Saturday, January 11, 2014

When the Ride Stops…What Happens?

Pascal wrote, “This present life is momentary, but the state of death is eternal. How terribly important it is, then, to live in the light of the eternal…Since nothing is more obvious than this observation, how absurd it is to behave differently.

“Seen from this angle, how absurd it is for people to go through life without regard to their final destiny. Instead, they are led as they feel inclined and as they indulge themselves, unreflective and careless, as though they could wipe out eternity and enjoy some passing happiness merely by repressing their thoughts.” [Excerpts taken from Mind on Fire – A Faith for the Skeptical and Indifferent, Edited by Dr. James M. Houston, Bethany House, 1989, 1997 – this quote from page 45].

When the amusement park ride begins I know it will end, I may not know how long the ride will be but I know it will end. When the plane lifts off from the tarmac I know its destination, I know the flight will end, I know I will disembark. When I awake in the morning I know that the probability is that I will be alive when night comes; I also know that I will awake one morning and not live until the next morning. We plan for the ride to end, we plan for the flight to land, but we do not plan to die. We have a general idea of what we will do when the ride ends, we know what we will do when we disembark from the plane, but we do not (as humanity) consider what we will do when we die – we think we can control this life and we think we can control the next.

We criticize those around us with behaving like an ostrich if they fail to recognize the realities of life, and yet we tend to ignore and suppress the reality of death and so play the ostrich ourselves. A builder would not build a house without blueprints, a corporate executive would not begin the new year without a plan for the coming months, a family would not begin a vacation drive without gasoline in the tank and monetary provision for the week, we would not invite guests for Thanksgiving without a turkey and pumpkin pie, a surgeon would not operate without knowing what organ requires attention – while some of us may exercise more forethought than others, we all plan to one degree or another, we all think ahead, we are all aware of the passing of time and the diminishing of resources – the gas tank needs to be refilled at some point.

Yet we suppress and ignore by denial and diversion the reality of death. For people who are otherwise intelligent and thoughtful this is amazing and illogical. People in business who are constantly focused on the financial bottom line ignore the bottom line of life, they ignore death. Why? How can this be? 

Would we begin a trek across the Sahara without first ensuring that we had water and provision for the journey? Would we say, “The pint of water I carry is enough for now, I’ll worry about more water when I run out.” Yet we say that we need not think about death today, we’ll deal with it when it happens. We will have no more control over death when it comes than we will have over the absence of water in the Sahara once our little pint of water is exhausted – just because we say we’ll deal with the lack of water when it happens means nothing – other than that we are denying reality – there will be no supernatural appearance of water in the desert. 

No reputable builder would build a house without a foundation – yet we build our lives without foundations, we build houses without bearing walls, and we see no contradiction in our actions and thinking, we see no hint of being illogical – in fact we applaud ourselves and each other. It is as if the Emperor has convinced everyone else to wear his new clothes…is there no little boy to tell us that we are naked?

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