Is there meaning in a world without human limitation? Is there value in human finitude?
By nature being human entails living a life of restraints. The idea of restraints speaks to the notion of hope and limits and how we cannot have one without the other. There are some diseases that are inherently incurable. Many cases of cancer are terminal and there is a limit to the cures that the physician can administer to alleviate suffering. This suffering is tragic and affects not just the afflicted individual but his entire community as well. However this suffering is beautiful as it draws attention to the sufferer of the disease and allows his true identity to be seen in a time of absolute mental and physical anguish. Thus limits are valuable as they allow us to appreciate the lives of those who suffer from illness. They exhibit great fortitude and strength of character by continuing to fight in hopes of eventually overcoming this illness. This suffering brings a person’s most admirable characteristics to the forefront. The sufferer of an illness can often provide important life lessons to other members of his population. There is beauty in overcoming adversity. The acceptance of restraints is ultimately what makes us human. Mankind is distinguished by its ability to love and its gift in finding beauty in even the most tragic instances of suffering.
In addition to there being value in human limitation there is value in human finitude. This is evident in the appreciation of senior citizens and the general acceptance of aging. Old age is a universal transition undergone by members of virtually every culture. It marks the departure from one period of life into another. Whereas there are some who view this change as purely negative the accepting of becoming old and all that entails highlights the beauty of human finitude. This is reflected by the concept of gerontology. As was mentioned in the reading for Dr. Idler’s talk, gerontology views life review as a natural and universal stage of personal development and an unavoidable aspect of the human condition. In this sense old age serves as a unifier—everyone in the world is connected in the tendency to evaluate the course of their life as their final days approach. Finding value in human finitude parallels the paradigm of aging that views growing older as a mix of decline and opportunities. This approach reflects a sense of optimism, as one is aware that as his age increases new opportunities present themselves that are not available to younger generations. Furthermore the acceptance of old age allows one to come to terms with the inescapability of death. The beauty of life cannot be understood without appreciating all stages of the human condition. As Michelangelo said “if we have been pleased with life, we should not be displeased with death, since it comes from the same master”. The acceptance of finitude allows us to not only accept death but to see it as a beautiful component in the circle of life.
Throughout the course we have discussed the importance of taking into account various religious and cultural differences in order to deliver the most effective medical treatment. It is imperative that the patient and the physician work as a team in the implementation of western medicine. Lack of communication, failure to take personal preference into account and not looking out for the best interests of the individual cause numerous discrepancies and greatly impacts the quality of care at many institutions Though where religion and culture tear us apart limitation and finitude unite us. Doctor able to emphasize with terminal patient as they too have felt pain at some point in their lives and are cognizant of the fact that they too will some day meet their ultimate demise. This knowledge serves as a form of connection between patient and physician even in the most difficult of circumstances and is therefore a necessary element of medical care.
Limitations are an essential part of the human condition, limitations force us to to face our mortality. I fully agree with Kristine that limitations represent the other side of hope, especially in regards to medical care. As I spoke about last week, there must be a sort of pseudo cost-benefit-analysis in regards to terminal care about false hope and the limitations of modern medicine. Physicians and patients must be fully aware of these limitations in their treatment plans as well as the role of hope for the patient and their family.
In regards to Dr. Idler’s presentation, I think she showed the lighter side of human limitations. Regardless of any biomedical innovation, our physical and mental capacities decrease with age; most often people view this in the terms of disengagement theory where the elderly have contributed to society and are expected to draw back. However Dr. Idler presented us with the S.O.C. model, where the elderly are capable of adapting to continue doing what they love. The way I viewed this theory was using ones limitations against themselves to continue prospering. While she only presented us with examples of artists, I think this extends elsewhere. For instance my grandparents were always active as young adults and where quite athletic; however, as they aged they were forced to change their exercise routines/what sort of exercise they did and how often they conducted them. While they are no longer quite as active they still have some athletic capacity and can continue to do what they love.
And lastly I think there is certainly value in human mortality and limitations. They allow us to enjoy the moment and utilize our lives to the fullest so that they might have meaning. With recent talk in medical research of finding the key to immortality, I have never thought this was a good thing. I remember Professor Moore speaking about a myth where a goddess begged for her lover to have immortal life but not body and he ended up being a ghostly voice. I think this is particularly poignant because what is eternal life without anything to enjoy and without people to spend it with. Our limits in this sense are a tool that force us to make connections and contribute to our society, rather than living an endless life with only the concern of ones one self. This also reminds me of Dr. Labrecque’s stories of Buddhism, where this suffering or limitations are necessary to see and experience the good in this world so that eventually one may “transcend” their human form. Personally, a world or a life without limitations is not a life that I would enjoy living.
As Kristine brings up in her post, there is beauty and humanity in overcoming adversity and addressing limits placed in front of us, especially in regards to our morality. I also agree with Matthew’s point in that healthcare providers must be knowledgeable of their own limits – not only of their patients and their treatments in order to elicit hope, but also of their own limits as human beings themselves. Limits themselves are not innately good or bad, but for us, for a particular individual, they may elicit a wide range of emotions in regards to our identity, our environment and the people we love dearly. As I mentioned in my post last week, being vulnerable allows us to make the conscious choice to challenge the realities in front of us, to make the choice to be happy, and to step in someone’s shoes to try to understand them. Despite how hard it is to reconcile the realities of limits, if we are able to craft our lives in a way that embodies the good and bad, the strengths and weaknesses, the ugly truth and the white lies, I don’t think it’s such a terrible thing to live in a world of limits. It elicits us to look inside ourselves to really grow and fully develop as a human being, not an automaton – I think Dr. Idler’s lecture about art and the S.O.C. model was evident of that.
Therefore, I think our finite existence is important. The idea of “forever” is a hard concept to gather or comprehend – as I’ve heard before, humans are programmed to understand themselves in retrospect, not in prospect. In addition, as the Human Health Reader articulated in an examination of the stereotypical “Perverted Old Man”, chasing our past doesn’t always make us feel better about an impending doom. However, YOLO, as people say, isn’t necessarily a good thing if the sense of “seizing the day” is aimed at being reckless and/or scared of that same future, which may inevitably have consequences for tomorrow. I don’t quite have an answer to how to balance or grapple with the fear of death, dying or getting older – I think it’s something that varies from person to person in how they choose to deal with that circumstance, but I find that limitations and knowing that life isn’t always guaranteed does lend a sense of active patience. Active in the sense of always trying to be proactive in our time with others, our ambitions and the way we want to live, but patience in that getting older, taking our time and really reflecting and/or processing helps us really gain perspective as we retrospectively look back to gain a better sense of today and tomorrow. After all, the present is a “gift” as they say. Therefore, I think that perspective is really important for medicine and public health for when we’re treating disease and preventing it in the first place, especially in regards to death and dying. Holistic health should approach preventing new problems or conditions, but also lending to dealing with them or teaching people how to cope and manage their lives in whatever way is the most helpful. Particularly, when it comes to aging and dying, I think it’s important that we evaluate our physical and mental condition as the body and mind change all the time. Aging isn’t a bad thing – if anything, it is a good thing because we are able to adapt, learn, change and live in a variety of ways that we couldn’t have before. After all, months of progress is great, but years of growth is amazing. In addition, I feel like every individual contributes to society in some form or fashion so there is hope in that our ancestors, family or friends are remembered by the marks they leave behind, which makes them that much more precious when they do leave us. Thus, for those and many other reasons, I find that this finite existence is important and quite unlimited in how it cultivates our humanity.
As humans, our lives are limited by nature. Ageing and death are inevitable aspects of life. In order to live, we must acknowledge the fact that at some point we will reach certain limitations. The existence of limitations tend to make life more valuable and lead people to appreciate the time they have been given. Knowing that ageing is inevitable causes humans to more fully value their lives. While the limits of the ageing process and death are sometimes ignored or fought against, age has been and continues to be a valuable human limitation.
Medicine and medical technologies have been developed to influence the ageing process. This relationship between medicine and the ageing process is one which commonly stretches human limits. As discussed in the readings for this week as well as in Ellen Idler’s lecture, ageism is a prominent issue which exists in the medical sphere. Ageism, the discrimination against or stereotyping of individuals based on age, is commonly seen among geriatric patients. Elderly patients are given different dosage requirements for certain medications, different considerations for surgeries, and are treated differently than younger patients. Sometimes a younger patient will be given priority over an elderly patient for organ transplants because it is thought that the younger patient will have a higher chance of a successful and beneficial transplant. Another way in which ageism is seen in geriatric care is with the idea of wisdom versus mental deterioration. As discussed in the Kauppinen article, there is variance in how the mental statuses of elderly patients are treated. In many cultures, aging is commonly associated with the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom. Contrarily, aging is also associated with mental deterioration and a loss of self. This concept of wisdom versus mental deterioration offers two opposing views on the value of human limitation. On one side the limits introduced by age devalue human limitation, while on the other hand aging leads to wisdom which returns the value to human finitude.
I believe that there is value in the limitations of age. As we saw in Ellen Idler’s lecture, the painters all faced limits as they grew older but the value of their works remained the same. Following the model of selection, optimization, and compensation, the paintings produced by these artists as the artists aged progressively developed to possess the most defining or valuable aspects characteristic of each painter. These artists might have been challenged with medical illnesses and physical limitations, but their journeys through illness are reflected in their works which clearly display value. Although humans are engaged in a battle against their limitations, specifically those limitations experienced through the aging process, these limitations possess value for human life.
I do not believe that there is a meaning to a world without human limitation. I am in consensus with my peers in that there is a value to our finite existence as human beings because without limits, people would no longer appreciate their lives and the things they are capable of accomplishing in their lives. There would be no value of each phase of life – the beauty of childhood, the strength and independence of youth and adulthood, and the wisdom and experience of the elderly. By acknowledging the transience of our own lives, we find the motivation to accomplish, seek out our passions, and connect with others.
We have already seen from Dr. Idler’s talk this week just how prolific human beings are in our lifespan from the works of the artists she shared with us. Despite their limitations with their declining health as they aged, many of the artists we discussed showed what I thought was a very human tenacity to continue pursing their passions through their art and their stories. I completely agree with Kristine’s point that there is a beauty in overcoming adversity, and that illness and limitations have the ability to draw out people’s true capabilities, which would otherwise remain undiscovered.
Matthew mentioned the question of immortality, which has come up in the realms of both science and humanities. Primary examples in science include the link seen between our telomeres on the cellular level and age-related diseases (and the never ending quest to preserve youth as evident by the number of anti-aging pharmaceuticals and beauty products on the market today). In the humanities, we have heard similar desires to preserve life through tales on the fountain of youth, and in the myths of the ancients. In one sense then, medicine and public health aim to prolong the inevitable. I think Dr. Parker’s mention of how about 60% of U.S. health care expenditure is on the elderly alone this week attests to this idea. The question then becomes one of quality versus quantity. By acknowledging the value in human finitude, both patients and health practitioners alike are able to appreciate their present relationship with one another, and with the people in their lives. Human limitation thus serves as a catalyst for action, and most importantly, as a way to find meaning in life.
People create meaning in their lives because of human finitude and limitations. I reference to Dr. Idler’s interpretation in rocks and flowing water imagery: artists are the water that flows around obstacles that life and society put in front of them. For me, there is admiration in one’s ability to accept social limitations but overall embrace them. Matisse, for example, instantiates resilience and human ingenuity by shifting his art medium from painting to cut-out collages due to his debilitating colon cancer disease. I am reminded of other examples from Dr. Garland Thompson’s lecture, which included the legless man who has changed the dance industry and the perception of disability. When tracing the artwork of artist in this week’s lecture theme, we really were able to see the presence of disease and illness in the narrative.
When a patient is diagnosed with a disease or condition, they often feel at that moment of time a pause in their life; in a metaphoric sense, they hit one of the rocks in their free flowing water pathway. This goes back to last week’s lecture on hope, where a doctor is challenged to redirect his or her patient’s life around these placed obstacles. I also think it is important to recognize the diversity in patient care, as Dr. Parker emphasize that hope is a personal and different for everyone. Similar to how we witness different artists cope with their disease differently, patients will also cope and respond to their disease differently.
I also think limitations are what cultivate compassion in people. Because people are inherently bound to mortality, we seek meaning through our relational actions. In this sense, limitations create boundaries and enclose us within a community-sense space. Overall, limitations make it so people endeavor to find meaning–whether it be a personal achievement or community level connection.
The term ‘human’ itself echoes limitation. I also don’t think there is meaning a world without human limitation. Human limitation can be physical, mental, and emotional. We are limited by our senses. I think this limitation brings meaning and purpose to our world. Without limitation, I do not think there would be a reason to strive towards improvements. We would be fully able to do what our minds can imagine and more. Without limitation, there would be no suffering and no healing – no motivation and no hope. Like Akanksha said, “Human limitation is a catalyst for action.” When we read and discussed the Stabat Mater in class, we were reminded of how humans are limited: the guards had to follow someone else’s order, Mary’s true sorrow and pain could not be described in the boundaries of human language and there was Christ – liminal – between two worlds. This example of suffering and other narratives of human limitation helps humans connect and sustain meaning and purpose.
When I think of human finitude I am reminded of how humans and civilizations wish to be remembered. While humans are not physically immortal, there is an idea that as long as they are remembered by others, they live on. This is how the Greeks, the Romans, and all who have left and continue to leave behind memories help us to “adapt, grow, learn, and change,” as Courtni stated.
While I mentioned above some human limitations, I also wonder if this limitation extends to spiritual limitation. In my Sociology of Happiness class, we recently discussed how through yoga and meditation, we become vulnerable, and open to receiving and perceiving that which is beyond human understanding. At the core of this reception is love. With this in mind, I think love – which isn’t fully comprehensible – extends beyond human finitude.
Farida’s comments about ancient civilizations and love are interesting. As she stated ancient civilizations fully represent human limitation (mortality) as they build structures and monuments to commemorate their society for the ages to come. So while physically yes humans are finite and this subconsciously adds value to everything we do, I am reminded of the Gladiator quote “What we do in life, echoes for eternity.” So in a way the things we do are not necessarily limited.
Farida’s second point about love comes to mind. Love is eternal, and it is a human emotion. So, if we can perform limitless actions are we therefore unlimited? I think back to the Neil De Grasse Tyson video discussing how humans are made up of star dust and therefore we are intricate parts of the universe. When we look at religion we see how many of them preach an afterlife in a utopian world. And as mentioned people create structures that have lasted millennia to remain relevant in the public conscious. To answer the question I think we create meaning due to our physical finitude which then makes us infinite. All the examples I have just given and also (most importantly) the one Farida mentioned, and that is love.
Additionally, when looking at Dr. Idler’s lecture I am reminded of the certain limitlessness that humans have through art. With a brushstroke a person can impact millions of people’s minds, and even lives, through their work. We consider many pieces “timeless.” And interestingly enough we hear many artists say their work is a labor of none other than…love.
In a world without limitations we risk running into many problems. First, we encounter meaning of life. I strongly believe that without limitations we lose sight of what the meaning of life is. Now this is different for everyone on an individual level. However, I also believe we do have a collective sense of a meaning of life; I just do not know what the collective meaning is. It may be a subconscious thought. This ties back into our previous class discussions of religion. Many times we associate and attribute the meaning of our life to a higher power. Without the power dynamics in place that I consider to be set by that higher power, how are we any different from that higher power? We lose meaning and purpose. This brings up the question as to why the higher power would put limitations in place. But again, it all comes back to being able to appreciate what we have. If we had no limits, we may not appreciate what we were able to accomplish because we would never come into conflict or a situation where we were tested, limited, or such. I believe this is similar to only being happy all of the time until you can no longer appreciate what it means to be happy. You lose the ability to feel how special being happy is, and you normalize happy until it becomes average.
In health and medicine, this is similar to the discussion of immortality. If we never have limits – physical, mental, or otherwise – we may lose sight of one potential collective meaning of life: reproduction. If we are able to live forever, there is no need to pass along our genetic make up to the following generations in order to survive and keep the species alive. I know this may not seem like that big of a deal, but as humans, we have been taught that our purposes in life are to be happy and to survive. So as I already discussed this need to be happy, now I am looking at the absence of our other purpose – survival.
As I’ve discussed above, there are many problems that arise with the absence of limits. So, this leads me to believe that there is value in human finitude. If we know we have limits and will eventually die someday, we will be able to better appreciate what we have in life. This knowledge of our limits will shape our interaction with others as well as our beliefs in a higher power or something bigger than ourselves. In the health care system this is especially important for the physician-patient interactions and relationship. With a common knowledge of our limits, each party will know what is to be expected from the other as well as the extent of the amount of hope that can be sought for. We have previously discussed in length the importance of having a balance between hope and what is realistic to expect. We have decided that is wrong to give false hope where there is no hope at all. However, I still believe that there is something to be said about having hope, even if there is a very small chance, in order to will the self to continue trying. So, as long as we have a balance between hope and realizing our limits, we will have a happy and meaningful existence.
I find it difficult to argue that there is meaning in a world without human limitation because, as many of my peers said before, limits are what makes us human. Our limitations push us to keep trying and to continue to progress. It reminds me of Dr. Labrecque’s discussion about the different realms one can go to in Buddhism. He mentioned that the human realm is considered as the best one to go into; even compared to the god realm. Being in the human realm, experiencing a balance of the good and the bad, would help one seek more and reach Nirvana. If in the god realm, where everything is great all the time, one doesn’t have enough motivation to seek the end goal of Nirvana.
Along with the importance of seeking more, one can find beauty in these limitations. I found the art in Dr. Idler’s lecture expressed this idea in many ways. De Kooning’s work slowly began to degrade in skill due to the effects of dementia. However, there was still beauty found in his art, despite this major limitation. The same could be said about Matisse in regards to his inability to walk. From this period of his life, he still created a great collection of art.
I believe there is indeed value in human finitude. Specifically, I believe the finite nature of humanity is was gives our lives value. As some of my peers mentioned above, knowing we will not be here forever emphasizes the importance of cherishing the time we do have. If we had forever to have experiences, see loved ones, etc. we would probably take it for granted because we would know that everything will still be there in the future. Being finite allows us to live in the moment, and appreciate all life has to offer.
Just as my classmates have said before, there is a lot of value in human finitude. Although many times as humans we wish that we weren’t given limits, without them we wouldn’t have continuously grow. I feel that because we do have limits, we want to constantly test them and find ways to go around them. This in term helps us grow because we discover new things such as treatments or medicine. There is a beauty in suffering because we learn from it and become stronger from it.
Just as Lauren when I am thinking of this question the discussion that Dr. Labrecque gave about the different realms in buddhism comes to mind. I thought it was interesting that when given the choice to go to any realm they wanted, they chose the human realm instead of the realm of the gods. And this we learned was because if they went to the realm with the gods they wouldn’t feel pain but they also wouldn’t grow. In term they chose the human realm because there is a balance of pain and happiness that would help them reach Nirvana.
During this week’s lecture I thought it was interesting how many of the artist’s style of paintings changed after they grew older yet, the quality of their work only improved. The artist knew that they couldn’t paint the same way but instead of giving in to their limitations, they found a way around it and grew as artist. It was also interesting to see that some of the artist’s most recognized work was done once they reached their older age. This goes to show that older age does not equal inability.
Mortality affects all human beings. However, the perception of mortality differs depending on the culture’s values of life. For example, the United States fosters a culture that encourages one to live a fulfilling, meaningful life. My colleagues articulate this idea through their statements about various terms, such as “YOLO”. Therefore, individuals in the United States find value in human life. Consequently, as the texts discuss, Americans express hostility towards physical decline. Chapter 28 states, “the approach to aging as a problem to be managed rather than a mystery to be experienced […]” In addition, the texts explain the stigma towards mental illness. Thus, Americans view aging, or death, as a problem, because it ends the “normal” life of an individual. One can see this sentiment through the rituals surrounding death in the United States. For instance, as Dr. Parker explained, the American medical system allocates sixty percent of their funding on resources for end-of-life care. In addition, the American society often just places elderly individuals into nursing homes, and they mourn the death of a person by observing a sad funeral. Thus, from a superficial level, it appears that placing value in human life causes one to fear death. However, the acknowledgement of the inevitability of human finitude and human limitations motivates one to desire to live a long, meaningful life. The American society just does not place value in death.
Moreover, however, other cultures illustrate their positive perception of the value in human finitude. For example, various religions cherish human finitude for the after-life effects. For instance, Dr. Labreque explained how Buddhism believes in rebirth. In addition, Crucifixion by Andrea Mantegna illustrates the Christian’s value in Christ’s death as a sacrifice. Therefore, death creates opportunities. Furthermore, finding value in human finitude extends beyond religious communities, because other cultures respect the aging population and death as well. For instance, during my time living in Ecuador, I witnessed the emphasis placed on the knowledge of the elderly population, similar to the idea of the “wise old man”. In addition, other cultures host a party for the deceased rather than a sad funeral. Thus, some societies celebrate finitude rather than fear it. Furthermore, however, the idea of others valuing human finitude provokes an ethical discussion, for individuals found value in the finitude of Williem de Kooning, which resulted in exploitation with his late paintings. Thus, some cultures and societies accept human finitude.
Therefore, human limitation creates value in life. As a result, individuals, in the majority of societies, appreciate their lives and aspire to live meaningful, fulfilling lives. However, cultures’ beliefs about death influences individuals’ perception of death. Some societies fear death, and other cultures celebrate death. Thus, value in human finitude cannot exist without value in life, and value in death depends on social constructions of death.
I think it’s important to have human finitude. Seth Grahame-Smith wrote in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter that “Without death, life is meaningless. It is a story that can never be told. A song that can never be sung. For how would one finish?” I think that its beautiful that that we have an ending, we must find a way to push meaning into life. I believe we need the limitations in order to surpass and push ourselves in order to achieve that meaning. We as humans want to believe that if we find meaning in life and did things worthwhile before our expiration, we have created value. Without the limitations, it would be more difficult to create that meaning. There is an imaginative childhood, an independent and developing adulthood, and like Akanksha said, a wisdom in the elder years.
One thing that I appreciate about interacting with the elderly is seeing their lives and how they fulfilled it. During Dr. Idler’s presentation, I loved seeing how the artists expressed their meaning in life through artwork and how it changed. They may have suffered in their later years as they aged, but their artwork and value for life didn’t. For me I see the elderly as the most valuable influences of society, both positive and negative. There can be times that their wisdom can be used as a cautionary tale to avoid a mistake of the past, but at the same time they can be stuck in their ways and not adaptive to current events. But I feel that this is all a part of life, and therefore death.
Now to connect this human finitude to medicine and healthcare is a complicated relationship. Medicine helps lengthen a lifetime, to heal and fix preventable illnesses so people don’t prematurely reach our ending. But the problem seems occur when we use medicine to fight a more natural transition from life to death. I prefer palliative care to help lower the suffering and potential pain of death, versus fighting death simply to enhance life. This can lead to a culture of ageism because we see caring for the elderly as a burden to society, the fear of death. If we changed our attitude that accepts death as a part of life, then we can maybe reduce this negative culture.
I am again reminded of the Buddhist monks. When ask into which life they would prefer to be born they will almost always choose the human life even though this means a life of suffering. As a society we tend to long for a time without suffering. We think back over our lives and wish we could go back to an easier time. We look forward to a day when our trials don’t seem quite so overwhelming. We yearn for heaven, an afterlife with no pain or suffering. We aspire to perfection. But what if we were given the choice? What if we could attain the perfection we desire so much? Would we take it? I think if we were faced with the choice we would come to the same conclusion as the Buddhist monks. A world without suffering is a world without kindness or compassion. It is a world free of human emotion. Suffering is what makes us human. It is what gives us the ability to empathize, understand, and connect with others. Without knowledge of our human finitude and experience in suffering we become devoid of emotion and human attachment. Our experiences in suffering drive our motives and compassion for others. Without limitations our lives have no meaning because there is no trial to overcome, no person to help, and no purpose to move us forward.
There is infinite value in human finitude. One could argue that the human drive to overcome and hope is a cursed one. The human struggle to cure disease and overcome human hardship is ultimately in vain if we cannot overcome death and suffering. Yet I argue that it is precisely that, our finitude, which drives us to keep trying and keep hoping. We continue to push our limits because we have experienced suffering and finitude. If we lived in a world without human limitation, there would be no drive for progress.
Sickness, aging, and death are inevitable, but the boundaries are not set in stone. Technology has allowed us to cure illnesses, increase life expectancy, and revive the dead in certain cases. Our experiences in human limitation are ultimately our motivations to keep pushing forward. The beauty in human finitude is that it enables us to keep stretching the boundaries of our limitations.
When I think of a world without human limitation, I think of the world before the Fall, Adam and Eve’s original sin – it is the world of Eden (at least in the Christian tradition). Yes, I do think there is meaning in a world without human limitation – when it is earned by way of acquiring and practicing virtue. There is a concept in Tibetan Buddhism that I find beautiful and meaningful when I reflect on this. The concept is “Shambhala” – a sort of paradise understood to be a place of enlightenment, peace and happiness. According to my studies in Tibetan ecology last semester, Shambhala is both a spiritual and geographic reality. Tibetans believe elements of it are scattered throughout the earth. Achievement of Shambhala is dependent on meditation and the practice of the “four limitless ones”: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. While we may strive for Heaven, for a return to Eden, for Shambhala, for Nirvana, etc. I found Dr. Labrecque’s comment about religion and suffering a few weeks ago to be interesting as well – suffering is a necessity for happiness and the experience of a full life.
I concur with my classmates that human finitude is valuable. I especially appreciate that Matt points out how limitation serves as a tool to make connections with the community and the world around us, rather than to be self-consumed. Finitude makes us humble beings. There is value in knowing you and I have been created. What a powerful thought: our lives are not really ours, but connected to a Creator and connected to everyone else on earth. In terms of finitude in the healthcare and the patient care setting, humility helps remind us of our own humanity. The value of humility is that it allows us to be aware of our weaknesses and limitations, and it is an important tool for self-control. I don’t consider limitation and healing to be opposites. Rather, our limitations and our pains (in age, in disease, in disability, in society, etc.) enable compassion. Often, I think there is a preconceived notion that a caregiver must be perfect in order to help or serve others, but I disagree. In many ways the parts of ourselves we are ashamed of, the parts we have not figured out yet, the parts we lament and often hide, the parts of ourselves that are so very human and as such, flawed – serve others perfectly because through them, we can be powerful witnesses of their lives and we can understand, “penetrating to the very core of revealed truths” (John A. Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary).
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