Posts Tagged 'death'

What We Were, Are and Will Be

Courtesy of Schopenhauer.org

After your death you will be what you were before your birth.
Arthur Schopenhauer

We all wrestle with the concept of death.

Most of each day is spent in blissful ignorance of our fleeting nature. Other than the occasional action to push our last day further into the future via exercise or eating a certain way, the majority of our time is swept away in the river of mental occupations we encounter.

That’s fine, maybe even necessary.

Here, though, the German philospher taps squarely on the immutable fact of this life:

The soul is boundless.

What makes me me and you you is shuttled around in a body of four dimensions — length, width, height and time — for a set period before shaking free of the mortal coil. The qualities that define us, our quirks and habits and motivations, would all remain if we could somehow trade bodies as though they were T-shirts and jeans.

What does this mean?

Our uniquity is undeniable and unending.

Scripture speaks to this in various places, yet one in particular evokes a telling image:

The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
I have been established from everlasting,
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
When there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills, I was brought forth;
While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields,
Or the primal dust of the world.
When He prepared the heavens, I was there,
When He drew a circle on the face of the deep,
When He established the clouds above,
When He strengthened the fountains of the deep,
When He assigned to the sea its limit,
So that the waters would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth,
Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in His inhabited world,
And my delight was with the sons of men.
Proverbs 8:22-31, NKJV

God had all of us under His arm as He breathed the universe into existence.

Before there was heaven or earth, light or dark — before before — He set about forming every soul to ever exist, each one different and precious — sacred.

Then, like any attentive parent, He must have huddled us together and gone to work shaping a cosmos so vast and intricate and beautiful we are able to comprehend a mere fraction of it.

He sculpted every mountain and valley and stream.

He flung the stars across the sky.

He set galaxies in motion.

We were present.

And we will be again.

The Justice of Sobbing Hearts

Some people don’t get what they deserve.

As we pile through year after year, most of us are lucky enough to build an army of family and friends.  Through good times and bad, the support we offer and receive fosters strong bonds between similar hearts. The laughs we share lift our spirits together.

What is left behind weighs only on the living.

Old grudges, past disagreements and lost money are a tasty poison in quiet hours of mourning. The collection of things said and unsaid, done and undone can stop a heart or destroy a mind. This sadness is a burden for those bearing the yoke of tear-stained memories.

A long life provides a bounty of opportunities for blessings of all kinds, save one: full pews.

When decades stack up, friends pass away.

It seems unfair those who have blessed so many are celebrated by so few.

Or is it preferable to have affected more people and created a larger legacy?

My brain thinks the latter, my soul aches for the former. Bearing witness to swollen eyes and running noses confirms the impact of an individual, it a tangible reflection my mind can measure. Somehow I find comfort in the evidence of another’s love for the same person, selfish as the motives are.

The thought may be misguided, but I think it justice all the same:

Tremendous people earn sobbing hearts in overflowing churches.

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There, in No Time

The comfort of being told someone is “in a better place” is lost on me.

For as long as I can remember, those words have floated through my head like a helium-filled balloon. The sympathy registers, yet the phrase itself mysteriously disappears on the wind–perhaps in the hopes it will land softly in the heart of another.

The kindness is deeply appreciated, though my heartfelt gratitude is likely muted by the absent-minded nod of my head.

Truth be told, I am somehow unable to envision Heaven as a place. The concept short-circuits in my brain before I can formulate an image, probably because our form works in four dimensions (length, width, depth and time). Despite all I’ve read and heard through sermons or programs of all kinds, these measurements seem vastly inadequate and my imagination gives up without really trying.

Using such feeble terms to describe magnificence leaves me wanting more. To me, attempting to shoehorn awe-inspiring grandness into pictures we comprehend is futile. (Yes, I am still guilty of it.)

One fact forever stirs the waters of my soul.

I took an astronomy course during my senior year of undergrad. I only attended about half the lectures because the hall was huge (no way to tell if I was gone) and my roommate was in the same class (we traded days).

Once, when it was my turn, I listened to the PhD from Pakistan discuss the phenomenon which acts as the splinter in my mind: astrophysicists want to see before before.

To begin, he talked about the age of the universe–something on the order of 13 billion years–and then wandered into the fact his colleagues were doing their best to point telescopes towards the center with hopes of catching a glimpse into the moment of creation.

Since light travels a constant distance in a year, the theory holds what happened at the dawn of time would be visible to us right now if we were to look in the correct direction. He said, in essence, we would lay our eyes on something incredibly foreign to us: a place (if you can call it that) in which a clock would never have to be invented.

No days.

No nights.

No months.

No years.

No time.

What I heard through his thickly-accented English amounts to this:

God works outside the bounds of our existence.

It follows, then, that eternity and everything in it would also. Upon death, seconds, minutes and hours would vanish. So, too, would length, width and depth. All that we perceive in this life is null and void, which leads to my persistent conundrum.

Even though John 14:2 tells us “there are many rooms” in the Father’s house, I feel incredibly limited by this frail frame, unable to know even the slightest detail of what is beyond it.

Strange as it seems, theoretical physics calms my heart.

All I can think is we’ll be there, in no time.

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Be Brief, Be Memorable

A human life is a whisper in the winds of history.

Legacies are shaped by moments imprinted on the minds of others.

Shared experiences will bring laughter and tears to those you leave behind.

Your days will be brief.

What of them will be memorable?

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