The society in which man lives today reflects his ill soul. Our post-modern world, suffocated with pointless information that provides little knowledge and robs the individual of any wisdom passed down to him from previous generations, decorated with plastic and pseudo-morals, with its globalist outlook that denigrates cultural nuances and erases individual identities, deplorable in its intellectual attempts to justify political agendas designed to mutilate the very nature of man, with its synthetic rhythm of life that ignores the Divine and our deep connection with nature and seemingly incapable of drawing a line between subjective experiences, the limits of reason, the chaos of imagination, the pain and pleasure of instincts and objective truths, this world of ours is only the collective reflection of ourselves.
Perhaps nothing can provide more conclusive evidence of the terminal sickness that afflicts our world as the predominant approaches to death.
Death is either feared and often viciously so or viewed as a commercial opportunity to be “tapped into”, as the financial jargon would have it. Death is neither of these things – it is not something terrible and horrific nor is it a business line to generate revenues from. But, we, the post-modern men, spiritually ill as we are, fail to see the glory, beauty and illusion of death.
Indeed, we fear an illusion, for death is not real. Those who believe know that eternity, if only just as a concept – similar to the idea of God – goes beyond the ephemeral existence of man in nature and society. Even atheists who, they say, deny the existence of the soul and anything that cannot be proven by reason, thus blinding themselves through their own volition, cannot reject the fact that the body decomposes into elements that feed other beings and, eventually, into atoms that flow through space. If one looks at death attentively, its illusory grip is evident.
Nevertheless, this illusion terrifies us, often to the point of pushing man to commit atrocities. Men slaughter men because they fear death. Men imprison men because they fear death. Men coerce men because they fear death. Men want to control other men because they fear death. Men view the idea of “saving lives” always as a positive and noble thing.
In this phrase – “to save a life” – we can see distilled the entire pathological approach to death: extreme fear to the point of delusion, namely that the moment of death can somehow be averted. Of course, most of us know that death can only be delayed, because, luckily for us, death is inevitable.
Yes, the illusion of death is inevitable. But we fool ourselves not only that death is not an illusion, but that we can be “saved from” it. Make no mistake, the moment of death is real, but death itself is not. Can this confusion be the root cause for all the pathetic lament and dreadful anti-human behaviour that the post-modern man displays every time his existence, often in the form of contemplation, touches, even briefly, the process and idea of death?
“It is too macabre.”, “I don’t want to think of such things!”, “Death scares me…”, “We live longer, isn’t that good?”, “The doctors saved her life!”, “She was saved. She could have died.”, “Death depresses me.”, “Whenever I think of death, if I didn’t believe in God, I would be paralyzed with fear…”, “I know there is nothing beyond this life, so why not live in the moment?”. Sometimes I wonder if death had the same fear towards us, what would we do if death never came? I pity those who would answer this question with glee: life is the archenemy of life, not death.
Nevertheless, these are some of the many observations and statements which dominate the first approach of our society towards death. The second stance, that of a commercial approach, is perhaps more despicable for it aims to transform this beautiful and inevitable truth – the moment and illusion of death – into a revenue stream.
The clearest examples of this is the so-called healthcare industry. An industry – mass-scale production of medicaments, mass-scale offering of services, mass-scale consultations, advocating for scientific research as the banner of the new light that will eventually liberate man from his condition, research which is too often done at any cost, research that transforms man and other living beings into instruments for testing chemicals upon and collecting data from the transformations of their bodies, an industry regulated by laws designed small minority of scientists and legislators who, under the pretext of “saving lives” push forward with a synthetic version of reality in which man cannot only understand nature but control it. Deplorable foolishness.
Indeed, the commercial approach towards death is infinitely more sickening than the pathological fear of death, for this perspective perpetuates a false sense of hope – already the people to whom the lie of “saving lives” is something meaningful are a sorry bunch for their derailment from the reality of the moment of death but now they are also sold an idea that the lie in which they believe is, at least in part, true.
For example, many people spend their money and time on treatments, on “fighting cancer”, for just another second on this planet. Why dishonour oneself so profoundly? Doesn’t one have any pride as a human being? As an individual? To die is to finally be complete. Embrace fate, as short or as long as life is. When all is said and done, and one’s body has been bombarded with chemicals and artificially sustained for a while longer with the help of machines, death gently comes and the next phase of existence begins: for those who believe, the soul unites with the Whole and for those who do not believe, their body becomes atoms and go back to the universe.
The commercial venture of transforming death into a revenue stream is built on the belief that science, as the application of reason and empirical methodology, can provide the guiding light of our knowledge that will eventually lead us all out of this dark cave of our existence. Progress is the road of scientific development which enabled this commercialisation to be established and flourish.
Death however is the ultimate myth buster – with its eternal force, death comes down, again and again, over the lies of men, of which one of the biggest and most dangerous is the notion of “progress” (“of becoming”), and brings reality into focus. And yet, man continues his silly rebellion, his self-victimisation, his dreadful march through history, hoping to, despite the indisputable evidence of death that he cannot, escape his condition.
This becomes more and more apparent when we examine what is probably the dynamic which has been portrayed as a net positive over the past few decades: the fact that people are living longer. This prolongation of life with ten, twenty and even thirty years, has been heralded as a triumph of science and technology, in one word, of progress, over the barbaric world of the past. But this supposed achievement, this great victory of life, with its advertised and commercialised benefits, brought with it costs that, when put on the other side of the scale, I’m afraid that they tilt it towards a net negative balance.
These costs are thus: an increasingly weaker body that is sustained by chemicals and artificial procedures, an increasing dependence on society as one is no longer able to care for themselves and thus one becomes more vulnerable to socio-economic and geo-political vicissitudes and, for many, an over-reliance on the pension system which is a political time bomb that has encouraged the domestication of man, eradicating the skills and vision needed to be self-reliant, as the elders were in the days past when from the pre-dawn hours until the sun set they vigorously worked the fields and gardens.
And so, in our world of science and reason, instead of seeing mountains and fields, the sky changing colours at sunrise and sunset, we have filled the landscape with grim buildings – banks, hospitals, care homes, supermarkets – all designed for the comfort of longer living. The simpler, much more difficult, and far more fulfilling way of life from pre-scientific days, has now been replaced by useless complexity, confusing wants and depressing retirement outlooks. But the barbarians of the past were superstitious, violent and lacked the enlightenment of our age – some would say, blind to the foolishness of our times, overflowing with politicised scientific analysis, dangerous technologies and a profound, desperate and suicidal lack of meaning. Indeed, the barbarians were not as knowledgeable about the weather as we are, but neither were they as empty as we are.
Thus, this trumpeted achievement of progress is another lie with which we try to stitch our ill souls: a shorter life lived well – humanely, answering the call of the Divine, exploring nature and taking risks in the pursuit of virtues – is worth a thousand lives miserably extended by chemicals and machines, filled with worries and handicapped by broken bodies. And then, after all these decades in which life was synthetically sustained, our friend death comes laughing at the stupidity of our age all the while pitting us that we lived longer for nothing.
As the statistics on suicide show, the more “developed” a country is, with more technology and information that alters the natural rhythm of life, the more the suicide rates are likely to persist upwards and remain at historically elevated levels. Man kills himself when there is no meaning left in his life. When one has no reason to go on, suicide becomes a viable option: to escape the prison in which one was born.
But suicide is more complex than this – some would think. Don’t let yourself mocked by the jungle of useless ideas that scientific inquiry generates: since times immemorial, the loss of meaning was attributed to suicide as key, if not the main, cause. As progress brough more technology and information, the meaning in the life of men continued to decrease. More stuff, more information resulted in less meaning and less joy to be alive.
Suicide is talked about in sombre and heartbreaking terms: every death is a tragedy and yet nothing changes to address these tragedies – progress keeps ravaging man’s natural tendencies, alienating man from himself while providing opportunities to build more and more wealth, to gain further comfort, all while domesticating himself and trading off his nature – wild and free – for a life that is defined by an accentuated fear of death.
What’s more perplexing is that the discourse around suicide is surrounded by a pro-individualistic, at least in theory, ethos: one does as one wishes for one’s life is their own. And yet, when one decides to depart on their own terms, many societies do anything to prevent it, from running campaigns on how to prevent suicide to banning items, such as guns, that enable it. Why interfere with one’s decision to die? Are we free to choose? The answer is a resounding “no”. You shall die how the state’s legislation demands, not how your soul desires.
Suicide is a tragedy, we are told again and again. A selfish act. A terrible act. Something only deranged, ill or egotistical individuals can commit. Without regard for close ones, without care for the economy that depends on them to produce and consume, simply terrible people who came into this world and leave it by creating a void, for nothing can replace them. Spiritually, nothing can replace them indeed. But, as I said in the very first sentence of this essay – we are spiritually ill.
As such, we, the post-modern men, cannot see that these individuals matter spiritually and to blame here is certainly not the person who decides enough is enough, but everyone else around that person. Instead of looking at us and asking what have we done to create an environment so hostile to human nature that so many people prefer to end it all, we point our finger at the one who had the courage to face death, to break the spell of comfort and reason and to realise that even though nothing lasts, nothing is ever lost.
However, we, as a society, are slightly more tolerant of ritual death, albeit only when it is mythical and confined to the olden days. To die for an ideal greater than oneself is something that is still, although very slightly, respected by today’s post-modern man who knows little, if anything, of what sacrifice is. Nevertheless, the eyes of this tired contemporary man when encounter a case of ritual death, the judgment is not automatically negative, “how dare they!”, but a shock-type of response of “why would they?!”, stunned at the thought that there is something greater than progress and the comforts it brings with. Perhaps this is because ritual death seems to rectify, at least in part, the human condition: at least they did not die for nothing.
Man’s condition however is not that of mortality. The body returns to nature, which, despite its eternal beauty, is mute and indifferent to man’s spiritual torment. Thus, through the moment of death, even the ephemeral flesh and bones go home to the rest of the universe. As for the soul, its eternity is vindicated through death and, it is this part of our existence – the soul – that proves the illusion of death: the moment of death, which we experience, is nothing but the beginning of living the true life, with capital L.
We all experience the moment of death. We shall all see loved ones experience it, and, eventually, death will smile to us too. So, instead of running from it, instead of fearing it, instead of transforming it into a business or a political tool, let us rejoice that death comes, let us embrace death and understand that death alone gives meaning to our lives. We should be brothers and sisters, united by the moment of death, rather than standing divided, trembling in fear and greed. Look up at the sky at night – the moment of death is the beginning when we shall belong with the stars.
Death allows one to be worthy of the highest honour, to show the most profound love and to set a glorious example for others, for death and only death can provide man with the opportunity of the ultimate sacrifice – to give up one’s existence, as an invaluable manifestation of the Devine, in order to become complete, or to demonstrate one’s commitment to another person and, in doing so, to make the ultimate statement of the other’s infinite worth, or to protect what previous generations have built, or to protest against man’s maddening ways of science and godlessness. Let us die without fear, let us die without regret, let us die knowing that death is not the end, as it never was, let us die knowing that only afterwards we shall be truly free.