For the first time in YEARS, I did exactly what I wanted to do on my birthday (within the realm of possibility … and propriety).
1. After I finished work, I went for a run (tragically cut short by the death of my iPod’s battery, but 20 minutes is better than none).
2. I went to lunch at my favorite Indian restaurant–actually, my favorite restaurant in the area, period. I had no one with me but my Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics collection. I reread parts of Mere Christianity and laughed and cried.
3. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, which is hilarious and fun, if not exactly a work of sublime genius.
4. I had cake and lemon sorbet. I ran into a little story in the process. I went to the bakery counter at the grocery because I wanted a specific variety of their cake, which I didn’t see out at the time (I like this store’s white cake, but all I was seeing was marble, white-almond, and yellow). I got to the counter at the same time as an older woman, but she let me go first while she pondered some cookies. The bakery guy went to look for something in the back, so I told the woman waiting, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was gonna take very long.”
She said, “It’s ok, it’s probably a sign that I should walk away from these cookies.”
After an awkward pause (because it’s not a conversation with me without at least twelve of those), I said, “Well, life is short, might as well have cookies, right?”
She responded with a surprisingly intense, “That is so true!”
Now that I think back on it, she was probably surprised to meet a 20-something woman who would actually tell someone to eat cookies instead of whining about calories or carbs or some dumb sh*t like that.
Then she started telling me about how she had good health her whole life, but was suddenly and recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
I’m standing there like, “UM,” but she hurriedly told me that she was doing well, that the chemo was working, but yes, things can change in an instant, so because I’m young (she observed), I should enjoy it while I can. She added, “And you need to have God on your side.”
I said “Amen to that,” after which she told me that her cancer diagnosis kind of shook her out of complacency, and she was grateful for that. By then, the baker came back and they didn’t have what I wanted so I left and told the woman to take care, and she ended up getting the cookies after saying “Good talking to you!” It was kind of awesome, in a slightly surreal way.
The other great thing about today (and one of the reasons I was crying in a restaurant) was that I read a passage in Mere Christianity that is incredibly relevant to part of my previous blog post. Warning: It’s a long one.
From the chapter on Hope:
Most of us find it very difficult to want ‘Heaven’ at all–except in so far as ‘Heaven’ means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it. Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. … The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. … The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us. Now there are two wrong ways of dealing with this fact, and one right one.
(1) The Fool’s Way–He puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after. …
(2) The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man’–He soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine. … And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, ‘to cry for the moon.’ This is, of course, a much better way than the first, and makes a man much happier, and less of a nuisance to society. … It would be the best line we could take if man did not live for ever. But supposing infinite happiness really is there, waiting for us? Supposing one really can reach the rainbow’s end? In that case it would be a pity to find out too late (a moment after death) that by our supposed ‘common sense’ we had stifled in ourselves the faculty of enjoying it.
(3) The Christian Way–The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.’
I’ve read this bit before (I’ve read all of Mere Christianity once before), but that part didn’t have such an impact the first time. It certainly applies to my disappointment with my road trip. I have definitely been guilty of (2), but it hasn’t been as nice as Lewis makes it sound. Smothering hope and joy is never nice.
Perhaps this passage is the best response to my attitude of, “Everything is ultimately a disappointment, so why bother with any of it?” I guess I need to put a little more thought into the things above, and a little less time (though not none, because that would be irresponsible) on where I’m going to live next and who I’m going to (possibly) marry and what my career will look like in five years.