We are unapologetically making a play on the Dane’s reflection on Sickness Unto Death, a phrase that has since been used to characterized the conscious human condition. Soren Kierkegaard identifies sickness as “despair,” defines its three forms as not being conscious of having a self, not willing to be oneself, but also despair at willing to be oneself. He connects the word “spirit” and ties it to the notion of “God”: A man’s life is wasted when he lives on, so deceived by the joys of life or by its sorrows, that he never becomes decisively conscious of himself as spirit, as self, that is, he never is aware in the deepest sense that there is a God.
I was with him on the first half, the reality of despair, but was left behind when he moved “self” as spirit toward God. Modern theologians talk of despair and its identification with human depravity, but nebulous when delving on “the other world in the midst of this world,” a metaphor born in our age but easily subverted to a return to the medieval G-o-d up in the sky, or lurking behind every apparition of existence, embodied in Jesus as the Christ, leaving it as a convenient explanation of everything deus ex machina.
Mystic Teresa de Avila wrote:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks with compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
While G-O-D disappears and the upward longing avoided, Christ remains a mystical redeemer and savior where the Jesus “self” is subsumed under the aegis of idolatry cum exalted role popular in mainstream Christian circles. The Carmelite’s covenant of marriage to Jesus as the Christ, and the Jesuits to Mary, mother of God, spawns psychological perversions!
Rodney Rippel, a colleague with the Ecumenical Institute, took the categories of Nikos Kazantzakis’ Savior of God and Hermann Hesse’s Journey to the East imagery and wrote a self-reflection. In Miles from Moberly: A Man’s Journey to the 21st Century, he rehearses both his external experience in space and time with the roles he played and the story he spun. It is unfinished. One hopes that if writing is cumbersome, orally recording incidences in the remaining years of his life is technologically available. His speaking is probably more down to earth than the syntactical requirements of writing anyway.
He touches on the paranormal in one (out of 50) chapter. In a poem, he asks god to get real, and sums up his Christian heritage: “we do not require a Messiah” is God’s Messianic Word—a final word, the Ultimate Word. To desire more than God provides is an illusion. That there is no savior is the Saving Word. The last two chapters are reserved for Jesus of Nazareth sans the Christ role and Mary of Magdala.
Rippel treats parental traits and history as definitive of the personae of offspring, not unlike the medieval penchant to explain things away on the unknown. In our time, we are no longer preoccupied with final causality to explain things. Narrative of the way life is suffices and sustains.
Rippel exemplifies what will be the literary form of the “selfie” age, with Georgie Bush’s “love account” of his father close to the genre. I call these the “wellness unto life” accounts, to affirm the facticity of individuals with feet on the ground, neutral without the bias of dejado (at a disadvantage) at the gate, or in the garden of Eden. Rippel and I just are, our showed-up-ness our value, for which the decision to be grateful becomes its own virtue.
The classic lifetimes in Hinduism are four Ashrama: the student, the householder, the hermit, and the ascetic wanderer. Eighty as a very ripe age, the four lifetimes may be transposed into increments of 20 years. The first is of youth learning. Next is the adult establishing a household. The third is the hermit in self-consciousness to the minutest of details, and the fourth is the ascetic wanderer who empties himself unto the wholeness (holiness) of creation, a wellness unto life!
Shakespeare has seven ages in As You Like it, from infancy to incapacity bookended by helplessness. Mine has five phased existence of 17 years each, the first an age of innocence, the second a journey of adventure, the third the expenditures in service, and the fourth sharpening skills in a profession. I just entered my fifth, seven years of writing and 10 years of silence to the portals of completion and oblivion.
All five phases constitute a Wellness Unto Life journey, where birth is the supreme achievement and everything that follows a matter of choice. The question is not the validity of my phases, the feasibility of the Hindu scheme, or Shakespeare’s laughter. What is the wellness unto life that your journey is about? Or are you still bewailing your sickness unto death?