DEATH FUGUE

 

Inception

Walking in a redwood forest with a charming young lady. Admiring the elegant complexity of wilderness. Exchanging philosophical conversation. We were questing through the foggy nature of fear and when asked what lurked deepest in the quarters of my psyche, I was unable to articulate a response.

After a few days of letting the question ruminate in the soil of my subconscious environment, it arose to the field of my flowering consciousness that a vaporous fear of death was casting a shadow on the procession of my life path.

We don’t know because we don’t want to know
— Aldolus Huxley
Identification of resistance and illumination of fear are principals to my code of conduct. I set to the task of contemplating and integrating this mortal matter from a psychological understanding to a visceral acknowledgement. What I discovered over the course of months is so impressively transforming that I’m inspired to compose a three part fugue in honor of this phenomenal scenario.

The first third of this sequence is designed as a foundation to explain why I’ve become so intrigued by death and how the centripetal study of dying could radically enrich the elements of your life. Parts two and three will progressively build in detail as variations on this theme. Further research and entertainment surrounding this subject matter can be found through following any of the highlighted links and other recommended books, videos and music at the conclusion of this essay.

I begin writing this composition at the zenith of summer, somewhere in the mountains of Northern California, with ghostly birds of prey soaring high in the sky, vaulted on ventilated vortexes, tracing concentric circles with their widespread wings, surveying the forest floor for a feast on feet, or to pick bloody flesh off the bones of the dead. So it goes.

Since the initial search began, I’ve digested a wonderful amount of nourishment through intense investigation. Some of the contents may be obtuse to wrestle with and decidedly unpopular topics of discussion at the proverbial dinner table. I imagine the many people will probably feel uncomfortable, provoked, distressed. Nevertheless, I will forge onward and inward to the heart of this subject of death, grief and strive to illuminate refreshing perspectives on life and love.

Are you dead or dying? Do you know someone dead or dying? If you answer yes to either of these questions then this fugue is for you. I do it with fierce passion for all of us who will fail to live forever. So it goes.
Named must your fear be before banish it you can
— Yoda

 

My Legacy Project

Live Wild, Love Honestly, Die Wise.

This is a motivating manifesto which I feel accurately captures the pure intention of my personal administration and articulates the labor of my path. This work is both my burden and great honor to obey. That is to say, a willing obedience to the heartbreaking majesty of the eternally divine, in which we see in all the micro-animated material realm. My contributing service to humanity therefore makes me an Elder In Training. Loving life as much as honestly possible and preparing for my death, so that it may be a feast for others. Or the birds.

It would be fair to admit that I utilize a bit of the old subversion as a strategy for effectively shifting some peculiarities within the cultural paradigm toward harmonic lucidity. My chief aim is to produce the highest quality content of value for you. I don’t expect to have your immediate trust but I’m willing to earn it through intense focus and transparent vulnerability.

I only ask that you bear with me for a while as a faithful witness, as together we entertain ideas without casting undue judgement in any direction. Everyone's permitted to their own opinion but no one's entitled to their own facts.

If you wish to avoid ridicule; say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.
— Aristotle

I would like to direct your attention to notice the specific words I choose to use in this essay, including all previous and forthcoming articles. They’re intentionally crafted to weave a tapestry of meaning. While I am striving for elocution through literary flourishes, extraordinary expressions and artistic alliterations, I say sincerely that more important is my struggle to speak authentically with emphasis on etymology, energetics and an animated language that upholds the powerful magic spelled within symbols.

If you look closely at the syllables and syntax of some word streams, they could stand out like the three dimensional features of an old pop-up book. I challenge myself to consistently review preconceived definitions, exercise vocabulary fitness and I encourage you to practice the regeneration of wordplay. The process is a pleasure of mine and I often attempt to infuse humorous entertainment with edification. The alchemy of mad respect and unreasonable caprice.

It takes courage to create. Hell, it takes courage to wake up and do anything. There’s fear of misrepresentation, failure, ridicule. However, at the end of our lives we’ll ask three questions to evaluate how we lived and who we were, as high performance coach Brendon Burchard says, “Did I live fully? Did I love openly? Did I matter?” This reminds me to consistently practice personal development, learn skills and motivate others to add value through innovation.

As an artist of life, I understand that the time will come to receive counsel from the angel of death. This compels me to make a difference in a positive direction. Mastery is an increasingly small deviation from perfection. Dying is a skill.

"Like everyone else, you want to learn the way to win, but never to accept the way to lose - to accept defeat. To learn to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes you must free your ambitious mind and learn the art of dying!" Bruce Lee

The key to immortality is first to live a life worth remembering
— Bruce Lee

For many of us, a sincere conversation about the raw nature of dying is long overdue, by thousands of years, because of distracting immortality masquerades. I’m inspired to add my voice to the rising chorus of others who are reintroducing an open dialogue surrounding this inevitable event through a synthesis of delicate sensitivity and radical subversion. We were born into a death phobic society, as Stephen Jenkinson says from his years of working in what he calls the death trade.

“I know that the prospect of mounting a project of cultural redemption while trying to respond well to the incremental suffering of dying people and their families might seem beyond reach, or inappropriate to what the situation calls for. The only response to that doubt that could have similar gravity might be that we regularly ask ourselves: How is it for the person dying in my care to be dying in a time and place that teaches them mostly how not to die? What can I do, day in and day out, about that?”

“You learn from working in the helping trades that hurt has to find its words as well as its voice. Hurt has to speak its name and find a language that does justice to what has been seen and endured. People can hurt well, meaning that they can hurt toward a purpose.”

"Die Wise - A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul", is Stephen Jenkinson's new book about grief, dying, and the great love of life. Dying well, Jenkinson writes, is a right and responsibility of everyone. It is a moral, political, and spiritual obligation each person owes their ancestors and their heirs. It is not a lifestyle option. It is a birthright and a debt. Die Wise dreams such a dream, and plots such an uprising. How we die, how we care for dying people, and how we carry our dead: this work makes our village life, or breaks it.

At the end of the game,
the king and the pawn go back into the same box.
— Italian Proverb

Our lives are not our own. We’re hyper-connected within the complex fabric of a source field. The rippling waves of interaction aren’t mutually exclusive. Nor will our deaths belong to us. As we revolve around the Sun on this Gaian whorled, some folks won’t wake up from their sleep tonight. Others will be responsible for returning those bodies back into the Earth and mourning. So it goes.

Grief is a way of loving, and love is a way of grieving. Both of these are twin flames and skill sets in the labor of the living. Eros & Thanatos. It’s amazing how much my heart can break as I explore myself, expose my vulnerability and bear witness to the wretched suffering I see in so much of the human story of survival and disease. One thing I believe I can do to show how much I care is to gather all my dynamic experience and turn it into written meditations that speak through the wind of my soul.

When it comes your time to die,
be not like those whose lives
are filled with the fear of death,
so that when time comes
they weep and pray for a little more time
to live their lives over again
in a different way.
Sing your death song and die
like a hero going home.
— Tecumseh, Shawnee

The ability to have a wonderful imagination actively engaged is a skill. Probably all of the greatest artists; musical and visual, embraced their hard earned lamentations and channeled them into creativity for others to appreciate. Consider that grief and death might be the only two guaranteed gifts in our lives, and not love or anything else. In spite or because of staggering odds, we have the choice to use our story for a purpose instead of letting our story use us for nothing.

Suffer for the sake of love and cast out shaming, blaming and business that distracts from doing what heartfelt intuition whispers or screams. Creativity is evolution in our hands. Hurt for something.

If the gift of birth was given to one, then they were born to die. It would behoove us to obey the basic process of these critical spectrums, birth and death. Coming into this whorled through a natural birth experience is a beautiful thing to celebrate. Leaving this place behind through a reverse process which is normal, ecological and essential, ought to be a beautiful thing to celebrate as well.

I see it like the color range of a rainbow, with the invisible infrared and ultraviolet hues hugging all the visible vibrance in the center of focus.

 

A RENEISSANCE

 

Resistance to the continuum of death feeding life is not really appropriate to the task. Obedience to the wildness of seasonal processions is better suited for thriving and dying. What is the task and function of modern humans, individually or collectively? Disagreements are diverse and there’s much to wonder about. But I’ve learned that left can be right but right can never be left. We need to know how to hear the call of nature and allow it to take it’s course.

In the words of F.S. Fitzgerald - “Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist but also in the ability to start over.” I hear a lot of talk about quality of life but have heard zero on quality of death. Oh, the futility of resistance.

I wish for us to enjoy life while we’re here and to do good things that create a beautiful place to be for others we’ll never get to see. We need to learn when to let go, the art of dying and bow with reverence to the great mystery. You have my gratitude for deciding to take these first steps on this mysterious adventure with me. Forthcoming installments will investigate initiation, ritual, ceremony, mentors, elders, civilization, spirituality, burial, prepartion strategies and a good deal more.

One ounce of preparation is equal to a pound of disappointment. If I play the cards right, we’ll have more than a pound of preparation that can be cured and stored for when strength is needed.


“A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford


If you don’t know what kind of person I am
and I don’t know what kind of person you are,
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world,
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

 

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break,
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

 

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders, the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty,
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

 

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

 

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear; the darkness around us is deep.

 

 

VIDEOS - MUSIC - BOOKS

 

This documentary introduces us to Stephen Jenkinson, once the leader of a palliative care counselling team at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital. Through his daytime job, he has been at the deathbed of well over 1,000 people. What he sees over and over, he says, is "a wretched anxiety and an existential terror" even when there is no pain. Indicting the practice of palliative care itself, he has made it his life's mission to change the way we die - to turn the act of dying from denial and resistance into an essential part of life.

Philosopher Stephen Cave begins with a dark but compelling question: When did you first realize you were going to die? And even more interesting: Why do we humans so often resist the inevitability of death? Cave explores four narratives — common across civilizations — that we tell ourselves "in order to help us manage the terror of death."

"The Fault in Our Stars" - The story of a young couple, both who have different cancer conditions, fall in love after meeting at a cancer support group. Heartbreaking, humorous, compelling.

Wolves in the Throne Room have refracted the transcendent and mythic aspects of Black Metal through their own idiosyncratic Cascadian prism. The resulting essence is music that is intimately linked to the wild lands of the Pacific Northwest. Their songs explore the hidden world of magic that one accesses through dreams, visions and music.

 
 

Special thanks to Daniel for his dedicated dispatch on Death and Rebirth. And grateful acknowledgement to Stephen Jenkinson for sharing his Orphan Wisdom.

May we all dwell in the magnificence of the divine creators generosity.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom always to know the difference.
— Reinhold Niebuhr