Monday, May 23, 2011

"To Sleep perchance to Dream"

This is a quote from Shakespeare and I  have always thought it would be the right thing to put upon a gravestone marker. I originally wanted to call this blog article "If Death is looking over your shoulder" but decided that would scare to many people away.

Death is much like going to sleep. Pain is different that can be awful. But death in itself is just like going to sleep and is a natural part of life. I have often wondered here in the western world why we tend to be so deathly afraid of death (pun intended). I think is a part of our western way of looking at things which is much more materialist in general than the rest of the world. We tend to view the world as much more permanent than other cultures. It is one reason that we started having high skyscrapers and flew to the moon both very Phallic like endeavors a (very masculine point of view) and materialistic.

So if we equate both sleep and death we can illustrate the problem: I'm using Sleep and Death as interchangeable words in this next writing:

"Oh my God! He just went to sleep. I will never see him again. I'm just so sad she went to sleep. It's the end of us."

Though this might seem crass to a western mind and point of view it just illustrates how ridiculous we are when it comes to death. Many movies like "Death at a Funeral" and others illustrate this paradox of western culture. Where something natural like "Death" which is actually just a natural part of life is seen as the boogey man and something unnatural. Whereas death is a natural occurrence for every living thing on earth and always has been down through history. There are only a few occurrences of people like Jesus who have conquered over death so that they tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule.

When I was traveling in India in 1985 death was accepted much more than we do in our culture. At that time it was not unusual to see people dying or dead in the streets and often carcasses of people would simply be left there to rot with birds eating them. When a government isn't set up for social services to provide that kind of after death care of bodies it just doesn't happen. This likely has all changed now but you can imagine it was quite and eye opener for myself, my wife and our three children ages 10 to 14 at that time as we traveled from Nepal through Bodhgaya to Varanasi to the Taj Mahal to New Delhi and to Dharamshala, India and then two months later we returned to Kathmandu, Nepal by bus and train for our return flight home to San Francisco.

So, having someone dispose of dead bodies is only a luxury that we see in some but not all countries. However, as western medicine and the understanding of how diseases spread combined with increased economic well being this kind of thing tends to be taken care of better and better. But I worry that during these times in much of the world that we will see more disease from less and less dead human and animal bodies disposed of in a way that prevents the spread of disease. So, during these increasingly difficult times economically for most of the world we likely will see an increase of bodies of all kinds piling up along the sides of roads almost everywhere here on earth.

But once again I think that "To Sleep Perchance to Dream" is one of the most eloquent statements regarding death I have ever heard about or contemplated.

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