Next Year Stones II

Kuma and Kafka, awaiting the throw,
July, 2012
Photograph by Neil Remington Abramson

A year ago, in Next Year Stones, Neil Remington Abramson started a small Christian-Muslim debate on such a pedestrian topic as the meaning of life. Is it the legacy you leave, or is it how you have prepared yourself for the hereafter? For some, neither question need be answered; just throw me away, and make sure there’s no commemoration, no eulogy, no nothing. It’s almost like life is nothing, no hereafter or otherwise.

One of the Muslim comments from the earlier piece is extracted as follows:

For most westerners, I’ve often found, of prime importance is the amount of pleasure one has been able to achieve in a lifetime. That seems to be key to the sense of satisfaction.

For others it’s all about having “made a difference”, usually to all that is external to one. I used to think like this second group, until I realized the error in that calculation.

…After some thought and disillusioned deliberations, it finally struck me how wrong that thinking is. How can one expect to “make a difference” in a universe destined to die in a relative blink of an eye? What can a mere mortal possibly achieve on a planet that will turn to vapor tomorrow?

…The only difference, the only lasting difference, is that which we make to ourselves, I finally realized.

…One then must be constantly vigilant and, by necessity, dissatisfied.

So the question then is not how self- satisfying was the ride, but whether the ride was to God’s satisfaction.

Neil recently commented further on this issue, as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

It’s another year, and Kuma and I are still coming to the beach to throw stones. I fear this may be his last summer, even as I seemed to fear last year. He still has two bum rear legs, but he hobbles along with such resolve and heart. My bum legs have both healed and I am restored (praise God), though both legs are still suspect.

I throw the stones, and Kuma is the inspector who checks where they splashed. I also throw for Kafka, who is only going on 4 and still able to chase the sticks and stones. I remember vividly when Kuma was Kafka’s age, and so capable. Time flies, Kafka will become like Kuma, but hopefully not for 10 years (God willing) and I no doubt following the same path, not much behind.

Reading Ahmed’s comment again, I wonder what God hopes from us. I doubt He is counting up the referred journal articles I succeed in publishing, or evaluating my journal quality or impact scores, or numbers of citations. If God is love, it might be more worthy that I love my Kuma, and Kafka, and they love me. And we try to do our best for each other, and for the others who pass our way.

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2 Responses to Next Year Stones II

  1. On July 29, 2012, Lorne commented as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    What this captures is perhaps the fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam (Aside from the question: Who is Jesus Christ?).

    Ahmed, as a Muslim, fails to see how an individual can, or should, make a difference. Neil’s God is love personified – a God who reaches out to others, who sent his Son to bridge the gap between God and humanity, and who encourages those who love Him to emulate His love. To quote Puddleglum in The Silver Chair: “I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can, even if there is no Narnia.” Ahmed can choose to live in the Underworld of The Silver Chair, if he so desires, but he doesn’t understand what he’s missing. Thank God there is a Narnia.

  2. On July 31, 2012, Neil Remington Abramson commented as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    I like Lorne’s comment. I think he is pointing out something that may be fundamentally different about Islam vs Christianity: a fundamental focus on judgment and justice, versus love and mercy.

    I don’t disagree with Ahmed about Westerners being motivated by pleasure, but as far as I can see, that applies to Muslims as well. Most people are more self-interested than willing to sacrifice self-interest, out of their ethical duty.

    Kant was probably right. A few people are genuinely willing to sacrifice for ethics out of duty. He called them “good”. Most people were self interested and sometimes they sacrificed and sometimes they took advantage. He said that was most of us. A few people try to take advantage of people’s willingness to do good. He called them “evil”. Personally, I think you are more likely to be good, if you are willing to put aside self-interest out of love & mercy, than if you are trying to make sure others get the justice they deserve. But there are lots of Christians, and agnostics and atheists in this latter group, as well as the Islamic jihadists, as commonly portrayed in the media.

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