Saturday April 25, 2009
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4.
Less than a year ago, George Carlin, for some the ultimate comic, died. But in fact, Carlin was the ultimate cynic. The local newspaper printed the following letter I wrote as a result of a CBC feature about him.
George Carlin died at 71 after ridiculing his fellow human beings for half a century and generally trashing anything of significance in life. CBC’s The National reported that towards the end of his life, Carlin seemed to grow nihilistic and his contempt for just about everything ripened.
He declared: “I have absolutely no sympathy for human beings whatsoever, none!” and he earnestly hoped that human problems would get worse. With his death not far off, Carlin obsessed over mortality, and declared the afterlife did not exist.
What made Carlin so cynical? Certainly the foolishness and violence of humanity is enough to make us all despair of human nature at times, yet Carlin’s depth of scorn for human behaviour went much deeper. All he had to show for seventy years was a destructive and purposeless life and his attempts to dismiss any afterlife actively highlighted his fear of it.
Hopefully, our lives have at least some redeeming feature beyond Carlin’s meaningless one, but for all we may have accomplished there is still the nagging question: is this all there is? All of us have felt the pull of a reality beyond ourselves; even the atheist’s denial is a tacit recognition of its reality.
From the earliest recorded times, almost every culture searched beyond this life in some god or gods. Greek philosophy at its height recognized a divinity beyond human earthly existence, and even noted a spark of divinity lingering in humankind that recognized, and was pulled toward, that divine reality.
The anti-God culture we live in is an aberrant time in world history leaving us by ourselves to seek meaning in ambition or hedonism. By attempting to increase satisfaction by deeper involvement, even in constructive pursuits, we may instead find ourselves following Carlin down a path of decreasing satisfaction towards emptiness.
Yet George Carlin packed every performance. Perhaps those of us who went there were hoping his bellicose irreverence would help quell our fears of something beyond us. But his descent into pessimism and hatred is a reminder that there is no final meaning in this life alone, nor can we finally silence that small still voice within calling us to Himself.
Just today, the same paper printed a letter from Craig extolling George Carlin’s approach to life. Craig commented that he felt secure to meet his maker in George Carlin’s commandment that “thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself.” How distressing that all Craig sees in life is George Carlin’s despairing outlook.
Even worse, is to approach the “valley of the shadow of death” without any hope for the “rod and staff” of our creator to support us through. How foolish and tragic that an attitude of rebellious independence should reject all that our creator has for us in this life and the next. Is the life that George and his protégé Craig want really worth living?