Sunday, May 18, 2008

May 18, 2008 - The Imperfect Is Our Paradise

Some time ago, I saved this quotation from Philip Simmons’ book, Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life. Simmons suffers from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease):

“We have all heard poems, songs, and prayers that exhort us to see God in a blade of grass, a drop of dew, a child’s eyes, or the petals of a flower. Now when I hear such things I say that’s too easy. Our greater challenge is to see God not only in the eyes of the suffering child but in the suffering itself. To thank God for the sunset pink clouds over Red Hill – but also for the mosquitoes I must fan from my face while watching the clouds. To thank God for broken bones and broken hearts, for everything that opens us to the mystery of our humanness. The challenge is to stand at the sink with your hands in the dishwater, fuming over a quarrel with your spouse, children at your back clamoring for attention, the radio blaring the bad news from Bosnia, and to say ‘God is here, now, in this room, here in this dishwater, in this dirty spoon.’ Don’t talk to me about flowers and sunshine and waterfalls: this is the ground, here, now, in all that is ordinary and imperfect, this is the ground in which life sows the seeds of our fulfillment.

The imperfect is our paradise.”

I can’t say my suffering begins to approach that of an ALS patient like Philip Simmons. In fact, whatever suffering I experienced during my chemotherapy is becoming more and more of a distant memory. I’m still troubled by the thought of the recurrent cancer inside me, of course, but I’m trying to be thankful for days that approach normalcy, for the absence of symptoms and for the absence of the need to pursue further treatment at this time.

Sure, life’s imperfect. I’d prefer to still be in remission, or to be pronounced cured. But this life is the only life I've got.

Tomorrow morning, Claire and I pick up Ania at the airport, as she returns home from her freshman year of college. We’re looking forward to seeing her.

Life – even an imperfect life – is good.


Anonymous said...

Philip Simmon's thoughts and your reflection oddly brought to mind this Monty Python parody of the Christian hymn "all things bright and beautiful." I've been pondering it from time to time for 20 years.

a classier version of a similar theme is in Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek if I remember right.

I hope you have a glad reunion with your daughter!

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot.
Each little snake that poisons,
Each little wasp that stings,
He made their brutish venom,
He made their horrid wings.

All things sick and cancerous,
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous,
The Lord God made them all.

Each nasty little hornet,
Each beastly little squid,
Who made the spiky urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did.

All things scabbed and ulcerous,
All pox great and small,
Putrid, fouled and gangrenous,
The Lord God made them all.

["All Things Dull and Ugly," from the Monty Python movie, The Meaning of Life]


Carl said...

Ah, Monty Python! Always good for a smile (if an irreverent one)...

Anonymous said...

Dear Carl, can you really see God in the immense suffering as a result of the China earthquake or the Myanmar cyclone or in any other tragedies? I truly would like to but how does one begin? Does the answer lie in finding a purpose in the imperfection? I thought the bible says that when God created the world, he saw that all was good. Perhaps I am missing the point. Christine

Carl said...


See my entry for today, May 21st.


Anonymous said...

Wow! This is one of those times when I think that about the best thing I did all day was read this blog. I always learn so much. Thanks for that. Mary Beth