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Friday, April 18, 2008

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

Thank goodness
we die

“Thank goodness we die.”

Maybe those are frivolous words – maybe even reckless or less than sympathetic, to someone has recently lost a loved one.

But they are not meant to be.

And, they are true.

As many of you know, for the past year I have been on a journey that winds up with open-heart surgery.

I don’t mean to make too big a deal about it.

Old men with a laundry list of diseases survive such operations every day.

And I am relatively young and healthy. I plan to survive, heal quickly, and be better than ever.

But I would be lying if I told you the idea does not occasionally scare the bejabbers out of me.

Getting split open, having your heart stopped, having a doc play with it, then try to kick start you back to life – the prospect does not thrill me.

So, while I have tried to make sure I did not earn an Emmy for “Best Melodramatic Pre-Surgery Performance” I have spent more than a moment contemplating my own mortality the past few months.

I’m not keen on the idea – mortality that is. Or at least, not at first blush.

Mortality was an ugly broad when I first meet her – all scruffy hair and moles and way too much chub. I guess I got a glimpse of her once or twice in the past.

One time I wanted to see how fast my motorcycle would go. On a not-yet-opened stretch of highway I strapped on my not-often-used helmet and found out. I also found out that at a certain speed the front wheel begins to float and then things get scary.

But when you are young, all you get is a quick glimpse of the old hag. Enough to put you on the straight and narrow for a bit, but that’s all.

I’m sure my elders are laughing at me as they read this – some of you guys have danced with this gal for years. Me, I’ve just gotten a first good long look. In planning for a few weeks of recovery, I splurged and bought a small bookstore dry of decent science fiction. I’ve always loved science fiction.

And, as my surgery date approached a few weeks back (the one that was cancelled) I began to steal a book from my hoard now and again.

The other day I made the mistake of picking up Robert Heinlein’s “Glory Road.”

It is a great read, and explores a wealth of the human experience.

As I read the final pages it struck me that being able to lose is perhaps the greatest gift of all.

Without loss, nothing else matters. That, in a sense, is where the hero in Heinlein’s book ended up. He had won it all and there was nothing left to do – even death had been cheated by “long-life” treatments.

It was a horrible fate. He was out of things to push against. He was useless.

I think that when you get down to it, this is what is most wrong with our country – we are trying, or at least being coaxed to try by our handlers, to outlaw losing.

You see it in elementary school playground rules, peewee sports, welfare and unemployment benefits, school curriculums – lowered standards across our entire society.

Everywhere, it is made more difficult to actually fail. Losing is being outlawed. That is a shame. Because without failure, nothing else means a damn thing. What we are really outlawing is victory.

When Monahans tees up the ball against Pecos, it would not mean a thing if you knew nobody would count the touchdowns, and the “you’re okay, I’m okay” theme song would echo through the stands.

Even those who would have lost but did not would lose in that scenario – because they would learn nothing of themselves and their spirit. You get a different view of such things when you lose. You need to experience both.

And it is in the doing, in playing the game, where the real joy is. You learn that as you win and lose.

The final loss is death and life would be meaningless without it.

I know, easily said when you’ve never glimpsed Ms. Mortality in all her warts. Not so easy when you are 42 and facing a bit of heart surgery.

But, probably nothing at all compared to what it will be like when I’m really old – like being 55 or even 60.

I have no interest in dying right now, and probably will not be interested if I live to be one hundred.

But, without death, life would be as silly as football game where tackling is outlawed and nobody keeps score.

I’ll take my chances with the full-contact version of life.

Our nation would be a much better place if we quit trying to outlaw that.

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