Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody. ~J.D. Salinger
J. D. Salinger died yesterday at the age of 91. The news came to me like a death in the family. Although if I’m really honest I have to say that I didn’t know he was still alive until I found out that he had died. So it was more like the death of a distant uncle you had forgotten about, and now you feel bad because it reminds you that long ago you actually cared about him.
Long ago I did care about J.D. Salinger. And when I heard that he had died, it came back to me. He had a way with words. And at one time I had lots of Salinger quotations on index cards. I wrote term papers and essays about Salinger. In my mind, at least, he was writing about the mystery of ordinary life. And I was intrigued that he stopped writing. For me there was something sacred about it. When he wrote about the emptiness of life, I took it as an implicit affirmation. If you can face the emptiness honestly, then there is hope. St. Paul said that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Words are holy and sacred. For Christians, words are windows on the infinite. They point beyond themselves. And with them we do our best to describe what cannot be described. Words, even the best words, fall short. But in many ways, they are still the best we have.
John says, “In the beginning was the Word.”
Also at the end.