Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pondering other people's youth...

So, a few years back, my husband and I scanned a ton of old slides for my parents. We watched as each tray-full revealed painfully young, gangly versions of the people I call Mom and Dad. We saw faraway places (my dad did a stint in the Navy during the Korean War), we saw nattily dressed youngsters who turned out to be elderly aunts and uncles and family friends, and we marveled at how America had gotten a lot more big and full of itself in the past twenty or thirty years. It was a sentimental journey because we knew some of the travelers. It was nostalgic. It was mostly fun and light.

More recently, we scanned a bunch of slides for some of my parents' neighbors. They, too, are family friends, but not quite on the same level of familiarity as many of that first bunch of images we handled years ago. To add heft to the occasion, these slides were being scanned for an upcoming sober family occasion, when family was gathering around a very ill, fading member. These films were full of many strangers, at least to me. Over and over, I popped the slim cardboard squares into position, hit some buttons, and waited while the pictures contained therein were magically transformed into digital images. The act was performed quickly, because the task was somewhat urgent, and yet I found myself staring at the pictures that appeared on my computer screen. Children, dressed in past clothing styles, sporting old-fashioned hair cuts; yards and homes now mostly gone, or changed beyond recognition. People in a small town, riding ponies on the street (my goodness, when was the last time you saw that around these parts?) Men working on and posing with their cars, showing off, hamming it up for the camera. Women in swimsuits and pretty dresses, smiling at the viewfinder.

My husband and I scanned slide after slide, marveling at the likely correct assumption that many of the featured faces had departed this earth, that the children we studied in the pictures were now older than we are. We grew quiet and thoughtful. At one point, he turned to me and said, "What do you want out of life? What do you want to accomplish?"

And I lazily replied, "I don't know." I didn't want to think about it, the impermanence of my time here, the fact that we are all just passing through. Even as a believer, even while I consider myself a citizen of Heaven, I still want my time here on this little blue planet to matter. I don't want to end up a 2-D image so removed from this moment that it seems fictional. What do I want to do? To be? To accomplish?

I still don't know. I should probably say that I want to lead others to our Creator, and I do. Is that enough? Does any of it really matter? We're just blips on a radar, really. Dust. Not to God, but to this world. It's a sobering thought, yet also refreshing in the same way that realizing no one is watching my show was liberating. We're all going to be pictures on a screen someday, and likely not the Big Screen that many in this media-saturated culture are shooting for.

Let's just live, and be kind, and give our best, and bite back the things that maim others. Ours is but a fleeting moment on Earth, after all. A snapshot, if you will.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cool, uplifting stuff

Now this is a story that amazes me. Check it out here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sorting on a contemplative Independence Day

I'm having a moody day, if you wondered. Holidays and special days bring out the bleak, morose side of this girl. I can't reason or even pray myself out of it sometimes; this life is just heavy. I was sorting books, trying to decide which to keep and which to send away, when I happily rediscovered Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea. It's a gem, and as timelessly appropriate now as it was when published in the 50s. At least it is still appropriate for me, being still in a traditional non-earning wifely role... But I suspect it'll strike a chord even in most formally employed women.

I found myself flipping through the pages, skimming earnestly in search of a passage that had resounded so strongly with me when I first read the work. I found it after intent scanning (thankfully, the book is a slim volume at best). I share it with you here because, unbelievably, I could not find it anywhere else on the Web.

Here is a strange paradox. Woman instinctively wants to give, yet resents giving herself in small pieces. Basically is this a conflict? Or is it an over-simplification of a many-stranded problem? I believe that what woman resents is not so much giving herself in pieces as giving herself purposelessly. What we fear is not so much that our energy may be leaking away through small outlets as that it may be going "down the drain." We do not see the results of our giving as concretely as man does in his work. In the job of home-keeping there is no raise from the boss, and seldom praise from others to show us we have hit the mark. Except for the child, woman's creation is so often invisible, especially today. We are working at an arrangement in form, of the myriad disparate details of housework, family routine, and social life. It is a kind of intricate game of cat's-cradle we manipulate on our fingers, with invisible threads. How can one point to this constant tangle of household chores, errands, and fragments of human relationships, as a creation? It is hard even to think of it as purposeful activity, so much of it is automatic. Woman herself begins to feel like a telephone exchange or a laundromat.

Purposeful giving is not as apt to deplete one's resources; it belongs to that natural order of giving that seems to renew itself even in the act of depletion...

And that is where I find myself today: Watching as I swirl down the drain. There I go, hurrying away in my purposeless busy-ness. No worries—it's probably just peri-menopause knocking on my door.

On a side note, I wonder how much longer Independence Day will be observed before it is found to be offensive to some small minority of interlopers here?