Questions In The Tuscan Sun

When all seems perfection –







Okay. So lying here on a lounge chair by the pool at Villa Buonasera,
the midday Tuscan sun glowing down upon us, spreading warmth and
good energy across the villa and the vineyards behind us. A slight breeze
adds to what I feel is another glancing blow of perfection on this holiday
we’re enjoying. It’s all so relaxing… my monkey mind is nearly silent.







Then, from a distance, comes a thought, feathering its way down into
my sleepy reverie. Look, it’s a question! Too bad, I have no time for
questions right now… how could I, when everything feels so good, so
relaxed? But the question lands lightly upon my brain, and I can’t ignore
it. And it’s such a simple question, surely I can answer it easily and let
it go.

The question presents itself as the only question in the universe that could
possibly matter. And it asks me, “What are we really here for?”

What?! That’s not fair, I can’t deal with a question like that right now,
especially while stretched out here in total relaxation. My god, great minds
have wrestled with that one, over the centuries, and there has never been,
to my knowledge, one acceptable answer that satisfies us all. I’m certainly
not going to indulge it with an attempt right now.

But the question remains… quietly, patiently, sitting right between my eyes.
Oh, what the hell. Life is so good at this moment, might as well take a quick,
cheap shot at it. Let’s see… first off, I think the question demands a
subjective answer, as rarely do even two of us think we are alive here
for the same reason. And if that’s the case, (and I deem that it is, since it’s
my question for the moment) then I say we are here simply to enjoy the
experience of being alive. What an incredible experience this “being alive”
is! Even as I lie here doing absolutely nothing, my senses are sending me
all sorts of good messages – warmth of the sun, breeze on my skin, sound
of dripping water at the pool, white fluffy clouds floating overhead in the sea
of a deep blue sky… my Betty turning the page of her book next to me. We
can perceive so much, even while doing nothing!

Leaving religions totally out of it, and trying to answer this question right
now, (because it came to me right now) I prefer to try answering it by the
way I feel at this moment. And I’m feeling relaxed, content, happy. But
complete… do I feel complete? Yes! Well then, what else is there? It
would appear, then, that my perceived reason for being alive is to enjoy
it, to have fun and be happy. Simple, no?

Actually, no, Steve… not simple at all. See, you tripped yourself up by
feeling complete. Sure, you feel complete now… but what about when
you were 8, or 22, or 35 or even 50. No, you didn’t feel complete then.
You had much left to accomplish, to see, to do, to live… and back then,
remember, you felt you were here to do music… to compose, to arrange,
to play jazz with with your pals, to provide for your family… yes, life was
for the living for sure, even back then, but there were challenges, difficulties,
struggles… life was fast and complicated. So then, would my answer have
been “Life is to enjoy, to have fun, and be happy?”

Truthfully, no. I might have told you I had big sections of fun and enjoyment,
that I was, at any given point, happier than I had a right to be. And to all that
I would have readily admitted that I was “put here” to make music.” And to
this day I think that’s true. Assuming we all had, or have a passion, how we
pursue that passion and how successful (there’s another difficult word to
throw into the mix) we are or were, goes quite a way in defining our
individual thoughts on “why we’re here.”

I asked Betty Ann why she thought she was ‘put here.’ “Why, to make
the world a better place. To be kind, to raise children who make a
contribution to the world, to make sure your children fulfill their capabilities…
to treat other people with love and respect. If possible to give grand
children and great grandchildren stability and love in our later years.
All under the heading of, treat all people with respect and love.”

Well, she got me on that one. My response to “the big question” is far
more selfish and self-serving than hers. Perhaps my passion for music
and my pursuit of it helped make the world a better place in a tiny, tiny
way. Maybe my music paid for the raising of a child, and for getting him a
good education. I was home more than a lot of working dads, and for that
I’m grateful… one sleeps better at night, knowing little tidbits like that. I
recall trying to treat others with love and respect… and I remember failing
to do those things more than I’m willing to admit here. It wasn’t until ’94,
when the Buddhists pulled me into their fold, that I began to understand
the real meaning of, and the power of, selflessness, compassion and giving
to others.

And so, my final answer as to “what are we really here for?” has somehow
become fuzzy, hazy, convoluted, inaccurate and well, wrong. I thought my
simple answer worked at first, but it’s far too simple, and doesn’t address any
of the complexities of the human spirit. Our individual reasons for being here
can change daily, and perhaps the real answer is this… we don’t really know
why we’re here, and we each have the power to decide what that reason
might be.

I don’t like it. It doesn’t even begin to satisfy my need of being able to boil it
down to a powerful thought or two. Matter of fact, it opens up vast realms of
possibility, the last thing I wanted when the question first appeared. And now,
of course, I’m wide awake and somewhat disappointed in my inability to
quickly answer the question. Life is suddenly not perfect anymore, and I’m
sitting here, irritated, still trying to make sense of the question, still searching
for what I thought would be a simple, wonderful answer.


I think I’ll have a glass of wine.

Steve Hulse

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