Is death the gateway to life?
Every November we remember the dead; our relatives and friends who have gone to another dimension before us but whose legacy lives on with us and in us in their genes and their possessions and above all in the creations and achievements.
Non Omnis Moriar; I shall not altogether die. Yet, we all live in mortal terror of the day when our bodies cease to function and our spirit, if there is such a thing, will live on in some way that we cannot fathom or explain. We are not supposed to be terrified of death.
On the contrary, our faith dictates that our death marks the day of rebirth and to quote another Latin saying, proving the length of time we have believed in this, we say Mors Janua Vitae; death is the gateway to life. What sort of life we may expect however remains a total mystery; an enigma that has for millennia baffled the most profound thinkers and most enlightened minds.
There are however some vestiges that, in some way or another, the dead live among us. Several years ago, quite by accident, I visited what is known as a medium.
To my amazement, the unfinished business between my father, his brothers and I, questions that had been festering for decades after they had all died, were resolved and the experience actually changed my outlook and rekindled the love for my father that I thought I had lost at least two decades before.
Now there may be some of you who will disbelieve this. That is your prerogative. There may be some of you who will throw up your hands in horror however when I spoke to an enlightened priest about the subject I was told that the world is full of spirits and that in my case once the misunderstandings had been resolved and the infractions forgiven the spirits of my father and his brothers could rest in peace.
I was at first happy that all was well however what does resting in peace actually mean? If my father and his brothers were what one calls unquiet spirits waiting for an opportunity to communicate what was keeping them from eternal rest to me, what happened afterwards? Did they all succumb to the oblivion of sleep? Will the spirit dissolve into nothingness?
If so, do we have to wait for the apocalyptical trumpet blasts to awake from this hibernation? The spirit world is an unknown dimension and yes I understand that it is very dangerous to trifle with it for many reasons. I just happened to be lucky.
I recently attended a very interesting symposium organised by the University of Malta about our cemeteries, their architecture and symbolism. We are in fact surrounded by reminders of our mortality. Our churches alone, hitherto the repository of the bones of our ancestors, are living symbols of the afterlife for the simple reason that the Catholic faith, as do most religions, hinges belief to what happens after death. Etched in our brain is the iconic vision created by Michelangelo of the Last Judgement wherein the meekness and mildness of the Christ figure we know is replaced by a Herculean almost pagan nude figure of a powerful god that bears no resemblance at all to the Jesus that is depicted in Western iconography. Will the Last Judgement be so terrifying? Is this just Michelangelo’s vision, fuelled as it was with echoes of Savonarola’s agonised screams as he was burned alive for heresy?
The great fresco was painted at the time that Lutheranism in the dominions and electorates of the Holy Roman Empire was threatening the very existence of the Catholic Church while England, on a purely political pretext, had severed itself from Rome.
Does this wonderful fresco reflect on the End of Days as a time not too far off when to a visionary like Michelangelo it seemed as if the entire system was about to implode?
Many of us think the same today; so much so that we have had a bellyful of auguries, of portents and prophesies about the Parousia to come; the latest being the Mayan one which threatens to ruin my 56th birthday on the 21st of next month. What a bore!
I was watching a performance of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on Mezzo TV an after a lifetime of listening to the hammer strokes of destiny or whatever they like to call those initial percussive chords, one would think that there is nothing new to say by way of interpretation. However I was wrong as Seiji Ozawa and the Orchestra Nationale de Paris performed this work, which is by all accounts monumental but which musical snobs call hackneyed, in such a way as to defy the realities of tone and rhythm.
So emotionally exciting and technically tense was it that I was close to tears, something that happens to me all too easily the older I become.
Now you tell me; is it not more than possible that the shade of the great composer himself was lingering in that concert hall? Could Beethoven’s spirit be forever deaf in the true sense to the reverberations his creations have caused through the centuries? I find this thought especially poignant.
No creative process other than music is so profound and leaves such a lasting impression.
I am informed that the last memories in Alzheimer sufferers to linger to the very end are musical. I therefore find it impossible to believe that the spirit of the composer or artist is completely indifferent to what happens to his creations in earth once he is in a dimension where time and space are irrelevant. So has the poor, unattractive and syphilitic Schubert been redeemed and transfigured when Mitsuko Uchida plays his sonata op 960?
And does his spirit hover over me when I walk on the Sliema Front in the morning watching the dawn to his music? I wonder.