Thanks to a Chaldean friend of mine for sharing with me this video showing the Maronite Prayer of Incense on the Feast of All Souls.Continue reading
Investing in the Richness of Life
This morning, I was drinking some orange juice that I had picked up at Shoppers Drug Mart when I realized that it tasted nothing like the freshly squeezed organic orange juice that I have taken to buying at Farm Boy.
And every now and again, I eat some not-so-quality chocolate and realize its inferiority compared to the exquisite and delicious chocolate that I like to buy at Stubbe Chocolates here in Ottawa.
This is not about decadence or extravagance, but about quality and appreciation.
I remember reading a personal finance book when I was a teenager that discussed how foregoing $5 daily lattes (and similar “unnecessary” routine expenses) could lead to “building wealth” or “finishing rich.”
The Sweetness of a Short Life
Today my friend Max told me the story of a turning point in his life.
It was summer vacation and he was a seventeen-year-old teaching English in Spain at a camp for boys.
During the camp, he came across this prayer card with a short description of Venerable Montse Grases, a young woman who “knew how to find God in the loving fulfillment of her work and study duties, in the small things of each day.”
Montse had been diagnosed with bone cancer as a teenager and, “throughout her illness, she never lost her infectious cheerfulness or her capacity for friendship.”
Max was totally struck by the fact that Montse died when she was 17 – the same age he was then.
Is there any value to a bucket list?
The first time I made a bucket list–which I always insisted on simply calling a life list–I was about 12-years-old.
I almost certainly got the idea to write down my life goals from Oprah, Dr. Phil, or Dr. Laura Schlessinger– all of whom I paid attention to at that age.
And so I wrote up a mission statement for my life (which I still have memorized) and wrote down a long list of all the goals I could possibly dream of.
Over the years I kept adding to it until the list became about 190 items long with the note: “To be always continued… As long as I have breath, I will live with passion and purpose.”
The items were listed in no particular order, although the fact that “Eat Greek Salad in Greece” was number one indicates how highly enthusiastic I was about that one.
Some goals were quite serious (e.g., 3. Make and honour a lifelong commitment , 23. Never be “too busy” for people, 55. Speak in front of 1,000 people or more about something important, etc.).
Some goals were quite civic and reflected my early passion for politics and history (e.g,. 28. Vote in every election in which I am eligible, 49. Visit New York and the United Nations Headquarters building, 31. Put a poppy on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument on Remembrance Day in Ottawa, 101. Visit Fort McMurray, etc.).
What would you do with a longer life, anyway?
I just finished re-reading Leon Kass’s splendid essay, “L’Chaim and Its Limits: Why Not Immortality?“
I was reminded of that 2001 piece when I read this interview published yesterday about Archbishop Emeritus Charles Chaput’s new book Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living.
Leon Kass begins his piece by exploring the primacy of life in Judaism and our wider culture’s interest in prolonging life and forestalling death.
Then, he raises some questions:
“We Gradually Deserve Those Who Demand to Be Helped”
There is a little book by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry called Letter to a Hostage. In the first part, the author paints a scene of emigrants aboard a ship. Even without more context than this, this passage is remarkable:
How to construct a new self. How to remake the heavy skein of memories? That phantom ship was crowded, like Limbo, with souls unborn. The only ones who showed any semblance of reality, so much so that one would have wanted to touch them, were those who, belonging to the ship and ennobled by real duties, carried the trays, polished the brass and shoes and, slightly scornful, served the dead. That slight disregard of the staff towards the emigrants was not due to their poverty. They were not lacking in money, but destiny. They were not attached to any home, to any friend, to any responsibility. They played a part, but it was no longer true. No one wanted them, no one would call on them. What a thrill it is to receive a telegram in the middle of the night, summoning you to the station: “Hurry, I need you!” We soon discover friends to help us. We gradually deserve those who demand to be helped. Of course no one hated my ghosts, no one envied them, no one bothered them. But no one loved them with the only love that is worthwhile. I thought: as soon as they arrive they will be taken into welcome cocktail parties, consolation suppers. But who will ever knock at their doors, begging to be let in. “Open, it’s me!” A child must be fed for a long time before he can demand. A friend must be cultivated for a long time before he claims his due friendship. It is necessary to spend fortunes for generations on repairing an old ruined castle before one learns to love it.
Such realities are best explained through stories and scenes and anecdotes; they are not abstract principles, though they are tinged with the mystery and depth that prevents them from being grasped, especially all at once.
Indeed there are many emigrants passing through life like souls unborn without ties and without purpose. And among the dead of expressive individualists, what could possibly be the meaning of: “We gradually deserve those who demand to be helped”?
Yet, as usual, the clarity comes in the juxtaposition between the cocktail party versus the “Hurry, I need you!”
The human person, every human person, is ennobled by real duties and real attachments. The love that is worthwhile is not “Can I get a photo with you?” or “Here’s my card.” The love that is worthwhile is the demand of someone in need who says and who means, to someone in particular, “It’s me. I need you!”
Dying to Contentment
“I’ve never tried cocaine or heroin but I believe the people that tell me it’s a very pleasing, pleasurable feeling,” began Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski in this talk.
He goes on to discuss how Carnation has long sold evaporated milk with the slogan, “Milk from contented cows.” The rabbi continues, “If contentment is the excellence of a cow and all I look for in life is contentment, then I share a goal in life with a cow, and I’m not ready to lower myself to that stage.”
Rabbi Twerski thought there’s nothing wrong with being content but that making contentment a goal of life is an animal trait, not the human vocation.Continue reading
What We Gain From Loss
The remarkable poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote more than fourteen thousand letters over the course of his life. A few years ago, an editor published a compilation of selected letters entitled, The Dark Interval: Letters on Loss, Grief, and Transformation.
Here is an excerpt from one of the letters that particularly struck me:Continue reading