Monday, March 20, 2006

snowy, rainy monday morning: the first day of spring...for alan

Today, for the first time ever, I was chastised for not updating my blog more often. Granted, it was my children's father who did the chastising and I am sure he did it more because he desired a reason to chastise me than that he so missed reading my ramblings, but it was all the prompting I needed. Trust me, I was already chastising myself plenty for not writing sooner.

You see, it’s not so much that I haven’t written anything, I just haven’t made it a point to write it here. Just this morning I was driven to ranting after receiving a well-intended e-mail forward. Meant simply to remind us to not blow our tops when faced with life’s little frustrations, the content of this message instead set me on the path of exploring the deeper meanings of what it means to be alive and believe in god.

This e-mail was simply titled “Divinity,” and here is how it read:

As you might know, the head of a company survived 9/11 because his son started kindergarten.

Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike because of an auto accident.

One of them missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.

One's car wouldn't start.

One went back to answer the telephone.

One had a child that dawdled and didn't get ready as soon as he should have.

One couldn't get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning, took the various means to get to work, but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.

Now when I am stuck in traffic, miss an elevator, turn back to answer a ringing telephone…all the little things that annoy me...I think to myself: this is exactly where Divinity wants me to be at this very moment!

Next time your morning seems to be going wrong, the children are slow getting dressed, you can't seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light... don't get mad or frustrated;
Divinity is at work watching over you.

May Divinity continue to bless you with all those annoying little things and may you remember their possible purpose.

And this was my response:

While this is a lovely sentiment and I appreciate you sending it on, it feels to me like a good opportunity to explore the idea of divinity, however you choose to define *what* is *divine.*

If we believe that it is true that some divine force intervened the morning of 9/11 to save a handful of ordinary folk by fairly pedantic means then what does that suggest divinity had up its sleeve for the thousands of other folks that morning who were consumed by flames, crushed under tons of fallen high rise infrastructure, or had to choose between one of those possible fates or leaping 100 stories to their inevitable doom on the concrete below? Were the people that died the sinners? Were the people that were saved some sort of saints pre-ordained to continue to walk their days on planet earth doing good unto others? Was there a karmic drama unfolding that morning in which those who had somehow done "right" in this lifetime or the previous being rewarded for their good behavior, while those who had erred were forced to face the consequence on this spin around the globe?

Personally, I think not. The idea that some divine force will step in mysteriously just at the critical moment to take care of you when you least expect it can be comforting, but it is false, and it is unfair to the rest of the world that is left suffering staggering losses at the hands of war, crime, disease, natural disaster, accident, or intention because what does that tell THEM about the nature of the divine? It is also a strictly western notion based in the concept of duality: there is good and there is bad; there is right and there is wrong; there is light and there is dark, and so on.

If I choose to believe that there is some divine will gently guiding the hand of how each day unfolds for me and the rest of the planet, and I do make the choice to believe that, then I find myself in the position of wanting to believe that everything that happens, however "good" or "bad" is all meant to be in the universal scheme of things. In those moments when I am stuck in traffic or nursing a blister or wrestling with a struggling child hell-bent on wrecking my schedule for the day I find greater peace in knowing that whether that minor incident somehow kept me from a derailing train or massive car accident or act of terror or was precisely the thing that put me in harm’s way that that is simply the tune of my life at that moment. I might hear it as a good song, and you might think that the melody of my day is depressing or boring or poorly played. It is subjective. All of our experiences are subjective; it is we who apply judgment to each experience and interpret it as a "good" experience or a "bad" experience.

And while I also think that it is nearly impossible to escape the pattern of judging and interpreting our experiences so subjectively, I have found that I have greater compassion for myself and others by accepting that we are all, every minute precisely where we need to be whether that means we are suffering from cancer, enjoying successful relationships, dying in car crashes, purchasing our dream home, burning down rainforests, feeding the poor, voting for Bush, or wiping the brow of a child sick with AIDS. That does not mean that my goal in this lifetime is not to ease suffering whenever possible, to work for justice and human rights and animal rights, and it certainly does not mean that I do not get angry when I see others taking actions that I think are harmful and that I do not feel pain when I suffer a loss and that I do not get frustrated when my life feels like it is going nowhere. It simply means that when I have the clarity of mind to take an emotional step back and review my life and life in general that I work very hard at being fine with what I see. It is a tool that has served me well in being able to continue to live and to thrive despite the suffering others and I experience.

So this morning while I am awake too early feeling the discomfort of my body's struggle to breathe through asthmatic bronchioles and to fight off an ongoing viral infection not knowing how to pay my bills this week and dreading the bounced check fees, I am surrounded by delightful beauty as the hazy, early spring sunlight makes its way over the mountain ridge to the east and my gorgeous sons sleep contentedly dreaming of the basket of goodies the imaginary bunny has delivered for them to celebrate the vernal equinox on this day. I am grateful for my bounty of love and life and land as tenuous as it sometimes seems, and I am trying to be grateful for whatever purpose it serves to be physically ill so often and constantly working to make sure there are enough dollars in the bank to meet all the required expenditures. And I am grateful that some lives were spared the morning of 9/11 and trying to be grateful that sometimes lives are taken from us unexpectedly and unpleasantly for apparently no good reason at all. I am trying to believe that no matter where I am and what is happening that it is an acceptable experience in the realm of this lifetime. I am trying to be.

I am grateful to have you all with whom to share my thoughts, also, and I hope that your subjective experiences wax pleasant today. Another blessed spring arrives.

My addendum:
The theme song for this post is “Family Snapshot” by Peter Gabriel. What a gift to be able to create a musical moment that sounds and feels so much like a love song, but is actually the story of an assassin moving in for the kill. Love and murder, sometimes flip sides of the same coin, and this song such an eloquent example of my point.

P.P.S. Another friend responded to the original "Divinity" e-mail to say that his favorite how-I-avoided-death-on-9/11 story came from a man, now divorced, who fielded his wife's panicked phone call on his cell phone from his mistress's bed the morning of the event, and hushed her, "Don't worry, honey, I'm fine...I'm here at my office." Divinity (and debauchery) at work, indeed.

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