Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Is that all there is?

Is that all there is? Peggy Lee asked the question over and over in a song that hinted at disappointment and despair. And I’ve recently heard it from the mouths of several of my grandkids. Christmas time is here and they tear excitedly into the wrapping paper and then stand with starry eyes like sharks in a feeding frenzy and ask, “Is that all there is? I want another present to open.”

Jeanne points out to me that the kids who say this all seem to be the same age, around four. So I’m figuring that until that age, kids are overwhelmed by Christmas and then at four they have begun to expect to be overwhelmed, but their brains have matured and they can handle more excitement and so Christmas time disappointment begins to set in. And it never goes away unless you get to the next level. Many people never get to that next level where it’s the giving and the doing for others that is the rush of the season. And so they find solace and comfort in the Peggy Lee song, “let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is.”

But when you begin to get a taste of the next level, you begin to experience a whole new dimension to Christmastime and to life in general. I think it’s called “joy”, you know that happiness that is real, not fleeting and it builds you, it doesn’t tear you down, like drinking or drug use does. Well, I’m wrong, it is fleeting, sometimes it’s just a momentary rush, like that brief flash that comes when the good occurs, you see the child smile, you ease the pain of another or you imagine that you’ve made a positive difference. Flash! You’re filled, if only briefly with that joy. And it’s good, the kind of feeling that mostly comes from mature and thoughtful effort.

The disappointment can still be there, alongside of the happiness, as a kind of legacy that we leave to our kids, left to us by our parents, the false traditions of our elders. Mature people fight against the disappointment and look for true joy. And that effort is worth it.

Sometimes, we as stained glass artists can be tempted to be discouraged, to wonder, “Is that all there is?” Maybe a show wasn’t as successful as we had hoped or a sale that we thought we had slips through our fingers and we’re left feeling a little down. This is when we need to take seriously the advice of Wallace D. Wattles, author of “The Science Of Getting Rich.”

“When you make a failure, it is because you have not asked for enough; keep on, and a larger thing than you were seeking will certainly come to you. Remember this.”
His advice to ignore the failure and avoid discouragement is sound and will lead us to positively reach greater happiness instead of wallowing in imagined misery.

The Peggy Lee song gives us good advice and bad. Breaking out the booze won’t rescue us from discouragement, but the advice to “keep on dancing” is sound. Just keep on, keeping on and you’ll find the success you seek around the next turn, or the next, or.....

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