Surviving In This Very Moment…

My Personal Battle with Prostate Cancer … And Life!

What Have I Got To Lose?

Meditation Spot

Meditation Spot (Photo Credit: Roger Passman)

As the day of surgery comes ever closer I find myself reflecting on a few ideas that make this whole experience with cancer remarkably peaceful. Sure there is some stress; it would hardly be normal to approach a major operation with some potentially life changing side effects without some anxiety but that is not the peace I am referring to. I suppose the best way to describe this experience is a strangely interesting connection to the alterity of the absolutely infinite other awaiting me.

In part, this experience is guided by the unquestioned fact that there can be no substitute for me in this experience. The surgery, facing cancer, an eerie exposure to the infinite is mine and mine alone. While I have others who love and care for me, my experience is singular and unconditional. This very moment, as I write this, the absolute interiority of this journey of mine is unconditionally. I am presented with a continuum of choices ranging from denial to acceptance. To steal a line from “Flight,” the new Denzel Washington film, with a slight adaptation, “I have used up my allotment of denial.” Acceptance, on the other hand, means thinking in terms of the worst possible outcome, accepting that outcome, and working to achieve a better one. The worst possible outcome, in this particular case, is, quite simply, death. I must accept that possibility but I also must work to achieve a better outcome.

I am also learning that if I approach this very moment as if it is a new opportunity for a re-beginning, that this very moment allows me to open a door to a completely new beginning, I am, in fact, acting in concert with the exteriority of the absolute other. On this measure, I find myself seeking a mirror of that absolute other in the face of the other, in my basic human relationships. I measure that connection by my actions and how those actions are embracing of the exteriority of the other; by how I respond to difference. Do I make myself available through my desire to create proximate space or do I shirk from that ethical obligation because I am wrapped up in myself.

Finally, I can measure just how my own experience brings out all of those things for which I am grateful. Waking up, brushing my teeth, eating meals, playing with my dogs, talking with my wife, having breakfast with my family these are the things I am grateful for. I find the little things to be more important than politics, religion or anything else that is outside of my control. Not that I can control the little things however I do have some choices with those things for which I make a decision or two. All of those little things add up to a lived-experience that is uniquely my own, that, while parts are shared with others, much is more private than public. I believe that making some of that private experience public is at the core of understanding the mirror of the infinite that is contained in the face of the other. I’ll have to come back to this later because I am not sure how to work it out quite yet. I think of this as a note to myself to return when I can.

In the final analysis, what I have to lose is the existential lived-experience. On the other hand, I have the absolute potential to gain entrance to the absolute infinity that only I can enter. I don’t know if that is a fair trade but I do know that it is inevitable. I do what I can to postpone the inevitable.

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4 thoughts on “What Have I Got To Lose?

  1. Roger,
    I appreciate your amazing enlightenment on your walk through your mind that you are sharing with us your readers. I have used that line at times, “What have you got to Lose?” when I think of believing in a Divine Being. I have read your position on this yet I can not help to think- What have you got to Lose? in knowing that eternity is for real. I suppose it is the only thing that got me through kidney cancer, brain tumor, a son with severe autism, and many other interesting things in my life. Thank you for sharing. I am looking forward to hearing how all this will go for. Alesia

  2. Alesia, I am reminded of a quote from Mark Twain who was once asked toward the end of his life if he was afraid of death. His response was, “Sir, I was dead for billions of years before I was born and it did not seem to do me any harm.”
    We all face the imminent possibility of returning to the infinity that bookmarks our lives; the only question is how do you face that infinity. One can fear death or one can embrace the infinite possibilities that this passage provides. Speaking only for myself, I have no fear of the inevitable yet while I am here I will continue to embrace life and do so until the very last moment of transition. For some, belief in the existence of a divinity provides strength. As a post-Shoah Jew, I cannot construct a divine being that would be so impotent as to allow such a genocide to occur, or one who allows children to die of cancer, or one who would permit the religious conflicts that have plagued mankind for all of its existence and now threaten our very existence as a species, or any of the other countless horrors that make news every single day. That being said, however, I believe that even though there is no god or gods, one has the obligation to live one’s life as if there is a god, to apply the fundamental ethical obligation to one’s life as that life connects the self with the other. At this very moment I announce, Here I Am! without reservation and without expectation. I open myself to the other and now I simply wait in the proximate space I have created.

  3. Roger,
    I just wanted to let you know how I much I am moved by your writing. I haven’t commented before because I haven’t really known what to say. But I wanted you to know that I am reading, that your writing provokes me to think differently about my own life, and that I wish you all the very best with your upcoming surgery.
    I think you are amazing.

  4. Charlotte,
    I thank you for your comment. I think I write for two purposes: 1) to work things out for myself; all the writing is first draft, subject to no revisions so what I write is what is in the forefront of my thinking at this very moment. As a secondary purpose 2) I write to provoke a conversation. As an old English teacher and teacher of teachers, with a specialization in teaching writing, one of the things I learned long ago was that writing is a unique way of thinking. It allows us to see a filtered version of what is floating around in one’s head, making the fleeting thought into an archival record, something one can return to at a later date and develop or discard as the spirit moves.
    Since you have entered the conversation, I invite you to keep commenting. No one really knows what to say, but the saying is far more important than the said, where the said is the stuff floating around in your head that is left unsaid. The saying makes the said visible and public.
    Thanks again for your comment and your well wishes. I appreciate it more than can be imagined.

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