Three weeks ago, a man I knew only slightly suffered a stroke from which he never recovered. The storyline is familiar: he smoked heavily, drank a lot, spent hours playing video games on his computer-in short, he abused himself. He had a milder stroke two years earlier, but I understand he didn't take the prescribed pills and never bothered about exercise or diet.A relative could only sigh and say, "One never knows when death will come. He was only 41." How many times have we heard people say, after a loved one dies: "Life is precious. Enjoy each moment"? The lead character in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," Emily, uttered this variation: "Live every, every minute!" An image you can carry with you attesting to the finality of life's last moments is Faust desperately begging the forces of heaven and hell to stay time's march "one more hour, one more half-hour, one more second…!" As we welcome another new year, we're liable to be overwhelmed by the sheer weight of new resolutions, of plans half-baked and poorly-designed, and depressed by the shards of last year's broken dreams. We never learn: life is at once triumph and tragedy, success and failure, prosperity and poverty, pleasure and pain, peace of mind and heartache, trenchant observations and platitudes, humility and hubris, the dance of moonbeams and the invisibility of dark matter, half is order-arranged faith and the rest is all mystery. Thus Pascal: "No amount of learning can efface the eternal silence of these infinite spaces." Along the same vein, this from an unidentified source: "All the knowledge in the world is small recompense for the things we can't possibly know." And: "No amount of wisdom will explain away the strange workings of this world." That the incidence of crime and violence here and elsewhere will continue there can be no doubt. Have there been wars without bloodshed? From the beginning, evil has plagued mankind. Men, well-meaning men, cry peace, but there is no peace. One can only keep trying to do one's best, keep on hoping and praying, keep on going, and keep on keeping on.
********** Published: January 8, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 38