I’m Still Learning to Live — July 2017

Drink deeply of this life, my friend.
Don’t sip to make it last
in fear of running out.
The waiter keeps coming by,
refilling our glasses.
Drink deeply of who you are,
the magnificent happening of you.
Drain the glass.
Take big swigs of this day,
swish it around in your mouth a little,
even the hard or boring parts,
you are alive, and it’s good.
Each moment drink it in . . .
Taste it. Savor it. Have some more . . .
drink it in.
Look at you, filling yourself up . . .

This poem that my friend, John Board, sent resonates with me. I find it beautiful, wise and meaningful. I shall place it next to the framed page of some of my favorite Henry David Thoreau quotes. It was published in the blog “Unfolding Light” written by Steve Garnaas Holmes who is a Methodist minister. You can find him on the Internet.
The water in this poem is his metaphor for God’s never-ending grace. Eek! I’ve said the “G” word which is politically incorrect in some circles. A friend wounded and offended me when he said, “I wish that all Christian fundamentalists were dead.” My dear little mother was a fundamentalist Christian/Catholic who accepted all people. As to my own beliefs, they aren’t anybody’s business.
Alas, we have become a “one-idea” society. Tightly bound up in rigid ideology, we won’t permit anything new to penetrate our judgmental, single-track minds. I think that many of humanity’s ills, antisocial behavior and unhappiness stem from impoverished spirits. One doesn’t have to be a church member in order to be spiritual. I accept wisdom and spirituality wherever I find it.
I suspect that Holmes is probably well aware of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Thoreau urges us to suck up every drop of the juice of each day. Here’s a quote from Walden that I have framed:
Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it, but while I drink, I see its sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. . . . The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it.
The father of the essay, the Frenchman Michel de Montaigne, wrote in the 16th Century that each of us bears the entire stamp of the human condition. I think that we are all passengers in the same leaky boat. Some of us are blessed with wonderful health. For example, Helen Ernstes, Bill’s and my former colleague and friend, had good health until she passed away during her hundredth year.
Few of us are exempt from the eventual frailty of the human body, and we must overcome challenges. About five years ago, a doctor said that I’d die if I didn’t undergo a complicated surgery. A renowned surgeon refused it as too dangerous. The drug that I started taking last year is keeping my breast cancer tumor from growing, thank goodness. I’m still alive and kicking, albeit not very high!
I see many examples of bravery. I recently encountered a woman who refuses to cover her bald head. It’s her way of confronting and aggressively kicking cancer in the butt. I wouldn’t have the nerve!
In the movie “The Dead Poets Society,” the wonderful Robin Williams — How I miss him!— told his students, “Carpe Diem!” Seize the day! That’s what I must do better. At age eighty, I’m not yet done. I’m still learning to live. As Holmes urges, I must take big swigs of every day, even the hard parts. Some days, all I can manage is little sips. Regardless of a lack of energy that keeps me from doing many things that I’d like to do such as attending the Benton House Book Sale, I am alive; my wren is singing; and that is very good, indeed! wclarke@comcast.net