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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Death cheated, once again

Arrived in NW City about 24 hours ago, after two extremely uneventful flights--no crying children, no turbulence, no drama of any kind. In fact, my second flight arrived 20 minutes early, of all unheard-of things.

Although I fly pretty regularly (about 7 or 8 round-trip jaunts a year), I'm always convinced that each one is going to be my last. Which isn't to say that I'm a nervous flier, because I'm not, and I rarely get stressed out either before or during flights; I just kinda figure that this time, probably, my number is up.

The upside of this fatalism is that before each trip I usually review what I've actually done with my life, and over the last couple of years I've been mostly content with what I've found. As a scholar I obviously haven't done much yet, but I do have two articles out or forthcoming, one of which I think is pretty significant, and the other of which is at least a useful starting point for a reevaluation of a particular writer. As a teacher I've had some impact on a few students. I hope I've been a decent friend--but in any event, my friendships have brought me some of the greatest pleasures in my life, and I'm happy so many of them have lasted for so long. I have a good, adult relationship with my parents and my brother, and a happy love relationship--none of which I'd want to see end here, but I also don't have any major regrets or a sense of unfinished business.

HK used to refer to herself as an "optimistic fatalist" (I think I have that right--she had a whole set of categories, including pessimistic optimist and optimistic pessimist). I don't remember what I called myself at the time, but that label would definitely fit me now, and I tend to think of this as a particularly "Catholic" perspective; you know, you hope for the best from people, and always believe that they're capable of it, but at the same time you figure that even the best-intentioned are often working at cross-purposes to their own desires and will sooner or later show themselves to be venal, petty, and disappointing (not that one necessarily loves them any the less for this; it's just how we are).

In everyday life I don't experience these feelings in religious terms, but it does seem to me that, philosophically, such a perspective fits well with a belief in both free will and in some kind of human "fallenness"--and this is perhaps part of why I'm still a practicing Catholic: taken as metaphor (which to some degree is how I take everything), the core beliefs feel profoundly true to me.

(Which is not to say that I have a good answer to what would happen to me if I were in fact to die in a fiery explosion; for that one, we're just going to have to wait and see.)

link | posted by La Lecturess at 3:28 PM |


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