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Family Valued 11.09.05 

Belaying the next generation

Leaning as far back as possible, I strained to see the lip of Cenote de la Vida, 70 feet overhead. My 7-year-old's head appeared, a marble in a helmet. I could hear none of the conversations at the cliff edge, so far above me. Thick ropes dangled a few feet away. Suddenly, my boy started dropping in slow, spurting arcs. Instinctively, with arms outstretched, I moved below the ropes, feeling like a very inadequate catcher in the rye.

That day, we were the only Americans in Tres Reyes, a tiny village in the middle of the Yucatan jungle. One grandmotherly local came out to chat with the three of us in stilted Spanish and unclear hand signals, building a bridge past my generation to my child's. The community surrounds a huge cenote, a sinkhole formed millennia ago by the collapse of the limestone upon which the Yucatán floats. Some of the holes are filled with water; this one no longer was.

Later, we would hike through the jungle to Chimuch, a cavernous cenote accessible only through a thin hole. Descending rickety, candle-lit stairs, we found a beautiful, fresh-water pond where we swam in cold, clear water. Afterward, we climbed up the slick passageway into the sun, momentarily blinded as we emerged.

I had rappelled into the Tres Reyes cenote first, needing the reassurance that the gear was safe. This left Aaron beyond my reach in a visibly life-threatening situation. The ropes hung down beside me like tendrils stretching out from the future, the first view of my son beyond my protection, my control, my vision, and my life.

--- Craig Brownlie


This week for families:

National Toy Hall of Fame Induction Weekend Sat-Sun, Nov 12-13. Life-size hall-of-fame toys, new toy inductees, juggling, legos, drawing techniques, Strong Museum, 1 Manhattan Square, Sat 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun 12-5 p.m. Tix: $7; $6 seniors, students; $5 children. 263-2700, www.strongmuseum.org


Happiness

Ah, so pleasantly we live without restlessness among the restless. Among humans who are restless do we dwell without restlessness. --- The Dhammapada, 15.3

In a happiness study published in the July 2004 Economic Journal, researchers Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell and Paul Frijters reversed the usual assumption that successful careers and healthy relationships make people happy. Instead, based on repeated interviews with 7500 participants, they concluded that happy people tend to build successful careers and healthy relationships.

Ah, what simple genius! Pleasant circumstances don't create happiness. Happiness creates pleasant circumstances. Consider with me for a moment the possibility that, as long as basic needs are met, whether or not we are happy comes down to a conscious, reality-shaping choice we each make every day. We can't buy it. We can't marry it. We can't achieve it. We can only choose to be it.

Any of us who are raising children have experienced this fact in short form. No matter how we fawn over an upset child, we cannot make her happy until she determines that happy is what she wants to be. From an early age most of us deny we own this power, looking outside ourselves to fill a void of our own making. "I'll be happy when...," we say, denying ourselves that which we alone have the power to create.

I once considered it a brutal insult to tell a foul-mooded child "nothing will make you happy." I finally know it to be a holy, liberating truth.

--- Rev. Corey Keyes

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