We have been talking of late about our back looking propensity. And we have established good and intelligent reasons for doing so. In a sense, we review the past in some attempt to give meaning to the present. It gives contextuality to our “now.”
Yet, we do more than just engage with the past in order to discern lessons for the future and to give concreteness to the present. We also look back in some attempt to measure.
What do I mean? I mean that we are prone, in much of our lives to measure things. We measure time surely, we measure our progress. We measure our fullness of anything with respect to what others have. We count, and we project into the future. At this pace, we will be . . . .next Tuesday.
Measure twice, count once. A good thing to remember.
The counting of things is done in some sense to define “progress.” We like to think that we have made some, week to week, month to month. But we especially evaluate and measure at year’s end.
Some of us are so dedicated to self-punishment that we actually keep a copy of our “resolutions” to re-examine at year’s end. Most of us are not so masochistic as that. But we recall at least the major ones.
So we measure our weight loss, the reduction of our “debt”, the quantity of books read, the success of that new Yoga class. We feel alternately, good or bad, depending on how we “measure” up.
We make excuses, vow to do better, rethink, reword, rewrite all such things again. We add, subtract, multiply and divide. Momentarily depressed by our utter lack of success, we reconfigure and regain our optimism with bold new ways of approaching our resolutions for the coming year.
Even when we reject the entire concept of resolutions, we are not immune. We still reflect and grade ourselves in some fashion for our accomplishments or lack of same. We plan and devise a better strategy for the coming year.
And I’m not quite sure why we do so. It seems that we as humans need some marker to identify that we have “grown” in some way. We believe in God, those of us who do, yet, we are not satisfied to simply “do” living. We must evaluate and judge our living. As if, (don’t tell) we might not quite believe that immortality awaits us, and we need to make some showing to the world that we mattered.
There, I said it. We need and want to matter in the world, because it may be all we have. And so we attempt to measure out our successes or failures as if this all goes down into some impossibly long eulogy to be delivered at our death.
Here lies Sherry Peyton, who at age 1 and 1/2 mastered the art of spoon and pooping in a receptacle. At age 4, she tied her shoes. . . . at 59, she knitted a sweater, and learned to make Peking (Beijing?) duck.”
Yet, we profess, and assert that we do believe. We look about us at the grandeur of the world (those places unsullied by human trashing at least) and we see the clear finger of God. We notice the flora and fauna and gasp in delight, knowing that, some wonderfully gracious transcendent power by His word uttered, set all in motion.
We see the dance of galaxies, and the Northern Lights, tears appear as we gaze upon beauty so haunting and so perfect, moments so tender and precious that we choke momentarily in wonder. We KNOW in a way that is inexplicable and far to holy to commit to mere words.
In frail fleeting seconds we KNOW, and then return to the realities of carpooling and flu bugs, and car payments and arthritis. And so we count, and measure, and evaluate, and judge, and we hope it means something in the end to us, to them, to those strangers who will buy our pathetic belongings at auctions. I see my sewing machine in a box on the floor of a garage, carried off by a bidder for 4 bucks. My life is sold off for a few hundred dollars.
Is it enough? Surely, for these things are but stuff. We live on in the minds of loved ones, family and friends. They are mindful of our measuring. For they measure too.
Better, I think that we strive to not count, but rather give thanks. That we peruse that history we have built and thank our lucky stars (so dramatically created of Godstuff) that we had homes and loved ones. We saw the Grand Canyon, we reveled in Mozart’s 40th symphony. We held a grandchild and caressed a lover. We tasted caviar, and sipped a good champagne once. We saw a puppy being born, and saw an eagle soar. We read Thomas Merton, and laughed at Erma Bombeck.
Give thanks as these last moments of 2009 drift by. We are alive, we have minds to think with, and hands to work with and feet to travel upon. We have loved ones, friends, and pets. We have eyes to see a quiet beauty everywhere we look, if we but look, carefully. Give thanks, and then do it some more. We are more full that we imagine with that which we should be grateful for.