I hate the word lifestyle.
It offends me.
I have never once used the word.
Because life is not a style.
Life is REAL.
All the talk about “lifestyle” implies that how you appear to the world IS your life.
It may be nice to have an impressive appearance, to afford fancy things and activities,
but it is no substitute for having a life.
Life is about who you ARE.
Life is about what happens between your heart and the heart of another person.
Life is about bringing light into the world by giving it to someone who needs it.
Loving others and caring about the well being of people,
and contributing to the well being of the world.
I have a life, not a lifestyle.
I am living my life right now, as I write this to you.
It’s hard to write.
I am sweating as I dig deep to give you my soul through my words.
Life is hard. Life is real.
But building life gives us joy.
So how do we stop clinging to phony substitutes?
How do we let go of focusing on our self important image and “lifestyle”
and stop defending our exclusive little groups of the cool and the popular?
How do we become inclusive builders of life and freedom instead?
Where can we start?
I have an idea for how we can make a change that really matters.
Are you willing?
Are you with me?
Let’s DO this!
Speaking of joy
I hope you have had the incredible experience of listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony,
with its wonderful culmination in the choir singing the Ode To Joy.
If you haven’t, there is a link to it at the bottom of this post.
I love the Ode to Joy.
I have listened to it so many times, my heart overflowing.
The song is based on a poem by the German poet Freidrich von Schiller.
It is a call to all of humanity—to unite, to be brothers.
“This kiss is for all the world!” it proclaims.
And yet, as much as I love it,
one line in the song always makes me sad…
the last line of this stanza:
Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join our song of praise;
But those who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.
That last line kills me.
It is unbearable to me.
Because by not including the very person who needs our circle the most,
we doom that person to despair.
Think about it.
Think about the effect it has on someone to creep tearfully away
from the circle of the joyful.
Imagine that person is you.
Maybe it is.
Maybe it IS you.
If it is, friend, you are in the right place today
because you will NEVER be sent creeping tearfully away from THIS circle.
I created the golden garage for you.
As a place where you are always welcome, respected, and never alone.
Let us all recognize:
This rejection, this ostracism, this conceit, this cruelty,
this shaming of the one who has no one–
this is the crucible in which the soul of a human being is destroyed.
And, in the place where his soul once lived,
he develops a mind set on revenge.
Read the stories of the school shooters.
Tell me about where their rage began.
Tell me about how the grapes of their wrath were sown.
They were sown in rejection.
In grade school.
In middle school.
In high school.
They were sown by the kids who had it all.
Who had the cool and popular “lifestyle.”
They were sown by the kids who HAD a circle
but wouldn’t let them in.
Who LAUGHED at that ugly awkward uncool unpopular kid
who never got chosen for the sports team or the Valentine dance.
Who MOCKED him as he crept tearfully away from their circle.
So who are you?
Are you one of the insiders who has been mocking the ones outside?
If you are, have the courage to face yourself.
Face yourself and STOP.
Now. Today. Declare that it’s OVER.
Someone has to say NO to you.
It’s best if it is you.
NO is a beautiful word.
It will save you and your fellow student both.
If you believe in God, ask Him to forgive you.
He forgave those crucifying Him.
He will forgive you for crucifying your fellow students.
We must all change our ways.
We begin by reaching out to one person we have rejected.
We greet him by name. We look him in the eyes. We share something with him.
We find a way to bring him IN.
When we do this with love, we become a builder of life and freedom.
No longer blinded by phony appearances and popular “lifestyles”
that exclude the people who are hurting.
Instead of being a mocker–or a bystander who watches and does NOTHING–
you become the one who SEES and who CARES and who ACTS.
You become the leader of a new way of relating.
You set a new standard among your peers.
Don’t think no one will notice. They will.
As you seek out the rejected ones and bring them in to your circle,
you trample out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are sown.
You take gun control to its deepest level.
You lead the way for all your friends to follow.
You are protecting their lives, as well as saving the lives of those you bring in.
You show that we all belong inside the circle, and we celebrate joy together.
Thank you for your courage.
Thank you for your brave and generous heart.
Now you know my thoughts, but what are your thoughts on all this?
Write me and tell me how you feel.
I read every response.
Here is the great Arturo Toscanini conducting the fourth movement