Thinking Out Loud

November 14, 2016

Life’s Bookends

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:18 am

Two weeks ago we found ourselves spending an hour sitting in the living room of a Muslim couple enjoying coffee and biscuits. That’s a story for another day, but in the course of the conversation I mentioned that we had toured their local mosque as part of Toronto’s “Doors Open” days. This is an annual event where a variety of buildings not normally accessed by the general public throw open their facilities for tours.

ghusl-roomWhat I found unusual was that our tour guide decided to begin with mosque’s morgue. Let me explain. From what we could gather, Islamic funerals — at this mosque anyway — are handled from beginning to end from within the mosque. There are precise rituals for washing the body, and the funeral is carried out as quickly as possible. You can read more at Wikipedia, though it didn’t mention the facility issue, neither did this page.

I mentioned this to our host and he suggested something to the effect that if you can see that you are going to die (or if you reminded of your mortality) there are a number of immoral things (murder, violence, crime in general) you won’t do.


Of course, our life is bookended by our birth — which modern society captures in an avalanche of photographs — and our death. We live in the hyphen that will connect our birth and death dates in our memorial notice or on our tombstone. But the final date hasn’t happened yet. Only one of the bookends of our lives is present to us.

ghusl-room-2Does an increased consciousness of our mortality affect our morality? It would be interesting to see the data on that one. For example, what is the crime rate among people who work in mortuaries?  It’s probably too skewed a sample to produce meaningful data. What about palliative care? Does serving in that department tend to attract people who already have a spiritual bent?

An awareness of death is certainly a key element to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes. A philosophical treatise of that nature cannot help but awaken us to the frailty of life, the idea also found in Psalm 139 that our days are measured; our number of years is finite.

But our present society chooses to live as if death will never happen. We do everything we can to prolong life and avoid our demise at all costs.

Does that reflect itself in our moral condition?

The springboard for today’s thoughts were an article Lorne Anderson posted earlier today.

Images like the ones used today — which approximates well what we saw in Toronto that day — can be found in an image search for the term, Ghusl Room.

Starting the tour with this room is like starting a church plant with a one-year series on the book of Leviticus. (Rob Bell reference.) Not exactly seeker-friendly. Or is it?

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