Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm mortified

The following snippet of writing is from Henri Nouwen, the Catholic author. It appears in his Lenten guide, “Show Me the Way.”

But mortification—literally, “making death”—is what life is all about, a slow discovery of the mortality of all that is created so that we can appreciate its beauty without clinging to it as if it were a lasting possession. Our lives can indeed be seen as a process of becoming familiar with death, as a school in the art of dying. I do not mean this in a morbid way. On the contrary, when we see life constantly relativized by death, we can enjoy it for what it is: a free gift. The pictures, letters and books of the past reveal life to us as a constant saying of farewell to beautiful places, good people, and wonderful experiences.

What Nouwen writes helps me to better appreciate my daily existence. It helps me to better appreciate the beauty and miracle of spring. There’s an incredibly moving scene in the movie, “Land of Plenty,” where the young girl, Lana, is sitting up and praying in bed, and she whispers, as she gazes out over a decayed urban landscape, “Thank you, God, for this day (pause), for this room (pause), for my life. Thank you.” I can say the same, knowing that without death there can be no life. Without defeat, there can be no victory. I am grateful for all that God gives me, and for the time in which he gives it.


wags said...

Edwin Schneidman lovingly describes death thusly: "You're driving down the road in a desert, and the engine suddenly stops. No Pep Boys, no Auto Club to help. Whether the road continues is of no consequence." Thank goodness he's wrong and that the road simply picks up somewhere high above the clouds. I'm hoping I'll land in a Rolls...

Doug said...

I love Nouwen's work. Thanks for sharing this piece.

Yesterday Roen and I drove around to four family homes in the Alameda area in Portland. I delivered historic photos to homeowners and got to go inside two of them. My favorite home I lived in is for sale now. The new owners ruined the integrity of the English cottage home with an ultra extreme makeover. It was sad to me. And yet there are a few original features which were soothing to see. I peered through the windows and could picture my Mom playing the piano. I looked up where Bruce's baby blankets flew out a broken window circling the house on Oct. 12 1962, the Columbus Day storm.
In my grandmothers 30's brick colonial I mourned the loss of tile and brick to shiny new granite and marble. Homes have deaths too. Wood windows replaced by metal and vinyl. Coziness lost to the want of more space. I can cling to the past. Others look to the future. I want to preserve. Others want drastic change. A reminder to me to just be in the present.