Editorials by Robert Kirwan
Excellent Life Is Nothing More Than The Sum of Many Excellent Moments
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.