An elderly lady told me this week that she still feels like a young girl in her mind; it’s just her body that’s slowing down. My grandpa used to tell me, “I feel strong in my mind. I want to go outside and build something or go fishing, but my body just won’t let me.” Apparently it also happens in our youth more subtly, as the Navy Commander warned a young Top Gun named Maverick, “Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.”
Listening to Springsteen this morning I caught a line I hadn’t really noticed before,
“Let your mind rest easy, sleep well my friend
It’s only our bodies that betray us in the end”
Even if we find salvation, enlightenment, athletic prowess, or just a life well-lived, our bodies will betray us in the end, if our minds don’t go first. It’s just the way of nature. None of us get out of this alive, well not clinically speaking anyway.
Call me a Christian, a mystic, a romantic or an eternal optimist, but I believe we can live and die alive to life and to every moment. Jesus said, “even though he die, yet shall he live.” Some believe that’s about the next life, but it’s definitely speaking about this life too. He said, “Whoever wants to come after me must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” When Ram Dass talked about that verse, he said, “The trick is to die before you die, then you can really live.” To die to our selfishness, our small selves, our fragile egos, our isolation, our way. To die to our deception that old age, sickness, and death comes to everyone else but us.
When we die in that way, then shall we live. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” Rather than depress us, that simple truth wakes us up to the precious gift that life is, this day, this moment.
Our bodies aren’t the enemy. We do what we can, when we can, and take care of them as best we can, but this is an awfully short ride in the big picture. Maybe it’s only a betrayal if you expected it to be otherwise.