Tuesday 21 November 2017

The story of death, and what it doesn't mean.

I was about five or six years old when I became aware of inconsolable grief. I became aware that when things went badly wrong, or someone died, people were strongly affected in ways that seemed irreversibly sad and desperate. What made this insight strange to me, was that they said comforting things to each other, which my ears and mind heard, and my guts knew to be false. The words were like leaves blown by the hard wind of loss: they were merely evidence of the strength of those gusts of desperation that no-one really knew what to do with.

Quite something for a six year old to perceive. Today I would say that the story of death is less mystifying than it has ever been before. Even though the human mind hasn't even begun to learn what it can, it's turned many corners since people were publicly executed, burned at the stake, drowned at the drowning-pole, hanged, drawn and quartered, and all the other horrible experiences devised by the contemplators of cruelty.

The pain in death is an ogre, and medical science has done what it can to alleviate that pain. But the pain of death is something else, and if one steps beyond the human sphere for a short moment, one can see our planet and the universe don't share the pain of death.

While life is there, strong organic systems and instincts help to sustain and preserve life. Yet organic life is a delicately poised ecological balance of give and take, host and parasite, cycles and seasons, aeons and nano-seconds, in which everything happens, all comes and goes, and movement and stillness mark significance that has little to do with the superficial wash of words.

Every living thing protests death, even shrimps and plants. (Read about Backster's experiments, I think that's the correct spelling). That's natural, and deliberate killing is generally inhumane.

Yet death is entirely unavoidable, and this must be the hinge on which the story turns. I think we should be taught of the wisdom of seasons, and the necessity of cycles and the fluidity of emotions from five or six years old. The sense of our stories should not be about the fear and horror of being snuffed out, utterly meaninglessly, but of participation in something so awe-filled that words fail, not because of fear, but because of grand generosity. That's the hallmark of being a human mind: to be able to recognize not only the generosity of what we assume to be our immediate universe, but to grasp that that's only the vaguest beginning of the multiverse.

We ought to feel that being alive is vastly important because it hold hands with so much more. What that "more" is, is no easy meta-story. Wording and storying that one is a matter of participation, and my sense of that activity is that it pans out into a mix of fierce joy and powerful peace. Like music.

No comments:

Post a Comment