Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Meaning Necessary For a Full Life

No life is uneventful. There are mountains, rivers swamps, and roads with thorns. The same is true in the spiritual life and they should be a help in our growth towards spiritual maturity. A priest writes on this topic in his column 'About Everything' in the Peace Weekly.

An old couple came to see the priest. The wife said that her husband was depressed and irritated which made it difficult not only on himself but all those around him and came looking for help. The husband who was reluctantly dragged along showed this on his face. It wasn't a big deal, he said, and was sorry for disturbing the priest but then confessed what was bothering him.

"Father, I lost my ability to laugh these days. I had a prostate cancer procedure four years ago and all went well, but I'm worried because the PSA (prostate cancer tumor marker) has not returned to normal. The surgeon said that prostate cancer even if you leave it alone, you can live for another 10 to 20 years. If I die in the meantime, I won't die from this disease, but from another disease, so there's no reason to be nervous. But I am so depressed now. No matter how beautiful the landscape, I can't feel any pleasure in thinking that 'the mountains and vegetation will be around, but I will be leaving this world soon. So I've been exercising at the gym for 4-5 hours these days, but the depression doesn't go away. I even go to a club where the elderly gather and dance, but to no avail. I've lived a good life and raised all my children, and now I am in a position to enjoy life and instead I am filled with resentment... I don't want to live like this. I have lived for 70 years; I have lived long enough."

Obsession and attachment to life is our nature. Is our brother the only one that feels this way? How will my life change if I get a diagnosis from my doctor that I have a few months or weeks to live? Can you feel grateful for the time you have and prepare for death? Or will you live in pain and helplessness, overcome with fear for the short life? Like the example given we are not going to die right now, but foreseeing death does it depress us? Where does the power to live a happy life with the knowledge of our death come from?

We know anxiety about death can be overcome with the meaning we give to life. But not many people can say with confidence what their lives mean. But anyone can say with confidence, at least that they have managed a household, had children, nurtured them, and have done there best to earn a living. Our brother mentioned above has lived this life as well but its meaning eluded him. However, the meaning of a life worth living was not felt. It is not a big contribution to the world of service and love for others.

The meaning of life is not as great as one would think. The very act of joyful and grateful living in God day by day in doing what we do small as it may be with great love alone is of great significance to the believer. Sister Mother Teresa once said: "We cannot all do great things but we can do small things with great love." The meaning of her life was a life of doing small things which in human terms meant little but in God's view of great meaning.

I wonder if our brother who has lived with God can recover some of the joys of daily life if he can find the meaning of ordinary love in his life. Perhaps in the face of death, we need to feel that the feelings of anxiety and depression are spiritual messages from God to live lovingly the rest of our days.

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