Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Natural Order

Death is a fate that awaits us all.
When I parrot that, as others who have now gone have done before, I don't mean it in a offensive way but as a fact, a cool, calm, collected one, and regardless of how it comes. New life enters the world every day as other fatigued or barely spent lives depart; and yet, joy is only accorded to the former even if the extinguished life in the latter has been long or extended beyond all reasonable expectations. It's the length, as in years or age reached, that seems to matter, rather than gained experience, intellect, or wisdom which can often mature faster than considered age-appropriate.
And yet in nature, meaning animal rather than human though we are all part of the same kingdom, death at any age is accepted - to talk about, to plot and even hasten for our own ends, as in conservation or food. It's seen as the natural order of things: a circle of life as Elton John so lyrically put it, in spite of us sometimes having more than a hand in the closing of that circle. We shoot, we slit throats, we stun, though the murderers amongst us do apply that to fellow humans too, so not all of us are averse to taking life, any life.
Why is that we see our life cycle as different, as somehow being more precious?
Why are we less comfortable with anything that threatens it? Why are we less comfortable with loss?
Superiority is too easy an answer in regards to Man versus Creature, though of course that old prehistoric mindset is still there, because in Old England in times where disease was rife and living was more unsanitary, death was faced. Head-on. It didn't make the occasion any less sorrowful, but I think with hindsight you could say people then were more pragmatic; they had to be. But since then we seem to have travelled, and a fair old way too, in the opposite direction; as our living conditions have improved we've run from Death as if it were a deadly (pardon the pun) enemy and not a constant companion. A pitch-black tunnel that looms ever ahead until suddenly its entrance yawns closer before you're ready.
Nobody wants to contemplate their own demise; nobody's ever ready, but Death happens. It has to, nothing would grow if Death didn't occur. And so, why not be more open to it and about it. We talk about the birds and bees so much more candidly than we used to, and yes, some of us still blush and would prefer it if talk (and images) weren't quite so crude, but at least the act, in itself, is no longer something to be ashamed of or hidden, whereas our attitudes to thinking and talking about Death are more guilt-ridden.
Death is part of life, however, wherever it appears, and while you can't plan for it, definitively, you can have an rough idea of what you'd like to happen during or after. Birth's not entirely left to chance, why should Death be?
Should loved ones in their grief have no choice but to make those decisions for you? Because loss, the thought of and the actual feeling of, hits all of us in different ways, and there's nothing worse than being left with remorse that you might not have done things right, as the deceased might have liked or wanted; that the departure from this life didn't 'go off' quite as planned, unless of course you can picture the hilarity this farce would have brought to the deceased.
And then there's the school of thought that thinks: why would they (the deceased) care anyway? Once you're gone, you're gone. And so really the final ending or resting place doesn't matter. But deciding ourselves as in making our wishes known lessens the burden on those still living, and surely if we have the freedom (and the capability) to choose we should choose. Isn't that the difference between us and the creatures we exploit - primarily that we get to have a say in how our remains are ceremonially despatched?

Picture Credit: The Balcony, 1950, Rene Magritte