It’s the love in his eyes and voice that bring a lump to my throat when I look at his online photograph or listen to the video below. Brother David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine monk with a knack for making time-worn concepts seem fresh and new. Theologian Henri Nouwen describes him this way on the Gratefulness Web site:
In the midst of a pragmatic world in which we constantly ask ourselves how useful things — and even people — are, Brother David calls us to “useless” praise. In the midst of a world in which hatred, strife, violence, and war dominate our consciousness, Brother David points our eyes in another direction and tells us that joy and peace are closer at hand than we might realize. In the midst of a world in which fear, apprehension and suspicion make us live stingy, narrow and small lives, Brother David stretches out his arms, smiles and says: “Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise — then you will discover the fullness of your life.”
Watching the first few scenes of “A Good Day”, I had the groaning sense this was yet another oh-so-meaningful forwarded message, a repetition of trite advice accompanied by beautiful photographs and sappy sound track. As the video unrolled, I began to feel two things: embarrassment for my moment of cynicism and gratitude for the extraordinarily blessed life I lead.
Last Saturday a friend asked how I was. I told her I have come to the place I worked and longed for all my life, a place of peace and joy. Each day I awaken with gratitude for the day ahead. Each night I drift off to sleep reflecting on the blessings of the day. She told me I should share that here.
So here it is, with some help from Brother David. I’m not a Pollyanna. My days are not free of frustration, fear, disappointment, or uncertainty. But those shadowy emotions no longer have a chance to hang around long.
That puts me in good company. A number of recent studies have found that people tend to become happier as they age.
Most of the happiness and aging studies look at people 65 and older. I’m edging ever closer to that number. I’ve decided to start early.