I was listening to the latest episode of “Strange Customs“, the podcast hosted by Sasha Sagan (yes, daughter of Carl), and the topic of death came up. I try not to be particularly morbid or maudlin, but it’s something to think about. So I started thinking about life and death and wisdom.
I am, as you well know by now, a Christian — specifically, I am an Episcopalian, though I haven’t stepped into an Episcopal church since the Before Times. Thus, I do believe in an afterlife. I differ from many Christians in that I make no belief statements about what that afterlife might be like. Is it spending an eternity in the presence of God, just soaking up their infinite glory (yes, I use they/them pronouns for God, since I believe God transcends gender)? Is it just like life on Earth, except you get to hang out with the likes of Socrates and Einstein? I don’t know. Frankly, I think it’s beyond the comprehension of us living human beings. It’s trite, but I like to think of the process of dying as similar to the process of being born: when we are developing in the womb, we have no idea what life will be like on Earth. Similarly, as we are developing on Earth, we have no idea what the next stage of our existence will be.
If there is a Heaven, then I think everyone will be surprised by who else makes it there. Except I’m not sure there IS a Heaven or a Hell. Again: I don’t know what the afterlife is like. Jesus hinted that there might be a physical resurrection, but I don’t know how to interpret that.
We’re not granted much time here in Earth. We are born, we live for a few decades, possibly a century at best, and then we pass on. Personally, I don’t think that we can gain a whole lot of wisdom in that period of time. We can talk all we like about how older people are wise for their years, but if we all meet a maximum of wisdom over our lifetime, we’d all be more alike. Instead, everyone is wise in their own ways. What kind of wisdom would we gain if we lived to be two hundred years old? Or five hundred? Or a thousand?
Okay, maybe that doesn’t make any sense. Eh, I’ll leave it in.
Of course, you don’t have to be old to be wise. Young children have their own wisdom to share. Adolescents do as well. It simply behooves us to pay attention and listen to what they have to say. Wisdom is wisdom, no matter where you find it.
The third Jumanji film, Welcome to the Jungle, is a fun film to watch. Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillian, and the rest are a delight, and so is Danny DeVito. In the beginning of the film, Danny DeVito, whose character journey is, I think, the heart of it, states, “Being old is a curse”. At the end, after all his life-and-death adventures and building up his relationships with his friends and family members, he changes his tune: “Being old is a blessing.”
Me, I’m currently five-five years old. I don’t consider myself “old”, though I suppose by some measures I am. I don’t think of my age as a curse, even as my body self-sabotages itself occasionally and close friends and family members pass on. I like to think that as I do get older and become a wizened old man, I will gain some wisdom, and be more like Danny DeVito at the end of the film. Life is a blessing, Old age is a blessing. Death itself, for whatever reason, might be a blessing.
We’re not given a whole lot of time on this tiny Earth. The time we have we should spend listening to others, being kind to them, caring for them and this precious Earth that we find ourselves on.