In the current issue of Spiritus (Fall 2013), Kristine Suna-Koro of Xavier University (Cincinnati, OH) uses a contemporary play to explore “the mysteries of dying, death, and afterlife.” Here’s an excerpt from the introductory section:
Mark Jordan mused that the charism of theology is to facilitate our “restlessness on the way to beatitude.” At the present time some of the most incisive and revealing contemporary restlessness around the mysteries of dying, death, and afterlife—an enigma never exclusively owned or solved by one single epoch, religion, culture, or genre of human creativity—has migrated into the media arts. In the context of contemporary visual theology, the critically acclaimed HBO film Wit (2001) stands out as a stirring instance of courageous and intricate existential engagement with the agonies and disfigurations of terminal illness and death. The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit (1999) by Margaret Edson and has proceeded to win a stack of other cinematic awards.
Over a decade later Wit has not lost a sliver of its spiritual urgency and throbbing fascination. It plunges the viewers into a torrent of profound questions: What is bodily death? What happens after death? And what is the process of bodily dying in our decidedly virtual age—merely a little gentle “comma” in a smoothly providential flow of existence? Or maybe a stark “semicolon” rooted in that very intricate experience of pain that even the most elegant theodicy can never truly sublimate or dispel? Or is death rather an abrupt and screeching exclamation mark that is just piously masquerading as a polite “semicolon” to echo certain soporific religious conventions? Such are the focal questions that Wit opens up before our gaze.