Friday, November 20, 2009

Things That Happen to Us That We Do Not Ask For

NOTE: None of the disasters mentioned below happened recently, or to anyone I love, but did happen to people I know.

You can be living a righteous life and then - bam - everything changes utterly for the worse.

You can be kind and reverent, and then all the ugliness of some one's dark nightmare can come to rest at your doorstep.

You can be minding your p's and q's, your own business, and the store and then an intrusion of unimaginable dimensions intrudes.

You can be standing on the bridge over the Mississippi bottomlands in the hours before midnight on New Year's Eve, your wife and children in the car behind you, the headlights shining, having gotten out of the car to be a Good Samaritan to the car that just pulled off the road, in distress, and then you can find yourself pitched off the bridge when a car rams your car, the one with your wife and kids in it, and that is the last thing you know, because you are off the bridge, falling to your death. If you had survived, you would know that your family is as fine as they could be seeing you pushed over the guardrail by the front of the car, illuminated by the headlights, that they would all be traumatized and desperately sad, but that they would survive, and in time, thrive.

You can be driving you brand new van, towing a trailer full of your worldly goods, while you wife and baby daughter wait for you at home, and a car whose driving is fleeing police can hit your van and send you cartwheeling and jack-knifing down the highway, slamming into traffic, into concrete medians, into metal guardrails, into unconsciousness, thinking oh no I cannot die, I have a wife and baby daughter.

You can be doing everything, everything exactly right, living as your god, exactly as your god, wants you to live, and then life happens.

Why does it matter what we do? My father once said to me that if you don't believe in heaven and hell, then none of it [life] makes any sense. I have come to believe that what he meant was not that being a good person only made sense if there was a heavenly reward, but that he dearly longs to see his mother again, who died (he was a perfectly ordinary and perfectly good child of 3) from a simple infection following a 1931 brain surgery.

It matters what we do, because of love. Because of that love that takes us by surprise, that washes over us and swells our hearts. That love that wets our eyes when we watch our beloved walking toward us in a perfectly ordinary way, but the breeze catches her hair a little bit, a puff of air, the breath of some god perhaps, reminding us we are dust, she is dust, all we see is dust. So fragile, so vulnerable, so majestic and fine, this world, this eternity constructed of dust.

Because of the love that fills our chests when we see the country's flag illuminated in the night, when we see a mass of diverse humanity gathered in Mecca to pray together in the name of love, when we see an individual fishing food from a dumpster, when we touch the soft, nickle-plated surface of the doorknob that our grandfather touched, he who died before we were born.

It matters what we do because of the love that comes on us from somewhere else, unbidden. Perhaps we cannot know why people suffer, people who are good and kind, because there is no reason, or because our existence is too short for us to see a big enough picture. But what I do know is that when I act out of love I feel clarity, entrainment, serenity.

Love. Devotion. Surrender. Act out of love. Do it devotedly. Surrender to the consequences.


twinsetellen said...

Ah. My eyes are wet.

MarkN said...

Wow, my friend. Essentially the book of Job, which reminds me to keep the faith no matter what, because life will not necessarily make sense. Love and good thoughts to you always...