… it’s been around for quite some time, now, but we still haven’t really come to terms with it, have we?
It’s the bleakest and most traumatic example of resistance against what is - that mental non-acceptance of the moment - yet it’s inevitable and inescapable that, from birth, we move towards it.
This human life is short, even at its longest… but although there are medical and scientific advances in preventing and curing disease, disablement and all other ailments, would we really want to stop the process of death entirely?
It freaks most people out when they hit 40.
I see centenarians on the TV that look like they want to sleep… but they’re bothered by nurses and carers and forced to blow out candles for the cameras.
I watch their faces and think of stretched days of hard toil when all you long for at the end of them is to rest your head and slide away into nothingness.
But, unless you’re really into fashion, death is seen as the ultimate tragedy…
I’m not about to say it doesn’t matter; that staying in the moment is all you need to remember, and the passing of a loved one is just the same psychological mismatch between the reality of life and what your mind wants life to be like, as it would be if you were stuck in traffic on the way to a gig when you knew that Kylie had already taken to the stage in one of her little outfits.
If death wasn’t such an inconceivable enigma… if it wasn’t regarded with such finality, or if we could see past the veil to what comes after, life wouldn’t be so valued.
You can argue - if you withdraw your perspective to a global, governmental level - there’s little value put on a human life, or on life at all, but zoom back in to a personal, family or community view, and life becomes the most precious thing there is.
Where governments rubber stamp a ‘shocked and saddened’ response to disasters and are ‘regretful’ of the loss of life in war, get in close and there are hearts breaking… every death tears the world apart for someone.
(On a tangent, if our communities led the government – as it should be - rather than the other way around, World War II would have been Churchill and Hitler having a punch-up in a field, surrounded by a handful of men in suits egging them on. The other 120 million people from their respective countries would have told them to take a hike when called to arms. We’d have come up with a beer brewing competition, instead.)
We are here to live… on this planet to experience life… and death gives a focus to remind us of how important our time here is.
If there was no perceived ‘final curtain’ and we knew we moved on after physical death to somewhere better, there’d be mass suicides in traffic jams and at Morrissey concerts; stressed-out teachers would deal out capital punishment in schools; death would be the answer to and through almost every really tough challenge we faced.
If there was no respect for life, there would be no impulse to make the best we can of it.
Death affects the living. Death has never troubled the dead.
As catastrophic as the experience of close death is, and however weak and powerless it may make us feel, we generally carry on living as best we can… reminded that our time is precious and, before very long – in the grand scheme of things – our own death will arrive.
All that comes to being in this Universe is subject to the same fate. People die. Mountains crumble into sand. Continents collide or are ripped asunder and their form is destroyed. Planets are obliterated in the death throes of stars. Galaxies are torn apart.
Yet there is one thing that defies that rule…
Energy doesn’t die and nor is it born. It’s just there. Look around your room and you’ll see some of it, in various manifestations – whether it be in the shape of a cat, a flower pot, some wallpaper, your own hand, or if you’re very lucky indeed, in the form of Keira Knightley… and she’s maybe beckoning you to bed, with a wink and a cheeky glint in her eyes.
Without that energy flowing through your body, you would have no perceivable consciousness or life right now, and if that energy was entirely absent from the Universe, there would be no body at all… no ground for it not to lay on… no Earth… no Sun… no other sparkly stars in the sky… nothing.
But it is there… and… therefore… you are immortal.
All that you’re made from is eternal.
You are life.
Earlier this week, I was stomping up the mountain in Lochgoilhead and stopped for a moment, wiping a sheen of sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand… looking up at the clouds forming and trailing from the peak.
The sweat on my body was my internal cooling system kicking in, and the fingers of mist at the summit of the hill was the planet’s own cooling system in action.
The Earth rotates around the Sun in just the right way to allow a changing of the seasons, to cool and warm the hemispheres at just the right time so as not to completely fry or freeze life, here.
We’re part of something so extraordinarily, mind-bogglingly complicated, subject to countless chaotic rules, yet there’s a perfection to it all.
An atheist could dismiss it all as nature… but then, like an ocean is made from drops of water, we are a microcosm of the whole, which makes us, by nature, that nature.
A devout religious-type could argue that God makes it all work like that, and we’re inferior, but that infers separation. I don’t buy it… and nor do I buy angry-sky-god that would have the power of this entire Universe at his disposal and be so petty as to judge people on their actions within a flicker of a lifetime, and condemn them to the rest of eternity in pain and anguish.
Your energy is inextricably connected to this whole, ancient, Universal energy, that defies the process of birth and death… billions of years old, and then infinity before and after.
You always were, you are, now, and you always will be that energy.
So… um… we’re all a fragment of what could be regarded as God – the Universal power.
That’s pretty much fact.
We know that energy can have consciousness, because we are experiencing it right now, in this life, and we see it in so many different forms on this planet alone…
The thing is, we don’t need to know everything there is to know to live and learn from this lifetime.
And perhaps that’s why our time is short and these bodies are so fragile.
Death is to be respected, but it frames lifetimes rather than steals life.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
- Desiderata, Max Erhmann