July 18, 2020

Death matters – no kidding!

What a sign of the times,  that giving this name to a blog should not be ridiculous!

For what could have been more obvious in every other epoch of history than that death mattered! Of all things. That it mattered as much as being born, as getting married, as choosing a career, as making a living. In many past societies it mattered even more than living – life was merely a preparatory school for what came after. Whatever came after was the real thing, the permanent thing – what happened here was merely an interlude.

But even aside from the significance of death in the context of after-life beliefs, what could have been more obvious that an event which ended EVERYTHING mattered?

Now I ask: what is the matter with us, or what could be so special about us, that we are so uniquely oblivious to – or perhaps beyond – death? Are we superior to all those civilizations through the millenia that gave this event so much importance? Could that really be true? The minimal thought, time and effort we give the subject suggests we just might be that conceited, that arrogant. And that naive.

Or has our amazing technology taken us beyond death, as the only civilization in the history of mankind to defeat death, if not quite yet, then imminently? Or has our unique and exceptional wisdom allowed us to philosophize and theologize ourselves beyond death, to become so wise as to have accepted so fully what cannot be otherwise that we no longer waste time on the matter?

Evidently it is none of the above.  In confronting death we are no superior philosophically or technologically: we have no sophisticated metaphysical solution to death – on the contrary we are children compared to past civilizations in this respect, less prepared spiritually or psychologically than others – and we still physically die as predictably as ever, despite every minor technological prolungation of life.

Moreover, we are also not oblivious to the significance of death. It has merely retreated from the conscious to the subconscious, where it occupies us far more than we like to admit. It is still there – we just refuse to deal with it, pretend that it does not matter.

So in the end this title does make sense – in our bizarre and anomalous world, people must actually be reminded that death does matter.

(Aside: If a scornful tone is evident in the above, forgive me – I don’t know how else to deal with such conceit as ours. Compassion for such a fallen state of affairs in humanity would be better – and indeed, when I contemplate where this fear and denial of death is leading us, I cannot but feel compassion.

Because – tragically – however effectively we have hidden death in our society, it has not gone away. On the contrary – every act of “damming the river of life“, which is what death denial effectively leads to, adds to the volume of undealt-with death that accumulates behind the dam of our health care system and also in our collective subconscious. At some point, the weight becomes unbearable, the dam breaks and the flood overwhelms us. That a literal demographic flood of death will of necessity occur in the next decades makes the breaking of the dam even more certain, and more terrifying.)

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