Monday, May 26, 2008

Possibly Obvious

The Spiritual Resources of Weekend Fisher have recently been for those dealing with dying; and they're v.g.i. ... b.t.w. though, Jean Kazez ended an article on dealing with dying (People Don't Die, Do they?) on this thoughtful note:
We still haven’t had to cope with a major loss. But, when the time comes, we will cope with our feelings without any waffling. “He had a wonderful life. We’ll always remember him. He’s a part of us.” These platitudes don’t remove the pain of loss, but they’re the truth, as some of us see it. There’s no place but here. We think.
What I don't get is how those so-called platitudes (trite or banal remarks) aren't more like waffle (evasive or vague speech). Was his life really full of wonders (and how could that have been possible); and will they always remember him? But I can't even make sense of his being (present tense) a part of them. Of course, it's important what valued others think of one, and so one's sense of who one is is already bound up with one's sense of what such people think of one; but surely that would not make one part of them, not even if there was nothing else left (and not even if they are their thoughts, and one is present in propositions about oneself, and their thoughts are propositional).
......I also suspect that (re no place but) "here" refers either to all that the speaker's location is part of (which might include parallel universes, or even transcendental realms) or else only to the known part (and the presumption that that is all there is is rather arrogant), so that much of the force of Jean's thought might arise via equivocation (or waffle) ...a bit like saying that only physical things exist, and then defining "physical" so that if there was a transcendental creator of the Big Bang, ex nihilo and deliberately, for example, then that God would be a purely physical thing (which is—tellingly?—as good a defence of Physicalism as many professional philosophers can manage nowadays).
......On a deeper note, to end my facile post (since logic is concerned with truth, which is concerned with what there is), the following, from a letter from Stephen Bilynskyj to Peter van Inwagen (taken from page eleven of the latter's The Problem of Evil), belies nicely the idea that having the hope of Heaven encourages thoughtlessness.
As a pastor, I believe that some sort of view of providence which allows for genuine chance is essential in counseling those facing what I often call the “practical problem of evil”. A grieving person needs to be able to trust in God's direction in her life and the world, without having to make God directly responsible for every event that occurs. The message of the Gospel is not, I believe, that everything that occurs has some purpose. Rather, it is that God's power is able to use and transform any event through the grace of Jesus Christ.

2 comments:

Weekend Fisher said...

Thanks for the link.

Fwiw, the trite truisms about death really grind my nerves. "As long as we remember him, he'll always be with us"? Bull. I want to go over and say hi and swap stories, I'm outta luck. I want to watch a movie with or share a pizza with, I'm outta luck.

And the neighbor of mine whose terminal illness and sad death was the trigger for me dusting off my old notes and publishing them? At least his funeral didn't have a lot of cliches. But there was a some guy eulogizing and saying what a great friend of the deceased and his family he was. But he didn't know how many grandchildren Bob had (only one) and was mispronouncing the name of one of Bob's daughters. Listening to him, I think he was a good friend of Bob's maybe 25 years ago ... but it rubbed me the wrong way, I suppose that's enough said.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Jeff said...

I think what is meant when people say "So-and-so is a part of me" I'm probably referring to the fact that they impacted my life and changed me. Sometimes, we're so effected by people, especially in youth, that's it's almost like we can here their voice when they are not with us.
All of this, though, seems to radically underestimate the importance of continued existence from the perspective of the deceased.
I have this thought experiment for those who want to deny an afterlife:
Suppose we had some perfect cloning machine. It could copy my memories, reactions etc as well as my body at my current age (or whichever previous age you wish.) For some period of time, there will be 2 Jeffs. One will hang out with you. The other will not.
If the original "me" the prime "me" the source "me" died, in some selfish way you would not know the difference.
And the other-me, the clone, he might have some sort of emotional reaction.
But the entity who died, (that is, me) he's not really all that gladdened and cheered that everything will go on without him. This is perhaps selfish on the part of the deceased... but it is no more selfish than the contenment on the part of the survivors that the deceased lives on as a part of them.
I suppose it is all that they believe they've got. I can understand why somebody would try to see the glass as half-full... but really, if there is no after life, the glass is far from half-full.