Public Deaths

Death is one of the most universal of taboos. Not the rituals of grief, burial and mourning which are many, varied and almost always public in character. I mean the actual act of dying. This most mysterious of earthly transitions is done in private, even for the most well-known of persons, with a few family and close friends in attendance and maybe a man or woman of God around to ease the way.

Public deaths, on the other hand, serve a social purpose. For instance, public executions are meant to be cathartic events in which society extracts its pound of flesh, as it were. It supposedly serves as a deterrent to criminal or aberrant behavior and reflects the manner by which justice is served within a community. It’s also morbidly entertaining and can even be interactive, such as in the practice of stoning or the spectators’ participation in the gory events in the Roman Colosseum.

Other public deaths, such as the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, serve as a catalyst for social upheaval and change.

Suicide is a more complicated phenomenon in which no easy generalizations can be made. It can be done privately or in plain of view others, but even the most secretive act of taking one’s life assumes a public aspect upon the discovery of the body. The act itself is shocking under any circumstance, being so contrary to what we normally know and expect of human behavior. Thus, the ripple effects of a suicide extend beyond the immediate family or social circle of the victim to the society at large. I knowingly use the word “victim” as I believe those who kill themselves are casualties of one or another of life’s events which makes continued living unbearable. However, some suicides are more publicly significant that others. Continue reading “Public Deaths”

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Last Words of the Dying Christ

There are two (actually three, with John having Him say a matter-of-fact summation of his mission on earth: “It is Finished”) versions of what Jesus Christ said as he suffered and neared death on the cross at Golgotha. The first: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?

Mark and Matthew attribute this to the dying Christ. It has been interpreted through the centuries as a cry of utter despair and fading hope.

Luke, perhaps finding such words repugnant as it suggests a slide into black doubt, says that Christ’s words were actually: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” Modern believers are more comfortable with Luke’s version, as His dying words are more in keeping with common doctrinal teachings that God will look after us and never leave us.

For all we know, He may have uttered both, they are not incompatible. Continue reading “Last Words of the Dying Christ”

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The Company We Keep

Butch Dalisay wrote a post a week or so ago about his not being a fan of the rampant social networking on the web. What a relief. I thought I was the only cranky old man around. And while I do have Facebook account, it was only at the insistent prodding of those near and dear to me. I hardly visit my Facebook page and I’m afraid I may come across as cold and distant to my many well-meaning friends who have poked me and keep sending me this and that invitation to join a cause. It seems I don’t respond well to being nudged, whether electronically or physically, and tend to keep my distance.

Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate what an amazing platform for connectivity Facebook and its ilk are. People I haven’t seen or heard from in decades are now my Facebook buddies. And I know why it’s such a hit for us Pinoys. It’s rooted deep in our national psyche, the need to be part of a community and to interact constantly. Continue reading “The Company We Keep”

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