Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Death is Our Lot Itself"

That's a takeaway from what I once read in William Barrett's "Irrational Man: A Study in Existentialist Philosophy." It was a quote from Sartre, who noted that death, as well as exile and captivity, were, for the French Resistants, "our lot itself, our destiny, the profound source of our reality as men." While Sartre continues with saying that many of the choices the Resistants made were "Rather death than...," perhaps in our less extreme lives it is still accurate to say, "After death it might be remembered that..." And, "On the deathbed, at least I can say that..."

For many people, this is not how their lives are lived. If religion has any purpose at all, it should be to enable people to live lives intentionally, i.e., with the above in mind. I am reminded of the business-speak infused "Purpose-driven" life of one famous fundamentalist, one that substitutes one's showing up with somebody else's idea of "what god wants." (I am trying to be mindful as I write this.) It is perhaps not surprising to me, then, to hear of a Christian church which gives away $1000 each week to boost attendance. You see, for these people, the prospect of living one's own life authentically, and the development of skill to do that is either not on the agenda of this church, or the people involved want to find some other reason for hearing that so they have to get a lottery to even be near the prospect of a religious message, which, again, probably does not involve the authentic execution of one's life.

To live one's life authentically is a great challenge, when "authentic" isn't taken to mean "self-centered," but to mean something like "heroic," even if heroic means carrying out the daily absurdity of one's life for the benefit of others.

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