Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Grand Inquisitor "knew"

One of Christopher Hitchens's thematic quotes at the beginning of his God Is Not Great:
Peacefully they will die, peacefully they will expire in your name, and beyond the grave they will find only death. But we will keep the secret, and for their own happiness we will entice them with a heavenly and eternal reward. —The Grand Inquisitor to his "Savior" in The Brothers Karamazov
So many of my posts over recent weeks have had to do with religion, and perhaps specifically with the question of the afterlife. A dear nephew of mine supposes, perhaps completely rightly, that the motive of religious belief at all is the believer's hope of eternal life. And of course, to be fair, I have to ask whether I myself am a good deal more concerned about this than I think. I don't think that I'm concerned about it in the least. I don't fear to die (though I do fear to maunder in a nursing home or somewhere, among unfamiliar things and people, waiting for the moment; among Richard Feynman's last recorded words was the statement: "God, I'm never going to do this again—what a bore").

At times I've felt so jubilantly alive and "fulfilled," that I've felt (and said aloud) that I could die at that moment and have no regrets. At other times, I've been so looking forward to accomplishing something in "this terrestrial realm," that I almost desperately wanted not to die...yet. That's the state I'm in now, as my friend's book is at the printer, we're readying our web site to sell it, and we're waiting expectantly to see how it sells....

And the second of my sisters to die awaits her going this very weekend. She's not expected to survive it. I know (or, again, let's be fair: I think) that she believes she will survive death and live eternally in some sense, in some realm. Our sister who died a couple of years ago already knows for sure...or knows nothing whatsoever. And my sister who awaits death this weekend will soon know for sure...or know nothing. And those of us who haven't gone yet do not know yet...and may never know anything at all.


  1. Sorry to hear about your sister. If there is a life or something after this: may she fine peace and happyness there. If not may she slid into the long sleep without pain. My thoughts are with you, Morris; may your heart be lite.

  2. Thanks, Ed. I learned after writing that post that my sister had already died, actually, having for sure "slid into the long sleep without [much] pain [apparently]."