In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her neighbor, a gorgeous, professional woman named Eileen. She is mature and responsible and often gets tattoos. This intrigues Gilbert so much that she finally asks her about how she could allow her body to be marked up so casually with permanent ink. “Oh, but you misunderstand! It’s not permanent. It’s just temporary.”
Confused, Gilbert asks, “You mean, all your tattoos are temporary?”
She smiled and said, “No Liz. My tattoos are permanent; it’s just my body that’s temporary. So is yours. We’re only here on earth for a short while, so I decided a long time ago that I wanted to decorate myself as playfully as I can, while I still have time.”
Now, I don’t find tattoos particularly attractive, but I do love Eileen’s attitude. That I do find attractive and compelling. We all need to make a shift so that we live life with the freedom that comes only in the “valley of the shadow of death.” Life, this life, isn’t permanent, so why do we act like what we are doing today is? We take it all so seriously, yet, at the same time, we treat each day so casually.
The sages tried to teach us that, if we live in the valley of the shadow of death, life should be bright and vivid and valued for the moment. We should paint with bright colors and ignore more and more the lines that society and our parents drew for us. We should do something crazy and unexpected every day, decorating our lives as though they are temporary, because they are.
To be honest, celebration is a long way from where I’m living right now, though I hope to get there again. I am keenly aware that my attitude toward death certainly has changed. It used to be a threat to me, but, with Bill on the other side of that, I have no more fear or dread. So, I feel greater freedom. Perhaps that is what Jesus came to do for us all.
Rev. Michael Piazza