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Monday, November 09, 2009

All is vanity

I saw a video today of philosopher Simon Critchley, professor of philosophy at The New School for Social Research, talking about his bestseller, The Book of Dead Philosophers .... he mentions the intriguing (and sometimes funny) last moments and occasional last words of philosophers from Plato to Thomas Aquinas to Wittgenstein (see video of Critchley at the bottom of this post and the whole program at here).

The subject of that video reminded me of an interesting past homily by Fr. Rob Marsh SJ at All Things Seen and Unseen. Here is just the beginning of it .....


Sunday Week 18 Year C
- Fr. Rob Marsh SJ

“So I shall say to myself, ‘Self, you have so many good things stored up for so many years, so rest, eat, drink, be merry!’” Famous last words—but not my favourite ones! My favourite, famous last words come from General John Sedgwick during the Civil War: “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…”

There’s something that fascinates us about last gasp, dying breath, final testaments. Wouldn’t you like to go out in a blaze of wit? Oscar Wilde: “Either this wallpaper goes or I do.” Or even St. Laurence, martyred on the grill “Turn me over—I’m done on this side.” I like the innocent last words better though, the uncalculated revelations of what is important. Anna Pavlova, the ballerina, asking for her Swan costume, or Tallulah Bankhead calling out, “Codeine … Bourbon…”

Our readings today are playing with the notion of inheritance, of legacy, what you leave behind and who gets their filthy paws on it. For death is a funny thing—in one sense the most private of all life’s passages, the one you make alone and send back no messages, the final accounting that can only be made by you. But on the other hand it is where you are most public—handed over into memory, into legacy, inheritance …things. What do you want to be remembered for? …



Anonymous Paul Maurice Martin said...

I think I'd like to be remembered for not caring whether I was remembered if it wasn't a contradiction in terms...

11:33 AM  
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