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.
This is a meditation on why I’ve become so intrigued by death, and how the investigation of dying could radically enrich the elements of our lives. May we go into the heart of this subject of death, grief, and illuminate some refreshing perspectives on life and love. I do this with reverence for all of us who will fail to live forever.
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.
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."
Speaking to this, Stephen says, “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?'”
“One learns 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.”
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. Some folks won’t wake up from their sleep tonight. Other people 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.
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. We would be wise to obey the basic process of the critical spectrums of birth and death. Being born of this world through a natural birth experience is a beautiful thing to celebrate. Leaving this place behind through a reverse process - which is natural, 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.
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 weave its 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. This appears like a resistance to death, to endings.
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, and bow with reverence to the great mystery. This is to learn the art of dying. And to do so with wisdom, so that we might lead by example and teach others how to die wise.
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 more.
One ounce of preparation is equal to a pound of regret. Let us begin now, to hold death near out hearts, and recieve its lessons, so that we may live each moment with more fulfillment in the way things are.
May we all dwell in the magnificence of the divine creators generosity.
“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."
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.