What if everyone lived as if they had some deeply-lodged bodily defect just as likely to be harmless over the course of a life as it was to be instantaneously deadly? Some aneurysm (think of the character Nathan in TV’s “Six Feet Under”), some blood clot, some little knot of physiological catastrophe waiting to unravel (or not) on its own schedule, heedless of whatever our daily efforts to count calories, reduce stress, eat organic, exercise daily?
What if, moreover, this lurking depth charge couldn’t be detected? Was immune to X-rays, sonograms, CT-scans — just shifted around somehow, like a particle escaping a clear read, Heisenberg-like, eluding us because of our very efforts to find it?
Some of us might sink into despair. Our will and motivation depleted, our outlook blackened by fatalism, rage. We might become paralyzed by depression and nihilism, unable to do much else but wait, seething, for the end.
Some of us might fling ourselves into hedonism. Canvas the riches and delights of the senses for experiences we haven’t yet tasted, & which we might as well dive headlong into: gluttony, orgies, life-savings-burning gambling binges a la the 1995 film “Leaving Las Vegas”, sustained benders of alcohol and drugs. Or we might pursue milder, less decadent versions of this strategy: bucket-list tours of the wonders of the world, or surveys of thrilly experiences we’ve always been too timid to try: skydiving, mountain-climbing, bungee-jumping, the like.
Some us might change nothing. Realizing there’s nothing to be gained from worrying — nothing we can do to locate, and therefore nullify the possible threat — some of us might just carry on as we were. Living our lives in our own unique fingerprint blend of vice, virtue, meanness, kindness, selflessness, selfishness.
And some of us might change much more than our, say, reluctance to indulge in habits of the sensuous, or our lifelong fear of scaling a sheer cliff-face (not that there’s anything with either of those decisions, mind you). Some of us might decide to scale much steeper cliff faces, dive down from much loftier heights and with much flimsier parachutes: some of us might decide to change our souls.
Some of us might decide that we want to have one and only one sensation when that final moment comes: peace and love. That we want one and only one thought: “I tried hard to rise above what I was given, I did some good. I gave more to the world than I took.” And that we have to change whatever we can in ourselves to ensure that this comes to pass.
What peace? The peace of the spirit at ease with itself, integrated.
What love? Love for the universe from which it was formed, love for the universe into which it is set to dissolve.
What was given? A flawed body, mind and spirit (as they all are). Molded by flawed environment, by flawed parents (as they all are).
How to rise above? Acts of selflessness, acts of kindness, unflinching awareness of one’s errors and maladjustments, some congenital and some learned, ceaseless struggle with oneself to act in love toward all creation, including oneself.
What was taken from the world? Air to breathe. Shelter in which to sleep. Food to eat. Chance after chance when mistakes were made. A brain, a body, a spirit healthy and developed enough to set the foundation for survival, success, pleasure, contentment. Love, support and tenderness from family, friends, lovers. The chance live in a country and under a government that creates the conditions for flourishing, when so many on this planet do not.
And what was given back? One’s expression of one’s truest self — as entertainer, mother, father, lover, artist, builder, laborer, healer, soldier, cook, gardener, philanthropist, ruler, teacher, priest — delivered from the largest stage to which we can aspire, and to the greatest swath of creation we can reach, be it plant, animal or human — in love. Put another way: the gift given back could be one’s own self entire, healed, integrated, fulfilled.
All writing © copyright C. Way / Snailcrow.com 2015