WAKE UP

It was this very first class on a Monday morning. The wise teacher, a couple of years shy of retirement, started the day by asking her class of high school students: “Here is a quiz for you. You are sleeping. You are dreaming. A big tiger is chasing you. You try to run away and you see a tiger coming in front of you. You turn sideways, but every side you turn to, you find a ferocious animal coming after you. How can you escape?”

There was silence in the classroom. No one dared a response.

So finally the teacher said, “There’s only one answer: Wake up!”

Source | Philip Chircop. This is my own retelling of a story I heard years ago.

CONSIDER THIS

It’s all about waking up.  Waking up one enters a whole new world of reality, different from that of the world of dreams. What was a huge problem in the dream state often becomes a non-issue in the waking state.

“Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know, all mystics -Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion — are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.” | Anthony deMello,  Awareness

TWINS IN THE WOMB

Twins are talking to each other in the womb.  The sister said to the brother, “I believe there is life after birth.”  Her brother protested vehemently, “No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us.” The little girl insisted, “There must be something more than this dark place. There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move.” Still she could not convince her twin brother.

After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, “I have something else to say, and I’m afraid you won’t believe that, either, but I think there is a mother.” Her brother became furious. “A mother!” he shouted. “What are you talking about?” I have never seen a mother, and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have. Why do you always want more?. This is not such a bad place, after all. We have all we need, so let’s be content.”

The sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother’s response and for a while didn’t dare say anything more. But she couldn’t let go of her thoughts, and since she only had her twin brother to speak to, she finally said, “Don’t you feel these squeezes every once in a while? They’re quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful.” “Yes,” he answered. “What’s special about that?” “Well”, the sister said, “I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face-to-face. Don’t you think that’s exciting”

Source | Henri Nouwen, Our Greatest Gift, A Meditation on Dying and Caring 
(Harper One, 2009) pages 18-19.

CONSIDER THIS

This is a story about birth and life outside the womb. But can it  also be a story about death? Can it perhaps be an  invitation to think about death in a fresh way?  We can live as if this life were all we had, coming to an end with the absurdity of death. Or we can choose to claim our divine childhood and trust that death is the painful but graceful passage that will bring us face-to-face with God, our mother.

THE PRODIGAL FATHER

Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’

 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

“That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

“But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

“All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

“The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

“His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

Source | Eugene Peterson, The Message, Luke 15: 11-32

PONDER AND CONSIDER

In The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller uses this parable to describe two different types of people with two different ways of engaging the world, each represented by the two brothers.  One type needs to experience the world, make mistakes, and seek forgiveness.  The other needs to stay behind, work hard, only to be disappointed when God treats both kinds equally.

  • Where do you see yourself in the story? Are you the younger brother? The older brother? The welcoming father? How do you feel as you enter the story and watch it unfold?
  • In both cases – the younger brother away with the pigs, or the older brother much closer but still outside the Father’s house – what is it going to take to wake up and come to your senses?

CAN I BUY ONE HOUR OF YOUR TIME

A man came home from work late, tired and irritated, to find his 5-year old son waiting for him at the door.

Son: ‘Daddy, may I ask you a question?’

Dad: ‘Yeah sure, what it is?’ replied the man.

Son: ‘Daddy, how much do you make an hour?’

Dad: ‘That’s none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?’ the man said angrily.

Son: ‘I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?’

Dad: ‘If you must know, I make $50 an hour.’

Son: ‘Oh,’ the little boy replied, with his head down.

Son: ‘May I please borrow $25?’

The father was furious, ‘If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I don’t work hard everyday for such childish frivolities.’

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.

The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy’s questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?

After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down and started to think:

Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $25.00 and he really didn’t ask for money very often The man went to the door of the little boy’s room and opened the door.

‘Are you asleep, son?’ He asked.

‘No daddy, I’m awake,’ replied the boy.

‘I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier’ said the man. ‘It’s been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here’s the $25 you asked for.’

The little boy sat straight up, smiling. ‘Oh, thank you daddy!’ he yelled. Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills.

The man saw that the boy already had money and started to get angry again.

The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.

‘Why do you want more money if you already have some?’ the father grumbled.

‘Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do,’ the little boy replied.

‘Daddy, I have $50 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.’

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.” | Barbara Johnson

In the Gospel of John we read that “there is no greater love than this, to give your life to the people you love.” (John 15:13). As I see it, life is time, and time is life. If you want this verse to touch you differently, exchange  the word “life” for “time” and read the verse again:  “There is not greater love than this, to give your time to the people you love.”

How are you using the precious gift of time to nurture healthy relationships?

THE FISHERMAN WHO KNEW HOW TO LIVE

A smartly-dressed enterprising tourist is taking photographs when he notices a shabbily dressed local fisherman taking a nap in his fishing boat. The tourist is disappointed with the fisherman’s apparently lazy attitude towards his work, so he approaches the fisherman and asks him why he is lying around instead of catching fish. The fisherman explains that he went fishing in the morning, and the small catch would be sufficient for the next two days.

The tourist tells him that if he goes out to catch fish multiple times a day, he would be able to buy a motor in less than a year, a second boat in less than two years, and so on. The tourist further explains that one day, the fisherman could even build a small cold storage plant, later a pickling factory, fly around in a helicopter, build a fish restaurant, and export lobster directly to Paris without a middleman.

The nonchalant fisherman asks, “Then what?”

The tourist enthusiastically continues, “Then, without a care in the world, you could sit here in the harbor, doze in the sun, and look at the glorious sea.”

“But I’m already doing that”, says the fisherman.

The enlightened tourist walks away pensively, with no trace of pity for the fisherman, only a little envy.

Source: Anecdote concerning the Lowering of Productivity
in Heinrich Boll (author), Leila Vennewitz (translator)
The Collected Stories of Heinrich Bollpages 794-796

____________________________.

TWO OTHER VERSIONS OF THE SAME STORY

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village.

An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with all your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs…I have a full life.”

The American interrupted, “I have a degree in business management and I can help you!”

You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.

Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.”

“You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American. “And after that?”

“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stock and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?”

“After that  – and this is the best part – you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends!”

______________________________

The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.

Why aren’t you out fishing? said the industrialist.

Because I have caught enough fish for the day, said the fisherman.

Why don’t you catch some more?

What would I do with it?

You could earn more money was the reply.

With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish.

Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats…maybe even a fleet of boats.  Then you would be a rich man like me.

What would I do then?

Then you could really enjoy life.

What do you think I am doing right now?

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Is there enough balance in your life between doing and non-doing, work and rest?
  • Know where you’re going in life … you may already be there.

WHEAT FROM EGYPTIAN TOMBS

A handful of wheat,
five thousand years old,
was found in the tomb
of one of the kings
of ancient Egypt.
Someone planted the grains
and, to the amazement of all,
the grains came to life.

When a person is enlightened his or her words become like seeds, full of life and energy. And they can remain in seed form for centuries until they are sown in a receptive, fertile heart.

I used to think the words of scripture were dead and dry. I know now that they are full of energy and life. But it was my heart that was stony and dead, so how could anything grow there?

Source | Anthony De Mello, SJ | The Song of the Bird, page 47

 

LIFE IS ALL THE INGREDIENTS

A young boy left his home in search of truth. He met many people; he became richer in awareness of his ignorance. Since people went to forests to meditate, he too went to a thick forest. He did not know how to meditate. So he screamed at the forest to give him knowledge. For years his only mantra was screaming at the forest to give him knowledge. He believed that if you are committed, existence will help you.
One day, a monk came to him. He asked: “What do you want, my son?” “I want to know what the meaning of life is,” he replied. “Go to the town. The first three persons that you meet will give you the meaning of life,” the monk replied.
The boy went to the town. The first man he met was doing carpentry work. The next man he met was doing sheet metal work. The third man he met was making strings. Disappointed, he sat on the bank of a river. Suddenly, he heard the sweet strains of violin music. Something mysterious touched him. He suddenly got the answer he was looking for and he started dancing.
The carpenter was preparing the wood for the violin. The sheet metal worker was preparing metal for the strings and the strings were meant for the violin. Life has everything; all you need is to be able to connect the dots. You need to work out new combinations. And for that you need creative perception.
Life has all the ingredients. Be creative. Don’t let yourself feel victimized.
PONDER AND CONSIDER
  • You might think that what is easy is beautiful, that what is easy is joy. You are a victim of such illusions. Difficulty has such a joy. Discovery has such a joy. Seeking out has such a joy.
  • You have to change the notion that difficulty is pain. In exercise, there is difficulty but also joy. In sports, there is difficulty but there is joy. In your relationships, when there is difficulty, treat it as joy. Just re-programme your mind.