Friday, 3 September 2010


As I cycled along the sea front here in Rio this morning and experienced the magic of sun and sand and waves – the sea and sky such a perfect blue and the sand gleaming gold in the sunlight - I wondered. I wondered why it is that we human beings are so rarely satisfied with our lot. We inhabit this beautiful world, albeit for a limited time, but all too often we turn our faces away from the beauty in order to focus on what? How best to accumulate more things? How best to arrange things so that we outsmart a competitor – sometimes not in the fairest way either. How best to obtain more power or influence over other people? How best to accumulate more wealth with the least effort? What is going to happen to me tomorrow or next week or next year?

Why is it that only in our moments of relaxation can we seem to appreciate the full beauty of the world around us? Even more so, why do we find it so difficult to appreciate the beauty in the people around us? I cannot help thinking that if we spent a great deal more of our time in appreciating what we have, what God has given us, and less time worrying, envying others or desiring more and more, we would be infinitely happier and more contented. There is so much to appreciate; there is so much to marvel at; there is so much to thank God for.

As I cycled slowly along taking in the beauty of everything around me, I was particularly struck by the happy smiles and laughter of the people on the beach; people of all sorts and sizes, poor, wealthy and everything in between. People who had come to the beach to relax and enjoy themselves and that enjoyment showed in their smiles and their laughter; people who know all that beauty and all that opportunity for clean, innocent fun is provided free. Of course the local council have to keep the beach clean and tidy and we all contribute to the cost of that, but it and the sea and the sunshine are totally free.

In such surroundings we are able to forget all our cares; all those disagreements and differences of opinion with family and colleagues; all the worries about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Somehow they seem to assume a much less important role in our lives. This is as it is supposed to be. Today is what is important, for only today can we actively influence our lives. Yesterday is gone beyond recall and pining for it or wishing we could experience it again so as to avoid certain mistakes we made, won’t bring it back. Tomorrow is yet to be and only by what we do and think today, can we determine the shape and texture of it, at least partially. The Sanskrit scholar, Kalidasa puts it so much better than I can:

"Look to this day, for it is life, the very life of life. For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow only a vision, but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope”

Our lives and where we live are gifts and whether here or in the spiritual world, we should treasure them always. If we are engaged in the more serious aspects of life or enjoying times of relaxation, it matters not. What is important is to give thanks by making the best possible use of those gifts. George Bernard Shaw had a most inspirational way of looking at this when he wrote:

“Life is no brief candle to me It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment. I want to make it burn as brightly as possible...handing it on to future generations.”
It is interesting that Shaw lived well into his nineties!

What about the people with whom we share this wonderful experience of life? I don’t just mean our families and friends but everyone? Do we really pay enough attention to them? Are we interested enough in them to discover a little about what brought them to the point in life at which they find themselves? This is not being nosy or invading their privacy, I am talking about listening. We are often so full of the implications of what is happening to us, we pay little or no attention to what others are telling us about themselves. We can hardly wait to move the conversation around to ourselves – not always of course but can you honestly say this never happens to you? Unless we really listen to other people it is quite impossible to understand them. The truly incredible thing about individual life is that there are teeming millions of us but each one is different. Each one chose to come to Earth and live this life; each one has undergone trials and joys that have helped make them what they are; each one is a child of God, no matter how far they may have strayed from His light; each one deserves our respect, our love and our understanding.

To give those things does not involve condoning any ill they may have done; it is the one sure way to ease our own passage through life because what we give we also receive and receive one-hundred fold.

Today is special; let us resolve to make every day just as special.

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