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boundary experience, Part 2

December 27, 2010

It is hard to realize we are helpless despite progress in many areas of life.  We often delay the inevitable or distract ourselves from it with sly little sayings or self-help material…  “Things will get better, they always do.”

Dr. Yalom of Stanford University writes, “Encased in an elaborate illusion of unlimited power and progress, each of us subscribes, at least until one’s mid-life crisis, to the belief that existence consists of an eternal, upward spiral of achievement, dependent on will alone.  The comforting illusion may be shattered by some urgent, irreversible experience, often referred to by philosophers as a “boundary experience.”  Of all the possible boundary experiences, none more potently confronts us with finiteness and contingency (and none is more able to effect immediate dramatic personal change) than the imminence of our own death.”

Facing tragedy invariably makes us look at our own mortality.  Life leads us to the outermost places and occasionally it crosses our forbidden lines that are designed to protect us.  Boundary experiences are things we never forget.  And if we allow it, boundary experiences can serve as fuel for growth in areas of perspective, faith, and love.  It is in the unwanted and uncharted territories that we are faced with change questions such as, will this make me bitter or better?

Take some time out and think about your boundary experiences.  What in life has stretched you so far that all your assumptions start fading?  Whose death has caused you to reflect most on your own mortality?  Somewhere in answering those questions you will find people and situations that have marked you in significant enough ways to change your course or at the very least, widen out your boundaries.

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