By Calvin Low(Streats)
When Superman actor Christopher Reeve fell off a horse in 1994 and became paralysed from the neck down, the world followed his tragedy with bated breath : Will he or won't he ever walk again ?
We may have come to the "foregone conclusion" to that question but Reeve himself hopes to someday walk again- thanks to medical advances- and reclaim his life from his paralysis.
When that happens, Reeve will walk a much stronger man. The difference is already apparent today.
In the international bestseller The Art of Happiness, psychiatrist Dr Howard Cutler describes how Reeve considers himself a 'lucky guy'. This, from a guy who needs a mechanical ventilator just to breathe.
He's managed to overcome complete despair while in the intensive care unit of the hospital. He's bitten the intermittent pangs of jealousy that used to plague him from innocent remarks by others like : "I'm just gonna run upstairs and get something".
And today, Reeve is focussing his energies on helping others and increasing public awareness on spinal cord injury. He plans to continue speaking, to write and direct films.
Cast your thoughts now half the world away, to the remote mountain fastness of the Nepalese Himalayas. There, Lama Tupjuk sits across American author Peter Matthiessen and a translator in a small, spartan room in the snow-bound temple.
Wrote Matthiesen of his encounter with this Himalayan sage in his book The Snow Leopard : "The Lama of the Crystal Monastery appears to be a very happy man, and yet, I wonder how he feels about his isolation in the silences of Tsakang, which he has not left in eight years now, and because of his legs,may neve r leave again.
When the question was translated, "this holy man of great directness and simplicity, big white teeth shining, laughs out loud in an infectious way.
"Indicating his twisted legs without a trace of self-pity or bitterness, as if they belonged to all of us, he casts his arms wide to the sky and the snow mountains, the high sun and dancing sheep, and cries 'Of course I am happy here! It's wonderful! ESPECIALLY when I have no choice!'".
Reeve's and the Lama 's wholehearted acceptance of WHAT IS, is inspiring. Their practical attitude to life, warts and all, is humbling to the rest of us who whine at the slightest inconvenience we encounter.
Their common secret : They focus on what they still HAVE, rather than what they've lost. Even if their glass may seem three-quarters empty, they make the most of the quarter that's left- without the slightest hint of self-pity or self-indulgence.
As Reeve puts it : "I realised
that the only way to go through life is to look at your assets, to see
what you can still do; in my case, fortunately I didn't have any brain
injury, so I still have a mind I can use.