Is That All There Is? All We Are Is Dust in the Wind?

Catchy tune by Kansas. Everybody probably feels this way sometime. But it sure is a depressing and nihilistic view of life, eh? Kansas Youtube Channel.


I close my eyes only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity

Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind

Now, don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind (all we are is dust in the wind)
Dust in the wind (everything is dust in the wind), everything is dust in the wind (the wind)

Then there’s this famous Peggy Lee song. A bit more optimistic, perhaps. If that’s all there is, “let’s keep dancing. Bring out the booze and let’s have a ball.” In the comment section, a commentator posts the following:

“My sister, after being diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, aged 64, used to spend some weekends with me and my husband. One morning during breakfast, she took out her phone and played this song, I was shocked, but it is only now, 10 months later since she died that I understand what she was trying to convey to us. I play this video over and over.”

And yet, to combat the feeling that we humans are insignificant, here on this earth for a short time before turning to dust and forgotten, what matters most is to love, to work, to worship and to serve, to engage in causes larger than ourselves, bigger than any of us as individuals.


“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.” — Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize speech, 1986.

Journaling as a Sacred Act

“Our years come to an end like a sigh . . . so teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90.

I have been “numbering my days” since I was 13 — keeping a diary or journal — and numbering my ancestors’ days by digitizing and archiving family photos since the 19th century. The value of this hobby seems to increase with age and the fading of memory. It almost seems like a sacred act.

For family and friends, I can recite names,  dates, movies, TV shows, books, acquaintances they may have forgotten long ago. I encourage my students to keep diaries or journals as well. Who knows if their journals might one day — a century from now — become heirlooms, like my grandmother’s travelogue from cruising to Europe in 1914 and witnessing the outbreak of World War I, which was not nearly as interesting to her as the cute boy sitting nearby?


Buechner on “diary”

Stories Keep People Alive

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin: “My parents died when I was young — my mother of a heart attack when I was 15, my father when I was in my 20s. I think it made me want to tell stories of people who were dead to somehow bring them back to life. I didn’t think about it at the time. But it is stories that keep people alive. That’s where my ambition for history came from.”

The End of White Christian America


The Atlantic: “At 45 percent of the population, white Christians are a shrinking demographic—and the backlash from many members of the group against the increasing diversification of America has been swift and bitter. “People fight like that when they are losing a sense of place, a sense of belonging, and a sense of the country that they understand and love,” says Robert P. Jones, author of The End of White Christian America.

‘Getting Religion’ from the 1950s to the 2010’s

In Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama, Newsweek’s longtime religion correspondent Kenneth Woodward observes the massive changes in the religious and moral education of Americans. The son of a devout Catholic, he was educated by nuns and Jesuits. Today, “young Americans don’t have teachers or pastors to shape their beliefs; they think of religions as solo quests for the authentic self.”

Millenials “do not readily identify with any institutions—political, civic, academic, or religious.” If they embrace religion at all, it is more likely be what the sociologist Christian Smith has called “moralistic, therapeutic deism,” an ethic that declares “what is right for me may not be right for you but no one has the right to judge anyone else.”

25 Years Later, Looking Back on Pictures of Our Wedding and Reflecting…

My wife and I in 2016 celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We feel it’s an accomplishment. Certainly to those who were skeptical that we would make it, and to the doubts within ourselves that we would make it, it is a milestone to be celebrated. We have proved ourselves to be solid, steadfast and resourceful. Our love has grown far deeper and we have become not only companions but best friends.

Looking at photos of our wedding 25 years later, reflections on the community that attended:

  1. Sad about the family members and friends who have “passed on”…
  2. Happy about the family members and friends who are still with us, and with whom we are still connected and bonded.
  3. Thinking I should try harder to reconnect with those with whom we shared a lot.
  4. Sad about the relatives and former friends we have lost touch with…Moving around, changing interests, moving outside the country will do that.
  5. Still shocked by one appalling betrayal, and how the one who committed that betrayal has fallen so far…who would have believed it back then?
  6. Surprised by the number of passing friends who were friends for a time, but the friendship hasn’t been sustained.
  7. It was the era before Facebook, when keeping up and keeping in touch wasn’t that easy.
  8. It looks like a grand, expensive wedding (paid for largely by the bride’s parents). Could not have predicted the years of financial frustrations and professional struggles to come.
  9. On the other hand, could not have predicted the professional successes and wonderful travels to come…
  10. Thank God the era of printed photos has passed. I spent eight hours over two days scanning hundreds of photos, and still haven’t come close to completing the documentation of my pre-digital life. Future generations will not have to spend time scanning photos. (But if they don’t post them to Facebook or automatically archive them on or, they might lose them forever.)
  11. Reviewing all these photos makes me reflect on the fragility of life, fragility of bonds, fragility of time.
  12. My mother and uncle and grandmother have passed on. Many of their photos have little or no value, even to their descendants. But some of their photos do have value for how they depict an era, a place, a time, a character, a friend, an enemy, a story…Every family needs archivists and storytellers in every generation to make these photos come alive.
  13. Cameras for consumers sure have improved a great deal. Those 1970s photos were blurry and grainy and LOUSY.
  14. All that worrying I did about my son Alex was for naught. He seems to be turning out fine.
  15. All that worrying I did about my son Matthew seems to be for naught. He seems to have turned out fine.