“O, the rising of the sun, and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir!”
The Holly and the Ivy (traditional carol)
One of my closer friends lost a friend to cancer on Halloween morning. As I was walking to the store that morning I started to think “what’s to celebrate?” And I quickly realized the answer.
Confronted by death, people with HIV have an intimate understanding of the brief period we are granted on the earth. Many don’t seem to comprehend how short a span of days we are here. Today, as I write this, I enter my 52nd year, and I was treated to a wonderful lunch (a burger and fries mind you, but it was a treat). I celebrate this day by doing a scant bit of work, reading well-wishes on Facebook, drinking some nice ale at lunch and lounging around with the cat in the bright Autumn sunlight and chill afternoon.
We don’t think about celebrating every moment. We may read affirmations alluding to this, but don’t really embrace the concept of celebration and gratitude. And yet there is so much in our lives that we can celebrate – our small and large successes, the rising of the sun, the people in our lives, the gifts and talents we are born with or even the simple taste of an apple.
In the AIDS world, we may spend time thinking about illness, loss, treatments and doctors and completely overlook the wonders that are all around us. The universe is a magnificent place. What is there not to celebrate? We have the medications – celebrate that. We have increased health – celebrate that!
When a person has passed, we celebrate their lives at memorial services, thinking about the funny stories and jokes and liveliness of the person. Why do we not celebrate with that person while they are still with us? Why do we not celebrate our own lives while we are still living? HIV aside, every day we contribute our “somethingness” to the vibrancy of the planet, whether we are living in a mansion or on the street, whether we are alone in our rooms or out with the throngs in the street. Inasmuch as there is tragedy there is a glorious opportunity to see the kaleidoscope that is all around us every day. We participate in the unfolding of the Universe in our every thought and action; is there a reason that we cannot celebrate being a portion of that massive undertaking?
Each holiday we have is a chance to reaffirm the value of not only those we love, but of ourselves as well. And if we can do that we can start to participate rather than watch what goes on around us. Things in that state do not happen to us, we create our existence actively, not passively.
There’s an old Zen story about a man who was hanging by a root on the edge of a cliff. Below him were jagged rocks; above him a tiger ready to kill him. Just then he noticed wild strawberries growing out of the rock face. As the root was beginning to pull loose, he grabbed a strawberry and ate it.
It was the sweetest strawberry he had ever tasted.