“What I once was I no longer am, nor shall I ever be again.”

I don’t know where I read that, however many years ago, and it doesn’t really personally matter to me anymore – who, what or where – as when that quotation recently entered my conscious mind I was suddenly mindful of just how much these past four years living in Mexico have so profoundly changed me.

I recognize how my value system has taken on a new dimension since entering Mexico. And it’s not like my previous value system was hopelessly broken or corrupt. After all, I have been a fervently practicing minimalist for years. Most of my life I have worked to distance myself from the ownership of stuff in an effort to get closer to the discovering the true nature of life; finding my way to a life well lived.

Shedding stuff I have discovered is just the beginning but there is a wonderfully subtle complexity to finding happiness. And the part I found most hard to understand lay within myself. I choose to call this part moral, rooted in just actions and appropriate thought.

Note: It has been my experience that even when life kicks you in the balls – which it often has – there is solace to be found in ‘I did all I could, I did the right thing’. On the other hand if you are a lying, cheating, no good SOB the only bitter comfort is self-pity. (A beautiful loser has more respect in my eyes than a back-stabbing winner.)

The reason I didn’t discover this importance sooner was maybe because I was surrounded by immorality so much of my life. It occurred to me today that I’ve maybe only known a dozen (or less) morally wise people my whole life. Isn’t that sad?

Just like morality is a component of true wisdom (for without morality, wisdom is mere trickery) so morality is also an important component to happiness. Doing one’s honest best in the treatment of all things is the wellspring to satisfaction that makes one mindful of the value of this life we live.

All these seemingly heady thoughts played out after a conversation in the Mercado this morning over breakfast then resurfaced again during a glorious barechested run through the rocky Michoacan countryside dressed only in a sweaty bandana, running shorts and sandals.

The hot sun beating down, the cool breeze, the lightness of my steps as I made my way joyfully across the rocky ground made me think once again on the nature of freedom and happiness.

The Mercado conversation centered on ‘while there is more money to made in the US, there is more happiness in Mexico’. Situation wise, the conversation more or less ended when my Mexican breakfast companion said, “In Mexico you are free.”

While I had to agree with his statement (the exact same I have heard several times from more than one person), I realized what he said was only partially true as applied to the question of true happiness.

It has been my experience that being free to do what you like can often times be a passport to trouble. But that was a younger, wilder, more reckless and life-inexperienced me.

Now I believe to live life well is to do so thoughtfully and respectfully. So finally now at 60 I’ve come to the conclusion that my name and reputation are really the only two things that I’ll leave behind that truly matter.

My Mexican neighbors have awakened me to the fact that I care more than I realized that to be among them smiling, cheerful and happy is a blessing that carries the bittersweet reminder of the ephemeral nature of life.

And here – much more so than the US – I am reminded of the importance of respectfulness, graciousness as it comes from the heart, and that oh so sublimely shy generosity as practiced from true humility of spirit.

PS – I have shared with one or two close friends and my daughter the only remaining thing I want out of the remainder of my life is some dignity. Is that too much to hope for? Simple dignity? (It has been denied to so many…)

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