Reflection – January 2020
At the end of the road they will ask me
Have you lived? Have you loved?
And not saying a word I will open my heart
full of names.
(Dom Pedro Casaldàliga)
As a gate opens to the new year, three words beckon: Live Life Fully. My deeper self urges, “Don’t waste a year on the foolish energy of needless worry or trying to control the uncontrollable. Be attentive to every fragment of joy, each revelation of nature’s splendor—however small—and to the mentoring goodness residing in people who enter your life.”
Long ago, St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote: “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” I have cherished that notion of engaging as fully as possible with life. Unfortunately, I’ve often set this conviction aside, becoming lost in too much work. In 2020 I renew my commitment to recognize and appreciate what enlivens my life and offers it meaning.
Rabindranath Tagore engaged fully with life, believing “The stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs throughout the world and dances in rhythmic measures.” In a letter to his friend at year’s end Tagore wrote:
The year ’99 would never come twice in my life… I often think how each day a new day dawns—some steeped in hues of the rising or setting sun, ….the shimmering blue of reflecting clouds; some cheerful-like white flowers in the light of the full moon—how very fortunate I am! …When I ponder over this possibility, a desire grows in me to look closely at the world again: to consciously greet each sunrise in my life and say goodbye to each sunset like I would to a good friend….why can’t I gather all those enchanting days and nights that are vanishing from my life, this peace and grace filling up the empty spaces between heaven and earth…? (The Essential Tagore)
Sometimes we only awaken when facing a loss, whether it is our eyesight or another part of physical well-being, or the devastating loss of the environment—such as precious lands and creatures of Australia’s fires, or the havoc wreaked across our planet by human-made decisions. When this touches our lives personally, then it is that we see how we have not lived life fully. But why wait for misfortune to rouse us from our inattentiveness?
Even when our world is “down and out,” and we look ahead to troubles with no easy solution, there continues to be an opportunity to appreciate life’s simple gifts. Many years ago when my friend Jeanne was nearing death, she smiled at me and whispered how much joy the first bird’s song at dawn brought to her. Even in dying, she found a way to notice and appreciate beauty. Philosopher and nature writer, Kathleen Dean Moore, noted in Holdfast: “…we must love life before loving its meaning,” as Dostoyevsky told us. We must love life, and some meaning may grow from that love. But “if love of life disappears, no meaning can console us.” Let us live life, then, as fully as we can in 2020.
Published with permission granted to Jeanne Wall from Joyce Rupp.