On Being Born

You’ll forgive me for taking the following paragraph wholesale from Wiki. Oh, go on…

From the plot synopsis of Beckett’s All That Fall:

Something Dan says reminds Maddy of a visit she once made to hear “a lecture by one of these new mind doctors. What she heard there was the story of a patient the doctor had failed to cure, a young girl who was dying, and “did in fact die, shortly after he had washed his hands of her.” The reason the doctor gave for the girl’s death, as if the revelation had just come to him there and then, was: “The trouble with her was that she had never really been born!”

According to Unforbidden Pleasures, by Adam Phillips, this last line was inspired by a lecture given by Jung which Beckett attended as a young man.  Jung described a patient who, in the psychological sense, had ‘never been born’. Phillips, not particularly clear about anything very much, but a good writer, then meditates on what this means – to not be born, to wish one had never been born, perhaps. What is obvious is that with being born comes death, dying, being dead. Since ‘in the midst of life we are in death’, the necessary consequence of being alive is being dead. Those who seek to avoid this conclusion are, perhaps, those who have never been really born.

We know that so many forms of addiction, psychological illness, foul behaviour of various kinds are in part an attempt to avoid the cruel clarity of reality, to avoid the knowledge that being alive is painful and difficult, that being dead is usually worse.  As Catholics, we are enjoined in many circumstances in our lives not to avoid reality and its painful consequences.  This is especially so with regard to our responsibilities towards others, to, for example, the sick and weak, to the unborn child and to the dying. If we strive to avoid pain and, in step with the times, concentrate only on pleasure, perhaps we, like the young girl Jung described, have never been truly born.

As Catholics we are assured of eternal life. One question that intrigues me is whether we would have the same code of ethics we strive to follow if we were not assured of eternal life. I hope the answer would be yes.


A child receiving its first bath, Wellcome Collection

A child receiving its first bath, Wellcome Collection


A final thought. In Endgame, also quoted by Phillips, there is this exchange between Hamm and Clov:

Clov: Do you believe in the life to come?

Hamm: Mine was always that.


Let’s not waste ours….


Image rights here
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