As I was contemplating possibilities for tonight’s topic (translation: racking my brain frantically and prayerfully for something profound about which to write), my eyes fell on one of those large yellow envelopes labeled, “Interdepartmental Mail” with all of the address blocks on it so it can be reused a gazillion times and you cross out the previous “To:” and “From:” blocks before using the next to send your document package within.
This old thing had most of the blocks on the front side filled out, and I began to wonder—what offices had it been to? What important or trivial information had it carried? Had any of those documents been life changing, either for the recipient or the person(s) about whom they were written?
Some of its stops were the “Costume Shop,” Housing and Food Service, History Department (who sent it to Accounts Payable), Engineering, back and forth a couple of times between HR and the University President’s office, various Student Records offices around campus, The CFO office (Patron Services), the Study Abroad office, who finally sent it to me, with some paperwork to help some students go abroad.
There is an old poem, called “The Dash” which contemplates the dash on a tombstone—the dash between the date of birth and the date of death. It ponders about the lifetime contained in that simple chisel mark and all that isn’t said about the single human life honored by that polished rock.
This envelope tells more about its life as a courier than a gravestone says about its human, yet the envelope won’t last but a few years, and when its boxes are all filled in or it is worn out, it will be tossed with no notice and less fanfare into a recycle bin, and its history will be recycled with it. Perhaps a simple dash is better after all.
It just is amazing to me how much of living goes unnoticed and uncelebrated. When you enter a hotel ballroom, there is no evidence of the conferences that filled its expanse with people falling asleep to the droning of others. Nor is there a hint of the weddings celebrated within its foldable partition walls. The physical things of this world rarely take permanent notice of the daily dramas and drudgeries that pass through and around them.
I’m not merely being existential, and I’m certainly not trying to be maudlin. This world is not our home and therefore it is not meant to be a place where our memories are to be engraved in perpetuity like a graffittied “Kilroy was here” declaration. We have a home and a place where all of these things we cherish are kept. We have been promised that this world will burn and be no more, so take heed, He says, and build for an eternal monument.
It has been coming to mind frequently of late when I am out shopping or somewhere in public how all of the people around me are created and loved intensely by our Lord. It blows my mind, because, truthfully, I wouldn’t give a plug nickel for many of them, yet His blood was ransom for each.
My obligatory C. S. Lewis reference for the day are the words of his that flow through my spirit when I think on these things, and so I close with his eloquence:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals with whom we joke, work, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”