Sunday, June 04, 2006

Doing Better

I am well, or at least a lot more well than I’ve been in several months. The dizziness or vertigo is gone. I don't need my walking stick for balance anymore. Yeah! The rash is almost gone. I have more energy and endurance. For all this I'm very grateful, yes, more than I can really say.

Yet a nagging question remains, how long will this improved health last? My joints do ache at times. My kidneys are still spilling some protein. This thing is not over with yet. Mixed connective tissue disease is incurable disease. So, short of a miracle, it never will be over with.

Sounds depressing doesn't it? Yet my lot isn't much different from millions of other people. People with diabetes, people with HIV infection or AIDS, people with MS, all live with incurable diseases. And there are many other incurable diseases I have not listed. This week marks the 25th anniversary of AIDS. AIDS is again in the news in a major way, which is a good thing. AIDS brings to light the dark side of our society. It exposes the prejudices in our society, the injustices in our health-care system. I am reminded again of the line from Angels in America, "Americans have no use for the sick."

Pretty grim, uh? It's easy to see why so many people become nihilistic and cynical. Yet there is another way to look at this very grim picture. There is a different perspective that is based on compassion and lovingkindness, resurrection and the coming of the Spirit. In some ways this perspective is expressed in a poem by Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Now Mary does not say one word about God in all this poem. Yet, to me she speaks of God. When I hear the wild geese, when I look into the blue sky, when I behold the beauty of trees, I see God and I know my place in the family of things. Mary speaks without naming that which I base my life on. God, who is Love, is showing me how to live with an incurable disease and find a healing which does not depend on cure. Friends, I am just starting to walk this learning curve and it is steep. Mary's poem is a good companion on the way.

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