As we all know, today is the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Everyone remembers where they were when they got the news. I was laying in a bed in Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA at the end of a three month hospital stay wherein I nearly died after a major pancreatic surgery. That, however, is a story for another day.
One of the features that I have started in my Blog is "Something made me smile today". You may not think that there is much reason to smile on a day like today, but I think that there is. Last night I was making a list of the people who came to mind when I think of who has the most infectious smiles. One of the people at the top of my list was The Dalai Lama. I have been interested in the Dalai Lama and Tibet for many years and have read many of his teachings. One of the beautiful books that sits on my coffee table is a large book entitled "My Tibet", which is the story of the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the Dalai Lama's subsequent exile. The phenomenal photographs in the book of Tibet and its people were taken by renowned photographer Galen Rowell, who died several years ago in a tragic accident. Now, before I scare any of you away, this is not going to be a post about religious or political issues. It is about the human spirit. Regardless of your views on religion, I think that you will find insight into The Dalai Lama's teachings on life in general. I know that I have. So, today, of all days, some thoughts on the power of the human smile.
The following quotes are excerpts from the book - The Dalai Lama - His Essential Wisdom, Edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi.
"KINDNESS AND FRIENDSHIP"
"My attitude towards other people is to always look at them from the human level. On that level, whether president, queen or beggar, there is no difference, provided that there is genuine human feeling with a genuine human smile of affection. If someone greets me with a nice smile, and expresses a genuinely friendly attitude, I appreciate it very much. Though I might not know that person or understand their language, they instantly gladden my heart ..."
"Kindness and love, a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, these are very precious. They make community possible and thus are crucial in society. Having a heart, and a kind and warm disposition, is an enormous advantage. Not only does it bring us joy, but we can share this joy with others. Relations between individuals, nations, and continents deteriorate only from lack of goodwill and kindness, even though those qualities are so valuable and necessary for the quality of life in society. That is why it is worth trying to develope them."
"We are, after all, social animals. Without human friendship, without the human smile, our lives become miserable. The loneliness becomes unbearable. Such human interdependence is a natural law - that is to say, according to natural law, we depend on others to live. We are all part of humanity, and each of us has the responsibility to improve humanity and to bring it additional happiness in order to make it more peaceful, friendlier, and compassionate. So, if one individual practices compassion and forgiveness sincerely and regularly, wherever he or she may live, it will generate a positive atmosphere. That is a way to contribute toward the betterment of humanity."
The Dalai Lama's words are particularly appropriate on a day such as today, I think. You may not think that your small acts of kindness or compassion towards loved ones and strangers alike each day make any difference, but they really do. They are contagious. People want to "pay them forward". Smiles are contagious. People desperately long for something to smile about these days.
Some people may look at my life and think that I have absolutely no reason to smile. I have had a serious chronic illness, chronic pancreatitis, for nine years. I have spent over 500 days in the hospital during the past 9 years. Because of this, I was unable to work for many years and finally had to give up my 22 year career as a trial lawyer and take a disability retirement. Financially - "materially" - I am destroyed. Yet, in many ways, I feel wealthy. I have a wonderful loving family. I have many many long-time close friends who are my "Rocks of Gibraltar", my muses, my laugh 'till your stomach hurts friends. I started a new business doing the things that I love to do. Yes, I am still very worried about the future, still angry at times, still severely depressed, but I try to make it a point to always find reasons to smile each day, and to try to make others smile when possible. It is what keeps me going - it's what makes the world go 'round.
So, what made me smile so far today, on such a solemn day of remembrance? Well, it would have to be the joyful, impish, smiling face of the Dalai Lama. Perhaps some day I will have the opportunity to meet him and exchange smiles. Wouldn't that be something....
Until next time -- Be Well and Happy -- Robin