Divest Yourself or Be Divested

In fifty years or less, everyone reading this will be gone.  Where you will be gone to is, of course, a controverted question, but the settled possibilities are nowhere at all, in or on the road to paradise, or clad in woolen underwear in a crowded and smoky room without air conditioning.  What all of these places have in common is that, once you are in one of them, you will be beyond caring about the place in which you are presently sitting, sipping your coffee and peering at your computer screen.  I have yet to encounter a theory of the afterlife in which the souls of the dead are hungry for news of the living.

I have never seen it suggested that there is newspaper delivery in Heaven, or Hell, and this is not, in the later case, simply owing to the problem of combustion.  If there is any basis to the Victorian image of the dearly departed looking down from the clouds, we must suppose that they do so with a mild and disinterested eye. Wherever they may be, the dearly departed are beyond despondency and alarm. They are not agitated when they hear that oceans have risen, empires have fallen, peoples have perished, sciences have been corrupted, arts have decayed.

They are beyond all that.  And in a very short while, you will be also.

I know there are many Christians who believe that saints sometimes petition the Father on behalf of the living, and if they do we may hope that they make their cases well.  But I, for one, do not suppose that their serenity is disturbed when the Father declines to act in the manner they propose.

Serenity is not the same as apathy, although both words denote a state that is beyond caring. One difference is that serenity is cheerful and apathy is gloomy. The serene man has overcome the world, whereas the apathetic man has been overcome by it.  Both men have lost their ambitions, but the serene man left them behind, like a newspaper on a park bench, whereas the apathetic man had them torn from his fingers in a desperate but losing fight with a band of wild banditti.

In fifty years or less, you and I will be beyond caring about the great questions of our times. We may or may not remember this time, not so very long before, when we did care, and that with passionate  intensity. But if we do remember, let us hope that the memory is serene. Let us hope that we lost our ambitions without regret, and that we did not lose them in anger to a band of wild banditti.

14 thoughts on “Divest Yourself or Be Divested

  1. That’s because this is the place where we choice to have a.relationship with Christ or not. If it’s about us or God. In spite of everything man is causing in the world God still loves us.

  2. Though it doesn’t have a “nihil obstat” appended to the front, the vision of CS Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” was a comforting one. I wont attempt to describe it, since i cant but do so imperfectly. It is a short read so i recommend it to all who havent.

    Im aware there is a word, perhaps in german, related to nostalgia, which is something along the lines of “love or longing for a home you cant return to”. Thats the feeling this article stirs in me. Perhaps the idea of being in Heaven (should i be so favored) and looking back on the world disinterestedly is where it comes from. But in CS Lewis’ work, he says the Joy of heaven is unlike any earthly joy, and we will not miss any lesser joy once we have it. Christ said (poorly paraphrased) that whosoever loves the world shall lose it, and whosoever loves God shall have everlasting life.

    We will all be divested in the end. I think you are doing the Lords work here at orthosphere, certainly helping me make the most of my pittance of earthly blessings; at least by comparison to the Eternal gifts in the hereafter!

    • Thanks for the encouraging words. Is heimweh the German word you are looking for? Perhaps not, since I understand it as an exact synonym of nostalgia. Whatever we call it, I think the emotion is dominant in reactionaries and most religious people. We feel like strangers in a strange land, and although we may not know how to find the road home, we have not lost hope that the road is there.

      • Now that i’ve had a chance to look it up, I think the word I had in mind was Sehnsucht. I think you are right that it is common in reactionaries and religious, and the link seems to reinforce that.

      • Sehnsucht is an interesting word for which there would seem to be no exact English equivalent. It’s usually translated as longing, but that only begins to suggest the emotion. Lewis uses it to describe an emotion he felt as a boy when he looked at a distant line of hills from his bedroom window, and this description has always stuck with me because I know this response to landscape very well. One knows that if one did in fact travel to that distant place, the change in circumstances would be largely superficial, but viewing that place from a distance, there are suggestions that the place is magical. I think of this as in some ways like a mirage that recedes as you approach it, but like Lewis do not dismiss it as an illusion. This mirage has meaning.

  3. For those in Christ, dying doesn’t mean losing the beauty of this life but going where the beauty comes from, going upstream to the Fountain.

  4. There are two passages that indicate knowledge of the current world post mortem. Jeses’ story of Lazarus and the rich man has Dives aware of his brothers’ spiritual status. The other is in Revelation 6: 9-11, where the souls of the martyrs cry out against God’s delayed vengeance. (This is one of the scariest passages in the NT.)

  5. > I have yet to encounter a theory of the afterlife in which the souls of the dead are hungry for news of the living.

    One of the unexpected charms of Dante’s Comedy is how eager many of the shades are to gab about the politics of their old cities. I remember it, though, because it was so unexpected for me.

    Do you have any advice on how to achieve serenity?

    • I wish I did. I have a depressive nature, in which spasms of alarm alternate with wastelands of despondency. At the moment, my very limited capacity for serenity is also being taxed by three teenaged children. I would say that serenity requires that one lose one’s self, but, as I say in the post, the manner in which one loses it is all-important. Of course it would greatly help to have more faith in providence, and in this I am sorely lacking.

  6. Sehnsucht is perhaps that word. C.S. Lewis, in the afterword to Pilgrim’s Regress uses the word ‘romantic’ to describe this feeling, assuagement of which is the object of our restless seeking.

  7. If you make it into Heaven but your grandchildren are living in a way that’s sure to land them in Hell, you won’t feel even slightly concerned? What could be more important than persuading loved ones to repent before it’s too late?

    • This is a difficult question. It would seem that the answer must be, considerably less concerned than one was when one was still alive.

  8. Pingback: Cantandum in Ezkhaton 05/12/19 | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores


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