By Kent J Wessinger
Immortality remains a common theme throughout our arts, folklore, and culture. Although immortality seems reserved for theatrical characters, Greek gods, and perfectly sculpted athletes, our actions suggest that we grow through life with an immortal mindset––“That will never happen to me…disease does not run in my family…I’m aware of my surroundings.” Recognizing that life’s simplest tasks can chip away at our immortal mindset, how do we survive the reality of mortality?
Several years ago I noticed the largest line item in my school’s budget was food. Since the school is a residential school that feeds all the students and faculty three meals per day, the delivery of processed foods had become exorbitant and out of balance. Fretting over the costs and health effects, my students and I made the decision to become a self-sustaining school.
The school owned a thirteen-acre tract of land in the valley below the academic buildings. The fertile valley was a perfect setting for a farm; however, the land was saturated in thick foliage and thorny scrub trees. Clearing the land was the first step in the process of sustainability, but it presented a dilemma of hardship. The school did not own nor could it afford any equipment to clear the land. Our only option was to clear the land with machetes.
Equipped with a sharp machete I entered the “jungle” in shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops. I assumed that keeping cool in the hot summer climate was of the highest importance. My immortal mindset omitted one obvious factor, the rains and thick foliage were the perfect breeding ground for massive quantities of mosquitos. Although I was aware that mosquitos were biting my feet and legs as I cleared the land, I was content since I was not overheating. I assumed that a good shower and ointment would rectify the bites.
Twenty-four hours later I was bed ridden. I did not have the energy to move any part of my body, the sweat was profuse, and my mind was hallucinating. I had dengue fever, a virus that is carried by mosquitos. A nurse came to my bedside and said, “twelve people have died in the last month from the same virus.”
Facing mortality, a wonderful Jamaican lady named Miss May sat beside my bed for five straight days––wiping away sweat, telling me stories to keep my mind clear, and spoon-feeding me water. When the nurse came back to my bedside on the fifth day, she said, “Miss May saved your life, without her you would have been a tragic statistic.”
How do we survive the reality of mortality?––through the depth of authentic relationships. As the world-renowned physicist Fritjof Capra states, “No living organism survives in isolation.” If we desire a vibrant life steeped in satisfaction, we must consciously strive to deepen our relationships.
Kent J Wessinger Husband, father, & follower. Kennesaw State University B.S. Business Mgmt Regent University, M.A. Theology Prescott College, Phd Candidate, Sustainability. Currently researching the sustainable response to the socio-economic crisis in the Caribbean.