An artist, explaining her work at an opening, spoke of a biologist whose important research informs her imagery. I was moved by how she described her loss when her scientist friend died; she paused and simply said “. . . so much knowledge. . .gone”. Her sadness wafted into the room, while her work hung behind her carrying the synopsis.
For me, this was a moment of seeing.
This week we learned that another man, with a trove of skill in his head is now also gone. The loss is incalculable. Our friend had unusual gifts in ancient languages and was investing his passion training others in Asia. A motorcycle accident, seeming so random, snuffed out his life. “so much knowledge, so much to give . . .gone.” No one can repeat what this man did. His students will take up what little they caught and try. A few may carry the synopsis.
For me, this is a moment where I am blind again.
How does one measure a life, any life?
This depth of value is so much more than simple breath, or years lived. I remember when I held the lifeless body of an hours-old child. We were pierced through with grief. This little girl had no time to realize embedded skills and passion. We were robbed of her, the whole world was robbed of her, before she could even try.
Death is a cruel thief, snatching intrinsic value we hardly can speak of. This is why tears come. We cannot hold it in, something leaks out, this is too much for us. This pause at grief is where what is seen blinds us to anything beyond. We cannot settle well with what is unseen.
The Psalmist, carrying the same question, blurts several times, “What is man, that you (God) are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8) The writer is wrestling with wonder, at unseen value. “. . .that Thou dost take knowledge of him. . .that Thou dost care for him?” Important men, and unknown men have this value, tiny baby girls hold within them this inestimable value, even though each “is like a mere breath, his days like a passing shadow.” (Psalm 144).
image above: “Notes from the Miocene (turtle)” by Suzanne Stryk, 11″ x 8″, 2007. Used by permission of the artist. See more of her work here>http://www.suzannestryk.com