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The Proper Thing to be Thinking About

Years ago (1965?) in school, the science master said that water made up most things, including people. We were, in fact … (some surprising figure I can’t remember now, but it was large) per-cent water, and then he added, perhaps a little flustered, “But you mustn’t think about that, or suchlike things.” But – I thought – that’s precisely the kind of thing we should be thinking about. One thing we know about life, all of us, is that it has to end, it’s temporary, and thinking about that fact is something you have to do even if (like many people?) you put off the activity till the very last moment – when, arguably, it’s too late to benefit by it much. Think of the many young people – not just women – who invest so much in their shapely, firm bodies, athleticism, and youthful good looks – and yet they know, or should know, that those things definitely cannot last, and in some cases might wither sooner than expected. All flesh is grass (or, in modern thinking, largely water), yet just as the grass will wither, so the water will dry up, and leave a husk; but disembodied persons, in eternity, will remain. So these are the things we should be concentrating on (or rather, their significance, what they inevitably mean, what we might conclude from them and discover, and we should not hide from them, or try to cover up mortality with euphemisms (“passed away”, “gone from us”) or any other circumlocution designed, in the end, for evasion, for denying oneself what one might learn from it. For the contemplation of mortality is the key to fullest reality, ‘death [its contemplation]is the gateway to Life’ – it has truly been said.

October 2018

See my review of Melvin Tinker’s That Hideous Strength:How the West Was Lost