Monday, 3 February 2014

A little perspective on a sobering matter...

"Oh, I believe he was told that, and that he was honest with you. I just don't know if the source was honest with him".

"I'm supposed to be the doubter", said Bucky.

"Nonsense", she replied. "Scientists are taught to doubt everything".

"Rubbish", said Bucky. "They hang on to disproven and discarded theories like religious zealots".

"Only some of them", she said defensively.

"And only some religious people are zealots".

The Cassandra Project by Jack Mc Devitt and Mike Resnick.

I came across an interesting TED video on the Mockingbird website this weekend - a discussion of our "stories" to seek to deal with death:

There are several fascinating things to consider in this.
Here's a few -
Stephen Cave shows just how readily Science has taken over the reigns of human aspirations to escape death and find a way to allow us to become free of such tyranny.
He also conveys that we all share a bias (whatever our philosophical stripe) to avoid the horror of death by whatever means possible - hence his example of agnostics quickly changing their views under certain conditions.

There are, however, some pretty telling myths in his own approach.
Epicurean philosophy, for example, nicely distinguishes life and death so that we're either one or the other (and therefore, don't need to worry), but anyone dealing with their own death or that of another knows, purely at a natural level, that it really isn't like that. Death can in reality inhabit our day to day existence, sometimes for years, and it can be a living nightmare to deal with, just as dreadful as the moment of actual death itself.

The over-view of a religious approach to the issue, especially of Christianity, is also very remiss. For example, the four 'stories' he seeks to reject are actually all elements of the far deeper discussion that historians, prophets, apostles and Christ Himself provide regarding the nature and reason for death in our world (as so clearly defined in early Christian theology). It also depends entirely on the notion that the spiritual and the material are entirely detached (to the point, as Cave puts it, that his existential elevator doesn't exist), but this is not so at all:

Death, when truly understood theologically, is a negation of the natural, as sin is a negation of the human - both are entirely alien to what should be natural.

When Christians speak of a 'water' that gives eternal life, a 'soul' which will know more than our time here, a 'legacy' which endures and a bodily resurrection, they are able to do so because of the historical nature of God's creative and redemptive work in Jesus Christ, without which we would indeed be the 'most miserable of all men, truly to be pitied', as Paul says, but, he goes on, now is Christ truly risen from the dead and, as such, has become the first-fruits of the new (coming) creation, which we 'taste' now, in regeneration which allows us to trust in God's work and promises.

The resolution to death is not seeking to create some kind of detente - it doesn't work, especially as we become more aware of it's shadow. Christianity requires us to make a much deeper examination of our condition and seek a resolve beyond ourself.

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