"Dying abhors a vacuum...By this I mean that eventually most dying people decide that their death is either an angel or an executioner, and that's the story they die by." — Die Wise, A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, Stephen Jenkinson
My wife thinks I'm obsessed with death.
She might be right.
But I'm more than a little intrigued why we seem able to talk so fluently and adroitly about life (and living) but, save in extremis, seem always to avoid the 'D' word.
Why is that?
Social conditioning, bad juju or our time not yet having past.
For me, death is the other side of life. In fact, absent death there is no life. You only have to think about nature to realise that everything that comes from the soil (and no doubt the same could be said of the sea), relies upon up death for its continued existence.
I can't know what anyone else thinks, and so much of what I say on this subject and all others is conjecture, but there's clearly something amiss, in our Western culture at least, when we don't apprehend, or so it seems, that the moment we're born we begin to die. In that space, it should be easy to talk on the subject of death, and not just towards the end of life.
Perhaps we need a new language, one less disposed to avoidance but then again, I can't exactly see anyone rocking up to their friend's house or another networking event — virtual, of course — and blithely dropping into the conversation that they're really enjoying ye-old death process. I'm being flippant but then again, having recently said goodbye to my dearly beloved Brian, I can attest to the fact that, save with my wife (a nurse), there was practically nothing said about death, let alone what it might mean to Die Wise — I capitalise the expression because, save for Mr Jenkinson, it's not a term I'd ever heard, let alone read about.
And before the stoics among you jump into the conversation and regale me with the learning of old, even if you're widely read on the subject — Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus et al. — I don't see much if anything said or shared online, and certainly nothing to move the conversation forward save perhaps the two words memento mori — as if that was game, set and match.
Right now, I'm listening to Die Wise for the nth time, and I'm learning so much about my life but more than that I'm drawn to the subject of death and dying in a way that I know will continue to inform the way I live my life. It won't be, as so often has been the case, gorging myself silly on each day — JFDI and all that sh*t — but instead to remember that it's not about living each day as if it were my last, but to consider that each passing moment is utterly unique and will never come again. (I could be splitting hairs on this point!) More than that, to remind myself, as I lay my head down on the pillow each night, that I might not wake up the next day. Now, you might think the latter pretty morose or even nihilistic but I don't think so. I know, statistically, there's a good chance that I will wake up but that's not a forever, and one day it will be true. And it's a Universal truth.
As to the living proposition, you might say that in doing that to the best of your ability, death will take care of itself. And you're probably right, but just once in a while it doesn't hurt to remind yourself that you're not immortal, less still invincible and to Die Wise is as important as all that living we seem so hooked on.
Note to self: Much like yesterday's post on meaning, I see me returning to this subject again and again. Yikes, what a scary and depressing proposition. Possibly, but I'd like to think that if I can begin a wider conversation that there might emerge less word voodoo and more love and acceptance around the subject than is my experience. But then again, I might be off my rocker and will alienate everyone. I'm relaxed either way.
Blessings ❤, Ju
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