When does life begin and when does it end? What is life? The answers to these fundamental questions present problems to ethicists, moralists, scientists, politicians and even Christians. Is the life of someone with a learning disability of any less value than a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize? Should someone in a coma have their life-support machine left turned on when there are few signs of life? Why do the majority of human beings cling to life but some want to abandon it? Is it still ‘life’ for a homeless person? An amputee? A person with a terminal illness? An elderly resident in a care home with dementia? The questions here get to the attitudes, values and beliefs that are at the core of your being. Have your thoughts shifted on abortion and euthanasia or do you have clear views on what is still ‘life’? A bowl of fruit such as this contains few answers but such ‘still life’ has inspired countless artists.
- ‘Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen - that stillness becomes a radiance’ – Morgan Freeman
- ‘I think older women still have a full life’ – Betty White
- ‘When life doesn't make sense, we can still have peace’ – Rick Warren
- ‘What difference does it make whether you're looking at a photograph or looking at a still life in front of you? You still have to look’ – Chuck Close
Born in 1940, Charles Thomas Close is an American painter, artist and photographer. His photorealist large scale technique relies on using very large camera formats. Early life was hard with his father dying when Chuck was just 11. He was beset himself with illnesses and suffered ‘prosopagnosia’ (face blindness) which he thinks first inspired him to do portraits. Famous artists drawing inspiration from still life include Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh. The genre of still life painting peaked with Netherlandish painting during the 16th and 17th centuries, so it is no surprise that the English term ‘still life’ derives from the Dutch word ‘stilleven’. You could say that a photograph is ‘still life’ or ‘life made still’ – a snap shot or moment in time. If so, life is made up of many moments of ‘still life’ but whilst photos can capture the essence of a moment, it is not life itself.
- ‘At the end, one didn’t remember life as a whole but as just a string of moments’ – David Levien
- ‘Sometimes, the moments that challenge us the most define us’ – Deena Kastor
- ‘We never remember days, only moments’– Cesare Pavese
- ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’ – Martin Luther King Jr
If life is made up of many moments, then so is time. When anyone asks you the time, it is right to say that at any time, the time is ‘now’! At this moment in time, this ‘still life’ moment, what are the challenges defining you? Disability, old age, disappointment, regrets? Adolf Hitler’s way was to exterminate anything that did not line up with his view of how things should be in life, his overarching goal being to develop the perfect race known as the ‘Übermensch’ which translates as ‘Super Man’. These Aryans were to be tall, long legged, slim and blond. Hitler was so obsessed with this idea that he introduced a selective human breeding programme called the ‘Lebensborn programme’, assisted by Dr Josef Mengele (known as the Angel of Death) producing more than 42,000 babies before it was closed down in 1944. Seeking to control life, Hitler lost control … and everything. So it comes back to the question, ‘What is life’? Is it ours to give or ours to receive, ours to control or ours to surrender? There is great pressure these days on the answers to these questions but remember, you are accountable in your answers not to media demands or social conventions of the day, but to the Ancient of Days Who is the Giver, Originator and Sustainer of Life.
- ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ – John 10:10
- ‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’ - Psalm 139:13-16
- ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised’ - Job 1:21
- ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die’ – John 11:25
- ‘Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?’ – Matthew 6:27
- ‘My times are in your hands’ – Psalm 31:15
Those hands are the safest place for our ‘times’ to be – neither worrying about life’s big decisions ourselves nor seeking to wrench them from the one who alone truly has power over life and death. The old Authorised Version of the Bible poetically relates Job 1:21 this way: ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away’ – is this how you see life? Is it, to you, the gift of God and not the gift of man? If so, the answer is there. Still life? Yes, but it is His gift, ours to live and ours to give back to Him. When? Every day and every moment. Take a long look at your bowl of fruit or the one in the picture and you will see that life still has all it’s meaning in relation to the Giver of life.
TAGS – suicide, hope, capital punishment, judgement, retribution, fairness, mercy, rational, raison d'être