theologizing & learning about aging & ailing

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a personal reflection…

Pierre Teilhard de ChardinThe great 20th century French polymath, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,[1] believed we are not so much human beings in search of spiritual experience, but rather spiritual beings immersed in human experience. Teilhard de Chardin’s view, verily, vision of our ontology helps me, a Christian believer, understand that God, who is Spirit,[2] became incarnate in our flesh in Jesus of Nazareth and through the same Spirit, in us. His perspective also liberates me from the Platonic dualism, still evident in some Christian circles, that perceives humankind’s truest self as the soul, which, in this fallen, broken world, has been imprisoned, entombed, however temporarily, in the physical body.

Rather, for me, all of creation, including this world and our human bodies, is God’s handiwork and, therefore, good.[3] With our bodies, when our physical senses are operative, we can hear, see, smell, taste, and touch; perceiving, delighting in the riches of the world around us. Through our bodies, we are recognized and known one to another; sharing and delighting in the joys of companionship.[4]

Yet, through it all, one thing remains ineluctably, repeatedly demonstrably true. Our bodies are mortal (or, as my namesake, the Apostle Paul would say, “perishable”[5]). Our experience of, in this life is transitory. (As a wise soul – or souls, for the bon mot has been attributed to many – expressed, “No one gets out of life alive!) We are born and we die; in between we age.

Perhaps because a week or so ago I celebrated my latest birthday (one more to go and I’m eligible for Medicare!) or because 2015, in its entirety, was the sickliest year of my life or because 2015 seems to have been but a prelude to another year of major health concerns (or because of all of it and more than of which I am or can be conscious), these days, I think a good bit about aging.

So far, I have learned or, better, more truly said, I am learning more about gratitude and compassion…

I am grateful I am alive, aging and ailing and all. I have compassion for the lives of the dying and the souls of the dead, especially as the evil act of one man in Orlando this past Sunday hideously reminds us of life’s uncertainty and fragility, and some of the dead and wounded being young enough to be my children and grandchildren. (Indeed, whenever I know or hear of one who died young, I mourn and realize anew that no matter how my life is and is not, I have the luxury of its ongoing experience, now four years into my seventh decade.)

I am grateful for Pontheolla who, among many things, loves fiercely and cares about me deeply, even and especially when I don’t care for myself. I have compassion for those of my sisters and brothers in this life and world who do not enjoy the marvelous grace of companionship.

I am grateful for having health insurance and a number (ever increasing!) of fine physicians. I have compassion for those who do not.

As I live, I continue to learn. As I learn, my compassion for others deepens. For this and for more, as my Momma would say, “than I can say grace over”, I am grateful.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881-April 10, 1955), over his richly varied lifetime, among many things, was a paleontologist and geologist, professor of chemistry and physics, Jesuit priest, philosopher and theologian, cosmologist and evolutionary theorist, and mystic.

[2] “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4.24)

[3] “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1.31a). Nevertheless, I do not disregard the reality of sin and evil and that humans can and will conceive and commit bad acts.

[4] Here, I do not, cannot deny that there are difficult aspects of all relationships that through our bodies we endure, and, sometimes, suffer!

[5] 1 Corinthians 15.53

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2 thoughts on “theologizing & learning about aging & ailing

  1. I share your consternation over ageing and ailing, being two months older than you and walking along that same path, at the very least, two months ahead of you!

    My age amazes me at times. I truly never expected to live long enough to see equal protection under the law extended to all, nor to see marriage as a possibility and a right for all who desire it. I never thought I would hear and read my neighbors hatefully discussing my spouse Trink’s right to use the bathroom. I remember with shame the restrooms labeled men, women, and colored that I saw in the South as a child and wonder if we will now have accommodations for straight men, straight women and LBGT people.

    I never thought I would live to see a black president, nor the revisionist racist rage that has raised its head in response to that good thing. I never thought I would see the military industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about come to rule over us, or see civilians armed with weapons designed to kill masses of people, as Reagan warned us of.

    I never thought I would see thousands upon thousands of hungry, homeless people inhabiting the margins of our society, nor did I ever think that the biggest blessing and the hardest struggle of my life would be to serve Christ in them, facing my own poverty, while trying not to be one of them.

    Good and bad. We’ve seen enough to break our hearts time and time again. Ageing has to do with passing the torch. Trusting that the struggle for justice, love, and compassion will continue, until the Kingdom comes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sandy, for your, for me, always wise and penetrating commentary. Indeed and amen, our aging allows us to experience and behold good and bad. While we live, we continue to take part in “the struggle for justice, love, and compassion”, knowing that one day, indeed and amen, we will, we must pass the torch. Much love, dear sister, much love

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