Friday, September 18, 2009

On Death and Dying

Nobody wants to die. Well, that's not quite true. After all, lots of people take their own lives. I can't get into the mind of a suicide, but I wonder if it's simply that they want out of whatever situation they are in. They don't seek death, per se, but escape. And people who are in great pain seek death sometimes (but only sometimes).
On the whole, though, we resist death. But why? There seems to be a paradox here. If death is the way of life, why fight it? After all, we have to make room for the next generation, and someone has to feed the worms.
This paradox is most evident in religious thought. I was listening to bluegrass this morning (always makes me think on death and dying). The singer was singing about his mom and dad who were rejoicing around the throne of God. The chorus, however, went, "I'll live my life in sorrow, now that mommy and daddy are dead."
And of course Shakespeare weighed in on it. In a dialogue in, I think, The Merchant of Venice, the fool talks to one of the characters whose brother has died. The dialogue goes something like this (fuzzy quote alert):
"I think your brother is in Hell."
"I know my brother is in Heaven, fool."
"The more fool you, to grieve for your brother's being in Heaven."
If you don't believe in God or an afterlife, not wanting to die is understandable. After all, as W. E. Henley said, after life "looms the horror of the shade." Non-existence is almost too dreadful to be contemplated.
Yet, neither religious nor non-religious thought really makes any sense. Either we go to an eternal reward with angels and gold streets or we simply go out, like a light turned off. No big deal either way.
So why do thoughts of death consume us so?

4 comments:

bekkieann said...

The way I see it, nobody knows for sure either way (though some insist they know). All we really know for sure is this life we have right now and we'd all better make the best of that and stop worrying about the next one (if any). Something tells me, that if we concern ourselves in this life with becoming better in many ways and continuing to improve the world around us, nothing is lost when we die. And so much is gained.

Maybe I'll feel differently when I'm older.

Bee's Blog said...

Don't know who originally said it but "I'd Rather live my life believing that there is a God, and die to find out there isn't, than to live my life believing that there isn't a God and die to find out there is."

On both your houses said...

It's sometimes called "Pascal's wager" after Blaise Pascal, who said that the way to bet is that there is a God. If there isn't, you haven't lost anything; if there is, you've won. I think that kinda misses the point, though.

Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

I live in a community which seems to be plagued at the moment with people trying desperately not to die. Frankly, I cannot see myself enduring all sorts of chemical hell to live another few days. But it is not for me to say how others choose to die.

But sitting back at the fringes I can see two things very clearly:

1) the fight to live can rule the lives of those you love. It can make it hell here on earth.

And 2) those that seem to fight hardest to not die seem to be those that profess to believe the most in a glorious life after death.

Now those are two conundrums to contemplate.