Monday, January 09, 2017

Cure For Death Announced

A provocative point: "In the ancient world, death is fungible" (Bailie).

Which means that in the modern world death is fungible, human nature being what it is.

"Fungible" means "of such nature as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable," "the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution." It is "the property of essences or goods which are capable of being substituted in place of one another."

Therefore, death is just like money, only worse. You can quite literally use it to purchase life, at least in theory. It doesn't actually work, but that has never stopped people from trying. How else to understand human sacrifice, which is again the "attempt to evade death by foisting it onto another"?

Bailie makes a subtle point about how death "entered the world" as a result of the fall. As discussed in a previous post, it is not biological death that resulted, but rather, something much worse -- a total destruction of personal being, such that human life becomes haunted by death. Let's call it Death as opposed to the mere biological cessation of death.

Theologian Adrian Walker (in Bailie) suggests that "had man not fallen, he would still have to undergo an earthly end, though he would have known it as a purely joyous transition to the eschatological state, without any stain of constraint, privation, or corruption."

I wonder. Recall what was said about prelapsarian "innocence" only being known retrospectively. If true, it equally implies that the idea of a "joyous transition" can only be posited retrospectively. Nevertheless, a powerful lesson is conveyed having to do with how we regard Death: as absolute end or as some kind of new beginning.

"[I]t is in the specifically human realm that we find a strategy for evading [D]eath that consists of redirecting it toward another."

Imagine we are in a death camp. Which of course we are. Every day we observe that Death will pluck some individuals out of the camp. Can Death be bribed? Can we toss someone else into its jaws in order to appease its appetite, even if only for one day?

Sure. The Aztec certainly thought so, and they are hardly alone. But again, there must be lingering traces of this pattern in the modern world, human nature being what it is. In short: whom shall we sacrifice today?

Much of the news of the day comes down not only to locating the victim, but creating the victim. For example, each time a black person is killed by a police officer, no matter how justified, the left turns the officer into a sacrificial victim. His life is effectively over. He must disappear into the underworld and live incognito.

Bailie suggests that Death doesn't so much follow from sin as vice versa: "because of [D]eath all men have sinned." It is precisely Death that "corrupts our nature" and prompts us to do the worst things to evade it, e.g., "turning death into a cure for [D]eath, eluding [D]eath by exploiting its mystique and becoming its unwitting accomplices..."

Clearly, there is no human cure for Death. If there is a cure, it can only come from God. Which is precisely what Christianity -- or Christ -- communicates: that "at the Resurrection, the 'power of [D]eath' was broken, but not the fact of death."

"Christ came to rob [D]eath of its sting, not primarily by providing us with consolations or promises of future happiness, but rather by drawing our suffering and [D]eath into his and thus assimilating our suffering and [D]eath into the redemptive economy in ways that we simply cannot fathom."

As you all know, I flunked out of business school, so I never fathomed economics anyway. But it seems that participation in the divine economy provides a way to avoid flunking out of isness school, AKA Life.

[T]he Resurrection relieves those on whom the Easter Sun has shone of the desperate project of trying to achieve in history what can be fulfilled only eschatologically -- a fool's errand that has turned the late-modern period into a crematoria like no other in history. --Bailie


mushroom said...

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:56-57)

I never really thought about death as the cause of sin, but I can kind of see how it works that way. Death is no longer the master.

julie said...

Therefore, death is just like money, only worse. You can quite literally use it to purchase life, at least in theory. It doesn't actually work, but that has never stopped people from trying.

In China, apparently, they have finally figured out that forcibly sterilizing all women after one child was maybe not so wise after all. For a select few, they are offering to remove the state-mandated IUDs and encouraging women to have a second child. Human lives there are almost literally like tokens to be exchanged for labor units at the will of the state. However, having embraced the idea that China's future depended on the annihilation of "excess" offspring, few women now are taking up the chance to have more. One of the rummy things about death - they promise it can be used to buy life, but mostly it just buys more and more death.

julie said...

Re. Death as the cause of sin, it does make sense. As though the seed, anticipating that its hull would one day split and it would literally become one with the earth in which it lay - and thus no longer be a seed - did everything it could to prolong its un-unified state for as long as possible.

neal said...

Well, the lie is not that one will not die. It is that sometimes buying into that would make one want to.

And so it goes. I might have gone another way. Perchance to dream.

Not that there is anything completely wrong with that.

To be a Man and not have proof can be a hell of a thing. People talk.