Sunday, October 23, 2022

#297 / Saturday And Sunday


St. Paul's Cathedral, in London, is pictured above. This is a place where John Donne preached - something I only learned when I read the "Guest Essay" in The New York Times on which I commented yesterday. 
Donne's poetry was featured in my blog posting yesterday, and since today is a Sunday, it seemed appropriate to move from that "Saturday" topic to a "Sunday" exploration of the very same topic, and to comment on something that is specifically "religious." 
Thinking about what Donne said about Death and Life was the "main point" of yesterday's blog posting. Donne claimed that remembering our inevitable Death is what makes it possible for us to live a truly meaningful Life. Today, I am offering exactly the same thought, but with reference not to a New York Times "Guest Essay," but with a reference to the Bible. 
Donne's lesson, to my mind, is exactly the same lesson contained in Matthew 16:25

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

You can make the "religious" claim a bit less prominent by a slight rephrasing, leaving out that "for My sake" part of what Jesus said. Let's look at the idea expressed that way:
Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will find it.
In fact, this is exactly what Donne was claiming, too. If we try to insist that we are the architects of our own lives, we will end up trying to shelter ourselves from those conditions that affect us from outside - those over which we have no direct control. We might as well try to build ourselves a box of our own design, hoping that this can shelter us from the "weather outside." 
What our efforts to self-direct our own lives fail to acknowledge is that we are not just "individuals." To cite to Donne, we are "involved in mankind," a "part of the continent, a piece of the main." Our genuine encounter with Life happens as we leave behind the idea that our lives are our individual creations, and that we must put ourselves first. It is by losing "our" lives that we find Life itself.

I am not allergic to Jesus, so I can go with the King James Version, but if you are sensitive to the idea that we live, ultimately, in a "World that God Created," a world that we most typically call the "World of Nature," or "the environment," then consider the second, amended version of what Jesus claims.

We need to give ourselves up to Life, which means to Death, if we want to liberate ourselves truly to live. That's the message, from John Donne - and from Jesus.

Consider today's blog posting a Sunday sermon (Jesus in the pulpit). The Saturday version has the poet preaching at St. Paul's.

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