Monday, September 30, 2013

The Human Condition's Worst Flaw

A few nights ago, I had a dream about my grandfather, a man I hadn’t seen in over twenty-one years. He was my dad’s father and he passed away when I was ten years old. But in my dream, I was all grown up, and was attending a family reunion with every expectation of seeing him. In my mind, he was still alive. Throughout the dream, I looked for him but couldn’t find him. People all around were socializing, preparing food, playing games in the yard, but he was nowhere to be found. It was then that I realized the reason I couldn’t find him was because he, in fact, wasn’t there. The reunion was being held only in remembrance of him.

What did this dream mean? Is it trying to tell me something? Is it merely a sign that I still remember my grandpa after all these years? When I awoke from my dream, I so badly wished that he really was still alive. There are so many things I would love to talk about with him. There are so many things I would love to talk about with all of my grandparents. But sadly, I didn’t discover how truly valuable their knowledge and wisdom was until after they passed away.

Why is it that the human condition fails to recognize the value of the people with whom it associates? Why are we plagued with taking these people for granted while they are still with us? And why do the words we desire to have with them only arise in our thoughts after they are gone?

Each new stage of life brings new experiences and new lessons for which we want to find answers. Now that I am a parent, I can think of a million questions I would ask my grandparents about raising children. Now that I am more educated and have more responsibilities, I desire to be part of the discussions my grandfather used to start around the kitchen table. What I wouldn’t give to have a cup of coffee with my grandma or a glass of wine with my papa while discussing the lessons of life. And as for the grandfather from my dream who passed when I was ten years old, I wish I could know him even more and discover what his own experiences taught him about life.  

I didn’t have these desires when they were still alive. I hadn’t yet lived enough. This flaw in the human condition is not that we are ignorant or ungrateful, but is that we haven’t yet discovered the things which will become truly meaningful to us. I didn’t have a reason to ask for parenting advice when my grandmother was still alive. I didn’t yet understand how to be a part of the knowledgeable conversations my papa used to have with others. And sadly, it seems that I needed to experience the loss of their presence in my life in order to fully appreciate the how truly valuable their wisdom would have been to me.

I suppose the reason this flaw in the human condition exists because we have no way of discovering the answers to our lessons until we actually live through them. But it takes us so many years to finally live them that by the time we get there, the ones who hold the answers are already gone.

What I struggle to remember is that those who have lived the longest are not the only ones who hold wisdom. We all have our own forms of wisdom which we gained from our own experiences. We all have something which could benefit someone else’s search for answers. So rather than grieving the lost wisdom of those who have gone before us, we can instead discover the wisdom of those who are still with us. Ask what needs to be asked, and say what needs to be said. There is a good chance that the one who holds your next answer is closer than you think!

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