Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"Whistling past the graveyard" -- literally

You'd think we didn't need a word from God about some things. Like this one: "Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent" (Proverbs 17:28).

Yet God evidently felt that the point merited repeated stress, as it is found again and again, in various wordings (cf. Proverbs 17:27a; Ecclesiastes 5:3; 1014). In exasperation, Job bursts out at his friends -- who thought they could read God's mind -- "Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!" (Job 5:3). I take it from this repetition that our species is prone to unfounded bloviations about important things.

Now, it is one thing to hazard what we call an educated guess. Weathermen do it every day; pundits do it every political season. Sometimes, to make for more interesting reading, they'll phrase their guesses as pronouncements -- and risk public humiliation when their shots go awry. (Hello, John Zogby?) But no one blames an expert for saying, "Based on my studies and experiences, I think that X is about to happen."

But what about when there are no "studies"? What if there is no "experience"?

Which brings me to Hunter Thompson.

Here's the man who put the phrase "gonzo journalism" into common coinage, a man remembered by friend and foe alike as a drunk and a druggie. He caps his career by capping himself -- while on the phone with his wife, no less.

And this brings us to the one statement that has snagged my brain. It is from the aforementioned wife, Anita Thompson (32), now a widow. If I am reading this right, a little drinking-party was held with Thompson's dead body sitting there in his chair.

The widow Thompson said this: "It was just like Hunter wanted. He was in control here." She also said, of the now-flower-filled house, "It's nice in here. He would like it. He does like it, I guess."

She guesses. And I guess he guessed, too, when he shot himself dead. But he's "in control," we're told.

Well, I guess not. In fact, from anything we know, "control" is the last thing that Thompson is currently "in." If the atheists are right, he's "in" nothing. He'll never produce a better work, he'll never become a better man, he'll never have a better impact on society. He's gone, forever. In pulling the trigger, he gave up control forever and in every respect.

And in that last thought, Jesus would agree, but in a very different context. If Jesus is right, Thompson's jerk on the trigger cancelled out his last opportunity to avail himself of the freely-offered grace of God in Christ. In that act of ultimate, final and irremediable "guessing," Thompson propelled himself into the judgment of God. And if every report I've ever read accurately reflects Thompson's core-beliefs and commitments, he then heard the pronouncement he failed to admit and deal with in life: "Guilty."

For my part, I believe there is compelling reason to go with Jesus' judgment in this. Beyond rational doubt, He claimed to be God incarnate; and, as a man, He actually became dead, and rose from the grave. Where we must either guess and speculate wildly (if we disregard Divine revelation), Jesus could speak both from authority and experience. He was not (as was the widow Thompson) just shooting off His mouth. And Jesus, on this basis, asked, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). His answer was that such a man gains an eternity suffering the wrath of God (Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:19-31).

"Control" would be the very last word I would choose to describe this state.

So what I'd ask is this: what are you doing for the next, oh, two million years? The safest answer is, "I'll be spending most of that time dead!" No doubt.

And what have you done to prepare for most of the rest of your existence? On what basis? On the muzzy sentimentality of our day? On wish-fulfillment? On Hollywood pipe-dreams? On guesswork based on thin air? Are you whistling past the graveyard?

Or are you just refusing to think about the one thing in your life that is an absolute certainty: the fact of our shared mortality?

Not smart.

The smart money is on Jesus.

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