Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is it Very Good to be Alive?

A friend and colleague is getting married soon. Oh so soon. We've been teasing him about this - us older, married guys, as is to be expected. This is how we work through our own travail and welcome him to the club, so to speak. Joking aside, I told him that it is the case that the difficulty of a thing lies in direct proportion to its goodness. Marriage and parenting are the two hardest things I've ever done - by far. The PhD. was a piece of cake compared to them. And now, as I ask myself this night, during the few hours of quiet my day knows, is it very good to be alive? how the answer comes to me is as though I am surveying a landscape, and on it are a few mountains: Anne-Marie, the kids, my friends at and around OLSWA, my students... What a lot of work ascending these mountains has been. But I am glad as I look upon this scenery.

Sure I get sad, discouraged, angry, disappointed in people and events. Look up melancholic in the dictionary - there's a picture of me (yes, I used to have sideburns, and was much thinner back then, back before I discovered the crackers-and-cheese diet.) But I appreciate life, nearly every moment of it, from picking up the kids after school, to listening to the wohs of my students, to teasing and being teased by Anne-Marie, to washing the urine off of the baby's hands after someone left the bathroom door open again(!) This is the thing, if can look at life from a distance at least every now and then, and you can say, this is a real blessing - while not deluding yourself that it is really hard too! - then you are going to be a-ok.

I think that if you can avail yourself of this perspective and arrive at this conclusion that life is indeed a sacred thing, then you will be able to take advantage of the opportunities you've been given - to be the best parents you can be, or, for my friend, to be the best husband that that young lady could ever hope for. Why? Because you are not looking at the hole in the muffler as an unmitigated evil or setback to your financial plan, but as a story you can tell you friend later to make him laugh, or as an experience you can share with your son someday when he buys his first car.

My father only had a handful of stories for me. He told me them many times, each time as if it was the first. It was probably okay that he died when he did - he had no more stories for me. What united these stories was not the details, but rather that they were stories meant to be shared, stories that only meant something because they were supposed to be shared. From the outside there was nothing spell-binding about them. Stephen King wouldn't touch them. This was my very private father revealing himself, not in terms of biographical information, but in terms of their sole thrust, which was to say in so many words, I care about you.

We need to go through life letting people know we care about them. Although I am shy enough, I do say it like it is here. I try to.

Life is very good, because every day is the first day of Spring in someone's heart, somewhere in the world. And in heaven.

These are my mountains. If you know art, specifically that of Leonardo and his school, you'll know that nearly everyone of his paintings has mountains in the background like this. They make me happy. I'm not sure why. These mountains are the good things that you have to work hard at ascending.

This is just a detail of one of his Madonnas and Child.


  1. I actually shared those words with the bride-to-be a couple of nights ago, after she was feeling particularly overwhelmed by the impending cross. She, as I was, found comfort in hearing that only the best things are the most difficult.


  2. I don`t know why God made it that way, but he did. Now, be good to each other!