I turn 58 next month. I still look in the mirror for the long haired bright eyed youth and I still see him in there somewhere. At least I feel him when I look out from this side of my face. I was browsing facebook today during a quick lunch. I came across an article about Oliver Sacks. The Neurologist who if I remember correctly the Robin Williams movie was based on Dr. Sacks. Anyway, he is into his eighties and has been diagnosed with cancer and is in the last days of his life. Truly, we are all in the last days of our lives but until an authority such as a medical doctor tells us we are able to live the illusion of endless days ahead.
He wrote a short blurb and I thought “Oh, boy” here comes the humanist bull crap about it not mattering that we go into oblivion that we will live on in memory. Thankfully, I was wrong about that. Instead he wrote of the wonder of walking this planet and the privilege of being a human on this world. He talked of how he is tuning out the political stuff. Not, because he doesn’t care. But, because he is maximizing his days and not worrying about that stuff that is beyond his control and soon beyond his concern. He also talked about his confidence in the coming generation present and future. About his generation and how when they are gone (as with all of us) there is nobody else exactly like them and they can’t be replaced.
I think about my own life. I’ve just had a little bit of an edgy day at work. I look in the mirror and see this older man looking back at me. I think about some of my own peers that have gone on so soon and I realize this goes so very fast.
Those of us with faith always feel especially, when we are young. That we will have confidence and an easy transition when it comes. But, the truth is we are whistling past the graveyard. I have seen people who are so quick to judge others. Quote the bible and call down the wrath of god on sinners. Praise god and they know they will be in heaven as soon as they die. But, once the pain or the growth or he diagnosis is in they are (as would and more than likely I will be unless I go so quickly I’m not aware of it.) Anyway, once the diagnosis is in they are scared to death. No, glory I’m going home. No, wow I’m about to get my reward. Instead they face and we all face the same questions. What does it all mean? Does it mean anything?
I notice when people die it doesn’t matter how old they are. Even if they have been in a nursing home for years and have had loneliness and pain. The first response is I’m so sorry. How horrible. We are not comfortable with death. We are not comfortable or sure of who and what we are. So, we distract ourselves with sports and politics and even religion.
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
The above quote is from Paul in 2 Corinthians .
Now, I know a man. Surely in the body but also at times in dreams and meditations seeming to find something more. This man believe in a personal source of all being. This man honors the reality of love taking on flesh. Not to save from tribulation but to endure it alongside those who are loved. Which is everyone. To sit beside you and me in the burning building. Not to be superman and carry you out. That is heroic and might or might not be love.
But, to be willing to experience the situation personally when no physical or emotional rescue is possible. Not run out and save oneself or to say I’m sorry for you. But to stay with you, even to experience the same fate. That’s love.
Still, the religion of this man I know. It didn’t hold out much when life experience reared and the years went by. The platitudes of the preachers and the certainty of the chosen when the storms and questions arose. Still there was and is this relationship.
Thing is this relationship had become broken and worn.
But, as the years went by it started to strengthen in the broken places. All of a sudden it was strong enough to say “I don’t know.” “I’m not sure.” “I’m afraid.” Even, strong enough to say “I don’t believe that anymore.”
So, what will I say if I have a diagnosis and have to accept death before I should? Which in my mind is never. I don’t know. I know what I have come to experience and I have my way of looking at life. I have confidence that the universe is sane and meaningful for each of us. The needs of the many Do Not outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. That’s the great thing.
I looked into some Buddhist writings during my journey through the planet. I found some wonderful meditation and letting go of attachments. But, I also found a certain bleakness that I just couldn’t and wouldn’t come to accept. So, I respect the part that I found helpful and kept my own mind on the part that I found unhelpful.
So, what about the faith of my youth. Christianity. Well, as I said before. For me the part that makes sense to me isn’t the dogma and the insistence of some to apply a little understood scripture as a measuring stick to politics and other people’s sexuality. I think that is a misuse. Still, everybody has to be honest with their own spirit.
The part that I hold onto is the part where love becomes like me. Stays with me in the burning building and leads me at last across that river.
Finally, I knew a man in the body or out of the body it was still and is still one thing. This man stood in a dream on the banks of a very cold and narrow running river. Looking across this man knew he had to go through the river to get to the other side. “I’m afraid” he said to one there both beside him and on the other side. Such is nature of dreams and unlimited mind. “I’ll die.” You have to go in. I’m here. “But, I’ll die.” Go in. Go across.
It was so cold. So intensely cold. The body was dying, it was freezing. It was wonderful!