I’m musing on death and life. COVID 19 is bringing death, a nasty, painful death apparently, to many people around the globe
It’s hard, when you go through the agony and anguish of losing a loved one, to remember that death is an essential part of life, a twin sister. Without death, there is no life. A walk in the woods should make that clear; dead leaves feed the soil that feeds the tree, dead wood feeds fungi and insects that feed other creatures. It’s all part of life’s rich cycle. Easter, of all times in the year, should remind us of this.
In our consumer society, we have a dysfunctional relationship to death. We are more than happy to accept the death of distant living creatures, huge swathes of forest for example, or workers in sweat shops, to serve our insatiable demand for consumer produce. Yet we maintain the illusion that death doesn’t happen to us, and are willing to spare no expense to maintain that illusion, indulging ourselves in numerous distractions. If all else fails, we freeze and close our eyes, hoping death will go away. COVID 19 is ripping back the veil.
This aversion to looking death in the eye extends to our organisations. The larger they are, the more wailing and gnashing of teeth is heard when it looks like they might die. Big brother government is urged to step in and save us from this threat, and big brother is more than happy to prove its importance by doing so. On occasions there may be sense in this, but too often, it is done in a knee-jerk way, for the wrong reasons and without thought of the consequences. Why should, for example, the British government protect the speculators who invested in British Airways from losing money? Who does that serve?
We need a much more balanced view of death. Death is not only inevitable, is also usually represents a gift of life to some other organisation. Every organisation that exists owes its existence in some way or other to the death of another organisation. When it’s time for death, we should allow time to proper, healthy grieving and then get on with life, appreciating its gifts more than ever.
Our pathological relationship with death is embedded in the rigid, unbending, and unequal power structures of our organisations. We shouldn’t overly grieve if these old, dysfunctional ways of doing things die — it’s a phase we need to go through. Nature is making way for new life to enter, manifested in the form of new, more fluid and dynamic organisations.
We are in transition to a new age, and giving birth is a messy business. We had better get used to it. There’s plenty more mess to come.
Let’s not fear it unduly. In fact, I suggest we embrace it, not from a safe 2 m distance but with a full body hug. It’s going to be quite a ride. It’s a ride called life. And we can live it more fully so long as we remember that one day, we die.