Taking it one jellybean at a time

My Secular Humanist views on life and death

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Sometimes on those rare occasions when I have a little down time, I get a few laughs from television channels specializing in retro programs.  It can be a little interesting to step both feet onto memory lane and watch some of the programs that I enjoyed during different states of my life.  I shared this recently with an acquaintance recently who also chimed in with his own wish list of shows, one of which included the 80’s sitcom Gimme a Break.  I remembered that show well and for a very good reason.  First off, allow me to set up the show a bit for those who may not be familiar.  It was a show featuring Nell Carter as a live-in housekeeper and nanny to the three teen daughters of a Police Chief played by Dolph Sweet.  Both actors have been deceased for a number of years now.  But as I recalled sitting on the couch watching that program, there was one episode in particular which likely peeled back a layer to reveal the dormant Agnostic in me during my teenage years.

The episode was centered around the character Nell’s strained relationship to her dying father.  Later in the program, that situation became connected to the Police Chief’s youngest because of her fear that she would lose her own father to a work related death.  The scene which left a lasting impact on me occurred on the family’s porch between the daughter, Samantha, and her elderly grandfather during their heart-to-heart talk about death.  The grandfather fields the young girl’s questions about life and death and his advice is something that continues to resonate with me to this very day.  He explained that life should be lived to the fullest without the fear of dying.  That if we get so consumed with dying and what will happen at that time, we will miss out on the beauty of living.  He used her love for jellybeans as a teaching tool advising her to take time in order to savor the taste of each and every jellybean and all its individual flavors and sweetness especially when knowing that she only has a limited number of those delectable jellybeans.  And the result being, she would be consumed with enjoying those precious few jellybeans that she would no longer be afraid of running out of them.

Some may feel that I’m reading too much into this sweet innocent fictitious scene between an adolescent girl and her grandfather.  But for me, that porch scene perfectly captures my outlook on life and death.  For years, the fear of the afterlife was put into me by the church.  It began when I was in 11 years old and accompanied my mother to the funeral of a beloved choir member.  The minister’s words struck so much fear into me that I started to perseverate on the topic of death and the afterlife. Hellfire and brimstone messages can do that to a young impressionable boy.  So many years have gone by since I’ve seen that ultra cool scene from the Gimme a Break sitcom.  But as I continue to grow older, I’m no longer encumbered by the fear of not having enough time on this beautiful earth.  I try my best to live life savoring its sweetness of as many moments as I can.

I’ve never felt comfortable with the thought that life was meant to be lived  running toward a promise of the invisible dangling carrot called heaven.  I acknowledge that fairh works for some, however for me it falls short. For me, instead of living by faith, I would prefer to live by logic and reason.  I truly experience heaven right here on earth.  Such instances as savoring the refreshing spray of the Atlantic ocean on a beach in Key West was heaven to me.  Or the moment I felt standing atop a mountain in Estes Park taking in the exquisite panoramic view of Colorado.  I don’t hang my hopes on blind faith which assert that I will experience true pleasure in the afterlife nor do I place faith in a god that provides pleasures for me or smites me when I don’t live in a certain manner.

The opportunities for me to experience heaven increase with every sunrise.  Many who really know me, also know that I have a love for the ocean and everything tropical.  I also love to stand on the shores watching in awe as those who are so talented at surfing hit the waves putting on displays of sheer beauty, power and grace.  Although fitness is something that is still important to me, I would also imagine that being in my 50’s is a little late to take on such an activity.   However, for me the ship hasn’t completely sailed off into the sunset.  Instead of living in regret for the time that I did not learn to surf in my younger years, I am continuing to move forward by making plans to take lessons in standup paddle boarding this year.  My love for being on the water will be even more heightened as a result.  And it will be yet another instance of taking the time to savor the sweetness of each day.

As an Agnostic, I have particular beliefs about life and death.  That belief is that this life is all that we get.  That death is door which closes the chapter.  I’m not a believer in a celestial home or a place below where fires await us if we fail to obey guidelines as delineated in scriptures and stories.  Does this make me depressed?  Absolutely not.  Living life with the belief that this is all we get inspires me to live with a heightened sense of intentionality and mindfulness.  In empowers me to go beyond intrigue and instead savor the feeling of being out on the water with a community of others in the midst of beauty.  It shifts my priorities to take time to put mundane tasks aside to go hiking with my son or sipping a tasty Cosmo with my wife on the patio in the glow of the setting son.  So the writers of Gimme a Break did more than just elicit a few laughs with that jellybean episode.  It inspired me to live life with enjoyment and mindfulness, like savoring one jellybean at a time.

Until next time…Carpe Diem,

Jay

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