I love this quote from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos:
What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
A reference to Job 19:26. The red triangle at left represents the mortal body. The white and grey triangles represent the separated spirit and body after death. The red and yellow triangle at right represents the resurrected body in the presence of God. The other two triangles are decorative.
Lately I’ve been reading a history of the Borgias, taking place in the late 1400s. In reading about some of the people who died young back then, I got to thinking about death (which if I’m honest is something I think about often — memento mori and all).
Separation of spirit and body aside, the main sting of death seems to be the separation from loved ones. For me, anyway, that’s what would hurt most. Sure, there are a lot of things I still want to do and a lot of books I still want to read, but I wouldn’t be devastated if I had to give that up. But not being there to help my wife raise our children? Utterly awful. (And the same goes for losing my wife or any of our kids.) I know there would be some measure of divine peace given, but I also know there would also be a deep, unavoidable flood of sorrow.
A mildly comforting thought I had while reading the Borgia book, though, was this: that particular sting only lasts up to roughly a hundred years. Past that point, everyone I knew and cared about in life will have also died. No more separation (at least not based on living vs. dead). Less devastation. Lots of happy reunions on the other side.
A hundred years is a long time, of course, but it’s also finite. And hopefully the Second Coming happens long before then. (That said, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it’s still more than a hundred years off.)
The white rectangle represents an altar. The yellow circle represents the sealing power.
I recently came across this quote from Martha Graham (which according to Wikiquote is from page 264 of Agnes de Mille’s The Life and Work of Martha Graham) and it’s been in my thoughts often since then (italics mine):
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.
When impostor syndrome is railing at me about my art or my writing, the italicized portion is what comes to mind. I find it reassuring.