This is the final test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him.Mom isn't really with us. She's here, but she isn't. She keeps calling Wolfgang "Jack". That's maybe something that any elderly person might do - remembering things long past more vividly than the events of the current day. But last night she told me that she's really like it if I had kids, because she wanted grand children. The kids were shocked, not having known just what Grandma's condition had become. I sort of knew, but hadn't dreamed it would have deteriorated so much in five months.
- William Lyon Phelps
I look on this as a meditation. It's not a test, sent to proof my faith (easily done, sad to say); rather, it's a lesson that can maybe lead me to a better understanding of the Great Questions: what is it fully to be Human? What is it to be happy? What is it to lead - and to leave - a Good Life?
Worthy questions. Questions where glib answers dissolve in the face of Life Speaking In Its Outdoors Voice. Questions that quite frankly have eluded me. I like to think of myself as decently smart, but boy, howdy - this is is distilled, 100 proof Life. If you can handle it. Quite frankly, I'm not so sure I'm handling it at all well.
The Great Questions have hard answers. Which is strange, because the answers are laid out before us:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.We typically see this quote presented to newlyweds, as advice on their coming life together. That's not a bad thing, but the quote's power is perhaps greater in other contexts. People are wired so that this advice really isn't needed regarding their small children: people naturally answer "Sparrow" over and over and over, because they know that their children's minds are a special place, different from ours.
- 1 Corinthians 13
This is a meditation for me, as I pass the day with Mom. It's not a burden if I mind the meditation which hints at answers to the Great Questions. In a way, it makes it easier when I answer the same question over and over.
With Dad, everything was clear. The cancer burned his body out from the inside, but his mind was sharp, right up to the end. He was him, even when there was almost nothing left. It looks to be the reverse with Mom - she seems to be physically in quite good health, it's just that she fades in and out. It's more complicated because while I see what answers to the Great Questions have been given, I do not see.
That time of year thou mayst in me beholdThe greatest minds, the deepest thinkers, the most subtle spirits of Civilization have grappled with these questions. They've left their thoughts for me, as a guide on my own journey. And I find that I have (mostly) not paid attention.
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
- Shakespeare, Sonnet 73
The Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the Earth and men do not see it.Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I have been prideful and have trusted to my intellect where I should have listened and learned wisdom. That's a hard lesson that I've come to more than once in these last few years, belying all pretense of being "smart". Mom could tell you that I was always a bit of a slow child, if you catch her in the morning. She's better then.
- The Gospel of Thomas
And so I find myself doing what each generation has done. I'm doing what needs doing.
The circle is closing back upon itself, and will some day be complete. I see in that closing what may be my own future, and a nasty thought that is. If I'm lucky, I'll be the Sparrow. If not, I'll remark on the sparrow.
There's a reason that they're called the Great Questions. If they were easy, they wouldn't be Great. The greatest minds, the deepest thinkers, the most subtle spirits of Civilization have grappled with these questions. They've left their thoughts for me, as a guide on my own journey.