The Present of the Present

One of the gifts of age is the renewed discovery that life always and forever still has surprises in store for those who are willing to receive them. Unfortunately, our culture seems to militate against such openness. We are supposed to “achieve”, to “complete” what we start, to arrive at some goal that will signify “success” – and thereafter “retire” and rest on our laurels, I suppose….”   “…Being a “life-long learner” offers an alternative – and it doesn’t require formal courses in educational institutions. Life itself serves up a new assignment, ‘Should you choose to accept it’, usually before we have time to celebrate the last one”….”our usual response to this kind of schooling the Life offers: we distract ourselves. So many kinds of anesthetic are available: we don’t even have to think about it, we just automatically shut out whatever is uncomfortable or unpleasant….”

“…Busy-ness is a great distraction: I hear lots of people fuss about it all the time – but the fact that they never change their patterns suggest that they must be getting something from all the dashing around. That ‘something’ may be the same as what addicts seek in alcohol or narcotics: oblivion, escape from realities, which are just too hard to face. Apparently ‘shopping’ is an anodyne which many find effective…” “…But Life is good: most of our distractions are self-limited in the long run. While I don’t hold the view that “God punishes” human error, I do believe that consequences are teacher.

What’s so hard to realize is that all the ‘problems’ which Ego reads somehow as ‘failures’ are potentially gifts – if we’re willing to unwrap them. I certainly had that experience last year with lymphoma….When we persevere faithfully in our pains, we do learn and grow as a result. Many survivors, looking back at their lives, comment that what they gained was worth the cost: not that any of us would have chosen to write our curricula that way, but it’s hard to imagine how we’d have reached a new stage of life without going thought the hard stuff.

Now, I’m not advocating some sort of masochism here much less sadism: it’s entirely possible, to my mind, that we’re supposed to enjoy this STEM-stuff, to experience it fully, to celebrate its joys as well as to grieve its losses….. So I too have the “audacity of hope”, the rock-bottom optimism that says “For all that has been, thank you; for all that will be, YES! In this Advent and Christmas season, as I await a new PET/CT scan, I commit myself again to trust the process!

By Jean Jones Andersen (excerpt from The Acorn, Winter 2008)

About Jean:

She was a Member of Richmond Friends Meeting for 15 years. She believed deeply in the power of the Spirit and in that of God in each of us. Her gifts included her ability to nurture the body and the mind; her strength of character and willingness to challenge conventional wisdom… Jean gave her talents freely, as a Vacancy Consultant for the Episcopal church,…She was visionary and implementer of Jungian Venture, Bible Workbench, Education for Ministry and many dream groups.

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