Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Imagine Dying

I imagine that, when the time comes, dying might feel inevitable and possibly familiar.  A slow tipping and sliding: here we go again.  ‘We’ because the idea of ‘I’ seems pointless and wrong;  ‘we’ because I cling to the dream that there is some sense of ... personhood, self-ness, or identity that does the sliding.  I wonder if there is a sense of loss:  I had that skill, knowledge, power, family?  I could speak?  Or is it welcoming, a mutual embracing of darkness and heat?

The strong-minded atheist says there is nothing there, which would mean dying is like the mask, the anaesthetist’s annihilation:  black, gone, nothingness.  The poetic-minded faithful say there will be trumpets and angel choirs and the welcoming arms of a paternal god, bearded, sandalled, dressed in white robes.

What if you get the death experience, after-life experience you believe in?  Those who fear the hell fires get combustion, those that dream of 40 virgins get explosions, those that seek enlightenment get illumination?  Or what if we are locked into infinite parallel universe loops and we die only to be reborn in the same events as before, to live the same life, commit the same sins and graces as before, and die a hundred thousand deaths in an endless repetition of our unchanging lives?  To me that image is the height of pessimism, even if it offers the comfort of routine.

It can’t be that hard to do, when it comes to it, to be given the final telegram, the death sentence pronouncement.  Today the grim reaper possibly uses twitter, or a text.  People do go through this experience every day, hear the words, suffer their last, and die.

I remember my surprise at pregnancy:  that each human being walking was the result of some mother enduring for 6 or 8 or 9 months.  Impossible, unbelievable, but there it is.  I am surrounded by living proof.

Dying cannot be all that different to being born.  Note the active versus the passive voice.  Dying is something we do, we act.  Being born is something done to us.  We are only the object.  There is no verb form ‘borning’.  And the construction ‘birthing’ does not apply to the poor soul thus extruded.

Perhaps, as we have forgotten the total absence of choice in being born into the body and situation we are found in, perhaps we have a similar memory lapse as we leave.  We forget our surroundings, our actions, our people and finally ourselves:  we cease to be.

It can’t be that hard, can it?



Brigid said...

Thats a really interesting post, Isabel. I hope there will be trumpets and angels.
I have often thought it must be similar to birth, we are animals so it must be an instinctive act like birth.

Elisabeth said...

As you say, Isabel, 'Dying cannot be all that different to being born,' though presumably different sensibilities apply, unless of course one dies in infancy.

I'm grateful for this post. I think it helps to think about these things, however much we might want to avoid them.

Jenny Woolf said...

Surprising that you find the idea of rebirth depressing. I find it inspiring, because it is natural. That is what happens elsewhere in nature. Which is not to say that there isn't more to it than just that.

ds said...


jabblog said...

Death, or dying, is the last great imponderable. I remember being shocked at how hard it is to die - at least it seemed so for my mother.
Very thought-provoking, Isabel.

lucychili said...

while it is an idea
i think it sometimes feels like it would be a release, a return to mud and the constellations of miniscule life forms.
diaspora. a beyondness. to be integral.

as an act, task or process i think it is physically something difficult. this one body, one state is resistant to dissolution. pain is our body's rebellion.
fear is the reflex of the mind.

amy@ Souldipper said...

I surrendered to death - and lived - it was a car accident. In the instant of surrender, I gained a "knowing".

Years later, my understanding has seasoned to the simple importance of living. When I remember, I am overtaken by gratitude for the breath that, once again, I'm given freely and without effort. With it comes eternity.

This, from another Doyle. How do you do, Isabel. We're all exiles! :D