I turned 42 yesterday. Born on the seventh day of the seventh month to two seventh children. I'm coming to grips with the likelihood that perhaps I have more life behind me than in front of me, and I'm ok with the knowledge that the clock is continually catching up to me in the great race.
For whatever reason, this birthday served as the genesis of a lot of introspection, from little things to bigger things. Not a single person among us has the promise of being here tomorrow, yet we cling to our lives here - even those of us who believe in eternity - as if it's the only thing of merit we have to hold onto. I'm not saying that's wrong, mind you. It's our nature. Our lives here, and what they contain, ARE the only tangible thing we have. Concepts beyond it, like eternity, or even concepts like reincarnation for people who believe in such things, are intangible and faith-based.
Lots of things on my mind, and I'm probably gonna ramble a bit, so bear with me.
I was watching Dr.Oz yesterday morning, listening to him talk about various ways to live healthier and live longer, stuff like (loosely paraphrased) "If person A will take supplement B instead of eating item C, they'll increase their life expectancy by X number of years." My immediate thought is "What if person A, on their way to the pharmacy or health food store to purchase supplement B, gets run over by the C-train?" It seems like so much of our life here, whether directly or indirectly, revolves around delaying the inevitable. Sometimes we almost treat the inevitable as an unmentionable.
I'm not saying it's wrong by any means. I try to take care of myself, too. I've taken prescription meds for an arrhythmia since I was 20, so I raise my hand as being guilty of postponing the inevitable. I take a handful of supplements every morning, from a multi-vitamen, to fish oil, to sublingual B-12. I lift weights for about an hour a day, sucking down protein shakes in the 30 minute window after the workout. Part of my motivation is to simply feel physically better, part of it is to be sure that if any of the nutjobs I write about were to ever come looking for me they'll have a good tussle waiting for them, and part of it is the human desire to delay the inevitable, even if I might be more nonplussed about it than some. We're ALL human. I do have to say, though, that the last few years have changed a lot of my priorities, and changed a lot of the ways I look at life here on earth.
Spring of last year, a few months before beginning this blog, and right after my ex married another man, some new health issues arose for me. Prior to this, my health, at least insofar as my weight, had been gradually, very gradually, coming back. Her new marriage allowed me to start grieving, as much as the situation allowed me to grieve, anyway. With the added stress, a new arrhythmia flared up, which sent me to the ER at about 3AM one morning. The doc there prescribed a new agent for the arrhythmia, which seems to have worked like a champ so far, but suggested I follow up with my regular doctor. I was suffering from pretty deep depression at this time, and all of the stress of the previous two years was looked at as the chief contributor to both the depression (obviously so) and the heart issue.
My regular practitioner is a female. This has its advantages - they listen to their patients better than male medical professionals. I usually only go to the doctor once every six months just to stay on top of my meds and get new prescriptions, and usually only subject myself to a complete physical every 3 or 4 years (I know, medical people, shame on me). With the recent ER visit, my doc wanted to look a little more closely at me. When I mentioned the "stress" factor, she wanted to know some of the details behind the stress. Sorta chuckling at what she was opening the door to, I asked her "How long do you have?" Her morning was a pretty light one, so I spent an hour giving her the outline of the previous couple of years. She spent most of that hour in shock, I do believe, eyes fixed, mouth agape, with an occasional "Are you serious?" She prescribed an anti-depressant which I took for a couple of months. Not sure that it did anything for the depression, as life is still life and we have to deal with it, but at least it did seem to help me sleep a little better - which helped in the "dealing with life" part, being I was hardly sleeping at all before I started taking it.
She asked the obvious questions, "Are you suicidal, or have you had suicidal thoughts?" My response was as direct and honest as everything I write here, "No, but if I were to look up and see a boulder falling out of the sky and headed straight for me, I may not be all that quick to move." That's kinda where I was at the time. Not suicidal at all, but also realizing the human vanities that make up so much of the fragile life on this earth, and not feeling particularly partial toward them. My view of life had shifted pretty dramatically based on what I'd lived through, as had my view of my faith and all things related to it. Both are ever-evolving. I'm fine with that.
Life has to be more than vanity. I want mine to mean something.
(For those curious, I'm doing well physically now, up to 250 pounds, and like I said, working out daily. A few areas still fluffy where I'd prefer them solid, but that's why I'm lifting everyday.)
That brings me to some thoughts about faith and our handling of the bible that I had yesterday, amongst a day full of introspection.
If we, who profess to be of the Christian faith, genuinely believe the overall theme and message of the books of the bible, and believe in an eternity spent with God, why do we focus so much of biblical teaching and context on the here and now, when, the older I get, most of the bible seems to deal with eternal things, eternal concepts, eternal rewards? Our lives here, in time-span, would be a grain of sand within the confines of the house I sit in to type this...really, a grain of sand within the confines of all known creation. But...this grain of sand is where we put all of our focus, and I can't help but see that as unhealthy religion, and various religious addictions, rather than a life lived from genuine faith. A grain of sand within all of creation should be enough to make someone seriously, seriously, scrutinize their views on eternity, eternal peace and eternal torment, because I honestly don't think our views on those things say as much about us as they do about the God we claim to worship. A little context goes a long way.
I gave a lot of thought to these things yesterday, and spent some time talking with family about some of these things. I came away even more resolute in my belief that loving God and loving our neighbor IS the here and now. Being honest in our dealings, doing right by others even when it isn't to our own temporal benefit, caring for the downtrodden, the outcast, the wounded, binding up his or her wounds, celebrating with those who celebrate, weeping with those who weep, befriending the friendless, seeking truth in all things. These are the things Christ taught. These are the things Christ lived. Doing these things without the expectation of an earthly reward for them, but rather because the Holy Spirit within us tells us these things are right, because the bruising of their hearts and lives bruises ours. These are the things in our lives that will pass through the fire. And, these are the areas where the natural supply and demand of life in the here and now begs our attention.
Do you think God cares how "submissive" you are to your husband if you, say, believe the people of New Orleans deserved Hurricane Katrina because of their "godlessness"? Do you think God cares how "submissive" you are to a church authority structure if you have no regard for the Japanese people in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami because of their "godlessness"? When the "practice" of our religious rules and the fix of our religious addictions become more valuable than humanity, there's a serious problem.
Love God. Love each other. That second part means loving even those who don't engage in the first part.
All the rest - the religious rules, the "appearances of evil", the "Christianity", is just human vanity, and frankly, it needs a boulder to fall out of the sky and put it out of its misery.