20 June 2006

Living vs. Surviving

In Rachel Naomi Remen’s book there was another story called Attached or Committed Part 2 in which she describes an older woman with a cancerous lump on the side of her face.

When the doctors met her at the hospital, they were sure they could help her. In the process of removing the cancer, they would take her lower jaw. She would make a full recovery.

Even though her chances of survival were very high, she chose not to have medical treatment.

The doctors were surprised and angry that she would not let them save her life.

But she signed a release form in the presence of her supportive family and left the hospital.

This story is supposed to be different from the first story of attachment where the young man was “married to his leg.”

This story is one of an older woman who was perhaps committed to living her later years with dignity.

Maybe I am looking too deeply for a parallel here, but it seems to me that both in this story, and in the story of the Masai, there are people who are not willing to compromise what it means to live life on their own terms.

These are stories of people who do not want to survive. They want to live. They know the difference.

But these are stories of people reacting to big life happenings. What about making the same decision every day with smaller life happenings?

In this year of nomadic wandering I am searching to know for myself, on the day-to-day level, what is the difference between living and surviving?

Answers can deal with level of comfort. But I want answers that deal with level of engagement.

What do I really want from my work, my relationships, my environment? What is useful and meaningful in my life? What stuff only just gets me by?

I simplified my life. I traded in a predictable routine, for one year, because I wanted to see if I could stay in the moment with every new thought and experience I encountered.

I was curious to see where I would end up if I tried to confront each thought and experience in a genuine way.

Sometimes it’s shaky. I’ve sighed on the phone asking my parents, “But what if my decisions were wrong?”

Sometimes it’s reassuring. My friend Hikmet has told me several times, “I like the way you ask questions in class. You are not trying to show off or disagree. You can tell that you just really want to know.”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to your post, I got a better perspective about the blog article I am about to write. I want to live not just survive and I want to spread this idea. I care enough for people to appreciate more from life despite the many challenges of our world today. Thanks Jen

Friday, 03 July, 2009  

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