The Wastefulness of Life

Thursday 20 September 2007

When a tree has barely enough life to keep itself going, it looks sickly; it's leaves become yellow or spotted, lacklustre. If it has enough life to keep itself alive and healthy, it will produce lovely leaves but no fruit. The fruit only comes when there is over and above what the tree needs itself to survive. Fruit is produced by pure excess of energy. Such excessive wastefulness. That's what makes the fruit.

Coming off two months of illness where getting myself through the day has been just about the extent of it, there has been no fruit for me. No creativity, no extra love or care for anyone else. It's been maintenance mode. I forgot how lonely it is in here. (But still, even in this aridity things take root, in the dark. Nothing is wasted. Nothing).

I have been re-experiencing a reprise of how it felt to have CFS. It's been almost unbearable returning back to the land of illness, a desert of the waste howling kind.

But still, it was much worse back in CFS land. As if it's not bad enough to experience the physical effects of being ill, you have to deal with the psychological effects of very few people understanding or giving any kind of validation for the horror you are experiencing. At least coughing up my own lungs with great regularity has produced an abundance of sympathy from horrified onlookers. If only there was some kind of outward expression like this for CFS patients. It is an invisible illness in so many ways.

The physical aridity of illness stretches its fingers inwards. Everything that makes life pleasurable becomes out of reach, like the fruit at the top of the tree that is too far away to reach. How juicy it looks. How pleasurable far horizons seem, and how impossible to gain them just when you need them most. This is where the evil is at its worst. To rest - spiritually, emotionally, mentally - when you are sick is almost impossible. At least, it is for me. It requires conscious effort and excess energy. I never really did learn to rest while I was ill. That has come when I have been well.

When I regained my health, being well felt like some kind of crazy cosmic high. It was the simplicity of life that took my breath away. How easy life is when it's been taken away from you and then returned! When you have died and been reborn, everything is a bonus and from that vantage point it becomes very apparent that the world is made out of the kind of playfulness that children live in instinctively and that we lose when we become way too serious and fearful and logical and analytical and Western about everything. We think that we have to strive and strain to reach the things which lie inside quietly, waiting for us to slow down to the "unforced rhythms of grace". It is all so so simple. So very, very simple. So simple, even a child can understand it. That's what's so frustrating. Because simple doesn't mean easy to reach.

The buds are unfurling. Very slowly. I feel like a creaky old chair that's been out in the rain for a decade or so. My thinking is as crusty as my body and my mind, too, must unfurl. Yesterday afternoon I came home from uni and took myself to bed. It felt way too luxurious a thing to do, which is exactly why I did it. The walls had closed in around me as soon as I walked in the door. The house, reflecting its owner's two-month low-energy status, cried out to me to pay it some attention. The bathroom has been overtaken by about 13 loads of undone washing festooned all over the floor. There are dishes everywhere, papers, dust, dirt, letters that haven't been opened for a month (my landline got cut off for a few days because the bill got stuck under pile number 17 in the loungeroom).

I felt my usual overwhelm at the amount of stuff there was to do around this place. That familiar sinking feeling of despair, of claustrophobia. So I did the best thing - I didn't do anything. I took myself off with my dog, and lay on my bed and read. And slept for about three hours. And when I did it felt good, and the leathery surface of my mind smoothed out again, and I could breathe. And everything became more manageable.

I needed to do this kind of thinking regularly when I was ill. But I couldn't. Or wouldn't. I couldn't see that there was a way out, a way to rest while I was sick. The violent stress of needing to control everything burst its banks and flooded my mind. How unattractive the land of control is. But the perspective is just not there when I am ill.

I think, why do I ever try to do anything when my mind is turmoiling like a washing machine? Of course, that's the time when the need to do just that is at its most screaming and desperate. Funny, isn't it, how when you are the most strung out it seems to be the time when you must, must, must solve all of your problems, and the Middle East crisis to boot. When I have a measure of health, the ridiculousness is apparent to me. As soon as I recognise my flustery thinking, the opportunity to escape presents itself alongside the recognition. The recognition and the ability to find the escape hatch has become a more automatic process since I have been well. But when I was sick, once again it completely flew out the window.

But yesterday, I managed to ignore the turmoil. And got the benefit last night by feeling like I had space enough to do something vaguely creative. And oh, how nice it felt :) I got to write some crap poetry. Felt the leathery surface smoothing out a little bit more. And I thought, here is that wastefulness again. It feels too extravagant somehow, living in the rhythm of life. There is an ease, a luxury, to it. All of the good things, creativity, love, music, reading, relationships, change, they all need to grow in this rich soil of extravagant wastefulness. The West has lost its sense of dreaming, and so we forget this. But our hearts don't.

Sometimes I think that we have been told so often that we are spotted yellow and diseased that we don't think that we deserve to have any fruit, or that it's unobtainable, or that it's tied up in how rich we are or successful or whatever. We become so tied up in striving outwardly that we become fearful of the silences within and so we cut ourselves off from our own fruitfulness. Yet even when the tree is spotted yellow and diseased, it still contains all of the potential for fruit within it. Even when it looks like it's dead. The sting is out of death's tail, swallowed up in life.

Wastefulness is seen as excessive, wrong. But it's not always so. Not when those things are good things, life things, like love, kindness, patience etc. The fruit of life. They live in the unforced rhythms of grace. The speed of life. God is wasteful. Terribly terribly wasteful in every direction. It's enough to make me laugh out loud.

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