Death matters – no kidding!

1 Jun

What a sign of the times,  that giving this name to my blog should not be ridiculous!

For what could have been more obvious in every other epoch of history that death mattered! Of all things. That it mattered as much as being born, as getting married, as choosing a career, as making a living. In many past societies it mattered even more than living – life was merely a preparatory school for what came after. Whatever came after was the real thing, the permanent thing – what happened here was merely an interlude.

But even aside from the significance of death in the context of after-life beliefs, what could have been more obvious that an event which ended EVERYTHING mattered?

Now I ask: what is the matter with us, or what could be so special about us, that we are so uniquely oblivious to – or perhaps beyond – death? Are we in fact superior to all those others through the millenia that gave this event so much importance? Could that really be true? The lack of time and effort we give the subject suggests we just might be that conceited, that arrogant … that ignorant and naive.

Or has our amazing technology taken us beyond death, as the only society in the history of mankind to defeat death? Or has our unique wisdom allowed us to philosophise ourselves beyond death, to become so wise as to have accepted so fully what cannot be otherwise that we no longer waste time on the matter?

Evidently it is neither of the above.  In confronting death we are no superior philosophically or technologically – we have no sophisticated metaphysical solution to death – on the contrary we are children compared to past civilizations in this respect, less prepared spiritually or psychologically than others – and we still die as predictably as ever, despite every minor technological prolungation of life.

Moreover, we are not even oblivious to the significance of death – it has merely retreated more and more from the conscious to the subconscious, where it occupies us far more than we like to admit. It is still there – we just refuse to deal with it, pretend that it does not matter.

So in the end this title does make sense – in our weird world, people must actually be reminded that death matters.

(Aside: If a scornful tone is evident in the above, forgive me – sometimes I don’t know how else to deal with such conceit as ours. Compassion for such a fallen state of affairs in humanity would be better – and indeed, when I contemplate where this fear and denial of death is leading us, I cannot but feel compassion.

Because – tragically – however effectively we have hidden death in our society, it has not gone away. On the contrary – every act of “damming the river of life“, which is what death denial effectively leads to, adds to the volume of undealt-with death that accumulates behind the dam of our subconscious. At some point, the weight becomes unbearable, the dam breaks and the flood overwhelms us. That a literal demographic flood of death will of necessity occur in the next decades makes the breaking of the dam even more certain – and more terrifying.

Please people, wake up – death matters!


3 Responses to Death matters – no kidding!


Charles Cowling

June 1st, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I find myself very much a detached spectator at the moment. I am waiting to see which way my thinking inclines. Our present ‘not with a bang, not even a whimper’ approach to death and dying is curious indeed. And I agree with you: it does not answer the magnitude of the occasion, because even when death does not come with the force of catastrophe, it still creates a gigantic absence and asks a gigantic question. The gigantic question – the what’s it all about question.

How did we come to this? I can’t figure it out. Some sort of psychological ‘splitting off’?

As you say, the floodgates are about to burst. Then we shall see a concentration of minds and real efforts to work it all out, make some sense, do what needs to be done.

I admire very much your minatory tone.


Thomas Friese

June 2nd, 2010 at 5:28 am

Charles, I feel the same way as you, detached but very interested in the way the situation will go and the way my own feelings will develop. A state of limbo of sorts – but sometimes also like being in the bar of the Titanic, having a drink but half-waiting for the warning bell to go off.

‘not with a bang, not even a whimper’ – yes, exactly – death as nothing. How odd.

I like your prediction that a concentration of minds and real efforts will come together when needed. Perhaps I just believe that this should be starting NOW.


Progress and death | DEATH matters - practical advice and philosophical speculations on death and dying

June 5th, 2010 at 4:11 am

[...] was a comment on my last blog (Death matters – no kidding!) from Charles of The Good Funeral Guide, whose excellent blog I regularly visit. Indeed, how did we [...]