Editorials by Robert Kirwan

An Excellent Life Is Nothing More Than The Sum of Many Excellent Moments
    I consider myself to have been very fortunate in life. Sure there have been days I would like to forget and I have suffered a lot of set backs and disappointments like anyone else, but, for the most part, my life has been pretty good.
   One of the reasons I feel this way is that many years ago I learned to accept the principle that where I am today is the sum total of every single thing that has ever happened to me along this journey. If I am happy today, it is because of all of the happy and unhappy moments I have experienced in my entire life.
   So imagine how I felt when I was having a meeting in my office at the mall with a business acquaintance and my wife brought our granddaughter for a visit. I said hello, in a way that only grandfathers can understand, and went back to my discussion with the business person. My granddaughter, who is only 19 months old, came up to me, as she usually did, grabbed my finger and started to pull me to indicate that she wanted me to come with her. I decided that I couldn’t leave my meeting and stayed seated in my chair. She tried to pull as hard as she could, to no avail, all the while looking at me in disbelief that her grandfather, who always did whatever she wanted, was not coming this time. My wife, seeing that I had to get back to my business meeting, picked up my granddaughter and took her out of the office. I watched as they left, and it hurt to see the pained expression on her face as she looked back, crying with tears streaming down her cheeks.
   Most people would simply say, “She’ll get over it. She’ll forget it in a few minutes and stop crying, so don’t worry about it. She has to learn that she can’t get her way all of the time.”
   I too, might have been inclined to simply pass off the moment as being trivial and uneventful in the big picture, but my mind drifted off to a story I once read.
    Several centuries ago, the Emperor of Japan asked a Japanese artist to paint a picture of a particular species of bird. Many years later, the Emperor paid a personal visit to the artist’s studio to ask for an explanation as to why his painting had not yet been delivered.
   The artist then set a blank canvas on the easel and within fifteen minutes had completed a painting of a bird. It was an absolute masterpiece - far exceeding anything that the Emperor had expected. The Emperor, while admiring both the painting and the artist’s skill, asked why there had been such a long delay.
   The artist then went from cabinet to cabinet in his studio, pulling from them dozens of drawings of feathers, tendons, wings, feet, claws, eyes, and beaks. The drawings contained virtually every aspect of a bird, as seen from every angle. He placed the drawings silently before the Emperor, who nodded in understanding. The Emperor realized that the reason the artist was able to paint such a masterpiece was because the artist had experienced the beauty and splendor of all of the different parts of the bird during these long years.
   What the Emperor recognized is that the magnificence of any ‘whole’ can never be greater than the magnificence of any singular detail. That sentence deserves repeating. The magnificence of any ‘whole’ can never be greater than the magnificence of any singular detail.
   Perhaps this is the true secret of life. To have an excellent life, you must strive for an excellent year. Within that year, you must strive for an excellent month. Within that month, you must strive for an excellent day. Within the day, strive for an excellent hour.
  Therefore, if we believe the message of the artist, an excellent life is nothing more than the sum of many excellent moments.
   We see the truth behind this secret of life every day. And because of this, we should never take any moment for granted.
  The message for parents, and for me on this day in my life when my granddaughter found out that being with someone else was “more important” to her grandfather than being with her, is that every single activity and event in your life, and in the life of your child will contribute to his or her overall development.  

   I once knew a person who took his young pre-school aged children on a cruise to Europe one year. Friends of his questioned the wisdom of his decision, arguing that the children were so young they wouldn’t remember anything about the trip when they got older. His response was that the experiences they gained from the trip would help them in the year that followed and even if they couldn’t remember what they did on the cruise, the benefits of the experiences would stay with them for the rest of their life.
   Therefore, if you strive for an excellent hour, you will have an excellent day. If you strive for an excellent day, you will have an excellent month. If you strive for an excellent month, you will have an excellent year. An excellent life is the sum total of many excellent moments.

   I am certain my granddaughter will survive this terrible disappointment. I saw her later that day and we had a great time. Nevertheless, it was a very significant moment in her life at a time when she is discovering so much about the world around her. She discovered that her grandfather would not always be available for her when she wanted him. Will this make her stronger and help her develop into a well-adjusted young lady? Perhaps. Was it a moment in my life of which I will recall with pride? Absolutely not.  

   I am certain that making the best of every moment of every day must truly be the secret to a happy and successful life. The experience with my granddaughter that day in the office has convinced me even more of this.

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