A Beautiful Soul

This is about a book about a beautiful lady. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful woman. Decades ago, when I was still in college, I happened to turn the channel and watched a young lady with so much poise, so much charm glide so elegantly across the small screen. The lady was Audrey Hepburn. The movie was Roman Holiday. They say that your love for something starts with something small. I think that in that day, in my small room with that small tv set, my love for movies was born. I feel lucky that the movie that first piqued my interest is a classic that today remains, for me, one of my favorite movies of all time. Who couldn’t love that luminous actress with those soulful eyes? Who could not love Audrey Hepburn? And heck, Gregory Peck wasn’t bad either. And Eddie Albert, in a fantastic supporting role. And who can forget Rome, after watching the princess and the newspaperman speed through its streets in that Vespa scooter. It’s strange to remember that what made them happy was doing ordinary things together. Just enjoying what life has to offer.

And one of the joys that life has to offer, at least to me, is reading books. The pandemic has given me a chance to go through my library and get rid of books, Kondo style, that have never given me pleasure. Perhaps if I actually read them, but no. I thought I would trim the fat, so to speak, but I bought “Always Audrey” and I was hooked. Yes, I sold a lot of my unread books, but I ended up buying a lot more books. Mostly books on photographers and their photographs. Some books on how to become a better photographer. Though in truth, I really cherish looking through the pictures in the books I purchased. Discovering new places, new people, new things. Learning about life through the eyes of others.

All these wonders unfolded because like the movie she starred in, Audrey Hepburn got me hooked. “Always Audrey” is a fantastic book. It’s a book about a beautiful woman. It’s a book about six photographers who were extremely gifted in what they did. And how the same person can be so different when seen through a different person’s eyes. Truly a magnificent book to own.

Sometimes, I wish that fashion photography would just be simply showing something beautiful as beautifully as you can. There are many photographers who have done that and though they’ve all done the same thing, they did it differently. There is artistry in simplicity.

I watched the Audrey Hepburn documentary on Amazon Prime. And it struck me how beautiful those eyes were. And how those eyes were windows to something even more beautiful. A beautiful soul.

A few years after graduating from college, I saw Audrey Hepburn being interviewed after returning from Somalia, on a mission for UNICEF. I didn’t pay much attention to it. She had gotten older and now she had time for her causes. I realize now how callous that view was. She was older and she had time to do anything she wanted. And what she wanted to do was go around the world, to give voice to those that didn’t have a voice. To bring attention to the famine, to the hunger, to the suffering of the people of Somalia. A great human tragedy. And the world was largely ignoring it. And there was Miss Hepburn. Showing the world that we can be better. We don’t have to watch the suffering. That we can all try to make this world better.

And the words she said ring so true to me. “I don’t believe in collective guilt. I believe in collective responsibility.”

Truly, those eyes were windows to a beautiful soul.

Joy

Make someone happy.  Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life.  In our day to day lives, we are bombarded with messages, overt and subliminal, about the importance of being happy.  Live your life to maximize your happy moments.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  And yet.

In the height of happiness, everything seems possible.  The world is at your feet.  The view can be intoxicating – everything around you is orbiting a central sun.  The central sun that is you.  And yet.

Moments of happiness never last.  They are not illusory, but they are transitory.  A lifetime lived pursuing happiness is a life lived in selfishness, self centeredness.  A life that puts one’s self in the center of everything is a life that means nothing.  A life that constantly searches for affirmation, for the next big conquest, the next big raise, the next mountain to climb – is that really a life worth living?  A life where the self is the centerpiece of existence will experience moments of happiness.  And it will experience moments of sorrow.  Moments of pain.  Moments of great accomplishments mesh with moments of great disappointments.  A life that centers on the self and the self alone leaves the soul barren.  And the heart empty.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we need to understand that true existence must be centered not on one’s self, but on what one can do for those around us.  Selflessness instead of selfishness.  A soul exist within the body and outside its confines.  An existence that seeks to give, instead of take.  Not the material things that we all covet.  But one’s self.  To let others see you as you are.  The crooked smile, the thinning hair, the not so perfect eyebrows?   These are not the things that define you.  It is that smile, as imperfect as it may be, given to others that may be in need of a smile.  Helping someone cross the road, in a stiff wind that blows your hair into a frenzy.  Listening to someone, with eyes wide open, eyebrows raised, to let them know that they are not alone, that you can share their burden.

Respecting people, no matter who they are.  Embracing differences as a means of recognizing that an individual is but a part of a greater whole.  To see the weak and the oppressed and then realize that their struggle is your struggle.  Our struggle.  To understand that the sense of self is completed when it becomes entwined with the many selves that surround us.  Understanding that it is a kind heart that allows joy to permeate a life.

Joy.  When happiness subsides, there is something that centers us.  When sorrow overwhelms, there is something that supports us.  When we feel pain, we somehow know that like happiness, it will not last and a new page will eventually be written.  Joy allows us to know ourselves; to find value not in what we have done, not in what we have accumulated; but instead, to find value in who we are, in what we give of ourselves to others.  When our heart is filled with generosity, we can truly love.  In the selfless abandon of truly sharing who we are, what we have, what we do with others around us, we find that in moments great and small, in the important and in the mundane, there truly is meaning in our lives.  That in the core of our existence, there is joy.

A Message for Easter

The Christian world celebrates the greatest miracle of all – the resurrection of the Son of God, who conquered death and in so doing made life eternal possible for all of us.  When Adam and Eve fell from grace, it was because they disobeyed the Father, the Creator of all things.  God gave them the world He created and yet to them it was not enough.  Pride and avarice lead to their downfall.  They wanted the truth, or so they thought.  What they wanted, in reality, was a world in their image, a world that believed in the things that they believed in, a world that bowed to their whims and wishes.

The Son of Man came to this world as an instrument of peace.  Of humility.  Of love.  The Father so loved His creation that He sent His Son to live among us.  To teach us that humility, peace, obedience and love can be and must be part of our lives.  He did not come to this world to condemn us.  He came to this world to bring His Father’s creation back to the Father.  He died so that we may live.

Today, how many of us judge each other by the wealth that we have accumulated.  How many of us look at the schools that we attend, at the clothes that we wear, at the cars that we drive, and decide that these superficial accomplishments are the touchstones that determine our worth.  How many of us Christians look upon the poor with disdain, that somehow, they are not worthy of our attention.  Or of our love.  How many of us look at our non Christian brothers and sisters and fail to see that they too are created in the image of our Father, the Creator who made us all.  Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian.  All of us, all of us, are the children of the One God who made the universe.  A God who loved the world so much that He sacrificed His own son surely loves each and every one of us.  No matter the faith, no matter the inclination, we are all children of the universal Creator.

This Easter, let us remember that all of us strive for the same things in our lives.  To try to live a life of goodness.  To provide for our families and those that we love.  To share with each other the gifts that our Creator gave us.  To serve each other, to understand each other.  If the Son of God came not to condemn but to love, then we must try and do the same.  In the eyes of God, we are all His children.

If we truly believe in the Resurrection, then we must believe that Jesus gave His life for all of us.  He did not see the difference between a Jew or a Samaritan. In His eyes, we are all Children of God and deserving of His love.  And the love of the Father.  Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian.  We are all created in image of the Father.  We, the men and women of this world, are all God’s children.  And we are all the beneficiaries of the Son’s obedience to the Father.

On this day, I pray with a dear friend – that we see ourselves in others, realize that we all want the same things in life – health, prosperity and happiness.  And love.  That it is in sharing these gifts from the Creator that we prove ourselves worthy of our heritage – a life eternal with the Son of Man, the Son of God, and the Father who made us all.

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