The Edge of Mortality
In his new book, ‘Flourishing’, Miroslav Volf reflects on the challenges of mortality and insatiability. Volf cautions against forgetting our mortality in the midst of our ordinary, mundane and earthly lives. It is easy to avoid such questions and enjoy the moment we are living, especially in our youth. But such deliberate amnesia shuns the issue of how we might transcend these conundrums that we ultimate must all face. The book of Ecclesiastes (written by Qoheleth) explores life and wonders at its futility. Is life more than our mortality? How can we transcend our fear and facing of death?
As a minster I have been privileged to walk alongside the dying and the grieving. I have been humbled by the great faith of those who face death. Recently, it was shared with me by someone facing death that they wanted to die well so that their family might see their faith and know God loves them. In death, as in life, this person wanted to be a witness to the faith he held: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.”
One of the thing that I have noticed on this journey of living and dying and transcending mortality is that death brings life into a sharper perspective. In a recent ABC interview with the reunited Doug Anthony All Stars this perspective was brought to the fore again for me. In the interview the combination of getting older and Tim Fergusson’s Multiple Sclerosis emphasised to the comedians that life is precious and time is short so we have to hurry. We have to hurry because we are powerless against the ‘greatest weapon there is – time.’
So what is it that we should hurry to do? Without a compass to guide us our haste could simply become fulfilling a personal, and possibly even narcissistic, bucket list. It is as if by ticking off as much as we can we give our life meaning. But, listening to the comedians they reflected on bringing out joy in others through their comedy (as controversial as D.A.A.S. are) and exploring the questions at the edge of mortality through their comedy. I think that these seem to be part of the deal of living well: engaging in joy & questioning life and its meaning.
As we continue to celebrate the Easter season contemplating Jesus’ death and resurrection also means contemplating our own mortality. How are we living the gift of life we have been given? How should we? I think the apostle Paul can guide us: “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” Not necessarily an easy injunction but an invitation to life and living and loving: for after all ‘we love because God first loved us’.
As we stand at the edge of mortality, and even hope in immortality, maybe asking some simple questions each day might help us to live deeply and well:
Where is the joy in your life and how is that being shared with others?
Who are you praying for now? What are you praying for?
Who or what should be thankful for today?