Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Big Four

The big four--Love, Sex, Death, and God--are really the only things worth talking about eventually when you come right down to it. I say eventually because all kinds of distractions intervene before one comes to realize that the big four are what matter. In the interim other lesser subjects--business, politics, academic subjects, sports, hobbies, and so forth--intrude. But even these subjects, if you're creative and honest in seeing it, wend their way back to one or more of the big four. Love, Sex, Death, and God: it's the stuff of all art, and therefore the stuff of everything that makes us human. Think about opera: all opera is concerned with at least three of the big four, and sometimes about God, too; someone once said that all poetry is about death. I'm not necessarily going to argue. Music is a spiritual language . . . who will say that Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven don't speak from another realm? Why do we hear these voices so clearly? And why do they so transport us?

Reason these thoughts are on my mind today is because this evening I visit again a longtime friend who is dying. He has, I'd guess, only a few more days left in this sphere of existence. And his existence at this moment is unswervingly focused, as focused as it will ever be, on Love, Death, and God. He believes in God, as do I, but this doesn't answer anything, does it? Or perhaps it answers everything. Who is to say? So proximate, Death drags with it all the questions that ultimately matter. He's been in love and married to the same woman for 43 years. How does one measure the depth and extent of the love that move her to say about her life with this dying man: "I would not change a thing."?

I think my friend is already half gone. At times it's perfectly obvious that he's not here, but elsewhere. Elsewhere, embracing his destiny. It's my privilege and a blessing to stand with him and this close to the mystery of our existence. It's my friend's final gift to me. Go in peace, Jim. I'll be along after a while.
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