Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Death in Springtime.

You may have noticed, dear reader, my recent lack of regular blogging over the past month or so...

No? O, well then you've probably been suffering from the same blessed spring fever that I've come down with (or gone out with, as the case may be). My thoughts lately have been as lazy and amusing as a rabble of cabbage butterflies. Here, for instance, is the half-hearted attempt at a serious contemplation of death and the afterlife. It soon dissolves into chuckling at my own self-reflection.

"Life is cruel. Why should the afterlife be any different?"

- Davey Jones, PotC: DMC

Interesting question.

On the other hand, I'm not inclined to agree with the premise. Maybe I've just been lucky... quite possible. But somehow I don't think that's all it is--at least, I know plenty of people who seem to have better "luck" but don't do nearly as much with it.

I'm more inclined to believe that life is what you make it with the materials you're given (the material world itself--biology, chemistry, physics--as well as society, individuality, community, personality, etc.). And in that sense, why should the afterlife be any different? We're given different media to work with, perhaps, and different skills to utilize, and we're working and creating from a different perspective...

On the other hand, maybe this view is just a way of denying death. If the afterlife is a transition to a new way of being/becoming, then death is no real tragedy. Yet we grieve deeply over the death of loved ones. Is this grief a mistake, a reaction based in our ignorance of what lies "beyond"? Or is it an accurate reflection of the nature of death as a definite end?

Now I feel like I'm writing the opening voiceover for an episode of X-Files or Medium.

Probably a sign that I should stop.


  1. doublespiral5/06/2008 3:55 PM

    I think we grieve for ourselves, not for the departed loved one. We are largely unable to see beyond the "empty space" left in our own lives by their absence. If anything, we fear the unknown on their behalf. A natural but futile exercise on our parts.

  2. I tend to agree with you. Still, the idea feels somewhat unresolved to me--and with gorgeous weather and life flouting its fecundity everywhere, I'm not currently all that inclined to dwell on it.

    I remember when a friend of mine died, I kept wondering why the absence of death feels so different from, say, the absence of an old high school friend who never spoke a word to me again after we graduated. In some ways, one absence is as final as the other... so what is the difference? Perhaps one difference is that the death of another (even a stranger's, someone who wasn't directly or personally involved in my life) forces me to confront the possibility of my own death. In fact, I just read an essay on this very idea--that all our euphemisms and rationalizations (even statements like "grief is just fear of the unknown" as well as more comforting "they're in a better place" or "it was just their time") are merely ways to avoid confronting our own mortality.

    But then, I'm not sure what "confronting my mortality" would look like. The night after my friend died, I happened to be riding in a rickety pick-up truck with some friends up the side of a very steep mountain. I remember looking out into the darkness just a few feet away as the truck rushed on up, and asking myself quite seriously if I wanted to continue living... It was an odd experience, because though I answered "yes," it was out of conviction rather than out of desire.