Many thanks for your letter, which brought this blog back alive.
I originally started this blog to become stronger. I thought that a better articulation of what I truly believe in and what inspires me, would help me to become a better person. I often feel I do not give enough, and I seldom feel gracious. So I thought writing a blog would help. However, the gap between my writings and what I actually do (and how I feel about it) speaks for itself: wisdom is good, but practice is better. I do lack practice. You are more of a practitioner than me—and with plenty of grace, for sure.
We are all going to die. The perspective of death is, in fact, what forces us to try to make sense of life. If we’d live forever, we wouldn’t be asking all those philosophical questions. That’s a sentiment that’s widely shared. Philosophy, and even science, will never give us a final answer to those questions. Literature helps us better in this regard. Have you read The Plague? Philosophers labelled this extraordinary novel—which explores the subject of death like no other work I know—as existentialist. As a youngster, while trying to read Sartre and other French intellectuals, I was very much intrigued by this philosophy, which basically states that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely as a thinking subject, but as an acting, living and, therefore, limited and vulnerable human being.
My life experiences have led me to appreciate such more engaged thinking even more. As you rightly point out in your letter, much of our sense-making of life lies in giving, in reaching out, in being there for others. My mom, who died of a very aggressive cancer last year, struggled with that too. As I took care of her during her final weeks—every night, because the nights were the most difficult—she talked about that too. She suffered a lot—physically—but the idea of not being able to be a gracious host for her children and her grandchildren bothered her most. She had opted for a euthanasia procedure and, looking back, I realize she called the doctor for the final appointment on a day she was too weak to make coffee.
She was not able to make coffee for us anymore in the end, but she continued to give other, more important, gifts till the very last moment—when she chose to die. It was a moment of grace, combining moral strength and courage, which I feel very privileged to have witnessed. As for giving… Well… I feel her greatest gift to me was that she allowed me to take care of her.
You too, Sophia, are giving your nearest ones a lot as you accept to be taken care of. Giving is not a one-directional thing. In fact, the person who receives may actually give more, because it takes quite a lot to accept to receive for strong people like you. That’s something you should appreciate, I think.
Also know that your offer to do a blog together means a lot to me too. It will, hopefully, bring more practice. 🙂