I think I am suffering from Blogger’s Block and I don’t know why. I thought I might attribute it to “stress,” stress being a convenient explanation these days for not being able to do things, think things, perform things, manage your affairs, and even sometimes pay your bills and stuff. But then I started thinking about the concept of stress. First, stress is not a very precisely defined term, second, I think it is often merely used as an excuse, third, it is widely overused, and fourth, I find it difficult to separate stress from the natural course of events accompanying someone’s “Journey to the West “ Let me explain.
When I worked in a large Department of Psychiatry (my first academic position) there was a Psychiatrist (who will remain unnamed) who was doing (what I thought was somewhat questionable) research on stress. He and his assistant had developed a scale of stress they believed would allow them to predict who might be the most prone to illness, accidents, or even death. Their scale dealt with assigning (arbitrary) scores to different events people might or might not experience. Things like being ill, getting married or divorced, having a child, losing a loved one like a spouse or a parent, financial troubles, accidents, and I don’t remember what all. What I do remember is that in 1965 I calculated that if I took seriously this scale I would have by then have probably died at least twice. You can only imagine where I ought to be by now, almost fifty years later.
Certainly there has been almost unending stress in my life in the past few months. My wife of thirty years died a completely unexpected death from a stroke four months ago, also I became a grandfather for the first time about four months ago, I inherited bills I didn’t know I had (plus bills I already knew I had), I now live alone in a large home stuffed with things I am having trouble coping with, and so on. On top of that, today I had to have my oldest (wife’s) cat euthanized. Besides, it snowed last night making my driveway difficult to maneuver. Thus, I should be suffering from plenty of stress that is keeping me from wanting to write this blog.
But in spite of my situation I somehow do not feel terribly stressed out. I do not really understand this but I doubt it is the reason I am finding it difficult to blog. Personally, I think American politics and government have become so idiotic I just can’t be bothered to concern myself any longer. When one of the most important matters that concerns us is whether or not Beyonce lip-synched the national anthem during the inauguration I confess to losing interest in the matter. More importantly, when Republican Senators, supposedly grilling our Secretary of State on important matters, ask stupid questions and try to score cheap political points and bask in the spotlight rather than being serious about an issue already settled, I also lose interest. These Senators, among the most powerful leaders we have, merely exposed themselves as the basic partisan hacks they really are, making themselves look even more foolish than they already are.
And so, thinking back on my life, the deaths of my parents, the divorces, the children, my adventures in New Guinea and elsewhere, being in college and in the army, having surgeries, cancer, heart attacks losing most of my classmates and friends, I do not understand why I should still be here trying to write this blog. I have concluded that stress is perhaps merely a euphemism for “life” itself. That is, living is in most respects being constantly stressed by events and experiences beyond our control. Life is by nature stressful. Once you grasp this basic fact of existence it is not easy to claim stress as something so unusual as to cause your inadequacies or incapacitate you. Life merely goes on from one stress to another until your own personal Journey to the West comes to a merciful end. Concepts like “eternal peace,” “eternal rest” and “eternal bliss” take on much more salience than “passed away,” “meeting your maker,” “entering heaven,” reincarnation, or any notions of an afterlife. I am pretty much convinced the purpose of death is to allow one to escape any such further stress. I can think of virtually no fate worse than having to do it all over again in a different life or context. The thought of having to deal with forty virgins I find singularly horrifying. I like to believe that when you are dead, you are dead and thus not plagued by any further stresses.