Who Are You?

I went to church, this morning, and my old history professor was behind the pulpit.

It was late 1980 something when I first met him. He bounded into the lecture hall of the History of the Ancient World class and yelled “You are the most intelligent people on this campus! It’s here that you will study the very foundations upon which we live today!”

His enthusiasm for talking history never waned. While he may not have been the most exciting lecturer I had ever had, he was certainly one of the most passionate.

Until recently, he was still teaching at the University of Saskatchewan. In fact, my son had him for a history class as well.

His stories were still the same. Early on in a semester, he would – rather gleefully – state that he had done waaay too many drugs in the 70s, and he had pursued all sorts of religions and thoughts.

In short, he was a lot of fun.

A while ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. Terminal.

We had just been going to a new church for a while when I ran into him. Of course, he didn’t remember me. He has likely taught thousands of people, and I just wasn’t that memorable.

Our relationship has been interesting. With both of us being sick to the point that we can no longer currently work, we began to have a few short talks about living life with limits.

His thoughts are much deeper than mine. Of course, so are a Labrador’s, most of the time. He has spent considerable time and thought coming to grips with his impending demise.

This morning, he spoke about the unity of all things. For example, in order for there to be soil, minerals, and the various elements on our earth, stars and planets in other galaxies have decayed or exploded over time.

In effect, he said, we live on space dust and debris.

While he didn’t mention the large amounts of drugs he had consumed decades prior, he did indicate that his mind was now prone to wander somewhat.

His main gist, I think, was that we have, over the years, forgotten that we are spirits having a human experience, not the other way around. And if we are able to strip away the walls we have built around ourselves, we would rediscover our innate divinity.

He finished off with the profound words of a woman who works in palliative care ward. She said something to the effect of

Don’t just do something. Sit there.

An exhortation, I think, that she learned by working with the dying. The people who had stripped away all the unimportant things in their lives. The people who could no longer do.

The people who could only be.

I think there is something powerful about this. Healthy people often get their feelings of self worth by doing. What do you do for a living is one of the first things we ask of a person we have just met.

Imagine if we instead asked who are you instead.

It’s given me something to think about for the next while.

Thanks, professor Reese. You’re still teaching and fighting the good fight.

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