I recently read David Brooks' work "The Social Animal" in which he discusses the body of research around what makes people happy. A control group of elderly people near the end of life were asked this question: “What was the happiest day of your life?
Interestingly, what the research found was that for many of these folks, the happiest day of their life had absolutely nothing to do with them. In fact, for one person, followed closely throughout the book, the happiest day of his life was the day his wife received a special recognition award in 5th grade. THAT, he told them beaming…was his happiest day. It was not about him. He wasn’t even there. He didn’t even KNOW his wife then. But at 90 years old, THAT was the happiest day of his life.
That story touches me because of the collective oneness of joy it stands for…the utterly un-selfed joy it is possible to feel about another’s particular happiness and achievement, and the deeply inclusive nature of love.
The work I’ve been immersed in for the past 2 years; deep listening and responding to the music of the natural old and the vulnerability I have allowed myself to feel has led me toward boldness and a willingness to risk all. But what moves me even more, is the kindness, generosity, patience, steadfastness, and delicious humor of those dear ones--both human and bird--from the past, present and even those from the future I don’t yet know--who, in heart, mind, body and spirit, of have graciously allowed their own stunning accomplishments, their own rich and beautiful stories to serve as a quiet, supportive, and luscious backdrop for these sweet moments in time I've experienced and tried to distill at this joyful juncture of my life.
I'm humbled to remember that my truest happiness is in the end, ultimately about the big US. I believe that’s what our gorgeous, needful planet needs most; a willingness to embrace the Big US with a more expansive, less personally located love. THAT’s what this project has taught me and what I commit to going forth to practice.