Wednesday, March 8, 2006

And then we die

One idea from Elder Bateman's CES fireside Sunday night has stuck in my head. He used charts and diagrams to show us that our mortal experience is temporary. We're born, we grow, we make choices, and then... we die.
In the context of the gospel and with an understanding of the plan of salvation, our impending deaths should be something of little consequence, just a blink of an eye and a passing to something greater.
Elder Bateman intended his talk to open our eyes to help us see an eternal perspective. By seeing this mortal experience as just another step in a long spiritual process, it should be easier to make wise decisions now and to "look forward with an eye of faith."
I've been looking forward recently, but with an eye of fear and uncertainty. Graduation and job searching has forced me to start thinking ahead and making two and five year plans. I have no idea where I'm going or why I’m going there. I fear I’m going the wrong direction. The only thing certain about my future is that, eventually, I will die.
We're all going to die. I remember the night that idea finally hit me as a little kid. Lying in my bed, I imagined my body weakening, my skin sagging, and my heart finally giving out. I imagined the people taking away my body, embalming it, and putting it to rest in a casket. I imagined the rotting, the worms... the waste.
I couldn't sleep that night. I finally went to my parents' room and just stood by their bed, comforted to see that they were still alive.
I've tried not to think about that stuff. I've tried for a long time to believe I'm everlasting. It's easier to stay calm when I think of each new day as part of an infinite cycle rather than accepting that each day lived is one tally mark on a finite schedule of my existence.
In the eternal perspective, I'm doing all right. Today will be a good day. I haven't screwed up big time today. When I do finally kick the bucket and meet my maker, the injustices and sacrifices of this life will all be made right in the eternities. It’s a Job-like perspective. All I have to do is get through the now and eventually God will even the score.
In the mortal perspective, things could be a lot better. Today is just another day in a life of stalling death. I wake up, I work, and I sometimes play. I just have this feeling that everything I study and the people I meet and the money I earn and everything I do are just drops in the bucket. In life or death, it will eventually go away. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels at full speed but really going no where. When I focus on just keeping the wheels spinning I’m fine. When I start looking up at my aimless route, I feel really, really tired.
I once attended the funeral of a 14 year old girl who had hung herself. Being at a funeral of someone that young brings things into perspective. We all realized that life is short and for a couple days we just hugged our friends and weren't afraid to cry and didn't care about homework and all that crap. For a couple days we lived like we were dying.
I don't want to die. I don't want time to keep passing me by. I wish there were a pause button so I could stop and figure stuff out before I go any further. The future freaks me out. I'm scared of looking back in 20 years and feeling like I've wasted my time. I already feel like I've wasted so much time.
I feel like I’m being beat into a hopeless corner. I can’t have what I want. I don’t want what I can have. So I while everyone else goes somewhere I just cower in desperation. I’m the one responsible for my position. I’m the only one who can change my direction.
I’m not even sure what I want. I just want something significant. I want something that lasts until tomorrow, something that’s worth living for. I want to be the next Che Guevara, or Mother Theresa, or just get a hat on father’s day that says “World’s Greatest Dad.” I don’t just want to be that guy who was in your class and you pretend not to know when you see him later or that roommate you wonder what happened to.
Enough ranting.
There's more I could say; like the fact that Elder Bateman said: "It is the eternal marriage relationship and the power to create life which produces happiness in mortality and a fullness of joy in the life to come." See, that just messes with me even more. But I'm not gonna say all that now cause I have to go to dance class, then another class, then work, then my other job, then work out, then sleep, and then it will be tomorrow. And tomorrow’s another day

This is your life and today is all you’ve got now
Yeah, and today is all you’ll ever have
Don’t close your eyes

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose?

This is your life - Switchfoot

"Do you always think this much, Charlie?" "Is that bad?" "Not necessarily. It's just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life." "Is that bad?" "Yes."

- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chobsky

It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive

-Jon Bon Jovi, It's My Life

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip? You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

- Lose Yourself, Eminem


Chris said...

I can relate to your comments. As a gay student trying to live the Gospel, I have no idea what the future holds in store for me. It's scarey at times. It's depressing at times. I just need to have the faith, hope, and perspective that things will work out.

el veneno said...

Hmm Chris. Thanks for commenting. I understand what you're saying about just having that faith and hope... and yeah, it works. I'm really doing just fine day by day but every so often it hits me that I'm not who I want to be. I'm not leaving a mark anywhere. Maybe I should just be happy things are working out some way and not get upset they're not working out my way but then I start to think "hey, this is my life, shouldn't I get some say in how things work out?"
And hope? What am I supposed to hope for? For my sexuality to slowly evolve to the point of liking girls? For God to change his position on gay relationships? For me to be a good dancer? For me to be "cool"? I guess my point is that I'm sick of just sitting on my butt and hoping. I need to start making some changes and working for what I want. First I've got to figure out what I want. All I know is that I want a lot more than just to be accepted by God-- I want to be accepted by God-- but I also want a whole lot more.

Dave Walter said...

What bothers me is that I can't think of an effective way to convince you that you should relax and not worry about the future.

Being in your 20s and wanting to have the future figured out is pretty common. Being 50 and knowing that it would have been best throughout life to simply live in the present is pretty common, too.

Elbow said...

This is going to sound weird, but everytime I read something you write I just want to scream with a shout of joy and heartache all at the same time.

You, Veneno, are amazing. You have a capacity to feel and want that is bigger than you are. In the wanting and the hoping comes living. You are experiencing life to a realy capacity. The more you hope, the more you want and dream, the more you will fight harder to have what it is that you sincerely need.

I have no doubts that you will be happy all your life. You sound so articulate and sweet that it is evident that all your resources are in check. Who cares that you aren't where you want to be right now, that is why you are on the figure it out and make it happen. If you do die without every reaching it, then that's perfectly wonderful because life is about the journey, not the destination. You will find joy in the process of striving and working toward what you really want.

I sincerely care for you, and hope for the best. I am your supporter and I appreciate what your important voice has to say. Thank you for your "wanting," it really is an inspiration.

gilmore guy said...

What is it about the future that bothers you? That you will end up an older man (or dead) and look back on things and regret that you were never more?

It looks like you are holding yourself up to some ideal of what you ought to be. Who created that ideal? Who is going to enforce that ideal? Be sure you can answer these questions before you let regret and anxiety bog you down.

As you know, death has never bothered me. Yet at the same time, I never even think about the afterlife. I know it's there. I know God will be there. Yet somehow I just don't care; I don't seem to care what will happen to me.

This is something that we have talked about before, one of the differences in our cloneness. You seem to care - in particular, what people think of you. This can be a great quality, especially when those people are your loving family and God.

But if those pereceived expactations that you have from your family, friends, God, and mostly just yourself, are weighing down on you, maybe you ought to re-evaluate them. Life is not to fear death. Nor is it to fear failure of living up to a false ideal. Whose measure are you using to evaluate your life? It ought to be Christ's. I am not so sure that he wants you to live in fear.

It's about faith; you have it, so start believing it.

-L- said...

I want to be the next Che Guevara, or Mother Theresa, or just get a hat on father’s day that says “World’s Greatest Dad.”

I completely loved this line, and I'm so impressed by you. Keep up the lofty ambitions, even if they aren't really precisely directed right now. I agree with Elbow's effusive praise. He always beats me to it.

I remember about 6 years ago when my bishop said in a talk to envision where you want to be in 50 years, then envision where you want to be in 10 years, then 1 year, then next week. It was just to show you that you have to make some deliberate effort to guide your life to get to the 50 year later point. And what you do next week makes a difference in getting there. That's not to say you'll have it all figured out from the start, but know what you want--have some principles. And it sounds to me like you do.

Take it from the medical student (my life is a prime example of delayed gratification!), things will get better if you stay the course pursuing your goals and trying to be your best self.

Also, death doesn't bother me now that I'm a hospice volunteer. Turns out I'm around it a lot. I recommend it, if you have some extra time.

Latino-dude-in-Utah said...

Dude! Dancesport was awesome! why u didn't compete?!
Sometimes when we want to look for new goals, challenges, and become a “hero” we need to go to the other side of our “comfort line” and take the challenge. You told me that you’re tired of trying…. But sometimes I think that u don’t try. I promise once you’re there in a new situation, it’s not as bad as you think it is. Think like “I’ll do it” instead of “I’ll try to do it” there’s a difference..... Everyone has something of divinity ... use what or Heavenly father has gave us already for your challenges and U'll do great! I'm sure that YOUR children will give u a hat that says "the greatest father in the world" and you won't need to buy it, cuz your kids will.