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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The gift of breathing

"Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies".~ Erich Fromm

You may have heard people say that we only value something when we have lost it. That is very true. But there is one thing that's so critical, that we no longer exist once we lost it: our breath.

Day after day, we are so busy undertaking all kinds of "important" actions, that we take the things that really matter for granted. Breathing is one of those things. How often do we simply take a moment to focus on our breathing? And yet, it is the one thing that distinguishes us from death. But because we have been blessed with this gift from birth, we don't think about it too often. We rarely value it, until there is a moment when we get in trouble and cannot breath. That moment can be a minuscule one. Just a few seconds. When the air is cut off, we suddenly realize that all those appointments, living standards, desires, special someone's, positions and possessions don't really matter. When our breath gets cut off, we are ready to sacrifice all those "important" things to get it back.

There is a touching story of a man who suffered from asthma. He just met a pretty young lady, and they were getting along very well. Yet, about a week after they met, while making plans to go to the movies, he got a terrible asthma attack. It was so severe, that his friend realized she had to do something drastic. She stopped a passing car and explained the problem. As they raced to the hospital, the young man’s breath stopped completely. However, his girlfriend was not planning to let him slip away, and she performed CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) onto him over and over again until they reached their destination, where he was rushed inside and placed on a ventilator. By giving him her breath, he stayed alive. They are now happily married and have a family. It would not have been possible without sharing her breath in those critical moments.

Breathing is possible through the air around us, and we all know that we would not survive if that was gone. The earth, our common home, harbors the right amount of oxygen and the perfect temperature to provide us with the conditions to stay alive. But that, too, is something we don't consider often enough. Instead, we mainly focus on things that disrupt our peace of mind, such as trying to own a more advanced car than our neighbor, or wear a more expensive dress that our friend, or acquire a higher position than our colleague. We want to impress, and we are filled with the ambition to do so. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it does not become such an obsession that it entirely disrupts our joy in life. It is critical to regularly keep the bigger picture in mind, and the funny thing is, that the bigger picture is captured in the modest things. But without the basic conditions, which we all share and need, there would be none of our daily strife.

So, here's to the gift of breathing.

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