Monday, February 11, 2019

Two Questions

It seems I've been working at this "philosophy" thing for quite a long time now.  I've certainly learned a lot of things from my reading and thinking; some of it quite good and edifying, some of it utter rubbish on which I wish I had not wasted time.

I recently had an epiphany of sorts-- that all of what I have read and thought actually boils down to two questions.  Indeed, all of humanity's philosophical efforts really do come down to two questions.  As I further ponder it, I realize this may not be an original thought; but it seems to be original to me.  At least inasmuch as the way it came into my mind.

In any case, the two questions?

1.  "Am I going to die?"

2.  "How should I live?"

If the answer to #1 is "No," then the answer to the second question is "However you like."  But if the answer is "Yes"... then we are forced to consider all the other things that will matter.  

I think this applies even to those who think there is no afterlife.  For them, it would (should) come down to living the best life possible.  So, even though I write this from a universal Christian (Catholic) viewpoint, there is truth in it for anyone and everyone.

For me, the answers to these BIG questions are very simple, but not very shallow.  So, answering the first question:

Memento mori.  

Translation: Remember that you must die.  

Yep.  Do that.  The more you remind yourself that this world is quite temporary, the better prepared you can be for what comes next, and the more you will concentrate on living in THIS moment.

                           "He who lives in the present lives in eternity."  --Ludwig Wittgenstein

As you know, time flies... and if we are not anchored in a good and proper "now," we will be swept off to the end of our lives by time's ruthless maelstrom without having lived the way we ought to have.

(Here are two previous pieces on the time thing you may find interesting, if you are of a mind:  Transitoria and Now. )

It turns out people have practiced the concept of memento mori for a long, long time.

Vita brevis breviter in brevi finietur,
Mors venit velociter quae neminem veretur,
Omnia mors perimit et nulli miseretur.
Ad mortem festinamus peccare desistamus.

Life is short, and shortly it will end;
Death comes quickly and respects no one,
Death destroys everything and takes pity on no one.
To death we are hastening, let us refrain from sinning.

Ni conversus fueris et sicut puer factus
Et vitam mutaveris in meliores actus,
Intrare non poteris regnum Dei beatus.
Ad mortem festinamus peccare desistamus.

If you do not turn back and become like a child,
And change your life for the better,
You will not be able to enter, blessed, the Kingdom of God.
To death we are hastening, let us refrain from sinning.

-Medieval song: Ad Mortem Festinamus (To Death we Hurry) 1399

When I do this... when I remind myself that I must die, it often feels like I've touched a hot burner; and I recoil away from the thought, even as I take stock in my physical self.  I stretch my arms, feeling the sinews and muscles flex and pull.  I take a deep breath, feeling the air come into and exit out of my lungs.  I look in the mirror, seeing the lines on my face and the skin slowly but surely wrinkling and sagging from time's inexorable influence.  It makes me want to avoid the thing altogether.

I know I am not unique in this regard... yet, somehow it just doesn't always make it easier knowing people have done it forever.  The truth is, it just plain stinks to memento mori... it really does.  Which is precisely why we must move on to the second question.  

So, answering that second question-- how should I live?  Just like this:

"Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

So, here's how it works: love God, love everyone else (yes, including those who hate and hurt you), love yourself.  Easy, right?  Hell, no... it is the farthest thing from easy.

No matter how much we know
No matter how much we have 
No matter how much we pray
No matter how much we suffer
No matter how much we rejoice
No matter how much we trust 
No matter how much we give

When we meet God, He will ask us how much love we put into those things.

-Father Goyo

So... I must live as a dying man.  A dying man who loves everyone he encounters.  A dying man who puts into every act as much love as he can.  A dying man who pushes away all the worldly things he likes and wants.  A dying man who places the welfare of others above his own. A dying man who forgives each and every bad and hurtful thing foisted upon him by others.

"Be of good cheer about death, and know this truth; that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death." --Socrates

Easy for him to say.  C'est impossible!  I cannot do this. 

Rather... I cannot do this... alone.  Matthew 19:26 shows me I don't have to try it alone.  Indeed, I shouldn't even bother trying it alone.  Philippians 4:13 (which happens to be my personalized license plate) further reinforces the truth.  

The Bible is brimming with inspired exhortations to trust God and to love others in His way.  So... easy fix, right?  Just walk with God and let Him guide my life; all the while loving everyone I encounter as would our Lord.  Everyone can do it and then we'll all be good to go, walking happily through that narrow way when our time comes.

Well... no.  We quite often have a very hard time doing what is best for us; even to the point of being drawn to the very opposite of what is best for us.  Alas, we are burdened with concupiscence and the sensitive appetite; we love the world and we love matter.  Enjoying matter is not a bad thing in itself (almost nothing is), but because we are in the world, we soon come to think (and behave as if) we are of the world.  

But we are not of the world-- unless we choose to be.  I can think of many times when I felt free of the worldly bondage... but I slipped back into it each time.  The solution, I think, is really fairly simple-- just as St Francis de Sales says of prayer: gently pull yourself back to your resolve when you drift from it. 

am going to die and so I must live to love.  There is no other way to answer the questions.

“Most people love this present life, while they ought to hold it cheap, for death is near- and why should we worship the light of this brief life?”  —St Augustine 

I strongly suggest as much lectio divina (holy reading) as you possibly can do.  Even small sessions throughout the day will help you gently pull yourself back to the correct center.  

Our Lord tells us many times how we should trust Him (Matthew chapter 6 is a VERY good lesson).  The Gospel really and truly is "Good News."  He also tells us through His servants how we should love.  In one of my very favorite passages, St Paul explains what Love in action looks like:

   Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

   Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

   Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:

   “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

   Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

-Romans 12: 9-21

Is there a better roadmap for living than this?

Please remember that we will all, every single one of us, "get through" this life... one way or another.  I'm trying very hard to choose the right way of doing it, and I wish that for everyone else on this planet.

Good luck and God bless all of you fellow pilgrims!  


Friday, December 07, 2018


If we forget them, we lose the connection to THE greatest generation.  This day launched our nation, into a horror beyond imagining... and set the stage for the future of the world and American dominance.  We paid a very, very heavy price...

Please do not ever forget.

God bless all who fell and all who survived.  I won't forget them.


Saturday, November 10, 2018


On this date in 1775, Captain Samuel Nicholas went into a bar (Tun Tavern) in Philadelphia.  He began signing up a bunch of young scrappers for a brand new "club." 

Since that day, Marines have done their thing like no other fighting force the world has ever seen.  Ever.

So many have given the last, full measure of devotion to God, Country, and Corps.  We remember all of them... and their fierce sacrifice.  We will be always faithful to the spirit that drives our Corps.

To all my brothers and sisters - past, present, future- I say:


Now... watch this!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Another Anniversary

Here we are again... September arrives and we get to relive this incomprehensible horror.

There really are no words to add.  Just say your prayers for the victims and their families... just keep in your mind and heart that we remain at war with demonic savages who will kill and destroy everyone and everything we hold dear and sacred.

Most of all...

Never.  Ever.  Forget.


Please watch this video:

God bless America - and may evil men and their evil creeds be kept from harming any more innocent people.


Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Summer Cuteness Overload Exposition

Sunday, May 13, 2018

2018 River Fest

What a day...

(Click for larger view.)

Oh... and there was a pirate and some large birds....

For the record, the pirate was also rather large.

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