I’m not sure how philosophical most people are or the extent of their powers of self reflection, but sometimes my own tendencies to see the big picture in life tap in my insides like a drummer trying to tune his multiple instruments.
Today I went to a funeral. Tomorrow I am going to a Christening. Both of these events are held in churches from eastern Europe. The funeral was in a Ukrainian Catholic Church and tomorrow’s Christening will be in a Macedonian Orthodox Church. Both of these churches have uncanny symbolic and decorative similarities.
As I sat through the arduous liturgical funeral service, all one hour and fifteen minutes of it, I could feel the world spin. In twenty four hours I would be in a church celebrating life. Now I was honoring the life a dead person. The single constant: the church.
The in-betweens of living, the ones that stand between the bookends of these religious milestones, is life. The hard, glorious, monotonous, existence of our every day. Yet, we feel drawn to these buildings; bound by worship, fear, and awe.
It amazes me how we as humans need a spiritual connection to entities beyond the physical. This need is by no means revelatory to Christians, Muslims or Jews. Burial rites have existed for tens of thousands of years. I am sure there were rituals heralding the birth of children as well. Considering for woman, birth and death strolled hand in hand in the moments of childbirth.
We can’t escape them. Either birth or death. The human race has endured and spun around on this globe of blue and green for millennia. We keep reaching for understanding, for meaning, for something beyond the physical. Houses of worship have evolved to meet these needs piling up more and more rituals and explanations. But in essence, we need to feel like we belong to something beyond our physical limitations. Something, ethereal, splendid, eternal and ultimately so beautiful that it can redeem us from suffering.
It’s this need that often fascinates me in the midst of these milestones in these houses of worship. If the need is so powerful, so intimate, and has existed for generations then it must be real. There must be something beyond the veil of the fragile eye and flesh that speaks to us in a way that science has yet to measure. And it is in that veil, that maybe we can begin to unravel the great mystery of the human soul: somewhere between life and death.