Im on a trip again, back to the United States. Just as we did last month, we're lobbying for the veterans again, this time for the passage of the Veterans' bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Last month, the battleground was the U.S. Senate, where the bill was eventually passed with a vote of 96-1. We're hoping to succeed again, so that this bill will finally become a law, a fulfillment of a 62 year old dream of the Filipino veterans.
Actually, I just arrived from another trip two days ago, a conference on Family Planning in Bali, Indonesia where I gave a speech as part of the panel of discussants during one of the plenary sessions of the conference. Trina was with me to keep me company and make sure my nights were not cold (wink!).
But on this trip, she decided to stay home, since she misses the kids badly. I miss them too. I've been on back to back trips since April, so much so that I haven't stayed home for more than 9 days straight in the past month and a half. Summer will go by without me really enjoying the time the kids are home on vacation. Of course, we were able to squeeze in a trip to Bohol and Subic but I think it's not enough. For now duty calls, so I would just have to make up for it.
But what if there's no chance to make up for it? It's a thought provoking proposition, which came to my mind after watching a movie.
I just finished watching a movie they played on the plane (thank goodness for in-flight entertainment, it makes these long flights more bearable!). The movie is entitled “The Bucket List”, a movie that I've long wanted to watch ever since I first heard about it, specially because it stars two of my most favorite actors---Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. And directed by one of my favorite directors, Rob Reiner.
I never was able to watch its previews, but I was able to read a synopsis some time back. So I never had an idea how the movie would turn out. For me, as long as a movie had Jack Nicholson or Morgan Freeman in it, and throw in Rob Reiner to call the shots, it had to be good. In this case, they were all in it, so I assumed it would be a movie that deserved to be in my collection.
I wasn't wrong. Once in a while a movie comes along which moves me. This one did. Had to hide the moist eyes from the flight attendants who were doing their best to make us passengers comfortable.
I thought it was a comedy, which would have been a real treat. The Bucket List refers to a list that one would do before one “kicks the bucket” (things to do before you die, to put it bluntly). I found it not only a good topic for a movie, but a cool thing to have as well. In fact, I had already started to do my bucket list weeks ago, adding to the list everytime an idea comes to mind.
But as I watched the movie, the message to me was not just a list of things to do while I'm living, such as scuba dive in the Great Barrier reef or go on a photo safari in every town in the Philippines, but also of things that I wanted to achieve in life.
There's a scene in the movie when Morgan Freeman's character, Carter, was telling Jack Nicholson's character, Edward, about an old Egyptian belief. He said that the ancient Egyptians believed that when you die, you come to a gate in Heaven where you are asked two things before you are allowed to get in. Whether you are allowed to enter will depend on the answer you give.
He said the first question is “Have you found joy in your life?”. And the next question was “Has your life given joy to others?”
I think many people will answer yes to the first question. Although I would also say that deep inside, many people may also be in denial with regard to having found joy in life. It is not uncommon for people to confuse being momentarily happy with having joy in life.
If you suddenly won a million dollars in the lottery, you would definitely be happy. But for how long? A year? A month? A week? A day? Until the money runs out? I am pretty sure there are many people out there who have all the wealth they would ever need but they still haven't found joy in life.
What's happiness of million dollars you win in a day compared to the joy of seeing your child speak for the first time? What's the happiness of having the latest luxury vehicle compared to the joy of seeing your son graduate from college? What's having a fat bank account compared to having your grandchildren visit you every weekend during your old age?
What's the happiness of having power over the lives of other people compared to the joy of your family seeking your wisdom to solve their own challenges? What is joy in YOUR life?
The second question is bit more difficult to answer. Edward was initially at a loss for words in answering that one. Finally he said that it depends on how other people perceive the things that you do for them. Well, he's also correct on that one. You may think that you're giving joy to others, but the one on the receiving end may not recognize it.
But does it matter whether the one you're giving joy to is missing the point? It shouldn't. Because what should matter is that you are sincere and pure in trying to give joy to others. Ultimately, the joy of helping another person or simply making their life more colorful and enjoyable is the gift unto yourself. In the end, you will experience the joy of your life by giving joy to others. IN fact, one of the things that made it to Carter's bucket list was “to be able to help a total stranger”.
I started my bucket list weeks ago. It included so many adventurous things that they could qualify as episodes in National Geographic, Discovery Channel, AXN, Amazing Race, and many others. But after watching the Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman movie, I'll do more than just an adventure bucket list. I'll do a Life Bucket List.
After all, the bucket list shouldn't be a List of Things To Do Before You Die. It should be a List of Things To Do Because I'm Alive.