Life will always remain a strange thing…an enigma…the biggest variable in any one of our individual life’s plots…filling it with both pain and beauty. We can experience death and new life all in the span of one week. We can reach the most glorious highs on some levels, while simultaneously experiencing the lowest of lows. Funny that. Funny using an expression like “isn’t it funny” for something that’s actually not “funny” at all, but rather difficult, bizarre or uncomfortable.
When the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “there is a time for everything”, he makes it sound so neat in a way. Yes, he mentions things like a time to cry and a time to die; but it still sounds so ordered – like there is a rhythm even to those times, that they will follow on each other, that you will always be able to move from the one to the other. And yet, in our living life, we come to realise that those times aren’t “neat” or “rhythmic”, mostly they are intertwined – joy with tears, success with disappointment, and life with death. Which is so contra-instinctive for us – we WANT life to be more “reliable”, more predictable. We NEED life to be simpler. We NEED to hold on to the belief that tomorrow will be different…will be better…will be more. But life continues on its “merry” way, and tomorrow usually ends up being the same as today – complicated. Which means that we can (and often do!) spend a lot of time questioning the meaning of our existence, the sense our living holds, the reason for our being. Getting so caught up in thinking about life that we don’t live it. But, you might say, such a complicated mess is not worth calling life, never mind living it! And yet, it is what it is, and it remains so no matter our thoughts on the matter.
So why is it worth it? What is the significance of this quagmire? Where is God in all of this? “Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the surface of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.” – Annie Dillard “Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blending and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” – John Muir
We should not strive for peace and calm and simple, for it is only in the difficulty and the chaos and the mess that we can plumb the depths of who we are. You cannot be truly brave and courageous without having felt fear tinge your being and overcoming it. You cannot truly live without confronting the complex reality that life is. “I don’t believe that life is supposed to make you feel good, or make you feel miserable either. Life is just supposed to make you feel.” – Gloria Naylor In the fullness of the total experience, in our giving ourselves over to every piece of it, in our looking every part of life and death straight in the eye and conquering it; therein lies living. For if you’re not ready to die, then how can you live? So…hoohah! “To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” – Mary Oliver