This, I have come to believe, is one aspect of the ongoing trek toward a good life: Daily daring to enter, in every moment and at every bend of the proverbial road, as far as it is humanly possible, the fullness of one’s life’s experience – both within one’s self and all that is triggered by external circumstances.
Joy and sorrow.
Comfort and pain.
Success and failure.
Clarity and perplexity.
Courage (or fortitude) and fear.
Faith (or confidence) and doubt.
And any and every other conceivable pair of contra-positional attributes of any and every given experience.
In a word, having and holding an attitude of radical openness; rebuffing nothing, receiving everything.
Here, for me, Jesus’ core teaching concerning the discipleship of self-sacrifice, when writ large in relation to all of life, applies: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” (Luke 9.23-25).
I have discovered that if…when I seek to save myself (my self) from engaging my sorrows, pains, failures, perplexities, fears, and doubts, then I short-circuit, cut myself off from any deeper, truer knowing of life, my life. And, even more (as contrasting elements tend to highlight the sense and substance of each other), I know less about joy, comfort, success, clarity, courage, and faith.
And if…when I seek to lose myself (my self), giving myself over and into the fullness of my experience, then I am free in all of my living to believe in (to trust as real) who I am and who I am becoming.
© 2021 PRA
#agoodlife #goodmeansfulfilling #opennesstoexperience #beingandbecoming #thefreedomtobeandtobecome #Jesusteaching #losinglifetosavelife #savinglifetoloselife
5 thoughts on “A Good Life, Part 2 of 2”
Thank you for your further thoughts on devoting oneself to the path toward a “good life.” I did not anticipate the direction in which you would turn, but I find real resonance in your affirmation of “… daring to enter, in every moment and at every bend of the proverbial road, as far as it is humanly possible, the fullness of one’s life’s experience – both within one’s self and all that is triggered by external circumstances.”
I find it uncanny how so many of your posts manage to fit themselves so seamlessly together with things that are moving in my own life and consciousness. (I can only conclude that such frequent harmony between your thinking and writing what is in your heart and its finding such close currency in my own and no doubt others’ as well is an unmistakeable mark of a wise and intuitive pastor reading well the flow of human experience and concern arising in the world around himself. I know you to be such a pastor and such a man, so I should not be surprised. I will continue to be delighted and comforted by such congruency, however.)
Several months ago I reconnected with a friend from whom I had been estranged for some 52 years. The inception of our friendship came at a time of huge upheaval for her. Ours was a brief friendship that moved swiftly toward a major crisis in her life in which I ended up playing a large role, an important and helpful one, but from which I had a very hard time recovering once the crisis had passed. Essentially, once she had achieved some stability, I ended the friendship because I could not come to terms with the depth and meaning of the demands that she made of me at the time. I came through when she needed me, but I couldn’t deal with the residual emotional and spiritual fallout at the time.
I have lived with the memories of that time all my life. Because I write about what is in my heart, I ended up writing about the episode with her and in the writing of it, I found I had to find her and, if possible, get in touch with her to ask whether she would be willing to communicate with me. I was able to find her, as she had become over the past half-century an artist quite renowned in an uncommon and demanding field of artistry. I sent an email. Her graciousness in response has been life-giving to me. She and I have had a number of lengthy Zoom conversations and exchange emails regularly. We are exploring what happened to her and between us and who we both have become since that time and how. We are exploring the factors that played a role in our estrangement and we have explored what forgiveness means and how it comes about. We are exploring the bond we have had now for more than 53 years that has just recently finally evolved into a deep, living, breathing, active friendship once again. May I say, we are exploring resurrection?
What this has to do with your post today is that the reason for the break that came between my friend and me was my inability to accept the ENTIRE experience her friendship offered me. I wanted the joy and comfort of the relationship, but I was not able at that time to accept the sorrow, the pain, the fear, the complexity and the unknowns that came with being her friend at that time. My life had rules and boundaries that protected me and kept me safe, and I was enforcing those boundaries and rules. I did not understand a “good life” in the terms you have articulated so well in this post. I thought a good life was a simple, pain-free, non-messy life. I threw out a meaningful friendship in order to attain it. I have since learned that attempting to achieve my former idea of “good life” never works in the long run anyway. It only leads to deeper pain and greater loneliness.
Thank you, Paul, for voicing so well something I have been experiencing in my own life so richly, and most recently, with the friendship I describe above. “… giving myself over and into the fullness of my experience….” Yes, yes, yes. It is the way to life, good life, blessed life, full life – the kind of life that I believe can endure all things, even in some way, death.
My dearest Karen, I thank you for sharing this grand treasure of your recounting a friendship engaged, estranged, and then rediscovered.
I thank you, too, for your characteristically caring fashion in which you recounted to and for me the circuitous pilgrimage of this friendship. As I read the details of your trek, I found myself thinking when you wrote — “I wanted the joy and comfort of the relationship, but I was not able at that time to accept the sorrow, the pain, the fear, the complexity and the unknowns that came with being her friend at that time. My life had rules and boundaries that protected me and kept me safe, and I was enforcing those boundaries and rules” — of your clarity in compassion and honesty, both for your friend and with yourself.
You, my dearest Karen, are a remarkably whole-and-wholesome-soul. I treasure you.
And, as for the synchronicity that you experience between my thinking/writing and where you find yourself in your being and becoming — although I appreciate the kindness of your perceiving me as wise and intuitive — I consider this harmony we share a definitive mark of questing hearts in search of truth, personal and otherwise. Questing hearts that are able and willing (at least, most of the time) to pay the (sometimes) price of pain in unearthing, at times, necessarily difficult to acknowledge and to accept verities of being. To this, I say to each of us: Carry on!
Thank you so much for this response. I feel heard, affirmed, and loved. And I in turn affirm and love you. So glad to have you in my life.
Dear Paul and Karen,
These are two amazing posts and I read them both several times. Thank you both for sharing yourselves so deeply.
Thank you, Loretta. That seems to be what the three of us do! So grateful to have you two in my life to keep me aware of what good people there are who are constantly striving toward “good life” that makes a difference in the world.
I love you both! And yes, we’ll carry on!!!