I was at a memorial service the other day for a very great and kind man who died unexpectedly while fully and deeply engaged in life.
I was reminded of this 5th century fresco I have seen several times at the Benedictine monastery of Sacro Speco (Sacred Cave) in Subiaco, Italy. This ancient painting shows death on horseback, stomping on people of all ages and brandishing a sword against those alive.
What shocked me when I first saw that fresco and what shocked me again upon learning of this death and so many others is that life (unlike light bulbs) does not come with a guaranteed life span. All we can do is live the all the days of our years deeply and abundantly.
Joe certainly did.
Here is an excerpt from an introduction he co-authored with his wife in a volume about the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.
“Our human world is a world shaped by symbols, by images. We are bound to select from and simplify the infinite complexity of what we perceive. Somehow we must choose and act, must decide what to value and strive for, what to fear and guard against. For what can be quantified, we may have recourse to computers and their algorithms to enable us to select, simplify and act. For what is humanly meaningful, individually and collectively, for what is imbued with feeling and integral to who and what we know or imagine ourselves to be, we resort to more open, multivalent and suggestive symbolism, to images.”
Joe was a stirring example to all who knew him — modest, curious, warm, and always able to see the spirit of things, not only the letter. It is my humble hope that Classical Pursuits gives inquiring adults convivial access to the world of symbols and images from whence we derive meaning.