Friday, March 11, 2016

Signs? Of death, on death or about death..?

Lately I find myself stumbling across books, stories, blog posts or other mentionings with one very specific theme; death.
Not death as in dead and gone, end of life, the finished kind of thing, but more death as in a happening, a phase of life, a subject to study and learn about and above all what comes after. Grief, sorrow, the afterlife, whatever you will find after death has happened. That is the message that seems to be coming through; the teachings, not the end.

It started with the "Die wise"- book, which apparently did trigger something. Personally I do believe that that book found its way into my life for a reason..... But shortly after I started with the book I started coming across stories of death, or near death but even more so about death. This book actually acted as a catalyst. making clear to me a lot of things I already knew, believed in or have thought about.... a lot. And still do, including new aspects.

The realisation came to me the other day, when I was putting away books and organising bookshelves. My wife did bring home a few handfuls of books over the past weeks, which she had gotten for free (because I had found them, whilst scouring the internet and I asked her to). Some were useful, some were not and those that weren't to us were set aside to be given on and no more looked at. In the last handful there was a book we already had, so I went and put it with the rest.
And that's when my eye caught sight of a bright yellow cover with the title "Ljusfolket" by Benny Rosenqvist. And it's subtitle "andra sidan -  så funkar det. I read the backside of the cover and here too one of the main themes was the fear of death our culture has these days, just as in Die wise... The other theme was focused on learning how to deal with that. just like Die wise . Ljusfolket continues with subjects like the afterlife and on the lessons of life we need to learn, when we return once more, which Jenkinson's book does not cover, but which is a firm believe I hold myself. I was about to give this book away and the bright yellow cover should have caught my eye previously, but I guess the time wasn't right just yet. Haven't read the book just yet, though. Only browsed through it.

Other stories tell tales of near death incidents or accidents, some pet related, or deaths having occurred in the past, but always with the focus of what comes after that.

I do not expect me or anyone else around here dying anytime soon, although one never knows. But this is not the vibe I am getting. I do not think any of our pets will die, since there too signs are showing other paths. The arrival of Lester and the change of course my wife's career has gotten, seem to be leading us in yet another quite unexpected direction, which involves a very lively life for us and the dogs together.
It turns out that one of my wife's new colleagues is very active in and knowledgeable of dogsledding and everything associated and seems very willing to help and teach us.... and our dogs. And that would mean in an interactive way.. But that will be a different story alltogether.

There is this one passage in Die wise where Jenkinson refers to us and the cost of lives it took to get us here. And that really got me thinking. How many animals indeed did it take for me to arrive where I am now? How many were killed and slaughtered in order to feed me all these years. To clothe me. To give me my leather boots. How many trees were cut down to provide me with the wood I needed to construct the homes I lived in, the furniture I used and these days the warmth they provide in my home. And I haven't even dared to think about all the plants I ate, but even more about the lives lost, both animal and botanical, to make room in order for this all to happen..... The impact is enormous!!
It was mind boggling and I was horrified. But then I also felt a gratitude. A deep gratitude for being here, where I am today.....
It also made me think that all we do is take, but what do we give back? What did I give back? The answer is equally painful. Next to nothing. Not even our bodies, after we die, as Jenkinson so rightfully states. Those could at least feed something....... Until I started realising that I have begun to give back, albeit in a very limited, modest way. I have begun to teach my children to respect all with which they live; man, animal, plant and soil (not necessarily in that order). To understand the connection between them all and the interdependence. And I realised that I had already begun to give back to this small place I inhabit by feeding the soil compost, minerals and dung, even before I start to grow on any mentionable scale. I am going to give it back pollinators this year, from which I only plan to take their surplus after letting them have their share first.
Will I ever be able to repay the "debt" my living has claimed? Not even close. And yes, nature is based on eating or being eaten, but whenever an animal relieves itself, that spot gets fertilized, when it eats it often creates feeding opportunities for others and when it dies, its body becomes food itself. We are the only species that give nothing back at all......
And this is where it all goes wrong; we only take. This is where I feel we should make a change. We should give back as well. Whenever we take crops, we must give back the equal amount in "food" for that soil. Whenever we take trees or habitat, we need to replace them and maybe ( I know this will be touching a taboo in western thinking) we should stop burning or burying our dead, which only costs loads of energy, but leave them in a place, where they can serve a purpose as well. Become a part of the circle by providing sustenance to animal and plant and create a new circle of life instead of tucking them deep into the ground or blowing its energy into the air, where they serve no purpose at all. I once read that that apparently is a common practice in Tibet. they're called sky burials. If you're googling that, prepare for what might be considered stark images! And if I am informed correctly leaving out the dead was common practice if Africa too up until the arrival of christianity and/or islam.
Would I like the idea of the bodies of my loved ones being eaten and decaying out in the woods for instance? I have to admit that in a way that image does trouble me a little, but I do think that that is just cultural indoctrination speaking. As for me I have expressed my desire to become a part of said circle in one way or another a long time ago and so has my wife. Trouble is we're not allowed to.
(I know this is considered to be an thought provoking or even extreme point of view by many, but maybe we should ask ourselves why?)

We need to strike a balance....

Anyway.... as I said it got me thinking....and it keeps me thinking.....
AM I afraid to die? No, not really. Am I afraid of pain? No, not anymore. Just a matter of getting drugged up. But I really do not like the idea of leaving my family behind and if there is one thing I am afraid of, it would be living my final days as not being me; crippled, incapacitated, both physically and mentally. That would be utter torment for me.

I realise that I and the memory of me will find away with time. The "I" as it is today will cease to exist. The spirit will move on though. Go back to where we all originate from, become reborn into a physical being to learn yet another lesson or maybe teach one or receive another task to fulfill. Because that is what I believe. That divine spark that creates "life", that makes a body come alive and gives it personality, is immortal.

And this is one of the things I disagree with Jenkison with. He states we need a place to bury our dead. That that place creates a vital connection between human and land. That that is our anchor and our connection to the dead.
I believe/know that the dead are with us, wherever we are. I have felt my grandfather's presence here and so has my oldest daughter..... who happened to be born on his day of death, quite a bit over the calculated date of birth. I never visited his grave. Didn't and do not see the point. The bodies of the dead are empty husks, which will return to the ground after they have fulfilled their purpose; being a vessel for the spirit and soul. That doesn't mean we should just throw them away like garbage. After all they are the physical remains of the ones we loved and at least some respect should be shown and care should be taken. But as said, stuffing it 6 feet under or blowing it into the air doesn't make any sense, other than sanitary maybe.
And where does this strong, inner connection to the land in which we live now come from? None of my forebears lived here, are buried here or even know the place. Not in a sense as we would understand it historically. But, given the line of thought of returning spirits, it would make perfect sense that I have lived here at some time in the past. That those spirits are far more connected to everything and everyone around me, because those connections are far more expanding than just direct family or lineage. Hence taking care of just the graves/dead in your lineage would be too little. That, to me, we are far more interconnected than just that.

How do I see my own death?? What do I hope for? I don't know. Would I take any and all measures to lengthen my life, despite the odds or outcome? A definite "No" there. As long as I do not need to wither away, tied to machines that make me be, as Metallica once put it. Being an unnecessary emotional or financial burden to my family, community or society. I want to have some dignity left at the end of my physical being here, if possible.
I want them to celebrate my life, my deeds and accomplishments, however few those may be. Which actually is false modesty, since I do have a profound impact on the life of my family of course. And I know it had, has and will have on others too. Equally v.v.
I do not need for my death to have meaning. I already had that with my life. So there is no need to bargain for more time. For a very large part I already did what I needed/wanted to; Meet a loving wife, have a family, raise kids in the right way and with the right ideas and be as kind as I possible can to the place I call home; house, area, planet.... and maybe reaching someone out there and touch them, their mind, their soul into being like that too. Couldn't wish for more....

Would that mean I am ready to die at any time, right now?
I guess, yeah. Pretty much. I have accepted death as the one final and inevitable thing I must undergo. I have accepted that death is my and our companion every step of the way, ever since I was born and that it will come, whenever my time is up. I have accepted that the same applies for those I love too!
But of course I would like to see my kids grow up and watch them go out into the world and maybe complete the circle and I would like to physically be there with them until they do. Watching their children do the same would be a great bonus, if I could do that in good physical and mental health. I would like to grow old with my wife and do my best to be a bit more kind to these places I call home.

But when the time comes, I do believe I am ready. Yes.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you're out there thinking and thinking. I apologize for not commenting more these days. We are crazy busy making our move. I dug around in my proposed garden spot yesterday and was thrilled to find sandy loam that seems to be prevalent throughout the central valley. I need to befriend our neighbor as he tilled his acreage and it looks like a righteous potential truck farm for carrots, potatoes and who knows else? Maybe we can partner?!