A real living garden is a perfect microcosm of life and death. You bury the seeds in the ground and from the earth they sprout only to wither and die at the end of the season. Even this tiny picture of death is too much for some people. They prefer fake flowers. A flower that can never die but needs to be dusted once in a while, frozen in a perpetual bloom.
We tend to glorify this one state of life as a society. We want everyone to always be blooming. If they are not, if they are aging, or sick, nearing that fallow field time then we reduce them to that label. We no longer see their beauty.
When a person inevitably dies they are immediately hidden from everyone possible.
The story of Jesus could be an excellent example of a journey of suffering, death and rebirth – a cycle that we should all learn to emulate. Instead I feel the story is usually that Jesus did that for us, and as long as we believe in him we can be spared from that process.
This aversion to the reality of death is natural in a way, but the extent to which we’ve repressed our relationship with death and hidden it from ourselves is too far a swing in the other direction.
We had a closer relationship to death in the past, the further back the closer death was. Hunter gathers had to kill their food and everyone knew that the elk on their plate was running through the sun dappled forest not long ago. With the advent of agriculture only the farmer or the butcher and had to see death and the rest of society was spared.
Now we have huge slaughterhouses and factory farms causing unspeakable suffering to those creatures so that us humans can continue to enjoy cheeseburgers but have no exposure to the death that is associated with eating things.
Plants die when you eat them just as much as animals do. A human, a cow and a head of lettuce are all equally alive. You’re causing the end of a living thing every time you eat anything.
Avoidance of death is ignoring half of the truth of life. It’s unbalanced.
Conor Oberst wrote a great song where he says “I keep death at my heels like a basset hound.”
Most of us are not this close with death and if we are it’s because we’re depressed, suicidal, in the grip of an illness or in our old age. This natural part of being has been twisted and distorted and is cloaked deeply in fear.
Sometimes death comes to touch your life, someone close to you disappears into that other realm. That is a profound experience because it reminds us that our life is precious.
Believing that life is precious and that every moment should be spent doing something worthwhile and enjoyable doesn’t really fit into modern society. SOme young people seem to lean more so toward this viewpoint but the systems haven’t changed yet to fit the ideal.
We’re still being encouraged to constantly project ourselves into the future. Suffer now to be happy later but
… there is no later, there is now and there is death.
Projecting your consciousness into the future causes you to miss your life, and holding onto something as it begins naturally changing and moving into past obscures the real experience of being alive.
Religions are always telling us that heaven (in whatever form) awaits us and if we can just wait out this existence then eventually everything will be perfect, “just wait” they say, just do what we say and wait until your death to be happy.
Some people do wait until they’re on their deathbed to enter a state of peace and joy. As the end nears they finally see the futility of worry and they come to know their utter connectedness to the universe and all things. They see that they are immortal, but why not open to that freedom when you have some time left to experience this incredible world?
When a person dies we sometimes acknowledge that this is not a difficult time for them but only for their loved ones. Their loved ones suffer because they want to hold on, the dead do not suffer, they have let go.
A sure sign that a death has taken place is a fake flower roadside memorial.
I know that the people who erect these are hurting deeply and I feel for them but I also wish I could go to them and gently take the plastic flower from their hand, give them a living flower and say “This too shall pass”.
These people are already dead and we aren’t even willing to leave them a real flower to match the reality of their death. We insist on fake flowers that will keep blooming even as they have wilted and transformed. This denial has its flaws though, fake flowers can’t stay beautiful forever either, they may not die but they do become dirty and twisted,and they serve to illustrate the necessity of death.
If there were no death all the people who should be dead- those with mortal wounds or terrible illness would be stuck here just getting dirty and twisted and never getting the chance to move on.
If you spend your life trying to avoid death then what you really avoid is life. There is no such thing as a flower that blooms forever, death comes for us all.