:::this is the way the world ends:::

Category: Obituary

“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all…”

She was defiantly independent, unbelievably loyal, tender with our kids, and territorial. She was living proof that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, as she got smarter and smarter the longer she lived, learning to communicate what she wanted more and more efficiently. She hated getting wet. She protected Eliot and Sara from a raging pitbull, and I slept sitting up with her when she couldn’t lie down from the pain of the injuries she had sustained in the fight. When I came home from the vet after learning that she had advanced lymphoma, my family was gone and she licked the tears from my face. The night before last, she couldn’t climb the stairs to go out at night to go to the bathroom, and I carried her up. Later that night, I found she had climbed the stairs to my bedroom to be beside me during a storm. She was a fighter and stubborn, and one of my best friends. Dogs are a marvel. And I miss her very much.


Agnes September 1999 – July 2011

Agnes 003

John Updike 1933 – 2009

I probably not the one who should post this, but John Updike is dead. I mostly read essays and reviews by him, but he had some great things to say about faith and belief. I always seemed to take his criticism with a lot of weight too. New York Times has an article, here.

Andrew Wyeth dies at 91.

Though never as much of an influence on me as his father, Andrew Wyeth’s death does seem a bit like the passing of an era. The NY Times has a good look back.


Alexander Solzhenitsyn died last week passing quietly with less recognition in the news than Paris Hilton’s campaign ad. Having read two of his works, Day in the Life of…, The First Circle, as well as some essays, in particular A World Split Apart, which was an address given at Harvard, it is my opinion he is one of the wisest and most prophetic voices of the last and current century.

Having fallen from being a “fire-breathing Communist” he turned to belief in a Capitalist society, but later turned to God believing Capitalism too had its flaws. In his Harvard address, he criticized what he said Americans promoted as “family morality” saying that, “The family is an ethical dead end.” What he meant by this is what I believe Jesus meant when he said, “What reward should you get for loving those who love you? Do not even the tax collectors and pagans do this?” and what Robert Wright intends to draw our attention to when he quotes Graham Greene’s whiskey priest in the Power and the Glory at the beginning of the Moral Animal, ” ‘This was the love he should have felt for every soul in the world: all the fear and the wish to save concentrated unjustly on one child. He began to weep; it was as if he had to watch her from the shore drown slowly because he had forgotten how to swim. He thought: this is what I should feel all the time for everyone…’ ” or what Darwin means when he says: “As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.”

And though I do not agree with all of his sentiments, especially on Vietnam, Solzhenitsyn also addressed, in his Harvard speach entitled “A World Split Apart”, what he referred to as the west’s “persisting blindness of superiority” and their “incomprehension of the essence of other worlds”. This address given in 1978 could not be more prophetic in a post 9/11 world. He states that haste and superficiality are the psychological diseases of modern western man. Is this not prophetic too?

He goes on to say this, “We cannot avoid reassessing the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities should be ruled by material expansion above all else? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual life?” Harvard attendees took his remarks as an attack on the western way of life, but that cannot change what Solzhenitsyn summed up in his most famous comment made at his Nobel address. “One word shall fell the world…truth.” He had encouraged Russians to speak the truth about Stalin Russia and he continued to speak the truth as he saw it until he died. Apparently the Harvard critics in the crowd were not comfortable with their own motto, “veritas”.

This is also a segment directly quoted:
If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President’s performance be reduced to the question how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.

And he ends with this:
If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but — upward.

Madeleine L’Engle 1918-2007

Madeleine L’Engle, author of more than sixty books ranging from religion and philosophy to the beloved “Wrinkle in Time” series, died last week. She was an artist in residency at St. John the Divine while Sara and I were in NY. It may be encouraging to note that “A Wrinkle in Time”, which has sold millions of copies, was rejected by 26 publishers before FSG took it on saying that she shouldn’t expect it to do well. Here’s the link to the Times article where you can read for yourself. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/08/books/07cnd-lengle.html?em&ex=1189483200&en=6085d935d8c5c173&ei=5087%0A

Another passing

I attended the funeral service yesterday for Bob Hapgood, Sr.  He was of course a neighbor of mine and the father to Tony and Bobby, childhood friends.

His death was sudden and unexpected, but the result ultimately of a food habit. Bob had heart surgery several years ago and had a recent heart attack. As his wife, Jeanne, said, “he went in for the surgery and never came home from the hospital.”

I admit it was a tougher loss than I thought it might be, to see the effects on the kids, my friends, eyes welling, but holding back the floods, bravely soldiering on. Bob was a local celebrity and apparently everyone’s friend; what seemed like the entire town reportedly showed for the viewing of the body the night before.  The wait was over two hours for the entire two hours the viewing was open. I saw the Shotts’ at the funeral service, which was a pleasant surprise.

I have been doing a lot of reflection as we are prone to do in these instances. Bob was 65 — just a couple of years older than my father. The boys are a year older and a year younger than myself. I wonder if I am putting enough into living for the moment, and putting enough of myself into all of the important relationships in my life.

I have also been thinking about the lyrics of the song on Deathcab’s CD, “What Sara Said” and what a powerful piece that is.

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