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Location: Stevens Point, Wisconsin, United States

Monday, October 15, 2007

Nothing Else Like It

Friday, October 12, 2007 12:26
USS Cole33°15N 041°16W

Storms that had been far off moved south overnight, bringing rain and roughening the seas. The ship has passed into mid-Atlantic time, causing me to wake an hour before reveille—again. The next time-change will be to EDT and we’ll be into U.S. waters, there to linger at sea for the sake of “qualifying” tests and drills. Air temps have risen above 70°F as the Cole wallows through swells up to eight feet. Even planting one’s feet farther apart than normal negotiating the p-ways, one’s passage still has the drunken quality caused by up becoming down within the space of a stride.

Today’s relatively unceremonious commemoration of the small-boat attack on the ship—October 12, 2000—was not memorable, though an interesting example of forced solemnity, with its attendant sentimentality and excess of piety. Playing some country song over the 1-MC seemed to elicit the greatest feeling, at least in the wardroom where I was reading at the time.

I wrote the following piece in response to the question implied by the first sentence, which came up during the discussion of Heidegger yesterday. Perhaps it will occasion some insight.

A reflection on death and life:

“I believe in life after death.” This claim conceals part of its meaning. What is concealed is the recognition that death is the end of life. In order for there to be anything “after,” what is has to end. This awareness of the necessity of a life’s ending, of its coming to a close with death, is uniquely human and carries with it concern for my life. The sense of my own life contains the realization that I must give it up at some point in its course. My life comes to an end. It is this sense of ownership which misleads us. Even if there existed some other condition, some form of existence other than life, it would not diminish the distress of giving up my life. For the conviction that my life is a possession supposes there is a distinction between my actions, my life as led, and me. But there is no such distinction. We are what we do. This life is mine only in the sense that it is completely described by my actions. Otherwise it is a finite but unknown span of days and years. So it cannot be augmented or diminished in any way by anything after it. Insofar as it must remain just the whole of whatever span it proves to be, there can be nothing else like it, or after it.

My brother Bob wrote last night about my mother’s failing condition. I wrote the following for him to read her, in case I never see her again…

I send my thoughts to you mother, to tell you how your love and support have shaped my life and made possible what I’ve made of it. More than anything your curiosity and sense of adventure encouraged me and enabled me to devote my life to search, to study, and to teaching. Your dedication and graceful service have inspired generations now, but your sense of fun and joy in experience have been just as important to me. I cherish the memories of our travels together; as I cherish the good fortune in being your son. Goodbye, mother. I love you. John.

...jb

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

“I believe in life after death.”

The commentary does not seem to match the quotation. The quotation needed is: "I believe in the continuation of my 'I' after the cessation of my body's finite functioning, and this continuing 'I' will occur in a meta-earthly realm of some sort that is yet to be clearly defined or known."

As for life after death, that's for sure; I am still here, yet a lot of humans have already died, and everyday just in USA 5,480 cash in their chips.

Yet there does seem to be a link between memento mori and
memento vivere.

Ed

10:07 AM  
Blogger DR JOHN BAILIFF said...

Ed

Your use of "my body" reveals the same dualism you're trying to evade with the longer locution. However, "life after MY OWN death" is certainly clearer...jb

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey sweetness, you the man! hahahhee.
Some "rough" sea commentaries. One must tiptoe around when it comes to other peoples' favorite "teams" (e.g. USA, or Packers). Yes, my Canon SD900 10.0 megaPixels reveals way too much aging shock, I might go back to 1.0 pixels. Love your bogging, keep your shadows going!

11:41 AM  
Blogger DR JOHN BAILIFF said...

The last comment is the kind one puzzles over. What does it mean? What's it referring to? Treating "USA" as one of the "teams" people attach their passions to makes a clever point, though...jb

5:11 PM  

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