Ordinary people, Socrates, and the Psalmist

Last Sunday was my first experience with the Adult Forum at Trinity Episcopal Church. It was a brainstorming session for the church’s adult faith formation program.

A woman introduced herself as “the octogenarian in the group” to lots of laughter since a number of them were well on their way to their 80s. She proposed “living well in anticipation of dying and death” as her topic of interest. The group’s response was immediate. They were hungry for it.

DenialofdeathcoverThey went immediately to the practical considerations like Living Wills, leaving clear instructions for children. But the discussion soon moved to the deeper matter of mortality itself, our culture’s juvenile denial of death (a la Ernest Becker), and the desire to go deeper into the philosophy and theology of wellness, death, and dying.

Two days later at last night’s Republican presidential debate, when Senator Marco Rubio drew roaring applause for his put down of philosophers – “We need more welders, less philosophers” – I wanted to invite the senator and everyone in the auditorium to join the 20 people  next Sunday in the Fireside Room where ordinary people will heed the wisdom of Socrates to “apply themselves in the right way to philosophy”:

“Ordinary people seem not to realize that those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death”

Death is always the elephant in the living room. So is philosophy when it is scorned. It’s easy to be glib about it, to knock it, ignore it, or mock it. Not so easy to face it “of [our] own accord”, as Socrates and the psalmist urge those who would live well – with gladness and and mercy – in anticipation of dying and death.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. … O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” – Psalm 90:12,14, KJV

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 11, 2015.

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