I am the first to admit that I’m a nervous flyer. When I’m in an airplane, I’m pretty chill, as long as I can see the ground. We could hit some brain-scrambling turbulence, and I’m OK as long as the good ole’ terra firma is visible down below. Hitting turbulence in, say, a dark bank of clouds, on the other hand, will make me squirm. Funny, that seems pretty silly.
But what if we really had to face our own mortality in a concrete way? For instance, what if I could go to a fortuneteller who could tell me the exact date and time of my death. Would I go? Probably not. Of course, if I knew I were going to die in the next year, for instance, I’d live my life so differently that it makes me wonder whether or not I really would want to know.
I can recall Southern evangelical ministers banging their bibles on the podium at camp meetings, trying to impress upon the flock that “God doesn’t promise anyone a tomorrow; you’ve only got today.” Whether you believe in God or not, that statement is grounded in reality, because no being is guaranteed the next second, or the next breath, or the next sunrise.
Still, what if you knew your life could be cut short by a disease silently marking time inside your body? Would you want to know? Of course, because then you know you’ve got a chance to fight. You would at least feel that you have some control over your situation, unlike the fortuneteller scenario.
Maybe it’s the same when I’m sitting in the airplane. If I can see the ground, at least I feel that I’ve got some control over my circumstance. It’s only when the clouds block my view that I’m willing to accept that I’m literally flying blind, without the slightest bit of control over the universe and the factors that determine whether or not I live or die.
But that’s life, you know? We have to live fully in each moment, because the next isn’t guaranteed.