It is with sadness that we learned of the death yesterday of a great man, Stratford Caldecott, a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative. Stratford graced our pages with some sixty-six essays, on such wonderful and varied topics as: the nature of the human soul; the essence of beauty; the mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien; the philosophy of G.K. Chesterton; Prince Charles as an imaginative conservative; the glories of the English tea ceremony; and, of course, the deep meaning of some of his beloved Marvel Comics stories and characters. In one of his last essays for us, Stratford pondered the great mystery of death:
Why can’t we all live forever? It seems a terrible flaw in the fabric of the world—that death haunts us from the moment we are born, injecting a note of tragedy into everything. And yet how could it be otherwise, if reproduction is equally a part of the fabric of space-time?
An image of the endless search for the answer to this paradox is drawn by Jack Kirby in his comic book The New Gods. Metron is a character from New Genesis. His chair carries him wherever he wishes, and yet we can take him as a symbol of a search that never finds what it is seeking, in an ultimate sense. Though not the hero of the stories (very much a peripheral character, like Lightray) he offers the image of a powerful archetype.
Why life and death?
Everybody comes to death eventually, either by disease or by “old age.” There’s a part of me, suffering from prostate cancer, that wants simply to get it over with. In that case the simplest outcome is to stay with the illness I have and see it through. Alternatively, I could recover, somehow, and in this way buy a few more weeks or months or years of life.
And yet, and yet…. For God wants us to have a certain treasure, a wealth, that we can have only in a certain way—and that cannot come to us by taking something from him prematurely. “I can find that divine wealth that God, by his adoption of us, intends us to inherit. Wherever I turn, I shall find him. Whether life has smooth ways or rough, whether it hangs my path with lights or hides me in gloom, I am the heir to all that earth or sea or sky can boast of as their possession.”
As the sun began to set on Stratford’s remarkable life, his daughter Sophie wrote to the director, writers, actors, and producers of the then-upcoming film, Captain America: Winter Soldier, which Stratford desperately wished to see before he died. Sophie asked if they would simply send her a photo of themselves holding up a sign expressing their support for her dad. Remarkably, a writer was the first to reply and was able to encourage all the main actors in the movie to do the same. The production company also brought a copy of the film to Stratford’s house so he could have a private screening of it before its official debut in theaters.
Superheroes do exist, after all, and yesterday one of ours departed this earthly realm for his beautiful reward. A gentle soul, a man of love, peace and faith. Stratford was beloved by his beautiful family and his many friends. Requiescat in pace, dear Stratford.