There are four realities in living life that we cannot overcome. They are fixed factors of living on earth. We may waste our lives attempting to defeat them, instead of living well within the context of them. Experiencing living within their parameters can actually set us free, though facing, feeling, and accepting them disturbs us at first.
They disturb us because we are conditioned to believe they are our enemy. And they disturb us because they do, indeed, go against the dream within us that has been called among other things, “eternity in our hearts,” or in the secular dialogue, “striving for perfection.” I listen to “eternity in our hearts,” and I support “striving for perfection.” I also support integrating the reality that they will not occur in full where we live—on earth—between “not yet” and “someday.” As Samuel Beckett wrote, “You’re on earth. There is no cure for that.”
The best we ever become in life is clumsy.
Number one: The best we ever become in life is clumsy, no matter how much we attempt to factor in what we can’t figure out. We will always be like giraffes running on ice. We will fail while we are succeeding. Eternity eludes us and perfection escapes us. Nevertheless, we are created to reach even as we fall. After resting and evaluating, getting up and reaching again is the marker of success. That “reaching again” is an expression of courage, knowing full well that we will fall again.
We have to live life on life’s terms.
Number two: We have to live life on life’s terms, i.e., work against clumsiness, mistakes, inability, limitations, incapacities, while knowing full-well that they are a part of living—as long as we are alive. Hoping fully in the midst of reality takes great faith and courage if we face, feel, and accept this reality. Hope allows us to persevere towards the dream or the desire, while knowing full well that all things constructed can be destructed.
We are always practicing.
Number three: We are always practicing. We are forever limited by clumsiness and life has its own terms that cannot be overcome. Therefore, we are always practicing, and never arriving at the place of perfection we seek. Physicians are practicing, lawyers are practicing, researchers are practicing, and parents are practicing. Practice doesn’t make perfect. It allows us to continue on with great expectation and less demands. It grows us to be more tolerant and less judgmental against others. It creates more shared participation. We get better by practicing full participation in all that we do. We do not participate as passive spectators. For example, patients need to bring their ideas to doctors. Children need to be heard, not just seen.
It takes a lifetime to learn how to live.
Number four: It really does take a lifetime to learn how to live. As soon as one phase of life comes to a close, another one opens. The questions we had at twenty-four will also be some of the same questions we have at eighty-four, especially related to issues of love, success, loneliness, connection, failure, and forgiveness, for example. Not to say that we don’t learn and have answers. But that we don’t finish this life until it’s over. Questions take us to more learning, and more dependence on each other and God. May we never stop learning through the questions that connect us all. May we never stop sharing what we know, mistakenly believing that we have nothing to add because we don’t have all the answers.
Acceptance of these four realities doesn’t mean resignation or quitting.
Acceptance of these four realities doesn’t mean resignation or quitting. They are the realties that call us to have courage, faith, and movement towards a place we cannot get to on earth. Courage, faith, and movement don’t overcome life. They allow us to live fully in spite of life’s realities. They can liberate us to make mistakes, and have tolerance and patience in them. They can set us free to need each other’s gifts, because no one has everything. They can call us to community through humility, perseverance through sharing the struggle, and full participation in life because we all live in the same story.