Living Forever

Somebody once asked Woody Allen “Are you trying to achieve immortality through your films?”

His great response was, “I’d rather achieve immortality through not dying.”

I’ve been reflecting on that idea: immortality.

Almost every secular movie ever made, when somebody is dying, and somebody else is all sad about it, the dying person says “I’ll always be with you: in your heart and memories.”

My first response is a bit off a riff off of Woody Allen.  “I’d rather live forever outside of somebody’s heart.”

But my second thought is that even without the hope of an afterlife, the secular world can do better.

My grandmother passed away a few months back.  I loved here dearly.  She was often a rather un-grandmotherly lady.  She taught me to play poker.  She was probably the best poker player I’ve ever known.  And she never let me win.

She was loving and gentle, but she had this whole stable of hilarious, provacative, and borderline obscene sayings.  I’m about to swear for pretty much the first time on this blog.  All you senestive souls probably want to go read “Guideposts” or something.

Two in particular I remember “That’s uglier than a bucket full of a$$ holes”  and “It’s colder than a witch’s tit”

My grandmother impacted me.  She changed who I am.  I think most people who know me would consider me both gentle and provacative.  I don’t generally let my kids win when we play games.

I am changing the world through these, and many more important ways.  I will be dead someday.  And the people who I impact will change the world, too.

I truly believe we will live forever in a much more literal way.  There is that kind of immortality.

But that doesn’t diminish this kind of immortality. Yes, I remember my grandmother.  But more than that, I’ve been changed by her, made a better person by her.  This is no small thing, and it’s a much bigger thing than mere memories.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Living Forever”

  1. i’ve never heard the “bucket…” expression. i like it, but probably won’t find a use for it.

    i’m a bit troubled by the the second saying. Who was the person that helped establish with axiomatic certitude that a Witch’s breast is in fact frigid? i can’t imagine you’d live to tell the tale had you been (un)fortunate enough to be the one gathering that information.

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  2. Immortality, in the sense usually meant by some types of Christians and other “spiritual” seekers, is either a “die and go to heaven” or a “die and be admitted into a higher plane of being” mentality, neither of which have any substance in reality.

    Something which I think you are hinting at in this post is, on the other hand, closer to the truth than what most people, Christians included, are willing to admit: Real immortality is much closer to the immortality of fame in the human world than it is to the mythical or fairy-tale versions of immortality one finds in religion.

    Immortality as fame means that your name will never die out, that people will remember you, at least your name, for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Though we may not know much about Confucius, Julius Caesar, or William Shakespeare, most of us know the names as household words almost. And not a few people actually DO know these men through familiarity with their thoughts. And if any part of us should deserve immortality, I think it must be our thought, that which made us what we are. So, the famous men and women of history, in their thousands, have immortality among us as long as the human race lasts. And how?

    They are immortal because of memory. We remember them. We remember and pass on, generation by generation, this memory of them. Does our remembering these people confer on them anything like real immortality, that is, eternal life? Well, no, it doesn’t. That’s where the comparison has run its course. But where it leaves off, something else takes over.

    In the Orthodox Church, at every service of the divine liturgy we hear the words proclaimed, “May the Lord remember you in His Kingdom, now and always and unto the ages of ages!” as the priests and deacons process through the temple bearing in their hands the bread and wine which will become, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, the mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood. While they’re carrying it, it isn’t that yet, it’s still just bread and wine, though the bread has already been divided into dozens of small chunks, each piece having been prayed over in memory of human beings, alive or dead, prayed over and brought to God’s attention, for His help. So, in an odd sort of way, the bread at least has already ceased being ordinary bread; it has started on its journey, having become by this stage true “prosphora” or offering.

    We also, in the Orthodox service, pray this prayer before receiving communion, “…but as the thief I confess to you, Lord, remember me in Your Kingdom.”

    Hence we see that, in Orthodox Christian terms anyway, the place of memory or remembrance in the reality of eternal life is absolutely essential. While our remembrance of famous people gives them a figurative immortality, because we are just creatures ourselves, it is God’s remembrance of us that gives us real immortality, real eternal life. We exist even now because it is God who is thinking of us, upholding the reality of our being by His thought, by His memory. When we come to the end of our physical lives, it is the same: God remembers us, and hence we live.

    In scripture, there is very little content as to the nature of “heaven” or the life immortal, or eternal life, only the word of Jesus, who says to us that it is in Him that we live forever.
    In Him? And how is this? By His thinking of us, again, by memory, as the thief cried out, “Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom!” and Jesus’ response, “This day you will be with Me in paradise!” We really have nothing else to go on. Even the whole of the Old Testament gives no assurances, only expressions of faith and hope in God’s mercy, “This I know, that my Redeemer lives, and from my flesh I will look on God” (Job) or even of agnostic abandon, “Who knows if the spirit of man goes up, and the soul of the beast down to the earth” (Ecclesiastes).

    It all hinges on memory, that YHWH, the Holy One of Israel, remembers us. And if He remembers us, we indeed are immortal.

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