Of Death

Written by: Lonepair

As Benjamin Franklin put it, the only two things certain in this life are death and taxes. Well, since taxes seem to fluctuate according to governmental shifts, death does remain the ever constant factor. Different cultures treat death in different ways, though I intend to focus on the culture in the US, and my own beliefs.

The truth about our response to death is that it seems to be a very negative and unhealthy one. We fear death, for the most part, try to stave it off even though it remains inevitable. It would certainly make more sense to accept our end with a healthy attitude since it has been the way of all living things since the beginning. I do not suggest that I maintain a so called healthy attitude, quite the contrary. I fear death just as much as the next American. I’ve spent many years considering and examining my own life, aging, and death, and I have come to very few conclusions.

One such conclusion is that a certain amount of faith helps. People who believe in some sect of religion tend to find comfort in the finality of it all because to them, it is not an end, moreso a passing on to other things. The Mexican people celebrate the Day of the Dead in which it is said the spirits of the ancestors return to take part in the festivities of the day, enjoying feasts and gifts, and ends with a celebration in the cemetaries themselves. A similar event was a part of ancient Roman culture. In both, those who have passed return from the next life to rejoin their families. These days celebrate the dead, make death into a joyful occasion. In Irish culture, the wake before a funeral involves drinking and feasting, as a means of celebrating the life of the person who has passed. New Orleans customs for funerals involved a somber march to the burial with sad music from the band, followed by the return march with upbeat music and a sort of parade. These are celebrations accepting death, facilitated through religion.

It is certainly understandable, I believe, that fear is one of the most common emotions associated with death. The other side of the coin, of course, if there exists no afterlife, is that we simply cease to be after our lives end. This is a hard concept to grasp, I assume because the brain cannot make sense of the lack of perception, seeing as how that is its major function. But looking at the world as a physical thing, with no spirituality involved, it would make sense that all things just complete their earthly cycle, and that nothing would exists beyond that point. Of course the body would become part of the planet, part of all the plants and creatures, but the electrical energy employed in perception would dissolve and spread out into the surrounding air. It is a hard concept to believe, because it is so final, although it is one that one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams, believed firmly.

I guess in truth I will never truly settle the concept in my mind. I do not hold to any specific religion myself, and consider myself more of an agnostic for the time being. Some day that may change, but at the time I cannot choose an idea. It is such a strange thing, death, and the fear thereof, but it is there and I do not know how to rid myself of it. Perhaps some day, but not now.