As I was driving to work the other day I got thinking about life and death and the fact that life is REALLY very fleeting and death can sneak up on us - OR, in the case of those people who die after a "long struggle with cancer" (or some other disease), death can chase you for a long time. I suppose we've all wondered how we'd react if we got the news from our doctor that we had so many weeks or months to live. What would we do differently? How would we prepare ourselves and our friends and family for life without us?
I remember a family vacation we took to Florida when the kids were young - we had a GREAT time but when it was time to come home - back to our regular life - I remember thinking with some amazement that after we leave, all of the activity and wonder of Disney would continue - with a constant shifting of faces and families, Disney WORLD would go on. Maybe it's the same way with death. But what I really want to talk about in this blog is FEAR.
Fear can be a great motivator but it can also be a great inhibitor. Fear of failure drives many people to invest their time and energy into all kinds of things. But fear is complex. It can also prompt people to scurry out of the way of trouble or to avoid situations that might be dangerous, physically or emotionally. Knowing that we can be paralyzed by fear, sometimes we spend our whole lives avoiding situations that might bring the coward in us to the surface.
It bugs me that I'm not a risk taker. I'm cautious. "Err on the side of caution" could be my motto. Why is that, I wonder, and what could I or should I do about it? It seems absurd to think that one option would be to look for risks and throw myself at them. That IS absurd, right? So then I got thinking about all this in the context of the global issues I've been learning and writing about. And it occurs to me that one of the "advantages" of living in THIS part of the world, is that we have all kinds of ways of disguising and hiding from our basic fears. Our affluence can buy us some distance and time from our fears, but - and here's the rub- it can't remove them. They don't go away and every now and then they remind us that we are, in fact, vulnerable and weak.
Think about it. If I lived in some part of the world where simple survival required all or most of my energy - having enough food to eat and enough water to drink and a roof over my head that can withstand even normal weather conditions - in those conditions it seems to me that I'd be pretty well acquainted with my most basic fears. And, maybe I'd learn to deal with fear - to face it head on, rather than hiding from it. Again, not to romanticize the plight of the poor, but just to dig a little deeper...
The decisions I make today - how I think, how I react to the circumstances of my life, how I spend my time, my inner thoughts - all of it, is the result of every day of my life up until today. I am the person I am today because of the decisions and choices I've made in the past. Who I'm becoming is what lies ahead. Ten years from now (if I should live that long!) I'd like to be able to look back and see that I have not spent my time and energy avoiding my fears. Rather, as I look forward to looking back, I hope that I will see that I have lived more courageously in the face of them.
Well - my thoughts are going in a hundred directions as I think about the day ahead. I know that it's all too easy to slip back into old habits - to cruise through life taking the easy path - that very attractive path of least resistance. But seriously, I don't like where that path will take me, so here and now I commit myself to a more intentional life that DOESN'T see erring on the side of caution as the ultimate virtue. I commit to simplicity, generosity, hospitality and justice, wherever they may lead me...