overcoming average(?)

because it’s something the world just needs less of

tough subject for me

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heath ledger died today.

so it goes.

i haven’t written for a while. i have written anything substantial in much longer. and i don’t want you to think that an actor’s apparent suicide was the inspiration for this. it was more like the last straw i guess. i’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. correction: i’ve been trying not to think about death a lot lately. depressing, right? death isn’t a usual factor in what i write. “life is the for the living,” “live and let die,” etc. i think death has been on my mind a lot for a couple reasons. i realized recently that i’m turning 25 in a few months, and i know that 25 is not old, but the fact that i will be forever closer to 30 than 20 is taking some getting used to. i’m not insulting anyone over 25, i’d just never really thought about it before. and the way my mind thinks in slippery slopes, i immediately come face to face with my own mortality. also, and probably more importantly, i’ve been reading “searching for God knows what” by donald miller since christmas. it’s been slow going getting through that book. it’s not that it’s long or that i haven’t had time to read it, it’s that i find myself almost avoiding it sometimes. it’s a really great book, but i found myself reading simple phrases in the book about what it’s going to be like in heaven, phrases that may have been put in as an afterthought, and that gets my mind reading so deep into the ramifications of those words that i find myself getting sick to my stomach at the incomprehensibility of it all. not that i’m some great thinker or something, but that my mind can’t handle it for more than a brief moment. when it happens i immediately have to put the book down and stare at a spot on the wall for a couple seconds, then i can start reading again until the next afterthought of the author becomes all i can think about. so that’s why it’s taking me so long to get through this book. it happens other times too. it happens almost every sunday at church when matt’s speaking. it happens kind of randomly throughout the day too. at least i’m not depressed about it. and the sound you just heard was me knocking on wood.

this isn’t the first time this has happened to me, nor is it the worst state i’ve been in about this issue. not too many people know this, but for about 6 months during my senior year in high school, i was kind of an insomniac. i’d go to bed, lay there wide awake for a while, go in and out of sleep for a few hours, and wake up about two hours before my alarm was supposed to go off. every night for about six months this would happen. as far as insomnia’s concerned this is a light case at best, but it still affected me. i don’t know what caused it and i don’t know what happened that i could finally get more than 3 or 4 hours of sleep in a night, but i know that one of the things that i would think about almost constantly was death and eternity. eternity and heaven are the same thing and i know that, but then and even now i can’t seem to make the connection real to my head. back then, i made the realization that i was thinking of eternity in relation to the passing of time and that God and heaven exist outside of time, but of course God is God and can be anywhere and any-when. i heard time and eternity compared to a parade on the street. a parade has a beginning and an end and if you’re sitting on the street stuck in one place you see the parade in chronological order, like how people see time from the beginning of their life to the end of it. if you go up to the roof of a tall building though, you can see the whole parade without waiting for it to pass by, like how God can see (and be) in the whole expanse of time. that was kind of a breakthrough for me. and now that i’m thinking about it, maybe that was what finally let me sleep. between then and now, i’ve rarely thought about death. i know part of that is that i’ve almost trained myself not to because i don’t want semi-insomnia to set in, but i think part of it is because of that little breakthrough.

i should probably explain the “so it goes” comment above. it wasn’t meant to be unsympathetic, i promise. it’s an immense tragedy when anyone dies at the age of 28, more so for those with children. for those unfamiliar with the book “slaughterhouse five,” it’s what a race of aliens say when a person dies. don’t let that sentence turn you off to reading the book. in the story, a guy named billy pilgrim gets abducted by aliens who don’t live through time the way humans do. with that parade analogy, instead of being stuck in one place watching the parade go by, they (and billy) go instantly and randomly from one point in the parade to another; end to the beginning to the middle to three quarters back to one third of the way back, ad infinitum. if you saw time that way, the idea of death being the end of anything wouldn’t matter. the next thing you’d see would be you at maybe your high school prom or with your grandchild on your lap. hence the somewhat uncaring phrase of “so it goes.” this reality doesn’t work if you believe in an afterlife, by the way. kurt vonnegut, the author of that book, was a secular humanist and didn’t believe in one. maybe he thought in those terms to ease his mind about his own mortality. i’ll never know. but i know that what i learned is that it’s definitely easier to shrug off death with a “so it goes” than to think about the ramifications of how a person lived their life and what that might mean for the hereafter. i’d rather do neither.

to be clear, i know that when i die i’m going to be with God and that i’ll finally know what it’s like to truly be in community with the creator. that doesn’t mean i’m exempt from being scared of dying. i know this system. i know how time works: it goes in chronological order. i’m afraid of the unknown just like any other human. heaven or hell, eternity is a pretty frightening concept. and it’s not like you can get information about the act of dying passed down from the generation before. it’s not like i can take on a fear of eternity like a fear of heights. i can’t go to the top of the building and live to tell about it so to speak. i don’t know what breakthrough i might need to get over this fear. i know i can’t ignore my mortality though. and i know i need to face my fear head on. i guess i just don’t know how to do that yet

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Written by matt

January 23, 2008 at 12:16 am

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