we all covet.  But one’s self.  To let others see you as you are.  The crooked smile, the thinning hair, the not so perfect eyebrows?   These are not the things that define you.  It is that smile, as imperfect as it may be, given to others that may be in need of a smile.  Helping someone cross the road, in a stiff wind that blows your hair into a frenzy.  Listening to someone, with eyes wide open, eyebrows raised, to let them know that they are not alone, that you can share their burden.

Respecting people, no matter who they are.  Embracing differences as a means of recognizing that an individual is but a part of a greater whole.  To see the weak and the oppressed and then realize that their struggle is your struggle.  Our struggle.  To understand that the sense of self is completed when it becomes entwined with the many selves that surround us.  Understanding that it is a kind heart that allows joy to permeate a life.

Joy.  When happiness subsides, there is something that centers us.  When sorrow overwhelms, there is something that supports us.  When we feel pain, we somehow know that like happiness, it will not last and a new page will eventually be written.  Joy allows us to know ourselves; to find value not in what we have done, not in what we have accumulated; but instead, to find value in who we are, in what we give of ourselves to others.  When our heart is filled with generosity, we can truly love.  In the selfless abandon of truly sharing who we are, what we have, what we do with others around us, we find that in moments great and small, in the important and in the mundane, there truly is meaning in our lives.  That in the core of our existence, there is joy.

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Reflections

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Autumn in Northern Virginia.  Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, Virginia.  In the middle of suburbia, the woods and wetlands remind you of the true beauty that nature brings.

The Stars at Night

As I gazed upon one year old twins, I think about my own youth.  Once, I was the baby on the crib, nurtured by parents who provided for my needs, sheltered me from the elements, protected me from harm.  As I grew older, they grew older and so it is with every person, of every generation.  We are like the sun, first rising slowly, lighting a path on a dark planet.  Slowly but surely it rises higher and higher, and soon enough it reaches its zenith.  Then slowly it starts to sink towards the horizon and when the last light of twilight is extinguished, the world turns dark again.

And yet, I could not escape the thought the sun is but one star in the firmament.  Each of us, as we grow older, as we climb higher in the horizon, begins to blot out other things in the sky.  And yet, elsewhere in the heavens, other stars continue to shine.  And I am heartened to think that each one of us, each of our ancestors, is a star.  Even as our lives shine bright and we become the center of our universe and seemingly outshine other lights around us, the stars are always there.  And so it is that I remember my father and mother, now gone.  And grandparents.  And uncles and aunts, and the many people who came before me, who came before them.  In the evening, before I sleep, I look at the window and see the stars that are always there.  They are never truly gone.  And if we listen carefully, we can still hear the voices within them.  They can still teach us.  If we let them.  In our dreams we are in some ways always children, always protected, always loved.  Awake, we know that life and love are eternal, shining forever, in the heavens around us.

I Love the Desert (because it makes my hair look good)

It takes out the frizzies!  Or so I am told.  I wouldn’t know, since I don’t seem to have enough hair to have them.  Still, I really do like the desert, in this case the Oregon high desert near Bend.  What can I say about Bend.  A beautiful town.  The mountains, the lakes, the snow and the desert?  Yes, the high desert.  While it’s not as hot and dry as the Mojave, it has a beauty all its own.  These pictures were taken in an outdoor homestead exhibit in Fort Rock.

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On an August Day

It was, for August in the Washington D.C. area, a relatively cool day.  In the midst of summer, it was time for a walk in the garden, to take the sun in, to find that even in the undulating continuum that we call life, beauty always beckons, just waiting for us to find it.  We need not look far.  It is always within ourselves, if one decides to live a life not solely for one’s self but also for others.  Happiness comes not from selfish abandon but from selfless generosity.

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#youwillbefound

For people who love musicals, the hashtag above will be familiar.  It is so fitting that at the moment of great loss, I found meaning in music.  My first distinct memory of my mother was watching “The Sound of Music” so many years ago.  When I posted the last entry on this blog, I was on my way to Manila to bring my mother back home from her vacation.  Her cancer came back, and unlike the saying, the third time was not the charm.

It’s hard to imagine what happens when the music that has ruled your life suddenly disappears.  It is an empty feeling when your world is devoid of the person who raised you, who understood you, who cared for you.  The person who knew you first, the person who felt my heart beat for the first time.  The person who taught me that honesty and truth were the important ideals in life.  That love, among all the things that we can give to another, is the greatest gift of all.   It is so easy to think that all that we have will always be with us.  And truth be told, if we lose a lot of the things that we have, we will not be missing anything at all.

That is almost true.  The thing is, we are nothing without the people who care for us.  And the people that we care for.  Why is it that a child with almost nothing at all, in the warm embrace of her mother or father has a smile so broad that in that instant, the world lights up as if a meteor is streaking through the sky.  The warmth that love brings is the one thing that truly makes our lives complete.  We can look to the skies for inspiration.  With love in our lives, we need only look at our hearts to find that a simple look, a simple smile, a single touch is enough to lift our souls to the heavens.

And so it was in May that the person who saw me as I am finally joined the husband that she lost more than a decade ago.  In that moment, her spirit joined the spirit of my father and together, I imagine that they look down upon me and in their corporal form, the same love that bore their son fill the heavens, magnified by the love of the countless multitudes who came before them.  Love free of the boundaries of time and space.

I say to myself that as long as I remember, as long as I feel, they are never truly gone.  The truth is,  life for those who lose someone truly dear will never be the same.  Life is altered forever.  And yet, it does not have to be a life without meaning.  Different yes.  Meaningless?  No.

And so it was that I happened upon the music that keeps playing in my head.  It is in an endless loop.  Not that it mutes everything else in life.  Rather, the music gives one the clarity to understand that as long as we live, there is always a place for us to find love.  We need not wait for someone to embrace us.  The gift of love is best manifested when we share it with another.  And so, in the loneliness and emptiness that death can bring, it is the act of giving one’s self to another that allows us to find life anew.

Accept people as they are.  Find the good in all and in so doing we find the good in ourselves.  “I never dreamed that I would find someone like you who would want me.”  For many of us, we have already lived the dream.  Loving parents that nurtured us, cared for us.  We have been found, in the very first moments of our existence.

And now, it is up to us to find the meaning of the hashtag “youwillbefound.”  It’s not about being alone.  It is about realizing that we are never really alone.  There will always be someone who will love us.  We are, after all, created out of love.  We are all children of love that is infinite.

And so, thank you Evan Hansen.  In the depths of sorrow, the wonderful music, the incredible story, the beautiful words reminded me that there is so much to live for.  No one is truly alone.  #youwillbefound.

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A note about Dear Evan Hansen.  This is the best musical I have seen in years.  Dare I say that it might be my favorite musical written in the last thirty five years.  Yes, this includes Les Miserables, Phantom, Hamilton, Rent, etc.  A lot of great music to be sure, but there is something about the vulnerabilities that the characters in this show exhibit that we as human beings can understand.   And relate to.  We all have fears, moments of doubt.  Sometimes, no, often times, we need to let others into our lives.  To heal us.  To love us.

On the Saturday matinee, Michael Lee Brown played the part of Evan Hansen.  A fantastic Evan!  And Mallory Bechtel as Zoe was adorable and wonderful.  This is the show to watch in New York.  And now that it is about to embark on its first American tour, I hope that you are able to watch this wonderful musical.  Pasek and Paul are the new dynamic duo in the musical universe.  The play by Steven Levenson is exceptional.  Two and a half hours of laughter, sorrow, empathy, and hope.  Yes, hope.  The core of this show is hope.  Forgiveness.  And love.

You are not alone.  You will be found.