What is the meaning of life?

Dave Canovas

This is a question that could be borne out of disappointment, grief, depression or even mere boredom. Whichever it is, I do not welcome it. It nags and gets me into deep thought. Deep thinking, I have come to understand, tends to be more of a liability for me than an asset.

No matter how I tried, this question does pop up from time to time and I really have to grapple with it but now I have been learning and been very quick to reframe it in a way that would make me avoid the pit of futile deep thinking. WHAT MAKES LIFE, LIFE? – is a question that really sounds better in my head in that it provokes “doing” and “action” rather than just merely meaningless pondering.

So what makes life, life?

Make “ordinary” things “extra-ordinary” again.

Very often, these “ordinary” things are being made redundant by our life’s routines. Routine for me is such a killer. We have always had these “things” in our lives – talked with, played with, used, eaten, lived in or enjoyed. These have become such a part of our routine already that we have overlooked their importance. Getting your dream job may have heaped our “hallelujahs” then. I wonder if we are as grateful for it, now. We only realise how much our loved ones mean to us, once we lose them. In most days, they tend to be relegated to just being the “ordinary”. I remember crying when we bought our first house but now I am finding myself wishing it was bigger. These thoughts could all be counter-productive so the solution is to make these things that seemed “ordinary” now, “extra-ordinary” again. Bite an apple like it is the sweetest and juiciest apple you have ever tasted. Drive to work with zest like it is your first dream job. Hug your wife and children like you are never going to see them again. Live your life as if it were your last. Well, you know, it could really be your last. I am really fortunate to teach pre-school age children everyday. They seem to never lose the joy. They always remind me to see the spiritual sense in even the most mundane of things.

Always think and strive to learn and avoid meaningless pondering. Why your neighbours are better off than you are, why you couldn’t be in two places at the same time, why you think people are mean to you or to each other, why people unnecessarily honk their horns during traffic – seem to be pointless thoughts because it gets you nowhere other than to spiral down. Thinking and striving to learn, on the other hand, is one built on purpose and could be actualised into something of value. Recently, I came across quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson which I have been reading over and over again. These are short but really meaningful and have great potentials to make me a better person. I have been constantly listening to Fr. Andrew Ricci’s podcast and have been enriched by his wisdom. Striving to learn new things is a start of greater things.

Act on your knowledge. Implement your plans. I spent my whole life wondering about the ‘what if’s” and the “what could’ve been’s”. I resolve to not waste another minute of my life focusing my energies on these, instead, to start to do, to act and venture into things I am most afraid of and in the process, add value to my life. What is the value of your plan if it remains a plan forever? At my kindergarten, we envision creating a community garden that could benefit our families. Sounds like a big vision but would not come into fruition if we do not attempt to start to work towards it. Whenever I gain new knowledge that deepens my Catholic faith for example, I share them with others hoping that it could impact on their lives as it continue to impact on mine. The home is a good starting point of sharing these. I make myself visible and available for other people and offering a life of service, as much as I can.

Always find time to connect with self, others and God through prayer. Prayer is a respite for the tired, an assurance for the weak, a celebration for the happy, a feast for the soul of the peaceful. Prayer can be all of these. We pray in all our seasons not only when we are in need. Prayer also transcends distance and time and allows us to be connected with the people we love. I have loved ones from the Philippines, USA, Canada, Middle East and Israel but I always feel that prayer still binds us together whenever I remember them in my prayers. Prayer binds me to God. It is always a wonderful place to quell fears, to heal, to feel love, to unburden myself and to remain faithfully connected with God’s promises.

What makes life, life, I learned, are overcoming yourself and getting past your past and your nagging meaningless thoughts. What makes life, life; is to start to put things together beginning with the little things and adding them all up to create a bigger picture of continuous learning, connecting and devoting to a life of prayer. That is the life worth living for with actions all done in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Kapow, to my fears!

Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels.com

What is it about superheroes that beguile young children? In my nearly ten years of working alongside children in different early childhood settings in New Zealand, superhero play has always been an interest, a hit among children and one learning area that I really like to extend and support because of its richness in learning opportunities.

Imagine children arguing quite heatedly. I’m Ironman. No, I’m Ironman. The arguing goes on and on. Imagine the language learning opportunities here and the words that can be used for conflict resolution and socio-emotional learning moments. Imagine the bucket of tears from wounded feelings that I have helped mend just because children thought there could only be one Elsa at any given time.

Being a superhero in socio-dramatic play, is physically empowering for children. They become bigger, faster, higher, stronger and more powerful than they already are. Think of the monsters they have slayed, the heavens they have flown, the heights they have scaled and the mountains they have climbed.

In between strenuous running, I would often take a break with them. I would often ask what makes a superhero. Almost always, their responses gravitate towards physical strength. You must see us scale the “mountains” of kindergarten as we chase the “baddies” – heaps of heaving, running, vocal improvisations – all to showcase physical strength!

There is one learning opportunity in superhero play that really stands out for me, though. It is the morality of superhero play; the sense of right or wrong that children learn as they play. Children at a very young age, could actively explore morality as they pretend to be somebody they are not; battling the so-called “baddies”.

Morality, I think, could be taught to young children. Being in the “right” could be about being kind. Being in the “wrong” could be about hitting or mocking others.

I am still in awe of all research that supports the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum’s (Te Whariki) dispositional learning. Children’s ability to take risks, to take interest, to participate, to be friendly and to negotiate; could be encouraged among children from birth to preschool. Such dispositions could all form part of their lifelong character.

That notion of lifelong learning brings me to the question: What if we start the moulding of our children into the kind of persons Jesus wants them to be, at a very early age? Then my friend, I must say, we are preparing them to become their future selves; the kind of superhero, God envisions them to be – fearless in their faith and loving and kind to others.

Jesus has far more amazing qualities than your regular superhero. Let us draw our children closer to these qualities. Jesus as our God and who is also our friend. Jesus as a great listener. Jesus as kind and loving. Jesus as fearless.

Encouraging children to be fearless in their faith and to be kind and loving, is not always taught through show-and-tell. It is a process that starts at home. Let me highlight that learning as a “process” as opposed to learning as a “product”. While the product focuses more on superficial standards and quality, the “process” focuses on the beauty of relationship; the journeying, the solving of errors, together. It is the constant modelling of kind and loving words at home. It is the constant forgiveness they see at home when one errs. It could be that while playing, we model taking turns. It could even be the constant asking of one of the most important questions of all – How does that make you feel? It could be about modelling feeling words; “I could see how being hit could make you feel very angry”. We need to show children humanity and part of it is empathy and expressing emotions.

In Philippians 4:13, it is said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”. If there is anything that keeps us from being that teacher or parent who teaches our children how to to be like Jesus then…KAPOW to our fears!