Among the most frequently recited cliches of our time is “its not about the destination, its about the journey”. While it may be true that when you are on vacation, it is good sometimes to have an open-ended trip and simply enjoy going and seeing what turns up, as advice for a whole life’s journey this can only be called ‘arsenic laced chicken soup for the soul’, that allows one to forget that: 1) choices and actions always have consequences; and 2) that life is in fact teliological it has both an end and some ends, which one ignores at their peril; and 3) that while it is a good thing to enjoy the good parts of the journey of life, I doubt we want our spiritual advisor to be Macbeth, who once famously said:
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
I once played Macbeth in a Shakespearan production and had to memorize these lines. They are almost as depressing and unheplful as ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S. Eliot (I’ll let you look that one up) or Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light”.
I was listening to Graham Nash’s new song entitled ‘This Path Tonight’– in which he says, I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on this path tonight. But in fact he does know where he’s heading. He says so in his other new song ‘Encore’. He’s heading in the direction of the grim reaper, and he knows it. And frankly the Christian answer to death’s NEIN, is not ‘have fun while traveling’, or ‘have more joy in the journey even though you have no clue where you are going’. No the Christian answer involves telling us there is a purpose to life, and it is going somewhere— the Kingdom of God.
We are now in the season of Eastertide, where we remind ourselves that God’s yes to life is louder than death’s no, and in fact in the resurrection of Jesus we see the nullification of the ravages of death. This is not a matter of being in denial about death, it is life after death that we are talking about. Indeed, one can’t talk about resurrection if there has not first been a death. So, the Christian must be very concerned with the question— ‘where am I going’, by which is meant ‘am I heading in the direction of everlasting life or everlasting death’, ‘am I heading in the direction of heaven or of hell’, am I heading in the direction of resurrection or outer darkness, which is what Macbeth was talking about.Yes Virginia, there is a destination that we need to be heading for and our decisions and choices in this life will have much to do with whether or not we get there. We would be wise to listen to a very different resident of the British Isles, namely John Donne who said the following—-
Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before….
We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ’s cross, and Adam’s tree, stood in one place;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.
So, in his purple wrapp’d, receive me, Lord;
By these his thorns, give me his other crown;
And as to others’ souls I preach’d thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:
“Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down.”
As it turns out there is truth to that line in this post’s title, a line from a song by George Harrison from his last album which came out in 2002, and was in fact released after he succumbed to an early death. It was finished by his son Dhani and Jeff Lynne. It is a sad album entitled ‘Brainwashed’ critiquing Catholic forms of Christianity and promoting the worship of Indian deities such as the brutal Shiva. As it turns out there is something worse than embracing nihilism or an ‘eat drink and be merry’ or even a ‘joy in the journey’ approach to life. It involves embracing the darkness, and calling evil good, and good evil. But none of those paths end in joy or bliss. If you want to end up at the right destination, then you need to know the way, by which I mean THE WAY, who also happens to be the truth and the life. In an age of truth decay like ours, it is of paramount importance to know where you are going and how to get there from here. I would advise consulting the road map to Oz, also known as the Bible.