The eternal conversation

Louise, I went as fast as I could. You were drawing your final, heavy breaths, while I was drawing ancient, arcane syllogisms. This was our last chance to speak together in this life. We understood that all too well, and so I hurried, disentangled myself from logic and leapt across the ocean. Yet, in the end, we missed each other. I could not shake loose the tethers quickly enough, and your last smoky breath slipped away.

Humanity often ponders over her mortality, and she thinks she knows “all too well” the deep link between the material and the temporal. She doesn’t, not really. Aristotle and Einstein, though, they were individuals who did truly understand: time is matter. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains them best, writing, “This state of motion is said to be essential–that is, natural; it cannot be separated from beings because it is their essential requirement, as it is the essential requirement of fire to burn.”

We can think of this two ways, first, that existence and motion are co-extensive, quite quantumly and ontologically so. We sat beside each other at the Pesach table, Louise, as we frequently did, and yet all along we were also speeding past one another. Descartes saw the truth but could not bear it, that proximity is real at only one level of understanding and experience; at another, we are constituted of nomadic existents, and so we journey in unseen lands.

Or, second, as Bahá’u’lláh has written, that fate is of two varieties, one irrevocable, the other revocable by divine decree, that is, in response to prayer and entreaty. In this life, we are marked by a tantalizing and terrifying obscurity, for we can never know with certainty which of these might constitute any given event. The author who pens our story loves us dearly and adheres as best He can to the contours of our innermost narratives, yet He still has a plot to maintain, as well.

These two interpretations intersect for me in you, Louise, my aunt, the grandmother I never had. And in that junction, this summation by Bahá’u’lláh solemnly speaks true: “Thou hast committed into mine hands a trust from Thee, and hast now according to the good-pleasure of Thy Will called it back to Thyself. It is not for me, who am a handmaid of Thine, to say, whence is this to me or wherefore hath it happened, inasmuch as Thou art glorified in all Thine acts, and art to be obeyed in Thy decree.”

Thus, with your passing, I understand a little more, and I also understand a little less. Hegel would simply smile and nod, I’m sure. Yet, through the shifting mists of insight and confusion, things unsaid, things that only you and I, as the professional philosophers of the Schwartz clan, could share and love, begin to echo through.

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Goodbye Doris

This past Friday, after a decades’ long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, my aunt-in-law, Doris, passed away in the company of her children. I never knew the dynamic woman who captured my uncle’s heart, and even as early as a child, I was bewildered, and not a little horrified, by the ruthlessness and enormity of her condition.

Of all the ethical unanswerables that characterized her life, I have faith that this much is certain: her suffering has finally ceased. What begins now for her, as it will inevitably for all of us, is a strange, new journey. Moreover, I have hope that all her years of struggle ultimately contributed to her spiritual progress in ways neither those of us who loved her nor she herself could calculate.

יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא

–Kaddish

I entreat Thee, fervently and tearfully, to cast upon Thy handmaiden who hath ascended unto Thee the glances of the Eye of Thy mercy. Robe her in the mantle of Thy grace, bright with the ornaments of the Celestial Paradise, and, sheltering her beneath the tree of Thy oneness, illumine her face with the lights of Thy mercy and compassion.

–Abdul-Baha

The Resurrection of Michael Jackson: what if his death is history’s greatest publicity stunt?

thriller2

This may be my most cynical blog post ever, not to mention the one most likely to inspire a tidal wave of hate mail roaring my way.  Here goes…

What if Michael Jackson isn’t really dead? What if, in fact, his purported demise is an enormous publicity stunt, and he’ll moonwalk out of his open casket on live television in front of billions of viewers?

There, I said it.  I said it!!! *hides behind a rock.

In truth, I believe the closing years of Michael Jackson’s life was a tragedy as immense as his sheer talent.  Each and everyone one of us who devoured all the news stories about “Wacko Jacko” are responsible, in some small way, for the Hell that so clearly became his existence at the end.

Nevertheless, if he’s faking his death, it would be a feat worthy of the gods!

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R.I.P. Mr. Grady: interview, “The Scope and Nature of University Education”

It is with a bemused pen that I report the passing of John Grady, the director of La Salle University‘s Honors Program. Rightfully considered a pioneer of honors programs among small liberal arts colleges, for 34 years Mr. Grady was a major influence on the careers and lives of hundreds of La Salle graduates — myself (proudly) included. As with the passing of Dr. Michael Kerlin, a professor whom I deeply loved, Mr. Grady’s abscence will take some time to fathom.

Other weblogs covering Mr. Grady’s passing:

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