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We keep living anyway

| Monday, November 16, 2015

Chances are we’ve all had moments that capture our attention to such a degree that we can’t stop focusing on them. For me, those moments usually come in the form of music. If I hear a song that grabs me, I’ll listen to it on repeat — sometimes hundreds of times over multiple days.

The first song that I can remember listening to extensively was Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.” The year was 2008 and I was a high school senior. The door to my room could not contain Chris Martin and the rousing, sweeping arrangements that accompanied his vocals.

Not much has changed in the years that have followed. I never know when there might be another song that might capture my attention and imagination. Now, if you were to walk down the halls of my office in Geddes Hall, you would be likely to hear “Wait for It,” a song from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new musical “Hamilton.”

Miranda wrote the show under the inspiration of a biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton. While the show shines a light into the depths and complexities of Hamilton’s life, its true genius lies in its ability to draw insights into universal values and timeless themes. Miranda’s show molds complex arrangements, rap and up-tempo beats into a not-so-subtle examination of the human condition.

In this particular song, rival Aaron Burr laments the adulation that has been directed toward Alexander Hamilton. Jealously in the face of Hamilton’s success causes Burr to revisit his own hurts. The song finds Burr turning toward big questions, searching for faint whispers of consolation in face of greater pain.

We discover this pain stems from a life filled with great loss. We discover that Burr has been an orphan from a young age, having lost his mother, father and paternal grandfather to smallpox.

Burr reflects on the lessons he’s learned from loss, proclaiming, “Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints. It takes and it takes and it takes, and we keep living anyway.”

These lines have taken on much greater meaning for me as I have found myself in a state of mourning these past days. Not only do I mourn with the Notre Dame students who grieve the loss of one of their own, but alongside the world community as well. Once again, we are left to sift through the residue of the great evil that has been left in the wake of the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris.

“Death … takes and it takes and it takes.” While the narrative of our lives often offers us innumerable joys, cases of unexplainable tragedy like these often give us pause and cause us to revaluate who we are and what we believe.

In my case, tragedies of inexplicable evil that “take and take” still render me speechless. One might think that after six years of theology studies, I might have some answer, some words that might get rid of the pain or the questions.

But I don’t. What follows in the wake of evil is scary precisely because defies explanations.

But death and evil, I’ve learned, never make sense, and this is the source of their power. They want to shake our foundations to such a degree that we lose our trust in one another and in God. If they cause us to see the world as fundamentally flawed, if we are consumed with constant eyes of suspicion toward others, there’s a good probability we turn in on ourselves, away from sources of light and truth.

Turn in too much and we risk losing the ability to live our lives in and for communion. We risk losing our ability to look out for one another, to reach out to support each other during those times of vulnerability, struggle and loss that will still plague the living. Death, evil and sin win if they leave us paralyzed and incapable of loving one another.

But God does not promise that evil will not exist in the world, only that it will never have the last say. Through his resurrection, Christ promises us that it is life, his life, which will have the last word.

And we must make sure that it does because “we keep living anyway.” Yes, those of us who are left to journey and tarry in the world cannot take any of this pain away. But we are the sinners and saints who can make sure life is lived differently. We must meet each other with open eyes and hands so that we can know each other’s pains, and bear and shoulder them together.

Even if we cannot see the results, we can never give up hope that we can be God’s mouthpieces. Until we, too, are called home, we must unceasingly proclaim that goodness and love will ultimately win and work to make sure that they do.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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