“And I know
if he’s here tonight, somewhere looking in on us, he would smile and be so
proud that this artist is performing this song. To George who we love and will
always miss, this is for you . . .”  James Corden, introducing a tribute to George
Michael performed by Adele on the 2017 Grammy Awards.

It used to
be rare, but there are a significant number of people in North America who live
without religion, faith, or a sense of the divine. This segment of our
population sometimes expresses their opinion by saying that before they were
born, they were nothing and after they die they will be nothing again. In their
view, life is like a light bulb: we are on and then we are off.
Some of
these same people will make other statements and express other ideas and
emotions when faced with the death of someone they loved or highly respected. They
will say something like what James Corden said Sunday night or they will find
themselves agreeing with Corden’s thoughts shared about the one who is no longer
with us. They will speak of the one they miss and say that they “just might be
watching from above”; or that they are “among us tonight”; or that they are “in
a much better place”; or that they are “at peace now”; or that they are now “doing
what they loved the most.” The person saying or agreeing with such things may
blame their inability to shake old notions; they may say that it is just their old
Catholic upbringing coming through; or they may blame it on their parents’ indoctrination
about what happens when a person dies.
understand that none of us is completely consistent in our expressed views, or
in our understanding of the mystery of life. I want to encourage all of us to
sort through our emotions and intellectual thoughts as we seek to comprehend
life. For most of us, this will take a lifetime of thinking, imagining,
reading, and studying. We need to encourage one another to look deep inside and
see the variety of conflicting thoughts and emotions that lie inside the minds
of each of us. We can seek to resolve them.
I encourage us to keep on searching for truth, hungering for righteousness,
and thirsting for the answers that make the most sense. This will mean reading
widely, paying attention to the ways in which humans have understood life in
the past, being honest with our tendency to create a system that works for “me”
in “my time,” rather than one that embraces others and is timeless. It will mean that we become adept
at sorting through a variety of philosophies, theologies, and ideologies to
understand why they came to be. It will mean giving a concept a fair shake
before putting it aside. In short, it will mean that we stay curious,
continuing to search for answers all through our lives.
England puts it well in her song, “Simple Machine.” In this song, she calls
upon her friend to return to the “searching kind” of person they once were and not be afraid
of what they might find. My prayer for us is that we might always be the
searching kind. If we search for truth, we will find truth, and the truth will set
us free.

Simple Machine(written by Kyler England)
(listen to the song here)

we never talk about the big things anymore,
it’s too hard
there’s a canyon between us that we can’t cross,
it’s too far 

whatever happened to you?
you used to be the searching kind
lately you turn and run
like you’re afraid of what you’ll find 

i know you believe
the heart is only a simple machine
and the love that’s running through our veins
is just a pulse of electricity
and you’ve given up on finding meaning
in this great big mystery
but baby don’t give up,
baby don’t you give up on me

you say we’re like a light switch
we’re on and then we’re off
and this is all there is
we’re here and then we’re gone,
then we’re gone
we’re here and then we’re gone
how can you believe 

the heart is only a simple machine
and the love that’s running through our veins
is just a pulse of electricity
don’t you give up on finding meaning
in this great big mystery
and baby don’t give up,
baby don’t you give up on me 

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