Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

But not just yet


This post owes its inspiration to a very unusual book I am reading, Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. One of the characters in the book has just been given the news that his illness was untreatable and that he had not long to live. After the initial shock wore off and he shed a few tears he smiled and talked a little bit about how he, and probably a lot of people dealt with death, if they thought about it at all. They procrastinated.

The motto of the procrastinator is “But Not Just Yet.” I am perfectly willing to do something if you don’t give me a deadline–sure I’ll do it, but not just yet. Or more to the point of this post, if something unpleasant but unavoidable is coming my way, let us say filing my tax return and attaching a check, my integrity demands that I do it…but not just yet. So I file for an extension so I can forget about it for a while. (But I suppose you have never done anything like that.)

When one is of a certain age, one becomes aware that the ultimate unpleasantness is bearing down on one. Oh hell, let me speak plainly: death is just around the corner. This poses a problem for the Christian procrastinator: it’s an article of faith that death is not to be feared and that we have good reason to look forward to a better life to come.

So I can say unequivocally that I am prepared for the Grim Reaper. Like the aging pitcher Satch Paige so famously said, “Don’t look back; something may be gaining on you.” So since I am the procrastinator of the world, I can confidently say…but not just yet.

Before you begin thinking of me as a weasel who wants to have it both ways, I refer you to no less than Saint Augustine. You may know the story. As a young adult he kept very busy sowing his wild oats. He ended up living with a woman with whom he never quite got around to marrying. Then came his conversion to Christianity, but for a long time he could not shake old habits. He is said to have prayed, “O Lord, make me chaste. But not just yet.”

So if procrastination worked for Saint Augustine, maybe it will work for me.



One Response to “But not just yet”
  1. Leslie says:

    I enjoyed this, Dad. Procrastination does have it’s benefits! Btw, I loved Cutting for Stone, very different and thought provoking.

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