Saturday, September 26, 2009


Another of Mom's shirts lost a button yesterday while she was picking at it, so we changed her shirt since she seemed unhappy to have that gaping hole in front of her chest. I had sewn a button back onto one of Mom's shirts before; very late last night, as I watched a rerun of "The Matrix Revolutions" on cable, I sewed this button on, too.

As I worked, the monster hiding inside the crevices of my mind wondered what it was all for. She won't need that shirt in a year, the monster whispered. Probably true. This time next year, it's likely that I'll be looking at a sad pile of clothing with no wearer. It hurts to see how many of Mom's material possessions will outlive her.

But ultimately, I rejected the monster's slyly proffered pessimism. Giving ground to the monster would mean giving up on life, because after all, the monstrous logic extends to all of human existence: why bother doing anything when death is the end of the line?

There can be no concession to this kind of thinking, even when death is just around the corner. If I knew that Mom was going to die in a week, and I saw her upset over a missing button, I'd still sew it back on for her. We do these things in the face of death because that's how we're built: we're built to live, not merely to exist. That's why we clean the house even though we know it'll get messy again. It's why we go on vacation even though we know we have to return to work eventually. It's why we love each other, even though we know that love entails repeated pain. We are creatures built to live.

And that's our dharma, the law of our being. If you prefer Christian language, that's how we were created. Or if you prefer a more scientific phrasing, that's how we evolved. The why remains a mystery: why does life fight for itself? Right now, though, I can't worry about the why. A button needs reattaching, chores need to be done, a mother needs to be cared for, and that's reason enough to live.



melancholy donut said...

well said. keep on doing.

Charles said...

That was powerful. Thank you.