Sir Ernest Shackleton once said, "Better a live donkey than a dead lion."
I've always had a bit of a conflict with this quote. Shackleton is one of my heroes. And I understand what he's trying to say. But I have trouble with it because I have always believed that to die for glory, my own or God's, is the best possible route to ultimate happiness and immortality through the memories of me left behind in the people I love.
But then I realized the contradiction that I am. My very existence (as the Sebastian people know and love) is a contradiction.
I want to die for glory.
I want to live forever.
I want to be Peter Pan. Any one who knows me well knows this: I have an avid fear of growing old. Gerascophobia. Not so much a fear of dying, necessarily. Every one's afraid of dying (any one who tells you differently is trying to get your vote next November.) But I want to be always young and to have fun...to not suffer.
But we have to suffer. There is no love without suffering.
And if I do not suffer, I will life forever. And if I live forever, I can never die for glory. And if I never live with love and die for glory, namely God's, then I can never achieve eternal happiness and immortal life in Heaven with Him.
Immortality is something we praise so highly in this society, in this world. Whether it's seeking to live longer or be famous enough to be remembered throughout time...there's still just one problem with that.
We're all going to die. Everything that has a beginning has an end. Including memory. Someday, even Shackleton will be forgotten.
Even I will be forgotten.
And even I will die.
But, I think I'm beginning to realize another dimension to our "Culture of Death."
We have completely forgotten what life is. Life isn't something to be endured. Life isn't something to be "cured" like an illness. Life isn't something to be engineered or used for one's own purpose. Life isn't something that we use to glorify ourselves.
Life is an adventure.
We live, we laugh, we love, we cry, we crash, we crumble.
We give, we grown, we gain, we fall, we fail, we fade.
We sing, we speak, we celebrate, we hate, we hurt, we hide.
We tell people that we love them, then we watch them turn to dust.
We rise out from the ashes, only to return once more.
It is better to be a live donkey than a dead lion. It's better to be alive at all! Death is no lion. Death is the easy way out. Death without life, without having lived a life full of love and striving for holiness and blessedness and all done in humility for no other purpose than to glorify God, is not death at all. It's selfishness. The opposite of love.
Death is not God's gift to man. Life is. And life after death is God's greatest gift to man.
"To live will be an awfully big adventure."