Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lonely, but never alone...

The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.

Firefly was a good TV show.  I am not sure why Fox ever cancelled it, but it appeared to have everything in a show I like, and many things I don’t.  What I especially liked about the show was the pilot of the ship named “Wash”.  I could identify with this guy.  He married an awesome woman, like I did, he had a great sense of humor that was sarcastic but not sardonic - just like me, and when it came time for them to make a movie of the show called “Serenity”, he ends up dying by taking a spear to the chest after saving everyone on board.

Exactly how I want to go.

But I digress; I remember one episode called “Out of Gas”.  In it the Ship runs out of…well, whatever it’s powered on and something breaks and yadda yadda yadda plus some scary stuff and they decide to send 2 groups of people out in 2 separate small shuttles to get help and the captain – named Mal – decides to stay behind in case someone answers the distress beacon they setup there.

It’s in this event a line is uttered that will forever be burned in my psyche as truly remarkable and troubling at the same time.  One of the passengers who cares for the captain comes up to him and they have a small exchange of words that goes as follows:

Inara: Mal, you don't have to die alone. 
Mal: Everybody dies alone.

It didn’t dawn on me that whether you were lost at sea with hundreds of people, taken out by a bomb from a plane or in a car full of clowns in an accident, the death you have is singular to you.  You don’t leave this world holding hands with anyone.  The sum of whatever existence you have at the time of your passing ends with the last breathe that leaves and another one refuses to come back in.  No more are you given the opportunity to love your spouse or teach your children or pet your dog.

How cruel.  The reasons for it are explainable, but not in this post.

In 100 years those who would have known of your death or of you will all be gone as well.  I don’t remember my Great, Great Grand Parents.  Their existence had an affect on my life because without them, there would have been no me, but they are strangers to me.

How cruel is death that it is allowed not only a severance of all things we care about but it carries us into an oblivion and eternity that isn’t well documented or easily understood.  And you must go alone.  Christians tell they are unafraid of death.  Death shouldn’t have a fear attached to it.  Everyone, at some point, dies.

But you must do so alone.  My Grandfather was placed in Hospice.  He died alone.  We couldn’t take the journey with him.

Job is one of my favorite books of the Bible.  I don’t know why, most likely because it is a book that I can identify with the reality of. Job lost it all.  And his reaction to his friends is he wanted to be left alone.

I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.
Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little,
Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death;
A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.

I get it Job.  Everyone dies alone.  How can any comfort come from such despair and that reality?  I find none in his statement.

Lately, I have been studying Paul.  Paul was able to see something that few others can claim they had.  If we believe Paul’s account and I have no reason to doubt it – since SOMETHING must have changed a murdering zealot into a convert of the men, women and children he was killing – then we have the example of being completely alone.

Before the end of his life he writes “Only Luke is with me.” And “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me”.

No matter what people say right now, it is not as unpopular now to be a Christian as it was back then.  People fled Paul in some instances for their safety.  Anyone who identified that they were a Christian and visited Paul was arrested and murdered by Emperor Nero.  He was not a nice fellow.

Something drove Paul that made him reject the same despair that enveloped Job.   He explains in the same chapter when expressing his state of being as a single resister in an army of one.  “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me”.
Seriously?  Maybe Paul was delusional over the years of imprisonment.  Maybe he finally succumbed to some madness that didn’t affect his writings or his brain for prose, but brought upon some type of psychosomatic belief that he was not by himself when he was writing.

Forgive that logic but that does not add up to me.

Composers Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Chopin had great bouts of depression as most incredible artists do.  It seems bi-polar is a contributing factor to a mark of a genius.

Pearl Buck said “The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.”

But Paul, he writes “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  Content with being alone?  Honestly? 

I know what you are thinking.  I like “me” time.  It’s nice and quiet and allows for thoughts to dwell on peaceful things or solutions to problems or meditate on some great truth or love of this life.  I agree, as long as I can come back to some type of community.

No, Paul must have had a deeper experience and connection to someone that exceeded his physical prison, his poor health, and his upcoming execution.  Digging into his statement I found “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

There it was.  Paul was recounting this one moment in time when this most important relationship, the only one that would have kept him sane, would ground him to the reality that was his ultimate destiny.  And with that he would never be alone.  Even in facing death Paul says “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

 As human beings we change the same sentence by filling in the most crucial part of the sentence with something else. “For to me to live is ______, and to die is gain.”  Is that a career, or a family, or a product or service that we fill in the blank with?  There is only one right answer.  All other answers do not make death a gaining experience.

With Christ.  Sometimes lonely, but never Alone.