Sunday, October 18, 2009

can we go back?

I have just began reading the autobiography of Sidney Poitier, a recommendation of my mother's, and found myself remembering the last autobiography that I read, Child of the Jungle. Both begin with childhood's spent in simplicity. Both experienced their first years of life without television, advertising and a bombardment of stimuli. As Sidney described his early years on Cat Island in the Bahamas, how he fished and roamed and lived his childhood literally just him and the world around him, something within me stood up and shouted "Amen!"

Similarly, the girl (who's name I have lost) in the aforementioned 'other' autobiography had such an uncomplicated experience. Just her and her siblings and the children of the tribe with whom they lived. They climbed trees and picked fruit. They nearly drowned and learned to swim. They taught themselves games and made spears and arrows out of the rocks and trees.

Both stories are replete with tragedy and hardship. But in societies of less and even no sense of entitlement, death and loss are not abhorred, avoided and stamped out. They are accepted. This is what happens. When you fall into the river and the current catches you, you drown. Then your family weeps, they have a public and emotional ritual to say goodbye and honour you, and then they move on.

In a world of luxury and convenience death seems unacceptable. We spend our entire lives, and really Western Civilization's entire existence trying to beat death. Medicine and health-related advances mean that no one should have to suffer. Even common Christian-thinking, that Christ died for us and therefore we should not suffer, but in his power rise above it, denies pain, sickness and grief a place in our lives.

I believe in Christ's power to heal, that his presence on earth and in my life changes things. But he wept when Lazarus died, not for Lazarus, but for those who were left behind. And I don't know exactly what it means for me that he did take on all pain and human-condition crap when he went up on the cross, but surely it doesn't mean that we should chase health and youth to the point of denying that life here on earth in these bodies does end.

So what I want to know now is how can I for myself and for my family to come, embrace a more rooted, organic life. How can I give my children a holistic and life-affirming experience. How can I learn to accept pain in my life.

(Now this would be a great time to send down answers on a scroll, or a banquet hall wall...anything clear and definitive would be greatly appreciated).

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