The Promised Community

Oblivion

TO BE SWALLOWED UP into nothingness, to sink into oblivion and pass out of notice; this is the threat and the work of death, a truth which the poetry of Psalm 69 sends home through images of the terrible, elemental power of water in which oblivion becomes the metaphor of death. The threat of oblivion is fearsome, and it triggers an instinctual panic and rage in the human psyche to resist and to escape being thus overwhelmed. No one wants to be forgotten, of no account; no one wants to be so earthbound by the gravity of insignificance that neither escape nor flight is possible, only a sentence of despair.

On the other hand, that is exactly what most of the human race, whom we speak of abstractly as the masses, experience as daily reality. To exist as one of the masses is to live under a sentence of oblivion: the oblivion of being forgotten by justice or compassion; the oblivion of not being known in the integrity of one's personhood; the oblivion of being irrelevant to any enterprise that allows one to see the fruit of his or her own capacities received and celebrated. The masses are invisible, and their cry is unheard.

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