[The subway] was dirtier than any battlefield he had seen, harder to contemplate than any actual hardship moulded of mire and sweat and danger, it was an atmosphere wherein birth and marriage and death were loathsome, secret things.
He remembered one day on the subway when a delivery boy had brought in a great funeral wreath of fresh flowers, how the smell of it had suddenly cleared the air and given every one in the car a momentary glow.This Side of Paradise p. 181
He saw death in the life of the subway car. He felt life from the recognition of death by those flowers. We cannot escape the juxtaposition. A man grieves on the same day another woman rejoices on the same day another child sees drudgery in his school work. Life does not stop because one died; death pays no mind to whether we want to celebrate life. Death is as Sarah Groves says, “so inconvenient.”
And because death is not our friend, doesn’t consider our wishes, cares not for our plans, should we not have compassion on the hard to contemplate instead of muddling over why the mass of humanity with their births, marriages, and deaths are so hard to contemplate?
If we seek to insulate ourselves from real life, we will, like Amory, be offended by what we consider profane, but if we will live life with people, we might just find a holiness in the births, marriages, and deaths.