Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Sense of Renewal

"Don't let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love." -- St. Josemaria Escriva

Easter coincides with spring, and along with that, the sense of renewal that follows a long and bleak winter. It's the time when new buds break from the earth, when trees start to sport leaves, when birds return to make their nests. The fact may not be readily apparent to us who live in a tropical country that splits the seasons between wet and dry; but the matter of renewal deserves some consideration.

What happens, after all, when we move into the spiritual springtime of the Easter season? Do we come out of the Lenten experience refreshed and renewed, with new resolutions and new zest for life? Or is it back once more to the daily grind with our old sins and our old grudges. Once more desultory and depressed, the days melt into the weeks and the months on the eternal Sisyphean quest to, well, make a living.

Surely there must be a better way.

Ask your neighbor what he wants out of life. Or better yet, at your most honest moment, ask it of yourself: what do you want out of life? If your neighbor, or you, are like so many others, you will no doubt replay, in your tiny voice, the standard modest Filipino answer: "To earn a living for myself, so I can support my family and help my fellow man."

Now that's not such a bad answer, as far as life goals go. But neither is it a great one. Surely you -- we -- can do better.

It's an answer that bespeaks mediocrity. Behind it is a false contentment that accepts, with a forced smile, the leftover scraps from bigger ambitions and dreams. This is the national malaise, what Nick Joaquin calls our heritage of smallness, ingrained in us since childhood: "Be happy with what you have. Be content. Don't seek to rise beyond your station, else people will laugh at you when you fail."

Surely there must be a better way.

Instead of the myopic vision for a simple subsistence, why don't we shoot for something that sparks the soul? When asked what they want out of life, why don't more Filipinos say: "To write a great novel" or "To compose a musical masterpiece" or "To discover a new planet" or "To cure cancer?"

We may pride ourselves on our surrender to Fate, but that, apparently, is a lie. We are too much of realists to dream of something beyond what is already there. And we then go on wondering why our neighbors are so much better off than we are. Well, here it is: because our dreams are not big enough.

Bigger dreams and grander ambitions won't excuse us from the daily grind; if nothing else, they ought to make us work harder and more passionately. But having a dream, or not, makes the difference whether you approach work and life with joyful enthusiasm or with mere grudging resignation.

May the Easter season find you renewed. And may all your dreams -- your real and joyful dreams -- come true.