Monday, June 8, 2009
"Prepare thyself to live"
A flash of brilliance. Stunning insight that bursts open the mind of an artist. Inspiration that is nothing short of divine overwhelmed composer, Gustav Mahler, on the morning of his friend's memorial service. Within hours he was at his work table composing music and words to sum up his Second Symphony, "Resurrection." From the moment I first heard this piece I was moved to my core and especially struck by this passage, "Cease trembling! Prepare thyself to live!" How do we prepare to live? Coming back from death to life. How to prepare? I nearly died. Seven years ago I was close enough to death to feel its gravity pulling me down, enveloping me in the sweet potential of not feeling, not hurting, not agonizing any more over the unbearable question, "who would do this? why would anyone delliberately inflict this much damage on another human being?" It was an attack I didn't see coming, leveling me as quickly as I could whisper the word, "help." In the aftermath, the damage to my psyche and my soul was worse than other physical wounds. But even in the moments of deepest suffering, I knew I wanted to live. I knew I needed to live. And, somehow, I knew I would. But how to prepare, to live again? Honest acknowledgement of the worst of the damage was an early step. And rest. My soul needed rest. My body surely needed rest. And my mind, traumatized and injured to the point I couldn't add or subtract, couldn't focus on anything, could not read or write or even follow a simple television newscast, needed a lot of rest. The steps back into life were not linear. And the steps into life rarely are. For any of us. We try this, then that. We go this way, then that way. We organize, plan, execute -- but inevitably something happens and we change the plan, again. Chaos. I've learned to love chaos. The swirl of possibilities. The untidiness of potentialities. Taking this, and that, from here and there, creating a glorious mess that somehow yields a new insight, a moment of movement. One of the reasons I can appreciate the Polish struggle and history so much is that it feels familiar. Especially these days. I look to the Polish stories for more than just an interesting read. In their long, long and seemingly unending experience of dying and rising, I find clues to the way back, for myself. "Prepare thyself to live." It's really not a bad way to start the day, every day. If only I can remember every day to start there.