a wonderful world of exquisite beauty and of great mystery
That leads us to believe that even a little “Somebody” matters.
In the maternity hospital where I was born in 1944 another child entered the world, I don’t now if it was a boy or girl but what I do know is that this baby did not survive. In my childhood my mother often spoke of this baby and particularly of its mother. Way back then, confinement was for ten days and babies did not stay with their mothers but were brought into the ward for feeding at certain times of the day. On every occasion that this happened, this young childless mother, who remained in the ward with all the others, was constantly being remaindered of the immensity of her loss. My mother already saddened by this baby’s death, thought it was the cruelest procedure imaginable and she spoke of it with hurt but also with disgust, throughout the rest of her life, not obsessively by any means, but this baby and this young mum always mattered to her.
What was the meaning of this baby’s life? What is the difference between him or her and say a person like me, who has had three occupations, visited all the usual places that most people go and a few more besides, had a family and been married more than 50 years? I have clearly had opportunities that this little person hadn’t and the differences between us are enormous. But only whilst I’m alive, for when I die all memory will be erased once the grey matter stops functioning. At least that is what most of us assume and frankly I think that is a reasonable assumption. But having said this it is not without its problems. For what is the difference between a long life and a short one, a good life and a bad one, a happy life and a sad one, if we cannot remember having ever lived? What does it mean to have loved someone faithfully for 50 or 60 years, if you cannot remember the colour of their eyes, or even that you ever met? What does life mean, if we cannot remember anything and haven’t the capabilities of realizing we have forgotten.
There is a moral dilemma in such reasoning. As ultimately, there is no difference between those who have exterminate others on an industrial scale, and those whose lives have been an expression of love. For in such reasoning, everyone ends up in a state of none existence. This leaves me thinking there is a flaw in such an argument; it certainly strikes me as being cold and soulless, as there is no mention of the things that enrich life and give it meaning, like beauty, human companionship and love. Furthermore, it presents death as something that just happens at the end of life. In reality, death impinges on every aspect of life, it is in fact functional, it injects a sense of urgency into everything we do. And, as we have found out, it can also determine what we do. This appears to be something new but it is not, as death as always curtailed human activity one way or another. It is why you and I, never seriously considered mountain climbing and why I tell my wife to drive carefully.
God for me is like the blue sky, he affects everything but interferes in nothing. So, I hear no voices nor to I receive any messages and would be very distressed, if this were to start to happen. It has been a long struggle, but most of life makes sense to me and I find meaning at the heart of things. In so far as I find God and I do from time to time; I find him within the context of ordinariness.
As for want of a better term, we might call afterlife, I am not very comfortable with talk of heaven. It seems to be a place where it is always Sunday and full of clergymen. As for angels singing Holy, Holy, Holy, throughout eternity, I cannot think of anything worse, and I’m sure God would understand if I was to “crack” one of them. We live in a wonderful world of exquisite beauty and of great mystery and despite so much of what is wrong and so much self-interest, there is this peculiarity that we call love. That leads us to believe that even a little “Somebody” matters. Not just to my mother but in the context of eternity.
Revd Alan Hirst (former prison chaplain)
Just as I read Alan’s item a newsletter arrived from the local Quaker meeting at Liskeard - it opened with the following poem which seemed to chime with Alan’s piece. (Peter Bellenes web editor)
I May Be Dead, But I Will Not Have Gone
My last breath will have been given to the air around me,
So look for me in the still air of morning,
And in the rushing winds of the afternoon.
My body will have returned its borrowed substance to the world around us,
So look for me in the growing grass
And the swaying of the woodland trees.
My genes are only borrowed from the generations before me,
So look for me in the countenances of my children,
And the happy smiles of my grandchildren.
The waters of my body will have been returned to the atmosphere,
So look for me in the magnificent clouds of the day-time
And in the radiant skies of the sunset.
My love was given to me by my parents,
So look for me in the love I have given you
And in the love you give to your children.
My thoughts I have always shared with those who cared to listen,
So look for me where other folk now run their courses
And may change the world just a little.
From the stuff of stars came the atoms that made me,
To the stuff of stars they will eventually return.
I may be dead, But I will not have gone.
Now a Member of Truro Meeting, Patrick was for many years a Member at Liskeard and the original editor of The Fountain.