Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fully Alive

"New Day"

The other day, as I opened my sock drawer, I had a vivid recollection of a former parishioner of mine many years ago at a church in Central New York. By the time I met this man he was well into his 80's, a quiet, quirky eccentric sort of guy who basically lived at the edge of poverty in a rickety old house. People from the parish would often bring him meals, sometimes used clothing.

One day I got a call that the old man had died. I was also told some rather astonishing news abut him.  Apparently, on the day the man passed away, his family came to his house and were rummaging through the drawers and closets of his little bedroom looking for personal affects. But what they absolutely never expected to find was what they saw when they opened up his sock drawer. It was filled with socks stuffed with cash - over $200,000.

When I first heard that story many years ago, it sounded so much like a Hollywood movie that I couldn't imagine it to be true - but true it was. 

I remember experiencing a mixture of sadness and maybe even anger when I heard about those socks full of cash. He had lived such a paltry life, so miserly and stingy, never a vacation, no nice dinners with his family, none of that money ever spent on serving the needs of others. As he went to his grave the old man left a drawer full of possibilities - maybe he was saving it all for a rainy day?

While I don't think there are too many people who are sitting on socks filled with hidden cash,  my guess is that there are a lot of folks nowadays who do indeed lead cautious, even stingy lives. In a time when the economy is weak and jobs are scarce people get frightened. They carefully cling onto what they have - not only to their money and resources, but they cautiously cling onto and hoard their life in general.  

The Buddha taught that "clinging" is a poison - a major cause of our human suffering. In fact we only find deep peace and only encounter our "true self" when we learn how to give our old "ego-self" away. The older I get, the more I see the truth of this wisdom. In my later years time is so precious to me, and I have come to the point where I don't want to hold on tightly to anything anymore-you'll never find cash hidden in any of my socks.

Back in the second century, Saint Irenaeus, a Patriarch of the ancient Christian church made this observation:

The glory of God is man fully alive.

I really love that phrase, "fully alive." For me, the fully alive person is the man or woman who isn't afraid to live generously, boldly and courageously - caution to the wind!

There is a note card in one of my drawers that pretty much says it all:

Dance like there's nobody watching.
Love like you'll never get hurt.
Sing like there's nobody listening.
And live like it's heaven on earth.


  1. Oh, Thank you so much for your words! I try so hard to live this way every day! I was picking up a few items at the commissary and thought to myself, I am well off, I can just as easily pick up extra for others, I know someone did it for me awhile long ago.