A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cat out of the bag

Today, loved ones will learn the identity of an important person who has recently received an expiration date. Since some of us, myself included, have already secretly told our children the sad news, the announcement will likely come as no surprise, but there will not be a dry eye in the house. Like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, we will all be familiar with the agent of death, lung cancer, but the exact time will remain somewhat of a mystery, so the rules of drama will still apply. With a feast carefully displayed on a long formal dining room table, spilling onto a sidetable and into the living room, with the kitchen table filled with hors d'vours and an array of beverages, with football games blaring on the widescreen television in the family room, and rooms spilling over with wacky children who continue to play the same game of hide-n-seek, despite the somber mood and tears, the home will be filled with laughter, full bellies, and only a little bitterness.

Wisdom from a long and productive life in the service of core values will be imparted to the children, as always. Some like Joe, who is 13, might pause to consider how much time we waste playing Halo, or otherwise engage in non-productive activities. Perhaps the drama from this Thanksgiving will help Joe generate a larger vision of his life, which will help me as I work with Joe to draft a Transition Plan as a project for 545 this weekend. Those of us like me, at age 48, will reminded to be thankful for every opportunity we have been given, and will find the inspiration and energy needed to continue pursuing the impossible. As my dear friend the late Caroline Mano once reminded me in one of our secret final conversations, "you must have fire in your belly," for she understood better than most that a life of mediocrity would be soul crushing. Caroline, like Prometheus, wanted to give me the gift of being able to rekindle that fire whenever it wavered.

So I accept pain as a privilege of life, because without pain there would be no life, no growth, nothing of value. So I accept the possibility of failure, the reality of death, and become numb to pain since failure is not the worst thing in life, death cannot be avoided, and since pain is the spice that makes deep appreciation and belly laughter possible.  Zig Ziegler calls the alarm clock an "opportunity clock," and when I finally heard the 4th set of sequentially set alarms, I got excited about constructing my IEP for 539 and working on that Transition Plan for 545.

I often worry about the resilience of young people because of how we educate them about what it means to be successful. With bling and vanity so pervasive in the media, the wrong things are repeatedly glorified, so it is easy for children to be led astray and remain blind to the things in life that truly matter. A child's grade point average, the amount of money somebody has, that corner office, the toys people display as trophies, are all poor substitutes for happiness, but that is not the message we are teaching in our schools.

I remember how, as a child, seeing my father's father from across the room at my Aunt Sylvia's house, thinking to myself how much he looked like my dad. Nobody went to Ruben's funeral. "He was not a nice man,"Grandma Lena often told me when I visited her.  Ruben could not have died a happy man, despite career success.

When Socrates chose the hemlock over isolation, he taught his learned judges that death is not the worst thing in life. As Tony Robbins might ask, "how can I use this?" Time, when there is an expiration date, becomes invaluable.

As I was reminded at Future Quest last weekend, today, I will set measurable, specific goals related to my coursework in 539 and 545, in 15 minute increments, since these are the most urgent, and present existential dangers.

Around 2,500 years ago, Aristotle described happiness as a life lived to the fullest potential. Today, we will raise our glass to someone who has lived life to his fullest potential, someone who gets to say "good-bye" surrounded by loved ones, someone who has come to terms with his own mortality. All who are present will be left with an impression not of sickness, but of vitality.

Could there be a greater Hell than to have lived a life full of regrets? As all who will be present will be able to testify, today we will celebrate a man who has lived according to a moral compass of absolute values; under no circumstances did he ever comprise the absolutes; he need not fear the Hell of a lifetime full of regret. All present will be able to testify that this amazing person has earned the privilege of dying a happy man. That, to me, is what Heaven is all about.

Today, as the drama unfolds, I will silently recite the Lord's Prayer, having learned it from the late Michael Foley, who used to always say it quickly and quietly before every history class:

Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name,
Thy Kingdom come, thy Will be done on Earth as it is on Heaven.

Give us this day, our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,

And lead us not unto temptation,
For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever.