Why Immortality is so Boring

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There was a time when I couldn’t imagine my life, or afterlife, without the reality of living forever in some form. In one way or another, in some form or another, Nate Pratt was going to live forever.

What a terrifying thought.

Why does the thought of eternity, something that brings comfort to billions, bring me such fear? In a word: Time.

Time, friends, is what gives life meaning. Time is what allows us an appreciation of relationships and goals. Time is what permits us to evaluate what is most important in our lives by deciding where we put our most precious and limited resource.

Time is the most valuable commodity any of us have and whether you like it or not, where you decide to put your time says a great deal about what’s important to you. You will not be able to buy more time. Nobody is selling sand to refill our figurative hourglasses.

If all people had access to some form of immortality or infinite time, time would become meaningless as well as our goals and relationships. When you have an eternity to do anything or be with people, where does the significance  of that goal or relationship go?

By me choosing to spend time with you freely, I’m carving out space in my limited life to build something valuable between us. I’m telling you, in an indirect way, that you’re valuable.

When I write on my blog or take time to tell a joke, it’s because these things are important to me. I’m attempting to pass along some kernel of thought to make you look at something in a way you hadn’t before or I’m trying to illicit a laugh to make you feel well and myself, selfishly, validated.

The pains of death are the ultimate proof of what I’m saying. For those of us that have felt the utter depths of agony in the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one, we’re only able to feel these pains because we know what it means to love and cherish someone.

We feel that terrible because we know what it means to feel the opposite of that in love. The pain is a testament to how much and how capable we love or fellow man. What an amazing gift.

Death, as much as it hurts, is proof of the value of time. If death were written off, there’d be no more appreciation for life and with that, much of what we cherish and find beautiful would leave as well.

Or to put it as beautifully and succinctly as I once heard in a movie:

“The sweet just isn’t as sweet without the sour.”

How true of life and death.

Time gives us the highs and lows, victories and defeats that immortality couldn’t dare bless us with.

Let me be clear, I’m not looking forward to death or am pretending to enjoy the idea that one day my consciousness will end, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t treasure the many benefits and appreciations limited time grants.

So the next time we hang out, I’d really appreciate a hug or a thanks for granting you some of my precious limited time. I promise I’ll return the favor because let’s face it, immortality would be such a bore.

The New Normal

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Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the worst day of my life. The death of my brother and best friend has had a larger impact on me than any other single event in my life. Even though the list of people more significant to me than Phil is limited to my immediate family of my wife and children, I don’t think any death will so vastly shape and change me again. I may be more devastated, but not so wholly changed.

Mother’s Day marks the last time I saw Phil alive. We went to the park where he was to be married and taught my son how to roll down a hill. We went back to my house and watched the sort of okay horror movie, Insidious. I remember not feeling well and when he, his fiance and my mom and dad got up to go home I didn’t hug him goodbye, something I always did. Instead I went to the medicine cabinet to get Tylenol. We discussed the Rammstein show we’d just seen and how awesome it was. We said goodbye and that we loved each other. I can still see how he stood and looked at me in front of my door just before he turned to leave. It’s all burned into my mind.

A new normal is something I’ve been looking for. The world doesn’t stop turning for the death of anyone. You have to press on. Take your licks and keep moving. Focus on what you can manage and deal with the emotions as they come. Cry. Drink. Talk. Weep. Breathe deeply. Shake your head clear and get back to living.

Mentally I feel like I’ve never been better in my life. The sad days are few and far between anymore even though there’s barely an hour that passes that I don’t think about Phil. It’s a numbness that I’ve welcomed and cherish. Not that I don’t have strong feelings about it, but it’s good to compartmentalize it to some degree. There’s a healthy balance of letting it out and keeping it in. Life goes on. People live. People die. Sometimes it’s the ones we love.

Am I mad? No. Not in the least. In fact, there’s much I’m thankful for. Like the fact that Phil and I were so very close. We purposefully shared a room up until the day I got married. We always hugged and said, “I love you.” We hung out and always laughed a lot. I’m thankful that if Phil had to die it was over as quickly as it was. I’m thankful I got to see him the day of the accident and hold his hand while he still looked like Phil. I’m thankful for the outpouring of love from people I both do and don’t know.

The new normal feels like it’s slowly happening on its own and I welcome it, but also feel guilt for it. To not mourn for someone as much as you feel they deserve does bring about some feelings of guilt. You feel this way even though you know they’d not want one single tear shed. It’s just human nature. We want to honor the ones we love.

The new normal also feels like a mess because, well, it’s new. Phil’s personality was very mellow and he was a great glue for my family dynamic and without him, much has changed drastically and I mourn for that as well.

Sometimes I feel alone in this and sometimes I feel the lift from my brother, Jason, who walks this trail with me. Two where there are supposed to be three.

Most days are great, but days like Mother’s Day and tomorrow are not fun days. They’re a reminder of what was lost and the hole in my heart that I’m trying to not notice all the time.

In an animated movie I saw last year there was a point where the narrator talked about hearts breaking and the truth in the statement can’t be overstated. He said, “When your heart breaks, it can grow back crooked. It grows back twisted and gnarled and hard.” 

Sometimes I feel like the character he was speaking of. Still very much me, but increasingly numbed to many things I used to feel greatly about. It takes an astonishing amount of anything to get an emotional reaction from me anymore. It’s given me extreme tunnel vision. I worry about my kids and my wife. That’s it. That’s my world. So long as nothing happens to them I’m impervious to pain of any kind. I’ve actually grown to love this as it gives my life and tasking a laser focus. No distractions. There was recently another death in the family of someone I really cherished and I barely felt anything. Is my family okay? Good. I’m good.

All this thinking and reflecting about the living that I’ll never have with Phil, I’m always reminded of the great ending to the poem, Maud Muller, that states:

For all the sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Another day. Another year. Another normal. I’m getting there.

 

 

My Brother Doesn’t Age Anymore

Tomorrow would’ve been my brother’s 26th birthday. We’d be going to my parents house to have cupcakes and ice cream and sing the happy birthday song like a bunch of obnoxious 4 year olds. I’d be able to see the candles in the reflection of his glasses. I’d see that dopey grin of my brother’s that was just so….him. These are events that won’t ever happen again and I’m left with a memory that’s only sure to fail with time. Just thinking about the reality of it brings great weight that I’m eager to rid myself of.

It’s the most simple thing. When someone passes away they’re gone. The finality of it seems to always hit with the same sting. Of course Phil’s gone. I know that. My mind continually pushes against that idea and never fails to bring some form of pain I’d long ago hoped would leave me.

If I’m lucky enough to live to be a very old man my brother will still be 24 years old. Frozen in time as the young man I always knew.

I just wish that my heart could outgrow such terrors as to give me a moments peace.

I love you, Phil.

Happy 26th Birthday.

Prayer

Even as a believer I was somewhat vexed about prayer. It’s an interesting idea I’ll admit – bringing your worries, praise, wounds, wants, needs and humbleness before the Almighty. Inviting Him into all corners of your life and laying yourself bare for spiritual cleansing and the hopeful guidance of His desire for your life.

What I’d always struggled with is that if god has a plan laid out for everyone, as it seems widely believed by most evangelicals I’ve ever known, I guess I wonder what good prayer can do. Speaking specifically about prayer requests, I wonder how prayer to god can be beneficial? What difference does it make?

If there’s a plan already in motion by god and your prayer isn’t in line with that plan is it ignored? If my family is in a car crash and are in the hospital on life support and it’s part of god’s plan to let them die to grow me, then my prayers for them to be healed are quite literally wasted breath. They’re heard and ignored or maybe they’re just not heard at all.

If the outcome of any prayer request is yes, maybe or no, how can you decipher what’s god and what’s blind luck or modern medicine? Praying to my son’s Curious George stuffed animal would have the same results. Some hit. Some miss. Some take more time.

Here’s a Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in cardiac bypass patients. The study was a randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. The results are telling:

“In the 2 groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% CI 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in 59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52% (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.”

The group that received prayers and were certain that they were receiving prayers had the worst recovery rates. How could this be? From other sources I’ve read they link it to anxiety about getting better knowing people are praying for you. A morbid take on stage fright.

Let’s not forget that these prayers for aid are going to the same god that allowed something bad to happen to you or a loved one in the first place. It’s like a boy asking his dad for an ice pack after he was slapped in the face by his father. Seems a bit masochistic to me.

People of all different faiths pray to their gods and have their prayers answered. Are all gods right? If there’s no way to judge which god better answers prayers how do we validate one god over the other? If there’s no evidence for any gods how do you test the truth of one over the other? An honest person would have to conclude that you can’t know.

It’s just that I’ve tired of hearing people tell me they’re praying for me about my unbelief. In what ways may god reveal himself that I hadn’t already prayed and begged for when I was in need most? Also, if you feel that god really has it in control and within his power then why even tell me you’re praying for me? It serves no purpose, but to make one feel better in a situation they can’t control. It feels nice to tell people you’re praying for them. It feels like something has been done to help. “I’m praying for you” sounds so much better than “hang in there.”

There’s a saying I’ve become familiar with and it sums up my feelings perfectly:

“Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.”

Helping in tangible ways with money, time, food or some other investment in a person is and will always be more helpful than prayer ever could.