This week, as part of my new experiment with starting each day by reading an inspirational text, I picked up ‘The Song of the Bird’ by Anthony de Mello.
De Mello was an Indian Jesuit priest, psychotherapist, and excellent story teller. He draws inspirations from the mystical traditions of the East and West.
I’ve been pondering over this all week:
Uwais, the Sufi, was once asked: “What has Grace brought you?”
He replied: “When I wake in the morning, I feel like a man who is not sure he will live till evening.”
Said the questioner: “But doesn’t everyone know this?”
Said Uwais: “They certainly do. But not all of them feel it.”
No one ever became drunk on the world wine.
I think de Mello was alluding to the vital difference between knowing or thinking and feeling. I’m more like those who know it, but not feel it. As a result, I too, fell into the common trap that most people do find themselves in – taking life for granted.
Coincidentally, on three separate occasions in the same day this Tuesday, I got reminded of the fragility of life. Three near misses. Each one possibly leading to a loss of life, had the accident occurred.
The first happened in the afternoon. I was standing at the junction of a road, waiting for the lights to turn green. Right in front of me were three school girls fiddling with the ‘fidget spinners’ – apparently the latest craze for youngsters in 2017. I’ve heard about these spinners, but it was the first time I’ve seen them.
The lights were still red. One of the girls suddenly began walking onto the road whilst having her eyes glued on the spinner. It was surreal, as if I was watching a movie with a little girl walking fearlessly into moving traffic with her super weapon in hand!
I felt horrified, and yelled out at her. I don’t know why I didn’t lunge ahead to yank her off the road.
Thank God she turned around and headed back onto the curb safely, as cars narrowly passed her. “I just saved a life!” my inner voice said in relief.
The second incident occurred as I was driving to work. It was raining, so I drove with extra vigilance. The lights were green. The vehicle on my right stopped to take a right turn. A young man jaywalked pass it, and appeared right in front of my car. I jammed the breaks and honked. He didn’t even turn at all, and simply walked on, totally oblivious of the possibility of being run down by a moving car.
“I just saved another life!” my inner voice uttered again, but this time with slight anguish.
How can people be so reckless? How can they take their lives for granted?
And then, I began to rationalise. I noticed he had earphones on, which might explain the lack of reaction. He might have assumed that it’s safe to cross since the other car had stopped.
And lastly, on the way home after an unusually long day at work, right before I filtered left to exit the express way, I felt a hunch that something wasn’t right. So, I hesitated and slowed down. Lo and behold, a motorcycle overtook me on my left!
OMG! I could have ran him down, and thank God I didn’t. I really didn’t see it coming. It must have been in my blind spot just a few seconds ago.
I felt both relieved. And strangely, the relief was followed by a surging anger.
Didn’t he see my signal? Didn’t he know how dangerous it is to ride in a blind spot of a car? Does he not treasure his life?
Of course, I was making all kinds of assumptions and allegations. I assumed the rider was male, although I didn’t see his or her face. I assumed the rider saw my signal and decided to ignore it.
The truth is, I was in shock after the near miss, and began to get defensive and blaming others. I’m not proud of that, but I find it difficult to ignore the three unusual incidents in one day.
And when I read De Mello’s writings the next morning, I can’t help feeling as if God had spoken to me.
What has Grace brought me?
I now begin to feel the fragility of life. I begin to remind myself not to take the day for granted.
Life is a gift. Treasure it, while it lasts.