Saturday, November 03, 2007


In these Modern Times in the West I can go for months, sometimes even years without encountering a dead person. Often it seems that death is something alien to our kind, something that does happen, but something so rare that it bears no thinking on. Yes, death happens, and no, we usually don't like it much. It's there but we don't give it any real thought. Why would we? Aristotle sums it up nicely: he writes that hedonists want the good in life, and they want lots of it. One thing they don't want any of is death; therefore, if those who want the good don't want death, then death is a bad thing. Good point, huh. Death? Shhh.

We in the Modern West avoid death as much as we can; or if we do attend to it we transform it into entertainment of a sort-- if we feel the need to examine death at all. It's not even funny the things we do to disguise death as other than it is; but it is, and we need it. Sometimes we need a lot of it, and sometimes we need a lot of it urgently. Sometimes death just can't wait.

Death? Look, let's face it: Death is not the end of the world. Some will argue that it's the end of ones personal existence; others will argue that it's a portal to another kind of beingness; and some will be completely oblivious to the question, not caring at all, what is death.It is those latter we might care to question if we are to find some sense of our worldly experience and the further telos of Humanity. Ask those who just don't care.

What if they are us? What if we have an attitude toward death that we assign it a neutral value? "Is/Is not." It's like this, see: "Was not, was, was not." I forget who is the Roman who coined that phrase. suffice it to say he is no longer with us. He cares not, and we care less. Care or not, we do what we do, we die when we die, and life goes on regardless. But the hue and cry one hears when a body dies! One would think the good of the world had passed. That attitude, and it is nothing more than attitude, is a serious sickness of the mind of our Modern Times.

Death is sometimes a good thing, and a very good thing when it happens to ones enemies. When it happens to ones own, not such a good thing. But even then, lie goes on. (Sometimes we should-- death-- grasp it.)

The writer following is a favorite of mine, though he's a bit strange in the spelling and punctuation department; aside from that he's not a bad writer.

"Death Be Not Proud"

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne, (1572-1631)

We in the Modern West, especially in the past 50 years or so, we seem cut off from the everyday ordinariness of death. We seem often to react to death with a maudlin hysteria, an unrestrained grief so far beyond proportion that one might be surprised to find the witness to death didn't himself expire from the shock and distress of the witnessing. Of course only the slightest few actually die form witnessing the death of others, most getting over it pretty damned quick and no mistake. Theory aside, in practice most people just keep on living like they've always done, though the expressions of horror get bandied about like shuttle-cocks till one or the other tires or attention wanders and life intrudes, like lunch-time or a toilet break.

Death. Most people make too much of it.

Death. It's something we should make more of.

Personally speaking, of course, I'm not ready just yet for death, (thanks for asking) and were anyone determined to make me so it's an occasion I'd rise to resist. And then I'd live with the outcome, all else being equal and mutatis mutandis.

Death. It's not an encounter many of us are in a hurry to experience, but hey, shifts happen.

Not being enthused about having death for ourselves, perhaps we wouldn't wish a lot of it on others. But wait. But wait a minute. But what? What do we think we think if we think we shouldn't wish death on those who would rather we die? Ah, some folk want to kill us. Yes they do. There are those who want us dead. They are those we cannot be satisfied with if they merely leave us alone. There are those who do us no particular harm at all, and still would we, if only could we, hunt them down and kill them dead. Who? Our gratuitous enemies. Folk like us but different: they ain't ours, they be the enemy. It would be the right thing to kill 'em. It's nothing personal, and we'll all get over it. And it's the right thing too that in the process of killing our enemies we might-- God preserve us-- we might die too. such is life. Life makes me smile.

Life is good, but it has an end, which might be known as purpose. Death? It's easy, though the dying can be a bit hard on some. Death is not the end of the world as we know it. Death is a good thing, a needed thing, a thing we must give aplenty to our enemies.

What? Is this all? But this is so abrupt. It's not done yet. There should be more....

1 comment:

dag said...

Gentle Reader, I have no idea what you'll make of my post above, but I see that at least for this day, and things do change, I have a couple of ads atop the piece that have me wondering what on earth goes on in this life of ours. To wit: the ads, one calling for those who wish to apply for grants, the second for those who wish to apply for government jobs. What does Google make of my post? I am lost in the aether here, clueless and bewildered. What the hey, I'm going to apply for one of them there grants.

Yalla, bye.