Archive for December, 2011

How should I live?

December 21, 2011

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth said:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/ To the last syllable of recorded time/And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death.

This is not an atheist’s lament, but of one who has lost his way in life. I too have felt out the petty pace of days, which, if not a sinful way to live, is an exceedingly frustrating way to live. The luxury of days, if one is healthy and of sound mind, is a gift. To access that gift most fully is to love. To the theist and the atheist what is Ultimately Important is Love.

From Corinthians 13, Paul wrote:
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

For once, grumpy old Paul got it right. One of my favorite movies is Groundhog’s Day. The main character, played by Bill Murray, is juvenile, vain and selfish. He finds himself in a quaint town, which he despises and is trapped in the same day to live over and over. Since there are no consequences, he gorges on sex, sweets, cigarettes and caffeine. After these pleasures lose their allure, he tries and fails to attract  love, through manipulation. Then tries to kill himself, over and over again.

One day he finds out that an old man, he has bypassed in the string of days, will die. He sets out to save the old man. Then, he decides to save all the town people that are supposed to die on “his” day. He becomes an accomplished pianist, dancer, and ice sculptor. He reads and is inspired by Chekov. Everyone who encounters him is enriched. Finally, he finds  contentment in the happiness of the woman he has pursued the entire film, partly because he does not try to possess her or even touch her. It is the happiest day of his life. The endless day is broken. He has gotten it right.

Imagine living one day a week mindfully and with love. Oh what a difference a day can make. One of the saving graces of my week is my Tuesday and Thursday Zumba Gold class. The class of frumpy old ladies is filled to the brim with stretch pants that are pulled too high and flat bottoms. The enrollment is full due to Shari and Bob. Shari is an African American woman who is 53 and her husband, Bob, a white man in his 60s. They met working at a Chrysler plant and have been married for 25 years. I’ve never met a more unlikely couple. Shari is engaging, smart, full of laughter and energy. Bob, well Bob is a very average Joe. Such marriages sometimes seem like a trade off, a good-looking woman picks a someone who is safe. He stands in front with Shari, but he takes his cues himself from the participants. Like Shari he smiles a great deal, and both seem very happy. It’s a marriage that works.

Shari communicates many things to us. In one of her dance moves she crosses her hands to her heart in a loving way. We follow, loving ourselves. Sometimes I feel like I am in a kindergarten class, in a good way—where kids were scattered in there own small orbits on the gym floor, excited and ready to listen to “Go You Chicken-fat Go!” No inhibitions. In Zumba, we shimmy our hips to the de de de, de, de, de, dededede de pings of music. Or  strike a pose like five year olds in a mirror, imaging we are ballerinas or engaged in the dance of the seven veils. We mumbo, merengue and play the guitar. We play. Shari laughs. We laugh.

Sometimes when I cannot sleep at night, I like to think about Shari’s smile. Bob a step or two behind. Or I think about the bent over lady, who mumbles and almost always sits down. Who one day baby-stepped herself through the whole class, her cheeks pinking. She laughs too. I don’t know how to explain it, but it is not just an exercise class. Shari communicates love in her being. Because of that, we are all richer walking out the door. That is the way to love. That is the way to live, de de de, dededede de.


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