Life is short, so make it count
Paul Tillich wrote about many things, but one of the ideas he promoted was that of ultimate concern. He asserted that people are most concerned about the big-ticket items of existential thought: Who am I? What am I? How did I get here? What is going to happen to me when I die? Is this all there is?
While I write this, I am listening to the music from three movies 'Gladiator', 'Pearl Harbor' and 'Titanic'. I love that music, and I think it's also because I remember the movies and the things the characters went through and what they did in those movies. They were about ultimate concerns. Maximus gave himself for the Republic of Rome and for a better life for others. In 'Pearl Harbor' people were involved in tumultuous world war, and a man gave his life as a shield against bullets to save his friend. In 'Titanic', Jack invested himself in saving Rose, and he did it in more ways than one. He saved her from a watery grave, but more than that, he saved her from a futile and inauthentic life.
I think I have always been a sucker for the self-sacrificing, heroic story. The people in such stories always rise to the demanding situation, the crisis of ultimate concerns; and they find in themselves new levels of character, more formidable strength, more patience, deeper levels of caring and the kind of love that puts others before oneself.
I was watching the news briefing in Colorado in which President Obama described meeting with the families of those killed in the theatre in Aurora, and also of his meeting with some of the survivors. Before he was finished, he spoke of talking with two young women two friends. He said they were sitting near the front rows when the shooter entered and threw a gas canister into the air. When it went off, one of them stood up. The killer pointed his gun at her and fired, and the bullet hit her in the neck. It broke an artery, and blood began to spurt out onto the floor where she fell. Her friend moved to her side and put her fingers on the artery to stop the bleeding even while the shooter kept firing. The wounded woman told her friend to get out while she could, but the friend refused to leave, kept pressing her fingers on the artery, and with her other hand she called 911. Both women survived.
Then there was Matthew McQuinn. He, his girlfriend and her brother went to the movies that night, but Matthew did not return home. He dove in front of his girlfriend and took the blast that would have killed her.
I wonder what goes through a person's mind at a moment like that? I have heard that people just act; they do what needs to be done. I am not sure they think about ultimate issues in the moment, but they likely do afterwards if they can, and those who are left behind certainly do.
The woman who lived immediately downstairs from the shooter's apartment went to knock on his door that night in order to ask him to turn down his loud music. It was midnight. He was already at the movie theatre, but he had rigged his apartment with lethal traps. She said that something prevented her from pushing the unlocked door open. Had she pushed it open, she would have been killed and the entire apartment building would have gone up in flames, likely trapping other residents who had already gone to sleep.
Then there was the young man wounded in the leg and the shoulder who could not escape. He said he lay face down on the ground praying to Jesus while the shooter's boot stepped right next to his head and the shooter kept firing rounds. He survived.
When people go through events such as these they often do contemplate ultimate concerns. Why was I spared? Where was God when all this happened? Is there a purpose for my life?
Immediately following traumatic experience a person is vulnerable to develop an acute stress disorder. If the person witnesses or is part of a life-threatening event and the person's response involves intense fear, helplessness, and/or horror, the person re-experiences the events in thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks, he or she avoids anything that reminds the person of the events in question, the person has increased general anxiety or arousal (such as inability to sleep, irritability and poor concentration) combined with three or more of the following symptoms, then that person might be slipping into an acute stress disorder:
l a subjective sense of numbing or emotional detachment
l a reduction of awareness of immediate surroundings
l derealisation (things don't seem real)
l depersonalisation (not feeling like oneself)
l loss of memory
Acute stress can become post-traumatic stress after the passage of time. Thus, without help through counselling or psychotherapy, traumatic stress debriefing etc, the person might be in trouble over the long haul.
All these things are relevant to people living in Bermuda. So far no-one has gone mad and shot up a public place like the person in Colorado. However, the gun violence in Bermuda has seen shooters riding up on motorbikes to gun down people at church events, in front of theatres or night clubs, in barber shops, and on public streets. People have been shot in their driveways. People have been shot on their front porches. People have been shot off their bikes. A whole generation of young men who grew up with one another in Bermuda have seen their ranks decimated by murder.
It is not irrelevant to think about ultimate concerns in Bermuda. Jesus said, “…do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?...Who among you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Indeed, is not life more than the issue of food and clothing, of eating at various restaurants or shopping at designer outlets? For that matter, wealth does not guarantee peace of mind, satisfaction with intimate relationships, a sense of purpose, or a life that gives one significance. The ultimate concerns of life outpace the ability of people to fulfill themselves with position, power, territory, influence, wealth or toys.
Life is more than these things. Life is short. Make it count.
Rose heading to Bermuda
Spirit gaining ground
Dickinson hangs on to win thriller
Tyrone qualifies for World Championships
Ton-up Jones destroys Somerset
Haddrell wins Strokeplay Championship
Town and Force share the spoils
Take Our Poll