How fragile and human this life…

Artwork: Scale of life by Aleksei Kostjuk
Artwork: Scale of life by Aleksei Kostjuk

“The major value in life is not in what you get, but in what you become.” ~ unknown

I always have something to say. I am nothing if not passionate and opinionated about too many subjects…and perhaps a bit too enthusiastic at times. Even when sad or in pain I find a voice and something to share…and in the end, figure out some optimistic, positive note I can attach on to any difficulty.

That’s not to say I’m never quiet…but usually there is a playful hum, a flavor of joy or melancholy that colors my silence.

Once in a while though, my silence is truly empty and rigid. Anyone who knows me will know that silence means I am seriously upset or carrying a heavy burden. And it’s not the kind of state one snaps out of with a sudden burst of cheerfulness or some epiphany. Nor is it something to work through and overcome. It’s the kind of state one sits with for a while and then steps away from in humble resignation.

So yes, I just closed the door to one of those silences. I haven’t posted anything for a few days, and even now, I struggle with finding a voice and giving it words.

I’m not entirely sure when exactly it all started, or how I first stumbled upon Alice‘s bucket list. Alice was a 17 year old girl who died in January…she had terminal cancer. She started a blog, and a bucket list, and a charity. Her sister intends to carry her ashes to Mt. Kilimanjaro this fall, as this was one trip Alice didn’t get a chance to take and cross off her list.

But ever since then, I sensed the silence starting to gather…from different stories, images and experiences…until it suddenly became this ‘thing’.

Inside it I found a sadness unsuitable for melancholy verses or bitter-sweet ponderings at the edge of a glass of good wine. And then I found a quote: “You can change only what people know, not what they do.” (Scott Adams, God’s Debris: A thought experiment)

And then the shadow of waste, made so vivid by the memory of a gentle old lady telling me long ago how much she wished she could have more time in this world for more laughter and happiness and time with her husband.

And then of course I met my own acceptance of what I can not change or help others with, the frustration of knowing so much about how we can, with minimal effort, make some wonderful things happen for ourselves and for others…and how still, many refuse to do it even though they have every resource and opportunity available…while others struggle so fiercely, and some, like Alice, are forced to leave this world too soon simply because chance gave them a lesser hand for this round.

Yes, yes…we are, as dear Friedrich wrote, human all too human. Fragile and awkward, stuck in this complicated dance, spinning in circles of so much that is unfair, ironic and absurd. And yet as I wrote before many times, life is so damn simple…and can be so beautiful in its imperfection.

Because what is so incomprehensible about the privilege we might get to love someone truly and be loved back…to examine, take responsibility for and make some effort to manage our issues alone and together…to know our  human-ness, know our needs and our pain so that we will notice those of another, so that we can give and love unburdened by self-righteousness, pride, fear or resentment…

What is so difficult about being grateful that we can write a story, that we can change it at any moment, that someone might be willing to help us write the best one we possibly can…

What can be more obvious than the need to seek value and not increase our poverty of spirit with ambitions for whatever our ego tells us it needs to feel powerful, self-sufficient, and redeemed…

But…people ask, and then when the answers are there all around them, in their lap, in the eyes of those who love them and matter, they don’t hear or see a thing. And on they go about their business, blaming life and the human condition for limitations, for darkness, for whatever else.

So yes, this definitely started with Alice’s blog, a young girl so beautifully human, so beautifully fragile. And as I walk away from that space of silence in humble resignation, I leave you with her words:

“I’m 17 and I have terminal cancer. I’ve created a bucket list because there are so many things I still want to do in my life … some are possible, some will remain a dream. My blog is to document this precious time with my family and friends, doing the things I want to do. You only have one life … live it!”

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