We circle aimlessly in the void, in the insoluble mystery of death. Countless galaxies around us, and beyond us stars “like the sand on the shores of the sea.” Dead worlds without the smiles of flowers, the songs of birds, the colors of sunsets. A pair of human eyes and the consciousness behind the startled glance are “another” incomparable universe. And in this other universe we seek to solve the riddle of death. The lifeless worlds of the galaxies do not know death; only our tiny earth throbbing with life gathers death in every handful of soil.
What does the uniqueness of our earth mean within the infinity of the universe? What does the uniqueness of every person mean in the infinite succession of generations? Prehistoric people of the caves, of the stone Age, how much animal instinct and how much personal otherness was expressed in their being? Retarded children, cases of grave imbecility, the forgotten sufferers of psychological illnesses, schizophrenia, and senile dementia. And even the myriads of aborted embryos, the countless fertilized ova which are expelled by the mother’s body a few weeks before they acquire a beating heart. Who decides on this implacable natural selection: nature on its own or God? Who can say what is the boundary between human and non-human, between reality and potentiality, the given and the possible?
Our mind cannot conceive of an inert personality, without thought, reason, judgment, imagination, will, or expression. Nor can it conceive of existence outside space, time, and number. How can we conceive of human existence after death, personal otherness without bodily and psychological energies? How do “all” attain immortality, and what is this “all”? We cannot determine when the fertilized ovum attains conscious personhood, nor can we draw a boundary between conscious personhood and congenital amentia.
We have discovered the constitution of the atomic nucleus, the structure of DNA, the composition of light, the material elements of the most distant galaxies. And yet we do not know how to define either the beginning or the end of the human person, of our own self.
We search for the solution to the riddle of our existence, to the mystery of life and death, in the way that earthworms after rainfall move, blindly in the mud, within predetermined insuperable limits. Thought and word do not guarantee us anything other than the illusion of knowledge, parables, allegories, images seen in a glass darkly. We latch onto the experience of others, the experience of people who testify that they have seen God. They have spoken to him. And we objectivize these ineffable experiences in solid concepts to support our views. So that upon this logic we can build our psychological self-sufficiency, the defense that wards off fear and panic. …
“What use is our struggle in this world? What use is our imagined view of transitory things? All is dust, all is ashes, all is shadow.”
Perhaps there is “another” knowledge, that begins where our particular knowledge ends. Perhaps it arises as a more certain knowledge when everything becomes dust, ashes, and shadow.
O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark.
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you.
Which shall be the darkness of God.
There exists a particular state in which you have doubts, and yet make an act of trust. And we encounter this state only in erotic love. Love signifies faith, trust, self-surrender. You are lost in the darkness of endless unanswerable questions. Yet you abandon yourself to longing, and this confirms to you whether the Other longs for your longing. And then your unanswered questions have been answered. What is signified functions without the signifiers. There is only the language of reference, the language of longing. This is the language the infant speaks as it suckles its mother’s breast. This is the language lovers speak in the silence of the “one flesh.” …
The darkness of these questions is the natural distance that separates human beings from God. “All things are distanced from God, not spatially but by nature.” It is our nature that prevents us from giving answers to these questions. That is why even denying the existence of God, the eternity of the human person, is a natural stance. It is understandable. To transform the natural distance into a personal relation is an achievement of self-withdrawal from nature; it is love.
“How long will this age last, and when will the age to come have its beginning? And for how long will these tabernacles sleep in this form, and our bodies be mingled with the dust? And how will that new life come about and in what form will this nature be raised and constituted? And in what manner will this new creation come? And when he has pondered these questions and others like them, wonder comes upon him and deep silence, and he rises up at that hour and falls on his knees and gives thanks with copious tears to the only wise God who is glorified in his all-wise works for ever.”
The gift of thanksgiving replaces the unanswerable questions. “For all things, those which we know, and those which we do not know.”