An Infinite Number of Lives
Dinner Has Changed
The theme of Cinema Paradiso plays as I enjoy another late dinner by myself. I couldn’t have asked for better background music. I really enjoyed that movie, and the score is one of my favorites. Sometimes I feel like a character in a coming-of-age film, fortunately stumbling along through life experiencing all the mistakes, hurts, losses, and lessons along the way.
Life for me has changed a lot, and it has gotten very interesting – my catch-all word for stressful, challenging, worrying, stretching, strengthening, character building, and maturing. Most days start early in the morning with the sunlight acting as a natural alarm clock, then its prayer, oil-pulling, breakfast (when I remember), and off to work. I go through a list of things to do for Issho Genki, naturalhealth.ph, and some other opportunities, as well as taking some time for my non-profit involvements. Sometimes I have lunch but lately I’ve been forgetting, so I put an alarm on my phone to remind me, but I somehow messed-up the alarm so it rings at 4pm. I haven’t gotten around to fixing it. So aside from the granola bars I eat all day, dinner is really the only regular meal I have.
And even dinner has changed.
Just a few months ago, while still living in my parents’ house, I could expect a yummy home cooked meal every evening. These days, I usually eat at one of the cheap restaurants near my building or stick to a mixture of no-cook food on paper plates. I finally bought glasses last week, so now I can enjoy my favorite full-cream milk in something other than a plastic cup. Once in a while I treat myself to something a little more expensive, but it’s true what they say about earning your keep, when you’ve worked so hard you just don’t want to spend it away.
But despite having less conveniences, less food, less security (more like no security), and less of all the comforts I used to enjoy, I feel alive – and isn’t that what life is about? To do more than take up space on the planet, but to know and feel in your heart that you’re participating in this great story’s unraveling. That your living out your story within His-story.
That’s the one point I hope you catch in this post: live your story.
Live Your Story
I love stories. I love reading them, hearing about them, and watching them, and I love writing my own. And while I have my favorites, I’ve realized that all stories are incomparable. You can’t compare The Godfather to The Little Prince, neither can you say Il Postino was better than Legends of the Fall.
They’re all good stories.
But sometimes we do this with each other and ourselves, comparing stories and making pronouncements on which one’s better. Your story is better because you’ve made fewer mistakes. My story beats yours because I’ve traveled more. Your story isn’t worth anything because you don’t have money. You ruined your story when you were arrested, or when you got pregnant, or because you went bankrupt. We rank our stories according to conventions, unforgiving conventions that trap us.
But there’s no use comparing stories since every story is unique, and different, and special because every story is a life with a spirit, soul, and body, that’s maybe very differently oriented than yours but also created by God. I’ve decided to stop playing story judge. Instead, I’d rather be like a child that listens wide-eyed to everything from flying elephants and brave soldiers to martyrs and romances. It’s also helped that I’m more aware of my own limitations, stink, and weaknesses, and I want to be forgiving, hoping that someday people will be forgiving as well. Because when I’m really honest with myself, when I pray at night, all I can say is, “Father, here’s my story. It isn’t much. But it’s yours if you’ll take it. Please redeem it. Fix it.”
There’s enough in my own story to work on. Why busy myself policing others?
Fathers of Three Boys
The man who delivers the paper to my parents’ house has been doing the same thing for a while. He used to come in a bike but now he’s upgraded to a scooter – one that’s big enough to hold him and his own 3 boys. I saw them once, packed tight one after the other on the scooter, and I wondered to myself what that must feel like. Then I had an impression, “It’s different isn’t it? It’s something else.”
I thought about that: “It’s different.”
Here was a man, just like my dad a father, of 3 boys too, working to put food on the table, married for sure, so many similarities but – different. They don’t have our cars but we don’t know the thrill of riding behind our dad on a scooter. They don’t have Bulla Bars in the freezer like my mom likes to have, but there’s something, many things actually, in their story that’s not in mine. It’s different. Again, it’s incomparable. One is not better than the other. It’s just different.
An Infinite Number of Lives
Wakes are supposed to be a sad place, not a time for inspiration. But a few weeks ago, while walking out of the wake of Chip’s brother, Jaco, I couldn’t stop thinking about the words printed on a photo of Jaco his mom, Tita Sony, handed me:
“There’s been an infinite variety of lives. Who’s to say his was any less worth living than all the others?”
There are an infinite number of lives. Yours, mine, lives of those who have gone before us, and lives waiting to begin, all different, all unique, all priceless, and all worth living just the same.