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I am afraid of dying, but I have hope



I am afraid of dying. I see this as a rational and logical position. At the same time I have spiritual hopes about the possibility of a survival of consciousness after 'death' and a deeply entrenched respect for the celebration of the remarkable event that suggested there is no call for fear.

March for our Lives image:
 Fibonacci Blue via FlickrAs ye who read this column at this time of year know, millions of Christians ritually celebrate that man whom they believe was literally the son of (a monotheist) God and 'of the same substance' as 'him' as well as having a human mother and somehow also being 'of the same substance' as another mystical 'person' known to me as a kid as 'the holy ghost' — who literally defeated the irretrievable annihilation of his body after he was tortured to death for challenging religious and political power-mongers.

Quite a story.

And yet. I am afraid of the dying of my personal world as well as of my own body. I am disgusted at the quality of my political leaders; at the grave crimes committed in my name against the most vulnerable of people who that one man said were entitled to his and our respect and compassion; against the survivors who are a living part of the oldest living culture in the entire planet.

I am deeply apprehensive — to the point of dreaming about Trump, alien invasions and earthquakes — about the probability of that man's particular personality flaws, narcissism , mendacity, self-aggrandisement, assertions of superiority and propensity for hissy fits, obliterating what I value. I am less horrified by cheating cricket captains.

I am well aware of qualities like clean air and water, cruelty-free farming, respect for the worth and dignity of every human life and for all forms of life, honesty, accountability and the separation of powers, and the norms of civil behaviour. I don't worship what I do not know.

I still remember how I felt as a child about the loss of trust I had in the mystical power of 'mum' and 'dad' because I came to see them as human beings, not the inhabitants of my need to trust in the goodwill of those who had the resources I needed and wanted to survive.


"It is not just individual courage that drives these young people, but the unique perspective that youth and lack of cynicism brings to public discourse. It is not fear of personal annihilation, but an assertion of faith in the value of a life worth living."


I realised that even living was not guaranteed. It was not so much the loss of a beloved grandmother as my ability to read. I still have the commonplace book I started to keep 65 years ago, of newspaper clippings and pictures, poetry and rumination that shadowed my golden mornings of the baby boomer years like a nuclear cloud.

After my father died I found that he had kept the same kinds of mementos and collections of cultural curiosities, essays and ballads. I even found, after I had made the full Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, that my Dad had actually used the term 'consolation' in his latter day autobiographical records to mean what I know it means, and meant to Ignatius too.

I still have hope. My commonplace book contained the kind of angsty poetry that teenagers think so deep. I was worried then about right and wrong and justice and the good life. I don't know why Trump, who's roughly my age, never did. But I know that even now young people have these concerns. As I watched the March for our Lives I recognised the genuine power of a faith that speaking for truth and justice can affect the horrible threats that carry us through that time.

It is not just individual courage that drives these young people, but the unique perspective that youth and lack of cynicism brings to public discourse. It is not fear of personal annihilation, but an assertion of faith in the value of a life worth living.

I can see now where a young person's need for order and fairness comes from: the individual's sensibility of the need to care for and ask for the compassion of other people. My first newspaper clipping in that commonplace book was about Dag Hammerskjold, then secretary of the United Nations, who died on a plane in the Belgian Congo, which I (quite rightly) feared was a deliberate assassination wrought into reality.

I was genuinely terrified by the Cuban missile crisis, and then the expected disasters of technological developments such as at the Hadron collider in 2008, and the Avian flu epidemic that swept the world, reminding many of the historical catastrophe of the World War I influenza epidemic that killed more people than stupidity, greed, whimsy and pig headedness had between 1914 and 1918 and beyond. Or the continuing world wars that it initiated through the treaty of versailles. How evil decisions affect generations.

In the 1960s, generational revolt against war and corruption seemed to have fizzled out, like a candle made of tallow, as that generation grew to be corrupted by the neoliberal economics and consumerism which communications technology has marketed so effectively.

But this generation is not willing to be 'the product'. These young people, like the students who have recently taken a leading role on Q&A on Monday night, want to challenge the 'good life' by discussions about what life is worth and how it should be lived, with a huge demand for faith in good, and should be. It has become what the good life ought to cost, and the proper balance between the role of money, moral decisions and ethical choices.

This Easter, and Orthodox Easter, and Passover, and at the changing of the seasons, I am prepared to reassert my faith. That whatever evil brings to us, compassion, courage and passionate commitment to the old values of honesty, accountability and care for others will bring the enormous change that was promised so long ago.



Moira RaynerMoira Rayner is a barrister and writer.

March for our Lives image: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

Topic tags: Moira Rayner, Easter, nuclear war, Donald Trump, gun control



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Existing comments

Thoughtful and touching, Moira. And in particular your reassertion of faith. We can too easily forget those fine values you articulated in the final paragraph. I remember as a youngster being passionately interested in the capital cities, rivers and mountains of South America. I would gaze at my threadbare atlas and memorise the strange (to me at that time) names. It didn't have to be a gloriously beautiful atlas for me to appreciate what I had, my interest made it beautiful.

Pam | 29 March 2018  

A poignant and beautiful exposition of the evolution of a human being towards adulthood, an evolution across a spectrum beginning with absolute innocence and purity, through the revelation of learning, the idealism of late teenage and early adulthood, all the while becoming wiser or sophisticated [adulterated] with experience, disappointment and harsh realities. The human Christ no doubt experienced the same evolution perhaps cut short during the phase of idealism and the rebellion that often accompanies it. Hope, it is said, is Death's Nemesis. I reckon you will be all right in the hereafter, Moira.

john frawley | 29 March 2018  

“I am deeply apprehensive — to the point of….I was genuinely terrified by….” Thanks for accepting the vulnerability of disclosure. The child is father/mother of the man/woman, the child’s joys and fears furnishing the adult’s program of thought and action. But Easter is also Matthew 6:34, where the worry is not about tomorrow but about seeking the Kingdom of God today so that all those tomorrow-things “about which the pagans worry” will occur as a logical consequence. To discern the substance of the Kingdom as it might exist here today is to peer into a mirror, darkly. We might posit that the loss of biodiversity (see Fatima Measham’s most recent article) cannot be according to the plan of an artist God who creates different things, but does the plan include all differences? Has Donald Trump contributed to the Kingdom by his policy on transgenderism in the US military? The premise of ecological theology is not to lose any ‘thing’ of what we have now. Is the premise of March for Our Lives, to lose guns, irrelevant to the Kingdom when Switzerland is evidence that you can keep guns and be safe? Whatever happened to the European Jew’s tomorrow of 1941?

Roy Chen Yee | 30 March 2018  


nick agocs | 30 March 2018  

Roy, you may have heard Jesus' plea to Our Father that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I'm sure there are no guns in heaven - and I wish Noah was around today to do something about our sinking planet.

AURELIUS | 01 April 2018  

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