Mon | Aug 20, 2018

Mark Wignall | The frailty of life; the painful reality of death

Published:Thursday | December 21, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The recent passing of Ian Boyne, Gleaner columnist, senior man at Jamaica Information Service (JIS) and long-running TV host of 'Profile' and 'Religious Hardtalk', has struck a nerve of widespread sympathy and sadness.

Although we were not friends, it was obvious that Boyne's exposure to the public occupied more than a significant part of his life; and he approached just about all he did with relish and a sense that if his work did not contribute positively to advancing the life of those many viewers and readers who followed him, it was not worth doing.

Over many years, we had a few differences of opinion on views expressed in his weekly columns. That was purely peripheral to the bigger picture; bringing rationality in support of the specific positions he expressed, whether they be socio-cultural, religious, economic or political.

Although he was a religious man, he dared himself to introduce on Religious Hardtalk the very people whose views were unsupportive of his rationality in religious belief and who, I am certain, must have earned significant opprobrium from the mass of his religious viewers.

To Boyne, as long as he was bringing in more opposing views into the others' camps, he would be on the path to increasing diversity of thought and the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable.




The very fact that so many people from all walks of life and all sectors of the social spectrum have come out to publicly express their sadness at his death means that he had attained much that he set out to do. Many of us are always adequately placed to question ourselves whenever a Jamaican of special attainment dies. We ask, wouldn't it be good to be around 'living' after we die, just to hear the words of those mourning our death?

Will their words indicate that we have harmed more people than we have brought betterment to significant parts of their lives? Or will they say we have merely occupied space and our presence meant little, just as how our absence will not be missed?

In reality, most people think little about death and that to me is how it should be. Why worry about an inevitability, especially when worrying may affect the quality of one's lives? Ian Boyne's passing as a man with a larger-than-life profile to the public will most likely inspire more of the young not to dwell on thoughts of death, but to embrace the parts of life that bring understanding between people and advance their social and economic footprint.

It is at once, the great equaliser and the great misunderstanding. At the very moment of birth, only one constant exists. There must be death. When Boyne interviewed me on Religious Hardtalk, it was my view, as a non-believer, that death is also the great finality.

By that reasoning, I saw it as more the sensible thing to do; to assist those around you as much as you can, instead of hewing to a belief that speaks of a better destination after death than the one you now have in life.

The vast majority of us are simple folk who take life one day at a time. There are some of us who pursue fame and fortune to such an extent that we miss the experience of truly embracing life.

A householder who is presently hustling as much funds as possible so that her family's Christmas will have cheer may not think much about death, and, why should she? She knows love and wants love to envelop her and her loved ones at this time.

And therein lies the great foil to death. Loving life and extending the widening circle of understanding, forgiveness, redemption and social advancement. That great foil to death is not the same as denying its reality, but it is to bring life and those around you into a closer embrace.

We know of no other existence but life, even if many of us harbour the faith that more exists beyond death. If we are loved as much as many are expressing for Ian Boyne, it must also mean that we are now taking love and understanding to many of those around us.