Is Life an Exam?

On page 930 of Stephen King’s IT, Beverly tells Bill that she loathes herself for having spent so many years with her abusive husband, and Bill responds (while stuttering):

“Everybody g-g-goofs it.  But it’s not an eh-eh-exam.  You just go through it the b-b-best you can.”

Do we receive grades in life?  I feel that we do, on a certain level, since people judge us by our status, how much money we make, whether or not we are married or find sexual fulfillment, etc.  And many of us grade ourselves.  Moreover, because many of us (myself included) do not have all of these things, we beat ourselves up, or we try to find something for which we can congratulate ourselves, or we seek something in somebody else to detract from his or her affluence (she may be rich, but is she truly happy?).

On the other hand, we don’t receive an actual grade of how we are doing.  I remember when I was in an Asperger’s group, and one meeting was going to consist primarily of socializing—in contrast to the group’s usual format of having a facilitator and people taking turns to talk about a topic.  At this socializing meeting, we would socialize, then we would stop, and people in our group would critique how we did.  I didn’t get too good of a critique, since I tended to be quiet and thereby fade into invisibility.  And so, when we returned to socializing, I tried to jump into the conversation as much as I could, perhaps to the annoyance of the other group members.  But what disappointed me was that we did not then grade whether or not people improved their social performance.  The message that I got from the whole event was “You suck, you’re on your own.”  (That wasn’t said explicitly, but that’s how I felt.)  And, many times, I feel that’s how real life is.  It’s not like my experience of school, where I’m given a grade according to my performance, and I know what I need to do to get a good grade, or to improve.  Rather, I’m thrown into life, and I do not entirely know a fool-proof way to succeed, or to measure my success.  How, for example, do I even know that I’m going anywhere, or instead will be in a rut for the rest of my life?

I’ve started to read Our Daily Bread, which I got for free at my church, and I really enjoyed the devotional for September 2 of this year, which was written by Dave Branon.  I will quote from some of it:

“When I was a kid, I had a hero: Pete Maravich, a high-scoring basketball player who handled the ball like a magician.  Problem was, my desire to be like Pistol Pete blocked my satisfaction with who God made me to be.  When I realized I could never play like Pete, I grew discouraged.  I even quit my college team briefly because I couldn’t measure up to the Maravich standard”  The devotional further down quotes Christian singer Jonny Diaz, who says that “you were made to fill a purpose that only you could do.”

There are many times when I do not agree with Jonny Diaz on this, for I feel that there are a lot of people who know what I know and can do what I can do, perhaps even more.  But I still walk away with important lessons from this devotional.  Why, for example, should I be the absolute best—the star of the show, the most talented?  Perhaps I can contribute as a supporting cast member, as Dave could have helped out his basketball team without being as talented as Pistol Pete.  Or maybe I can fill a void that is in a particular area somewhere, or can contribute something to someone.  You can too.

Bill Denbrough says that you go through life the best that you can.  That means navigating one’s way through highs and lows—which, in my case (and the case of many other people), do come.  You do what you can in those situations.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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