Recently, two friends described the deeply challenging situations they were going through as “really interesting”. They are both artists, and we thought, ‘Ah-h-h just like them to view difficulty from a different lens’.
We’ve been trying on the idea, with which we’ve become increasingly comfortable since we started writing ‘the improvised life’. Instead of just reacting, we’re trying to really LOOK at the difficult situations we find ourselves in, shift the view, see what possibilities they hold, what is interesting about them.
Easier said than done.
Then we read The Good Short Life, an astonishing essay that appeared last July in the New York Sunday Times. Dudley Clendinen, a former national correspondent and editorial writer for the Times wrote candidly about his diagnosis of ALS, a painfully fatal disease:
We obsess in this country about how to eat and dress and drink, about finding a job and a mate. About having sex and children. About how to live. But we don’t talk about how to die. We act as if facing death weren’t one of life’s greatest, most absorbing thrills and challenges. Believe me it is, This is not dull. But we have to be able to see doctors and machines, medical and insurance systems, family and friends and religions as informative –not governing–in order to be free.
It’s a stunning and provocative piece of writing, well worth reading. It offers a kind of redemption – however short-lived – from events we could think of as devastating: a radical and courageous change of view from the usual.
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