Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Zen and the Art of Appreciating What You Have

Way, way back in another lifetime, when I took a side road off the main "radio interstate" and veered briefly towards study for Roman Catholic priesthood, we immersed ourselves in the study of philosophy. I'm still not exactly sure why it was so important for us to learn Plato's Theory of the Forms or the seemingly incomprehensible writings of Kant, but it made up a major part of our curriculum. The movement, though, that always intrigued me was that of the Existentialists. (even if Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and the rest of their pals were not exactly folks you'd share a "Bloomin Onion" with at Outback Steakhouse.) But this angst...this overall feeling of "dread"... seemed like a concept that I could sink my teeth into. And that frightened me, based on the fact that my eventual goal was to be, you know, pretty much the opposite of angst. It's probably why I didn't get ordained. That, and this inescapable feeling that I couldn't do without women. For some reason my bishop had a big problem with that.

I've been feeling angst lately, and I'm not sure why, really. There's no logical reason. I have a wife who, for some unexplained reason, loves me. I'm able to pay my mortgage and have a few shillings left over for an agreeable pint of quality ale, so I suppose I have what some would call a successful business. And, except for a recovering rotator cuff, a few minor ailments, and the ever-present battle with cellulite, I'm in relatively decent health. However, I've been "down in the dumps", and the reason escapes me. I started to think about those Existentialists, and I almost picked up my copy of The Stranger and started to thumb through it, just for old time's sake. And then the floods hit.

My client station in Cedar Rapids, the venerable KRNA, as well as the rest of the Cumulus stations in their building, was forced to vacate their downtown premises because of the recent Iowa flooding. After trying to call for a couple days, I finally received a brief note from Shark, the PD, saying that they had to evacuate and that they were off the air. I've been following the news reports like many and I was awestruck by a photo of not one but several houses which had been ripped from their foundations. They were butted-up against each other, immobile against a bridge, sitting....waiting...for however many days it will take the water levels to decrease so that they can...slide underneath the bridge and continue to go....wherever it is they're going. I'm looking at this, thinking, "Those are somebody's homes. What if it were my home?" Just think, the day before the Cedar River topped its banks, some guy was cleaning out his gutters. Now his gutters are floating in water. In the middle of downtown.

So, I thought of floods. And I thought of Shark and his family. And I thought alot this week about Tim Russert. And I thought, "you know, whatever it is you have, and whoever it is you are, is really very temporary, and you'd better enjoy what you have and be thankful for it". And then I thought that it's really difficult sometimes to "appreciate". It's, in a way, a kind of art-form. Because every time we think we have a grasp on what it is we have and want, well, then, we just want more. Wasn't it that famous philosopher Sheryl Crow who said, "It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got".

So, amidst the angst that I feel about...something, I'm going to try to "get Zen-like" this week and come to terms with appreciating what I have. I'm also going to fall back a bit on those long-ago days at the seminary and send out a heart-felt "Hail Mary" to the folks in Iowa and in other parts of the Midwest. May the river go back home soon.


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