Thomas Lynch, Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality, 2000.
I've mentioned Lynch's earlier book, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. I quite liked the earlier one, and while this newer book doesn't seem nearly as startlingly original as The Undertaking, I enjoyed the time that I spent reading this book.
This book is a collection of essays that muse about what it means to live, and what part death plays in life. The same concerns of the earlier book are reproduced, perhaps with yet more careful reflection about Lynch's position. Given that, then, why read this book? My answer to that question is that Lynch spends more time thinking about and talking about language, and its role in life and death. While that concern was far from absent in The Undertaking, it's front and centre here: he conveys his deep respect for language and what it can accomplish. And that's an idea I'm always happy to read about.
"I am a slave to words. I am their servant. The acoustics and meanings, their sounds and sense, sometimes make me shiver--the precision, the liberties, the health and healing in their meanings. Language is the first among God's many gifts. To name and proclaim makes us feel like gods. To define and discern, to clarify and articulate, to affirm--surely this is what our maker had in mind when we were made in that image and likeness. Not the beard or lightning bolts or bluster. It was no big bang. It was a whisper. It was a word made flesh--our Creation. And the real power of Creation is the power of words to guard us like angels, to protect and defend and define us; to incite, and excite, and inspire, to separate us from the grunting, growling, noisome, wordless, meowing things. ..." ( 217-18)
I like reading Lynch's pieces not because of any concern of my own about mortality, but because his own sober reflections encourage reflection on my part--about words, about life, about death, and about what it is to think.