The Meaning of a Life: Steven Wilson’s Hand.Cannot.Erase.
An Incarnational Whole
One of the greatest things in this whirligig of a world—however fraught with a string of perilous and gut-wrenching disasters—is the mystery of the human person. And, until God so decides to end this existence, every person is a new reflection of the Infinite. From the Catholic Humanist perspective, every human is an unrepeatable center of dignity and freedom. Each person, born in a particular place and time, comes only once, a life to burn as brightly or not, for one’s self or for another, in the time allotted to each of us. “Dark and inscrutable are the ways in which we come into the world,” the grand Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke, understood. Fewer truths have ever been spoken in such perfect formation of the English language.
Yet, speaking on the mystery of the person and personhood, Pope John Paul II put it even more beautifully in the penultimate month of 1996.
The mystery of the Incarnation has given a tremendous impetus to man’s thought and artistic genius. Precisely by reflecting on the union of the two natures, human and divine, in the person of the Incarnate Word, Christian thinkers have come to explain the concept of person as the unique and unrepeatable centre of freedom and responsibility, whose inalienable dignity must be recognized. This concept of the person has proved to be the cornerstone of any genuinely human civilization.
As someone who has had the privilege of teaching history and writing biography the entirety of his professional career, I hope and pray that John Paul II’s words and ideas each across everything I teach, think, and write. As such, I am always looking at and for new ways to understand the dignity of each individual person, however tragically flawed.
Nearly six years ago, such a statement and manifestation of dignity arrived in the most unusual of ways: in the form of a rock concept album by the rather devoutly atheistic, seemingly always grumpy, and unbelievably talented English musician, Steven Wilson. His album, a sixty-seven minute story about a lost soul, came out on February 27, 2015. In terms of lyrics and music, Wilson’s work is extraordinary by the standards of any genre. What should intrigue us most, however, is the subject matter and how Wilson fills it out. The subject matter is the uniqueness of each human person, and he focuses on the life of one lost soul.
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