If you lost your job, would you lose your will to live? In 2015, menshealth.com reported a study claiming that one in five suicide deaths worldwide is linked to unemployment. Would you “end it all” if you lost your life savings? One businessman in Edmonton did just that, earlier this year, after losing $300,000 to offshore investment swindlers. Or would life in prison without the possibility of parole be for you a fate worse than death? On debate.org, 64% say yes. What if, suddenly, after a vivacious, highly social life as a successful media editor, you were paralyzed so completely that the only thing you could do with your body was blink your left eyelid? This, called “Locked-in Syndrome”, is what happened to Jean-Dominique Bauby, the gregarious and witty editor of French Elle, after a massive stroke in December 1995.
But rather than give up hope, Jean-Dominique chose to live. He learned to communicate by blinking his left eyelid, and, one blink at a time, he dictated a beautiful book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, describing his life with Locked-in Syndrome. One reviewer writes: “Bauby gives us a celebration of the liberating power of consciousness: what it is like to spend a day with his children, to imagine lying in bed beside his wife, to conjure up the flavor of delectable meals even as he is fed through a tube. Most of all, this triumphant book lets us witness an indomitable spirit and share in the pure joy of its own survival.” Indeed, despite his now severely limited life, Jean-Dominique chose to live it to the best of his ability and to share it with others.
Jesus once told a parable of a master who, leaving for a trip, gave sums of money (called “talents”) to his three servants to manage, each according to his ability. The first servant received five talents, the second, two, and the third, one talent. The first two managed their money well, doubling it through trading with others, but the third buried it in a hole. When the master returned, he promoted the first two, entrusting even more to them, but fired the third for burying the talent, for not even depositing it in the bank where it could earn interest.
For Christians, the parable of the talents is about living our life well. The master is God, we are the servants, and the talents are our life, entrusted to us. Sometimes it is tempting to think that we don’t have enough “life” to be worth living; like the third servant, we look at our meager talent and compare it to others with twice as much, or five times as much. We are tempted to lose hope: we want to bury our life in a grave as if it were dead. But Jean-Dominique Bauby shows us by example that every life, no matter how limited, can be worth living, every life can be multiplied by sharing it with others. Indeed, Jesus wants us to live our life, not bury it in a grave, even if our life seems to us disappointing, limited, and small. We should do our very best with the life we have. In the end, God will say to us, in the words of the master in the parable: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.”
©Agapios Theophilus, 2017