I hate funerals. I go when expected, because I’m not a monster, but I really don’t like them. However, I like what the writer says in this article, that for most of us, most decisions come down to doing nothing, or doing good. Going to the funeral is doing good. It’s an inconvenience for the living that can make a difference for those grieving the loss of a loved one. It might be a tiny difference in the grand scheme, but making lots of tiny differences is the road most of us can follow to lead a good life. Not everybody is going to be the Dalai Lama. Or Dolly Parton.
BTW, I found the reference to that article in this article about a funeral director that I know - in the “internet” sense of sharing an online community with somebody you’ll likely never meet in real life.
Add in watching Soul last night and that is three pieces of media about death in about 15 hours. Is the universe trying to speak to me here?
In Soul, Joe looks back on his life from the outside and finds it wanting. However, he is looking with blinders. He is so sure that he is meant to make his mark in the world as a musician that he totally misses all the impact he has as a teacher.
But even changing lives as a teacher misses the real point of Soul, and the real reason for living. Leading a good life or making a mark on the world isn’t done in big grand gestures, it’s the cumulative effect of countless small gestures that reduce suffering for somebody else, even if only by a tiny bit. It’s like John Lewis said when it came to getting involved in Civil Rights. No action or contribution was too small, because nobody knows where the tipping point is in advance. Maybe your 10 dollar donation or 1 hour of volunteer effort made more of a difference than you will ever know. Maybe your smile along with a “good morning” to a stranger or somebody handing you a coffee at Starbucks likewise will make more of an effort than you will know.
In our current world trying to recover from 4 years of Trumpism it can be overwhelming. There is so much to do. So much racism to unwind, so much systematic unfairness to legislate away, so much that is just flat out wrong that deciding where to start can lead to paralysis. So stop trying to decide and just do. Starting today, making somebody’s life a little better. Then do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.
Don’t skip the funerals, metaphorically speaking. Or literally, although I'll be fine with a lot less funerals in 2021. We had enough death in 2020.