Friday, March 27, 2015
“There is only one difference between a long life and a good dinner: that, in the dinner, the sweets come last.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
Living a long time is not necessarily a good thing. In Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” there is a rarely read third section about a floating island. On this island, Gulliver sees a child with a birthmark in the shape of star, and the people around him are crying. Gulliver asks why and is told that the birthmark means the child belongs to a group called the Struldbrugs. Gulliver is then told that these people never die—they live forever, therefore the need for crying and sadness. Gulliver cannot believe this. He thinks living forever would be a great blessing and says so. He is told that this is not the case. A Struldbrug lives so long he sees everyone he loves die, wives, children, friends, all pass away while he goes on. Soon, he doesn’t want to even be around other people because if he gets close to them, they die, too, and he is saddened again. In the end, these Sturldbrugs become hermits and never come around other humans, such is the curse of immortality. Swift makes a point that all of us who have lived a long time (I consider 70 years a long time) already know. My father, at 85, used to complain that he had watched all of his parents, brothers, all but one sister, aunts, uncles, and even some nieces and nephews pass away. He outlived all of his close friends with only my mother beside him as he lived the last years of his life to die at 89 (a month away from 90). He understood the point Swift was making, as do I. Just yesterday, Karen learned that her best friend growing up, the maid of honor at her wedding had died from complications following a knee surgery at the age of 71. Karen and I have seen all parents, all aunts and uncles save one, and many, many friends, former teachers, former professors, all shuffle off this mortal coil to join that eternal band beyond our reach. It should be enough to make us bitter, depressed, and not wanting to get close to people—except we have children for whom we live, and we have a call from God to answer to plant seeds, to save children’s lives, to feed orphans, to help the weak, and so we do. It is sad to see so many go before us, but there are so many who are coming after us that we do them a great disservice if we do not do all that we can to make their lives better. We don’t want to live forever, but we do want to live for others until the last moment which God decides. And that is just what we shall do. Saw a Facebook post that said if what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger then we should both be able to bench press a Buick. My cousin said that in Karen’s case, she could bench press a Hummer. We will not live forever, but while we are here—we will live for others. That’s God’s plan.