Tuesday, January 13, 2009
As I sit here looking out the window at yet another rotation of the earth around the sun, I realize that I’m mid-way through another week closer to the end of my life! Dark thoughts? Not at all. My oldest daughter just turned eighteen yesterday, and my third son will turn twenty-one at the end of the month. That’s exciting and monumental. But I’ve got to admit, watching my kids race through their birthdays forces me to think more about this transitory life. How speedily it expires! That leads me to wonder how my life fits into the ebbing first decade of a new millennium.
My cousin’s grandfather died last week, after over ninety years on the planet (that’s a ripe old age!). He worked hard and served his purpose and then fell into eternity. He was the last of the Libby brothers. All four of them are gone. His brother, my grandfather, died 12 years ago after a wonderful and difficult life. He too left his fingerprints on us in unique ways and then breathed his last.
I never knew my paternal grandfather. He died at age forty-eight. My dad beat prostate cancer five years ago and survived heart surgery in the last year. He's doing well now. My uncle appears to be in the final stages of life after a 14 year battle with cancer. His outlook is impeccable, his attitude is incredible. He’s an honorable man, but he’s prepared to leave now. His ‘up-look’ has well conditioned his outlook. I’m paying attention. I have two brothers, and the three of us have six sons between us. Sooner than we all expect, we will leave the planet and our sons will watch. And then sooner than they think, our sons will leave the planet and their sons will watch ... and the cycle continues. I’m not depressed, morbid or even anxious. I’m just trying to think deeper than the cigar I enjoyed last night.
I’m intrigued about how our culture has taught itself to avoid the daily collision with the inevitability of death. We watch it on TV every day. We role-play sequences of death on our Xbox. We observe death through the safety glasses of multiple news sources, but somehow we’ve learned to anesthetize ourselves from the reality that it will happen to us – death that is, and sooner than we think. Other cultures and people in earlier times tended to keep better track of the transitory nature of life. They did it by recording the generations and tracking the way previous generations impacted the current ones. They made long lists of who birthed whom, and who married whom, and then who came after that. There must have been a reason for that, right?
In general it seems that we’ve become experts at distraction and avoidance. We keep busy, we play more; we eat and drink more; avoidance? Distraction? We’ve invented multiple methods to lose ourselves in Matrix-like fantasies offered by various entertainment choices. Now I’m not against all of these things, inventing, producing, conquering and recreation are all good gifts to be sure. But here’s the deal: business, distraction and avoidance certainly reduce the opportunities for us to think deeply about the meaningful minutes that blow by us like a bullet train.
That’s my morning ramble over coffee. How about you? Do you think about stuff other than your neighbor who pissed you off, or the lady who took your parking place, or how your job sucks, or how bored you are, or how you’re going to pay your bills this year, or who you’re going to try and get with this weekend, or how you hope to medicate yourself, or (fill in the blank __________)? Have you given thought of your life? Do you think about those who’ve gone before you and the lessons they learned and projected to those who watch closely? No, not what your work requires, not what you have to do in the yard this weekend, or where your kids will go to college, or the new ‘whatever’ you think you need, or what you will do for a distraction when you’re bored with business, or agitated to avoidance. Do you ever think about your contribution to the swirl of humanity? Do you ever think that you were NOT an accidental freak of nature, wandering aimlessly as a microscopic piece of the puzzle of the universe that happens to be occupying a certain piece of real estate, unconnected to anything before or after? Do you? Well do you?
Challenge: I have no power to change how the generations emerge or when they expire, but I have the power to slow down, to think more, to look backwards and to let my ‘up-look’ adjust my outlook today. And so can you.