Saturday, December 20, 2003


A few posts below, in the one called "In the Blink of an Eye," I told of the depressingly bizarre incident in which Amber Farrell, a pretty young woman and mother of a six year old, was killed by a falling tree while out for her morning jog, and of my difficulty in fitting this into any concept of a just and well-ordered world or into the economy of salvation. How any 'good' might come of such an outrageously indifferent evil escaped me. In the comments box to the post, an unknown gal named 'Julie' inserted not a comment but a poem by Emily Dickinson. Now, it is not the artist's job to supply us with answers and explanations but, in the words of St. Flannery, to "deepen the mystery," a thing which I think Miss Dickinson has achieved here, and not for the first time, having mastered the art of hammering the mystery into the most concise of forms, like well-cut gems. At the least, I got something out of it - neither an answer nor a solution, but...something. Hope, perhaps. I've always liked Emily a lot, and I think I'd like Julie, too. Here's what she gave me:

I MEASURE every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled—
Some thousands—on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,—
Death is but one and comes but once,
And only nails the eyes.

There ’s grief of want, and grief of cold,—
A sort they call “despair”;
There ’s banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly, yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross,
Of those that stand alone,
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.


"Death...only nails the eyes."
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

Exactly, and much more so. Each of us is the product of a personal history that includes many such tragedies and evils. Extract the tragedies and evils from our personal histories and we wouldn't exist at all. If your father had failed to read of such an event in the paper one day and reach for his wife for comfort, you would not be here at all. These exact sorts of events - and many other evils - are written into the fabric of our being; our existence is utterly - even whimsically - contingent upon them. The so-called problem of natural evil is ultimately a wish for personal death; and your (and my) grandkids will owe their very existence to the death of young Mrs. Farrell, God rest her soul.
By Matt
Thank you both. That line got me too, Micki.
That these tragedies of apparently merciless indifference in fact unite us all in the economy of a (fallen) human history - eg., if Amber had not died little Susie might not have been born - is a thought I can work with, but that the " 'so-called' problem of natural evil is ultimately a wish for personal death" is one I will have to work on.
By William Luse
that the " 'so-called' problem of natural evil is ultimately a wish for personal death" is one I will have to work on.

I suppose it is easier for me, since there is a direct connection between a tragedy of this sort and the existence of my own beautiful children. If I were to ask God to retroactively eliminate natural evil from this world, I would be asking Him for their annihilation. It is only a small step to the realization that it would also be asking for my own annihilation; for is my own unlikely existence not radically dependent upon similar events? If the baby in the dumpster, upon achieving the Beatific Vision, is not precisely thankful for the natural evils without which he would not exist at all, then at least he will not claim that God was either not all-good or not all-powerful to allow them; not unless he insists that an all-powerful all-good God would utterly remove him -- and all of us really -- from existence.

May God bless the soul and family of Mrs. Farrell.
By Matt
A favor, Mr. Luse? Please post something, anything, before Christmas. I'm getting very depressed seeing "GRIEFS" every single time I visit your site. Thank you, M.
By smockmomma
Good thoughts, Matt, for which I thank you, and Micki, something's going up tonight. And that's likely to be it until January.
By William Luse

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