Ashley Rose Kisman and the Bridge of San Luis Rey
Stricken five year-old meets rock star Britney Spears in Las Vegas,
passes away less than 48 hours later

Expanded from the 11-18-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Just asking the great questions can create lots of trouble for the questioner.

One poor lout in some central Asian banana republic will soon go on trial for his life for merely stating a fact while teaching a class. He noted that the prophet Mohammed was not born to the Muslim religion, the equivalent of reminding people that Jesus was Jewish.

Back before most readers of this column were born, Thornton Wilder wrote a novel entitled "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" (winner of the 1928 Pulitizer Prize for fiction.) It details the story of a priest in the high Andes who goes searching for a common thread to better explain the loss of life when a rope suspension bridge collapsed, plunging all thereon to instant death in a deep mountain gorge.

The padre reviewed the lives of the victims trying to explain why God had called those particular people at that one moment. The holy man was burned at the stake for his trouble.

Preachers who try to explain death and tragedy as God's plan take the easy way out. Knowing the mind of God is fiction writing — no more, no less.

People have ended up like Wilder's priest for committing the sin of presumption — presuming to know the mind of God. Alas and alack, a lot of religions have moved that very substantial sin into the theological dustbin. If more mullahs followed it, we'd have far fewer religious justifications for war.

In "Oh, God!", the greatest religious motion picture ever made, writer Larry Gelbart has George Burns as God explain himself to reluctant prophet John Denver: "You know, Voltaire may have had me pegged. He said that God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."

An almighty sense of humor was never better revealed than when scientists both validated and eviscerated one of St. Thomas Aquinas' five proofs for the existence of God. St. Tommy was quite presumptious. Through pure (oxymoron alert) human logic, he deduced his proof.

One of those proofs lies in the order of the universe. Look around at the order among things. Only one entity could have placed such order into motion and this we call God.

But the joke was on the great thinker. In the last century, scientists developed chaos theory. The seeming order in the universe is caused by randomness and chaos. Even our brains work that way. Healthy human gray matter sends out chaotic electrical impulses. The brainwaves of someone insane are perfectly orderly and smooth. Chalk up another joke for God.

Gelbart and Burns put it succinctly: "I don't control what happens. What happens, happens."

Scientists recently deduced that about 90 percent of the matter in the universe is somehow missing. Well, perhaps not missing, maybe only invisible to us. The wise guys in the white coats are now on the track of so-called dark matter which cross-cuts and interlards everything.

What was it that Jesus said which so infuriated the fat, rich holy men who sent him to Calvary? Something about the kingdom of God being within you.

If the kingdom of God is within you, then do you really need a preacher to help you find God? The Sanhedrin decided to off the guy sparking such questions. Jesus was officially executed for blasphemy but in truth, he was killed because some guys feared he was bad for business.

I find it easier to get through life if you view it all as one awesome, chaotically ordered continuum. Had the people on the Bridge at San Luis Rey completed their assignments and said "beam me up?" Was part of their purpose to influence the lives of others through their sudden departures? Was leaving unfinished business part of the plan?

As the late minister and congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., D-New York, once said about another famous bridge, "we all get to Chappaquiddick sooner or later."

Recent troubles and tragedies have put us to pondering the great questions more intensely than our superficial society has done for quite some time. September 2001 at least gave us a respite from Congressman Gary Condit, D-Calif.

And so as Christians, Jews and Moslems enter into the season of their high holy days, we once again review our codified superstitions of faith and belief in a search for fuel to power us forward.

Try to avoid the mild sin of presumption and cut yourself a little slack. There are some problems for which there are no solutions. There are some questions for which there are no answers.


FADING FLOWER. Daily Sparks Tribune managing editor J.D. Wilson first put out the call to aid Ashley Rose Kisman in the June 16 edition. Here's the latest bulletin from her family, received last Friday.

is now 9:15 a.m.and Ashley is preparing to take off for Las Vegas so that she can meet Britney Spears. Ashley is very excited. She will be going backstage Saturday night after the sound check party to meet Britney.

"Ashley has continued to weaken with the progression of her leukemia. She has become very tired, sore and agitated. She has been put on pain medications to help get rid her extreme pain. Every day is a struggle but she is hanging on and is stronger than any of us could ever be. Her main wish is finally being met by Make-A-Wish (Foundation) and to them we are eternally grateful."

Ashley did not receive a six-point bone marrow match because her health insurance would not pay enough to send her to the right hospital. Her leukemia has now returned. You can read more about Ashley and access links to her website at the Nevada Cancer Kids section of Donations may be made through the Angel Kiss Foundation, (775) 323-7721.

A few years ago, a prominent Reno cancer physician told me that every doctor knows that one of every four of his patients will inexplicably get well.

Say a prayer for this little girl to become that one among four who need not take an early trip across the bridge.

And question the priorities of a world where bank accounts decide who crosses safely and who falls.

Stay of good heart.

Be well. Raise hell.

[UPDATE: Ashley Rose Kisman passed away at about 8:30 a.m. PST on 19 Nov. 2001.] | U-News
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Copyright © 2001, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988 .


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