Sunday, August 3, 2008

We can't all be Solzhenitsyn

Taking a week off (from interferon) should not be confused with a vacation. There would need to be something structured from which I was taking a break to call this a real vacation. When the primary activity of your life—temporarily, at least—is taking a shot every couple of days, you know you’re in some sort of snoozy limbo. Having more time on your hands than you know what to do with can induce panic in a person who likes to get things done. It’s the perversion of a luxury—like being forced to eat ice cream with every meal. It doesn’t help when fatigue wears down both body and mind, and makes it hard to read or conduct a serious conversation. I normally enjoy my own company, but I dislike being held a prisoner of my thoughts.

My complaint about the lethargy caused by interferon should not be taken too seriously. It’s certainly better than the alternative of being exhausted by having too much to do. Human culture and everyday activity is a frantic sedative and not at all what it appears to be. Most of the things we do in our lives are frivolous and devoid of meaning. As the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, they are vanity and chasing after wind. We stay busy or distracted or intoxicated so we don’t have to agonize over ultimate questions. The great souls of history don’t have this problem; this is their purpose in life—a tough job description. Even tougher, a few of them risk providing some answers. We are in the debt of those who eschew material success and fame, and who would rather fret over the burdens and contradictions of being human. Solzhenitsyn comes to mind.

One dares not aspire to becoming great at figuring these things out. If God smiles upon us, a few things that matter will occur to us as we go about our daily lives. Most people will be smart enough to not repeat them to others. Others will set up a blog and say way more than they should. In the luxury of time I have been given since my cancer diagnosis, I have concluded that a stripping away of favorite activities is not totally a bad thing. It may, in fact, be one of the best things that’s happened to me. Digging into the big questions takes time. I always figured that some day I would slow down enough to really pray and to begin to think them through. I was right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Peter, your reflections help us to think through our own questions about life.