Monday, December 01, 2008

Life, death and Christmas cards

Probably, I shouldn't have been quite as enthusiastic about the snow in my last blog post.
Probably, it would have made no difference.

On Monday evening, as I was driving together with my colleague to Lyon on the "Autoroute Blanche" (so aptly named) we encountered some black ice (isn't it already clear that those two things don't mix well?!) and after hitting the motorway barriers three times, managed to emerge from a largely wrecked Peugeot in one piece. For which we were extremely thankful.

It was an adventure the full story of which does not need to be told here. Not least, it brought us to confront many thoughts that we wouldn't usually otherwise have. It brought me to reflect on all the blessings of my life, and on many happinesses that are taken rather for granted. And of course with that it made me think about the risks that we take every day. It's not as if we were recklessly driving at great speed. Nor, I suspect, were the 9 other drivers that day whose car ended up in the same state as ours did, in the same area of rural France. But chance, or whatever you like to call it (providence? God? fate?), decided that that day, we were the ones whose journey would not turn out quite as we had intended it.

It is probably the most strange experience I've had, those split seconds during which you realise that you are about to crash, and have absolutely no idea what is then going to happen, where you will be, how you will be, whether you will be.

Afterwards you have time to think. To think about all the "what if" questions. But in those moments you don't have time to think of all those, or anything except to be scared. Not scared of dying. Only scared of the million possibilities somewhere between status quo and death. Scared of the unknown.

Of course, we can avoid the unknown by avoiding 'all' risks but life is all about risks and reducing them too much just means we miss out on many great experiences. And sometimes, being 'sensible' doesn't stop you from coming into an encounter with all those things you would rather not consider.

Although this wasn't originally going to be a post about death, but rather about being thankful for life, it nevertheless reminded me of this year's CEC Christmas card. It's a controversial design, 1990s artwork, which draws a picture that must be intentionally designed to make disturbing links between life and death, love/happiness and evil/darkness. It portrays the nativity, in black and white. In the foreground, the baby, whose swaddling bands are distinctly skeleton-esque. It is watched over by Mary, hooded and with a blank face, a spectre. Behind, in the shadows of the stable, stands a 'shepherd', typical image of the messenger of death, with a staff. And to indicate that we are in a stable, in the back there is something like a 'fence', which appears as an instrument of eight daggers.

Should I assume that on Monday evening, such a messenger of death decided to play games with me? Might the shepherds be sent on missions by God to remind us of our earthly attachments?

If so, they got me thinking, for sure. But they didn't manage to worry me.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Well, I'm glad you're OK! I remember my first car crash (black ice in a Welsh forest), and it's no fun at all.