Recently in the mail came a form, easily filled out, to renew my life membership in a professional association in which I had been a member since 1966. As I stamped and sealed the return envelope I noticed for the first time, writ large in the lower left, the words: “Must include Life Statement in order to be processed”. Now I’m in a quandary, and for several reasons; for one thing I have already sealed the missile and do not recall making any particular statement, much less one covering my life—even partially. Also I do not know if I, or it, will be processed, whatever that is, but most unsettling is the awareness that I have not now, or even will I ever, reach a position to comment on so personal a thing as “My Life” in any comprehensive way—and certainly not in such a public forum.
There is now, however, the lingering and niggling doubt that should I be required to make such a statement anytime in the future, rank wordlessness and failure would surely be the result. Perhaps just sweeping the whole matter aside with some remark about not suffering fools gladly would get me by, but not for long. If the association continues to insist I might choose a more global and broad –brush response as, “I have always, throughout my life, tried to stand for that which is good and pure”, leaving aside whether or not I had been particularly successful in that effort. Yet even to me it sounds pretentious and lacking in any credible, creaturely life experience.
In fact what occurred to me was the parable of the two men in church who presented themselves to the Lord. The first man asserted that he had lived a good and blameless life and no doubt was pleasing and readily acceptable to the Lord. The second man, poor and contrite, did not even dare to raise his eyes up to heaven. He said “forgive me Father, for I am a sinner”. Of course it proved to be the second man that was closer to heaven’s gate. Thus forewarned and forearmed I began painfully to search out any instances of unprofessional, even unethical thoughts or impulses of conduct over the years. My humility was well settled in by the time I unsealed the blinking letter and found that the “Life Statement” referred to the form I had enclosed indicating that I did indeed intend to remain a Life Member. I might add that after the sense of relief. I am determined to suffer fools more gladly, myself included.