Monday, March 13, 2006

On Death and the Treasuring of Life

On the morning I heard the news of Tom Fox's death, I shared about it at Meeting for Worship. Very few here had yet heard. After a little while, a man gave wonderful ministry about how lives given in the work of peace are not wasted, and how their memory and their work lives on in those who are touched by their lives and inspired to further their cause. I do agree, and I found his ministry comforting.

But, still, Tom’s being gone now is a sad and tragic loss.

The news shook me up much more than I would have expected, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. Of course I realized that this outcome was a possibility. But I didn’t really think it would come out this way, because its turning out this way seems to make no sense. I realize that I feel shaken because this news makes me think: “the world is worse off than I had wanted to believe.”

I have found myself searching in new ways for hope.

I find myself appreciating my own life with heightened awareness. Instead of feeling guilty for all that I am blessed with, I feel that it is crucially important to live fully into all of the goodness around me, and use my opportunities well. Those who suffer don’t want the rest of the world to suffer too—they want desperately to believe that happiness is possible somewhere, that goodness ultimately prevails. They don’t want their own memories of happiness to be mere illusions or dreams—they want them to have been real, and they want those currently in happy situations not to be “wasting” that happiness in frivolous discontent. (This I know experientially.) They want to believe that those who are not being held captive, who have freedom, will use their freedom as an opportunity to work for positive change in the world.

And so I go through my days with sacred appreciation for every person I meet, and for all of the beauty around me. I treasure every flower I see. I treasure every bird I hear. I treasure every book I pull off the library shelf, and every elegantly printed word in those venerable old tomes. I read through George Fox’s sufferings and reflections on his own experiences of captivity with heightened appreciation.

And especially I treasure the people I come into contact with. Every life is precious. The stories people share move me deeply. “You are alive,” I think. “After all that you have been through, you keep trying to do your best, and you have brought beauty and joy and hope into the world that you have not even realized.”

Every person I meet is proof that there is still much hope.

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