Life is the coming and going, the laughing and crying, the hellos and goodbyes. Life is the embrace of everything, the living and learning to let go of the nothing in the living and the dying. On the other hand, death is the black hole-absence of everything that would take everything life gives…were it not for the Man from Galilee. In fact, it would be completely powerless if not for our fear of it. Courage is the embrace of life our fears, controlled by death, refuse to face.
When I think of the prayer I was taught to pray as a child, I realize it should have been Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I should wake before I die, we’ll be as one…the Lord & I.
As the dependent child we rely on our parents for all our nourishment needs, including spiritual. As dependent adults we continue to rely on outside stimulus, sinking further and further away from ourselves in the constant pursuit of happiness…and distraction. Or is it the distraction that brings us happiness? It’s hard to imagine sinking and climbing to the top of Mt. Everest at once, but it is entirely possible to have it all… apart from ourselves. In fact, it’s what most of us live to do. Please don’t get me wrong. Living to squeeze all the juice out of life doesn’t make us bad people. In fact, it’s a noble mind that reasons the best use of God’s greatest gift is living it to the fullest. The problem for dependent adults, quite ironically, is that in living our lives to the fullest without virtue we become full of ourselves. We become Narcissus on the road to shame Bishop Sheen warns us of…and worse.
If I were to tell you the secret is to practice dying, you would think I’ve lost my mind. But I would tell you that for you to think this way is the crazy mind. For all one has to do is look around to see the world that men so clearly out of practice have created for themselves. Look no further than the out-of-shape flabbiness waddling the corridors of the world’s central banks, where they realized long ago, unfortunately for the rest of mankind, there’s no profit in virtue. And before you get too comfortable pointing that finger, you and I were right there in the conga line behind them! It is so true what they say about it being much easier to get out of shape…
The fact of the matter is that doing the virtuous tango is a very lonely dance today, which is exactly why it is so very, very good for you! Talk about playing to an empty room; self-less action here in the pay-to-play capital of the world New York is the greatest place to practice the art of dying that I can think of…which I’ve gotten pretty good at as a Conservative singer-songwriter.
This is the ultimate message spoken to me where I came to listen here on this beautiful but lonesome mountaintop outside Douglas Wyoming. I felt the embrace of our ancestors and the spirit of “Speed” Stagner, very much alive in his great grandson Ted. I heard them at night, on the wind through the pines. “Who do we listen to in these precious few days?” they ask. A fair question to raise, given our circumstances. “Do they speak for life, or do they speak for death?” They speak for both as the parent of both. One and the same; they are midwife and undertaker on the very same day.
“How will you know them?” they ask. I will know them by the want in their approach and in the tone of their appeal for what I have to give. I will know them in my heart.
“And what do they ask of you?” they ask. They ask the impossible; for death frightens us to stay, while life would ready us to leave.
“How will you answer them?” they ask.
“I have nothing to give them.” was my reply. The whisper on the wind is for my ears alone. The water from this well is for my own unique thirst. The grain from this harvest is for my own family. While my time on this earth is for these things and my friends, to whom I should hope to leave more than I came with. Their own days, hours and minutes, must be theirs alone to account for in the end.