Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Lesson From the Clouds

The planet often acts as a mirror for the mind. As I fly high above the earth, cramped in an airplane seat that barely accommodates the average American girth, a glorious fire orange sunset graces my view outside the window, replacing what would have been television news had I stayed put in Los Angeles.

The plane is cruising over the Northwest, a landmass prone to rain and more rain. So instead of gazing upon puffy white clouds that look like an angel’s bedroom set, they are black and thick, ominously forming a blanket of gloom more like Satan’s den than any heavenly abode.
Still, the intensity of the sun’s hot hues as it slinks behind the earth’s curvature compensates for what surely looks like trouble for earth’s people underneath that dismal black cloudbank. And then it gets us too. The seat belt sign pings on, a harsh intercom voice directs us to buckle up, and the riot of color disappears into massive blackness, as a high and mighty rain cloud engulfs the plane. Just like that, reality shifts instantaneously from visual feast to blind darkness.

Likewise, we go along in our daily lives as if we have forever, blithely content to ignore the inevitable fate that awaits all those who are born. Many of us are lucky to live out the life cycle with reasonable grace and only a modicum of disaster. But others have a different lesson, that comes as swiftly as that vision of a spectacular sunset turned black as coal: the person who dies of sudden cardiac arrest; victims of a mad gunman in a shopping mall, a soldier who takes a bullet to the heart; a life snuffed out by a drunk driver, a massive stroke, a bomb dropped on a wedding party, a bomb dropped on a funeral, and so many more unfathomable circumstances that actually happen to real people.

Instead of living in fear of what might come to pass - because in fact it is a miracle that our bodies and our societies function as well as they do – it is far better to live in gratitude for the ingoing and outgoing breath while it is with us. Once a great teacher said, “May you die with no regrets.”

And I might add, while you are alive, may you live with no regrets. Seize the moment and make it count, because the moment is all that we can know for certain. And may I listen to my own advice…

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