I have managed to get to the adulthood without anyone particularly close to me dying. Because of this I haven’t had the possibility to get to know death as most of the people I know have.
I have never been in a funeral and I have never seen a dead human. I have never went through the pain of missing someone close in my life and slowly understanding that there is no way we can connect in life again. Most importantly, I have lived my whole life not understanding that I am going to die. Whether or not my friends of same age have lost someone to death, they don’t seem to understand it either. I often wonder how is it possible that people prioritise the things they do, or care about the things they do, in relation to the bigger picture where us and all of whom we’ve ever known are dying. If someone asks if we know that we are going to die, we would say yes. But in a tangible every day knowing and understanding level, we have no connection to the fact that we are going to die. Either does most of our parents, but they might show a more realistic, or irrational, fear of dying.
In western world death has been so closely connected to war and violence, that it has created a disconnection to traditions where death has been more natural event. We still carry the influence from wars from our traumatised parents or grandparents, but don’t have a more peaceful tradition of death to replace it. Most countries have been in war within the last few generations, and news travel fast in our times so wars in distant places touch us in a totally different way than before. I believe it is in close connection with how we have lost respect and appreciation of growing old in modern western world. It’s like the youth and elders have both forgotten how much the young ones would have to learn from elders.
For me the time of pregnancy has been bringing me a lot closer to death. It has offered me a way to really comprehend it in new level. I find it so magical that there first isn’t a separate sense of consciousness, and then at some point it just merges into existence. That’s how I see death, in reverse. Being not born and therefore not having this sense of separation isn’t good or bad, it just is. That’s why I don’t see death as a taboo either. Still I see our society as a whole distancing itself as far from it as possible. In a way I understand it as a natural animal behaviour. All animals avoid death instinctively, including humans. But then there came this thought, how would our society look different if it would have more natural relationship to death? What kind of decisions would people make, what kind of values would be prioritised? I see most decisions made from either fear, or lack of perspective. Most often it’s fear of risking financial safety or loosing acceptance from other people.
It would be tempting to claim that there is some bad guys somewhere who want us to stay asleep and not question anything, and I’m sure there is many of those people, and many of them are in power positions. Still when I think of them individually, what else is an insurance agent spreading worrying statistics than a human afraid of loosing their own safety? Or a marketing expert trying to convince new parents that they need a lot of things for their baby to be good parents? Or a teacher getting angry at students who ask what comes after the universe ends? In a western world with freedom of speech, there isn’t really anyone to accuse of keeping us asleep than ourselves. Not that accusation would ever be beneficial, but I see a lot of people feeling betrayed by how things are not as they were told to be. We do live in a world of freedom of speech, but also in a world of manipulation. It’s up to us to learn and teach our children to recognise when they are being manipulated by media or teachers, or anyone, into making choices out of fear.
Ultimately life is not endless, even though death in our society has been isolated and sterilised out of sight. People who travel anywhere outside of western world know this. They tell that they are going on a trip to India or Africa, and very often the responses are warnings or even trying to convince the person to not go, because it’s so dangerous. Only when you go, you find out how people somehow manage to stay alive without all that we thought is so essential for survival.
It’s important to think of other peoples motives when they try to influence our decision making and comment on our choices.
The more I question what is behind other peoples responses to my life choices the more free I become, because I notice how it’s not actually my own fear I’m carrying around. At the same time I’m developing a death awareness which allows me to prioritise with better perspective, so that instead of limiting myself out of fear of death I actually live more. Exactly the same lifestyle can be enjoyable or fear infused for different individuals, so there really isn’t a right or wrong way to live, but I hope that for whoever is reading this the choices would not come out fear but from a place of freedom.