Fairly brief Maui musings, for Laurel and I leave tomorrow to return home after our vacation here on the shores of Napili Bay. We haven’t experienced any grand spiritual visions while lying on the beach, boogie boarding, snorkeling, and shopping. However, it has been interesting to reflect upon the Pope’s passing from our more detached perspective here on Maui.
More detached, that is, in comparison to our habitual immersion in cable news, two daily newspapers, and talk radio. We have followed the Pope’s death and mourning period only via quick reads of the local newspaper’s front page and glances at CNN prior to heading to the beach.
What is jarring to us, immersed as we have been in the natural rhythms of sun, wind, waves, tides, is the strange spectacle of more than a million people lining up to gaze upon a dead body. And buying Pope mementos—trinkets. It’s like Woodstock without the music. Or the fun.
It’s all so unnatural. A man died. Yes, he was the Pope. But he was just a man, not God. God doesn’t die. Only men and women die. As Trey Smith noted on his The Rambling Taoist weblog, Christians supposedly believe in the immortality of the soul, and in the superiority of spirit over matter.
So what is the big deal with viewing the Pope’s body? Life and death are part of the natural order of things. Every day we have seen fishermen catching some of the sea life that we enjoy looking at through our snorkel masks. Bodies live, then they die. Pope bodies, fish bodies, all bodies.
There is something deeply disturbing about all the attention being given to the Pope’s death. Indeed, any death. I felt the same way when President Reagan died. Way too much is being made of the passing of a single person.
What this indicates, I believe, is how deeply unspiritual most people’s spirituality actually is. Few of us have come to terms with death, no matter how religiously devoted we claim to be. Further, few of us have come to terms with our own ego, no matter how humble we may claim to be.
So a fear of death and attachment to ego combine to create a perfect storm of overwrought mourning when someone special to us dies. For we too want to be special, and we don’t want death to interfere with our specialness. Thus we have these spectacles of countless mourners projecting onto the Pope their own hope for glory after death.
Does anyone really think that the Pope would have wanted all this fuss made over his dead body? If he did, then his own spirituality was a sham. If he didn’t, and was as humble as he seemed to be, than the Catholic faithful who streamed to Rome are being disrespectful of his wishes.
Either way, from our perch here in Maui, it seemingly would have been much more fitting to have a simple burial or cremation, marked by an equally simple headstone.
Religious people are far too attached to men just like them and much too little attached to god, who mystics of all creeds say is utterly unlike all that we know now. The Pope’s death has strengthened my conviction that most modern religion has become nothing more than outward show, lacking inward realization.