daveraines (daveraines) wrote,

Jay Lake, Cancer, and God #4: Prevailing

I've known many people with cancer.  Jaylake is unique in my experience because he's very open and public about what he's going through.  This allows public conversation about Life, the Universe, and Everything.  Also God.  Because I'm a pastor.


jaylake's health has taken a turn for the worse and he's been honest about his reaction.  I've delayed publishing my next series of posts because they seemed awfully intellectual to me, where caregiving seems more appropriate, given his bad health news.  But maybe I've tweaked them enough to be acceptable.

Today's conversation comes to us courtesy of a business book, Good To Great by Jim Collins.  It's a book about taking a good organization and making it great.  The third principle his research identified is:  "Confront the brutal facts (yet never lose faith)."  Briefly, the idea is to "maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, and at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality."

Jay's not about creating a great organization.  But it seems to me that's a useful guideline for living greatly as well.

I've seen Jay confront brutal facts and I've seen him keep faith, of a sort.  He has "confronted the brutal facts."  I still remember my shock when, back in the day, he wrote that his odds of dying in 5 years were 70%.  I was mostly shocked and worried about the low odds, of course, but also at least a little shocked that he wasn't trying to fool himself.  He has written, extensively, about the bad effects of chemotherapy and cancer on his relationships, his body, his work, his writing, his moods, you name it.

Faith?  He has "poked cancer in the eye," he has "beaten cancer again and again," he has not lost faith until recently.  (Please note we're talking about what Jay calls "small-f" faith , not Faith in some god.  In this case, it's what Collins calls "faith that you will prevail.")  He has even written about "the gifts of cancer,"  which to me resembles a small-s spiritual kind of prevailing.

The problem, of course, is that, barring a miracle, he will not prevail in any physical sense.  And even if a physical miracle occurs, through science or whatever means, eventually he will die.  And so if "prevailing" means "continuing to live," how can one prevail?

As a pastor, this leads me to religious thought, of course, and I'll go there eventually.  But I don't think you have to.  For instance, you can prevail as the 300 Spartans did at Thermopylae, even though they died.  Or you can prevail as Socrates did, dying of poison but influencing human thought and behavior for millennia.  Or you can prevail as a portion of you lives on in others, especially your family, as, um, Mufasa did.  (I'm reaching for the sublime example there.)

All I know about Jay's current struggles come from his blog.  But it seems to me that at least part of his struggles, emotional swings, etc. stem from the question:  how will I prevail?  How will I redefine what it means to prevail?  The answers that come through the blog seem to involve laughing in the face of death.

Which points to my next post.  Its springboard will be another business book, The Power of Full Engagement, and its treatment of ritual.  Authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz define ritual as "behavior that has become automatic over time PLUS is tied to a deeply held value."  Breaking bottles?  Laughing?  Values?  Automatic?  Next post.  
Tags: cancer, good to great, jay lake, prevailing
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