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The Kiss

I once worked with a guy who, in response to anyone’s morning greeting, replied, “Same old routine.” Like gentle sleeping Rosamond,[1] we too often sleepwalk through life, not noticing the bitter eremacausis[2] of dull routine that has crept into a relationship or a career. Without our noticing, perhaps because we’re too busy raising children and juggling careers, a coolness creeps into relationships. There’s no hatred, no violence, no yelling. No one is being unkind or unfaithful. There’s simply a dullness, a taking of one another for granted. She doesn’t hate her job, but it’s a chore, a drudgery one slogs through to get to retirement. Then retirement comes and two empty-nester strangers look at each other and try to imagine the next 25 years.

Many of us sink into old age, minds dulled by superficiality, attitudes poisoned by bias, projecting our fears and vulnerability on societal changes we do not understand. Our worlds become smaller and smaller. We fantasize of never existent good old days. The tragedy lies not in the fact that physical decline may limit our mobility, but in the fact that we too often allow ourselves to plateau or decline intellectually, psychologically, and spiritually. Without a sense of wonder and child-like curiosity, we stagnate. Whose kiss can awaken us?

Sometimes it is the kiss of sorrow. Bereavement has a way of suddenly transforming our priorities. I was a hospice chaplain. I was with many as they died, but I never heard anyone say they wish they’d spent more time at work, or watching sports on TV, and less with their families and friends.

The kiss can be a memory, long suppressed, of abuse or neglect.

The kiss may come in the form of a pink slip at work, the realization that AI can now do your job, or being passed over for a promotion.

Midlife crises, divorces, physical illness, chronic injury, a narrow escape, a natural disaster – all kisses to awaken us, if we will let them. The devils we fear turn out to be princes. Thorns give way to blossoms.

A crisis of faith occurs when we discover holes in our religiophilosophical worldviews, when religious authority figures fall from their pedestals, when churches resemble rock concerts, faith groups are filled with hate, or when God seems absent. All kisses.

Like Rosamond, we are victims of forces beyond our control. Unlike Rosamond, we can choose to escape the death-like suspended animation of normal life with its grinding familial, vocational, and religious dullness.Unlike Rosamond, we do not need to wait a century for a prince to show up and kiss us. We can be our own princes. We can, at any age, seize life, grasp creativity, learn love.

[1] The Sleeping Beauty by the Brothers Grimm, which can be read here: [2] In nature, eremacausis (from the Latin meaning “to burn slowly”) is the slow combustion or oxidation of the organic matter as it comes into contact with air and water. Eremacausis causes hay to become literally hot to the touch. Eremacausis is the slow burning fire of nature that slowly but surely decomposes every tree that falls to the ground, and every leaf that drops in the autumn winds. Eremacausis works slowly, subtly, behind the scenes, almost unnoticed from a day-to-day viewpoint.

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