01/22/2015 07:52 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2015

L'Chaim! In Celebration of Life

The disastrous conditions and frightening events that surround us today are overwhelming to say the least. War, famine, pestilence, terrorism, poisoned environment. Economic, political and ecological nightmares, all. Plagues of biblical proportions. Oh, woe. Oy, vey. Who feels like celebrating?

Yet, here we are -- in possession of the great gift of being alive. How do we dare not to celebrate? How can we not gather together in joy to honor our connection, our communion, our social contract? How dare us not to reach out to embrace each other and to appreciate the bountiful blessings of breath and food, shelter and love? It would be like spitting in the face of Life not to celebrate it.

All we have in this world is our life. We owe it to ourselves, the lucky ones, the privileged, the living, to be very, very thankful to be alive in this magnificent but dangerous world. We owe it to those whose lives and livelihoods have been upended, or ended altogether, to honor their presence and their impact on our life and times. We owe it to the entire complicated universe to live our precious life with full consciousness, conscience and compassion.

And we owe it to Life itself to wake up each morning with gratitude and retire each night filled with reverence and awe at the mighty miracle of it all, humbled, to have been even an infinitesimal part of the wonder, the wisdom, the intricately woven web of existence.

We must live the life that we have, while we can, as best as we can and appreciate and celebrate every minute of it. L' chaim!, the Yiddish toast, "To life!" recognizes and salutes life in all of its fullness and complexity. It celebrates all of it -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- for tomorrow we die.

Several years ago I went to a 60th birthday bash at the Tropicana Night Club in Manhattan. Manuel, whose party it was, was scheduled for major surgery early the next morning. But meanwhile, here he was turned out in a spiffy tux playing most gracious host to all of his friends. The champagne flowed, the salsa was hot and the merengue was cool.

Since the party goers were mostly of a certain age, it would be safe to assume that they had all seen and suffered a good bit thus far in their lives. Yet, here they were, aches, pains, disappointments, sorrows and all, dressed to the nines, eating, drinking, laughing, dancing the night away.

How beautiful and brave we human beings can be. Though fully cognizant of our mortality and the perils that surround us, we gamely keep on continuing on. Ever trying to make things better. Making the best of things. Living as if it mattered. May we mambo in their footsteps, ever spinning toward perspective, acceptance, compassion, wisdom and grace.

May we be walking, talking, living celebrations. L'Chaim!