We just missed a tsunami here in Hawai’i last week. Four days ago at 3:00 AM nobody this side of heaven knew what the sunrise would bring. Believe me when I say that the footage from Japan made an especially heavy impression here, seeing how Hawai’i might be the next stop for this rolling disaster.
As we’ve since learned, no damage was suffered here in terms of human life from the threat, for which we are grateful. Not much happened in the larger scheme. Yet astonishingly, but not really surprisingly, I see how quickly I and others have pretty much put it all aside now. It’s faded into the rear view mirror. We’re now back to normal, dealing with the personal and everyday struggles that occupied us before this schism. And it bothers me to see this in myself, because our safety was like a coin-toss only short days ago; visions of food shortages and cholera outbreaks passed through my mind that night. I don’t think it’s wise on my part to allow this sort of wake up call to be forgotten.
Life is a gift, not an entitlement.
There are a lot of things that I’m reconsidering in light of the ongoing disaster in Japan and near-disaster in Hawai’i. One’s real beliefs expose themselves quickly when you suddenly realize everything may permanently change within the next hour. A big threat becomes a big mirror to what you’ve been believing in secret your whole life.
I see that my life, in a sense, has always been lived on borrowed time. Because of my faith, I do have the real sense that I’m not going through anything alone, but I also know many people who have no such perspective. Perhaps some of them are reconsidering that position now. The questions of why we are here, and what we’re supposed to be doing while we’re here are somehow even more important now than before.
One thing I’m pretty sure of is that I (along with you and everyone) have been endowed somehow with personal gifts (as well as weaknesses, those are a given). Why God makes artists is a question for another day, but I have a gift and I know that I’m fortunate in that. And if I’ve been given a gift, it follows that there is a deliberate purpose for that, a function I’m needed to perform. This makes perfect sense to me.
Amidst all the dull or nasty problems each day presents to all of us (including supermodels, geniuses, and rich people), I’m taught to be thankful in all things, a tough discipline that only makes sense if you practice and apply it. Every hour of every day has been a gift all along, and I’ve generally taken these moments for granted as something due me. Yet looking back, I know that amidst the hard times, I’ve found resources I didn’t know of, and found friendships that would never have formed otherwise. So, I’m learning to live day by day, and even hour by hour sometimes, because I’m old enough to see that my life is not solely in my own hands.
How does this all look in real life?
Yesterday, my neighbor Teal and her mother Krystal dropped by for a chat, and after Krystal left, 4 year old Teal decided to stick around. I was going to clean my palette from a portrait sitting the day before, and one thing led to another, and Teal somehow ended up sitting for me. This, of course is technically impossible, because kids that age don’t really sit. But for a few moments at a time, between wiggles and riotous breakdowns of continuity, we worked out a tiny sketchy thing on a scrap of linen with yesterday’s paint and backdrops in poor light. Totally unplanned, just we two taking advantage of a moment that nobody saw coming.
She loves purple anyway.
We made the best of it, soldiering along together for thirty minutes or so, and I came away impressed, once more, that this art-thing is perhaps more precious than I know. This momentary sketch will now be part of her life, and maybe if she makes it to 85 it ‘ll be a remembrance for her.
And I could have missed this so easily, with my busi-ness and preoccupation with other “more important” stuff.
It’s very good to value every opportunity and every moment, because I, and all of us, don’t really know what is next. We may get another warning and hear those awful sirens again tomorrow for all I know. And we can fret and despair, or we can open our eyes and do what good we may in the time and place we are in.