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Monday, December 31, 2007

Celebrate the Day

We have global events to celebrate particular days, but each individual day also provides us with an opportunity for personal celebration. Living the present day to its fullest in harmony with our mind, body and soul means we're constantly repackaging the gift of life to give back to ourselves.

Every day we need to check our compass, to make sure we're heading in the right direction. Taking time out of our busy schedule to celebrate will help ensure that we're celebrating all the right things. We'll get an "instinctive feel" for the vibrancy of things that are good.

Markers for the Right Direction

Each well-lived day will also become a marker in our memories, as a guide to show us the way back to the core of us in times of need, when as it does, difficult times will come. In those times, I have a huge reserve of good times to fall back on to help me celebrate the current day.

This isn't about succumbing to nostalgia, to get us out of facing the needs of the day, or blind us to the benefits of the future. On the contrary, it is the way experience should be used, with the retrospect of wisdom, as a buttress to help us move forward, and to better ourselves.

One such "reserve" of my life, which I fall back on now and again, are my drama studies in school. The irony isn't lost on me: that my drama lessons have so often provided me with insight to a larger drama.

Drama Studies

In my intermediate school years I was lucky enough to have two great teachers, teacher experience and a Jewish drama teacher called Mr Weinberg.

He was not your average teacher, and I suspect with the change in Britain's education culture, his method of teaching would be frowned upon now.

He would dress in wacky suits, and wore a constant smile that was always corroborated with a sparkle in his eyes. His assemblies were a favourite among us, as he would enact out Jewish religious ceremonies which meant that we all got a sip of red wine. He would probably be prosecuted now for giving minors alcohol, or been too wary to actually speak to us instead of at us, in the danger that it could be surmised he was getting too close to his students.

How times change; how the innocence seems to have been sucked out of our schools. Yet, I agree with the changes to teaching methods, today. Methods must adapt to modern children in modern times. Still, as I've mentioned already, I can't help feeling lucky and grateful for my school experiences.

End of School Year Plays

Our drama studies were an arc of rehearsals that culminated in a major literary play (separate from the religious nativities at Easter and Christmas) that would be put on at the end of each academic year.

We had all year to practice to make sure our acting and set design was the best it could be; this was one factor why our plays were considered a must-see. We always had a huge demand for tickets come the end of year. It was a large event. Tickets would almost certainly always sell out.

At the start of studies Mr Weinberg would present a choice of works, and we would choose one democratically by majority vote. However, he would make us justify our choices. We would have to research each play ourselves and put some thought into our decision. In the four years I was at my school, I played in all four plays of those years and I still have recordings of two of them.

I was taught many things by Mr Weinberg and those plays. I was taught about the importance of music and culture in humanising our differences, the need for moderation and subtlety, the need for development and change but also the necessity of sticking to basic, strong truths that should never change. In hard times, I was taught how to use the difficulty; it good times I was taught to appreciate, but not take for granted, the applause.

I was also taught how to celebrate the day.

In Wonderland

I fell in love seriously for the first time during one of those plays.

This particular school romance with my leading girl as she became to be, was one of my most innocent and sweetest, but not simply because it was my first serious experience.

It began when we were paired together for Alice in Wonderland, she was Alice and I the White Rabbit. Mr Weinberg noticed the chemistry we had on stage during the first evening's show. At the "end applause", when "Alice" and I took the stage hand-in-hand for our bow, the applause was the loudest of them all.

That next year, I got into Shakespeare seriously, and I lobbied for us to play Romeo and Juliet. Mr Weinberg pointed out we were too young, but I pointed out that in Shakespeare's day younger boys had played both parts. He smiled at me with that special smile of his; it was the one he used to tell the student they had won the day - or that he would have agreed to it anyway.

He took advantage of the chemistry between me and my leading girl from the year before, and cast us in the two main parts. He even printed leaflets with the tag-line that went something like "Last year's Alice now finds her Romeo". Towards the end of the year, tickets were sold out two weeks in advance.

We spent so much time together, she and I, discovering different levels to ourselves, finding courage in a private wink, or smile, that the rehearsals came to be much more than just about a play. Of course we were caught up in the magic that comes with make-believe, so much stronger when through the mind of an adolescent. Yet, it was also much more than that.

Without boasting, I can say that our play that year was one of the best ever performed. We had people in the audience crying. There were parents who lined up to speak to us, congratulate us and kiss us. For the last few days of the term, we felt like movie stars.

Summer plans were made. Her parents were Slovenes (from what was then Yugoslavia), but they had come to England almost two decades before. That following summer they decided to go back home as a treat. Her mother even invited me to go along, too, but as my family and I made the routine summer trip to Cyprus, I had to decline.

She went on holiday, and never came back. I'm not sure, but reports came back the next school year that there had been a fatal car accident in Belgrade.

Mr Weinberg's Advice

One of the best times in my life had suddenly become one of my worst. I suddenly felt sick to look at the stage we had acted on, or the places we had met; I didn't want to even hear the name of Shakespeare. As for doing another play that year? Forget it, I thought to myself. It's over.

And then Mr Weinberg came to find me. He told me I was going to be in that year's play, whether I wanted to or not, because I owed it to her life. When I told him I didn't think I could face it, he had shaken his head and told me that what I really was upset about was that I hadn't celebrated each and every day properly.

I can remember exactly what he said to me to this day.

"You know so much without me telling you, I thought you'd know that, little Ali. Celebrate every moment you have now, and you'll have memories in place of regrets."

Slowly, he made me realise that had I truly, consciously, celebrated the days with her, then the places we had shared wouldn't be painful to me. We bless places with our memories, they become shrines to fill up on faith, not to run away from.

But, how can we know that, until we start to celebrate?

Celebrate the Day

If the first three doors to enlightenment are of the mind, body and soul, than this is the fourth - to learn to appreciate every finite moment.

Once we've taught ourselves to celebrate their short existence, it will bring us closer to what our ultimate goal should be. Another little irony: to leave this world as we entered it, with a pure soul, young body and an innocent heart, still trusting and learning in life.

In some ways, it's not so bad to leave the world as we came into it.

Those of us who are constantly developing ourselves, we find that what we're really doing is trying to preserve the gift of life as it was given, while utilising the added bonus of wisdom through experience that comes with living. It will be our experiences that become markers to make sure we are going a good way.

Celebrate the Day, NOW

We all "know" we only have a certain amount of days allotted to us, but we don't act that way. Look, another moment has just gone by, don't let another one go without celebrating it first.

Being thankful in this way is not only revivifying, it's contagious, too. When we project our joy outwards it in turn affect others for the good. So, even if we're the only one around to attend the party at first, you'll see that we won't be alone for long.

That's when we can turn our efforts to the place we live in and the living things we share it with, and celebrate them, also. And when they are gone, we will not be afraid to remember them, or be afraid of our passing, too.

So go ahead, start celebrating each and every day with your mind, body and soul, today.

Main | Part one | Part two | Part three | End of part four

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