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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss


In last week’s post I wrote about a recent trip to Spain. Food and drink are an essential part of the good life the Spanish enjoy, and whether you are savoring Carillada (tender chunks of pork cheek), Chiparones—baby squid grilled and served in olive oil and sherry vinegar, Iberian Jamon or the ubiquitous Pan y Tomate that accompanies every meal, they will be accompanied by your drink of choice. A Fino Sherry, Vino Tinto from Rioja or a bold Priorat, and of course Vermut. As you raise your glass to toast with friends it is customary to wish them good health, Salud.

The more fulsome toast is Salud, Dineros, y Tiempo; health, wealth and the time in which to enjoy them. I like this version because it reminds me that health and wealth are things that have value only if we have the time in which to spend them. The sudden, nearly overnight onset of illness among friends and loved ones, started this train of thought. But no sooner did I begin to dwell on how rapidly even the healthiest of us can succumb to illness than I was stricken myself with an inexplicable 24-hour bout of something that left me feeling weak and tentative on my feet.

Was it power of suggestion, or perhaps psychosomatic, as I watched in dismay the precipitous shuddering of the stock market, and an endless litany of mind numbing and disheartening news? No, these were not particularly welcome but hardly cause to feel so stricken. Whatever it was has thankfully passed leaving me chastened and instructed. I am not given to being idle. My mind churns on and putting mind and body to work are the antidote to self-indulgent preoccupations. But the enforced down time turned out to be a good thing. It called to my attention a lesson from Franciscan friar and author, Richard Rohr, that the human ego prefers just about anything to falling, or changing, or dying. The ego, he says is that part of us that loves the status quo—even when it isn’t working. It attaches to past and present and fears the future.

In Falling Upward, Rohr observes that at some point in many people’s lives –sometimes in the latter phase or following an existential challenge, we begin to question who we are, what life means, and what our calling should be. The loss of a loved one, declining health, or threats to our material well-being are among the events that are likely to move us in one of two directions. If we fall downward, we tread a well-worn path into darkness where our instructors are as Rohr describes them, failure, woundedness, relapse and finally death. Falling upward, on the other hand frees us to rediscover ourselves, but the truth, says Rohr, sets you free only after it has first made you miserable.

The reason for this is that we are desperate to affirm ourselves seeking validation from others who may unwittingly sacrifice or scapegoat us to save themselves. Freeing ourselves from the power of infatuation and the mirrors others’ hold up to us requires that we neither demonize nor celebrate. Intractable opposition frames a question, says Rohr and determines the energy it reflects back upon us.

It is how we use our time—that precious commodity the extent of which is always uncertain, that defines us. It’s good to have health and wealth, but it matters little if we attempt to hoard either. It is only when we spend them generously on family, friends, and strangers that we grow and discover how to love others and in so doing learn how to love ourselves without the need to feed our fragile egos.

Rohr suggests that the first part of our lives is all about writing the text, while the next part is about writing the commentary. As Rohr says, “If we go to the depths of anything, we will begin to knock upon something substantial, “real,” and with a timeless quality to it. We will move from the starter kit of “belief” to an actual inner knowing. This is most especially true if we have ever (1) loved deeply, (2) accompanied someone through the mystery of dying, (3) or stood in genuine life-changing awe before mystery, time, or beauty.

So, raise your glass and toast along with me: Salud, Dinero y Tiempo. May you use your time well.

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