Archives for posts with tag: religion

Through the coming days and the dark storms they’ll bring
         I’ll ride with you.
As the vitriol flows and the weak seek to alarm,
         I’ll ride with you.
When the light begins to fade and the fear-mongers start to sing,
         I’ll ride with you.
If you feel hopeless, unable to find calm,
         I’ll ride with you.

For we are not a nation built on the fears
         of an irrational and deranged few.
We are Australians and
         we’ll ride with you.
We won’t give in to hearsay and small minds incapable
         of discerning false from true.
We’ll ignore them, scorn them and pity them.
         We’ll ride with you.

The future of this country is one
         of acceptance, tolerance and peace,
and, arm in arm, we will always stand by you.
         We’ll ride with you.
For, in the end, we are all human,
         we are all Australian, there is no me and you.
So, together, from this day until the last
         we’ll fight the intolerant storms and the hate of a few.
                  We’ll ride with you.

Advertisements

 

Having just finished watching season three of Breaking Bad—don’t read this if you haven’t and intend to—the idea and perception, morbid as they may be, of death has struck a chord. It ends with Jessie Pinkman standing in front of Gale, a gun pointing to his head and tears welling in his eyes. A gunshot marks the end of the episode.

The situation in Breaking Bad is fictitious, obviously, but the idea of one person’s life becoming forfeit for the sake of another—or in this case, two other lives—resonated with me and could be seen as a symbol of the very real fear we have of death.

Walt and Jessie placed so much emphasis on their own lives that the life of Gale was a necessary sacrifice for their own survival. Gale hadn’t done anything wrong. It was merely an unfortunate circumstance. Wrong place, wrong time, and all that.

Finding yourself in a situation where a choice exists between your own life ending or the destruction of someone else’s, in order to save your own, is rare. I can’t imagine ever being in one. How could you ever make that decision? How could anyone have the right to?

 

Death is a common fear, which comes as a result of many variables: religion (a fear of the afterlife), family (the thought of leaving loved ones behind and the effect our death will have on them), and vanity (life going on without us and realising we haven’t accomplished all we intended), to name a few. The last of these, in my mind, is our greatest flaw.

We’re instilled with this idea that we can accomplish anything; our dreams can become reality and the world is our oyster. This is true to a point, but how deluded is this line of thinking? Yes, some dreams can be realised with enough hard work and some circumstantial ‘luck’. But, for the most part, we may be found wanting. If you could shake that fear of death, would the possibility of accomplishing all you desire become a serious reality? I think so.

Nothing is more certain than death. I semi-adhere to an Epicurean-esque mentality where once death arrives I can not feel or think or worry about anything, so what’s the use of holding to those same fears whilst living? Atheism enables this line of thinking to become more feasible and, in a way, comforting. The threat of an eternity in a paradise or hell is non-existent.

I’ll die when I die and that is all. If I worry about that final ending then how am I to do my own life justice whilst I walk and breathe? This vain fear of death is a constraint and a hindrance. There is no reason to fear it. Life will go on when you die and then other people will die. That’s how it’s always been and how it always will be. How many times have you heard of people having a near death experience or have actually been declared dead, only to be resuscitated? Those people gain a new lease on life, refusing to waste another day. They should have just lived that way originally.

 

Fearing death is a wholly unnecessary vanity. If you do have a fear of dying without having left your mark on the world, then go out and do something about it. If you fear for the people you’ll leave behind, then make the most of your time with them. You could die tomorrow, so why waste time today? Influence people, make them think about things they never have before, and most of all, make yourself happy. You’re the only person you have to live with your entire life. You’re alive right now and your life is yours. Go do something with it. Tear that veil of vanity and self-importance; it only serves to hold you back.

 

SDH

 

Lardner, Ring Jr., The Ecstasy of Owen Muir, 1954, Prometheus: New York, 1997

The more pre-1960s America literature I read, the more interested I become. It started with Kerouac, then Bukowski, then Toole. These authors depict a life I could’ve seen myself living (save for the flatulence of Mr. Reilly and his preference of flannel and cord), if I’d been conceived in the ’30s. Leading a semi-bohemian life, traveling from place to place, with no real cares save for penning what’s important to me and close friends.

But then, somehow, I stumbled upon a book by Ring Lardner Jr. called The Ecstasy of Owen Muir whilst reading an article, I think. Or it could’ve been somewhere on a website, or perhaps on some RSS feed; I’m really not quite sure. Nonetheless, what I read intrigued me enough to buy it, straying off my path of buying what I should read (something I need to give up).

Lardner was an acclaimed screenwriter throughout the ’40s, winning an Oscar for Woman of the Year (1947; later winning another for his film adaptation of M*A*S*H [1977]). He served time in jail as part of the Hollywood Ten during the McCarthy era. It was during his time in prison the he cultivated the idea for his comic novel.

Owen is a tale of Owen Muir, a pacifist who spends time in prison (just like Lardner) for refusing to serve in the army. He transforms from an overweight, insightful pacifist into a sturdy, athletic, muscular, insightful pacifist, thanks to the labour within the jailhouse (which leads to a slightly disturbing scene with his sibling upon release). After meeting April, his Catholic secretary, he falls in love and converts to Catholicism, overcoming the only obstacle on the path to marriage. Majority of the novel follows Owen’s search for justifying his newfound religion to himself and finding his place in the world. In the process Lardner comments on a myriad of ideas and institutions, such as business ethics, advertising, sex, philosophy, racism, and, rather comically, on the failings of the Church (a major reason for the novel being refused publication in America). One chapter sees Owen calculate his indulgences (an utterly ridiculous concept), which come to a grand total of 84 000 years!!!!!! HA! Anywho, I won’t spoil the ending, which is initially anticlimactic but upon meditation fits perfectly.

If you’re anti-Catholic, or an atheist or agnostic, or care not for religion at all, or are Catholic and would like to see the oddities of your beliefs presented to you, then this novel is well worth the read. It’s pretty standard in length (272 pages) and the prose is free-flowing and somewhat elegant. Although the content can get a little dense, particularly during the philosophical conversations. But even a relatively juvenile knowledge of the Church will allow you to follow these easily.

For a novel that’s counted in the ‘Literary Classics’ range, I’m intrigued as to why it’s not more popular (well, I suppose in Australia, what institution would actually assign it to a reading list? Probably book club material, at best). Not only is it a great story but, taken with a grain of salt, provides a valuable insight into a very tumultuous point in American history.

SDH

%d bloggers like this: