For some days now we’ve been watching the breaking, and heart-breaking news coming from Japan. The natural and unnatural hazards are devastating in scale. To face these calamities will demand huge amounts of resolve and kindness from the world. Will our world rise to it?
Oddly enough, I’m reminded of a November walk on the marsh, full of fog, burnished grasses, and signs of the high season of life coming to an end. It was a great day to be out in the open with birds calling and the tide rising.
But when I examine my journal from that day, it seems it could have been written yesterday. In full juxtaposition to the teeming life around me, my mind turned to its end. I thought of those around me not well: relatives and friends with dementia; neighbors close to death from cancer; uncountable others who face all forms of hardship all over the planet. These were not comforting thoughts under any sky. But try to push them away, and back they come. On one volley, this phrase lodges: Up to Infirmity.
Our culture so prizes youth, careers, independence, self-sufficiency. We may slog to work, but underneath we are glad to be able to do so. Those in mid-life with mid-size families may collapse into tea time at the ends of busy days, but they know “this too shall pass,” and if wise, they’ll brew up a cup and embrace the moment and the strength to do whatever the day demands.
But what if the way to forward involves a path of suffering? Think of the times we use that phrase, “She’s going downhill fast.” What if the real visual of those journeys was of the person going uphill? After all, we also say, “It’s an uphill battle.” What if arriving at “up” wears the costume of infirmity, lowliness, hurt, and grief?
Such questions are very hard for my small mind. It’s all I can do some days to form them, never mind derive answers. These unsettling thoughts challenge me to think about and pray for those whom I know near the end of life, and now thousands on an island half a world away. Could these present hardships serve as any kind of road to peace we can’t see? It’s hard to believe.
With each step on my dog-driven marsh walks, I realize the need to move me from the immediacy of my self to a place of clearer perspective. Regrettably, this usually takes the full 40 minutes through scrub forest, over the footbridge and to the big field. The usual breeze we find there blows within my mind as well as without, clearing the board. Everything, for a moment, is made new.
The day of this walk was All Saints Day 2010; the veil felt thin, and I wondered: how will our Final Exam go? Will we hand over love for the Great Love? Have we already heard the exam questions, and are they, “Who do you say that I am?” or “What do you want me to do for you?”
Is the final admonishment: “Believe”?