Thursday, June 23, 2011
Death and Dying
Consumable products have a "shelf life," more obvious when it comes to a bag of lettuce, but true also of hard cheese. Even things "die." Engineered structures are calculated to have an MTTB, or "mean time to breakdown," or an MTBF, "mean time before failures." We humans have one too - we call it life expectancy.
If you've been around this blog a while you know that one of my key labels is death. In this, I am not weird, just speaking as a Buddhist. It surprised me when I got interested in Buddhism, how much it talks about death, and some people find it gloomy and depressing. But Buddhism is just trying to hold us up to the fact of life. This is about learning to encounter your own death and those of your loved ones with some equanimity, about deeply understanding reality. Living things are born, grow, age, in a pattern that inevitably leads to death. Somewhere I have read that when he first saw a dead person, Prince Siddhartha said, "If this be death, then cursed be birth." He was not enlightened yet.
It's a funny thing to think about, how frantic we get (see yesterday's blog) when we get (ominous music here) A Diagnosis. I am still reactive when I hear a friend has cancer, that powerful stealth invader, and at age 68½ I hear that often. I see dying people who won't take care of this future by making out their wills or installing accessible showers, who keep falling because they won't use a cane. I see people who are pissed off all the time that this is happening to them. Multiple causes feed into this denial, and I believe one of them is the deep American belief that personal will and personal actions can conquer anything. Not so. Not death.
[image: Spirea blossoms]