Friday, May 27, 2011

Life Needs An End

Memorial Day was originally a day to honor those who died defending our country.  It has expanded to become a holiday welcoming summer and remembering all those who have passed from this life.  Recently I have been pondering the wisdom in extending human life indefinitely.

There are real virtues to mortality. We feel the urge of time upon us and it makes us more productive. We strive to give our best knowing that we only have so many chances. We make room for the generations that follow so they too can bring beauty and comfort into the world.

For those who argue that human life is better without death, I would counter that life without death isn’t human or at least not much fun. Vampires never die but they don’t seem to be happy about. In fact, there isn’t any literature to suggest that immortals are happy (except the vague harp strumming immortality of Christian heaven which sounds pretty painful to me); the Greek gods were always fighting, Vampires are like parasites, even science fiction immortals live with a certain tragic sadness.

The power of life is in the living. Life needs an end, just as it needs a beginning. Finitude is good. Mortality makes life matter. To be mortal makes it possible to give one’s life to those who need it most; to the ones we love and the gifts we give.  I will be happy to use up my body and give all I have away, sliding into home plate satisfied and exhausted.

With Grace and Grit, John

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Had a Mother

Much has been written this week about the death of Osama Bin Laden. It saddened me, of course, to see people celebrating his death. Blood vengeance is not becoming to our better angels. Jessica Dovey, a grad student living in Japan said it best, encapsulating some words from MLK: I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." MLK Jr.

(The first sentence is Ms. Dovey's own, followed by a quotation from King's 1963 book, "Strength to Love.")

Osama Bin Laden had a mother. We don’t know what she dreamed he would become but we can be fairly certain it was not to cause the death of thousands of innocent lives at his command and in retaliation for his actions, be the cause of many thousand more deaths by our own forces. We don’t know how hard she tried, but we can be fairly certain that she did all she could to raise him to be a righteous and noble man. I want to believe that if Osama Bin Laden had written a letter to his mother he would have asked for forgiveness. Perhaps. But at the end of the day, our mothers, our fathers, our friends, don’t determine our lives. We do. Heredity is not destiny. Mothers can only try to set us on the course. For better or worse, they have done what they could. The rest is up to us. May the peace this day truly proclaims remind us to hold love in our hearts, because of our mothers, indeed for all living beings.

With Grace and Grit,  John