The idea of giving up one’s life for another is not an easy one to swallow. A good man will do it for those who he might truly love. He will step into the fire to retrieve his child caught in the midst of the house blaze. A mother will gladly rush to protect her child and die in the process. We all fear death. We all fear the loss of our conscious selves. That idea of being, aware. The great mystery of how we know we exist. This lack of understanding is clung to like the lifeboat that it is. Without this idea of personhood, we float into a meaningless void; into the lack of significance.
So, looking into the eyes of another and understanding that their life is more precious than yours is something foreign to the human condition. We are so locked into our idea of existing that it’s beyond our understanding that our lives aren’t meant to be lived for ourselves. To push yourself beyond what is human selfishness is unthinkable. However, I truly believe that in the last moments of the martyred they’ve understood. When that soldier looks into the eyes of the man he just took a bullet for, when the last drops of blood are leaving the wound of the one who gave their lives, I believe they understand it. They understand the value of “other”. How do we attain that understanding now? What does that life look like? The life of personal sacrifice. The life of embracing the death of the self… while still alive.
It seems like this is too philosophical an idea to begin to understand. It’s beyond the minds of the mortals to undertake what only gods take for granted. A sense of understanding about what is truly important in life. I sat the other night in a little rocking chair, putting my two-year-old son to bed. We still sit in the rocking chair together and read books before bed, then we sing, pray, and finally just rock. Back and forth, back and forth. It’s a simple ritual. However, the other night I was rocking my son, and I gained some clarity to this understanding that it’s not about me. I looked at my little son and realized it was about him. Not only that, it was about my two daughters, and my wife, and my best friend, and his kids, and the families they will have and their families and their families, and so on.
I am on earth to give of myself to others. So many others. With that realization, came the realization that I am here for those I disagree with. If I can’t love the person on social media who calls me a name, then what am I doing here? What’s the point of life if I cant love and sacrifice for those I know, don’t know, and those who I will never know. I will most likely never live long enough to get to know my great-grandchildren. Maybe I will, but I most likely won’t. However, what I do today, the words I write, the things I do, and the things I say will echo through time and the ripples of my life can reach those people. I hope I can be a bolder that creates a lasting wave and not just a little ripple. My life is going to be way too short to just stay silent, stay safe, stay entertained, and stay out of the lives of those around me.
D. Michl Lowe