Summer is over. The trees begin to lose their leaves, nature is preparing for winter in our Northern hemisphere. Traditionally this was the time of the year which we associated with death. The death of nature, where the visible life withdraws and retracts into the potential for the rebirth next spring.
Our societies have lost many traditions, most of us are hardly aware of the change in Nature. We have heating and electric light when it is cold and dark and we have air conditioning in our houses for when it is hot. We have the possibility to survive the heat in artificial surroundings like shopping centers and recreational inside parks.
Ignoring Nature, ignoring Death
We don’t care about Nature, in so many ways. And we don’t care about life, not really. Not at all about death. We try to ignore it as much as we can, only the names of certain days in the calendar, like “All Saints” and “Totensonntag” (a protestant special day in Germany for remembering the dead) remind us about death and the people who have died in the past. How come that we need special periods and days to remember death and that we need to face it, sooner or later, ourselves? And how many people actually are willing to be reminded of it? Why is the topic such a taboo today which we try to avoid by all means?
The prize we pay for ignoring death and grief
Sooner or later every human being is confronted with death. Our parents die at some point, maybe a friend or our partner, even our child might be taken away from us by death. Now we cannot ignore it anymore. The question comes up now: how can we handle the loss, the grief and our new situation where the other is gone? We don’t find a lot of support in our surroundings, people feel awkward, shy away, avoid you even – and especially – in the moment when you are most vulnerable and would need their presence most. Colleagues at work expect you to show up after a few days as if you had taken a sick leave and everything was perfect again. Death is cruel and the absence of a proper place for it in our society makes it infinitely more cruel – and we pay a huge prize for it, collectively.
Corona shows us our attitude towards death
At the bottom of how the Corona Crisis is handled by our societies lies the repressed fear of death. Death is the enemy which justifies all sorts of cruel practices. People are left alone in hospitals, entangled in all sorts of wires and tubes, unable to articulate themselves, unable to experience any benefit of being alive in such a situation and kept away from those people who could offer consolation, companionship and relief of fear and pain. They die under inhuman conditions and are taken away, somewhere, without having been able to say good bye.
Quantity trumps over Quality
A society which sees human beings as a machine which needs fixing throws away the useless, life-less parts. Focused on the life of the body we reduce ourselves to meaningless creatures and we betray the deeper value of our existence as humans. We totally undervalue our interiority, our feelings, our psyche, our soul, as something to be discarded, unimportant. We value quantity before quality. We don’t allow people to decide if they want to enjoy their lives in the given circumstance as opposed to prolong it by any means.
We are treated like little children – a call for personal responsibility
Many questions arise which find stereotyped answers most of the time, often even mandatory answers with the thread of punishment. Is a grandparent allowed to chose taking the risk of going to see their grandchildren despite the danger of catching Covid? Is the state authorised to forbid social contacts? Wouldn’t it be better to encourage responsibility in people and allow them to decide themselves – by giving them honestly the maximum available information – but certainly not only from the purely medical perspective – which are needed for their own decisions? Instead we are flooded with fear mongering which is based on our collective neglect of death as part of life, which, after all, is unavoidable and needs to be integrated in life as the goal towards which every single one of us is heading.
Conscious Ageing, Conscious Dying = Conscious Living
For November 2020 I put together a short series of conversations about Death, Dying, Rebirth and the quality of Life. You find it at www.TheWisdomFactory.net
David Lorimer from the “Scientific and Medical Network” starts off the series, followed by a panel conversation among widows, an interview with a hospice worker and a conversation on how the experience of accompanying a partner into death can change one’s personal and work life.