Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Living the Life

I recently read a description of authentic happiness by Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. According to Seligman, there are three paths to happiness: the pleasant life, the good life and the meaningful life.

The pleasant life is what most people think of when considering whether they are happy or not. Some seek short cuts to the pleasant life through artificial means but sooner or later most people look in the mirror and ask themselves if that is all there is.

The good life comes through deep engagement in work, family life or other activities. In my case it is writing, spending time with my wife and playing golf, but it could be any activity that one finds challenging and rewarding.

Finally, the meaningful life means devoting oneself to an institution or cause greater than oneself. New York Times best-selling author Rick Warren captures this thought with the opening words to his hugely successful book, The Purpose-Driven Life: “It’s not about you. You were made by God and for God—and until you understand that, life will never make sense.”

Another best-selling author, Max Lucado, has written a book that echoes much the same sentiment. It is titled It’s Not About Me and it is subtitled “Rescue From the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy.” As the Scriptures remind us, we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be added.” While I am experiencing the pleasant life and enjoying the good life, I am also endeavoring to live the meaningful life.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Hearing the Music

Lately I’ve been thinking of music as a metaphor for life. Literature contains a symphony of musical references and the score music plays in the sacramental life. For example, in his moving book titled Morning Sun on a White Piano, Robin R. Myers melodically writes, “The next time you go to hear live music, consider that time before the concert, when the musicians are tuning up, to be very much like the work of the soul. It is all noisy, cranky cacophony until joined in the service of harmony.”

It was John Ruskin who so eloquently stated, “Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the time and not be discouraged at the rests. They are not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we look up, God Himself will beat the time for us. With the eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear, because we rested. There is no music in a ‘rest,’ but there is the making of music in it. People are always missing that part of the life melody.”

Timothy Jones also chimes in with his own note on the metaphor of music: “Music is beautiful not only for its notes but also its pauses; percussion gives rhythm only with the alternation of sound and silence. So with our days.”

And it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who challenged, “Don’t die with the music still in you.” From my perspective, part of the trouble with living in modern times is that often we allow the busyness of life to choke out our dreams and destinies, not to mention the sanctity and sacredness of daily living. Sadly, many of us settle for being an echo of someone else instead of the unique voice that God created us to be.

I am reminded of the wisdom of Phillips Brooks, who once wrote, “The great danger facing all of us is…that some day we may wake up and find that always we have been busy with the…trappings of life—and have really missed life itself.” As we play our parts in the orchestra of life, let us each strive to make the concert a sublime one.