Thursday, July 20, 2017

What Is Happiness?


All beings want to be happy, yet so very few know how.  It is out of ignorance that any of us cause suffering, for ourselves or others".
-Sharon Salzberg

Back in the flower power days of the late sixties the rock band Iron Butterfly had a song called “Are You Happy”?  In the not too distant past Bobby McFerrin sang, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.  Even more recently Pharrell Williams sang the following lines in his mega hit song “Happy”.

It might seem crazy what I am about to say
Sunshine she's here, you can take a break
I'm a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don't care, baby, by the way


(Because I'm happy)
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I'm happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I'm happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I'm happy)
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do



So here’s the question…..


Are you happy?  If you’re not, is it because you worry all the time?  As a man with a wife I don’t need to worry.  My wife worries enough for ten people.  I have moments of contentment and even joy but I don’t always feel a sense of happiness.  Sometimes I am not sure I really know what happiness is.  Is happiness what I feel when nothing is going wrong?  I once read that happiness is not getting what you want but, rather, loving what you have.  I really do try to life a life of gratitude but I also spend a lot of time thinking about and even longing for what I don’t have.  I am not talking about the accumulation of more material things.  I have all the things I want.  What gives you a sense of happiness?  Many people respond, “My family”.  At the same time, they talk about how their family drives them crazy.  Other people say, “If I had more money, I would be happy”.  Certainly everyone needs enough money for the basic necessities of life.  However, I can tell you from personal experience having more money does not necessarily make you happier.  If other people and more things cannot make us happy, what does?  In your life, if you feel happy, what is it that makes you feel that way?   

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Chloe Becomes A Teen-Ager


There are people throughout Humana and the world who have been following the stories I write about my granddaughter since the day she was born.  Once I was walking in the park across the street from my office when a woman shouted at me from her car.  She said, “Aren’t you Chloe’s Paw Paw”?  Chloe’s popularity and name recognition became greater than my own.  Today is Chloe’s birthday and she is now officially a teen-ager.  Trust me when I say she has the attitude to prove it.  I know many of you will find this difficult to believe.  It is mind blowing for me as well.  After my children were born I assumed that one day I would be a grandfather but I never realized the joy and occasional worry it would give me.  Most grandparents would feel this way.  It is now difficult to remember a time when Chloe was not part of my life or our family.  She and I bonded from the very beginning.  She was only three weeks old the first time she stayed overnight at my home.  My wife and I were in our early 50’s then but very out of practice caring for a newborn child.  I was up every hour getting a bottle, holding her, or rocking her back to sleep.  She used to grab on to my beard with her tiny fingers.  At first it was a little embarrassing how much she preferred me to anyone else, even my wife.  As she got a little older she would wake me up at the crack of dawn so I would go downstairs with her to “play the game”.  “Playing the Game” was the two of us sitting in the middle of the floor with every doll and stuffed animal she owned.  I have a Jerry Garcia doll.  She would grab it, bring it to me and say, “You be Jerry”!  At one time she was the only child in the daycare who had a Jerry Garcia tee shirt.  However, now that Chloe is no longer a child but a blossoming young woman, she and my wife are a lot closer.  She talks about girl stuff with my wife and philosophical stuff with me.  Chloe knows twice as much about life at age thirteen than I did at age thirteen.  That is not necessarily a good thing.  I hope I have a long enough life to see her grow up and become an adult.  She needs me as much as I need her.  For now I will enjoy every moment I have with her even if we are disagreeing about whatever the drama of the day happens to be.  Next week she will be going on vacation with the old folks.  She keeps us young plus I want to give her as many enjoyable experiences as I can before life get too serious and demanding for her.  You only have one childhood.  She’s already had her share of challenges and soon enough she will be an adult.  Someday I will also need her to break me out of the nursing home. 

 

P.S.  Prepare yourselves.  She will be driving a car in three years.  I wonder if Dad will let her borrow his prized Corvette?           

 

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Dream Comes True


This past weekend my wife, Chloe, and I visited Holy Redeemer Parish in Greensburg, Good Shepard Parish in Columbia, and Holy Spirit Parish in Jamestown to witness the installation of my son, Nick, as the official pastor of these parishes.  The ceremonies were led by Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville.  We attended three masses and listened to the same homily three times.  In addition, we ate one pot luck dinner, one pot luck breakfast, and one pot luck lunch.  The Archbishop cautioned me to pace myself.  The food was excellent, especially the breakfast.  After three masses and three pot luck meals I am sanctified and five pounds heavier.  The people themselves were very welcoming and friendly.  During the masses the Archbishop had high praise for my son and during the pot luck meals my wife and I received many compliments about our son.  It was a proud moment for both of us.  One lady told me that I look just like my son.  I corrected her and said, “No, he looks like me.  I was here first”.  Another lady asked, “Do you call your son Father Nick”?  She was curious since I am the father of the Father.  I replied, “Sometimes, but mostly I just call him Nick because he is my son”.  A few people came up to me and said, “I saw that picture of you and Father Nick at the U2 concert”.  Both of my sons have turned out to be good human beings and men.  My son, Nick, however, is more like me than his brother.  My other son is more like his mother.  Sometimes it is interesting how life turns out.  When my son was ordained a priest, my mother looked at me and said, “I always thought it would be you”.  In some ways Nick is living the dreams of my youth.  I suppose some dreams begin with one person and end with another.  In many ways Nick has finished what I began.  In spite of my background I was surprised when Nick came to me and told me he wanted to be a priest.  I honestly didn’t see it coming.  Sometimes our children surprise us.  One way or another most of us turn out the way life intended for us.         

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Son Becomes A Pastor

As many of you know, my youngest son is a Catholic priest.  For the last year he has been working solo as the acting pastor of three small parishes in southern Kentucky.  In this part of Kentucky Catholics are few and far between so some consider this area as the “Southern Kentucky Missions”.  For the first year that you are “flying solo” you are considered an Administrator.  My son has successfully been the “acting” pastor for the last year so he is now being formally made the Pastor.  It’s a big deal so this weekend my wife and I, along with Chloe, are going there to attend the formal ceremonies that accompany this change.  Archbishop Kurtz will be there as well to make it official.  Technically the Archbishop is my son’s boss.  The Archbishop’s boss is Pope Francis.  I still remember the day, a little over ten years ago, when Nick came to me and told me he wanted to be a priest.  At the time it kind of blew me away because I did not see it coming.  Despite my own background of going to the seminary and living in a monastery I can honestly say I never did anything intentionally to encourage Nick in this direction.  Some things in life are a calling.  After he went through the rigorous process of being accepted into the seminary, my wife and I drove him to Indianapolis to attend Marian College.  Within the college there is a seminary program for men who need to complete their undergraduate degree before doing graduate level work in theology.  Nick did his graduate level theological studies at St. Meinrad School of Theology and now has a Master’s Degree.  I enjoyed those four years because the school is only about 75 miles away and is run by Benedictine monks.  For obvious reasons I always enjoyed visiting there.  The day we  first drove Nick to Marian College it must have been 95 degrees.  We found the seminary residence hall and it had no air conditioning.  The poor priest who was the seminary Rector was sweating profusely as he tried to get everyone to their assigned rooms.  When my wife and I finally said goodbye and left Nick, I wondered how it would all turn out and if he would be happy.  Ten years later and four years as a priest he is very happy.  He loves his current assignment and he especially likes being in a small town and rural environment.  By all appearances, he seems to be happy and thriving.  Whether your son is a priest or a plumber, isn’t this what all parents want for a child?            

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unresolved Questions & Issues

In Zen, we don’t find the answers.  We lose the questions”.
-Zen saying
 
Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue”.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
 
As I have said before, I am a very introspective person.  I am always thinking and pondering and musing and contemplating.  It’s part of who I am.  All of these activities can be done too much with the possible exception of contemplation which is a kind of restful gaze into the universe or God, whichever you prefer.  However, even contemplatives need to stand up once in a while and take out the trash or perform some other chore.  The point is that we all have questions or other unresolved issues in our hearts, many of which will never be resolved.  This is true for every person.  I know some people think I have all the answers.  I might have a few.  I, too, have issues and most of them go back to my childhood which is where most issues begin for many people.  Over and above any childhood baggage we carry, we have other experiences on the path of life that may have hurt us.  Sometime we can let these experiences go and move on with our life.  Other times we carry them with us and we continually ask “Why did this happen to me”?  Many times these questions are never answered.  If we are lucky we move on and we lose the questions.  Sometimes we are broken but other times we are healed.  Even with healing there is often a scar.  I once read that gray hair and scars mean that you have survived every challenge so far in your life.  I have grey hair and scars.  You are not weak for having struggles.  You are strong for having survived.     

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My U2 Experience

Sometimes I am impulsive, like when a concert is announced six months in advance.  I am ready to jump in feet first.  I work out the financial plan and then I purchase the tickets.  The closer the concert gets the more I anxious I become, especially if it is being held in an arena or stadium.  At this stage of my rock and roll life I am better suited for intimate concerts in small venues like the Louisville Palace or the Brown Theater.  In my younger days, when I was in my forties, I made a lot of road trips to Cincinnati or Indianapolis.  If I did that today I would have to stay overnight in a hotel.  In days of old I would come to work the next day.  This past Friday I went to see U2 at Papa John’s Stadium, a place I had never been.  I went with my son the priest.  Going with a priest had its benefits.  There is a Catholic church across the street from the stadium so we had convenient and free parking for the concert.  Although the stadium was across the street from the church it was still quite a hike to get to the entrance.  At that time it was approximately 87 degrees.  I began to have serious doubts about the wisdom of attending an outdoor concert in a big stadium on a very hot day.  Once we got past security and into the stadium, we were able to hang out in a shady spot until the opening act hit the stage.  Unfortunately, our seats were on the sunny side of the stadium in the nose bleed section.  The air is a little thin up there too.  My brilliant son gets out his iPhone and goes to the Ticketmaster website.  A few minutes later he says, “Follow me, Dad”.  He takes me to two seats on the end of a row that were much better than our reserved seats.  What did he do?  He simply looked for seats that hadn’t been sold.  Brilliant!  I never would have thought of that.  The concert itself far exceeded my expectations.  The sun was finally setting as U2 took the stage.  It was a powerful concert and they played most of their iconic songs including the entire “Joshua Tree” album.  Music is more than entertainment for me.  It is often a deeply emotional experience.  Several times I was moved to tears, especially when Bono sang “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, song about Martin Luther King, Jr.  U2 is very political but in a positive way.  Their songs are deep and personal, yet universal.  After the show my son and I maintained a tradition I began many years ago after I had taken him to see the Rolling Stones when he was a teen-ager.  We ate at the Waffle House with all the other creatures of the night.  Much to my surprise I ran into someone from my office but what happens at the Waffle House stays at the Waffle House.  When I finally got home I looked at my Fitbit and I had walked over 40,000 steps!  It wasn’t until Sunday that I felt the pain.  The good news is that I’m still out there getting it done!  Old guys rock!       

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sleep

In one of his early journals, the monk and writer Thomas Merton describes the experience of lying in his cell at night wide awake due to his insomnia.  In those days monks did not have private rooms.  They slept in dormitories where each monk had a “cell”.  A cell was little more than a small bed with partitions around it.  When I was a young man in the monastery one of the jobs I had was being part of the construction crew assigned to replacing these cells with actual private bedrooms.  Yes, believe it or not I once worked in construction.  Merton goes on to describe the experience of lying in his cell listening to the snoring of all the monks around him while being able to calculate exactly how much sleep he was losing based on the ringing of the monastery bells.  In today’s world individual monks have private rooms and the bells do not ring all night.  They do ring at 3:00 AM to awaken the monks for night vigils in the church.  Whenever I have stayed at the monastery I usually got up with the monks.  The time after these night vigils is my favorite time in the monastic day.  However, I digress.  Sometimes I think I, too, suffer from insomnia.  I actually hate going to bed because I know it will be a struggle to fall asleep.  Sometimes I complicate the problem with evening naps and an overactive mind.  When I go home after a day’s work I usually feel brain dead and exhausted.  It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had a tough day or an easy one.  The only way to not take a nap is to remain continuously busy with chores of some type.  If my mind or body is not engaged it’s off to La La Land.  Thursday morning I woke up at 4:30 AM to heed nature’s call.  I returned to my bed happy that I still had an hour and a half of sleep before my alarm would go off in order to go to work.  I tossed and I turned.  I started hearing rumbles of thunder and seeing flashes of light as a storm approached.  I think I finally fell asleep at 5:59 AM.  My alarm went off at 6:00 AM.  I was not a happy man.  Does anyone else have a problem sleeping at night?  Is this a pattern for older people?