Up From The Ashes

When that beautiful masterpiece Notre Dame was burning in Paris the other day, I couldn’t believe it was burning right now at this point in history-at this period in our earth’s timeline when we’re deciding how we’re going to move forward as a planet.

Because what will people say two hundred years from now about that fire? We weren’t fighting Hitler, or saving a city from a foreign invader. It seemed to incinerate on its own, a strange testament to the unrest most human beings feel deep down in their soul about the times we’re living in.

I stood in that church in 2008 and was overcome by its immensity, by its beauty, it’s sturdiness and it’s history. It is a true masterpiece, a testament to man’s craftsmanship, ingenuity, and our leap on the architectural timeline.

I hope Notre Dame rises from the ashes. All people, but Americans, especially, like a good comeback story.

Tiger Woods was also a good comeback story this week. You might not approve of his past, but you can’t deny the guy rose from the ashes of his own self-destruction. And triumphed.

I read an amazing story the other day and I thought I’d share it with you on this Easter weekend. I’ve always looked at Easter as a time of rebirth, triumph and renewal and this story has a bit of all of those things.

There was a very successful businessman from Japan, recently, who did nothing but work. Oh, he loved his family, but his culture demanded that he give his profession his all, and he worked more than 14 hours a day, every day for many years. By the time he was forty, he was literally working around the clock as president of his own consulting firm.

No surprise, then, when he began to feel deeply tired. He made the rounds to many doctors but no one could find anything wrong with him. Not until he found a doctor who truly listened to him and took the time to feel around his body with his hands, instead of just looking at test results on a sheet of paper.

The doctor noticed that our Japanese businessman’s right kidney was enlarged and sore to the touch.

After more testing, it was found he had renal cancer that had spread. But because of his busy schedule, he put off surgery until he could barely walk. In reality, he had less than a year to live.

Despite chemotherapy and radiation, the cancer continued to march forth in his body, and eventually, his doctors sent him home to die.

One morning, he awoke before sunrise and was thrilled to see another day dawn. “I’m still alive!” he said to himself. He went to the rooftop to enjoy the sun’s rays and decided he’d awake every day before sunrise to welcome the sun each morning. He’d sit up on that roof, breathing in the fresh air, humming a tune, and feeling great gratitude for each new day he lived to see.

One thing he became aware of on his morning treks to the roof was the singing of the birds. He noticed that the birds began to sing exactly 42 minutes before the sun rose every single day.

And he wanted to know why.

He had a hunch. So he asked his son to help him create an experiment where they’d release a canister of pure oxygen at night into a room where two family birds lived in cages. He theorized that the birds would start singing once they breathed in the oxygen, and he was right.

He’d deduced that birds in nature start singing exactly forty-two minutes before sunrise because that’s when the trees start emitting oxygen. Trees do not photosynthesize at night because of the lack of light.

But as soon as the early rays of the sun begin, he deduced, the trees begin creating oxygen-approximately forty-two minutes before the sun rises. And that’s exactly when the birds start singing.

Perhaps, he thought, the birds’ singing allows them to breathe in lots of fresh oxygen from the trees-a healthful way for them to start their day.

So, our Japanese businessman made sure to breathe in that fresh air every morning, and he began to drink fresh and filtered water, and began cultivating a real appreciation for life. He started playing his cello again and spending more time with his family.

And slowly but surely, he began to get better-at least well enough to enjoy his days with a deeper appreciation for life. He also began to spend more time visiting mountains near his home and enjoying nature rather than returning to his office.

I’m sure you know what I’m going to say: he is alive and well today.

I don’t know why some things rise from the ashes and other things don’t. We hear these stories and wonder why it can’t happen to everyone.

But we can take certain things from these stories and vow to live happier, more healthful lives. We can get up with the birds and listen to them sing, take long walks and fill our lungs with fresh air, and become more in tune with the world around us.

We may not live to be one hundred, but we’ll be a lot happier as we make our hopeful way there.