December 18, 2004

On Death, Because the Irish are Morbid

They say that to overcome fear when giving a speech you should imagine your listeners in their underwear. This is supposed to make the audience less intimidating, but given that there are some attractive ladies at my office this might only be erotic.

But I think I have a more effective remedy: to imagine them in a hundred years. All will be equal then, physically-speaking; we'll all be mouldering in our graves. This occurred to me while hiking past a city of the dead out in the country. It was set on a hill, as cemeteries often are, and it takes very little imagination to imagine a cross-section of the hill and what lay beneath: bones as lifeless as the stones that mark them.

Death can create empathy for our neighbors. Everyone of us is passing towards an equal ruin. Death is a great failure, a spectacular destruction of everything sensible about us, though not an eternal one. As Fr. Andrew Greeley wrote in "The Jesus Myth":
The Christian, then, believes in failure just as Jesus believed in failure, but he knows that failure is not the end. He believes in fulfillment though he knows that he cannot achieve it himself. He knows that he is weak and will be defeated; but he knows that with God's help he can transcend defeat to achieve victory. It is therefore impossible for him to quit; he cannot give up...When the charity of others runs out because of age, infirmity, discouragement or frustration, the Christian knows that this is not an option available to him...The question of whether life is ultimately a tragedy or a comedy, Jesus replied with the absolute assurance that it was comedy.

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