Sunday, November 8, 2009

* Raising the Dead: Thanksgiving, 1963

President John F. Kennedy as matchbook cover

Samuel Pepys as paper doll

Somewhere in the 2 million word, 9 volume Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sam, the author of what has become the most famous autobiography of all time, writing around age 30,describes the funeral of his brother and then, back to the office a day later, exclaims, "Oh, Lord! How soon we forget the dead" (or words very similar to these).

Since November 22, 1963 (46 years ago) I have watched the most famous man in the world dwindle to little more than the name on a performing arts center or airport, or the face on a matchbook cover. All of the television-watching world was almost physically stricken with grief on the Thanksgiving weekend of his assassination, but now that event, and even his life and presidency, are barely resuscitate-able, even by the medium of documentary film.

Such is the necessary nature of human memory. We must push events and emotions further away lest we remain paralyzed in the ecstacy or anguish of their present.

The eulogizers intone from the pulpit at funerals, "We will never forget him (or her)" but this is a social lie we must tell each other in order not to feel barbaric at what we know will happen to our dearly departed: dilution----infinite dilution.

The answer to a trivia question informs me that at this very moment an atom from the last breath breathed by Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. is in this room or any room in the world since atoms disperse infinitely.

That is the only immortality one can expect on this planet.

Off this planet---who knows? Everything has been promised from an Emerald City in the Sky to an Eternal Furnace on the lowest level of a triple decker universe.

The ancient Greeks say immortality is "living on" in the memories of survivors. Look what 2000 years has done to Joshua ben Joseph (aka Jesus Christ)in the memory of survivors and followers.

There is a fleet of Jesuses put forth by Roman Catholic,Catholic,Orthodox Christian ,European Protestant and hundreds of American Protestant and evangelical Christian sects.

One of the great debates in New Testament scholarship is that represented by the latin phrase the ipsissima verba Jesu: the very words of Jesus.

Some scholars says those ipsissima verba Jesu number in the hundreds , even thousands, of words in the New Testament. Others say that at the most, only 31 words can be traced back to the mouth of the reputed messiah and even those 31 words were set down (written) no closer than forty years after his death. So much for preserving the memory of a god, let alone a human.

The very chemicals racing across synapses in my brain to produce this keyboarding will some day cease and becomes like Caesar's last breath: atoms infinitely dispersing into other atoms.

That is the most I can verify about post-mortem existence on this globe we call Earth.

All else is faith.