Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
“Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven.” -Wikipedia’s definition of “purgatory”
I’ve never actually met anyone who truly believes in purgatory, yet I feel that the general population is familiar with the idea of it.
On the final episode of Lost, the people from the Island who had ultimately lived their lives for the goodwill of others instead of greed and selfishness, reunited and reminisced in purgatory before entering Heaven together.
For those who are not Lost fanatics but like the band Coldplay, in their song “42,” some of the most memorable lyrics include the refrain, “You thought you might be a ghost; you didn’t get to Heaven but you made it close.”
Most of us don’t believe in the actual place, but for me at least, there is something pretty fascinating about the concept. I think it’s so easy in this life, in this culture, in this country, to feel like we are lost, or at least that we don’t belong wherever “here” is. We want to think that we deserve to transcend this lowly and boring situation, asking the question:
“What am I supposed to learn from this? Why am I here?”
My life has been filled with stretches like that. Even right now, my wife and I are having to adjust back to the busyness of our full-time jobs in Nashville, this time with a kid; which is a completely new balancing act for us. We are having to figure out and work out our new lifestyles and schedules, making time not only for the three of us, but for the two of us, as well.
It’s a purification process that is not easy; but it is necessary. We can see how natural it can be to let your kid consume your leftover energy and thoughts, slacking on making conscious efforts to keep the marriage relationship fresh and engaging. But we don’t want our lives to end up like Everybody Loves Raymond.
Ultimately, we are being forced to mature our marriage relationship. This “forced maturity” is sort of the whole point of purgatory. You suffer until you overcome.
Not that I am constantly immature or naive, or maybe I am (?), but I am always needing to grow in a way that I never could have without entering my newest purgatory.
But really, the more I think of the literary device we know as purgatory, the more it just seems like a straight forward yet abstract way to describe life itself; the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, we are made ready for Heaven, at best.
We may figuratively compare our lives to hell at times, but really, hell is an eternal end; it’s never-ending loneliness and destruction. Purgatory is temporary.
I don’t mind viewing life as purgatory. Until I pass on in to the afterlife, I will always have much more growing up to do, more necessary suffering, and one more level of maturity to reach- even if I live to be 80.
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Deep Thoughts, Must Read, Nostalgia, Spirituality
Thursday, September 8th, 2011
I’ve only got about 50 years left to live, if that.
Most nights as I fall asleep, I can’t help but think how sleeping through the night is sort of like checking out of reality, reminding me of the lyrics to Tom Petty’s classic song, “Freefalling”: “I want to leave this world for a while.”
Though I’m overly aware that at any given second I could die of any random cause, like instantly turning into a pillar of salt, I’m never more aware of the inevitability of death than when I am fading and falling into the dream world.
Sleeping is the closest thing I know to having an understanding of what it’s like to be dead. It’s the closest concept I have of understanding what it’s not like to live in this world, confined to rules of practicality and common sense.
Sure, it’s an understatement to admit that I don’t want to die right now. But I’ve never been more caught up in life than I am at this very moment, so it’s really on my mind.
After all, I have made a covenant before God to love my wife for as long as we both shall live. Then the two of us brought another life into this world. That’s pretty dang epic. That’s deep.
So now that I have involved myself this drastically in the course of history (and therefore, the future), I’m just dying to stick around. It’s not simply that I want to see what happens next; not simply that I want to see how the story unfolds with my wife and son. But I want to literally be here, as part of their story.
Without a doubt, it’s sad to think that the story could go on without me. It’s sad to think that has been reality for so many people who “died before their time.”
I’m not afraid of death. I couldn’t be any more confident of what happens to me the second after I die. But while I’m not afraid of death, I am pretty fascinated by it.
It amazes me that millions of people alive today in this world could take life (and therefore, death) so nonchalantly: That despite all the miracles in their lives, they never see a need to think past this life, and to consider how the people they interact with each day can be affected eternally by their words and actions.
How can a person not think about eternity, or convince themselves it doesn’t exist? The irony: that life itself distracts a person from thinking about death.
I can’t imagine not taking enough time to pause and wonder about what happens when the lights finally go out for good and what this life was for. I do it on a daily basis.
So it’s not that I ever wanted to die, or wouldn’t mind dying, but now more than ever, if I have any say in the matter, it’s as simple as this:
I don’t want to die right now.
And if I shall continue waking up alive each day, as I have done for 30 years so far, then I shall continue to live to the best of my ability. I’m the kind of guy who takes life way too seriously, but in a good way, I would like to think.
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Deep Thoughts, Must Read, Nostalgia, Spirituality
Sunday, May 29th, 2011
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There is a reason why the sentimental song “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys is always playing in the back of this dad and husband’s subconscious. Truthfully, I have to acknowledge that the days of my life are ultimately numbered; as are my wife’s and son’s. And that’s why I just can’t take one single day for granted.
If I’m being really honest, I might have to admit the song has at least made my eyes water more than once or a few dozen times, but only because of the deep and heavy subject matter that it always makes me think about. And I may or may not be the only person who has the same kinds of thoughts when I hear the song; I don’t know.
It ranked #25 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Released in 1966, the song was one of the very first pop songs to reference God in its title, though it was not necessarily a religious song. No doubt about it: “God Only Knows“ by The Beach Boys has remained one of my favorite songs, ever since I first heard it twenty years ago on the 1991 episode of The Wonder Years, entitled “Heartbreak.”
While its nostalgic mood and melancholy emotion are what have always grabbed me, it wasn’t until a few months ago when my wife and I decided to watch the entire series of HBO’s Big Love (via Netflix) that I began to consider the value of the lyrics. The show features “God Only Knows” as its theme song, so a few times everyday for a few months, I was exposed to the powerful song.
It’s very possible to love “God Only Knows” without actually understanding the meaning of the lyrics. Admittedly, the lyrics do seem to be a bit confusing and conflicting. For example, the first line is, “I may not always love you but long as there are stars above you, you never need to doubt it-I’ll make you so sure about it.” Up until recently, I just assumed the speaker was doubting the future of his relationship with the woman he loved at that point in his life.
But the only conditional phrase in the sentence is “as long as there are stars above you.” The reference is to the love of his life still being alive. If the stars are above you, you are on Earth. If the stars are below you, you are in Heaven.
So as long as the two of them are still alive together on Earth, he will always love her. Because despite the grandiose idea that two people can romantically love each other forever and be married eternally, the popular rabbi Jesus taught his followers that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” Though it’s difficult for me to grasp and to deal with, I realize I will only romantically love my wife in this life, not the afterlife as well.
So much hangs on that phrase “as long as there are stars above you,” when looked at from an eternal (and Christianized) viewpoint. I want to be married to my wife forever, not until one or both of us dies. So when I think about how my romantic love for her is limited to this life and this Earth, it makes me sad. And the song “God Only Knows” always points that out to me.
There is one other particular line in the song that I thought was peculiar: “If you should ever leave me, though life would still go on believe me, the world could show nothing to me so what good would living do me?”
My interpretation is that the lyricist is saying suicide would not be an option for him if she died before he did, but in essence, life would lose its flavor and he would have to essentially find a new purpose in life. Because she is his life.
I think about that concept; probably nearly everyday. Yes, I have been blessed with my ideal wife and one magical son, but for how long? I don’t sit around and worry myself sick about them, knowing that any of us could encounter an accident or random freak medical condition or unseen poisonous spider bite. But in the deepest of subconscious ways, there is a part of me that does always worry about something happening to them, or myself.
I just can’t imagine my life without my wife and my son. Yes, my eyes are watering as I type these words. So what can I do? I can make sure through my actions, communication, time, and presence, that they know how much I love them. That they are truly, literally the world to me. With or without the stars being above us.
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