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Friday, July 25, 2014

Do Over


When we hear the phrase, “do over,” it probably conjures up some kind of mistake that we hope to rectify.  That happens to me often when I play golf.  I’ll hit a shot that goes astray and very much want a do over!  I am sure we can think of any number of times in our lives when we did something and either got a do over---or wished we could have one.  So it is not unusual to associate that phrase with negativity.

While that may be typical, it does not always have to be the case.  A do over can be anything we did once and, for whatever reason, we want to do it again.  I can think of many instances in which I sincerely wanted a do over.  Who would not want a do over of a very pleasant experience or a very positive outcome?

This came to my mind recently when I was gathering some information for a public presentation I have to make in a few weeks.  The topic given to me made me think of a book I read a few years ago.  The book by Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie, became a best seller.  Of course, Albom has written some other books since this book.  I do not recall when I first read Tuesdays.  I was a little surprised to discover that it was first published in 1997.  That probably means I read it last century!

It is a relatively short, easy to read book.  That does not mean it is superficial or not very worthwhile.  To the contrary.  I found it thoughtful and well written.  It offers good insights on life.  It was for this reason that I again turned to it.  I had a little difficulty finding it on my bookshelf.  I wanted my copy because I knew I had underlined it.  That meant I would find the nuggets faster and not have to read the whole thing as slowly as I must have the first time I read it.

Luckily I did find it and I was rewarded with the kind of gems I had remembered.  I must have realized the first time how spiritual it was.  This time through, that hit me again.  I had forgotten it had a subtitle.  One phrase in the subtitle says the book offers “life’s greatest lesson.”  I was surprised the word, lesson, was not plural---namely, lessons.  That made me ponder what Morrie (or Mitch) would consider life’s greatest lesson?

I think I could have guessed it, but was sure I found what Mitch would say on the first page of the text.  Albom begins the book in this way.  “The last class of my old professor’s life took place once a week in his house…The class met on Tuesdays…The subject was The Meaning of Life.  It was taught from experience.”  The meaning of life; I knew it!

When anyone is talking about the meaning of life, that is spirituality in my understanding.  In fact, that is my chief way of describing spirituality or religion: they are ways humans make meaning.  I know, however, we cannot talk about meaning in life without identifying some specifics.  This is exactly what Albom does through his conversations with Morrie.  Let’s look at a few of them, since they still offer deep insight into what a good life is about.

I was drawn to a section near the end of the book.  Albom quotes Morrie, who says, “Once you get your fingers on the important questions, you can’t turn away from them.”  That is so true.  It is only by living the questions that we can be on the quest.  Our questions inform our quest for making a good life.  I like Morrie’s use of plural here: questions.

Morrie identifies four important questions, which make sense to me.  He says, “As I see it, they have to do with love, responsibility, spirituality, awareness.”  Morrie then adds a touching note.  “And if I were healthy today, those (questions) would still be my issues.  They should have been all along.”  Clearly, that is a big take-away from the book:  Don’t wait.

Don’t wait until you are sick, suffering and in a bad place to think about life and the meaning of life.  Don’t squander too much time chasing things that ultimately won’t be what you want or not worth much.  I very much like Morrie’s quartet of questions having to do with love, responsibility, spirituality and awareness.  I wonder if this is the order Morrie put them in?

I am fine with love being first.  Probably for many of us who strive for a meaningful life, love does need to be a part of it.  After all, if God is love, that’s a good argument for love being #1.  Responsibility is an interesting, but apt choice.  No doubt, many of us have loved irresponsibly at times.  Responsibility is a good word for the discipline and accountability of a meaningful life.

It is a little surprising to see spirituality in the list of four questions.  It has been huge in my life, so I resonate with its central role.  Finally, awareness is a great choice.  I don’t know how we can have a life with meaning if we are sleepwalking through our lives.  In some ways, awareness is a necessity for the other three.  I am thankful that Albom again peaked my awareness.  It has been a great do over!

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