Saturday, February 11, 2012

Some Existential Thoughts Provoked by Whitney Houston

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world
--Jesus Christ, as quoted by John (John 16:33b NIV)
Unless you have hidden under a rock, you are aware that singer Whitney Houston was found dead in a hotel room in California Saturday afternoon. The Observer is around Ms. Houston's age--you could say we grew up together. I remember attempting to sing along with her in my first car after I graduated college--a Ford Escort. However, this post is not specifically about Ms. Houston's premature and somewhat unexpected death--it is about how it is that the landscape around you keeps changing as you get older.

Your relationship with technology changes--you've seen the changes both good and bad. You took your professional boards over 2 days with a pencil. You wrote your papers on a typewriter. You remember that if you were not home, tough luck reaching you on the phone. You remember music on large thin plastic discs. To a greater or lesser degree you've accepted the changes--even found them to be a substantial improvement. I am thankful every day for computers to write things on--so much easier for me!

The celebrities and sport stars you grew up with--the athletes, actors and singers you enjoyed over the years change--they retire, change their work, and die. You find yourself having to explain who someone is, or what they did to be famous or what their area of excellence was. You also make references that require explanation--we call them "memes" now--"Round up the usual suspects." "Make him an offer he can't refuse." "Go ahead, make my day."

To live is to change. It is almost literally "change or die." If you stop looking around you at the world and fully living in it and taking hold of the new, you will stagnate. You will stop growing a legacy. The relationship with the past is a tricky one: too much looking back, and a person can get stuck in many ways from wistful memory to regrets to roots of bitterness. Blundering on without consideration of the past also hurts; mistakes are repeated, the joys are neglected and passed over, and important content is destroyed. It is a little like a city and its old buildings: some must come down to allow for vibrancy and growth going forward, yet a city that does not treasure its physical history is not as rich as one that respects the structures of the past.

I have become more conscious lately of the fact that I may die. I am asking questions about my life--what will last, what will be of benefit to the world. As I watch the world around me change the questions become even more pointed. It is not about stuff, it is about what you do for others ongoing that will last. I pray that I have done some good for others during my life so far, and I pray that I can continue to build others up and teach others in a way that is positive.

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.
--John Wesley, Christian evangelist, Anglican priest and founder of the Methodist Church.


Super Dave said...

If the age thing bothers you now wait till you get to be mine T.O.

Thats when they die faster than you can keep up with them. You make a phone call to someplace and ask for Mike to hear dead silence then a Mike died two years ago reply.

Thats when it really hits you that everyone around you is dying

Bob G. said...

This is a terrific post...and form more than a few aspects.
I also take "note" of my mortality, and that I got more years BEHIND me than in front...
That CAN be depressing at times, because you know there is STILL so much you WANT to accomplish.

What I find in all this is that when you begin to think about your end, you often find more than a few "beginnings"...
And that can be wonderful in it's own right.

Good post.

Stay safe out there.

Rush'd Lady said...

I'm reading about Abraham Lincoln's death at the moment. He was a man of his time -- are you doing what you believe that God has placed you on earth to do? What's your legacy?

On another note - what hazing did you experience in seminary? Here's a blog I thought you might like to read. Has a cute puppy on the post that mentions the hazing =

The Observer said...

That blog is bizarre! I can't figure it out--I have a suspicion that its authors would vote all Wesleyan Christians out of the Kingdom.

I am not where God wants me yet. I am still looking--just trying to serve along the way. You can pray for that in your spare time.

No hazing at NTS that I can recall--some upper class more helpful then others but no harassment.