Friday, June 5, 2009

On Death And Dying

it's a bittersweet symphony, this life. you get a diploma, you try to get married, you die.

I’ve been thinking about death a lot recently. The thoughts creep up on me and catch me unawares, when I'm eating alone, doing my devotions, playing Madden NFL. Once or twice they emerge in the middle of a dream and balloon into an anxiety great enough to rouse me from slumber. But, most of the time, I’d say they catch me right before I lay down to rest and right after I rise to wake. They don't command my attention for too long; just long enough to remind me that I still need to deal with it.

I think this all started after my dog Lucky died just over a month ago. I forced myself not to grieve because I was still away at school and finals was just about to begin. When I got back, I never really did give myself enough time to think about it and get over it. So perhaps now these thoughts and emotions are finally leaking through the barriers I erected to protect my conscious awareness. Perhaps as catharsis, I need a good cry. But since I don’t really know how to just sit down and command that function to occur within me, I’ll write up some of my thoughts about death and dying.


Life is unbearable without friends and family, but death is even worse so. Because who then will plan your funeral? Who then will speak at it and remind those who are alive of the flightiness of life? Who will come and be reminded?

Flowers: I can't think of a better way to portray the absurdity of life (except perhaps the myth of Sisyphus, but that's a different kind of absurdity). An object that was created to be beautiful for an insignificant moment in time, and then succumb to the ugliest fate for anything on this side of metaphysical reality. The last time I was at a funeral, I remember looking around the room and noticing that there were dozens of flowers everywhere; probably more than a hundred total. First of all, that must have been expensive as hell. And all for what? So we can enjoy them for the hour-long service, that isn't even about the flowers? And then they get thrown out. What a waste. Then I thought, no, that's not a waste. Not compared to a human life lived like a flower. You accomplish glorious, yet fleeting beauty, and then it's all over, and you bring none of that with you. Now that's a waste.

Only with death does life matter. Otherwise, we'd have an infinite amount of time to correct our mistakes. But precisely because existence is just a Being-towards-death, just a delaying of the inevitable, just a waiting for that last grain of sand to cross the threshold into the bottom of that hourglass, precisely because of all these things does life matter. Not only so, but life matters infinitely. Or, rather, eternally.
"God hath given to man a short time here upon earth, and yet upon this short time eternity depends.” - Jeremy Taylor

The way I feel right now is precisely why Aquinas must be wrong in his theodicy.

I don’t want to think about it anymore; I can’t. It’s agonizing. The weight of it presses in around me from all sides, like being twenty thousand leagues under the sea. But we must think about it. Like the Israelites at Sinai, we must drink every bitter drop; we must taste the consequences of our sin. Only then will redemption taste as sweet as it is.

But we can’t steel ourselves from the experience either. We can’t harden our hearts in the hopes of protecting it. We must do that which is harder than hardening our hearts. That which is counter-intuitive to our thinking; something unfamiliar and completely alien compared to our defense mechanisms. We must let our hearts be broken.

This will be the last sad/negative post for a while, I promise.


Rest in peace, Lucky, whatever the hell that means for animals.

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