Anything can happen. There are no guarantees. You can be driving home from work across the Maungatapu bridge when, in the space of a few seconds, your van is under water and suddenly it’s the night when Daddy didn’t come home.
These kinds of events get your head spinning. As a parent, I suffer a sizzling zing of fright whenever I see my kids wander near a steep drop. Anything can happen. It’s a fact of life that life is poised to take us all. As they say, no one gets out of this thing alive.
I’ve had a contemplative week. In a sleepy bay at the far end of Lake Taupo there’s a bach that I retreat to every winter for a weekend with two of my best mates.
We go there to put our respective worlds on pause and to talk about life, the universe and everything. It is becoming almost a sacred pilgrimage.
We travel from Wellington, Palmerston North and Tauranga. There’s no TV or stereo, so I take my ukulele to pluck out the silence.
If you were to shuffle our three brains and deal them out like a pack of cards you would find, in random order, a librarian, doctor, poet, christian, humanist, atheist, vegetarian, ethical meat eater, unapologetic carnivore, two runners, a cyclist, and three husbands and fathers.
The mix makes for interesting discussion and great cooking. We each take a bottle of single malt to share and we have ourselves a collective scotch adventure.
A lot of whisky gets demolished but we fortify it with proper food, loads of coffee and plenty of fresh air. I always go armed with pain killers, just in case. I never seem to need them.
The three of us have competing world views, yet in a spirit of generosity our conversations are complementary rather than antagonistic.
We’re big fans of the word “generous”. Different world views should be something to explore, not something to fix. There is something to learn from everyone. Those in the habit of slapping other people in the face with the crusty flannel of their stiff doctrine would do well to consider that.
No matter what you believe, everyone is on a legitimate journey to figure out this random and weird thing called life.
There is no end game quite so important as the journey itself. We should make the most of what we’ve got, here, now. That’s not a hedonistic statement, it’s a life affirming one.
On the beach we bumped into some kids who told us about a local taniwha, Rongopai, guardian of that part of the lake.
We got to wondering about the overlap between cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. Do those kids actually think there is a taniwha in the lake? Do their parents? Does it matter whether or not they believe the taniwha is real?
We concluded it doesn’t matter. The taniwha has valid existence as a symbol that demands respect on behalf of the lake.
Respect the lake. Respect the environment. So says Rongopai.
It may have been the whisky, but we felt quite fond of Rongopai by the end of the weekend.
Rongopai also got us thinking about the value of traditions. The practice of saying grace before dinner is one such tradition. Some people rattle through grace out of habit. Some string it out into a dull prayer while the dinner goes cold. Some don’t say grace at all.
I appreciate a pause of acknowledgement around the table before we eat. It doesn’t matter to me if the acknowledgement is directed towards a deity, the cook, the circle of life or the dead protein on our plates. So long as there’s a moment.
The fact that we have food on the table is not something to take for granted. Life is precious. We have air in our lungs. Every breath we get counts. It is good to be here.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times 16 August 2013. Reproduced with permission.