I think the confrontation with death lays bare the spiritual core of the human condition. I mean, death acts like a hot wind to really strip away any pretence a person has, any sense of self, and really exposes our personal essence, our elemental core. What I call a spiritual is our innate response to the at once awe-inspiring and terrifying fact of human life, our experience of life in this universe. You know, in many ways, we’re just all hurtling through deep space on this tiny rock called Earth. I mean, really, think about it. Protected from the frigid galactic void of the Milky Way but by a blanket of air, held on the surface by gravity, whatever the heck that is [laugh], and here we are.
Really, for me, that very image that I have helps me come to the confrontation or other peoples’ confrontation, in the clinical encounter, if you will, with the person, seeing the other person as just another being, and here we are. That for human beings is really a confrontation with the spiritual. It calls into question, you know, what is the meaning of this life and often draws us to a sense of some connection to something larger than ourselves which will endure.Ira Byock on facing our mortality, from an excerpt of an interview on “On Being”
It’s important to acknowledge that dying isn’t medical. It’s personal, right? And it’s so easy to lose that. When somebody is seriously ill, for the very best reasons, I did this in the emergency department all the time, we tacitly say to people put your life on hold. You know, we got important work to do here. You’re having a heart attack. When somebody is at the end of a serious life-limiting illness, they can’t put their lives on hold. This is their life. And while medicine has a lot to offer, none of us should be sort of seduced into thinking that this is a medical experience. It is a personal experience that has serious medical needs. So, you know, it’s not embracing it. It doesn’t feel like a, you know, light and kind of New Agey experience. It’s the most gritty, difficult, unwanted experience and yet so profoundly personal and human.Ira Byock on facing our mortality
Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.Lily Tomlin
The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His word, but also lends us His ear. He says, Christians especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something, when they’re in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Christian or not, I thinker these words contain a deep seated wisdom on how important it is for us to listen well.