Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wachet auf and keep yo' lamps trimmed and burning!

"There are no atheists in foxholes

isn't an argument against atheism; it's an argument against foxholes." ~James Morrow

First of all let me dispense with any notion this posting addresses anything pertaining to atheism, war (and foxholes) in general or James Morrow. I am interested in what the former two human “conditions” symbolize to each and every conscious human being who’s awakened to a new day: this “day” may be my last. So, in words, those concerns would be “Death” and “Belief.”
When I taught middle and senior high school and these two words were thrust into reality and palpability in the classrooms and campuses because of the loss of someone local to the community, or from globally known events from the Columbines, the Oklahoma Cities, the 9/11’s and such, I would first address the concerns and emotions of “my” students with the following scenario-

You’re walking your dog and without looking turn from the sidewalk onto the street. Suddenly you and the dog turn and sense that a bus is just a few yards from where you’re now standing and is moving fast enough that collision is unavoidable. What’s the difference between you and your dog? You know you might die. Your dog senses danger, but no more.

Wintertime is always somber to me- a season calling for both dormancy and reflection. The “holidays” are difficult to many because of separations between loved ones, especially for those who are survivors of death and loss, recent or not. When we suffer the death of the beloved, particularly young people, our grief seems magnified, our trust and beliefs challenged, our lives changed irrevocably. We struggle to remain upright and cope by clinging to words that best, though inadequately, express a purpose and a reason for our loss when little else gives solace. “I'm sure his/her soul rests in peace.” And to believers God's providence is already known to those who have died (from this life's perspective-the veil of tears) but whose souls were pure in His sight and whom He recognizes. In that we hope, we trust, we pray, we manage to endure.
We humans, mortal and cognizant of our impending deaths, cannot mentally, psychologically or emotionally "reconcile" our relationship to "death." It, like Emmanuel (God with us), is among us, even all around us incessantly if we choose to focus upon it at the expense of seeing other things. We know "death" takes, but we can't usually discern if "death" gives back anything. So, for you...and me... we cannot stride confidently passed "death" when it is close to us, touches us directly. But, we also know intuitively that to linger and pause, to not take even a halting step forward in living and giving for and of ourselves to life and its known purposes is waste, a vacuum that nature abhors. We don't understand death at all. We should be respectful of it and prepared for it, both as survivors and as souls journeying toward the existence beyond it. Otherwise, death is the foxhole, the horror that one cannot survive.

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