“A sentence is not finished till it has a full stop, and every life needs a dying to complete it. It is dying that finishes us, that ends our story. At the end of The English Patient, when Almásy carries Katherine Clifton into the desert, Michael Ondaatje captures something of the way death finally defines us:
‘We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography…’
When the map of our life is complete, and we die in the richness of our own history, some among the living will miss us for a while, but the earth will go on without us. Its day is longer than ours, though we now know that it too will die. Our brief finitude is but a beautiful spark in the vast darkness of space. So we should live the fleeting day with passion and, when the night comes, depart from it with grace.”
Richard Holloway. Looking in the Distance. The Human Search for Meaning (2004).
Richard Holloway describes himself as in a permanent state of expectant agnosticism. Scottish writer, broadcaster, and cleric, he was Bishop of Edinburgh from 1986 to 2000 and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church from 1992 to 2000.