Death would seem to be an inevitable topic for a doctor and writer like Dalrymple, and he’s certainly written about it before, but I’m not sure he has ever addressed it with quite the poignancy of this new piece at Taki’s Magazine. We all get caught up in the daily minutiae of life and fail to appreciate the blessings we enjoy. Events like the one depicted here, the death of a young mother, remind us to be grateful, but realistically, how long can such gratitude last?
Yesterday a young woman who was unknown to me except at third hand died. She was the friend of a friend of my wife. Considering that I was personally unacquainted with her, and that there are about 1500 deaths a day in my country alone, her death affected me to a surprising degree…
This piece is highly recommended.
This is one of my favorite shorts by Dalrymple.
“…we are so constituted that a single instance of human tragedy moves us more than a whole catastrophe affecting hundreds, thousands, or millions. No doubt this is testimony to the smallness of our understanding.”
This is a great insight. When I think about it, I agree, but I also think this smallness is a protective mechanism – a kind of grace, if you will. If we were similarly moved by all instances of human tragedy, we’d be too overcome to do much of anything but grieve. But, that we can be moved at all, I think, is a good thing. If life had no real suffering that touched close to us from time to time, we’d be insufferable, wouldn’t we? A good dose of our own mortality puts us in our place.
“Man’s greatness comes from knowing he is wretched: a tree does not know it is wretched. Thus it is wretched to know one is wretched, but there is a greatness in knowing one is wretched.”
And, of course, Pascal concludes that it is only in the person of Jesus Christ that our wretchedness can be best made sense of and our greatness most effectively humbled.
“When I think about it, I agree, but I also think this smallness is a protective mechanism – a kind of grace, if you will. If we were similarly moved by all instances of human tragedy, we’d be too overcome to do much of anything but grieve.”
Well said, Rebekah. I agree.
I was afraid that sounded a bit callous. As if suffering can be useful in some way. It is not something I’d ever tell someone that is in the midst of suffering. There is wisdom in the biblical command to “weep with those that are weeping.”
It seems to me, at least from my Christian perspective, that there can be suffering that we might never know the reason for. From our perspective, it may always appear random. The solution to the logical problem of evil speaks of this. We shouldn’t necessarily look for reasons, either. We recoil from it, we mourn over it because it is not the way things were supposed to be. Death is never good. That is the part of man’s wretchedness that Pascal was speaking of.