On the fleeting nature of life

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It was the 8th century in what is today the United Kingdom…  Saint Bede sat as a guest in a dining hall talking important truths to a heathen audience when an unexpected bird came flying into the hall and then winged out into the night.

With vivid imagery from his time and place, Bede then painted a striking metaphor of life:

“It seems to me that the life of man on earth is like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your captains and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall. Outside, the storms of winter rain and snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one window of the hall and out through another. While he is inside, the bird is safe from the winter storms, but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. So man appears on earth for a little while – but of what went before this life, or what follows, we know nothing.”

I could never be as eloquent as Bede, but if I had to describe life in my own sloppy way with similar 2017 imagery. Since I am on a cruise, at dinner I would tell my fellow cruise mates the following, after crediting Bede for the concept:

“It seems to me that the life of man on earth is like the swift passage of a Norwegian Cruise Line guest through the giant water slide of this great ship –a metaphor for life itself– on which we sail with friends, family and strangers. In the midst there are literally tons of comforting food and entertainment. Outside, the storms of politics and reality are raging. You slide swiftly on an inflatable doughnut through the toboggan on the upper deck. While you are laughing your way through the ride you are happy and carefree, but after a few moments of joy, you vanish into the harsh world from whence you came. So man appears on earth for a little while – but what will follow when we dock, we know nothing”.

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