Today I read an essay by the late Richard John Neuhaus entitled “Born Toward Dying”. In this essay Neuhaus reflects on a medical emergency that nearly cost him his life. As he reflected on the reality of dying, he asks the question, “what does it tell us that modern philosophy has had relatively little to say about death?” It seems to me that in the Western world there is a greater distance from death both philosophically and proximately. Death appears to be something that is neither seen nor heard. People spend more time fighting against the inevitability of death than considering its mystery in relationship to life.
Death is of primary interest because one’s view of death reveals their view of life. For instance, to hold to a belief that denies this existence of God betrays, in my opinion, an existential and even fatalist world view. If there are no ends upon which to justify your life, then the means become the ends. By contrast, in a Christian view, the eternal significance of an individual’s actions can never be separated from any existential considerations. Even the smallest gesture can be eternally regarded.
Writing about death is writing about life. How the characters of my stories confront the mystery of death clarifies their view of life. And death is pervasive. It is something we all must face. As Neuhaus reminds us, the mortality holds firm at 100 percent.