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None of us likes being in queues.  We put up with them because we consider the sacrifice of our time and comfort worth the trouble (not to mention the savings during Sales !).  But we are all in a queue, which we did not choose to join.  There are 7,000,000,000 people in it, everyone of us on the planet, since the day we were born, with more joining it every day down there at the other end of the line.  It’s a fast-moving queue : 151,600 people at the top end die every day (that’s 105 every minute, nearly two every second).  Trouble is we have never known where we are in the queue.  We may have to wait years before we reach the top of the line, or maybe we are among the couple of hundred thousand who will die . . . in a day or two.

The fact is brought home to us as we read the daily obits : another friend gone, another we knew as kids and whose name we thought we had forgotten.  And then there are our loved ones, whose death comes after a long “battle”, or as a total surprise to them and to us.  All these deaths remind us that our own is inevitable (you can’t change your mind and quit the queue) and could happen at any time.  Luckily, more often than not, we know not the place nor the hour.

“Be prepared” makes sense to boy-scouts and to believers, but also to atheists who recognize the wisdom, not of getting on God’s right side before it’s too late, but of putting our material and financial affairs in order, so as to make the inevitable a little less of a pain in the neck for our entourage.  (We might decide even to make it a little less painful for ourselves, should it come to that.)  But to me it makes sense to accept the fact that we’re getting closer to the front end of the queue, and to make sure that we enjoy as much as possible the unknown length of time we have left.  I’m one of the lucky ones whose life has been more pleasant and more satisfying, and even longer, than that experienced by many.  I thank the people, living and dead, who made that possible.  I would thank God too, but given the fact that He never existed, it seems pretty pointless.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

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