A Whoah! Moment
Joe Clark ~~ Oct 11, 2005

It's been the better part of a year since I wrote a real, honest-to-goodness wise thought. Hopefully you've kept up with my thought processes via my xanga site. But I've been thinking I should write another real wise thought here, and I think I have a topic that warrants some consideration, so here goes.

So, my dad went in to have some outpatient medical work done today at the hospital. As I sat in the recovery room with him, looking out the window at one of the nice views of Cedar Rapids (hospitals, at least in Cedar Rapids, have a lot of cool views, strangely enough), my mind turned to...the types of things one would be expected to think about in a hospital room. Here is how life from a hospital room seems:

life, life, life, life..whoah!

What I mean is, whether the situation is dire or not, it makes you think to be in a place where the battle of life and death is fought many times over every day. We go about life, eating spaghetti and playing video games and chatting online and writing wise thoughts and singing worship songs at church and traveling to visit friends and jogging on the nature trail and a million other things, (generalizing) not thinking too much about the big huge point and the big huge purpose. Sure, we talk about "God's purpose for our lives" and stuff, but that's half future-looking and half buzzwords. And after we get done talking about "God's purpose for our lives" usually we go out and eat more spaghetti or play video games or, generally, re-enter the "normal" world of not thinking too much about the big picture.

So, the hospital mindset is an interesting one to entertain...the mindset where we look back and say, "What purpose is being lived out in my life." See the difference? We always talk like, "I wonder what God will do in my life in 5 years" or 50 years, or whatever. But the hospital question is more about reflecting on where we are right now, and what got us to this point. Usually, there's an element of, "something major is happening in my life. What have I done with the time God has given me up till now?" And, to be a little morbid: "What is it that people will say of me and my life when I'm gone?"

Those were the kinds of questions I was thinking about today. Seemingly quite selfishly, I was wondering, "Would people miss me if I died?" I'm not being whiny, because I think they would. Moreso, I was wondering if that question is really selfish or not. Is it some natural thing to want to leave a legacy? I think it is. Is that desire just something we should downplay, because it is, well, selfish? I don't think it is necessarily. I think a good way to say it is that we have certain values and priorities and ways we look at life, and throughout our lives we go about as loudspeakers for those values. If we then depart, and our loudspeaker is turned off, it's natural to ask if the message we've proclaimed all our lives was resonating enough and strong enough to be picked up by those around us. I think we all hope it is.

Now, another facet of this is the fact that I think a lot and I think I have something to present to the world. I have ideas and opinions and like to share them. But, there are others I'm pretty sure who don't care nearly so much about leaving a legacy or influencing at least some little corner of the world. To me, they seem to just live day to day, without much thought for what the summation of those days will mean. I heard someone mention recently about some senior citizens she sees regularly. She says that some are always just staring into space when she comes to visit. This seems sad to me. I don't know what that staring into space is -- maybe it's contemplation of a wonderful eternity, or of a life well lived. But it seems more likely that it is a reflection of an emptiness, a question not really spoken, asking, "What am I still here for? What is my purpose here? What will be my legacy?" I don't know how to address these questions, but the fact that these questions are in mind in a lot of people is very interesting to me, and I sorta like to think about it. (I know I'm ignoring a facet of the issue about how this emptiness can be brought on by the hardships of life...maybe that's a topic for another wise thought some other time.)

So, in a sorta related way, I like to go to nursing homes [ yeah yeah once a year around Christmas ]. The residents of a nursing home probably deal with these questions of purpose and legacy and life causing emptiness every day. Some make quilts for the homeless shelter. Some are not blessed with arthritis-free hands to allow such blessings. Some are not blessed with mental capacity that extends to fill their physical lives. This is not being mean, it's just... facts of life. Such an environment can be sad, but it is also a good angle to look at when thinking about the "whoah!" moments.

Soooo anyway, my applications of these thoughts are to take a "whoah!" moment and think about stuff. I have said in the past that after I got my Masters a few months ago, "It's straight down to retirement now." But obviously that's shortsighted. It implies that my life will (barring unforeseen circumstances) go on basically as it does now for lots of years. But that's unlikely, and more than that, it's not really what I want. Will I work at RC for the next 40 years? Maybe, but not all that likely. Will I talk online every night as is my current addiction? Doubtful. But see, I have this laziness problem where I don't just up and change my life very much. Am I building purpose by living my usual life? Or will there come a time when I need to make a change to align my life with my goals? Will I always be excited about bike riding and hot air balloons? Will I always feed my day to day joys off the simple and familiar things, which some might say is "living in the past"? Will my life be defined by how many people ask me for computer advice? Will I always have the skills (and quirks) that I do now? And of course, will I be single forever? Sheesh, who thinks this hard about this stuff, especially without a specific motivation?

Anyway, that is a big long summation of today's whoah moment. I don't know what the outcome of this whoah moment is; I don't have a particular set of "action items" to accomplish now. I just wanted to share my thoughts, in somewhat melodramatic fashion, as the pictures of old train cars scroll by on the TV behind me (CRANDIC video), reminding me of my childhood. As I think about my life and how it's not as static as it sometimes seems to be -- how things change, and people change, and I change -- I want to figure out where I have fit in the past, and where I hope to fit in the future. Does that make any sense?

Thanks for indulging in reading all this sorta random stuff. I hope it was at least a little entertaining, or better yet insightful. It was good to write a wise thought again. I just hope I haven't lost my touch. :-)