Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Death in Tehran

I recently was reminded of just how precarious life is. I was walking past a local airfield enjoying the clear, cool afternoon as I was finishing a 5 mile walk (trying to stay Camino ready). I heard the engine noise from a small plane, and looked up to see a red single engine plane, about 200 feet above the runway, climbing out of the field. I thought what a wonderful day to be in the air. Immediately the engine faltered, the plane went into a steep right hand bank, the nose of the plane fell towards the ground, and seconds later the abrupt, but surprisingly quiet, impact killed one of the two occupants.

Just a few days later my wife Robin and I were walking, once again, near the aforementioned airfield and heard the crunch of sheet metal from the roadway nearby. We ran up to the verge and looked down at a small SUV rolled over on its roof with the front end perched atop a short retaining wall. The motorists nearby already had the driver, a middle aged woman, out of the car and were treating what appeared, thankfully, to be minor injuries. 

Life is indeed precarious. In both of these stories the people began their day probably expecting it to be just like any other day. Why not? The unforeseeable is always possible but most of us choose not to give it even a passing thought. We know that unexpected and tragic things occur daily to a lot of people. However, as we are unable to forecast these things we just believe they are unlikely to happen to us by virtue of being responsible and prudent people. But, in truth we never know the day or the hour when the unexpected might overtake us. This brings me back to thoughts of present and future, and how foolish it seems to be heavily invested in the future when we only have today to deal with. Tomorrow will sort itself out if and when it comes, and hopefully it will.  But, for now finding peace with the time that we have should be sufficient. Yes, it takes a bit of work to get one's mind refocussed on the present, but the freedom from anxiety is amazing once you master this simpler approach to life. After all, what actually do we accomplish by exercising our fear. Nothing but allowing it to grow stronger and more debilitating. 

A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Tehran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, “Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?” “I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,” said Death. (Viktor Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning)