Posted by: jhvn | 02/28/2013

IN THE FACE OF DEATH, HOW CAN LIFE HOLD MEANING?

“Life is a sexually transmitted fatal disease”

“Life is one damned thing after another. Then you die.”

” Life is a game.Whoever has the most toys when he dies, wins.”

Common wise cracks like these slink around like fearsome serpents in the depths of our hearts. They poke their pointed heads out into our consciousness at night when sleep evades us. They wiggle uncomfortably in our gut when things go wrong – when we’re being confronted by our spouse, our kids, our parents, our boss, or our own incompetence. They terrorize us when tragedy strikes. Could this really be all there is? Should we adopt the attitude presented by Guy Lombardo: “Enjoy yourself; it’s later than you think? As ageing nudges us inevitably closer to the the threshold of geezerhood, fears and fantasies of death may increasingly haunt us.

When I was about 10, my maternal grandfather died – my first experience of death. He had just retired as an elementary school principal. Everybody – even my barber who had gone to his school as a child – extolled his creative compassion for children, teachers, and parents. I had gone to church regularly with my parents, so I quietly suspected that he, like Jesus, might return. He didn’t. I had no idea how to cope emotionally with his loss, so it gradually sank below my awareness. I thought the loss had left me. But it hadn’t. It retreated into those depths of my heart and fed those fearsome serpents.

In adulthood, we work harder and harder to avoid death – any little death. To save marriage from death, we surrender too much to our spouse’s demands, and a little of our own Self dies. To prevent the death of our job, or our vocation, or our profession, or our reputation, we give up of even more of our own Self, and the serpents grow fatter. You can see where this is leading. To prevent the loss of whatever or whomever we feel vitally attached to, we lose more and more of our own Self – completely unaware of what we are losing. And then one day …

When I look in the mirror,

Whose face do I see?

The eyes of someone I don’t know

Stare back at me.

Then I wonder what happened

To the face that I knew;

And I see the reflection

Of emotional stew.

Finally this geezer is learning compassion for the little boy inside himself who fearfully fed all his emotional pain  (not just his grandfather’s death) to those serpents within, hoping that pain and loss would then disappear. As a result of loving compassion, this geezer can sometimes  recall the taste of those fragments of loss when they were whole and first experienced. Occasionally this geezer actually can taste that primordial stew as a whole, amazed at the bittersweet  concoction which now, with the perspective of age, delights his palate. It’s like the broccoli, which he used to spit out with disgust as a child, but which he now savors steamed with lemon, butter and garlic.

Compassion for the terrified child of our past, which still lurks within our hearts, requires genuine courage – because we will feel the pain we’ve avoided all these years. Compassion also requires the humor of not taking ourselves so seriously. After all we have survived. We have had some great loves as well as losses. We found some areas where we do have some ability. We made some contribution to human evolution. And we have enjoyed some great parties and good times.

So with age, with love, and with humor, the geezer in us discovers that it’s about really enjoying this sexually transmitted condition of life – including the sexual transmission itself. It’s about discovering the opportunities that appear in all those damned things that bring us down to earth when we get flying too high. It’s about facing our approaching death with excitement at the threshold we are about to cross into a whole fantastic realm that we can only glimpse dimly from our earth-bound sexually transmitted condition. (More about that in another blog post.)

I hope you will be able go join this geezer in beginning to discover Rumi’s wisdom:

“From love bitterness became sweet,

From love copper became gold,

From love the dregs became pure,

From love the pains became medicine

From love the dead became alive,

From love the king is made a slave.”

©John Van Ness Feb., 2013

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Responses

  1. I think we must assume that God is really big on sex…with your thoughts, even with the BIG BANG! …and so it is reasonable to assume that there will be lots of it in the next life?

    • Well God must be big on sex for us here on earth. How else would we “be fruitful and multiply”. But in the eternal realm beyong all physicality, what need would there be for sex. In the next life I expect delights far more wonderful than sex , or anything else I can imagine here in my earth-bound being.

  2. Wonderful post John. Is the first poem yours? If so, all that whirling had good side affects. It is right up there with Rumi. I plan to quote it in my sermon this Sunday.

    • Hi Bob,

      I’m glad you liked the post. The first poem is mine. It goes to music that appeared in my head a year or so ago. Other stanzas may emerge as well as a refrain. Who knows what will show up in this geezer’s head and heart these days? You are free to quote it if it would be useful. The Rumi poem is on a poster I have, but I haven’t found its source.

      Peace, John

  3. John, I’ve heard it called “Love” or “acceptance” but either way, I think you nailed “it”. Katrina Kenison in her book Magical Journey said that once we stop fighting, the magic begins (paraphrased.) But that takes more courage than some of us have. Great post, and thanks to my buddy “FictionFitz” for pointing me here.

    • It DOES take couerage. Geezerhood, as they say, is not for sissies.

  4. Very good info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

    • Good stumbling. Glad you found this. This geezer has neglected the blog for a while – been writing other stuff. You encourage me to get back to it — before my bucket gets kicked. Thanks.

  5. I really got into this article. I found it to be interesting and
    loaded with unique points of interest. I like to read material that makes me think.

    Thank you for writing this great content.


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