The Long Walk Home
Lent is traditionally thought of as a period of forty days and forty nights. This year, because the date for Easter is the Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Vernal Equinox, we have six extra days. It is as if Mother Nature decided we needed some extra time. Most of us go through life begging for more time, wishing a day had a few extra hours. Thus this Lenten season begs the question: Did you use your extra time wisely this year?
This Lenten series has been about how we respond to life and I used the eight verses of the Beatitudes as both prompts and lessons for doing so. In deciding how to spend one’s time and in retrospect, if our time was used wisely and efficiently, productive not only for the present but as a prelude to the future, we need to really consider the words of the Beatitudes. They offer truth as well as encouragement.
I have also used the analogy that our life is something like a treasure hunt, an adventure in which we seek the best we can obtain – happiness and joy. If we are authentic about our reasons for our actions and our purposes, we must admit that the ultimate quest is one for contentment and delight. In our careers, our hobbies, and even our mates, we seek that which brings us pleasure and amusement, giving reason to the humdrum necessities of life.
Google executive Mo Gawdat seemed to have it all and yet, he was not happy. He set about to find real happiness and recently gave an interview about his search. He used the common analogy we have all heard: Is the glass half full or half empty? Gawdat believes “Happiness is looking at the glass and seeing the truth of the glass.” He goes on to explain that we need to recognize that glass as being half full and be grateful for that. Then, he continues, we need to see the half empty portion and ask what we can do about it. “True happiness is not about what the world gives you. It is about what you think about what the world gives you.”
Happiness is equal to or greater than the expectations of one’s life and the reality of it. We sometimes believe life should behave a certain way and if it doesn’t, then we become unhappy. Life is not always fun, Gawdat believes. Fun is when we accept our life and are happy. We achieve happiness when we accept the life we have at that moment and feel at peace about it.
Many people reading this are going to say “Well, yeah, easy for an executive to talk about accepting life.” Mo Gawdat came to this realization the day he went from having a delightful family vacation to his son dying, a time span of four hours. He went from fun to the harshest life had to offer in four brief hours, one-sixth of a day’s span. How was he ever going make that long journey home and find normalcy ever again?
The Beatitudes do not offer us a perfect life. They offer us a way to find the peace and happiness Mo Gawdat spoke about and encouraged us to seek. For Christians, today is Maundy Thursday and tomorrow is Good Friday, a day in which their hero was tortured and left to die, crucified in front of his mother and followers, one who had betrayed him and another who had denied knowing him. There is no joy in the events of this Thursday and Friday remembered and yet, without them, the rest of the living of this hero’s purpose would not have been possible.
The long way home for Mo Gawdat was not an easy one but he says that each day gets a little bit better. The secret to happiness, he believes, is to accept where we are at the moment and move forward at peace. “I can either chose to suffer, or I can choose to sort of accept life as harsh as it has become and reset, make that the zero-point and try to make that slightly better than it is today, and slightly better tomorrow… “Happiness is not about what the world gives you – happiness is what you think about what the world gives you.”
As we make that long walk home from whatever we have encountered today, we can choose what to think about what life has given us. We can reset for tomorrow and vow to make it better or we can crawl in a hole and let the tides of life drown us. Make whatever thorns came your way today a crown of success for tomorrow or at least, a first step towards a better future. You alone are the only one that can take that step for yourself. Sometimes smiling and being nice is the best way to run the race of life. And then, to quote the Moody Blues, “When all the stars have fallen down into the sea and onto the ground, and angry voices carry on the wind, a beam of light will fill your head and you’ll remember what’s been said by all the good men this world has ever known.”