Thursday, December 23, 2021

What is death?

A valid question in a year where Covid has claimed nearly a million victims in the US alone. Abraham Joshua Heschel looks at death in the final essay in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays:
Death is grim, harsh, cruel, a source of infinite grief. Our first reaction is consternation. We are stunned and distraught. Slowly, our sense of dismay is followed by a sense of mystery. Suddenly a whole life has veiled itself in secrecy. Our speech stops, our understanding fails. In the presence of death there is only silence, and a sense of awe.

Is death nothing but an obliteration, an absolute negation? The view of death is affected by our understanding of life. If life is sensed as a surprise, as a gift, defying explanation, then death ceases to be a radical, absolute negation of what life stands for. For both life and death are aspects of a greater mystery, the mystery of being, the mystery of creation. Over and above the preciousness of particular existence stands the marvel of its being related to the infinite mystery of being or creation.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 366

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