Monday, January 7, 2013

Be Satisfied. Be Grateful. Be Giving

I've noticed that recently I have really had a thing for Jewish Authors. I loved Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, and Will to Meaning, as well as his Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning. I recently read Harold Kushner's How Good Do We Have to Be? I'll read most anything by Martin Buber. I just really like these books. I realized how many of them I have been reading when I finished another book by a Jewish writer. Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith.

I loved the book. It was a Christmas present to me from my future in-laws who enjoyed it and know I love to read. I own a copy of Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie but I've never read it. I intend to do that soon because I really like his writing. In Have a Little Faith Mitch is gives chronicles meetings with his rabbi, Albert Lewis. Mitch is preparing a eulogy for the eventual death of the rabbi and meets with him frequently to prepare.

I love the story and the fact that it's true. I really learned a lot and enjoyed Mitch's conversations with his spiritual leader. One story I liked in particular. Mitch asks the rabbi "What makes a man happy?" and his rabbi answers saying, "The thing's society tells us we must have to be happy- a new this or that, a bigger house, a better job. I know the falsity of it. I have counseled many people who have all these things, and I can tell you that they are not happy because of them.
         "The number of marriages that have disintegrated when they had all the stuff in the world. The families who fought and argued all the time, when they had money and health. Having more does not keep you from  wanting more. And if you always want more-to be richer, more beautiful, more well known-you are missing the bigger picture, and I can tell you from experience, happiness will never come."
          They are interrupted by a baby crying in the hospital and the rabbi says, "Now, that child reminds me of something our sages taught. When a baby comes into the world, its hands are clenched right? Why?  Because a baby, not knowing any better, wants to grab everything, to say, 'The whole world is mine'
          "But when an old person dies, how does he do so? With his hands open. Why? Because he has learned the lesson. We can take nothing with us." 

I think this story shows where we can find true happiness. We cannot become happy by amassing things. In fact, as Viktor Frankl says, perhaps our quest for happiness is the very thing keeping us from true joy. If we focus on receiving things and being happy ourselves we are missing the true point. I don't believe happiness is the end goal. I think it is the by product of a life well lived. It comes from thinking of others and helping. Not by taking and getting, but by letting go and giving.

Mitch Albom continues the conversation between him and Lewis.

So, have we solved the secret of happiness?
"I believe so," he [the rabbi] said.
Are you going to tell me?
"Yes. Ready?"
"Be satisfied."
That's it?
"Be grateful."
That's it?
"For what you have. For the love you receive. And what God has given you."
That's it?
He looked me in the eye. Then he sighed deeply.
"That's it."

Be satisfied, be grateful, and I would add, be giving.

1 comment:

Sheri said...

Words to live by, thank you!