What is the Nature of Dying

Today, the first day of my blogging week, I’m going to tackle the first of a list of questions I’ve been mulling over.  And I’d love your feedback what ideas you come up with on the questions.

 First Question:  What is the nature of dying?

 A reverence for life where people acknowledge the fragility of living; and the solemn observance of a life lived as in the rituals of burying the dead.

 In exploring the nature of dying and death I wander to the topic of the soul.  I have been reading two books on the topic:  “Modern Man in Search of a Soul” by C.G. Jung and “Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore.  The latter is easier reading and digestion, and so I’ve delved deeper into that one.

 What I’ve learned is that the depth of soul comes from suffering.  (This is not something T. Moore stated, but my own absorption of the book.)  We all suffer, and this experience helps us maintain our humanity and connectedness to each other.  So my instinctive response to the question of “What does death look like?” with “A reverence for life”, I imagined that when we see others suffer then how can we not experience compassion to stop the suffering.

 Ok, I’m going to dare throwing fuel into the fire by going this way.  There were different reactions to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.  The major news networks televised the celebratory mood of the people in major cities, especially in New York City.  I asked a few people I knew about their reactions, and the responses were:  “I’m glad.” And “It’s a relief.”

 I stop to wonder.  Is the world a safer place with this one person’s death?

 Because this is not the forum for political discussions I won’t venture further into that topic.  But I will continue with a quote from Steve Earle (musician, actor, author and activist.) He recently completed a new album titled, “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive”, and also a novel by the same name.  This is the quote from an interview with Amy Goodman:  “Making Art in America is a Political Statement in Itself”.

 When I sat with that thought and watched the interview I decided that it’s not enough to sit by and watch death and destruction while I live comfortably in my safe bubble.  What am I here to do? I ask myself.  (It’s the same question I ask of myself when I’m at the pool with the intention of getting some exercise.  Will I be content to just paddle around, and “just show up”.  There are many days when I feel like that with my good intentions of writing and taking care of my heart:  “Just show up.”  Maybe some magic will happen.  I’ve been praying for a bolt of genius to hit me, but it’s really just hard work and slogging for every bit of meaningful words that impacts me and somebody else from the inside out.)

 It’s getting harder to just stand by and not only for the selfish reasons that one day all THIS will catch up with you and me and we live at the fringes of what’s happening out there.  But the bigger part of it is I do care.  I feel something is array about the way of the world, and how can I make it better I wonder.

 The immediate answer is to work on my art.  My art is my heart, and I have to make a statement in my own unique way about what I see and feel, and not care about what others say or think.  My intention is not to hurt, but to make peace.

 What does death look like?  The esoteric answer is that it is the death of the self – the ego.  In the face of dying the “fevered ego” (a la Bill Hicks) then compassion for another being is born. 

 Down to the nitty-gritty of everyday reality I am reminded of an acquaintance who has been begging me for attention.  She just wears her sorrow on her sleeves and it’s painful to be around her, because I’m afraid I would get drawn into her vortex of sorrow.  Her pain is so visceral that my instinct is to push back.  Once I did invite her for a drink.  After one drink she pulled out a thorn stuck deep into her heart.  She confessed that she had been sexually abused by her father. 

 This was not exactly the way I wanted to initiate getting to know her better, but there is was lying on the table– a writhing doll with pins and needles.  I felt the blood dripping on the floor and my shoes sticking to the ground.  I wanted to escape the rawness.  I wasn’t prepared for this.  My mind judged, ‘She is clingy.”  I’m not the person to help ease the weight of this pain, but I also wanted to help her somehow, maybe with a seed of an idea that it’s possible to step out of her box and to try to imagine a different way to accept the events in her life. 

 Suffering does build our souls.  It makes us grow and expand – literally like growing pains – it hurts physically, but we can’t be on Gerber and Pablum all our lives.  It awakens us to awareness of other planes and possibilities; to reach out – above and below – that allows for depth like the roots and branches of a tree.  (I love old trees – the gnarly knots and bulging roots of an old tree.  I put my hands on its trunk and my ear to its veins and feel the pulse of the earth and beings living on it.) 

 Going back to the assassination of someone deemed as a terrorist, I think of ancient Greek mythology – Zeus, Poseidon and Hades.  The three brothers who rule the realms of the sky, the sea, and the underworld. I entertain idea that all three represent elements in our soul, and these gods tumble and fight for control of our psyche.  What turns a person into a terrorist?  It strikes me now that I could extend more compassion to the woman and withhold my judgments. 

 There are cases that are black and white: Crazy, alien and out of touch with humanity.  But then again haven’t we all experienced a certain madness personally and as a collective?  What’s really going on beneath the surface of what I’m seeing and being told and fed?  I really want to know.  I trust that this curiousity is in the realm of the seeing eye and the feeling heart of an artist. 

We are co-creators in this plane of reality.  As participants in life like the threads in the loom of a carpet we impact and influence the design and feel of the carpet that decorate the walls and floors which is left after the last breath.  How can we revere a life lived?  What legacy do we want to leave behind?

This ancient Persian carpet was an exhibit at LACMA

2 Comments

  • By Nancy Beverly, May 18, 2011 @ 9:30 am

    Wow, wow, wow, what a powerful piece — thank you for writing it. I’ll respond to a couple of things (but could respond all day to it!)… What is the nature of dying? Switching forms, going from one state to another, letting go. I’m watching my mom in a nursing home, and so many pieces of her are slipping away. She’s like a little child in so many ways now — not able to walk, barely able to feed herself, barely able to talk. The molecules of her are dissolving and changing.

    And then there is the killing of Osama bin Laden. I don’t know how much the world will change with him dead and gone. Well, a form of his energy is still with us and among his followers. So he’s changed form and there will be an impact… but will it be what our government hoped?

    The wonderful thing about writing is we get to ponder all of these things and work them out.

  • By Analyn, May 18, 2011 @ 11:45 am

    Yes, thank you Beverly. I really appreciate that you shared what you’re going through with your mother right now in the nursing home. The poetic way you framed the changes and the morphing of one energy form into another, and also how it’s happening with the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the aftershock of that energy concentrated and exploded in one specific space and time.

    I was exploring these questions as to how it relates to the characters in my story telling, and the dynamics of the rewrite is that I pull back from the microcosm – the frozen time of the setting and the characters – and juxtapose it to the events of what’s happening today. How is this story still relevant I continually ask myself.

    Next question to follow soon.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Analyn

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