Speaking Of Death

by Eve Livingston

Speaking of death.  No one will love me anymore.  How dare I?  How could I?  How can’t I?

Ok, yes, but so soon?  This blog and I have only just met.

Yes.  Now.  The time has come.

This man, Christian Wiman, speaks about religion and God in a way that makes me feel left out, and at the same time invited in.  There is a tithe.  If I foray with depth past the doorway of his description of it, I will be required to pay attention.  I want to take my time to linger at the threshold, peer in, get curious.

I am curious.  I’m going in.

It’s not for the religion.  It’s not for his lovely and earnest description of “God.”  I’m too distracted if I take the time to investigate my association to that concept.  Too distracted by my curiosity about whether I can understand it well enough; find enough agreeable about it to speak its secret language.

Rather, it’s for his honesty in facing the uninsulated truth of being housed in a body that is dying.  He is so bare in his acknowledgment of ambivalence.  He knows profound suffering and at the same time he savors every drop of joy to be had from his aliveness.  And he does it, ultimately, as Rumi wrote in the poem “This Being Human Is A Guest House,” by inviting in every different feeling.  Then, after all that, he has the courage to speak about these things.  How brave.

I’m not sure why human beings have such a strong need to name whatever it is that is being described when the word God is used.  Maybe it’s the economy of language and the way we can feel connected to each other through commonality.  And maybe whatever we are attempting to describe has something to do with our need to feel less alone.

I love the line, “Child, teach me how to die.”  I find it extraordinarily profound, and deeply beautiful.  It makes sense.  That child that he once was, staring up at an angry swarm of bees, “mystery mastering fear,” did indeed know how to be more curious than afraid.  Wiman is so smart to look for that child inside himself.  Quite clearly he is locating the courage of that child with the intelligence of a humbled adult.

“Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain, that every experience is dyed with its color. This is why, even in moments of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are our sorrow. They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy, and they make joy the complete experience that it is.”

~ Christian Wiman


Love’s last


is earth

and grief is all


and the long fall


back to earliest


that exist

but in one’s brain.

From the hard-
packed pile

of old-mown

from boredom,
from pain,

a boy’s
random slash

a dark ardor

of angry bees
that link

the trees and block
his way home.

I like to hold him
holding me,

mastering fear,

so young,
standing unstung

under what survives
of sky.

I learned too late
how to live.

Child, teach me
how to die.

~ Christian Wiman

Content copyright 2018. Eve Livingston, Ph.D. All rights reserved.