Member 2909
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Providence, Rhode Island, US
Immortal since May 9, 2011
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    On death and dying
    My grandpa has brain cancer and is probably going to die soon. Of course I feel sad about this. I see how it's affecting my parents, siblings, cousins etc and it seems as though they're all... more sad?... than I am. I want to feel really badly for Grandpa and his situation, thinking his $10 scratch ticket is a $4 million dollar winner must be nerve-racking at times for a man who has notoriously scratched his earnings away since retirement, but I can't.

    I feel as though him dying is just the undergoing(?) of the processes of life; his cells can't reproduce themselves quicker than they're dying off and his body is just realizing this and deciding that it's done. I think that death and dying is something that has become such a negative force. Negative as in the American culture among others fear death (which is selfish, which I'll explain a little later) and force as in people view death as some sort of entity that comes to the living and steals the life away, like a game of chance.

    But to view death this way, to me at least, is selfish. I've talked to friends and family who have lost loved ones, and it's always the same thing over and over again: "We were so devastated; it cost us so much money; I'm so alone right now;" etc. I think that this is selfish because these people see only the "I" portion of death: "I have to deal with burying this person," or "I have to deal with the grief from their death," and other problems. But what about the person who died? I think that they're experiencing something so much more than "Will I have money after the burial to buy this materialistic item?" What they feel is beyond most peoples' scales of comprehension and I think the fear of death and dying is what makes people so selfish in these situations. They can see the dead person and are afraid to think "What about when I die?".

    I don't see my Grandpa dying as such a sad thing because I know what's going to happen when I die. My cells will stop respirating, my brain will stop thinking (in this reality, at least), my body will be "life-less", but then I think about everything else that will happen. My body is only created by atoms and molecules that existed in nature and are now part of my body (whether through consumption or respiration) but when I die, they'll all be released back into the natural world.

    And I think that's where I find comfort in death and dying. Rather than seeing my Grandpa as a person who will never again exist, I think of him as a chemically constructed, extremely advanced organism that has reached the end of it's livable life and will now be recycled back into Earth. Think about large trees. Imagine how many bits of human have found their way from death, to say cremation/ash, to Earth, to absorption, and then into the very trees that surround us. Grandpa may be dying but his body is still here. Hell, his body is probably composed of pieces of so many other dead humans that have just been recycled through Life.

    I guess where I meant to go with this entire post is that, there's more to dying than just dying. Your physical life lasted for an eternity on earth simply because of how chemicals and molecules and atoms, and everything that makes humans into humans, recycle. Why would anybody ever be distraught about death. Your body has died so many times before you, and has been reconstructed into so many different things before it was finally a human being and for people to discard this truth as if this death, the human death, is the most untouchable, holy experience that must emotional tax every last mind, is silly.

    But thinking about this makes me think about where my molecules really have been and this post is quite long already so I think I'll stop here.

    [Edit: Grandpa died this morning, May 15th. Wherever earth takes what was him, I hope it's to somewhere splendid.]

    Fri, May 13, 2011  Permanent link

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    Nokadota     Fri, May 13, 2011  Permanent link
    Man, I can relate to your mindset. I never thought about death that way, but that's because I never wanted to think about it, period.

    Thanks for the new insight.
    ZoeWiseman     Sat, May 14, 2011  Permanent link
    When someone asks me where I think I'll go when I die I've always told them exactly as you have just written. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Thank you for sharing.

    Lots of people don't deal with death, they deal with all the outlying circumstances surrounding the process. I think somehow it calms them and releases them from thinking about their own death someday. Don't be too hard on them. Sometimes thinking about one's own mortality will cause people to do materialistic things. Materialism isn't death so it's safe to talk about. I'm sure in their minds they are doing nothing but thinking about your grandpa and what he is going through. The materialistic things takes that off their minds for a minute. For good or bad. ;)
    j-sputnik     Sat, May 14, 2011  Permanent link
    So you find comfort in devaluing your grandfather's life as simply matter - inherently as worthless as the dust under your house - and nothing more. That must be because he never had much of an impact on you.

    Mourning isn't selfish - they are devastated because they lost something more than simply matter - they lost something essentially unique that will never again exist.

    If you see the rest of the world as merely matter, then you must be one lonely person in life already.

    It must be comfortable to take the easy way out and cope with the loss of something valuable by perceiving it as essentially worthless to begin with.

    I mourn greatly for your family's loss, even if you can't, and I mourn for your loss of ability to mourn. Tragedy is a precious part of life, and death should be respected in its tradition. Cry your head off, man. Let it out.

    The great Confucius insists that grieving and mourning is as equally as necessary as nurturing for one at birth.

    ZoeWiseman also has a point though - people deal with death in their own ways - some materialistically, some self-destructively, and other 'selfish' ways. However, at least they recognize the value of the lost one's life when he/she was alive.

    My real problem is with the devaluing of life. I just can't believe that we've gotten to the point of seeing life as mere matter - dust. I mean, it's true about the body, but at the same time, like I said, a person has an essentially uniqueness to him/her - that's what people mourn over. Not the physical body which you insist on crediting your grandfather's entire life to.

    I don't mean to be a dick, man, really. But I find it unhealthy for a society/person to perceive everything as scientifically devoid of essence. I hope you can someday cry for the loss of your grandfather, and then I hope you can cope with it healthily.

    P.S. I think there are healthy ways to mourn, but it's becoming a lost art because people's wills have become too weak and people just can't cope with death alone, without the help of, say alcohol or materialistic things.
    GUSTS     Sun, May 15, 2011  Permanent link
    I don't think my message was entirely clear if I'm coming off devoid of any emotion for his death. Have you read the poem Thanatopsis, by Bryant? It explains, at least more poetically, what I've tried to convey above.

    My grandpa meant a lot to me, just as any family member would. It's our instinctive nature to want to protect our own genes and we all feel the emotional toll of losing a member of a family, I just don't view it as negative and something to cry over. In Thanatopsis, Bryant explains that the forests and hills and rivers and rocks are all pieces of our life that have been formed by the very lives that we happen to call brother, father, or even grandfather. A quote:
    "Thou shalt lie down with patriarchs of the infant world—with kings, the powerful of the earth—the wise, the good, fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past, all in one mighty sepulchre."

    I view his death less as something to be mournful of and more of something to view philosophically. How did the process happen, why did it happen, etc. I feel like you cornered me/put me on the spot by commenting as you did, but I hope that this explanation helped get show you what I'm thinking.
    Infinitas     Mon, May 16, 2011  Permanent link
    I share the same views as you, Gusts, and sorry for your family's loss. I have not experienced much death in my family, but I have observed the varied reactions of those that have had someone close to them die. On top of that, I've come to understand that the people around you play a significant part in who you are and become. And yes, it's not your grandfather's body, his matter, that will be so surely missed, but rather his spirit. Regardless, parts of both his body and spirit continue to live on within you- a sort of immortality. Without his physical self you wouldn't have been born, and without him in your life you would have grown up, at the very least, slightly different.

    There is one thing that everyone and every living thing in this world shares, death. I find this beautiful and even refreshing after each day of seeing how much people hate each other. Death is an unavoidable reunion with the homogenous whole that is the Universe.

    If you see the rest of the world as merely matter, then you must be one lonely person in life already.

    But it is all just matter. That doesn't mean it can't have meaning. Hell, the reason why I studied science and the more I learn about it, the more meaning and beauty I see in everything around us. My very thoughts on meaningfulness can exist because of the cells and atoms in my body (as well as those of whom have contributed to my livelihood) , which are all made up of the same fundamental substance of the Universe, which also constitutes the air we breathe, the stars in the sky and all of our grandfathers' grandfathers. If that's not meaningful, well then I haven't a clue what is.
    gamma     Wed, May 18, 2011  Permanent link
    I agree that there are several perspectives on the situation, and I advise one to monitor life rather than death. I learned to deactivate my emotions when it comes to death and other things, and I discovered that my act was compatible with the attempt to accomplish higher states of mind. The deactivated emotions are not really deactivated. You can see in such condition. In order to truly deactivate them, it would require a brain surgery that you will never encounter.
    j-sputnik     Thu, May 19, 2011  Permanent link
    Regardless, parts of both his body and spirit continue to live on within you- a sort of immortality.

    So you're affirming a soul? Then that's completely different.

    But even so, how can you say anything meaningful without a grounds upon which your making your claim about the soul living on eternally - unless you believe in a religious afterlife...?

    You guys aren't reading what I wrote at all. You're both devoted to the modern pseudo-Buddhism that's lingering in the air these days - nihilism.
    GUSTS     Thu, May 19, 2011  Permanent link
    Then maybe I'm a nihilist, sorry.

    Edit: I should also add that me and Infinitas have separate, although compatible, views on this subject and I think rather than view us as an attacking force, see it as just another point of view... another tiny piece to a very large puzzle.
    gamma     Thu, May 19, 2011  Permanent link
    If different philosophies have nothing to do with the person, who is of course subjective as a rule, or to rephrase: if they don't have anything to do with me, the sense of self, "me", stays. It continues to be a power source for nice and creative forms of behavior, which forget about the disagreements.
    Infinitas     Thu, May 19, 2011  Permanent link
    So you're affirming a soul? Then that's completely different.

    No, and I don't believe in a religious afterlife. The people in your life give you and continue to alter your own personality. In this way they are passing along their "self" (or spirit) to you. And then you continue that process. That's what I mean by a sense of immortality.
    Apollo     Wed, May 25, 2011  Permanent link
    GUSTS, I am incredibly impressed by the way in which you have responded to Sputnik's criticisms. It is clear that your position has been entirely misunderstood, and yet you have managed to respond calmly and non-defensively, in a manner that actually advances the conversation. I would not be posting this if not for the fact that your response is so beautifully indicative of the quality of this community, when at its best. Thank you for an insightful and interesting post. To put it briefly, I deeply empathize with your perspective and, like you—if I am understanding your position correctly—see it as bordering on a higher form of respecting the dead than the standardized "mourning" of our society. This is a conversation which I'd love to continue further, if you're interested. It's certainly something which has been on my mind lately as well, and I wouldn't be surprised if it comes through in some of my future posts. If so, I'll be sure to post a synapse :) Thanks again.