The Key to Happiness

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By: Samreen Ahmed

According to Eleanor Roosevelt, “Happiness is not a goal; it is a byproduct of a life well-lived.” So by this definition, it is something that is not a firm emotion but rather it is achieved through action. Now the question I would like to present is– what are you doing to contribute to your happiness?

Our society tells us that money and prestige are what we need to be happy. With our money we can buy whatever we want, thus fulfilling all of our needs. And with prestige, nobody will dare doubt our worth because they know that we are above them. But what happens when your money doesn’t satisfy you? And when the people don’t respect you? Surely happiness is the last emotion you will be feeling in those moments of despair. Money and prestige only bring you temporary happiness, but there is a void that is not filled within you if you are not conscious in handling the two. Money should be spent wisely, and given to charity when possible because no matter how much money we spend, we are never satisfied. We spend and spend to make ourselves “happy” on things that contribute to everything but benefiting our hearts. And as for prestige, people respect us and honor us, but oftentimes we do not respect ourselves. The people’s opinions of us serve as a placeholder for our lack of respecting ourselves.

I believe happiness is achieved through our tears, our struggles and how we are truly delivered from our despair. Happiness to me is my mother’s smile. Happiness to me is my best friend’s hug. Happiness to me is the homeless man’s blessings to the people who ignore him. It is that sense of independence and freedom from all things that deter us from love and compassion. It is being grateful to something or someone when times get rough. It is that conviction of faith through your toughest nights and that warm feeling of ecstasy during your good nights. Happiness is not a constant emotion but it is a process. And it truly is a by-product of a life well-lived.

Sinking in Struggles

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By: Olivia Hollman

One of the biggest lessons I’ve been learning this academic year is about struggles and how to deal with them. Between the combination of adding two jobs to the stress of school work, shifting relationships with friends, worry about the future financially, changing dynamics with family, and personal concerns, I’ve had a fair share of struggles this year. During those times, it feels as if I am in an ocean. I go from successfully treading water to starting to sink when the waves swell up, larger and more powerful than before. I try to stay afloat, but I can barely keep my head above the water. Right before I go under, I begin to cry for help and raise my arms in the air. Then I am saved.

In Matthew (Chapter 14), Jesus’ disciples are out in a boat when they see Jesus (they first think it is a ghost) walking on water. Peter gets out of the boat and begins walking towards Jesus, but becomes frightened of how strong the wind is and starts to sink. Peter cries out, ““Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”” (Mt 14:30-31) In my times of struggles, I get scared…I doubt… I lose faith…I start to sink; I forget that there is someone there to save me.

When I cry for help, Jesus pulls me out of the water and saves me. His help manifests itself to me through my community—my friends, coworkers, staff advisors, and family. When what I am going through seems too much for me to handle on my own, when I just don’t know what to do, when I just need someone to lean on, I am reminded that I am never alone in my struggles. The water can never completely pull me down, because I have the out-stretched hand of Jesus in the form of my community to catch me and embrace me.

 

Who Deserves to Live?

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Interfaith Scholar Melanie Kulatilake shares a Buddhists’ perspective on life and  the struggle our society faces,  on how to branch out of the common notion to find our own truth.

 

Surrounding me is darkness with the shallow lights of the stars and my front porch lamp to guide me into the night. I walk down the steps and toward where my father is standing, looking out into the night sky with his long, cylindrical instrument. Beside my father is my older sister Nadeera. We both wait patiently for him to place the telescope just in the right spot for us to be able to gaze at the moon.

He finally placed the device in the right location so I could observe the moon up close. On my quest to view this magnificent site I was rudely interrupted by a little green creature. I screamed in fear from the unflattering tickle on my leg. My father shushed me and asked “What’s the matter?”

I replied in a whisper “A slimy bug jumped on me! Kill it.” My father looked at me with aggravation. “Stop over reacting! You got this stupid fear of bugs from your mom. They’re a hundred times smaller than you and in this area very unlikely to be dangerous.”

I huffed in frustration. How could my father say I was over reacting when a big green monster attacked me? What made me more infuriated was the fact that he hadn’t squashed this beast yet. “He’s gross and I want him dead!” I whined.

It was obvious he was upset with my tone. “Stop acting so childish! And if you want to kill him that’s your choice. You’ll have to do it yourself.”

That just flabbergasted me. How dare he not kill that bug for me; he was supposed to be my father, the one who protects me from danger. So that left me killing the bug myself. I lifted up my foot and slammed it down as fast as I could with not a hint of regret.

I left not even caring about taking one more peek at the moon. I just couldn’t believe how un-fatherly and stubborn my dad was being. And as I crawled in my bed all I could worry about was more bugs that could crawl on me and terrorize my beauty sleep.

That fear of insects and willingness to kill any of them within hindsight lasted until one day in my Buddhist class. I was sitting in class in my usual spot by my cousin Marlin and Nadeera. I was in the older class that consisted of high school and middle school students even though I was only in second grade at that time. Due to the fact that I was younger it was difficult for me to comprehend what the monk was teaching. The only reason I actually was in this class and not the class with kids my own age was because my favorite monk was teaching this class.

In my view, he is one of the nicest men who ever lived on this planet. He was always willing to answer my questions or listen to my stories. If he disagreed with one of my ideas he would always say it in a respectful matter, leaving me with not even an ounce of anger towards him. He was always considerate to the fact that I was younger than the rest of the students and would therefore speak simply for me.

So when this discussion of bugs was awakened I was very intrigued. He declared that “every living thing deserves to live including creatures that are very small.” I was even more shocked when he started to discuss how even mosquitoes (the most annoying bugs on this planet) deserved to live. He stretched out his arm as if a mosquito landed on him and said “next time a mosquito comes to try to suck your blood, let him. He’s a living thing just like you, trying to survive life’s hardships.”

Although my father told me several times to not squish insects, I never really cared to listen. Of course I loved my father and respected his insight, his words just didn’t mean as much in comparison to my monk (who I idolized for his kindness and patience). So when he spoke of his view on life, I actually considered it be valuable. I couldn’t believe that I never thought of bugs in this perspective before. I always thought of them as disgusting creatures that are not worth living. I never thought they were like cats, dogs, or even humans. The difference to me was that cats were cute and bugs were not. That’s what gave me the reason to believe that bugs deserve to die in comparison to all other living creatures. So does that mean an ugly human beings deserves to die because they’re not pleasant to look at? I am confident that most of society would disagree. So do bugs deserve die?

Relatively speaking, most westerners think differently than my dad or anyone else who was taught in this type of upbringing. The influence of my environment is another important factor for my fear of bugs. In the U.S. it is mostly taught that bugs are gross pests. Yet, in other countries they can be known as just another living creature like us or even food. It takes a brave person to ignore societies influence to decide on their own what they consider as right and wrong.

So today an ant crawled on my leg and instead of screaming and trying to kill him, I let him be. I imagined he whispered a “thank you” and went on with his life. I could have pulled the plug and ended his precious life but, now it just seemed monstrous. This brought me back to the day that my father said “if you want to kill him that’s your choice, you’ll have to kill him yourself.”  I finally understood what my father was saying: “If you think bugs aren’t living creatures, then so be it. But don’t ask me to act upon your beliefs when they differ from mine.” He always tried to convince me what was right and wrong from a different perspective than the community that surrounded us. But, he never pushed me instead, he let me choose myself. It took me a while but I finally came to terms with his outlook on life and found myself believing the same as him. We are all living creatures, big or small, and we all deserve a chance at life.

Vincentian Service Day brings students closer to community – News – The DePaulia – The student newspaper of DePaul University

 

DePaul students and faculty participated in DePaul’s annual“Vincentian Service Day” May 4, where students

Courtesy of Taj Simmons: DePaul students garden outside of the Zakat Chicago Community Center dur- ing Vincentian Service Day May 4. This is the 13th year the community service event has been held.
Courtesy of Taj Simmons:
DePaul students garden outside of the Zakat Chicago Community Center dur- ing Vincentian Service Day May 4. This is the 13th year the community service event has been held.

volunteer at sites across Chicago in a super-charged day of service. DePaul volunteers cheerfully flocked to McGrath Arena at 8 a.m. on Saturday where they partook in some interfaith prayers and were sent off to their respective service sites. The cheerful demeanor of all those present was derived from the knowledge of the good they were doing in their community.

 

DePaul’s Jewish Life coordinator, Matthew Charnay, took a moment to describe the idea behind Vincentian Service Day.

 

“It is something that staff and students look forward to all year. The chance to get out into the community and do work with your fellow classmates is such a positive experience,” said Charnay. “The ability to stand in solidarity with not only peers, but fellowChicagoans, people of faith and standing together as a community, not just a school community but a world community, is a highlight for the entire university.”

 

It seems that Charnay voiced exactly how DePaul students feel about this day. “(Vincentian Service Day) is important because it teaches DePaul students to look beyond themselves,” said Taj Simmons, DePaul junior andVSD team leader. “Too often in college we become self-absorbed and block out what’s going on all around us, and Vincentian Service Day really gives us a chance to go beyond what we know.”

 

Simmons also noted how much it has expanded over the years.

 

“It’s grown so much since I was a freshman. My first year, all of the service groups started inside of the (St. Vincent de Paul church) before leaving for their work. Going from that to the quad last year to McGrath Arena this year is just an amazing leap forward. I never thought there would be so many people dedicated to taking action to keep Chicago as glorious as it is, but now that I know there are, I can’t help but feel elated.”

 

Charnay echoed Simmons’ sentiment in regards to the day’s steady growth over the years. “We keep expanding the number of service sites that we visit and this year we even had students and families come to DePaul for activities.  It will only continue to grow. When you have such a great program and everyone involved can see the wealth of positivity and justice that is the end product, it makes it very easy to keep growing that program. I can only see it getting bigger in years to come.”

 

The community members who benefited from this day had positive things to say as well. Laila Muhammad, director of Zakat Chicago Community Center gushed about DePaul students who planted a vegetable garden at the community center. “The students were very helpful. The garden really brightened up the area,” said Muhammad. “It’s something that will continue to benefit the community. Last year when we had the garden, a boy had never had red lettuce before, but now he asks for it like candy. It can change a person’s life and encourage more nutritious eating.” In this way, one day of service can have lasting effects on a community.

 

“I think (the service day) is great,” said Muhammad. “I think that it shows DePaul’s understanding of the holistic approach to education. You can’t just teach in the classroom, you have to go out and experience life.”

 

That appears to be precisely what DePaul’s Vincentians in Action are hoping to achieve. Indeed, Charnay said “It is one thing to talk the talk, but when we give students the outlet to walk the walk of service, they have a chance to experience firsthand the mission that drives this university to new heights.  To take something theoretical (and) intellectual such as the ‘dignity of every human life’ and make it tangible, the lesson is better received, and it gives students time to reflect on their work.”

Vincentian Service Day brings students closer to community – News – The DePaulia – The student newspaper of DePaul University.

By Anne Malina

Published: Sunday, May 12, 2013

Updated: Sunday, May 12, 2013 20:05

 

Digital Story: Realities of El Salvador

So 5 months ago I went to El Salvador for a Service Immersion Trip. And once I returned, I wrote a small blog about my experience, “Realities of El Salvador.”

This quarter, I took a digital story class and we were asked to talk about something impactful. A digital story is a short film filled with photographs and audio. It is simple, easiy and to the point. With this assignment, of course my trip to El Salvador stuck out at me. It has definitely been a couple of months, but that experience is still with me. I hope you enjoy my work, and here is my digital story:

Digital Story: Laura Mena

Peace,

Laura E. Mena ’14

Spring Quarterly Interreligious Celebration: Life, Death, and Social Justice

Life, Death, and Social Justice

As the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings circulated around the news outlets, the DePaul University community stood shocked and worried. All of the faculty, staff, and students called their loved ones, and checked up on each other’s family and friends. Coincidentally, the Interfaith Scholars had been planning for their Spring Quarterly Interreligious Celebration with the theme revolving around, Life, Death, and Social Justice. The evening usually holds four significant segments. The first, is an opening prayer, which was held by DePaul Community Service Association, University Minister Rubén Álvarez, who asked the audience to center their minds, bodies, and spirits in order to be present. The second, is the opening introduction of the theme usually done by a short talk. The DePaul community was honored to have Sr. Helen Prejean talk about her interfaith experiences and the ways in which they effected the way she perceives life, death, and social justice. The third segment of the evening was composed of short-story performances and prayers by three DePaul students, Dana Jabri (Muslim), Tom Miller (Agnostic), and Josh Sushan (Jew), each of whom reflected on occurrences of life and death in their lives. Below is Tom Miller’s reflection and story he shared with the audience.

“I want to share a story which I think touches each of these themes: Life, Death and Social Justice. And then try to explain how I addressed them as someone who identifies as an Agnostic. For the past two summers I have been volunteering at a summer camp called Camp Courage. This camp is only a week long. This is a grief camp for people who are connected to a recent death. There are about 40 or so kids who go there each year, all between the ages of 6 and 13. Each and every one of these kids lost someone close to them, parents, friends, aunts, uncles, even siblings.

I remember very clearly the story of Alex. Alex was about 9 years old when I was introduced to him. I soon learned he had a twin brother. Alex liked to swim and was on a swim team. One day their mom drove them to a swim meet. But as they were on their way to the swim meet, a garbage truck sped through a red light and crashed into the car Alex’s mom was driving. Alex’s twin brother was instantly killed and the crash only mildly wounded Alex and his mother.

When I was talking to Alex he would ask questions like, “Why did I have to live and he die?” He felt guilty for living, he felt like he was wrong to be alive, to be given life when his brother had his life stripped away because they were going to Alex’s swim meet.

 So as an Agnostic how was I supposed to approach this situation? Was I supposed to talk about the meaning of life? About Karma, an afterlife, Heaven, Hell, God? I didn’t know what faith his parents were raising him with. Should I talk about morality, or all the philosophical ideas I have been learning about for the past few years? Where was Social Justice? What would Social Justice say I should do? What about that garbage truck driver? Should he be thrown in jail for the rest of his life? What if it was an accident?

What was I supposed to tell to a 9 year old about life and death? Especially when I had no idea what I thought of it, or am still trying to figure out what to think of it. I did not want to tell this little boy that he will see his brother in heaven. I didn’t know that, I wasn’t sure of that. I’m still not sure of that. I didn’t want to lie. I wanted to tell him something, to comfort him, to give him something to believe in, something to give his life meaning. But should I be the one to give meaning to someone else’s life? I didn’t want to sugar coat anything, but I also knew that I couldn’t give him a long philosophical lecture based on everything I had been learning at DePaul.

What I ended up doing was listening to his story. I looked him in the eye and I smiled. I shared with him a moment of my life simply listening. The only thing I knew at that point in time was that I cared for this boy. While I have never lived his life or went through what he went through I understood that there was an intense struggle he was going through. At that moment I knew that he was not alone, and that I was also not alone. As an Agnostic I realized that I don’t know how to answer these questions, but I think we should be okay with talking about them.

Now, when I go to camp courage this upcoming summer, I’m going with the goal of trying to make kids smile. I think sometimes we forget how to smile or how to have fun and we all need to be reminded every now and then.

One of my favorite intellectuals to quote is Einstein. With all his knowledge and wisdom, he wrote this, ‘The life of the individual has meaning only insofar as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful…'”

– Thomas Miller 

Knowing that the Anti-Death Row activist and spiritual guider Sister Helen Prejean was going to present the opening remarks introducing the theme of the evening, as a group, the Scholars began to think of ways in which we could get the campus students’s ideas, thoughts, and topics they wanted to discuss after the introduction was given, as the interreligious dialogue activity for the evening. The idea was to get the students to form discussions that came from their own quandaries. So we collected questions, topics, and ideas from the 200+ students that were present. For the last segment of the evening, we invited the students and audience to participate in meaningful discussions about the ways in which life, death, and social justice effect the ways in which we percieve our faith traditions, and as students of the DePaul community.

Some of the questions suggested:

What about your religious tradition do you find life-giving?

Do you feel the responsibility to engage in social justice work? How does your personal faith tradition or belief system inform your answer?

What do you hope to do in your life before you die?

Sr. Helen Prejean talked about the tragedy of the Boston Marathon, how do we as a DePaul community provide support to the Boston community?

As the event came to an end, the faculty, staff, and students had for the last time this school year, reflected as a community on their individual faith values to the roles that life, death, and social justice play within one’s life.

– Dana Jabri ’15

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife

HeavenA Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife

Near-Death experiences otherwise known as NDE’s are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people.

A highly trained neurosurgeon who had operated on thousands of brains in the course of his career, Alexander knew that what people of faith call the “soul” is really a product of brain chemistry. NDE’s, he would have been the first to explain, might feel real to the people having them, but in truth they are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then came the day when Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion (and in essence makes us human) shut down completely. For seven day Dr. Alexander lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma. Then, as his doctors weighed the possibility of stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes pooped open. Her had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is by all accounts a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in comma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

The story at first sounded like a wild and wonderful imaginings of a skilled fantasy writer. But it is not fantasy Dr. Alexander says. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. That difficulty with belief created an empty space that no professional triumph could erase.

Reading this book has continued to remind me of how great God really is. It doesn’t matter who you are or what traditions/belief you come from, God uses anyone at any moment in their lives to carry out his work.

By: Webster Vital

Being Present as a Form of Healing: QIRC Reflection

Dialogue in the happening...
Dialogue in the happening…
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Vincentian Art Exhibit

I think I’m getting the hang of Quarterly Inter-Religious Celebrations (QIRC). This was my second QIRC on staff, and 4th or 5th QIRC overall, I believe. It was very different going from hosting to presenting on the evening’s theme, Healing A Wounded World Through Art, – I found the former to be significantly less challenging than the latter, which is stressful for obvious reasons. That said, I had a fantastic time.

One of the things that caught me off guard was how empowered I felt in my religious identity while speaking about it to others. In the past, I have been unwilling to identify with a specific tradition or faith because I had been unwilling to claim ownership over what I believed. I understand now that this is because I had been looking for the ‘perfect’ religion. Without ever realizing it (and, indeed, oftentimes hiding behind a mask of feigned ambivalence), I was hailing religions like cabs – only to leave each taxi the second that their route to my destination varied from the one I desired. ‘There’s got to be a cabbie that has thought about this route before, someone who knows exactly what it is that I should do,’ I thought to myself. Since then, I have come to understand that only I can chart this route, because only I have had my life of experiences. As a result, I’ve begun to take ownership over what I believe; love it even. And it seems as though now that I love what I believe, people are more interested in hearing me talk about it – and now that people want to hear what I have to say about Buddhism rather than what others have to say,  it is easier for me to find delight in my identity. I want to hear what I have to say. I suppose that is the healing that I will take from the QIRC as a whole.

Islamic Art Exhibit
Islamic Art Exhibit

I also couldn’t possibly write a reflection without commenting on Morgan Spears’ performance. God, what a stupendous, brave, and vulnerable piece of art. And how much more challenging and perfect could it have possibly been for our night’s theme? I had personally invited her to perform, but had no idea that her poem would be so personal and self-revolutionary. I think the most powerful part of the entire evening for me was when, after Morgan performed, she came over to my booth to thank me for asking her to be a part of the evening. She looked me in the eyes with an expression that said ‘sorry if that got out of hand…I kind of lost track of myself’, and I told her that she was incredible, and then she just smiled and we both laughed and hugged. She said that she was super nervous to open herself up the way she did, but I could see in her face how grounded and lucid the experience had left her feeling. Morgan’s performance, more than perhaps anything else at the QIRC, invited the audience to engage in radical transparency, heartfelt expression, and most importantly, the kind of listening that one can only learn by calling out for God and enduring the silence before Her/His reply.

Until next quarter!

Josh Graber ’14

The Beauty of Sharing Thoughts

I hope that this blog post is brought to you in good health and spirits. Being a DePaul University student entitles one to have a seven-week break. With that being said, I was blessed and privileged to attend several spiritual and faith-based events, lectures, conferences, and a convention. Sometimes we can’t help but jot down the phrases and concepts that scholars throw at us. And surprisingly as I took a moment to look through my notes, I noticed that these quotes and phrases that were mentioned could relate to any person: religion, or no religion. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder the impact my experience can have on another individual, below I share with you my many moments of inspiration.

“A beliver will never view the glass as half empty because he or she knows that the other half will be filled by God.”

“The Great, the King, if it wasn’t for You, we would not be here…”

“The heart constantly waivers and turns, and that is where the problem is.”

“The beauty is that God does not judge by outer appearance, he looks within.”

“A heart that has no desire to sin, but falls into sin without it intending it.”

“We fear everything else… as if our bosses are paying our salaries, we forget that we work for God and God pays our salaries.”

“Our reliance on placebo medicine far out weighs our reliance on God…”

“Sometimes religions make it a point that rituals are an end rather than a means.”

“Ignorance breeds fear!”

“Everyone has a form of spirituality whether it is formerly religious or some-other sort of spirituality…”

“Religious defamation exists, and free expression can be upsetting… but then ‘ethical people’ of religious and non-religious backgrounds will need to stand up for their fellow citizens and stand out against extremism.”

“Looking at the world in the eyes of the Hereafter is a vantage point which we all should take advantage of. Where did I come from? Why am I here?  Where will I go when I die?”

“You should stay here and stand up. But to stay here and to sit down is not an option.”

“A true leader is a servant of his people.”

“That which you have given away stays with you forever.”

“That which you give is your wealth and that which you leave behind is your inheritance.”

“Let us reflect on our relationship with God. Can we believe in God if we do not have a relationship with God?”

Happy New Year’s!

Dana Jabri ’15

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Quarterly Inter-Religious Celebration: “Healing a Wounded World Through Art”

I am excited to announce that next week DePaul’s University Ministry will be holding their Winter Quarterly Inter-Religious Celebration! After holding our Fall Quarter “QIRC” which revolved around the theme of restorative justice and engaging one’s faith through a service-based lens – I hope that this upcoming QIRC will allow for a space where conversations about restorative justice and art can be intertwined.

The DePaul Vincentian Society, state that “Through prayer and careful reflection on the current broken state of the US criminal justice system, Vincentians guided by the legacy of Frederic Ozanam should begin to see their role as change agents and implementers of restorative gospel values. Recognizing that the dignity of the human persons applies to both the victim and the offender.”

If you’re in the city please feel free to stop by and check out this event!

Follow us for live updates on twitter:  @dpu_interfaith

Follow us on Facebook: DePaul Interfaith

 

Many Blessings,

Dana Jabri’15

* Apologies for spelling error*
* Apologies for spelling error*