Thursday, January 30, 2014

Weddings v Funerals

Despite his afflictions, man wants to be happy, only wants to be happy, and cannot help wanting to be happy. But how shall he go about it? The best thing would be to make himself immortal; but as he cannot do that, he has decided to stop himself thinking about it. 
-- Pascal, Pensees

Death stalks us. We run but, in the end, cannot hide. Death is inevitable. We do anything and everything to not think about it, to not see that it is at the end of every path we take so as to avoid it. And each morning we wake, our avoidance mechanisms are strengthened and emboldened, and death disappears deeper into the mists until, poof, we think it is gone, or at least so far off in the future that we can safely tell ourselves we will think about it, later. Much later.

Solomon said that it was better to be in the house of mourning than in one where there is feasting: it is better to go to a funeral than a wedding. (Ecclesiastes 7.2) How so? Who thinks this way? Isn’t this morose? Isn’t it better to celebrate life than to stare into the abyss of death? “Carpe Diem!” Well, sure, but what if all of our Carpe-ing is actually a seizing of the meaningless?

At funerals we are faced with mortality: my mortality.  Death whispers to me: “Your dead body will also be in a casket or your ashes in an Urn. Your day is coming. Your time here will end.” And herein is why funerals are – or can be – better to attend than weddings, because it is here where we are most prone to asking ourselves,

What is the meaning of life?
Why am I here?
In the end, what really matters?

Of course, the answers to these questions depend upon the answer to The Question, “What is the meaning of death?” After all, if death is meaningless, then so is life. If death is the obliteration of my existence—my self—then tell me what was the point of my being here? Why was I even alive? And how does anything actually “matter”?

“Come on, Wilson, our existence is an accident by way of some freaky accidents millions of years ago that came about by accidents out in deep dark ‘space’ that occurred billions of years ago. These accidents set in motion a series of occurrences that led to our having these bodies that wear out after so many years.”

So, life is an accident? Your life, my life, their lives are an accident, and death is simply part of that accident? Then what does that mean about our lives here on earth?

Even in asking ourselves serious questions about the meaning of life, we often still seek to avoid death. Think about this: If I never ask questions regarding the meaning of life, I cannot help but have a very shallow existence. However, if I never seek out the answer to the question of the meaning of death, how do I know that my answers to the questions about the meaning of life have any relationship at all to Truth or Reality? 

How many of us set about to create meaningful lives, with our meaningful goals and meaningful experiences, without actually sitting before the reality of death and asking ourselves, What does it mean? If it’s meaningless then what’s up with seeking to create a meaningful life? If death is The End, if death is meaningless, then anything we do here on earth is, in the words of Solomon, only so much “vanity and the grasping of wind.”  

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2014

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