Sunday, January 5, 2014

Journal of a Soul 40


The Lungomare at Soverato, Calabria, a few days ago
Everything is relative, they say.  Very true, but relative to what? Relative to one’s expectations or income or status in life?  A bicycle is a fine means of transport dependent on weather, distance from one’s destination and one’s agility.  A Fiat 500 is a fine car to get one from A to B in a modern town, and it’s also very handy for parking.  A Mercedes Benz is also a fine car and it mirrors the status or ego of its driver.  Indeed, everything is relative.  As an existentialist, I believe that everything is relative to the one only certainty in life, namely death.  Death is the ultimate criterion or yardstick of life.  Let me elaborate.

It seems to me that what ultimately gives anything value is its relation or relativity to death.  Art is art because it is created by mortal beings.  Music is music because it is likewise composed.  Poems are poems because they combine mortal intellect and mortal feeling to such perfect effect in words.  This is the way with all the creations of the imagination of humankind.  Because their original composers are either no longer alive or will cease living at some time either soon or in the future, the works of their imagining is valued highly by society and it builds up and adds to what we call culture.  Meditate on these last statements.  Ponder on how our mortality gives value to most things which we humans do.

As a mental game, or more correctly what the philosophers call a thought experiment, let us ponder the opposite.  Suppose for the moment that any artist or composer or poet lived forever.  His or her eternal existence would lessen the import of their artistic labours.  Their works would now become 10 a penny or a 1000 a penny and so on and so forth.  Our mortality increases the value of our little lives and our little work.  I use the diminutive adjective only in relation to our smallness, and consequent insignificance, when considered in relation to the age and the expanse of the universe.

And so, let me finish with a litany here – an old prayer style used in our Catholic churches many years ago - based on what I have described above:

The Leader (L) leads the Prayer. The response (R) to the litany is: For we are Mortal. Please note that I am invoking no deity here, just humankind’s sheer mortality which is almost the author of his humanity.  It is a humanist prayer in the sense that it is neither theist nor atheist.  This last sentence is, obviously, of the utmost importance for this writer, for he is neither pushing the one nor the other here.

Town Centre, Soverato, Xmas '13
L: For all the works of men and women everywhere and at all times, we give thanks. R.

L: For all the great poets from times gone by who weaved such wondrous words and made us cry and laugh. R.

L: For all the poets from the present times who continue to weave such wondrous words to make us cry and laugh. R.

L: For all the wonderful composers of the past, who lifted up our hearts with music and song, brought tears of joy and sadness to our eyes.  R.

L: For all the wonderful composers of the present times, who continue to lift up our hearts with music and song, bring tears of joy and sadness to our eyes. R.

L: For all the brave explorers who set forth to find a promised land beyond our native shore, we are thankful. R.

L: For all the brave explorers who set forth today and will set forth to find a promised land beyond our present shores, we are thankful. R.

L: For all the carers who give of their love in action for the poor, the lonely, the sick and the aged, we give thanks.  R.

L. For all the dreamers and visionaries everywhere who dare to believe that justice is possible in this less than perfect world we are thankful.  R.

L. For all the beauty in this world, both natural and the work of human hands we are thankful and in awe.  R.

L. For all who weep and tend our graves, we are especially thankful.  R.

L: For the hopes that live within our hearts, we are especially thankful.  R.

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