I have administrative bones to pick with God, . . . .. I’ll say God seems to have a laid-back management style I’m not crazy about. I’m pretty much anti-death. God looks by all accounts to be pro-death. I’m not seeing how we can get together on this issue, he and I . . . .
David Foster Wallace
They were confused, the chaos too much for them
destruction as far
as 3 miles in
where are the people
hundreds of shoppers
swept from an outdoor
One child watches
the cremation of his
sister. And in
the pale boy’s arms, the
sign: MISS PARENTS
AND TWO SISTERS
“They Were Confused, The Chaos Too Much For Them,”
by Lyn Lifshin
The tsunami that devastated South Asia is the largest modern natural disaster. In the midst of that catastrophe, there were stories of unlikely, seemingly miraculous survivals, like a toddler who floated on a mattress for five hours before she was rescued. But more than 100,000 people were not rescued. A six month old Australian baby, Melina Heppell, was torn by the waters from her father’s arms. Tamara Mendis, the wife of a Chicago Lutheran pastor, was visiting her family in Sri Lanka when the waters overwhelmed her train and took her life. To say Melina and Tamara were in the wrong place at the wrong time doesn’t begin to explain why any place should undergo such a time.
“The problem of evil” arises out of certain assumptions that if there is a God, then God is a certain way. God is the all-powerful designer, manufacturer, and ruler of the world. God is loving, good, and kind. Up against that, we experience a world in which horrible things happen. Everything must be the way God wants it. Then why are things so bad? All of the attempted answers to that question have a name – “theodicy.” It means, in the words of John Milton, “to justify the ways of God to man.” We will begin by examining the main theodicies of Christian tradition, the main ways Christian theologians have tried to make sense of this conundrum. . . . .
After the funeral, the mourners gather
under the rustling churchyard maples
and talk softly, like clusters of leaves . . .
They came this afternoon to say goodbye,
but now they keep saying hello and hello,
peering into each other’s faces,
slow to let go of each other’s hands.
From “Mourners” by Ted Kooser
in Delight and Shadow
I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes
on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know
any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know all this is all a mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty to it. And I can’t believe that when we have been changed and put on incorruptibility that we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity, this world will be Troy . . . and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the song they sing in the streets.
I would not think of them, who are like myself half broken inside.
I would not climb the cemetery hill by the church
To get rid of my self-pity.
Michaels who lost every battle,
Lie under crosses with their dates of birth and death, And who
Is going to express them? Their mumblings, weepings, hopes, tears
of humiliation ? . . .
There is some truth in the idea that mortality gives makes life precious, poignant, and meaningful. It is also true that vulnerability is essential to truly human relationship. Spiritual teachers from several traditions have prescribed practicing awareness of our impending death as a way to sharpen our appreciation of life. “Keep death at your left shoulder,” some say. “Memento mori”—“remember death,” we used to inscribe on tombstones.
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