Watching Michael Phelps stand on the top block of the dais for his 200m Individual Medley win at the London Games brings back memories of an emotional state that takes us back to flushing boyhood and giddy girlhood.
There is a similar feeling felt by the mother or father in the delivery room. The baby’s birthing cry overwhelms the parent in emotions too difficult to describe, but ones all same we would love to bottle. No drug produces a better high.
Every birthday, graduation, wedding, and funeral, and every other significant milestone or event, is special. We mightn’t ordinarily think of our funerals that way but we only get one, and it is the last official event of our lives. And even though we are not alive to enjoy it, our loved ones and friends get to reflect emotionally over what our memory means to them. Birthdays may lose significance over the years, but they still mark the day it all began—when the safe, warm and comfortable womb darkness gave way to light, exposure, full emotional life, and risk.
Fully Entering Life
Whenever we rekindle this hallowed emotional state—taken back in an instant to the rawness of child giddiness—we are reminded of the privilege it is to be human, despite even the pain of it all.
It is nice to feel these positive emotions—to be touched by God and made to feel fully alive. These are part of the suite of memorable emotions of life.
But just as much there are the milestones of defeat, of embarrassment, of shame.
All the highs and lows are part of the full experience of life and we are saved from none of it if we would choose to live boldly and truthfully enough. Certainly we can shrink from some or much of this if we are afraid; by instinct we may protect ourselves.
But what is the point of missing life when we only get our three-score-and-ten? Surely after 70 or 80 or 90 birthdays it will all be over. Surely we should learn to appreciate our milestone moments—risking emotional exposure.
The highest and lowest times of life are statements about who we are. And from an end-of-life perspective they fill our highlights and lowlights reel. Each of these moments, if we will allow, take us back to an emotional state where we are touched by God. These are times when the feel more fully alive. This is our life.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.