The mortality running through us all

MortalityI was exchanging texts this morning with fellow artist Kerri Hoskins Branson about a painting project we’re working on together through Water Street Studios, the artist’s collective where we both have gallery and studio space.

I profiled Kerri in this blog a couple years back. She’s been a runner and done martial arts training.  She also played the role of Sonya Blade in the game Mortal Kombat, has been a model and a mom and even ran for political office at one point.

From any perspective, she’s lived a couple lifetimes already. Several years back she felt a drive to begin painting, and like her mother, discovered she has artistic talent and a strong drive to express herself. Since that time she’s been doing shows and her work now sells for thousands of dollars.

She never sits still, you might say. Because she’s also invested another lifetime within her own raising four children, two of whom have severe physical disabilities. The challenges of raising those children have not been light. Her husband Scott Branson and she have literally had to parcel their lives out, trading time and duties and responsibilities to make it all work.

Paths in life

You can imagine that’s no easy chore. There was no way those two could imagine the path on which live would take them. The boys have required extensive medical help, and those decisions are not simple, and take will and courage to achieve.

Today while on their way to the hospital for a consultation with physicians about surgery for one of their sons, she snapped a photo above and sent it to me. It captures one of those moments in traffic when, if you’re driving, you don’t dare study the scene too long. But when you’re the passenger, and big life decisions are running through your head, it’s funny how the very touch of light in the morning can capture a mood.

And having been through plenty of consultations about surgeries and tough decisions during eight years of cancer caregiving for my late wife, I know those trips in the car on the way to see the doctors can be difficult. All the thoughts of risk and reward go through your brain. The first thing you want to know is, “Will it work?” The inevitable next question is always, “Will it be safe?”

Different realms

You almost feel like as if you’re in a different realm when making such difficult considerations. The rest of the world seems to buzz around you on its own time and schedule, unconcerned that you are in emotional pain or consternation. Indeed, people seem so completely ignorant of the types of realities you might be facing. But unless you tell them, how could they know?

Well, that’s the issue isn’t it? As supposedly intellectual creatures, we should know better. Yet so many people seem to encounter the world in numb and number fashion. Most folks simply do not consider the meaning of life. Its precious flavor.

Which means that the significance of their own mortality completely escapes them.

Distractions from life

Instead, the world offers up violent entertainment to fill that tender void where recognition of our own mortality should reside. It seems the human race will do anything to escape recognition that we’ll all die someday.

Take for example the spectral sport of NFL football, which has become a religion of sorts, rife with tribal symbolism, a brand of nationalistic fervor and stoked up masses as passionate as a Hitler rally. Some call it harmless fun.

But distractions of that level create parallel realities. And the sport has oozed out like a pool of blood across the media landscape, spreading from pre-season to regular season to post-season. Then it continues from draft to NFL combine to European games and beyond. Like a tool of the devil, football drives gambling and cannot stand to go a week without begging attention from the masses. And when fans aren’t watching, millions play video versions of the sport. And when they’re not playing video football, they’re using the toggle in splatter games that mimic killing. Because anything’s better than being left alone with the thought of your own mortality.

It’s a confusing scenario for us all. We need distractions because entertainment is simply part of human life. But when we confuse our entertainment for reality, that’s when the humanity of our existence gets lost in the shuffle.

Vicarious pursuits

Because all that stimulation is to protect people from the passive, neglected boredom they might otherwise feel with their own lives. One of the artists from the famous Wyeth family that includes painters N.C., Andrew and Jamie once said there was no more reason to paint if you watched an NFL football game. “How could you even compete with that powerful imagery?”

Vicariousness is a disease of the American mind, and too many Americans as a result, take their own lives for granted. That’s why they are so liable to hand their futures and fortunes over to people who sell bombast and conflict as part of their persona. That’s how our electoral processes have turned into selfish grabs at power, and displays of prejudice. Conservatives love to blame liberalism for the so-called “decline of America.” But if you study how politics really got where they are, it is not liberalism, but ignorant selfishness, distraction and vicarious power mongering that is leading the way to America’s intellectual and moral decline.

We should know better

GraveyardWe really should know better. Especially you and I. There is no more powerful experience than running or cycling (or whistling…) past a graveyard to adjust your perspective. At that moment you realize what the phrase “the quick and the dead” really means.

There is a small gathering of gravestones on a small rise in the land far out in the country where I ride. They often show light and dark in the morning sun as I ride past. Those stones are silent except for the names and dates on their faces. There is a conversation there to be had, if one stops by. And I have done that. The words say MOTHER or FATHER, SON and DAUGHTER. Some stones date from the 1800s. They have sat in that loamy soil so long the rest of the dirt around them has sunken or blown away. Over the years, human activity has worn down the land. The dead have risen up not by coming back to life, but by our own obsessive activities all around them.

And then we all go there, one way or another. Either we are buried or are turned into ashes and cast unto the wind.

But that should make you feel more alive, not fearful of death. Because do what you will,  you cannot change the time when you will die. But you can change the quality of life that you will live.

I’ve long said my favorite line in literature is this, from the book Ambiguous Adventure, by Cheik Hamidou Kane: “The purity of the moment is made from the absence of time.”

That means time expands when you are doing what you love.

And what better way to describe the experience of running, riding and swimming? The purity of the moment really is made from the absence of time. That’s true in love, and life, and hope. May it be true in all that you do. Live well.

LOVE LIFE

 

 

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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3 Responses to The mortality running through us all

  1. bgddyjim says:

    Your post explains a lot. I do love liberals, too. After all, I married one. Anyway, I love how you folks blame everything under the sun but liberalism itself for its failures. It’s quite telling actually.

    Still, America went from startup to number one in the world and it didn’t get there by trying to be more like Europe.

    We adults know this, which is why we love to sit back and eat popcorn as you big city fellers try to make more rules for everyone to follow that will finally make sense of that which can’t make sense.

    If you remember a while back I accused you of using the word “neo-con” incorrectly. You tried to imply it meant a super-duper ultra conservative. In reality it is a Liberal who grows up to see the light and switches to conservatism. Happens all the time, just ask Donald Trump.

    Chuckle!

  2. You’re not really correct about that. Here’s the definition of neoconservative: “relating to or denoting a return to a modified form of a traditional viewpoint, in particular a political ideology characterized by an emphasis on free-market capitalism and an interventionist foreign policy.” That is a neocon. Cruz, with his radicalized religious worldview and desire to bomb Iran, is a Neocon. Marco Rubio, being obsessed with abortion and claiming that women need to have the babies of their rapists, is a similarly religious neocon. GWB was a neocon. You may be considering neoliberalism, which is defined as: “resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism beginning in the 1970s and 1980s.[4] Its advocates support extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.” But really, you’re simply trying to slap labels on me as shallow an inconsiderate of the supposed brilliance of conservatism as a school of thought. But there’s absolutely no proof of that. None. Not in science, where conservatism as a social movement (and for centuries) has flatly resisted even basic science and evolutionary thought as the foundation for medicine and technology. Conservatism as a rule has likewise resisted social progress, preferring instead a deconstructionist view that advocates “everyone for themselves” even if prejudice and economic injustice are at work. Seriously, that’s the tradition you defend. That’s how we got Donald Trump. He’s a neoliberal, if anything, and a fascist, for sure. But being a neoliberal has no relationship to liberalism, which is what the foundation of free enterprise, our Constitution and religious freedom are all based.

  3. And as for liberalism’s “failures,” would you quantify those as having freed the slaves, gotten women the right to vote, fought back against racism and Jim Crow laws, given women reproductive freedom and control over their own bodies, promoted environment protection in the face of massive, debilitating pollution that undermines human health, promoted actually reading the Bible (Martin Luther) versus dispensational religion as constructed and owned by the Catholic Church? And let’s also consider the historically liberal example of Jesus Christ, who fought the conservative religious leaders of his day who turned scripture into law? Yes, liberalism has ruined everything in history if you want to go back that far. And that’s why conservatives are now justified in criticizing the Pope for actually teaching what Christ taught. And that’s why conservatives are proud to shut down the government because frankly, they don’t believe in it, and say so. And why, on a daily basis, we have news outlets and media foghorns claiming their opinion-based programming is “fair and balanced” when in fact the political bias is entirely the foundation of the programming. And why people listen to Rush Limbaugh and say “ditto” when the man has been a paragon of selfish, bloviating behaviors from addiction to serial divorces. Then claims to be a personal example of virtue. The examples of contradiction and obfuscation of fact go on and on and on. And then you mischaracterize “neoconservatism” as a product of liberalism! It’s pretty clear the air must be fogged up there in Michigan, because your facts are wrong, your philosophies are selfish interpretations and your sources (Rush Limbaugh) are fat, disgusting fools with nothing in common with real Americans.

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