Death is Underrated

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Don't be morbid, people sometimes say if you talk about death.  As if by mentioning it you're ruining the mood of the party.

Death gets a bad rap.  It is considered one of the rudest of conversational topics.  It's bad form even to speak of it, unless it's in a whisper.  Death has become to our always-on era what sex was to Victorian times.  You don't speak of it, but everybody does it.

Which is part of its attraction, I guess.  Anything that our culture likes to deny, there I am, digging in the middle of it.

There is more than one way to view our demise.   Some days, I feel despair at living in a world which is patently insane and dragging its constituents along with it.  (When I speak here of "the world," I am not referring to the beautiful earth that we live on, which is more alive and sustaining and wise than we give it credit for.  The earth in many respects is the salvation from "the world" that is the the stupid and narrow-minded ways of late Western civilisation, where everything is somewhat broken and the emperor and all of his constituents are ignoring the little kids that are telling him his willie is hanging in the breeze.)

This morning I am feeling constrained and straightjacketed as I only can when I wake up tired before I even get out of bed, being at the tail end of a parasite cleanse that is clogging up my sinuses and fogging up my brain.  Add on top of that an impending "less dainty time of the month" and my mood is a little ... well, shall we say black?  But that's okay.  These moods pass and joyful ones take their place, and they too pass.  For me I feel that the more I welcome these moods to learn from them, the more the joy comes in also.  I don't think we can't have one without the other.  Though we try.

Some days, when the world is a drag, envisioning that you are going to some day die is ... well, this may seem strange, but it's a comfort.  Black moods of depression aside, on those days when an examination of the self-destructive-but-let's-not-talk-about-it ways of the world we are forced to live in breeds despair, a reminder that death comes to us all carries two strands with it, flying along behind.  Firstly, there is always the cold slap, like having an icy jug of water poured over the top of your head, that this death thing is not simply an abstract concept for you to play with inside your head, moving it around like furniture to see what happens when you put it over here, to see the way the light hits it, to see how its shadow hangs across the other items in the still life picture in your mind.  That it is something that is one day going to happen to you is probably never going to be something you will get your head or your ego around.

But if you can get past the cold slap, contemplating your own impending death brings with it a sort of sanity.  It's like it shakes you from the stupor that settles over you by virtue of living in 2012;  from the daily doses of reality TV or porn or whatever else is is your particular tipple that you like to take a dose of to try to escape.  The stupor, however, weaves its way through those things, the incessant constancy of the 24-hour 7-Eleven, the 24-hour news cycle, so that there is no rest for the weary, for the wildlife, or for you.  No silent spaces where you are forced to confront the things you are running from, unless you carve them out yourself.  Trying to escape from this madhouse via those means just means you're entering back in through the front door.  It becomes like the alcoholic needing a few drinks to straighten himself up before lunchtime, just so he can feel normal.

Contemplating the fact that you are going to die brings home to you the fact that everything and everyone is going to die.  Civilisations, countries, your children, the dog, the sun, the seeds you are planting right now into the cold soil.  There may not seem to be any comfort at all in that, but there is a fire that exists within its core, underneath the layer of ice, like a seed inside a grain.  When things try to live forever, they die instantly.  Any life that they had was never theirs to hold onto and make their own.   Where they came from before they will go to after, and the only way to live properly in the intervening period is to know that it won't last forever.

The beauty inside this space is perhaps an acquired taste.  The best way to live is to learn how to die.  The news channel does not broadcast this and the 7-Eleven does not sell it, not even under the counter in plain wrapping.


  1. Me, I like 'dying', Sue. The air's much clearer on the 'other side', a bit freer of the scared little ego, which is never satisfied. Death's just a name we give to the body giving up on the recycling business, the end of the idea we have of ourselves, which is only a thought after all. Both the body and the ideas are in continual flux anyway - neither are 'fixed' - so who, what are we anyway?:)

  2. It is a small ego thing, isn't it, Harry :)

    Just wondering - do you think "we" in some form (whatever that might mean) go on in some fashion after we die?

  3. Okay...that's not a question I can answer for you or anyone else, Sue, and I don't think it can actually be put into words. I would have to ask more questions in response, like, who, where, what is this 'me' that wants to know whether it will 'survive' the end of recycling, the end of ideas? I've found the answer comes in a form beyond any concepts, and it's just a 'knowing', which, when seen, leaves no room for anything else. It blows the ego out of the water, it's the end of questions and answers, it's the seeing that there never was any 'problem', other than that conjured up by the mind / ego. I could go on at some length on this, but I wouldn't make any more sense than I have already;)

  4.  Well, I guess that's where I have been struggling.  I'm pretty sure I know what you are talking about when you speak of that "knowing".  That has carried me on for years.  There are no words there.  I flew on with Julian of Norwich's "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."  If I had to bet on the "knowing", I would say most certainly we do, without having a shred of evidence (and without needing any, when I'm not in moods like today).  And yet lately, for some reason, I find I have come up against a big wall of "having to know" where I really want some sort of evidence that I am going to go on. 

    I really wonder if all of this "having to know" is really just one more evidence of the fact that when I don't regularly do meditation I'm a pain in the arse to myself :)

  5. From experience, Sue, that 'having to know' has to run its course, the energy has to dissipate, until only the 'knowing' is left, which has been there all along. It's a clear, blue flame that's untroubled by the hurricane raging around it. It's your true nature, and it can never be harmed. Meditation, I've found, doesn't actually 'get you there', because there's nowhere to get to except here. It's value is in opening you to the 'knowing' when it comes, when it rises in you. There's nothing you can do, or need to do, to cause this. It's causeless, and so can never leave. It's what the Christian would call Grace, and it's always available to all. It's what some call Nirvana, which is just the ego ceasing it's chattering and lying down like an exhausted child. But it has to exhaust itself first:)

  6.  Ah, I remember that space!

    No, meditation doesn't get you anywhere.  It just makes you realise where you are.

  7. So you understand what I'm blathering about then, Sue. That's quite rare:)

  8. Brilliant, wonderful, marvellous post, Sue. You're so right - and didn't Jesus himself say "Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it..."?

  9. Fank you, Mike.  Yes, those words of his definitely informed this piece :)


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