Q: What are the elements of a good life?
Rabbi Avi Weinstein, head of Jewish studies, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, Overland Park, Kan.
Everyone knows that money cannot buy happiness, or at least they know how to parrot this well-worn aphorism, but the perceived lack of wealth is certainly a source of misery for many. The latest wisdom states that once one’s basic needs are accounted for, accumulated wealth will not make one much happier. A good life is one that is rich in the intangibles.
The Rabbinic tractate “Values of our Ancestors,” written in the second or third century, laid out the essence of a good life in one succinct phrase. “Who is considered wealthy? One who is happy with what he has.” To be at peace with one’s circumstances is to know the meaning of a good life, but does that mean that a good life is within reach, and it’s merely a problem in attitude? Not necessarily.
Being materially satisfied is a good yardstick for material joy, but once one has become satisfied and is not restless for more acquisitions, the seeking of a rich inner life, as well as one of service to others, creates the recipe for not only a good life, but a life that is good. Rich relationships, a giving heart and a growing generous spirit make for a life of joy.
The question remains, though, whether this quest for inner peace is a luxury when surrounded by so much suffering and injustice. It might be that a good life is a luxury we can ill afford during these trying times.
The Rev. Holly McKissick, pastor, Peace Christian Church in Kansas City, Mo., and Overland Park
“By our fruits (and worms) we are known.”
I love Boston. The Freedom Trail. The Boston Marathon. Fenway Park. My favorite spot is the community garden where Dean tends his little patch of earth.
It was spring when I visited. He was dreaming of asparagus, peppers, kale, all helped along by his secret ingredient: earthworms. He brought some that day in a recycled bucket.
He came by the worms honestly. He grew them in his basement; buckets and buckets full.
And more, their house was filled with fair trade coffee and crafts. One entire bedroom was a clothes closet filled with coats and mittens for new immigrants. Underneath all of the clutter was Dean, a missionary kid who had left the evangelical, fundamentalist faith of his childhood and held fast to the simple words: Love your neighbor as yourself.
His life bore the unmistakable marks of faith.
He loved others, without regard to boundary. He shared everything with everyone – every song, every shirt, every green bean.
His eyes twinkled when he spoke. His laugh was rich and full. His voice was simultaneously prophetic and humble. His hands, whether working the dirt, strumming a guitar or signing a petition, were always open.
Joyful. Forgiving. Honest. Hopeful. Generous.
The fruits of an organic, sustaining faith – by the bushel and bucketful.