There is some medical news that nobody, absolutely nobody is prepared to hear.
I certainly wasn’t!
It was three years ago that I got a call in my office,
with the test results of a recent scan.
I was 35 and finally living the life I wanted.
I married my high-school sweetheart,
and had finally gotten pregnant after years of infertility.
And then suddenly, we had a Zack.
a perfect one-year-old boy/dinosaur, depending on his mood.
And having a Zack suited me perfectly.
I had gotten the first job I applied for in academia,
land of a thousand crushed dreams.
And there I was, working at my dream job,
with my little baby and the man I had imported from Canada.
But a few months before, I started feeling pain in my stomach
and had gone to every expert to find out why.
No one could tell me.
And then, out of the blue, some physician’s assistant called me at work
to tell me that I had stage-four cancer,
and that I was going to need to come to the hospital right away.
And all I could think of to say was,”But I have a son!”
我不能就这样结束 生活刚刚开始 不能结束
I can’t end. This world can’t end. It has just begun.
之后 我打电话给我的丈夫 他急匆匆地赶来
And then I called my husband and he rushed to find me
and I said all the true things that I have known.
I said, “I have loved you forever,
I have loved you forever. I am so sorry! Please take care of our son.”
And then as I began to walk to the hospital, they crossed my mind for the first time.
Oh, how ironic! I had just written a book called Blessed!
[Laugh And Applause]
I’m a historian and an expert in the idea that good things happen to good people.
I research a form of Christianity nicknamed the prosperity gospel,
for its very bold promise that God wants you to prosper.
I’ve never considered myself a follower of the prosperity gospel.
I was simply an observer.
The prosperity gospel believes that God wants to reward you
if you have the right kind of faith.
If you’re good and faithful,
God will give you health and wealth and boundless happiness.
Life is like a boomerang.
If you’re good, good things will always come back to you.
积极思考 说话和善 只要你相信 一切皆有可能
Think positively, speak positively, nothing is impossible if you believe.
I got interested in this very American theology when I was 18 or so,
and by 25, I was traveling the country, interviewing at celebrities.
I spent a decade talking to televangelists
with spiritual guarantees for divine money.
I interviewed countless megachurch pastors with spectacular hair
about how they live their best lives now.
I visited with people in hospital waiting rooms and plush offices.
I held hands with people in wheelchairs, praying to be cured.
I earned my reputation as destroyer of family vacations
for always insisting on being dropped off at the fanciest megachurch in town.
If there was a river running through the sanctuary,
an eagle flying freely in the auditorium, or enormous spinning golden globe,
I was there!
When I first started studying this,
the whole idea of being blessed wasn’t what it is today.
It was not like it it now,
an entire line of hashtag-blessed home goods.
It was not yet a flood of hashtag-blessed vanity license plates and
and T-shirts and neon wall art.
I had no idea that ‘blessed’ would become one of the most common cultural cliches,
one of the most used hashtags on Instagram
to celebrate their barely-there bikini shots.
as if to say, “I am so blessed, thank you Jesus for this body!”
I had not yet fully grasped the way
that the prosperity gospel had become the great civil religion,
offering another transcendent account of the core of the American dream.
Rather than worshiping the founding of America itself,
the prosperity gospel worshiped Americans.
It deifies and ritualizes their hungers, their hard work and moral fiber.
Americans believe in a gospel of optimism and they are their own proof.
虽然我告诉自己 “我只是研究这些 我跟他们不一样”
But despite telling myself, “I’m just studying the stuff. I’m nothing like them.”
when I got my diagnosis, I suddenly understood
how deeply invested I was in my own Horatio Alger Theology.
If you live in this culture, whether you’re religious or not,
It is extremely difficult to avoid falling into the trap of believing
that virtue and success go hand in hand.
The more I stare down my diagnosis, the more I recognized
that I had my own quiet version of the idea that good things happen to good people.
Aren’t I good? Aren’t I special, somehow?
I have committed zero homicides to date.
So why is this happening to me?
I wanted God to make me good
and to reward my faith with just a few shining awards along the way.
Ok, like a lot of shining awards.
I believe that hardships were only detours on what I was certain would be my long long life.
As this is the case of many of us, it’s a mindset that served me well.
成功福音驱使我去实现梦想 心怀远大 并抛却恐惧
The gospel of success drove me to achieve, to dream big, to abandon fear.
It was the mindset that served me well until it didn’t,
until I was confronted with something I couldn’t manage my way out of,
until I found myself saying into the phone, “But I have a son.”
because it was all I could think of to say.
That was the most difficult moment to accept,
the phone call, the walk to the hospital,
when I realized that my own personal prosperity gospel had failed me.
Anything I thought was good or special about me could not save me,
我的努力 个性 我的幽默 我的观点
my hardwork, my personality, my humor, my perspective.
我不得不面对这个事实 就是 我的生命脆弱不堪
I had to face the fact that my life is built with paper walls.
And so is everyone else’s.
It is a hard thought to accept that
we are all a breath away from a problem that
that could destroy something irreplaceable
or alter our lives completely.
We know that in life there are befores and afters.
I am asked all the time to say that I would never go back
or that I’ve gained so much in perspective.
我告诉他们 不是 以前更好
And I tell them no. Before was better.
A few months after I got sick, I wrote about this
and then I sent it off to an editor at New York Times.
In retrospect, taking one of the most vulnerable moments of your life and turning it into an op-ed
is not an amazing way to feel less vulnerable.
I got thousands of letters and emails.
I still get them every day.
I think it is because of the questions I asked.
I asked, “How do you live without quite so many reasons for the bad things that happen?”
I asked, “Would it be better to live without outrageous formulas
for why people deserve what they get?”
And what was so funny and so terrible was, of course
I thought I ask people to simmer down
on needing an explanation for the bad things that happened.
So what did the thousands of readers do?
Yeah! They wrote to defend the idea that
there had to be a reason for what happened to me.
And they really want me to understand the reason.
People want me to reassure them
that my cancer is all part of a plan.
A few letters even suggested it was God’s plan that I get cancer
so I can help people by writing about it.
People are certain it is a test of my character
or proof of something terrible I’ve done.
They want me to know, without a doubt
that there is a hidden logic to this seeming chaos.
They tell my husband, while I’m still in the hospital,
that everything happens for a reason.
And then stammer awkwardly when he says, “I’d love to hear it.
I’d love to hear the reason my wife is dying.”
And I get it. We all want reasons.
We want formulas to predict whether our hardwork will pay off,
whether our love and support will always make our partners happy and our kids love us.
We want to live in a world in which not one ounce of our hardwork
在这里 我们每一寸付出 疼痛 或我们最深的期望都不会落空
or our pain or our deepest hopes will be for nothing.
We wanna live in a world in which nothing is lost.
但是 活在有四期癌症的日子里 我学习到了一点
But what I have learned, in living with stage-four cancer
is that there is no easy correlation between how hard I try and the length of my life.
In the last three years, I’ve experienced more pain and trauma
than I ever thought I could survive.
I realized the other day that I’ve had so many abdominal surgeries
that I’m on my fifth belly button.
And this last one is my least favorite.
但与此同时 我也经历了爱 如此多的爱
But at the same time, I have experienced love, so much love,
love I find hard to explain.
The other day, I was reading the findings of the Near Death Experience Research Foundation,
and yes, there is such a thing.
People were interviewed about
their brushes with death and all kinds of circumstances,
车祸 分娩 自杀
car accidence, labor in delivery, suicides.
And many reported the same odd thing, love!
I’m sure I would have ignored it
if it hadn’t reminded me of something I’d experienced.
Something I felt uncomfortable telling anyone
that when I was sure that I was going to die,
I didn’t feel angry.
I felt loved!
It was one of the most surreal things I’ve experienced.
In a time in which I should have felt abandoned by God,
I was not reduced to ashes. I felt like I was floating,
很多人像工蜂一样围着我 爱着我 为我祈祷
floating on the love and prayers of all those
who hummed around me like worker bees,
他们给我写信 也给了我袜子 鲜花
bringing me notes and socks and flowers
and quilts embroidered with words of encouragement.
但 当他们在我身边坐下 握起我的手时
But when they sat beside me, my hand in their hands,
my own suffering began to feel like it had revealed to me the suffering of others.
I was entering a world of people just like me,
people stumbling around in the debris of dreams
they thought they were entitled to,
and plans they didn’t realize they had made.
It was a feeling of being more connected,
somehow with other people experiencing the same situation.
And that feeling stayed with me for months.
In fact, I’d grown so accustomed to it
that I started to panic at the prospect of losing it.
所以我开始问 问朋友 神学家 历史学家和我喜欢过的修女
So I began to ask friends, theologians, historians, nuns I liked,
说 “那种爱的感觉消失后 我该怎么办？”
“What am I gonna do when that loving feeling is gone?”
And they know exactly what I was talking about,
because they either experienced themselves
or they read about it in great works of Christian theology.
他们说 “是的 会消失 这些感觉会消失
And they said, “Yeah, it’ll go, the feelings will go.
And there will be no formula for how to get it back.”
But they offered me this little piece of reassurance and I clung to it.
他们说 “爱如潮水般消退 有如燕过留痕“
They said, “When the feelings recede like the tides, they will leave an imprint.”
And they do!
And it is not proof of anything!
And it’s nothing to boast about. It was just a gift.
So I can’t respond to the thousands of emails I get
with my own five-step plan to divine health and magical floating feelings.
我意识到 既奇妙又糟糕 既美好又悲惨的事件
I see that the world is jolted by events that are wonderful and terrible,
gorgeous and tragic.
I can’t reconcile the contradiction.
Except that I’m beginning to believe that these opposites do not cancel each other out.
Life is so beautiful and life is so hard!
Today, I am doing quite well!
The immunotherapy drugs appear to be working
and we are watching and waiting with scans.
I hope I will live a long time!
I hope I will live long enough to embarrass my son
and to watch my husband lose his beautiful hair.
And I think I might!
But I am learning to live and to love without counting the cost,
without reasons and assurances that nothing will be lost.
Life will break your heart!
And life may take everything you have and everything you hope for.
But there is one kind of prosperity gospel that I believe in.
I believe that in the darkness, even there,
there will be beauty and there will be love.
And, every now and then, it will feel like more than enough!