Saturday, December 27, 2008
Every one of us is unique
I've been challenged to see that certain ideas I have about life are not universal. I've held a core belief that if you cut away all the baggage, we're all pretty much the same underneath. I don't want to give up this belief. It's been a big comfort to me. It has softened me, lead me to always try to scratch under the surface of others' actions to find what's good, even in the worst of times.
Here's the assumption that I'm looking at today: that in the face of death, people see the truth about life. I've always felt death challenged each of us to see what we're afraid of and of the ways we don't live and love fully.
The bitter makes the sweet so much sweeter. Or we say to ourselves, "Oh, why did I think so-ands-so's little quirk was so damned annoying. Big deal. I love him/her!"
But, no, this reaction to death is not universal. It's not as if I thought it was automatic; I think people need some prodding now and again (and that includes me). My last entry was an example of this.
I suggested saying "I love you" to someone whom you don't say it to. To me, death shows us that our fears, many of them, well, it's high time we threw them out the window. Life is too short to be ruled by anxieties about what others will think or the myriad insecurities that plague us. How many times have I heard a person say, "Oh, my father (mother, sister, brother, friend) died and I never once said I love you?" We carry grudges, resentments, and disappointments on our backs for years. Those burdens are hard to bear. They hurt us. They hurt others. Putting down that load is such a relief. Don't get me wrong - laying those burdens down is not easy. For some it may be. But for others, that burden, whatever it is, has become such a part of themselves that it's as hard to slough off as their very skin. And like skin, our burdens are often our protectors. Who wants to be exposed and vulnerable?
When my mother died, in the midst of my grief, I had such an epiphany of the beauty of life. In spite of the bleak depressions I suffer from, that epiphany never left me. Sometimes I think it has, but no, it never has. It has kept me alive, in fact.
Today I am very sad, very depressed. Some of this comes from wishing life was different than it is, at this very moment. That is what gets most of us into trouble, I think. My life is the way it is, right now, and right now, I can't do much about it. I ought to look at my cat more. Watch the birds. Have a talk with a friend. Be honest and not pretend things are different than they are. It's not the end of the world.
Painting note: Jacques-Louis David The Death of Marat 1793
To me, this has always been one of the most beautiful paintings of death. I'm sure, to many others, it's depressing. Well, as I wrote, each one of us is unique.