What is life without poetry? What is life without beauty? What is life without mysticism? What is life without God? Recently these questions have been swirling around my mind and heart more deeply than before. Being close to death changes you. How, I am not sure yet, but I know it has changed me.
I will still write about beauty; but sex, well, that just not seem as important now. At least for now. Perhaps that might change. But when your body is close to death, all of a sudden the pursuit of sexual pleasure seems somewhat trivial, futile, even absurd. Farewell, the pleasures of the flesh. When the flesh is about to die, those pleasures are the last thing on your mind.
So what is there to life beyond fleshly pleasures? Art transcends sexuality. Love transcends sexuality. Beauty transcends sexuality. I can still appreciate beauty, but it is from a more detached, almost distant perspective. It is the beauty of a blustery mountain top: forbidding, distant, fearful, terrible. How small and insignificant we all seem when confronted with our own mortality, when confronted with the expanse of the entire universe, and how we at any time may suddenly drift forever into that unknown expanse, dissolved and never to be known or seen again in this material world of ours. It humbles the soul. Our own weakness, our complete subjugation to the everlasting and eternal laws of nature, is a terrible thing.
Love and beauty have redemptive powers. Of course there is the great act of Christian redemption, and as we approach Christmas I am always reminded of how the story of the birth of Christ ends up: the cross. My quarrels with institutionalized forms of Christianity aside, these things still matter to me. After having nearly died two weeks ago, they mean even more to me now.
There is also the beauty of women. I still love a woman’s body. It is one of the most divine creations in the universe, for it is through a woman’s body that life, our lives and our world, are transmitted. The alluring beauty of it all remains a deep and delightful mystery to me.
So I still thirst after the beauty of life, after art and love and eroticism and God, albeit from a different perspective than before. Call it a desire for the poetry of our existence. It is out there, this inexhaustible source of delight and fascination and spiritual nourishment, this ultimately unknowable poetical mysticism of our tenuous and fragile world. What a pleasure it is to once again have the opportunity to explore this wonderful gift from God.