Easter is upon us. Also Passover, Norwuz (Persian New Year), and the Pagan celebration of Ostara. And there is the Vernal Equinox and May Day and numerous other ancient traditions for recognizing the end to the dormancy of winter and the renewal of Spring. The days are longer. Even in the harshest of climates the temperatures begin to moderate. New life emerges from the ground. In this time of changing climate when daily weather details are particularly uncertain, Spring still comes. The sun descends from our sky every evening and rises above whatever horizon we are able to view every morning. This is the cycle: life appears and disappears from our limited view. We don’t know where life comes from or where it goes. But we do know that it arises and passes beyond our control. As George Harrison sang, “Life goes on within you and without you.” Try as we may to effect the outcome, life does what it wants to do.
Certainly we as a species have improved the human condition. We have recognized some causes of some diseases and found ways for some of us to survive them. But new ones arise. And even though people through the ages have hoped to claim otherwise, we still have no cure for death. It faces every living creature on earth. We don’t know why or what it means. But we do know for sure that it will happen to all of us. None of us know when or how. This can be a source of great anxiety. Or it can be a reminder that the life we are given through no merit or fault of our own is precious.
This past week a dear friend left this life. He was a large strapping man who seemed to exude life. Perpetually cheerful and generous he spread joy to all those he encountered. No one who knew him could imagine him being sick. Yet his illness came on suddenly and overwhelmed his human body in a very short period of time. As some of you know I spent last year in treatment for cancer yet, for now at least, I have recovered. So how does this happen? Why does one life dissipate when another continues? It’s not attributable to anything we understand. Not talent, not genes, not strength or skill or pleading. I refuse to use the war metaphors of “battle” and “fighting”. It’s not about that either. It just happens. Accidents happen. Illness happens. Some bodies succumb; others survive. Paraphrasing Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ours not to reason why; ours but to do and die.”
Of course I’m sad for those of us who remain here on earth having to continue to move through our lives without the physical presence of the friend and family member who is no longer with us. Still I am so grateful to have been a part of his life and to have had him in mine. At times it can be so difficult to remember to value those around us. Everyone on this planet is just muddling through. None of us knows what we’re doing here. And that goes for every human being of every race, religion, gender or political persuasion in every corner of the earth where we exist. It never ceases to amaze me how life in general, and people in particular can be found all over the planet in the most astounding circumstances. Once life appears, the instinct to survive is paramount and universal.
There are forces in the universe that we may never understand. Yet somehow we need to find a way to accept and coexist with these forces as well as with each other. Even if we somehow manage to tame some of these elements, we can’t make them go away. We’ve all experienced losses of many types. We fear disease, disaster and more loss. The fear drives us to be suspicious of each other in the name of finding safety. This is an illusion. We all face the same challenges and mysteries. But we are also resilient creatures who keep striving to find a way to make what we can work for us. Maybe we can begin to recognize that same instinct in everyone around us even when the methods look different. As humans we have an amazing capacity for cooperation. Times of loss are an especially good time to remember cooperation works so much better than alienation. Fear won’t save us. But love can help ease the transitions. My friend loved and was loved. A noble legacy.