Rephrasing death as part of life.
Words: George Maguire.
This piece is written in conjunction with the Finding Flow podcast with Jamie Wheal. Click here to listen.
Human minds can only function by simplifying things. It’s not laziness, it’s function, borne out of an essential need to process vast amounts of information. Early in our evolution, if we experienced a plant to be poisonous, medicinal or nutritious and identify it by its distinctive features; our ancestors had a clear advantage when foraging again. This is also how great brands work, by building memory structures around key assets. Once categorised, we can become automatic in our decisions and stop questioning our actions.
The art and science of simplification splays out into all aspects of culture. Products touting newfound convenience are good, displaying exertion in public is bad. Busyness is good and empty space is to be avoided. Youth is the best-case scenario and old age is a casualty of youth. Simple.
But above all, we diagnose and subvert death. Skirting the periphery of daily life, death is kept at an arm’s reach, sequestered to hospital boards, abattoirs and TV clips. We do this to help us hurt less but could this be at our own expense? Without seeing the curtains close how can we possibly see birth and regeneration in its rightful context? Surely, too much naive newness is not a good thing; just look at the gentrification of calloused yet characterful neighbourhoods or the mechanisms of cancer.
Even Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledges the near certainly of Amazons extinction one day.
Ignoring the inevitable ending of things rids us of the opportunity to close the loop, and develop clarity on the cyclical mechanisms of life. By learning from death, we can learn how to put things into a wider, truer and more complete perspective. Death is a capacious theme. Cloaked under terms such as expiry, finishing, decomposing, decompression, departure, & darkness, micro-deaths extend beyond our own biology, spilling into everything we do. From an injury, finished meal, a job left, a relationship ended a wrecked car or graduation.
Death leaves a temporary vacuum that will be firstly filled with withdrawal and pain. But then, if we can recognise it, the process of potentiation begins.
Deaths can present itself as a subtle nudge or a car crash. It is a moment that punctuate time with its significance… but then the pendulum swings back and life begins again with newness restoring the balance. If we can truly embody this difficult reality, then we can surely realise that we can experience a more wholesome life. All flowers end up in a compost heap, but is that a bad thing? Isn’t compost the material of new life?
Death marches on, but it is as inescapable as it is opportunistic. By watching it closely, we may perceive the full unfiltered and un-doctored cycles of life, gleaning wisdom in the process. Let us aim to decompose continuously, so that we can grow again another day.