I am going to die. Ever the optimist in Gulliver’s little band of cartoon adventurers, Glum expanded on the thought in a most inclusive way. “We’re all going to die…” And as if to put the final nail in coffin, he continued, “…we’re not going to make it”.
As reluctant as I may be to do so, I can’t fault the Truth in what he says.
Life and Death. They are inexorably linked. Early European philosophers believed there were only so many Souls, so a new born couldn’t enter Earths population until another Soul was exiting. I never really bought it. Beyond the heavenly accounting problems in managing such a balanced ledger view of the universe, there is our proclivity as a species to breed like rabbits. Mixed metaphor or not, Death is known to me.
In my Life, I have cheated death. I have personally walked toward the proverbial Light and returned. What slays me is knowing that later, I just as surely flirted with Death as a solution during the very dark days of my depressions.
I do not take Death lightly or for-granted. He has taken my friends, many of my loved ones and people I have worked with. This week, he took seventeen lives in Paris. He is no respector of person or continent. But I do not fear him either.
Having successfully returned from the Valley of the Shadow, I am grateful for a Love that did not allow me to slide quietly in front of a train. I find the clinical skill of those who helped me learn how to walk a better path no less miraculous than witnessing sunrise arrive in Yosemite.
My Life on this Planet has taught me many things in an effort to grow old. One of them is the thought that what really pisses Death off more than anything else is when those he’s harvested aren’t really gone. I am delighted to report the Departed have a zany knack for living on in our hearts and minds. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t apply the benefit of something I learned from someone who’s been taken from me.
So forgive me when I don’t applaud it when zealots make it easy for Death to make his numbers. I sincerely doubt any of the seventeen victims in this week’s terror attacks in Paris got up that morning and thought, ‘Hey, maybe today will be the day that a bunch of misguided punks who aren’t particularly religious will take my life in the name of avenging the name of a prophet who died in 632 A.D.’
Over a thousand years later, Ahmed Merabet was not only the first police officer at the scene of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris this week, but he was the one shot dead in cold blood as he lay on the sidewalk outside the magazines offices. Ahmed was a Muslim.
Muslims speak to the afterlife in terms of flowing robes, reclining couches and bountiful banqueting. And just like the problem of interpretation plaguing their Christian brothers and sisters, there are any number of variations on what it means to be Islamic. Does it honestly surprise us to think that there might be differences of opinion in a religion that numbers some 1.6 Billion. That’s nearly 23% of the Earth’s population. And witnessing the hijacking of Christian literature by some on the far right of U.S society, why would we think the Koran was magically immune from the same kind of self-service chicanery?
Yesteday, Lohud published a story by Jane Lerner and Richard Liebson, Local Muslims, Jews horrified by terror in Paris. In it, “Dr. Mahjabeen Hassan, a Muslim…who has become a prominent interfaith speaker since the 9/11 terror attacks, says…’radical Muslim groups and individuals represent only themselves and do not follow Muslim teachings…Even in the Prophet Muhammad’s day people made comments and said derogatory things. He never reacted to them — all he did is pray for them. If these radicals would just follow his teachings, we would live in a much better world. If they would only study the faith. Be patient. Don’t react. If someone says something against you, just say ‘Peace,’ and walk away.’”
Christians frame their belief in an afterlife in terms of being in the very presence of God. It’s understandable why so many who have led oppressed lives would find comfort in knowing that one day, they would be held in the arms of the very essence of Love.
The Catholic stripe of the Christian traditions has a new and eloquent spokesman in Pope Francis. Now I know this kind of thing elicits standard responses from politicians and all manner of public persons, but I like what I read in Chris Martins post (IJR):
“Francis began by lamenting the all-too frequent occurrence of these types of horrific attacks in the world:
“The attack yesterday in Paris makes us think on so much cruelty – human cruelty – to so much terrorism, be it isolated terrorism, be it State-sponsored terrorism. But what cruelty man is capable of!”
Then he turned his attention to those who perished in the attack:
“Let us pray, in this Mass, for the victims of this cruelty. So many!”
But the Pope wasn’t finished.
“And we also ask for those who are cruel so that the Lord may change their heart.”
Love has a funny way of really demoralizing those bent on terror and hatred. I’d really like to see the polling results the Marketing Director of Al Queda is having to wrestle with.
And the Jewish faith? It doesn’t particularly say much of anything about an afterlife, choosing instead to focus on what we do while we’re here (and alive). In keeping with that tradition, blogger Laurent-David Samama speaks to the here-and-now when he says in his post of January 7th:
“Paris, my city, is under attack. All of France is shocked and shattered. As of 11:00 this morning, French TV channels and radio stations have interrupted their regular programming to cover the story of the attack. On Twitter, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie is now trending worldwide, unifying all those who reject terror of the kind we saw today.
Like all French citizens, my particular community — the Jewish community — is reeling from the news. Concerned as we have been for years about the spiraling communal tensions, the anti-Semitic attacks on Jews and the steadily mounting anti-Muslim sentiment, this hits an especially raw nerve.”
He goes on to say, “young Jews like me — feel that making aliyah is a too-easy escape; it’s simply not the answer. Those of us who remain in Paris, Marseille or Lyon are determined not to let the terrorists win. Throughout French history, Jews have experienced many periods of crisis. We’ve always overcome them, and we will overcome them again. Now, more than ever, France needs us to stay here, to play the role of social whistleblower, to fight against the bias and discrimination that our people knows all too well.”
Death does not scare me.
Cowards hiding behind a gun are only terrorists when they seek to end Life prematurely and on their terms. Is that where the terror lies…premature departure? Who determines ‘premature’?
What do we have to be afraid of? The unknown? Pay attention. ‘Tomorrow’ is unknown and yet we greet it every day. We don’t fear Monday mornings as much as we endure them. The good news is what denotes the day as Monday is having a Friday night first. Monday does it’s best to be, well, Monday. But even in that, it is thwarted by Friday doing one better and following a week later.
Thank you for letting me close out my weekend with you. Let’s get Monday going…Friday comes faster. And the Weekend? Paradise.
Travel well this week. That will anger your local terrorists.
Love deeply. Whatever your Faith, it is what constitutes what is the best in you.
And finally, make lots of noise in the process. I like to think of making Joyful Noise as my hand gesture directed Death’s way. You’re smiling. I thought you might like it.
Grim Reaper by Earl Maneein: http://www.earlmaneein.com/news/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/3647226_std.jpg; #JeSuisAhmed (Dyab Abou Jahjah): http://www.vox.com/2015/1/9/7521151/charlie-hebdo-jesuisahmed; Muslim Census: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_world; Dr. Mahjabeen Hassan: http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/2015/01/09/local-muslims-jews-horrified-terror-france/21530145/; In Response to Paris Attack, Pope Francis Prays for Victims – and Terrorists by Chris Martin (3 Days ago in Independent Journal Review) [w/pic of Pope Francis]: http://www.ijreview.com/2015/01/228553-response-paris-attack-pope-francis-prays-victims-gunmen/; Laurent-David Samama: http://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/212266/how-terror-attack-hits-raw-nerve-for-paris-jews-li/?; Pencil Yesterday Today Tomorrow: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B6yDwWrCMAAfOJS.jpg
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