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An Excerpt from Death and Beyond by Andrew Greeley

Andrew Greeley gives us many reasons to hope in this book on death and beyond. Here is one of his passages about this spiritual practice.

"The hopeful person, then, is one who survives because he believes in survival; he lives because he believes in life; and he celebrates because he believes he has something worth celebrating. He can afford to be more tolerant of others because others are less likely to threaten him. Diversity is not a challenge to his individuality or his freedom because he knows that nothing can really destroy that which is most uniquely and essentially himself. He is perhaps not any less afraid of death; we are all afraid of death. But he is not paralyzed by that fear, he will give up and quit, anticipating death by dying psychologically and humanly long before he dies physically. The hopeful person dies only once. He lives strongly and vitally up to the point of death.

"Hopefulness does not preclude discouragement, disillusion, frustration; it does preclude bitterness and cynicism. Hopefulness does not mean that we do not fall; but it does mean we get up and walk on. Hopefulness says with T.S. Eliot, 'Disillusion if persisted in is the ultimate illusion.' Life is not a bowl of cherries, it is not a picnic, or even a parade; it is, quite literally, a deadly serious business. It is so serious that a Christian, obsessed as he is by hope, has no choice but to laugh about it. He says with Gregory Baum that 'tomorrow will be different, even if tomorrow is the day after the last day of our lives.' It may well rain on today's parade, but let's see about tomorrow.

"And this expectation for what tomorrow may bring is the final, most special, most distinctive aspect of the Christian 'life before death.' The Christian is curious, he wonders about tomorrow, he is intrigued by its possibilities and fundamentally unafraid of its terrors. John Shea has written that the best way a Christian can prepare for death is to develop a healthy capacity for surprise. It seems to me that that is the best description of the Christian life I have ever read. We are engaged in the business of developing our capacity for surprise. No matter how worn or weary or battered or frustrated or tired we may be, we still have an ability to wonder; we are still open, curious, expectant, waiting to be surprised. What will be around that next corner? Who lurks behind that bush? What is that Cheshire cat smile that just vanished in the leaves of yonder tree? Who is that knocking at the door? Who is messing around the garden? Who is trying to peek in through the latticework? Who is that making all the noise, leaping and bounding around over there in the hills? What's going on here? Is there some kind of conspiracy, some kind of plot? Who is the Plotter? There is something mysterious about this house. There's a Ghost in it, and he just went down the corridor. What the hell is going to happen next?

"Ultimately, then, the universe is either an empty machine held together by some clever but essential brute force, or it is a haunted house spooked by playful ghosts. In the machine there is no wonder of mystery; in the haunted house there are a thousand puzzles, lots of tricks, and a surprise a minute. The best ghost stories are always comedies, so there is also a laugh a minute. Like Thomas Moore, we may even die laughing.

"So the Christian goes to bed at night not afraid that he will wake up tomorrow to find himself dead, but curious as to what crazy fool surprise lays in store for him when he wakes up in the sometimes frightening, sometimes absurd, sometimes even vicious but always fascinating haunted house of a world.

"Or, to sum up the whole Christian argument, how do we know that tomorrow will be different? Every other tomorrow we have known has been different. Why shouldn't the next one?

 



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