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‘Prophylactic’ Suicide

Many of us who are still in good health have decided . . . that at some point we will not wish to cope with the diminishment of our lives, the narrowing choices, the prospect of both physical and intellectual decay. When that point comes, we’ll go out. Deciding just when should be the choice…

Just for a Moment

One of the lessons we learn as we grow older is to cherish life every day, and not to pin our hopes on a future that never comes. We all believe in the myth of future bliss. Americans especially swear by this one—that with a lot of hard work and sacrifice we’ll one day achieve…

Choose to Love Now

  Pam and I spent the weekend with our parents: Pam with her mother and I with my father. Her father died only a year ago or so, and my mother is gone fifteen years now. Both our parents—vigorous in their old age—have suffered setbacks in the last six months. Pam’s mother is on hospice,…

A Cancer Survivor’s Calling

  “I know what my calling is,” Brenda said. She is a cancer survivor, alive today, she told me, because three women had carried her on their prayers from fear and death to healing and life. She went on . . . I’ll give you an example. I went for a scan, and I’m so…

A Stroke of Enlightening

One morning a blood vessel exploded in Jill Bolte Taylor’s brain. She felt a deep pain—like a head freeze from eating ice cream—behind her left eye. Slowly she watched as her brain functions shut down—speech, cognition, motion. Jill was a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist—a brain scientist, observing a brain undergoing a stroke . . . from the…

Be Not Afraid

“Hurricane Fay to fade, but Gonzalo waits in the wings.” My home page opens to NBC News, and this is the latest headline. If we are disappointed that Fay has faded, it means to say, there is yet more to worry about. Ganzalo waits in the wings. Polls show that Americans are increasingly afraid. We…

The Beauty of Imperfection

The primary cause of mental illness, Karl Menninger said, is the inability of people to forgive themselves for being imperfect. Those words came from Frank Griswold, the former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, preaching at Saint Luke’s this morning. He was speaking of St. Paul, who sought famously to perfect himself through a rigorous…

Never Too Late to Love

“It is never too late to love.” That’s what a good friend told me this week. I was telling her of a kind of break-through: I had learned to love someone a little better, to forgive someone (and pardon myself as well). It felt good, but almost immediately I thought, “I wish I had come…

The Birthday Cigarette

On Sunday the singer-song writer Leonard Cohen turned 80. While his friends and family were lighting the candles on his cake, Mr. Cohen was lighting a cigarette. A year ago he promised that when he turned 80 he would start smoking again after thirty years. Why not? If you’ve made it this far, you can…

Breathing with the Dolphin

“Remember to breathe.” I often say this to people under stress—whether it’s distress or eustress. It’s something I have to tell myself. We don’t have to think to breathe. If we did, we’d fall asleep at night and suffocate in our beds. But like all gifts, autonomic breathing also holds liabilities. We can go months,…

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