Saturday, May 14, 2005

One thing that always struck me about historical research was just how miserable the lives of those living in the past were by our standards while they were joyous to be living them.

Take the Sun King of France. His murals aren't to my taste, my air conditioning works better than his, my bed has fewer bedbugs and lice (seriously, in some parts of the United States bedbug powder was still selling strong in the 1950s) and the food I eat is more varied, fresh and healthy than the food he ate. My car goes faster than any thing he rode in, and more smoothly, my teeth are in far better shape. It is as if we live in different realities, not just different times, yet he rejoiced to be born, not to mention we have the writings of those in far more humble circumstances who relished life and the experiences they had.

It always amazed me that people rejoiced to be born, leaving the presence of God. But from the outside perspective, life in and of itself is a valuable thing, the duration is short, and the experience is like an extreme camping trip, even for the most privileged -- and not measurably different from an eternal perspective for the worst.

In my own pain, the one thing that struck me about the terrible things that happened as I buried child after child from different causes is that my loss was not unique or unusual, only out of context for the community I lived in. That in the historical context, I was luckier than most, if not all.

It also struck me that better men than I had faced pain and complained to God about it, but that living in a fallen world, as an experience, involves living in a fallen world. That means pain without consolation in this world.

Not that the pain is not real when experienced (that is one thing I like about both Paul and Joseph Smith, both acknowledge that pain is pain and suffering is grevious when it occurs), but it is also experience and that the promise of God is not that it will pay off in this life (that is just another riff on the theme that if we worship God he will give us Mammon) but that it will be swallowed up and balanced in the next.

But, that which does not kill me merely does not kill me. Not necessarily stronger or weaker, not necessarily more or less alive. Those are my choices in how I react, combined with time and effort. And life will eventually kill me, but that is not the point. The point is that Christ can welcome me home and heal me of all my wounds, not that I will not be wounded by life.

So I live for my wife and children and with the hope of Christ. May that hope be also with you.

5 comments:

Stephen said...

This is a variation on a response I wrote to a post at:

http://www.trap.blogspot.com/

"that which doesn't kill me" does not make me stronger, it merely does not kill me.

lchan said...

The point is that Christ can welcome me home and heal me of all my wounds, not that I will not be wounded by life.

Stephen,
That is really beautiful. I have always thought that the one thing that I could not handle, the thing that would crack me open, would be to lose a child.

I don't know how you go on after something like that, except that there aren't a lot of alternatives. You get through it because you have to, I suppose. And, I would guess that you don't get through it intact. But I can't even pretend to understand it.

Pain without consolation is hard to comprehend. I think we all want a reason, a lesson, a reward. It's hard when things simply are what they are.

I feel like my words are inadequate, but I was very touched by this post.

Mormanity said...

Thanks for this post!

FYI, I've added Ethesis to my list of blogs I like over at Mormanity. Keep up the good work.

annegb said...

Hi Stephen,

I don't think I am stronger, I pretty much just survived for a long time.

There is a quote from Camus, though, "In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer." That's not exact, I never get it quite right, but you get the gist.

I sort of resented that in myself for a long time, when I just wanted to quit, to give up. But yeah, I often think the same thing when I hear that "that which doesn't kill me" quote.

Stephen said...

In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. --Albert Camus. Actuelles [January 6, 1960]

http://www.swuuc.org/fjuuc/Sermons/winter.htm