There are times in our lives when the world seems to lose its freshness -- when all of the color and warmth is drained away leaving a cold and stony landscape. As we grow older we tend to take so many things for granted that we stop looking and feeling as we did in our youth. It is as though death is stealing upon us slowly and gradually draining away a vitality which once shimmered with eternal promise.

When this bleak mood comes upon us we must pull back from it and try to see what is happening. We must seek within ourselves and all around us the spark that seems to have dimmed with time. We must come to understand that the waning of that light has come about through the gradual accumulation of so many layers of dust. We must shake off that dust and savor the raw experience once again of hot sunlight and bracing air.

And yet it isn't easy taking this step. Once our eyes become clouded with cynicism and ennui it is difficult to wipe away the grime of so many years and see things afresh. If we fail to do this, however, we miss out on what could probably be called one of the most fundamental reasons for living -- the full experience and enjoyment of life. Without joy there seems to be little to compel us to continue dragging ourselves along this arduous road.

Even the slightest glimmer of happiness in our lives can give us an anchor by which we might secure ourselves from drifting into the foul waters of despair. That tiny spark of hope can rescue us and start us on a new course. It can help us open our eyes to the things we long ago learned to block out. To focus on beauty, joy, and the aspects of living that make us want more life instead of less -- that is the elixer of life so long sought for but so plain and obvious that few seekers would have ever thought the answer was so simple.

And so we must give ourselves over to this viewpoint, without losing sight of how precious and precarious it is, and drink deeply of it whenever we can -- for it all too often seems the opportunites to do so are brief and few. Yet the more we willingly and fully we plunge into it, the more attuned we will be to it which will allow us to find it more easily. We will learn to see how the sheer enjoyment of life is really the kernal of what we are. Then perhaps we will know that the unabashed pleasure of being what we are -- naked and unafraid -- is the real secret of life.