Franciscan Spirit Blog

The Paschal Paradox

While I thought I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.
—Leonardo da Vinci

This is an autobiography with a mystical twist. It is not a chronological outline from childhood through to old age. Instead I am reflecting on those times that might be described as quantum leaps in which the extraordinary infiltrated the ordinary, and from there on the territory never looked the same again. And what I had gained from the new breakthrough involved a dying and letting go of former securities. Only with hindsight did the puzzling pattern begin to make sense.

For me, it has always been a journey heavily influenced by faith. The Christian notion of dying and rising again, or, more accurately, being knocked down only to be raised up again, is a recurring theme throughout the story of my life. I describe not merely the “ups-and-downs” of life but an evolving pattern—a paschal journey—within which my personal narrative unfolds, frequently leading into the transpersonal realm in which the horizons of meaning expand and deepen.

I reflect on my life from the horizon of three score and ten years. I too have relished my youth, and I have been blessed with a long life of good health. I welcome my aging process with ambivalence and insecurity. Among my life-blessings, however, have been a series of encounters with decline and diminution that require a quality of honesty and transparency not frequently observed. Like many others I don’t like those life experiences related to decline, decay, and dying.

When I look back, however, I can see that those dark times were the catalysts for some of the most creative breakthroughs in my life.

I write this for all who wrestle today with an evolutionary understanding of life, involving letting go of what at one time felt important and embracing new possibilities for growth and expansion. Nothing is stable or static anymore. Everything is in flux and moving through a multidirectional trace. None of us can escape its impact. But neither can the institutions, structures, and organizations within which we have lived and worked.

Each chapter of my book, The Paschal Paradox, is structured around one or more personal anecdotes of my life story (the personal), coupled with enlarged horizons of meaning that subsequently ensued (the transpersonal). While the reader is likely to be more enamored by the personal narratives, it is the transpersonal consequences that carry more meaning and significance for me. It is that same transpersonal vision that continues to challenge and inspire the meaning of my faith, in God, humanity, and indeed the entire universe.

Much of this book was written during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. From the beginning I had an intuitive sense that this was a paradoxical message from the Earth itself, reminding humans that if we did not change our ways we would pay a high price for our reckless manipulation of earth’s resources. Several scientists have confirmed that insight, yet our governments and major institutions turn a blind eye. In this denial of death is a much more sinister denial of life’s true essence and particularly the paschal journey I explore throughout this book.

At both the personal and transpersonal levels, I experience an unceasing process of birth-death-rebirth. This paradoxical dynamic is insinuated into every aspect of our contemporary world. Hopefully the landscape I am exploring will illuminate at least some of the cultural transitions of our time and, true to the spirit of the foundational Christian paschal journey, will offer hope and meaning to sustain us through the major challenges of the present and future times.

Paschal Paradox by Diarmuid O'Murchu


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