GLEANINGS FROM THE SCRIPTURESTO UNDERSTAND DEATH, WE MUST STUDY LOVE
By Keith L. Estes
We have been reading almost as a common occurrence the shooting of children by children in our public schools. It happened somewhere else, not here, so it doesn't take us too long to let it pass as just another event that sorrows us for a time and we go on with our living.
James Drane, a professor of Bioethics at Edinboro University where some of these murders took place says, "Family members, teachers, students, neighbors, the whole community is still affected. People have trouble sleeping. Some have nightmares. Many suffer from insecurity, depression, a loss of innocence, and the sense of meaning. It doesn't help much to be reminded that everyone must die. Nor is it any consolation to learn that a single loss of human life is such a small event globally that it is invisible. People outside Edinboro blinked briefly. The tragedy continues to make headlines here but elsewhere is no longer mentioned.
We human beings appear to have significance in the tiny world of our families and friends and community, but not beyond. Can we even take into consideration the deaths that occur in the bigger world? One million children die each year of diarrhea. Do we blink? Can we mourn? Do we care that Stalin starved to death 7 million Ukrainians? Can we even compute such facts or mourn such loss?
Astronomers remind us that humans are specks of stellar dust. So why should we care if one speck disappears? And yet, being reminded of our minuteness only increases our struggle with meaning. Learning about our place in the universe only makes our individual lives more of a mystery. The farther out we look, the more reality becomes a blur including our own reality. Who were those millions of Ukrainians who starved? Did the persons who died of the flu in 1918 have names? Who are the children who die of diarrhea?
Looking beyond our own little communities do any of us have significance? Are the people who think that they are important really important? If there are 70 suns in our own galaxy for each living person on Earth and there are billions of galaxies in the universe, can one life really matter?
Does wearing clothes with certain labels give someone substance? Does living in certain neighborhoods really create distinction? Does calling oneself with high-sounding titles like Doctor, Senator, Bishop, Professor, President, make someone eminent? To whom? For how long? Looking at ourselves in this broader context doesn't help in handling our loss. To see our place in the larger world seems only to deepen the loss of meaning and the mystery of life and death.
We are in fact a speck of stellar dust, but yet we are conscious. And each one of us is unique. It might be stupid to think we are important because of money or clothes or social status, but it makes all the sense in the world to think of ourselves as important to someone who loves us. To be loved means to be important at least to some other. Loving relationships make sense and give significance.
The broader view of reality actually puts love in its place of importance. It also helps us to understand why the command of love is the core of divine revelation. The big religious news is that God loves us. What makes someone a Christian is a living relationship with the person Jesus.
If the creator of that vast universe loves us, then maybe we are important, each single one of us. If each speck of dust is connected to God in a loving relationship, then maybe there is not only meaning, but also even hope for something more after death.
By introducing the concept of love we may even make some sense of why killing is such an evil act. If human beings have significance because they are united in love with God, then to take another's life is to strike at the very heart of God.
Jesus revealed that God is love. His command was to love. He asked that we not hold hostilities or hurt one another or look down on other persons. He prayed that we be one, as he and his father are one. We can see not only the evil of killing but of all the attitudes and dispositions that lead to destructive ways.
Maybe the deaths of (these students) and the suffering that continues in (those communities) can teach us something about our place in the universe. Maybe (their) deaths can help us to understand something about love, and why (these communities) continue to mourn."