Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fulfill Your Potential

Last night, Saturday 3/23, I co-officiated Alicia and Adam's wedding with the bride's uncle, Dr. Paul Silvestri, at the Petroleum Club in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

When I sat down to write these remarks, and thought of Alicia and Adam, I remembered a story I once heard about a great rabbi, who lived in the 18th century. The rabbi's name was Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli. Rabbi Zusha was speaking to his students, and he said that when he came before God, he knew God would probably ask him some questions. He said that if God said to him, "Zusha, why weren't you Moses?" (In other words, why did you not live up to the potential of Moses), he could easily say, "God, you didn't make me with Moses' potential." "However," Rabbi Zusha said, "If God says to me, 'Zusha, why weren't you Zusha (In other words, why did you not live up to your OWN potential)?' now that will be a worthy question..."

Now, why did thinking about Alicia and Adam remind me of this story? Well, because though they are relatively young, one of the things that struck me about them is how answering this question, in the here and now, has been implicitly important to them. These two as individuals and as a couple have lived lives, where they constantly strive to better themselves and truly live up to their potential. From excelling at sports, to scholastic achievement to professional prowess, these two have never settled. They have truly tried to fulfill their potential.

Now there is a question that Rabbi Zusha does not explicitly address, and that is, how do you know what your potential is, and where it lies? I think that if you analyze the way that Alicia and Adam have lived there lives, once again, they provide a cogent answer. You need to be unafraid to try new things, you need to think outside the box, you even need to make some mistakes. Like Alicia and Adam, you have to be self aware, live an introspective life, and strive to become a better person in the process.

Alicia and Adam, as you enter into married life, what we wish for you is simple. Continue to live your lives in just this fashion, and fulfill your potential.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I Can’t Remember Life before Her Being This Good

Last night, Friday 3/22, I co-officiated Lauren and Aaron's wedding with Pastor Leighton Ogg at Agave Road in Katy, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Lauren and Aaron, one of the greatest challenges we have in life, each and everyone of us, is transitioning from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. The ticking of the clock may cause us to age, but maturing demands conscious effort. And, as we live in times rocked by economic upheaval, the latter has become more, not less challenging.

Now, one thing I am sure that your friends and family can agree on, is that you as individuals, can serve as an example for others in your age cohort in this regard. You have overcome this challenge, in a most excellent way, to the point where I imagine other parents with children your age might even be envious.

Now, though life is never a zero sum game, successfully traversing the divide between childhood and adolescence on the one hand, and adulthood on the other hand hides a challenge in it too. You see, the wonderful thing about children and adolescents is that they are much more able to live in the present, to enjoy the moment, to revel in the here and now. Adulthood, invariably and thankfully leaves some of that behind. Still, life can and will become dull and mundane, if we cannot hold on to some of that youthful spirit of enjoying the moment.

Here is where you are further instructive in your relationship and in your life together. Aaron, when asked why he wants to marry Lauren now simply focuses on the present, and says, "I can’t remember life before her being this good." And Lauren when asked why the present is the right time for this celebration quotes that immortal cinematic line, "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Even Though I Lost the Bet, I Won the Love of My Life

Yesterday, Sunday 3/17, Father Court Moore and I co-officiated Shannon and David's wedding at their favorite bar, Hat Tricks in Lewisville, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I love hearing couples' life stories, especially stories about how they met. There are often lessons to be learned, when reflecting on those foundational moments of a relationship, particularly in how couples describe these moments. Since this very venue plays a part in Shannon and David's story, it seems especially opportune to focus on this.

Here is David's description:
"I was again at Hattricks and saw Shannon there. I made it a point to strike up some sort of conversation with her, and after a short time we figured out that we went to rival schools (Sam Houston for me and Stephen F. Austin for her). The big rival game was a couple of weeks away from our first meeting, and we made a bet on who would win. The loser of the bet had to treat the other to dinner. I ended up “losing” the bet and treated Shannon to a home cooked meal, I make a mean chicken, rice and broccoli dinner. Even though I lost the bet, I won the love of my life."

Think about that last sentence, "Even though I lost the bet, I won the love of my life." Wow. I think that is really deep. You see, we live in a society, that sees itself as a market economy. One might say that the greatness of our country, and the power of our nation is due to the fact that we have embraced capitalism, where there are inevitably winners and losers.

However, what we sometimes forget is that though there is nothing wrong with our economy being market based, our lives, our relationships, and our values should not be. What Shannon and David remind us is that in our lives we cannot have a winner takes all approach. What Shannon and David remind us is that in our relationships, we should remember that there is no room for zero sum games. What Shannon and David remind us is that when it comes to our values, we should always strive not for a win, but for a win-win. That is because especially in our married lives, if we both don't win, we both lose.

Now, one thing that Shannon and David share is that they tremendously value the example their parents gave them in this area. They say that they learned how to how to live as partners, where everyone wins, from their parents.

So, Shannon and David, what we wish for you is that you continue to live your lives in this fashion, and provide the same type of wonderful example for your offspring after you.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Self Awareness - the Path to Tikkun Olam

Yesterday (Saturday 3/9) I officiated Stephanie and Rueben's wedding at the Ashton Depot in Fort Worth, Texas. Here are the personal remarks I shared with them and their guests:

In one of my meetings with Stephanie and Rueben, I made the observation that they both had a greater capacity for self awareness than other people. Regarding their own emotional and spiritual development, Stephanie and Rueben are very aware of who they are, what they want, and where they are headed, as individuals and as a couple.

Now, being self aware is more challenging than you might think. There is a reason your average airport bookstore has such a large collection of self-help books, from the academically serious titles to the unintentionally comedic titles, like - this is an actual example - How to Change Your Life in 7 Days. Right...

The problem is, as a recent essay in New York Magazine pointed out, most of this ubiquitous book store offering talks a lot about the "help" part, and not so much about the "self" part. So, when I come across a title from that bookstore section that actually addresses the latter, I take note.

Here is what David Kirchhoff, a techie turned CEO, who has a bit of a Buddhist bent, says in his book. (When I read this, I immediately thought of Stephanie and Rueben, and knew I would talk about it here.) "There is no firmly defined 'me.' I am a collection of choices that I make each day, and I am constantly evolving, growing, and changing. I am not bound by who I was... 10, 15 or 20 years ago... Our future can be defined by the choices we make going forward."

Now, you could say that this is true of all of us. Sure, but it is the awareness of this that sets some, like Stephanie and Rueben, apart. It is the awareness of this that allows one to make better choices, it is the awareness of this that allows us to seize some measure of control over our destinies.

Ironically, it is this understanding of self, that helps us discover that a truly meaningful life lies not in the over-indulgence of this self, but outside ourselves. So, we should not be surprised that in their personal and professional lives Stephanie and Rueben focus not on themselves, but on helping others.

Stephanie and Rueben, may you be blessed to continue to possess this deep sense of self, and through this understanding may you continue to practice Tikkun Olam, making the world a better place, each and every day.