What Lasts

Deep Rhythm and the Riddle of Eternal Life
John S. Dunne
University of Notre Dame Press, $25, 160 pp.

Edward Schillebeeckx, the renowned Dominican theologian, once asked, “What is a human life of at most between seventy and ninety years to the eternal God?” Although our life is but a moment or a sigh in God’s perspective, our life story of fifty or even a hundred years becomes complete and whole in and through our death. Then we can face God at last knowing who we are—or with the hope of at last coming to know who we are. Yet death, the end of every earthly life, is a topic about which many of us do not wish even to think. We may even try to deny it when we encounter it in others or when it is approaching for ourselves. By contrast, in this book, John S. Dunne recounts the profound ways that he has thought about death and, more important, about what lasts from life.

Dunne’s work is an intricate patchwork quilt of recurring and interwoven themes. As a reflective or, better, meditative stream of consciousness citing a multitude of thinkers, it is not always an easy read. But persistent effort uncovers its nuggets of wisdom.

Dunne tells us that he started to think about his own mortality and the meaning of death when he was thirty years old, when he put to himself the question: “If I must die someday, what can I do to satisfy my desire to live?” As Dunne saw and felt it, the desire to live turned out to be a desire for eternal life. And that begot another question: “Is there a life in us that...

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About the Author

Bernard P. Prusak teaches theology at Villanova University.