Do you know those times when you feel like you’re really alive and each moment is filled with a sense of presence that is several notches above the norm? You’re not just getting through or going through the motions or ticking off the list or being entertained, but are wholly, 150% in a moment that feels like a grace remembered. The world is not a problem to be fixed, not a trial to be endured, not a hyperactive trip from one sensation to the next. It invites you to partake and enjoy and be amazed and feel the wonder. The kind of day you knew as a child before you knew anything about death and human cruelty and misery, before all those people told you what you couldn’t be and who you should believe in and who you must obey, before your body began to bend and sag from the weight of the world, before you took the Atlas vow to carry that world on your shoulders.
That’s how I felt today biking with my wife and daughter through City Park in New Orleans. It helped that the sun was out, that the weather was warming up from a cold snap, that the legs were pumping, that we had 4 rented hours to just wander with no particular place to go, surrounded by lush green and flocks of birds and flowing water. I indeed felt the weight of the world slide off of my shoulders and all my blocked places starting to flow again alongside the Bayou. Some edgy thoughts might creep in, like feeling some small remorse that I could be graced with such joy and not a single one of the enslaved people we spent imaginative time with yesterday probably had even a moment in their life when they felt like the world was generous and filled with beauty. And I wondered if in their ancestral form, they felt happy that I could be happy and still remember and care about them. Who knows? But I hope so.
But mostly, I just let my mind wander with the rolling tires of the bike, look out over Lake Pontchartrain, glide under the overhanging live oaks, feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I need time like this. We all do. I don’t believe that sense of carrying the world’s weight will ever go away nor should it, but not every moment of every day. Or perhaps cultivate some quality of both holding the heaviness and releasing into the lightness at the same time. It indeed is light that dispels darkness and joy that heals sorrow and the sense of belonging that dispels the feeling of exile. No one should ever have to apologize for happiness. The genuine kind.
And so such gifts came to me today, topped off by a most delicious Lebanese lunch, followed by a music class with middle school kids. More on that coming up. Meanwhile, gratitude for the bridge to my childhood, crossed without a toll to pay.