Enduring

So, I’ve been thinking and thinking about what it means to endure.

To live is, in some ways, to suffer. To live through suffering . . . to endure. . . is simply what’s required of us. If we can’t hack it, if we quit, then it’s lights out, game over, the end of the road. To live is to endure. The alternative isn’t too pleasant.

So I’ve been enduring, been living. But that isn’t quite enough for us prissy middle-class American types. Nah, we want to thrive, to be blissed-out, to have perfection and harmony and a really nice camera to record it all with.

But is that what I want?

Sure, I want to have happiness and goodness and joy. But lately I have come to realize that I am more interested in the inner self than I’ve been in a long while. I want to be good, to do good, to live well . . . and not in the “living well means a new SUV and a perfect house and great food” kind of way. (Although any of those things would be nice.) I want to carve all the hate and fear and selfishness and anger and misery out of myself . . . to cut down close to the bone and remove the dead flesh until there’s nothing left but the essentials. Which, I hope, would be good things.

I have never been a good person. Oh, sure, I did a good imitation for a while and had the external trappings, but in my heart I was awful. And I am old enough, and broken enough by time and sufferings, to know that those selfish ways and hateful thoughts hurt me before they hurt anyone else.

So, if I cannot endure forever, I must search out what I value in the little time that I have. And I value love and gentleness and peace and family. Those things endure through time, past my brief life and on into the future, echoing through the generations to come. If I can give those things to my children, perhaps they can pass them on. And in some small way, I will endure.

There is a sad lament written about the Native American experience that moved me. And proves that something of us does live on, even if it is just a few words spoken at the right time. Here it is:

The Earth Only
composed by Used-As-A-Shield, translated 1918

Wica’hcala kin
heya’pelo’
maka’ kin
lece’la
tehan yunke’lo
eha’ pelo’
ehan’kecon
wica’ yaka pelo’
The old men
say
the earth
only
endures
You spoke
truly
You are right.

It is enough.