C.S. Lewis: “All Reality is Iconoclastic”

On November 22nd, the anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death, I am revisiting the book he wrote after the death of his wife titled, A Grief Observed.

The section that interests me most this evening is about loving God and persons rather than merely our ideas or images of them. Here is the relevant excerpt:

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Initial hypothesis about resurrection

After nearly 200 days of blogging about death every day, where is this leading?

I find myself becoming fascinated and absorbed by the topic of the resurrection of the dead.

As a friend remarked to me the other day, this is one of the most fundamental beliefs underlying our civilization and yet, it is a teaching about which most people are, if they are being honest about it, rather incredulous or indifferent.

My very preliminary hypothesis is that belief in resurrection is subliminally decisive to how we live and that it has wide-ranging implications in ethics, technology, and culture.

To play with these ideas, we can ask: What difference does it make whether or not we believe in a resurrection of the dead? What are the practical consequences in our lives of its possibility or impossibility?

Another question: If people believed in the resurrection of the body, what would it change in our public bioethics?

I do not yet have many answers to propose. However, my first intuition is that the precariousness of our embodiedness needs redemption.

Whether this redemption is possible and whether we stake (or mistake) our hope about it in the correct place is, I think, a more interesting and practical question than many realize.

Nationality and Death

A couple years ago, two of my friends who I greatly respect both recommended within a short time span of one another that I read Michael Brendan Dougherty’s book, My Father Left me Ireland.

I happened to read it during the 2019 federal election campaign.

These paragraphs, in particular, really struck me:

We are used to conceiving of the nation almost exclusively as an administrative unit. A nation is measured by its GDP, its merit is discovered in how it lands on international rankings for this or that policy deliverable. A nation may have a language, but the priority is to learn the lingua franca of global business. Our idea of doing something for the nation is reduced to something almost exclusively technical. Policy wonks are the acknowledged legislators of the world.

But there is nothing technical about the Rising. I see in the Rising that a nation cannot live its life as a mere administrative district or as a shopping mall; nations have souls. It’s a virtue when poetry colonizes our politics, even if today the situation is reversed. The life of a nation is never reducible to mere technocracy, just as the home cannot be, no matter how much we try to make it so. I see that nationality is something you do, even with your body, even with your death.

To some, the description of the nation as “an administrative unit” and “technocracy” might sound just right.

But, as is often the case, juxtaposition brings clarity and there is something attractive in the poetry of the irreducible and soulful idea of the nation about which Dougherty speaks.

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Emails from the Dead

Some years ago, I dreamt that my mom began receiving emails from my grandfather. They arrived sporadically because they had been auto-scheduled by him to be delivered to us on different dates in the future after his death. For fun, he used a pseudonym formed from aspects of his early life. The electronic letters always included at least one of the humorously crass jokes he’d so delight in telling at the dinner table, especially when clergy were over for dinner. The letters mentioned each of us in turn; first, my mom, then me, then my brother, then my dad. Every time an email of this nature would arrive, my family would all gather around my mom’s computer to read it as if it were “news” for us. Even though the email letters always had the same style and structure – a few jokes, some affirmations of our respective courses in life, and a reminder of his love, receiving them as emails made them seem exciting; we had no idea how many epilogues there would be.